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-Hey Thrive Nation it's Paige Taylor, and today we're going to be sitting down with Clay Clark and Jack Nadel. Jack is a decorated World War II veteran, and he's also the founder of Jack Nadel International, one of the top distributors of promotional merchandise in the entire United States.
So today, you get to hear Jack Nadel's story, "A lifetime of riches." Today we're going to be talking about Jack Nadel's story, "A lifetime of riches." You're going to hear about the mindset that he had to achieve to overcome all of the adversaries in his life. You're also going to hear about the successes he had as well. So let's get right into it.
-Well Jack, thank you for letting me come to your casa and harass you my friend.
-Well it's my pleasure to have you here.
-I'm absolutely honored. I feel like talking to you today, it's sort of a-- it's a walk through history, as well as a look into the future, and you're such an entrepreneurial guy. You've had six decades as an entrepreneur?
-Yeah, it's-- let's see, I guess my entrepreneurial career started the day I left the Air Force, which would be 70 years ago.
-70 years ago. Well today we're talking about your story. Really a lifetime of riches, and I'm going to-- I want to start basically with where you grew up, where did you grow up my friend?
-I grew up in New York City, on the streets of New York, and I thought in retrospect of course, it was a great education, because I guess I learned how to survive. I learned that as tough as you are there's someone tougher. As big as you are there's someone bigger, and I went along with-- those streets in those days was almost owned by gangs. And each gang had a different orientation. Some religious, some other, but the toughest one was called the Polly's and they were right a few blocks away.
So the first day I walked to school I was five-years-old, or six-years-old, and I went right through there and I got stopped and there's a whole gang and they asked for protection money. And I said what's that? They said well it costs you $0.05 to go through here. It cost you $0.10 a week. I said, OK. So I don't have it, I don't have $0.05. So they beat me up and I learned something from that. I walked away. I didn't pay the protection money. I never saw them again, I just walked around that street.
-I just avoided it, which reminds me later of the strategy in the Pacific. Always moving towards Japan. They kept skipping islands that were not necessary. They didn't have to waste life and money on taking something that wasn't necessary. So I wasn't going to prove anything. I'm not going to beat them. I don't even want to confront them. And the answer was to avoid it.
-So you knew where the mines were and you avoided it.
-I avoid it. Listen, you get 10 kids and they're all taller, bigger than you are, and I was a big kid, there was no contest. There was just-- my favorite author, Damon Runyon, "the race doesn't always belong to the big and the strong, but that's the way to bet it."
-I want to ask you this question here, because you grew in a childhood that sounded like it was tough in certain areas. When did the idea to become an entrepreneur first-- when did that idea first come in your head? Do you remember when that happened?
-Yeah. Well first of all there was no stigma to being on the streets of New York. I mean the fact that I was poor was fact, but everybody around me was poor. Most of them were poorer than I was, and I had an angelic mother who, when she prepared food for us, always prepared for somebody else as well. So I learned that A, you can get along together.
It was a-- was like a 1928 League of Nations. Every race, everybody was represented there. And there were gang fights and all that, but they all got straightened out and learned how to survive and how to exist alongside of each other.
I think the first time I had the entrepreneurial thought, I saw a guy had a contest-- marbles, and if you hit the-- if you went-- you got a cigar box, and put three holes in the cigar box, and if you got-- if you rolled the marble through the hole you won 10 marbles. Almost impossible. So I got a box and I wanted to be on that-- on that side of the action. So I pervade a box and I was the owner of a lot of very good Immies because of it.
-So that was your first business. Your first entrepreneurial endeavor.
-I would it-- I would say so. I would say
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-So, now, when did you or I guess how old were you when you decided to join the military?
-Well, it was a contest, quite frankly, in the family. I wanted to go when the war started. My mother was able to hold me at bay until the following year. On my 19th birthday, I enlisted in the US Army Air Corps. And three years and three months later-- I enlisted as a private, of course. And three years and three months later, I came out as a captain. I had flown 27 B29 combat missions over Japan.
-Now, when you served, I mean, you were decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross and the air medal with the three oak leaf clusters there. Can you kind of explain what those mean or what those-- because those are unbelievable awards, unbelievable recognitions for your service. Can you kind of explain what those were?
-Yeah. Well, I think the air medal with the oak leaf clusters was a reward just for surviving. I mean, if you lasted every so many missions. I never was quite sure whether I had four oak leaf clusters or three, but there's three on the medal so I take the-- I'll take the three.
