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-My name is Clay Clark, and I'm the CEO of Thrive15.com. Today we have the pleasure of being joined with Lee Cockerell, one of our business mentors. The guy who used to run Disney World. And we're going to have a rare opportunity to ask him specifically how successful people think. Remember at Thrive15.com, we believe unanimously and as a team that knowledge without application is meaningless. So as you are watching today's episode, take the time to ask yourself what you can uniquely do to apply these success principles in your own life and business. Otherwise, today's episode may prove to be more meaningless than the Star Trek philosophy degree offered at Georgetown.
We want to talk a little bit about the how. How you get from where someone starts to where, ultimately, where you were able to get to with Disney. And I want to ask you this question. Many people believe that to be successful, you're either born with a certain skill set, or you're just lucky, you're privileged, maybe you just-- Can you, maybe, explain what in your mind someone has to do to become successful?
-That certainly wasn't true for me, and it certainly wasn't true with many, many, many people I worked with over the years. Even the president of Walt Disney World started at 17, working, checking out the cash registers and became the president many years later. The lady who became the head of marketing for Disney Parks and Resorts started out driving a boat when she was 17. So they had no idea they were going to be able to do that.
I think you-- Patience is certainly one thing. You don't get it overnight. I think you've got to get the experience under your belt, I always tell people. One of the most important things you can do is get good experience, because nobody can ever take that away from you. And a lot of kids go and get a college degree, but they don't get any experience. And then they're kind of shocked when they get into the workplace and find out the demands. So I think experience, it may be more important, or as important as your education, getting the right experience in the right places.
And even when I meet with people, they say, how can I have a successful career? What should I do? I said, one thing I would suggest, same as I did to my son, when you get out of college or you start to work, go to work for a good brand if you can, and get the experience from a business mentor. If you want to be an entrepreneur, work for Procter Gamble, or work for Marriott, or work for Disney, or work for IBM, or Apple. And then stay five years. They'll train, you and you'll learn a lot. And then you'll be 26, 27. Then you go do your thing. And if you don't like it, you can leave. If you like it, you can stay. And even if you leave, it'll be on your resume, and it'll open doors. That experience pays off as you go down the roa-- The reason I got, frankly, I got hired by Disney, because I worked for Marriott. The reason I got hired by Marriott, because I worked for Hilton. And it's just, it's an amazing thing.
-So, Ray Kroc, the guy who helped grow McDonald's. He says that a lot of luck has to do with being in the right place at the right time, but doing something about it. And it sounds like you're saying, go to work for a good brand.
-I get college kids that call me, and say, Lee, can I meet with you for an hour to understand how to be successful like you are in your career. And I say, no, you don't need to spend an hour with me. Let me tell you while I got you on the phone. Be better than everybody else. And they say, what does that mean. I say, listen. You wake up in the morning, you've got to have a better attitude than everybody. If 10 people are doing the job you do, you make sure you're the best one. You keep learning. You don't go home every night unless you get every question answered about what you don't know, and good attitude, work hard, and be better, and it'll be noticed. If there's 10 people in your business, and you're all young guys, you be the best one.
-Now I want to-- A lot of specifics I want to ask you here, kind of rapid fire, because these are some things that I think a lot of those need to know. What time, when you were in your career, what time did you get up every day, and why?
-Well, I can just tell you at Disney, I got to the office at 6:15.
-Got to office at 6:15.
LEE COCKERELL: I did.
-So what time did you get up?
LEE COCKERELL: I'd get up about 5:00. And I went to Starbucks and got a coffee, read the paper, got into my office at 6:15.
-I'm going to ask you this, because I want to maybe just really dwell on this for a sec, because I just think it's so important. There's a group of guys that I met at a speaking conference, and they have called themselves the high five at five club. And these guys would text each other or call each other at five in the morning to make sure the other people were awake, because this was like their-- Their belief was that the top management was always up at 5:00 AM. And this is what they did. Do you do believe-- Do you think that was a big part of your success, getting up early enough to be prepared for the day? Because you were at work at 6:15.
-That's why I did it. First of all, I've always gotten up early. When you grow up on a farm, you're used to getting up early. And my whole life, I got up early, I just-- I still do. I'm retired. I could sleep till 9:00, but I get up, and still the same time. And I did it because I'm very process oriented. I got to the office-- I had a routine. I get to the office at 6:15. And 6:15 until 8 o'clock, no meetings, nothing. I plan my day in my day planner, what I'm going to work on today. I answer all my emails before most people wake up, personally, not a secretary, me. They get it back from Lee. I get myself organized, and then I go off to my first meeting at 8 o'clock, and then I work through the day. I quit at five and go to the gym.
-So the first two hours of the day. You get to work, you're making your to do list. You're responding to your emails?
-Going through my e-mail and mail from the day before.
-Anything else that happens in those first two hours? That's pretty much what you're focused on.
