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The Twelve Pillars of Success – Chris Widener

♪ [music] ♪ – [David] So hello. Today we are with a new guest to unleash our potential. He's Chris Widener. He's a successful businessman, author, speaker, and television host. So thank you very much, Chris, and hello. – [Chris] Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. – So my first question I would like to ask you, because a lot of people ask me this kind of question, is how to find your way, your purpose, your mission? – Yeah. That was something that I had to do. I had a pretty rough upbringing growing up. I had a lot of trouble growing up. I got involved in drugs and alcohol at a very early age. I lived in 28 homes. – Wow. – I went to 11 different schools. My mom shipped me off to live with relatives twice. My dad died when I was four. So you can imagine, I had a pretty rough upbringing. So if there are any youth that are watching this, I know what it's like to have a tumultuous upbringing, if you've had a rough upbringing. At about age 17, I was just about to graduate high school and I realized that I was about to go out into the real world. I had no idea what I was going to do. I had no idea how to get there. I mean, I wanted what everybody wants. We want to have the finances and the money that it takes to live the life that we want to live. We want to find friends who will be supportive of us that we can enjoy. We want to find a special person in our life that can eventually become our spouse and we can have children with. We want our children… You know what? I wanted to look down the road of life and I wanted what everybody wanted. But I had no idea how to get there, and a lot of people don't know how to get there. So I've made it my life's journey to find out what are the keys of success. I ask one simple question that has driven my work and I repeat it in almost all of my speeches. Why is it that some people succeed and other people don't succeed? There are lots of answers to that. There's some few basic core answers, I think. But I think the first thing we have to do is understand that success is not just money. It's the first thing we think about. We think about… If I were to say to you, “He is very successful,” you would think, “Oh, he has a nice house, nice cars, a lot of money.” That's our first thought. But if we step back from it for a minute, we realize that money isn't everything, and this goes to your question. I think really the key element of success is not just saying, “I want to make a lot of money.” The key element of success is, “I want to do something that I love. I want to find something that I can wake up every single morning and be passionate about.” Really, what I believe the key to success, and getting to the answer to your question, how do we find our passion, is we have to look inwardly. We have to look in our hearts. We have to look inside ourselves and say, “What is it that I love?” I would rather do something that I love that doesn't pay much money than something I hate that pays a lot of money. So the key is to find out what it is that you love. I wrote a book called The Angel Inside: Michelangelo's Secrets for Following Your Passion and Finding the Work You Love. That's the book that was a Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestselling book. The interesting thing is that Michelangelo, his dad wanted him to be a politician. I mean, a lot of pressure on Michelangelo to go be a politician. – Yes. – Imagine if Michelangelo would've gone and become a politician. He might have been a pretty good politician. Who knows? But he wouldn't have become one of the greatest artists of all time. So what he had to do was he had to find his passion for his life, not his father's passion for his life or anyone else's passion for his life. So the key number one thing is that you own your life, you control your life, and there's going to be lots of other people telling you what you ought to do. Instead, you get one go around in this life and you need to make a decision about what you're going to do, and it ought to be something that you love. – Okay. So to sum up what you're saying, you have to see inside yourself and find what is your passion, take some action to live with this passion. – Yes, absolutely. You have to decide what it is that you want to do. When you find out what it is that you want to do, then you have to take the action and actually go and do it. Your passion may mean that you have to go to higher education and get a certain degree, or it may mean that you need to apprentice with someone, or it may mean that you need to move to another country if another country has a better opportunity for you. So once you find out what it is that you want to do, then you have to take the action and actually go and do it. Because there's a lot of people… I mean, I meet them all the time. They say, “Oh, I really wish I was doing this.” Well, why don't you go and do this? They don't take the action. They wish in their head. They say, “I wish I could be doing this,” or, “I dream of doing this.” But instead, they're doing something else, something that they got drug into at an early age and they never had the courage to go and do something else, what they really wanted to do. – You are dealing with passion. One day, one of my participants of my seminar said to me, “I don't have passion.” So I didn't know how to answer her, because she's… Do you understand what I'm saying? She said to me, “I don't have any passion, so how can I find it?” – I have a hard time believing that she doesn't have any passion. – Yes. – She might not be in tune with what her passion is. But the question I ask is, “What do you love?” If I were to bring up a topic, what topic would make you say, “Oh, I love that?” It might be cooking. If you say, “Would you like to go to a nice