A few years after meeting Alex Haley, we got a letter from the White House. Ronald Reagan’s eight year term as President of the United States was about to end and his staff was interviewing agencies to represent the President for speeches after he left office. 30 agencies were invited including all the big lecture agencies and Hollywood agencies because Ronald Reagan had been an actor in Hollywood.
The idea was that after the first interview the 30 agencies would be reduced to 15 and then 7, etc., and the top two choices would be presented to President and Mrs. Reagan who would make the final choice. No one in Washington, or anywhere for that matter, thought we would be selected, but we were excited and at worse, we were excepting it as a good experience.
After the last interview, we heard nothing for two months. Washington is generally a very gossipy town and you can usually call someone and they can find out what is going on, but not a word.
Then in mid-February, we got a call from President Reagan’s Chief of Staff. I envisioned the conversation. “Bernie, President and Mrs. Reagan think you have done a great job building your company in just eight years. You should be very proud of what you have accomplished but I am sure you understand that they need to go with more experienced people. So I braced myself for the bad news and got on the phone. The President’s Chief of Staff got right to the point. “Bernie, President and Mrs. Reagan have selected you to represent them.” I was so stunned that I simply said, “We will do and good job, and I will be in touch.” Then I hung up the phone.
I sat at my desk that day thinking how totally amazing that a President of the United States would risk his legacy on a group of totally inexperienced people. But as time passed and I got to know him and I came to understand how it all happened. Ronald Reagan was a small town boy who believed in entrepreneurism and the little guy. He was driven by and true to the defining moments and powerful influences that formed and shaped his life. It was just as Alex Haley had told me a few years earlier.
In short eight short years, we went from a failing company in a stationary closet to the largest lecture agency in the world. And throughout it all, I learned a few things.
Sitting in that closet for a full 14 months, I learned:
• Never give up!
• Passion is more important than talent.
My mistake shaking hands with our first speaker, I learned:
• Trust is the foundation of any good friendship or organization.
Reading Lou Holtz words in his letter, I learned:
• There is no short cut to long-term success.
• Always maintain the highest standards.
From my high school teacher, my wife, Alex Haley and Ronald Reagan, I learned:
• Each life is defined by experiences that have volumes to teach us. Each life is a storehouse of wisdom and knowledge, its own library, stuffed to the rafters. These experiences are the turning points in our lives, the powerful influences, defining moments, in other words, the forks in the road.
If we only pay attention, they will not just change us, they will make us stronger and wiser and contribute greatly to our success and accomplishment.
So I wrote a book with 34 stories about turning points in the lives of those I represented. I wrote it for two reasons: To share a collection of stories that have inspired me for many years and taught me something about life, the stories of a compelling and eclectic group of my friends who were guided by their powerful influences and defining moments. And, by my recounting these stories, to give you a better picture and understanding of your own life, and the importance of your turning points in the process.
These stories, about extraordinary people who often started from humble and modest beginnings, will surprise you. Some may even move you. My genuine hope is that you will see yourself in many of these stories and they will inspire you to recognize and learn from the turning points in your life. They did that for me.
About the Author: Bernie SWAIN is one of Your Monthly Mentors, the founder of the pre-eminent lecture agency in the world, Washington Speakers Bureau. Over the last thirty-five years, Washington Speakers Bureau has represented three US Presidents, four prime ministers of Great Britain, countless American and world leaders, business and economic visionaries, authors, media personalities, and sports legends. In 2016, Bernie released his new book, What Made Me Who I Am. Today, Bernie remains Chairman of WSB and travels with Paula, his wife for 41 years, and spends time with their 3 children. Bernie also speaks and writes extensively. Read More…