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-Now, on the flip side of that a little bit is, you could give those gifts of verbal bouquets, and those gifts of words and positive affirmation, you can catch somebody doing something right, and you can positively affirm them. But being open to feedback is where you're listening to the feedback from others.
And a lot of times as an entrepreneur, you're going to be told your idea's bad. I remember when I started my DJ business. It's a mobile entertainment company. I'll never forget-- and I will not use the guy's name, but you know who you are, you beautiful man. He was like, this is a terrible idea. You mean, you want to DJ? Like a full time disc jockey? What are you going to do, like, Monday through Friday? No one has a party on a Tuesday. How are you going to support your family? And just this endless stream of criticism about the craziness of the idea.
But in that, I had to still be open to feedback from other people, because I went across the hallway, and Jason White, who's your nephew, I was telling him my idea, and I was kind of not wanting to hear feedback at that point, I just got this negativity dropped on me. And Jason's like, I don't like you're name of your company, but I do like the name DJ Connection.
And I'm going, what? He said, DJ Connection. I remember saying, no. It's not going to be DJ Connection. I don't remember what the name was, but it's going to be this. Because I was so mad at this other person who had just gave me negative feedback. You know, personal, like, just, this is a bad idea. I was not even listening.
And Jason goes, you're connecting people to DJ. It's DJ Connection. And then we sat there and we kind of came with like the D, in the D, there's a circle. that could be the record. And the J could be the turntable arm, and the C could be headphones. And I almost missed that name, which ended up being the name of the company that I wore on my t-shirts for 10 years and became where I started, because I wasn't open to feedback.
So how do you-- because you get rejected all the time. I know you do.
-How do you maintain this openness to feedback when you also have to have that Teflon-thick skin to deal with rejection? How do you balance it?
CLIFTON TAULBERT: I always try to remember that tomorrow comes tomorrow. And tomorrow is not today. It always comes tomorrow. And I may not be able to reach out and touch it, but I'm not going to mess up tomorrow by being idiotic today. So when I get negative feedback-- and I do. Even when I was writing, my friends said, Clifton, you'll never be a writer. We're soldiers.
Not only were we soldiers, but, you know, these will guys that were really hard-hitting men, and they wanted to drink, they wanted to go to the bars.
-Did you have muscles during this phase of your life?
CLIFTON TAULBERT: Not really.
-And so here I am wanting to write. They said, you're not going to do-- Nobody's going to read what you write. And I remember when my second book came out, The Last Train North, it was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and it won the first African American to win the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Nonfiction.
I was writing about my life in the military and about a lot of those friends. So Parade Magazine did a huge story on that. Went all over the country. All of my buddies that were on my wing, I start getting letters from them. And they were saying, you didn't write about me. Why didn't you write about me?
They were some of the same guys who said, it isn't going to work. But you have to know inside of yourself, yeah, it may not work today. I may have to do a lot to make it work, but I'm willing to do that.
-How do you filter it, though. And here's an example. You and I were at a meeting today where I was putting myself out there, sharing a concept with some people. And we were-- at Thrive, just so you guys know how this works, all of us have invested money to teach and to mentor millions, and all of us have put in capital.
But you need a lot of capital. A lot of technology, a lot of office space, a lot of talented people, and we're out there meeting with some venture capital people to really take this to the next level. I mean, we want to make that education affordable for you at a price point that's low, so we have to do it on a big scale in order to do that. And you get criticism. You get feedback. You get, hey, I like this, but I don't like that. What about this? what about that?
I have found that the way I keep myself open to feedback-- and if I don't say this, it doesn't happen. I like to say, what could I do to make it better. That's my question I ask. And I find, if I go in with the attitude of what could I do to make it better, it kind of makes me want that feedback.
-Yeah. Because people, all the answers that you're seeking for may not be in your briefcase. They may be in another briefcase. So by having the mindset, again, that you're talking about, that other people matter, which means their conversations matter as well.
