Tan, Tested and Ready to Serve: Tim Hepburn … by Peter Bennett

TimHepburn1There’s some debate as to who has a better tan, John Boehner, current Speaker of the House, or Tim Hepburn, currently campaigning for one of two council spots in the City of La Verne election, which will take place, Tuesday, March 3.

While the jury on Boehner’s tanning source is still out, there’s no doubt about how Hepburn has come by his. There’s no artifice or tanning lamps involved. He’s as transparent as the midday sun. He has come by his tan honestly.

The proof! He’s been an electrical contractor for about three decades and in the business for another decade. He doesn’t sit behind a desk like me. He works with his hands, not just his mind.

Part of his tan, I think, has also been grilled or roasted in. For as long as I can remember – or at least during that period when my three boys played sports at Bonita High School – there was Tim flipping burgers on a Friday night, his face aglow over the grill. After a decade he finally surrendered his spatula to a new generation of grill jockeys.

All the money that his snack bar activities raised over the years went to the Bonita Boosters Club, which, in turn, used the money to help fund lots of other sports that don’t always get the spotlight, like field hockey, tennis and wrestling. Tim also has done a lot of pro bono work for Bonita’s beautification over the last several years. Part of the reason the turf is green and the lights work is due to Tim’s handiwork.

Strangely, Tim’s tan has deepened over these past few winter months – December, Jan and February, when the winter sun tends to hide and people like me turn a lighter hue. Again, there’s a simple explanation. Despite being responsible for running a business with more than 30 employees, he’s been out knocking on doors, asking for your vote on March 3.

To whatever door he knocks, he brings a lot of sunshine. He won’t just knock and leave. He’ll sit and talk to discuss whatever is on your mind. He’s not one of these politicians who knows how to work a room, spending a few brief seconds with you while constantly looking over his shoulder for another potential vote. In conversation, it is just you and Tim.

When I talked to Tim – when he knocked on my door – I was proud to learn that as a member of La Verne’s planning commission he voted AGAINST a Walmart coming to La Verne. Tim had the sense and the courage to realize we don’t need a Walmart to go with the Dollar Tree, 99 cent store and other discounters in town. I mean, how many do we need unless we want our town to be the next Bellflower or Vernon?

Tim gets it. He gets the notion that it’s not worth it for La Verne to sacrifice itself on the altar of increased tax revenues that a Walmart would bring. Tim thinks we can do better, and will demand that we do better, if elected.

Tim has heard that the current council and city staff have pursued the likes of Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Gelson’s and other higher-end retailers without success, but Tim has been dissatisfied with the efforts and results.

“They say, ‘we tried,’” Tim told me. “You know what, I’m sorry, then try harder. Some of the best results or relationships I’ve experienced in business were the ones that at first were the most resistant and stand-offish.”

Until we break through and land one of these high-end retailers, Tim doesn’t want us to settle for something less. By Tim’s count, the city of La Verne already has about a half dozen smoke shops and a full dozen massage studios.

There’s no doubt that if Tim is elected he will ruffle the cushy status quo. But this guy – coach, PTA member, Jim Scranton award winner, Hillcrest board member, Friday night shorter order cook, etc., etc. – is hardly a revolutionary.

He knows La Verne as few do and has been serving the community since the moment he arrived along our foothills in the mid ‘80s. He wants to maintain our excellent public safety services, youth programs and senior services. In fact, he supports rent control for our mobile home park residents, 99 percent of whom, according to Tim, lived on fixed incomes.

He’s also been a great neighbor to the University of La Verne. Indeed, his daughter Kristen received her master’s degree there. While he admitted the University has had some growing pains – its growing student body competing with business patrons for limited parking spaces, a problem that will be largely alleviated with a new 600-plus space parking structure — overall he believes the University “has been a wonderful partner.”

All things considered, Tim is somebody who walks the walk, and he’s been doing it for 30 years in this town. He may have a better tan than your or me in the dead of winter, but that’s no reason not to vote for him.

He’s the real deal. Maybe he should run for Congress next!

Postscript: I can see only one dent on Tim’s resume. He admits to gathering around the television on Monday nights with family and friends to watch “Dancing with the Stars,” a guilty pleasure that has gone on far too long. If I recall correctly,” Dancing with the Stars,” airs on Monday night, the same night that the City Council meets. This could represent a serious conflict of interest that Tim will have to answer to. He better not try to sidestep this issue!

