LITERALLY STANDING UP FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE: Through a Limousine Glass Darkly

A SIGN OF THE TIMES: I am now part of the sign-waving fraternity that hawks pizzas, cheap air fares and spa specials. But waving a sign to get people to read? Now, that’s fresh!

Talking is cheap, writing is cheap. To be effective, you actually have to do what you say you’re going to do to gain any real traction and trust in this world.

And you really have to do what you say you’re going to do when you’re dispensing advice to others.

So, what’s the action-oriented advice, I give in Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject? What did I write?

“You don’t have to be great to start, but have to start to be great. So, get a foot in the door or a seat at the table, even if that entry point or landing place is sweeping floors or peeling potatoes in the basement of some burger joint.”

On my chapter on Persistence, I also quote Robert Louis Stevenson to further illustrate my belief.

“Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day. Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, till the sun goes down. And this is all life really means.”

So there I was yesterday, following the bold words I had written and had quoted to others, standing on the southeast corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Laguna Niguel, holding and wiggling a sign that said, “READ [in red] HARVARD REJECT.COM [in black].”

Why was I standing on that precise corner out of all the corners in Southern California? It was the concluding day of the Women’s Power Summit held at the swanky Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel. The roster of speakers represented the who’s who of women.

No, I wasn’t selected as one of the esteemed panelists waxing about women’s reproductive rights and foreign affairs right alongside Condoleezza Rice, Hilary Clinton and other power players, but I was there all the same, standing at a nearby choke point on the off chance that a chauffeured power player en route to the airport after the conference might pass by and see the crazy, but well-dressed man, holding the eye-catching sign. Many Lincoln Town Cars passed by. I never saw the passengers behind the smoky-glass windows, but I was hopeful of making a connection.

During my hour of power on the corner, I learned many things. When someone is whizzing by on a bike or idling in a car at a turn signal and asks you, “Hey, what’s your book about?” there’s no time for elevator speeches. You have to be much faster than that.

“When the world isn’t hiring, you have to HIGHER yourself, and you spell that H-I-G-H-E-R,” I shouted.

“After I got laid off from corporate America, I set my sights on HIGHERING myself in every area, improving my attitude, decision-making, risk-taking, creativity and my sense of wonder. It’s a book that teaches you to aim higher than your reach and to smash the walls and barriers standing in the way of your success.”

One guy who had rolled down his window to hear my 10-second spiel, replied, “I’m looking it up when I get home.”

I saw other motorists scrambling to their smart phones and tablets to google HarvardReject.com. Heaven help the joggers and baby-stroller pushers I actually cornered (I was on the corner, after all). Some got a full 30-second blast until the light mercifully changed to green.

What else did I learn in my first hour on the streets? I need better sunscreen. Colleen purchased some Nuetrogena sunblock with an SPF of 120. She must really think her aging blue-eyed baby is going to burn and wrinkle up like the prunes I eat for breakfast.

Some passers-by offered up some sign-waving tips for which I was thankful. I definitely have to up my game.

It’s all pretty crazy, isn’t it?

At the end of the day, I’m not standing on street corners to say, “Look at me (well, I literally am). I’m standing there to say, “Look at the book.” I think the book can help and change lives. That’s why I wrote the book. That’s why Colleen and I donated books to Claremont’s Prison Library Project on Wednesday and plan to leave books at prisons throughout California, to give inmates more access to hope and greater possibilities. I also wrote the book to serve as an inspirational guide for my three boys, Ryan, Roger and Brett.

That’s why I’ll be on the corner, as long as I can stand. It won’t be easy, but I’m prepared for the difficult road ahead, and even welcome it in some weird way. I’ve been unchained from my computer!

Architect Richard Neutra said, “I have never done anything in my life that did not seem to be impossible when I was in the beginning stage.”

And all of us are always at some beginning stage if we’re trying to keep up with our fast-paced lives.

That’s good advice and words of encouragement that I think I’ll pass along to another unsuspecting motorist!

“Hey, driver, can you spare a brother a moment?”

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