And so putting yourself in the position to receive feedback, both the good and the bad, because you're going to get both, but being able to, once you get out of that setting, to ferret between it and look at, OK, I can have this, I can-- It's just like eating a fish. You know? Fish got bones in it. So what do you do? You put the bones on one side and eat the
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-A funny story about eating the wrong part of the food. I got taken out to a nice Indian restaurant couple years ago and-- or Thai, it was a Thai restaurant-- and you're not supposed to eat the bamboo shoots. And I did that.
-Yeah, it was a bad experience. So just don't eat fish bones, don't eat the bamboo. That's kind of an extra bonus principle. You just want to avoid the fish bones and the bamboo shoots.
-I don't know about the bamboos, but there's no reason to eat the fish bones.
-Yeah, don't eat the bamboo. I'm just telling you there's some problems that come with that, so just be careful. It's dangerous world out there. Now then the next one is do not accept what you do not desire. Now--
CLIFTON TAULBERT: Explain that one to me.
-Well, here's my wife-- this is what my wife says. My wife says, honey, I want to put in a home office here. And I would like you to be home at 6, you know 6 o'clock. And in my mind six is like 16. So you're going to be home at like two in the morning? No six. My wife will say, honey, we need a house with three rooms, and this many, and I want to stay home with our children.
And she has these certain expectations that she had. And I found that when she would kind of push back when I would try to settle for something less than the ideal, when I tried to share the idea that I had to work till 10 o'clock seven days a week, or when I would try to say we could just live in a really, really small house, or when I would try to explain to her that my company couldn't grow because I'm a DJ and you can't teach people to be funny, she would never accept it.
Or at Disney, when the staff-- Lee Cockerell, and his 47,000 employees-- he's a Thrive mentor at Disney World. He said that you have to push back against the desire to have a filthy place, an amusement park can get gross really quickly. But yet, he wouldn't accept it.
And in your world, I've noticed that most people are not successful authors. Let's be real. For every one successful author, what there's a thousand that aren't, or hundreds? And you refused to accept that you had written a book that would not sell.
-Yeah I, you know, I-- well as you know, I just have a new book now that's coming out. And I'm telling myself, I said this book is for the world. Period.
-I mean, I'm not stopping at a city or state, or whatever. I'm saying this book, this conversation, is for the world. And that's why I wrote it.
-But you don't accept it. You just say if somebody says, well you know, this book we'll just put it on this little shelf in this little bookstore maybe sell a few copies, you don't accept it.
-No, no, no, No. But here's the point. When you do not accept that, you also put yourself in the position of doing something about it. You have to factor yourself into that equation. You can leave your life totally in the hands of somebody else.
-Here's kind of the next principle about the Science of Personal Achievement and how do I get into this, is that successful people, whenever I meet these people, they almost always exclusively focus on what they can control.
So I'll give you some examples of things I don't see a lot of successful people worrying about. You tell me if you agree here. Weather. I don't see a whole lot of successful people not going to work or getting all upset because the weather's bad today. They just kind of plunge along.
The economy. Economy's good. Economy's bad. Either way, they're going to still work hard.
How they were raised. They have a mom, they don't have a mom. They have a dad, they don't have a dad. It just seems like they're kind of-- it effects them, but they're not like deterred by it. They just keep moving in spite of those things.
Entrepreneurs are very resourceful. They just figure stuff out there. How is it that you-- like what do you try to focus-- what in your mind can you control? What you can control, and what can you not control?
-I can't control much. That's the first thing. I think I like what you were saying because I know I can't control the weather. So because I can't control the weather and there's certain things that I have to do that I want to do, I just find out ways to do it. I don't say, ah that's the weather, therefore. No. I got to do this.
So my focus is on how do I get done what I need to do, rather than focusing on-- it's like Don Quixote, you know, windmills in the sand. You know, trying to figure out something that you can do a thing about. You're just there.
But what I can do, I can get snow tires.