-Never met with people that early, because I wanted to get my act together and get organized. Because once the day starts, it's chaos. It's total chaos. And I need to make sure that I knew the three or four things I must get done today. That's why I sit and think about them and get them in my planner, so no matter what happened during the day, I'm going to check those three off.
-And here's the thing I want to ask you this, because I work with tons of business owners. Whether it's a doctor or an appliance store, or any kind of business, a retail shop. The ones who are successful always see that they are very proactive. They take those first couple hours to lay out their plan. Could you maybe tell me the things that every business owner, in your mind, has to do in the first couple hours of the day to get ahead and not just be reacting. Because I totally can relate. Once you get there, I mean, guns are ablaze and things start happening. But the first couple hours.
-I think the thing you think about, people get a planner and they say how do you decide what to put in your planner? Where it says to do today. People go how do you decide? I said, first thing every day I thought about is yesterday. I thought through my whole day yesterday. Who I met with, somebody, a manager I might have coached and couseled, a customer I need to call back. And I thought about every part of the day. And I put things in today to fix, because on the way home, I thought about two more things I should have told that guy.
When I got up this morning I thought of a couple things from yesterday, because we're so busy running around all day. And I put those in there. Second, I always tell people, fix yesterday before you move forward. So it doesn't bite you. Get back to people. Be on top of it. Think. And Americans are not good at thinking. They want to move forward instead of making sure everything was handled properly yesterday.
-You in your career, you were at Disney-- you were at the Marriott and then Disney-- kind of pre-super digital world. And now we're in the digital world. So you actually bridged the gap in your career. I mean you are in business-- and I know today I see a business owners who try to have a to do list on their phone and they have one on their calendar and they have their apps going. I always tell people we have to have it all in one place. Can you walk me through what you did? Did you have a paper day timer.
-I do I still today. My Samsung Galaxy 3 is my best friend. And it's good for everything. I mean really. As far I'm concerned, it's good for most. My Samsung Galaxy 3 is my best friend, it's good for everything. I mean really. As far as I'm concerned, it's good for most. I don't find it is effective for task lists and I still use a planner. And I use both of them. The only thing I use the planner for is to make my to do list every day. And so you see, I'm quietly thinking in the morning.
And I want to tell you how I think about it. Not only yesterday do I put some things in there, but then I think, I tell people you've got to think about each responsibility you've signed up for in your life. Like you. You need to wake up in the morning and think about your wife. You need to think about those five children. You need to do anything for them this week? Sign them up for camp? Get them a physical? Go up and see their teachers and see how they're doing? Whatever. There's always something. You got the college funds open. See your counselor.
-One of my mentors, he had told me, he said, if you don't schedule it, it won't happen. Because my wife and I, and this is terrible. But we were married I think, like, five years and I don't recall us having gone out on a date before I heard this advice. And I'm going, I'm a terrible person. How could I have not done that? Well, I'm so busy with the business. Hadn't thought about it. Well now we schedule it. Pretty much every week. I mean we're not perfect, but almost every week we have a date scheduled. There's schedule hockey practice. There's places we have to go to.
But those first two hours, so you're saying those first two hours, you always get there, you make your to do list of what needs to be done. And you plan out your day. You think about the day before. Any problems you had. Anything else in that first couple hours you do? Emails?
-Each one listening to this today ought to think about the responsibility that they've signed up for in their life. We all have a different list. You're married, you have five kids. So there's some responsibility. Maybe you have aging parents you're going to have to deal with someday. Maybe it's 20 years away. But you need to be understanding what it costs: Medicare, Medicaid, what the places cost, how are you going to pay for it? Your own personal development. What course do you need to go learn more about finance or marketing or audio visual? What do you need to learn so five years from now you're still relevant. Are you keeping up?
What else do you need think about? Your health. Do you think your health is your responsibility? Do you schedule it? One theory, you know, I think is the best one liner. Schedule your priorities. Put them in your calendar. Schedule the priorities in your life.
-You're scheduling your faith, your finances.
-Your family, your fitness.
- All in the first couple hours. I mean, I know every Tuesday and Friday, I work out at 9:30 with my trainer. It's scheduled.
-Now, let me ask you this. Once the day started-- so when you got to work-- the first two hours, you're scheduling. What time was the first time you saw another human?
-Usually around 8:00.
-First meeting. 8:00, 8:30 something like that.
-And then, did you keep set appointments with your team? Or were they just kind of random?
-I had pretty much set appointments. But I did that based on what they thought we needed. So I had one lady who, every couple weeks was all we needed. She kept me well informed. I had one guy who really needed that weekly meeting to kind of boost his confidence. And then when you told him he was doing a good job, his performance soared. Another guy would be happy if he didn't see me at all, but I still saw him.
So schedule time with people and have a good-- what are you going to do during the time you're meeting with them? And do you have a clear agenda of what you're going to do?
-How often did you read success or leadership books or study successful people in your career? How often would you do that?