Maybe You’re Just Knott Trying Hard Enough?

knott family
I pose this question to you ladies out there.

Imagine you’ve given birth to your first child and your hard-working husband, who has a good-paying job in the city, wants to exchange his starched white shirts for a job “working the land.” Would you support his farfetched dream?

What if the 160 acres your husband wanted to homestead was in a place neither of you had ever been – 25 miles east of Barstow in the Mojave Desert? And the two-bedroom adobe house on the land had no running water or indoor bathroom?

How would you hold up amid the constant 100-degree temperatures and the relentless sand storms that made it impossible to keep your humble house clean? How would you react in the wake of frequent windstorms that uprooted your precious plantings from the ground, ruining your only source of sustenance?

What if you were now pregnant with your second child and your husband told you he was taking a second job as a carpenter in Calico, a ghost town about 35 miles away to help make ends meet, leaving you alone for days at a time, with your closest neighbor living a half-mile away. Would you still stand by your man?

What if, after three years of toil and privation, your husband decides to abandon his farming experiment in the desert only to take a job as a sharecropper in the San Joaquin Valley, splitting the harvest with the owner of the land? You could keep the surplus … if there was a surplus. Would you have gone along?

What if your husband was offered his old city job back in Pomona but he turned it down to lease land with a partner in Orange County to try his hand at farming once again? Would you have reached your breaking point?

Would you have finally snapped when, lacking enough food to feed your now four children, you decide to butcher the family pet goat Betsy to serve for dinner. As the plates of food are passed around, you see the tears in your children’s eyes before you finally decide to remove the plates.

After farming the leased land for five years, your husband decides to buy the parcel, agreeing to pay twice as much as you and he had paid for renting the land before. Your husband’s partner thinks the price is far too high and wants no part of the deal. Do you try to talk some sense into your hard-headed spouse who appears more determined than ever to make a go of it?

Well, remarkably, this woman stood shoulder to shoulder with her husband through all these decisions. She and he were both self-sufficient. He had lost his father when he was 6 years old and she had lost her mother when she was 11. They knew hard times, but they also knew how to get through them together.

With the arrival of the Great Depression, the couple hung on by their fingernails and her apron strings. Instead of watching their unsold fruit spoil, she made preserves and pies out of it and he built a tea room next to the fruit market, where she and her children served hot homemade biscuits and jams.

Frequently, customers, while standing in line, would inquire about a smell coming from the couple’s home?

The husband answered, “That’s my wife frying chicken for our dinner.”

The customer asked, “Is that on the menu in the tea room?”

The husband explained that his wife was only willing to cook for the tea rooom to make ends meet.

But after hearing the constant inquiries about that delicious smell out back, the wife told her husband to bring her some nice three-and-a-half-pound chickens to fry up and her children to pull out the family’s wedding china and linen napkins and set the table for eight people.

At that table on that special day in 1934, eight people paid 65 cents each to enjoy a meal of cherry rhubarb, green salad with French dressing, and then fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, boiled cabbage with bits of ham, and hot biscuits served with jam. Berry pie slices were served for dessert, along with ice cream or sherbet.

That’s how it all began for Cordelia and Walter Knott. By the end of summer in 1934, Cordelia and her helpers were cooking and serving an average of 85 chicken dinners a day. The line for her dinners kept growing and growing until it reached what is now Beach Blvd. in Buena Park. On Thanksgiving Day in 1937, the Knotts served 1,774 dinners, 355 pies and 8,890 biscuits. This was years before Colonel Sanders and fast food were available.

On Mother’s Day in 1960, they served 8,735 dinners, all made from scratch. Today, Cordelia’s Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant serves an average of 1.5 million dinners a year.

While Cordelia manned the kitchen, Walter, stubborn as ever, kept right on farming, although he would stop whatever he was doing when Cordelia promptly called him for dinner at 5 p.m. Although the chicken dinners were born out of necessity and involved quite a bit of good fortune, it wasn’t all luck. Walter had developed a reputation for being able to make just about anything grow. After all, he had nurtured and given life to plants in the desert. So when Rudolph Boysen of Anaheim brought Walter six scraggly, dying vines, Walter nursed them back to life and called this new cross between a loganberry, blackberry and red raspberry a “Boysenberry.”

On the success of that bigger, plumper Boysenberry and Cordelia’s chicken dinners, the Knotts built Knott’s Berry Farm, when Disneyland was still a twinkle in the eye of that other Walter (Walt Disney).