restaurant?” and she says, “I'd love to go to a nice restaurant,” well then maybe she ought to go into the restaurant business, or maybe she ought to go and become a chef, or something like that. If you said, “How would you like to travel to,” and then name some destination and she would say, “Oh, I'd love to go and visit that place,” well maybe she ought to go into the travel industry, or something like that. Everybody has something they love. Everybody has something that they're passionate about. It might not be something that is clearly a vocation or something that you can have a job doing, but you can make a living at almost anything. You can pick almost any topic and you can make a living doing it. If someone loves animals, they can be a veterinarian, or they can run a website selling products that serve people who love dogs or cats. You name anything, I can find a way to make money at it. You might not get rich at it, but it is something that you could do. You could wake up every morning saying, “I love this,” and you could make a living doing it. – Yes. According to you, how to meet the person I am inspired by? – I think there's a few keys to that. First of all, ask. Just ask. Right? You sent me an email and said, “Can I interview you?” and I said, “Sure, let's do it.” – Yes. – I imagine there are some people who might say, “Sorry. I'm too busy,” or whatever. But if you explain your situation and things like that, a lot of times people are just simply going to say, “Okay. Let's do it.” So a lot of people don't get what they want in life because they never ask. So the first thing is, ask. The second thing would be to put yourself into proximity of that person. Maybe they belong to a certain professional group. Maybe they go to certain kinds of conferences. If you want to meet someone, you have to be where they are. So let's say that you find out that someone that you know is speaking at a conference. I would register and go to the conference. There's no guarantee that you'll meet them, but you might. You can even send an email prior to that and say, “I'm going to be at this conference. I'm a big fan of your work. I'd love to get a few moments with you if at all possible.” Don't say, “I'd like to sit down with you for three hours and take you to dinner,” because that's really easy for them to reject. But if you say, “Hey, I'm going to be at this conference. I'd love to meet with you…” Maybe they're an author, “I've purchased your books. I'd love to see if you could sign my book. I'd love to meet you.” Don't ask for too much of their time. The third thing that I would suggest is, a lot of times when people meet famous people or they want to meet famous people, they ask that famous person to help them. So a lot of people ask me, “Chris, how did you rise to the top of the speaking world so fast? How did you end up doing a TV show with Zig Ziglar and co-writing books with Jim Rohn, and ghostwriting for John Maxwell? How did you get to do that?” The simple answer is that when I became involved with those folks, who were the legends of the industry, I didn't ask them to help me. I asked if I could help them. I found a need that every single one of them had and I filled that need, and it put me into a working relationship with them. So for example, the first thing I did was, let's take John Maxwell, I put on a conference and I paid John Maxwell \$40,000 to come and speak at my conference. This was 11 years ago. So the first thing I did was I gave him \$40,000 and I said, “Would you come and speak?” and he came and spoke at my conference. Well, that created a relationship then, and I got to know him and it created reciprocity. Then, a little while later the president of their company asked if I would do some writing for them and I said, “Sure.” Now, they paid me for the writing, but again I was serving a need and fulfilling a need that they had. So it allowed me to serve them. Through that work, Jim Rohn found out about me and they called me and asked me if I would co-author the Jim Rohn One-Year Program, and I did. So I co-authored the Jim Rohn One-Year Program. From there, Jim and I co-wrote the book 12 Pillars. At the time, I was asked to do a television show in Dallas, Texas and I had my own television show, Made for Success, which I think is what you were referencing earlier, the interviews that I did. Well, a little after I did my TV show, the same network asked Zig Ziglar if he would do a TV show on their network. Zig was getting older. I think he was 79, 80, maybe even was 81 at the time, and Zig didn't want to host the show by himself, so he wanted a co-host. Well, I was already there and I was already doing a TV show, and I had already had some interactions with some other folks at that level. So they said, “Would you be willing to co-host the TV show?” I said, “Sure,” so I'd filled a need. So I think the real key is, rather than asking these famous, high-level superstars to help you, which they get asked all the time… They get asked to help people all the time. They are very rarely asked, “How can I help you?” – It's very inspiring what you are saying. For instance, if I take an example with my girlfriend, we would love to interview George Lucas because he made Edutopia. Did you know? – No. – It is a company for helping youths, and we would love to write a book on success principles for youths to help youths to be inspired. Do you think it's a good strategy to not ask for help, but to ask him to help youths? Do you understand? – I think the best thing is to ask how you can help them. – Okay. – If you can help them, then they're more willing to help you later. So Robert Cialdini wrote a book called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. [cross talk] book. Right? – Yes. – The law of reciprocity, you have to give before you receive. So when I approach people, I like to say, “How