-OK. I'm just saying, you're very resourceful, though. I've seen you-- as an example, when this guy sold his-- you sold your first Stairmaster. At three in-- you had only sold one. The first one you ever sold to the government. And at 3:00 in the morning on the day after you sold it, you're in a truck driving to where?
CLAY CLARK: From Tulsa.
-To the Naval Air Base.
-So he hopped in a car and Google mapped this stuff. You drove from Tulsa to Middleton, Tennessee, all night just to make sure that the Stairmaster was in working condition.
-See, that's not normal.
-No. But here's the point. I wanted to make sure that my customer was satisfied, because they had placed faith in me. That order to me was a faith in me. I could not let them down.
-Now, speaking events. Here's a fun one for you. I remember a few years ago-- I always book my speaking events, I always land in town the day before I speak, because if I'm on a flight, it's going to be delayed. If you ever travel with me, we're going to get delayed. That's just what happens. It's not because I missed the flight. I'm always on the plane, it's just the plane is delayed.
I'm supposed to go speak near Green Bay. I fly in the night before. I get there. It's a true story. And I go to get my rental car. Well, they're out. They're out of rental cars. What do you mean you're out? I reserved it. Oh well, sorry. We just-- we're out. You're out. OK. So then I go to get another car.
Well, the old credit card fraud stuff, where someone can charge your card and start spending money. And so my wife had called to cancel the card, because there was fraud on it, you know, and something. I don't remember the whole story. The point is, I didn't have a card.
So now I'm in Wisconsin with no actual cash, no credit card-- credit cards-- are working, because of the cancel. And I'm going, I have to get to this speaking event. They're counting on me. So I went cab to cab. Not one cab. Cab to cab to cab to cab to cab.
And finally, this gentleman, who I only mention that he's Islamic because he was going through the month of Ramadan, where you don't eat during a certain time of the day. And he said, I'll drive you. He doesn't speak that much English, and I said, well, I have no cash. But I can do is when we get to the place, my wife can give you a credit card over the phone right now, so you'll know it's real. He's like, we can't punch them in. You have to swipe it. I'm like, OK. I can get the card when we get to a certain place, and then I can go to the bank and withdraw cash advance and pay you.
I ended up paying the guy I think like $1,200 for like an eight-hour trip there and back. And I had to stay in the hotel with the guy. It was crazy. I learned everything there was to know about where he's from. And he was into dates, and he was serving me dates. It was a bizarre, bizarre relationship.
But it never occurred to me that we're not going.
-Yeah. I understand that. When you give you word, and people are depending on you, you really want to go out as far as you humanly, possibly can to make sure that it happened.
-Now, I'm going to give you one example, too. You recently had a surgery. I won't get into the details, unless you want to. But you had a surgery. And you had a speaking event you had to give on the day that you were in the peak of pain. And did it. You did it anyway. And I have a friend who knew you were in pain, and he was like, I've never seen a dude deliver a talk in that much physical pain.
-I was sweating.
-You were wincing.
-It was popping off my face. I mean--
-Like TD Jakes' kind of sweat, where it's just coming--
-This was sick sweat, just coming off my face. But I don't have it in me to let people down. I don't know how to do that.
-Sam Walton on the last week or two of his life, he had cancer that had spread to a point where he was in physical pain to walk. And he made a commitment that he would always visit the stores. And there's a story about the staff was all crying. If you read his book, "Made in America," you can't not cry when you read his book. It's unbelievable.
But he, physically, was walking around the store so slow, but out of duty, he had told the staff that he was going to serve his job up until that point where he could-- he'd committed. And you saw the same behavior with Steve Jobs, where here he is on his deathbed, but he still giving his last talk, because he said he would. It's just that sort of commitment that you need. Right?
-You know, commitment is really who you are. And in the world of business, work, even family, your commitment really sends a signal to what people can expect. But it also helps people to understand what they can expect of themselves. It gives them a picture of what is possible, how commitment looks. You can talk commitment all day long. But people have to literally see commitment to understand what it is.
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