Add one more item to the Knotts’ recipe for success: Although Cordelia was more cautious than her husband when approaching new ideas and ventures, she fully subscribed to his lifelong belief that with hard work and earnest efforts you can achieve your dreams.

His credo took up all of one sentence but a lifetime of application and persistence:

“Whatever we vividly imagine,
ardently desire, sincerely believe,
and enthusiastically act upon …
must inevitably come to pass.”

PS I wish I had more time and space to share how I came upon this inspiring story about the Knotts. All I can say is that when you walk outside your door to start your day, you never know whom you’re going to meet. The key is getting the courage to keep walking out that door no matter how deep the darkness.

See’s the Day!

Mary See

“The game of life is a game of everlasting learning. At least it is if you want to win.” — Warren Buffett, 2013

If you want to get rich, follow these four business rules:

1. Buy quality assets (companies, real estate, stocks, etc.) with proven track records. Leave the flavor-of-the-week, flash-in-the-pans for sucker investors!

2. Find a great manager to oversee your assets so you’ll have more time to search for your next opportunity.

3. Never put all your (nest) eggs in one basket, no matter how good one investment seems.

4. Repeat steps 1-3.

Such an investment policy has made Warren Buffett one of the world’s richest human beings.

In 1970, Buffett’s investment vehicle, Berkshire Hathaway, began investing in Blue Chip Stamps, a popular loyalty program that awarded stamps to customers, based on the size of their retail purchases. Licking and entering the stamps into booklets that could be redeemed for merchandise became a nationwide obsession. (I remember accompanying my parents to a redemption store to exchange my Blue Chip Stamps for my first baseball glove, a Larry Sherry model.)

At the time, Buffet thought his investment was the next best thing to minting money. “When I was told that even certain brothels and mortuaries gave stamps to their patrons, I felt I had finally found a sure thing,” he said. Blue Chip Stamps had 1970 sales of $126 million, as about 60 billion “stamps were licked by savers, pasted into books, and taken to Blue Chip redemption stores.” By 1980, however, sales slumped to $19.4 million and by 1990, sales were a minuscule $1.5 million. As computerization developed, less cumbersome loyalty programs were developed.

Even though Blue Chip Stamps was throwing off tons of cash in the early ’70s, Buffett didn’t sit still or stay content. Rather in 1972, he obtained a controlling interest in See’s Candies before later acquiring 100% of the company for $25 million.

In the more than half century that See’s was in business before Buffett gobbled it up like a box of milk chocolate buttercreams, See’s had more than proven itself after opening its first shop on Western Ave. in Los Angeles in 1921.

By the mid-1920s, there were a dozen of the sparkling, black and white shops designed to resemble Mary See’s home kitchen. During the Depression, that number expanded to 30, showing that a powerful business idea and a great product can blossom in any era. By 1936, See’s had expanded to San Francisco. After World War II, the company continued to grow with the arrival of the shopping mall. All the time, customers continued to patronize its stores and products like honey bees returning to the hive.

By investing in See’s, whose slogan remains “quality without compromise,” Buffett had recognized that See’s wasn’t just another business pushing chocolate commodities; it was a unique, proprietary brand that commanded extreme loyalty in the marketplace for which he and consumers would always be willing to pay extra. (What’s a pound of See’s cost today, $20, and we don’t bat an eye paying it!)

At a 1996 luncheon in San Francisco, Buffett’s business partner, Charlie Munger, revealed that See’s was the first high-quality business that Berkshire ever bought. Previously, Berkshire had focused on purchasing undervalued assets on the cheap. The See’s acquisition forever influenced their thinking to buy businesses with a dominant reputation and transcendent brand recognition, even if they had to dig a little deeper into their pockets.

So, it should not come as any surprise that Buffett in a handshake deal in 1983 also bought a majority interest in the Nebraska Furniture Mart. Unfamiliar with the Nebraska Furniture Mart? Well, it just happens to be the largest home furnishing store in North America. Oh, and by the way, the store features See’s Candies, keeping it all in Buffett’s growing empire, of course.

Like See’s Candies, the Nebraska Furniture Mart displayed a knack for spinning off profits in good times and bad, reflecting the old-fashioned values of its Belarus-born founder, Rose Blumkin, who started the business in 1937 on a $500 investment. She worked in the business until age 103.