can I help you?” Then, once I've helped them, then they're more willing to help me in return. – For instance, we go to the U.S. on the 19th of May, so it's in one month. The challenge is to do 30 interviews in U.S. According to you, what is the best way to ask an interview? – Yeah. What I would say, I would say, “Look. I'm doing this book.” – Yes. – “We want to help lots of youth around the world. We respect and admire your work. We would love to include your work in this book so that you can reach a greater audience.” So the position is that your interview is going to help them fulfill their mission, which is to reach a greater, broader audience. So when you're asking them to help you by doing the interview, you're really offering them an opportunity to fulfill their mission, which is to help many more people. – Yes. It's the same with unleash your potential. We would love to permit people who are supporters, like you, to be known in France in interview very inspiring people. – Right, right. – Okay. Thank you very much. So my third question, it is about a project. According to you, how to unleash our potential? – I think the best way to unleash your potential is to get good at something. We have to work on ourselves before that self is then shown to the world. My mentor, Jim Rohn, who I spent the last seven years of his life with him, Jim always said, “Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” So a lot of people say, “I want to go and I want to accomplish this,” and they look out in the future and they say, “I want to accomplish this.” It's a wish and a dream, but very few people do what it takes to improve their lives in such a way that they have the skill and the competency to be able to do this. So I would suggest that the best thing to do is to improve yourself, to take yourself and to make yourself into the type of person that's going to be able to succeed. So what skills do you need to work on? What character traits do you need to work on? Improve yourself is the first step to reaching your potential. It's not just having a big dream. Lots of people have big dreams. In fact, almost everybody has a big dream. The people who succeed at doing their big dreams are the people who actually improve themselves and enable themselves to accomplish it. For example, somebody might want to become a professional soccer player. You probably, living in Europe… Soccer isn't quite as big in the U.S., although it's getting very big in the U.S. Soccer isn't quite as big in the U.S. as it is in Europe, so you probably know a lot of people who when they were little kids they said, “I want to be a professional soccer player.” Right? – Yes. – Everybody, every little kid, wants to be a professional soccer player. But how many of them are willing to every day, one or two hours a day, sit and kick a soccer ball? Not very many. The people who do are the people who get very good and they increase their likelihood of fulfilling their potential and becoming a professional soccer player. So it's quite simple actually. You have to improve your skills, you have to improve your character, you have to improve your performance in order to achieve your potential. – So if you improve yourself every day, like the kaizen process, for example, you learn every day and you act every day. – Every day, you have to improve. I've become one of the top speakers in the world. I didn't start out as one of the top speakers in the world. I started out making \$500 a speech, and now I make over \$20,000 a speech. But it took me from 1988 to 2013. It's a process, and I've gotten better at my craft. I've learned to speak better. I've learned to read the audience better. I've learned to see what messages resonate with the audience better. I've changed my message. I've honed my message. I've learned how to articulate better. I've learned how to pace myself better. I've learned how to walk the stage better. Every time I go out on the stage, I try to perform at a higher level. It's the same whether you are going to be an attorney in court or you're going to be a professional athlete, or you're going to be a speaker, or you're going to be a doctor. I mean, if you go in for surgery, do you want a doctor who's no better today than he was 10 years ago? No. You want a doctor who's better today than they were 10 years ago. You want them to be better. You want them to have more knowledge. You want them to have more skill. You want their hand to be steadier than it was 10 years ago when they're slicing through your skin. We want people who are going to be better, and we ought to do that ourselves. – Yes. It's the same as the CANI: Constant and Never-ending Improvement. – Absolutely. – Yes. According to you, how to develop self-confidence, to be confident, to become very charismatic? – I love the word “confidence,” and I'll tell you why. My mom taught me to love words, and she taught me to look at the root meanings of words and prefixes, and things like that. So I love to break down the word “confidence.” Con, the first part of the word “confidence,” is a prefix. Do you know what con means? – With. – That's what it means. It means “with.” So con means “with.” Fide. Fide is an old Latin word. Do you know what the old Latin word “fide” means? – I don't know. – You didn't know that I was going to interview you, did you? Fide means “faith.” Confidence means “with faith.” – Okay. – Self-confidence means “with faith in yourself.” So here's how I explain that. People ask me, “Do you ever get nervous giving a speech?” I tell them, “No. I never get nervous giving a speech.” Why? Because I'm good at it, and I have faith in myself. If someone says, “We're going to…” In fact, I just got booked. I'm going to do my largest speech ever, 25,000 people in Los Angeles in about a month and a half. I'm not nervous in the least. I don't sit around thinking, “Oh, am