I truly in my heart don’t believe I know everything. I believe I have a lot to learn from others. No matter how good I am at marketing and selling, there is invariably someone I can learn more from. I learned this by failing again and again during my career. I was a Harvard Law School man—filled with arrogance (and probably not in the nice way that my wife currently treasures)—but got a lot of humility knocked into me through years of failure. Even after my success, I still find that my most brilliant ideas often turn out to be plain old wrong. My new saying, which I made up, and I am proud of, is: “The reason I am smarter than everyone else is that I truly realize I am not smarter than everyone else.”
I truly love other people. I love my colleagues. I love my clients, and I love the people I do business with. I look for the sweetness and good in people—my wife’s admonition. This is hugely important. We all have our good points, and we all have our points that aren’t that good. Few of us are really bad, or good, through and through. If you look for the bad in people, trust me, you will find it. If you look for the good, the odds are you will find that too.
I am thick-skinned and don’t hold grudges. I try to keep in mind that if customers, clients, employees, partners or others I deal with are not nice to me on a given day, it doesn’t mean I have to start World War III with them or hold a long-term grudge.
I seek the truth. I start with “brutal unvarnished honesty” to myself and I apply it to everything I do. I am tough on those around me for sure, but much tougher on myself. I don’t evaluate my performance and success through rose-colored glasses but instead, as best I can, through clear glass. Why is this? There is no reason except that it is my programming. If I had to describe myself in a short sentence, it would be “I am a seeker of truth.”
I think. My hobby is thinking. I love to sit by the pool and just “think” and come up with creative ideas. I had an amazing teacher in junior high school who woke up my brain by terrorizing my classmates and me by being rude, scary, bombastic and outrageous all at the same time. It changed my life. I owe a great deal of who I am today to this great teacher in the depths of time. In many ways, he “created” me. His name was Werner Feig. Sadly, he died relatively young at age 75. I was not able to thank him for what he did, so I am thanking him now. It is worth stressing this. Most people I think just go through life and accept what is around them at face value. I don’t do that. I challenge everything I can possibly see. I deliberately try to look at things in a different way and see what comes out of it.
I love wacky, crazy, silly and even stupid ideas. I firmly believe that if an idea is obviously a good one, then people will probably be already doing it; hence, there is no real upside to pursuing it. It is in the bin of stupid ideas where the brilliant ideas are hiding. The trick is to pull them out and, maybe with a twist of the dial, make them useful.
I am not afraid to fail and make a fool out of myself. If you are trying to emulate my characteristics, or wondering if you will be a great marketer by concluding we are similar, this is the hardest one for most people. This is why it has been so powerful for me in creating upside. For whatever reason, I am fine completely blowing it and even have people laugh at me.
When I fail, and I fail all the time, I grieve for a bit to be sure (sometimes a full day and for a major failure two days), but then I pick myself up, dust myself off, and get right back in the game. I don’t give up.
And finally: I work really hard. I set crazy goals and then work relentlessly to achieve them. Sometimes I succeed (like the Ironman races) and sometimes I fail (like trying to be a professional basketball player), but I set crazy goals and work crazy hard to achieve them. Another regret is that it took me a very long time to learn that working smart is a hugely valuable adjunct to working hard. Plain old hard work can sometimes, sadly, be a complete waste of time, but if you put smart and hard work together, the possibilities are endless.