By comparison, Buffett, who will turn 83 this month (Aug. 30), is a spring chicken whose stock picks are mimicked by savvy investors around the world, and why not! For the second quarter of 2013, profits at Berkshire Hathaway jumped 46%. Over the past 30 years, Berkshire has produced 18.3% annualized returns compared to just 10.8% for the S&P 500.

So, while it may be cool to move like Jagger, it’s also hip (or fly) to invest more like Buffett.

Again, it’s easy: Buy quality, find and put your trust in good managers, and respect your elders (Mary See was 57 when she opened her first See’s Candies with her son Charles).

It also wouldn’t hurt to hang a vintage portrait of your mom in every store as a reminder of who helped give you your start in life! Nothing too fancy … Black & White will do!

See’s the Day,

Will Wonders Never Cease?

Planets2013I think there’s hope for you and me if we continue to utter just two words at least once a day. These two words are:

“I wonder.”

Here are some things to marvel and wonder at:

Our Heavens:

Although just average, our humble sun is still pretty awesome, accounting for 99.9 percent of the mass of our entire solar system. How immense is that? It takes about 8 minutes for light energy to travel from the surface of the sun to Earth, but it takes hundreds of thousands of years for that same light energy to radiate from the center of the sun to the sun’s surface.

Our Solar System:

Our solar system is a marvel, too, in the sense that about two-thirds of the universe’s solar systems are binary, meaning that they are fueled by two suns. Many scientists say we would have two as well, if only the very gassy Jupiter had been about 100 times larger than it is now – not that Jupiter is a runt, given it would take about 1.3 million Earths to fill it up.

Our Planets:

They rotate in a counter-clock fashion, all except for Venus, which rotates clockwise. What’s up with that? And Mercury? A day on the scorched planet closest to the sun is twice as long as its year. Do you know how much you could get done in a day?

Our Earth

Water covers roughly three-quarters of the Earth’s surface, yet only 1/400th of 1 percent is fit for human consumption. Every drop of life is precious indeed.

Our Mountains

As for our mountains, the longest mountain chain lies in the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, evidence suggests that the Atlantic Ocean has closed and opened three times. Major deposits of rocks, minerals and fossils have provided the evidence to help solve this amazing mystery.

Our Mammals, Birds, Fishes, Reptiles and Invertebrates

A baby giraffe at birth weighs 150 pounds and stands six feet tall, which should make you feel a little more empathetic toward all mothers. An albatross will stray as far as 2,500 miles from home to find food for its young. The only bird to fly backwards is a humming bird. In 1938, a horse named Seabiscuit got more headlines for his exploits than either Hitler or FDR.

Our History

Not only do we get to live in God’s spectacular showcase, but we’ve been given leading and extraordinary roles to play in it.

Any way you look at it, our history has been amazing. Let’s look at a few eras or dates:

The Golden Age of Greece:

The Golden Age of Greece, roughly 2,500 years ago, lasted a mere generation, but its profound impact still generates today in our architecture, math, music, science, technology, engineering, medicine, religion and other disciplines.

The year of 1453

The year 1453 marked the end of the Hundred Years War, in which England pretty much kicked France’s behind for more than a century, before a little-known peasant girl, Joan of Arc, helped the French win an improbable victory at Orleans, leading to the coronation of Charles VII at Reims and the eventual expulsion of the English.

But the bigger event that same year came when the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople. After the Turks wrested control of the lucrative land and sea trading routes, all of Europe went scurrying for alternative routes to avoid paying port fees, duties and bribes to the Middle East’s new masters. One of those Europeans, born two years before the sack of Constantinople, was a Genovese seaman named Christopher Columbus.

Well, you all know what happened in 1492. Columbus discovered America. But this is what you might not know. When he arrived in Hispaniola, there were 3 million Taino natives who lived on the island. Fifty years later there would be about 200. They had perished from war, slavery, working in the mines and disease. Bartolome de las Casas who accompanied Columbus on his second voyage, wrote in his journal, “Who in future generations will believe this?”

Because of this drastic decline in population, merchant companies would import some 12 million slaves from Africa over the next 300 years to work in the fields and mines of the Americas. The average life expectancy of a slave in the Americas was seven years. Ironically, it was Columbus’ son, Diego who wrote Charles V of Spain for permission to import African slaves to replace the depleted supply of Indians. His letter was the earliest known official request to import Africans.