I going to do okay?” I'm going to do great, because I'm really good at speaking. I have faith in myself as it relates to speaking. However, if they were to say to me, “Would you come to Los Angeles and sing the National Anthem in front of 25,000 people?” I'd be scared to death, because I don't have faith in myself when it comes to singing. Right? So the point there is that the way to develop confidence is to ask yourself, “What do I have faith in myself in?” There are certain things that I have faith in myself in. I'm very good at driving, but I wouldn't give myself any faith at all in fixing my car because I don't know anything about fixing cars. So if I had to open the hood of my car and fix my car, I'd be more afraid I was going to break the car than fix the car. I have no faith in my ability to be an automobile mechanic. So in order to develop confidence, I suggest that the best way to develop confidence is to be doing things that you are good at. Do things that come from your strengths, rather than your weaknesses. So if you're in a job that you're not good at, you're not going to have confidence. So again, it goes down to following your passion, but doing something that you are good at. Because if you're good at it, you're going to be recognized for it, you're going to make more money at it, you're going to feel better doing it, and you're going to have more confidence. If you have more confidence, you're going to project that confidence to people and people are going to respond in a better way. So self-confidence is really about finding that thing that you have faith in yourself in. It stems from doing something that you are good at. – So do you think if you… For instance, I was shy, so I was not good in speaking. But I loved to become a good speaker and today I speak. – So you improved. Are you more confident now than you were two years ago? – Yes. – Because you've gotten better. So you can say, “I want to do this, and even though I'm not very good at it now I will become better.” The better you become at it, the more faith you have in your ability to do it. So you can develop self-confidence. But self-confidence comes from doing things that we're good at. – Okay. I understand. – So if you love music… I mean, I suppose I could get to the point where I'm a better singer. But I'd have to take singing lessons and I'd have to work on it, and all these sorts of things. Right? I'd have to really work on it and I'd probably get better, and then I'd have more faith in myself. I'd have more confidence in myself. So yeah, you certainly can develop self-confidence. Self-confidence comes from having faith in yourself. – So it's two things. So your faith is something or it's a dream, it's a goal, so you will do the efforts, the action, the improvement to get this faith. – Yes. – It's two options. – Confidence means “with faith.” So if you don't have faith in yourself, then you better improve yourself or give it up. Because you're never going to have more faith… If you stay at the same level you are now, then you'll never have faith in yourself if you're not good at it. But you can improve yourself and if you improve yourself, you'll become better at it and you'll have more faith. Self-confidence comes almost strictly from your ability to accomplish the task. – Okay. So how to overcome fear? When, for instance, you have to do public speaking, because in your company the boss asks you to do that, or you're a student and you have to do that and you have a lot of fear, how to overcome it? – Well, I think there's a couple factors that have to do with fear. The first one is psychological. Lots of people have psychological issues that cause them unfounded fear, fear that it's unfounded. There's no basis in fact. They're afraid of bees, or something. Right? I suppose if you're allergic to bees and you're going to die if one stings you, well then you become fearful. But most people aren't going to die if they get stung by a bee. I have a friend who doesn't like to write, because 30 years ago one of his teachers wrote on his school paper, “This is the worst essay I've ever read in all my years of teaching.” Well, now he's afraid to write. He doesn't want to write, and so he has this fear. Well, he's not the worst writer in the history of the world, even if this teacher told him he was the worst writer in the history of the world. So there's a psychological barrier there, and if he's ever going to become good at writing he has to overcome that psychological barrier. So some people might have to deal with that, whether it's through a counselor, or psychologist, or a coach, or something like that. Not really something we can solve here in this short interview. But the second one goes back to our previous question, and that is that the best way to overcome fear is to be very, very good at it. I always like to use Michael Jordan as an example, Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time. If he wasn't so good, he'd be afraid to take the last shot of the game. When his team was down by a point and they had one shot left, if he wasn't as good as he was, he'd be afraid to take that shot. He'd want somebody else to take that shot. But he was confident. He wanted the ball. He wasn't afraid to take the last shot. Was there a chance that he would miss it? Certainly, there was a chance that he would miss it. But he also knew that there was a high likelihood that he would make it. He also knew that there was a higher likelihood that he would make it than his teammates would make it. Right? So he didn't have fear. He approached it fearlessly. So that stems from the fact of his greatness. So the best way to overcome fear is to be great. People say, “How can I overcome stage fright?” They ask me that. Speakers ask me that, “How can I overcome stage fright?” I tell them, “Know your material as well as you can possibly