-Frankly, I was always reading some book on leadership, or management, or-- there's so many, by the way. I mean, I did find that there's just a lot of rehashing. There's not a lot of new stuff, actually. But somebody might say it in a different-- it's even what I'm doing today. It's not that I'm saying anything different to people, it's how I tell the story. The stories. Storytelling is one of the best ways to learn.
So I tell them a story about an obstacle I had in my life instead of saying, you know, you need to learn to overcome obstacles. Well, that's a good sentence. But people need to know, OK, how do you do that?
-I've met a lot of people that are struggling financially, or struggling in their business. And then, when I meet a lot of successful people, one big difference I've noticed is that a lot of successful people have committed to lifelong learning. Like they're never done learning. Where the people who struggle might have said, well, I just got my degree five years ago, so I no longer read. Or I'm so busy, I don't have time to read. Or I don't have time to study. When did you fit in your time to read, Lee?
-Well, I'll tell you. First of all, I think what you just said is true. Because they've been proving that people with a lot of curiosity are more successful, wanting to know more. I love Google today, because when I don't know the definition of a word, or somebody says something, I just go fair, and then I know.
I love Google today, because when I don't know the definition of a word, or somebody says something, I just go fair, and then I know. I mean, you don't have any excuse for not learning. If you say, I don't know, and you heard that word, you didn't go look it up.
-When did you find time to read? I mean, with your schedule? You're busy. I mean, you had a lot of stuff. You had 40,000 employees--
-Sitting on airplanes, sitting at the airport, or walking around at the airport, having useless television. You know, even today, I'm not reading so much because I'm walking. I get up and walk to get my 20,000 steps in a day. Starbucks, I read every morning, The New York Times. Because it's in depth coverage. It's not just this little blurb. It's telling you why this is happening in Syria, why this is happening and why, what the consequences of this new law are really going to be on three or four pages.
So that's why I like The New York Times. It's not like USA Today, which is like, I read it, but I don't really get the whole why this happened, how did it happen, who was involved? And sometimes, like the notes you sent me, I had those at Starbucks a couple mornings, and that's where I read them. I'm sitting there for an hour. You've got to kind of schedule-- you've got to fit things in. You don't read by accident. You've got to plan to read. You don't exercise by accident, you've got to plan it. You don't spend time effectively with your children and with your wife unless you plan it. Because things will come up.
-So you're scheduling your priorities.
-Oh, absolutely. OK. Now this is huge though. Because I feel like-- I know in my companies, before I sold the DJ company, we were doing thousands of weddings a year. And there's always a mom with a customer service question. There's always an employee that has a question. But I was very intense about taking the first two or three hours every morning of just planning my day. And I hadn't done that until I met a few mentors who said, you need to do that. You've got to take the first two hours. What are you doing? You've got to take those two hours and plan, or you're just going to be against the pinball machine of life, reacting.
-A good analogy is, would you just wake up one morning and say to your wife, let's go on vacation? And you'd pull out of the driveway, and you've got no plan. Where are you going? You know? Which way are you going? Are you going to have a hotel at the end of the day? Are there any plane tickets? Where are you going? When you get there, you've going to have a big mess if you don't plan it.
And by the way, everybody knows how to plan their vacation. So we know every individual knows how to plan. They just don't realize the value of planning their retirement, planning their health, planning their relationships, planning their own personal knowledge learning. I mean, if you plan it-- what's the old saying, you know? Plan your day and work your plan.
And even though you get a plan, I wake up in the morning-- 9/11, I had a plan at 8:00 in the morning on 9/11. At 8:45--
- --that plan was totally over for months. And those things weren't important anymore, mainly. And I had to go-- so there's times in the day when you've got a plan, but something comes up. And you've got to have enough judgment to move yourself to the right thing and then come back to what's in there.
-And final capstone thought I had is, I know when you run a business, and you're running around, especially at Disney, you might run around and go, oh my gosh, we need to tackle that problem. Maybe not now, but maybe next month, or next week. Do you always keep an actual planner where you'd write down those problems as you see them so you can come back to them later?
-Absolutely. It's February now. If I want to do something in March, I'm writing them down over there. April. I have the books in my desk. May-- and I decide I want to start retraining all my employees in May, I write over and give myself a reminder to get working on this in May. It doesn't have to be today, but I don't want to lose that thought.
-Yeah. So you have a thought, you write it down.
-I put it in here.
-June's clear, because I don't work in June.
-Now, do you have a plan-- do you recommend every entrepreneur, every business owner, has a planner? Would you recommend they have a tangible to write down those ideas?
-This may eventually get better, but a lot of things happen to this. Batteries go down, people don't want you looking at it when you're in a meeting, because people are--
-They think you're on the phone talking to yourself.
-I think we're all going to have to get over that, too. Because young people are going to use their iPads. They're going to use these. And it's going to become the way they work. And I'm not saying you can't do it as effectively. But right now, I don't like the system's strong enough in here.
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