September 5, 1793 –July 27, 1794 The Reign of Terror

After overthrowing the monarchy and establishing a representative government, the French Revolution’s most radical leaders formed a tribunal, calling it the innocent-sounding “Committee for Public Safety,” which arrested, tried, and executed more than 17,000 people, most by that sharp instrument known as the guillotine. One of the Reign’s victims was Antoine Lavoisier, the brilliant chemist who coined the words oxygen and hydrogen and helped construct the metric system. The vengeance came full circle when Maximilien Robespierre himself, the Reign’s most ardent defender of the Revolution but also its leading executioner, was arrested and beheaded.

1861-1865 – Civil War

Before we start thinking only foreigners are crazy, we need only visit our own horrific civil war, which killed about 620,000 people in about 1,500 days, an appalling harvest of death equivalent to about 6 million dead in terms of today’s U.S. population. After the South’s extremely bloody victory at Fredericksburg on Dec. 13, 1862, Robert E. Lee, said, “It is well that war is so terrible – lest we grow too fond of it.”

1914-1918 – World War I

Unfortunately, few took Lee’s words to heart because the Great War (World War I) from 1914-1918 claimed, at best estimate, 16.5 million lives. Do you know what started the war? After a grenade attack on the life of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand failed, the monarch directed his limo driver to drive to the local hospital to check on the wounded. After the visit, the confused and panicky driver took the same route back where the assassination attempt occurred. Meanwhile, after grabbing a sandwich, 19-year-old assassin Gavrilo Princip could not believe his good fortune when the royal motorcade approached him a second time. This time, he wouldn’t miss. Stepping toward the curb, he coolly fired seven shots into the royal couple’s car from five feet away, killing the archduke and his wife Sophia, which triggered a chain of events that reshaped the 20th Century.

By the way, World War I also gave us a new term, “basket case,” which I remember my dad, a World War II vet, calling me a few times. The term describes soldiers who had their limbs blown off, rendering them too helpless to help themselves, leaving them to be carried away in baskets.


But our history also includes many glorious and redemptive chapters. We can also be very productive. For example, Johann Sebastian Bach fathered 1,100 musical compositions and 20 children. Of course, Brigham Young fathered 57 children, but who’s counting.

What really causes me awe and wonder is how we often stumble our way to greatness. Call them unintended consequences:


Isaac Newton had planned on continuing his post-graduate studies at Cambridge, but back-to-back calamities struck London — the Black Plague in 1665 and the Great Fire of London in 1666. Signs that you had the plague included black patches on your skin, inflamed glands in the groin, a swollen tongue, compulsive vomiting, and splitting headaches. Although he hated farming, Newton had little choice but to stay on his family’s farm in the quiet countryside of Lincolnshire for 18 months until the threat subsided. In that period, he formulated many of his major contributions to science, including integral and differential calculus, many of the laws of optics, the universal laws of motion, and the law of gravitation. When he returned in 1667 to Trinity College, where he was based for the rest of his life, the worst of the plague was over. The Great Fire had accidentally incinerated most of the infected flea-carrying rats.


To be considered a world-class conqueror, you had to include Egypt on your resume. Alexander the Great conquered Egypt and Caesar after him, Napoleon conquered Egypt in 1798 (before the English navy ultimately trapped his army, leaving it no escape from the land it had conquered). Yet the biggest winner in Napoleon’s campaign may have been scholarship. During the French occupation, a man known only to us as Bouchard discovered the Rosetta Stone in a small town outside of Alexandria. Because inscriptions on the flat stone conveyed the same message in Greek, Demotic Egyptian (a simplified form of the Egyptian language), and hieroglyphics, the key to finally unlocking the riddle of learning the long, complex history of one of the world’s oldest civilizations had been found. (By the way did you ever wonder how an Italian painting, the Mona Lisa, ended up in the Louvre in Paris? France has Napoleon to thank for that, too. After one of his successful Italian military campaigns, many Italian art treasures, including the Mona Lisa, were raided and spirited away to the French capital.)

Mark Twain

The United States’ Civil War also produced a perverse, but positive outcome for lovers of literature. When war broke out between the states, all commercial travel on the Mississippi River ceased, throwing highly paid riverboat pilot Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) out of a job. After a short, bumbling hitch with the Confederacy, he sought his fortune out west, reinventing himself as a miner and then as a writer. After his breakout story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” he found more literary gold, writing The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.