know it.” If you have inside your brain, locked inside your brain, every bit of information you can possibly ever need on that topic, then when you walk out on that stage you're going to have a huge reservoir to be able to pull from. But if you don't know your topic and you walk out on that stage, then you ought to be afraid. You ought to be very, very afraid, because you don't have a huge reservoir to pull from, to resource from. So the best thing you can do to overcome fear is to be as strong as you possibly can, to be as knowledgeable as you possibly can, to be as skillful as you possibly can. – So to sum up, you have to be prepared. You have to prepare yourself. – Absolutely. Absolutely. – Okay. What could be the success principles for youths according to you? – Well, I don't think it's just for youth. But the first thing I would say is dream big. You're going to realize that almost no one dreams very big, and it's the people who dream big who achieve the most in life. The second thing that I would say is that high school or… I don't know what you call it in France. Do you call it secondary school? – Mm-hmm. – That is almost a mirage. The people that are successful in high school are rarely the people who are the most successful after high school. High school is like an alternative universe. You look around and you've got the cool kids and the not cool kids. You've got the smart kids and you've got the popular kids. You've got all these little cliques, right? What you're going to realize is when you go back to your 10th anniversary or your 20th anniversary, or your 30th anniversary of your graduation, your reunions, you're going to realize that the cool kid is fat, bald, and broke, and that's usually what happens. So what I would say is, it doesn't matter what your pecking order is in high school. I don't care if you're the dumbest kid in class or the middle kid, or the popular kid, or whatever, none of it matters. The only thing that matters is what you do with your life. Life rewards action, and the marketplace rewards action. What I realized is that usually in life the A students work for the C students. Later on in life, all the kids who got As in class, they're usually working for the kids who got Cs in class, and that is the God's honest truth. “I was in the half of the class that made the top half possible,” as Zig Ziglar would say. – Yes. I love that. – I graduated near the bottom of my class. I was in trouble a lot in high school. My sophomore year of high school, so 10th grade, I received 47 written referrals to the principal's office from my teachers. I was sent to the principal's office 47 times during 10th grade. It would be safe to say that I have become one of the more successful alumni of my high school. Other kids that I look at that went to my high school that have gone on to become quite successful, none of them were the A students. None of them were the kids who were the super-popular kids. So don't look at your high school years as the reality, as what life is going to be. You can achieve whatever it is that you want to achieve. You can do whatever it is that you want to do. All you have to do is set your vision for what you want to become, and go out and make it happen. – I totally agree with what you're saying about school. I have a fear to say that to students, because I have a fear in saying them that the parents would be afraid. – Okay. So I'm not saying dumb yourself down. I'm not saying don't do your homework. I'm not saying try to be a C student. I'm not saying that at all. But what I am saying is it doesn't matter where you come in right now. I mean, in the long run, you have C students who end up super-rich, and you have A students who are broke as a joke. Right? So it doesn't matter. Now, does it matter that you get good grades so you can get into a good college, so you can get a good degree, so you can become successful in life? Yes. Getting good grades helps you, but it doesn't guarantee anything for you. Getting poor grades also doesn't guarantee that you're going to be a failure in life. Right? So that's the only point I'm making is, that it's irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. I would rather have a C student who is passionate, smart, aggressive, and dreams big and is willing to work hard than an A student who thinks they know everything, who has no dream in their life. So that's the only point I'm making. I'm not saying go out and be a C student. I'm saying do your best. Always do your best. But if you're doing your best, then it really doesn't matter where you come in. – Okay. It's more clear. I will explain that with the way you are explaining. So thank you very much. Maybe I'd like you to introduce how people can follow you, or maybe what are the books we have to purchase first? – Certainly. Well, first of all, if you're going to start with a book, you need to buy the book 12 Pillars that I wrote with Jim Rohn. It's a fantastic book. 12 Pillars, you can get it at chriswidener.com, and then you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisWidener, and you can follow me on Facebook, facebook.com/chriswidenerspeaker. – Do you do some public events, public conferences to follow you? – I do some public conferences. I don't do a ton of public conferences, but some that I do. Most of them, I'm hired by other speakers or other businesses. One other site that I would point your attention to, it's a free site that people can go to and get lots of great business advice. We have over 200 videos on all aspects of business and it's all free. They have to register with an email address, but other than that it's free. It's twelvecoaches.com. – So thank you very much, Chris. – Thanks for having me. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you and to your folks. ♪ [music] ♪

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