Distinguished Flying Cross was something entirely different. That was for a theoretically heroic deed or something that you did above and beyond. And it happened to me when I was-- I can even tell you the day, April 4, 1942, a mission to Japan. The first time we had fighter escort. And if you recall the war history, we took Iwo Jima in order to have a base for fighter aircraft to accompany the B-29s when they went over a bombing mission or to protect the B-29s. So this was that mission where there was for the first time we had fighter protection. But it was a fierce battle. One of our friends bailed out. We stopped and peeled off, which was not a good idea. For a B-29, you have just so much gasoline to go and get back.
And, the deed, that I was very proud of, we left them. We had somebody covering, and I called the pilot and said there's no way we can make it back to Saipan, which is our home base. So I want to go-- and they told us this morning that they had-- Iwo Jima was still in our possession, but there was still fighting going on the island. So we actually made the first emergency landing on Iwo Jima--
-Coming back. And I plotted a new course, first from Japan to Iwo Jima, and then from Iwo Jima to Saipan where I was stationed. And when we landed, there was-- we had to fend the two engines out of four, which is not a good idea. And it all came out right. But we had something over 100 holes in the plane, and we landed.
We did get an emergency land at Iwo Jima. The crew had to get out, surrounded the plane with drawn pistols because there were snipers all over the places. And if you saw one, don't fire because you're going to draw a lot of other fire, but watch and this is exactly what happened. We climbed back in the plane, and we flew on back to Iwo Jima.
-To Saipan, I'm sorry.
-Now, just to give a little context because I've spent a lot of time in preparation for meeting with you, reading about the B-29 and reading about-- how many guys were in the plane with you in the B-29?
-We had a crew of 11.
-11, yes. There was the pilot, copilot, bombardier, a navigator with the four officers. And then there was the engineer, radio operator, and have various gunners.
-And I've been told that it was, kind of, like flying in a big bus. I mean, it's not necessarily the most quick to turn. Or, I mean, it's a big-- it's designed for bombs.
-The bigger the ship, the longer it takes to turn. You just navigate it.
-Now as you say, 100 holes in it. I mean, you had been shot a hundred times.
JACK: That's right.
-That's just surreal. I mean, so when was the turning point where you decided that you wanted to become a successful entrepreneur? I mean, because you said basically at age 22, now you're out of the military. When did you decide to becoming an entrepreneur?
-I think I always had in mind that I was going to go into my own business. I'm not even sure the word entrepreneur existed at the time. But I do know.
And I remember the night before, my crew and I departed from Pearl Harbor in Hawaii to head home, we talked about the future. And I did say one was going back to farm. The pilot was going to do crop dusting, he loved flying. It's all he wanted to do.
I said there's only one thing I want to do, I said I want to get into business. And the world has been devastated, now decimated. And there are huge reconstruction, a lot of merchandise that's needed, so, in fact, I want to go into the import-export business. And that's what we did, my brother and I.
-Did you get a degree or some kind of training to get into the import-exporting business? I mean, how did you get-- did you go back college or?
I think it was called Hard Knocks College.
-No, I didn't. I had no college education. When I graduated high school, I was 16 and it was 1940. And the economic situation was such that my family needed the support that I could help generate to support the family.
And unless I was going into something that really require a college education, like being an engineer, a lawyer, or a doctor, something technical, I felt that I could do just as well getting out there and starting to work and starting to provide the world with all the merchandise that they wanted but didn't know where to get.
-Well, you don't have a degree but you seem like you're very much a lifelong learner. I mean, you're somebody who, apparently, is seeking that practical knowledge. And from my understanding, I mean, you basically managed to make a profit every year for 67 straight years, despite all the ups and downs in the economy. And we've had recessions, and we've had booms, and we've had more recessions. You've seen it all happen.
I mean, how have you managed to make a profit for 60, 70 years with all the ups and downs in the economy? And what would you say, how would you describe how did that?
-Well, I would say that the most important thing which I tell every new entrepreneur or everybody going to person is you have to learn how to do two things. One is to listen and the other is to think.
And the listening, many times, people, particularly when negotiating a deal, are thinking more of what they're going to say then what the other person wants. And what I want to do is find out how I could make you happy at the same time because I'll make a better deal that way.
As far as making a profit, I say my great fortune was that I realized early on there was no word like entrepreneur, but there was a word called opportunist.
CLAY: OK. Opportunist.
-And I was an opportunist. And I felt when that window opens, get through it.
-So Jack, I mean, you said some profound there. You said you have to learn to listen and learn to think. Can you get a deep dive into that and explain to me what you mean by that?
-Yeah. There are different conditions all the time. I know that I've done some teaching in schools, and the one thing I say is, no matter how well thought or how well done your business plan is, there is going to be something happen that's unanticipated and you have to be ready to move at that moment.
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