Yes, our world is a strange, complex, and wonderful place, so be respectful, patient and tolerant as you try to find your place in it. And even when you think you’ve found it, you might not have, which brings me to the Statue of the Three Lies:

John Harvard

In front of University Hall at Harvard College in Cambridge, Mass., rests a bronze statue with the inscription, “John Harvard, Founder, 1638.” Thousands of visitors pay homage to it every year. Indeed, I did on a tour of Ivy League colleges when I snapped a photo of my son Brett standing alongside Mr. Harvard.

The statue is an imposter, however.

• John Harvard wasn’t the founder of Harvard. That honor fell to the General Court of Massachusetts.
• The university was founded in 1636, not 1638, as inscribed on the statue.
• And the figure of the man posing as John Harvard was actually a student named Sherman Hoar that sculptor Daniel French grabbed on campus one day. No one knows what John Harvard looked like.
So the lesson is, few things are what they appear! To illustrate my point, I’ll close with this story:


Once when Picasso was riding on a train, a passenger quickly recognized the famous artist, then started venting about the failings of modern art. In particular, he talked about how he despised Picasso’s paintings because they didn’t look “real” — his work, he said, was a false representation of images in the world.

Picasso listened quietly. The man finally pulled a snapshot out of his wallet and said, “Here is a picture of my wife — this is what she really looks like.”

Picasso took the snapshot from the man, held it sideways, and stared at it for a long time. Finally he remarked, “Well, she is awfully small. And flat.”


At the end of each of the 59 chapters, I include an anecdote, many of which I still can hardly believe if I didn’t know them to be true. Here’s the one that that comes after the first chapter:

Larry the Lawn Chair: He Rose to the Occasion

On July 2, 1982, Larry Walters made history. After attaching 45 8-foot helium-filled balloons to an ordinary lawn chair in his San Pedro, Calif., backyard, he strapped himself into the chair and, outfitted with sandwiches, a six-pack of beer, a CB radio, a pellet gun, and other sundries, soared 16,000 feet.

His 45-minute flight was the realization of a 20-year dream to fly. He had wanted to join the Air Force, but with his poor eyesight, he was limited to driving a truck. He flew so high that glorious July day that he startled passing TWA and Delta Airlines pilots who radioed Walters’ position to air traffic controllers at Los Angeles International Airport. Walters and his lawn chair finally came to rest in some power lines, causing a 20-minute blackout in a Long Beach neighborhood. After he crawled down to safety, Long Beach police officers arrested him for violating the airport’s airspace.

“It was something I had to do,” Walters said. “I had this dream for 20 years, and if I hadn’t done it, I think I would have ended up in the funny farm. I didn’t think that by fulfilling my goal in life — my dream — that I would create such a stir and make people laugh.”

The wonder of it all!

Harvard Reject Joins the Festival of Books

The Festival of Books welcomed all kinds of guests, including the Harvard Reject.

An estimated crowd of more than 150,000 book lovers (bibliophiles) wormed their way through alleyways of makeshift book sellers, memorabilia peddlers, band performances and cooking demonstrations while others listened intently to their favorite stars-turned-authors like Carol Burnett and Debbie Reynolds at the 18th Annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, April 20-21.

Trumpeter John Barnes attended to support a book-selling friend and ended up playing a few impromptu notes for Herb Alpert, the legendary musician and founder of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass who was there to support his wife, Lani Hall, the former lead singer of Brazil ’66 who recently published Emotional Memoirs & Short Stories. (see Reel Video)

“Man, it’s something I’ll never forget,” said Barnes.

Peter Bennett, author of Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject: Tear Down the Walls Holding Back Your Success, also shared the success principles of his popular book with young and old alike interested in learning new ways and methods for turning failure and rejection into transformative triumphs.

“The beauty of the Festival of the Books is that you’re immersed in a sea of people who treasure books and the exchange of ideas,” Bennett said. “There’s no forum like it anywhere.”

Asked to provide just one lesson from the book, Bennett replied, “Continue to perform while you transform. Continue to higher yourself when the world isn’t hiring.”

For those in the crowd who suffered from literary overload and the gauntlet of exhibitors, they could check out the Batmobile, courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment, stand in line in front of their favorite food truck or pose next to the statue of Tommy Trojan.

The Festival is becoming such a draw that no doubt some word-smithing entrepreneur will come along and make a book, if not a movie, out of it.

Here’s To You, Joe

Since we’re celebrating great February events (the births of Abraham Lincoln on Feb. 12, 1809 and George Washington on Feb. 22, 1732), I’d like to add one more: Feb. 23, 1945.

That’s the 68th anniversary of the most iconic photo ever taken in American history. That’s the day Joe Rosenthal snapped a photo of five Marines and a Navy corpsman planting a U.S. flag atop Mt. Suribachi on the tiny Pacific island of Iwo Jima, marking the costliest battle of the war, a battle that claimed the lives of 5,931 Marines — a third of all Marines killed during World II.

How did Joe get “the shot?” The short answer is, he got it because he was prepared and persistent, and when a break came his way, he knew exactly what to do with it.

Rosenthal was an unlikely hero. He was of one five sons of Russian immigrants. He stood 5-foot-5. By comparison, Lincoln was 6-foot-4 and Washington was 6-foot-2. After Pearl Harbor (Dec. 7, 1941), he tried to enlist, but his eyesight was too poor.

With one avenue closed he pursued another, hitching his faintly rising star with the Associated Press (AP). In 1944, the news service offered him a chance to take photographs — a fantastic assignment if you valued taking great action shots, not so great if you value living to a ripe old age. Subsequently, he covered U.S. invasions of Guadalcanal, New Guinea and Guam before arriving at Iwo Jima.

Of the horrific battle that followed his arrival on Iwo Jima, he said, “No man who survived that beach can tell you how he did it. It was like walking through rain and not getting wet.”

Rosenthal was always clicking away to record history — that was his job, after all — but when the first flag-raising on Mt. Suribachi occurred, he missed it. Disappointed at missing the photo, Rosenthal set out across the battlefield for a lesser memento — a simple, unadorned image of the stars and stripes flying over the island.

Scaling the 556-foot mountain, he learned that a commander on the shore had ordered the original flag be taken down and a second, much larger flag be raised so that it could be seen across the island and from the sea.

After reaching the summit, he realized he was poorly positioned to get a full perspective of the new flag going up, so he scrambled back down the hill about 25 or 35 feet, perched himself on a pile of rocks and a Japanese sandbag to lift him high enough to get the angle he wanted. He then set the lens of his Speed Graphic camera at an f8 to f11 and the speed at 1/400th of a second and began shooting.

With the second raising already under way, he furiously clicked images of soldiers mounting into the ground a 20-foot length of pipe to which a 96-by-56-inch flag had been attached. After the planting of the flag, he asked the men to face him under the flag for a celebratory photo.

He sent his roll of film off to darkroom technicians in Guam for development, with the caption: Marines “hoist the Stars and Stripes, signaling the capture of this key position.”

Once the AP moved the photo to client newspapers, the image took on a life of its own. It appeared on postage stamps, posters, outdoor panels and cards that helped sell more than $200 million in U.S. war bonds with the slogan, “Now … All Together.” The self-effacing Rosenthal downplayed his role in capturing the Marines’ struggle and sacrifice that day.

“No photographer could have ever asked for a better break,” he recalled. “The sun was just right. The wind was right to flow the flag. The pipe — it must have weighed 100 pounds — was so heavy the guy holding it was struggling, typifying the struggle the Marines had in securing the island.”

Indeed, the shot was so perfect than many detractors later accused him of staging the shot.

In his defense, Rosenthal said that had the photograph been rigged, he would have used fewer men and had them face the camera so AP’s clients would be more inclined to use the picture in hometown newspapers.

“Had I posed the shot, I would, of course, have ruined it,” he said.

Rosenthal got the shot because, like the Marines, he didn’t give up. After missing the first flag-raising, he didn’t sulk back at the military base. He ventured out again, hopeful of catching something … anything. I guess he knew that you don’t get a second chance unless you seek a second chance.

He figured one more try was better than one more alibi.


There is a sad postscript to this story. When Rosenthal reached the summit that fateful day, Marine Sgt. William H. “Bill” Genaust was already shooting a color motion picture of the unfolding events. Indeed, one of the frames from his film is similar to Rosenthal’s famous photo. Nine days later, Genaust died in battle on Iwo Jima’s Hill 362.

Rosenthal, blessed with a long and hearty life, lived another 61 years after Iwo Jima. He died in 2006 at age 94.

Why God elects some of us to live long lives and others to live abbreviated ones is another of life’s mysteries. As human beings, we should ponder less and wander more. Wherever that path leads, we should never take our eyes off of the summit or give up trying to reach it.

Life is never fair, but that is hardly reason for despair.

My best,

Peter Bennett

Publisher, La Verne Online; Author, Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject

PS, People keep asking me what Life Lessons is all about. Every day, I have a new answer. It’s about tearing down every wall holding back your success; it’s about HIGHERING yourself when the world isn’t hiring; it’s about things known and unknown. It motivates you to ask more questions.

Here’s one: Most people know who lives at 10 Downing Street in London. The Prime Minister, right?

Well, who lives next door at 11 Downing Street. Shouldn’t we make his or her acquaintance, as well? Be curious!

Feeling Walled In? Then It’s Time to Tear Down the Walls Holding Back Your Success!


What a turnout! What a reception. At my first book signing, I attracted only two people: One person wanted directions to the bathroom. The other wanted to buy the desk!

So, welcome!

You’re probably wondering why I’m standing here with a hard hat and a sledge hammer, Well, today’s talk is all about tearing down the walls holding back your success!

Indeed, it’s the theme of my book, Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject, which came out in October.

On the cover, you’ll see that my hands are literally trying to scale Harvard’s ivy-covered walls. And those same hands are about to be stepped on and even crushed.

But when did that stop anybody?

To be successful in life — to be a successful author or a successful Realtor — you have to be ready to tear down walls holding back your success. You have to meet resistance with persistence until you break through.

Are you ready to get to work? Okay, then. Let’s take a look some of the great men and women in our midst who knew a thing or two about overcoming the walls in their lives.

No. 1: Christopher Columbus – Wall of Enemies

Columbus showed us how to overcome the Wall of Enemies. He did it by heading in the opposite direction of the Wall, by sneaking through the back door.

In 1453, Europe was up against the wall. The Turks finally conquered Constantinople, or modern-day Istanbul, booting out the Christians. The eastern Roman Empire was no more. What did that mean? It meant that if you were a trader from Genoa or Venice and you wanted to sell your goods in Arabia, India or China, you had to pay a tax to the Turks to pass through their lands. So West Europeans, like Columbus, immediately started searching for a alternative route, a workaround. They knew the world was round. They just didn’t know how round. In 1492, 39 years after the fall of Constantinople, Columbus tore down that wall against free trade by heading west instead of east.

Columbus literally practiced reverse thinking. This is a great tactic.

No. 2: Henry Ford – Wall of Inefficiency

Ford was another practitioner of reverse thinking.

Plenty of people were making cars before Ford came along, but the process wasn’t all that efficient. Does anyone know how he came up with the assembly line to make his Model Ts? He observed a disassembly line at a meatpacking plant in Chicago. He figured if the process was good enough to disassemble or dismember an animal, he could reverse the process to assemble a motor car piece by piece.

No. 3: Isaac Newton – Wall of Ignorance

Sometimes, when your quest for knowledge hits a wall, the best way to break through this barrier is to step back from it. In the 1660s, Isaac Newton was another bright student attending Cambridge, but he wasn’t lighting the world on fire. He was stuck! There was a gap in his knowledge. But then the Great Plague struck London in 1665, followed by the Great London Fire of 1666. To survive, Newton fled London and lived on a farm for 18 months. Down on the farm, he invented calculus and discovered the universal laws of motion, optics and gravity, essentially redefining how we understood the universe.

No. 4: Samuel Clemens – Wall of Foreclosed Opportunities

All Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, ever wanted to be was a Mississippi River boat pilot. And he became one. He knew every shoal, sandbar and sunken ship on the river, At one time, he made more money than the vice president or Supreme Court justices of the United States. When the Civil War came, however, the North and South shut down the river to all but military traffic, throwing Twain out of a job. After about a week as a Confederate soldier, he headed west to find new fortune. He became a miner, then a newspaperman. He didn’t find metallic gold, he found literary gold.


Are you seeing a pattern here? Whenever a wall is put up in front of you, you have to find your way around it. And when you do, the rewards can be limitless. So, welcome the walls and obstacles put in your path. Embrace them as opportunities. Don’t be a lemming lamenting how bad things are, be a roaring lion for creativity and change. Always be on the lookout to turn temporary misfortune into millions.

No. 5: Charles Darrow – Wall of Unemployment

We’re now just coming out of the Great Recession, so this story might hit home. In the Great Depression, Charles Darrow lost his job and faced a mounting wall of debt. Millions like him also lost their homes and livelihoods. So what does Darrow do? He has the audacity to invent a real estate board game called Monopoly and sells it to Parker Brothers for $1 million in 1936 at the height of the Depression.
Had there been no Depression, I doubt he ever would have invented Monopoly!

No. 6: Jan Scruggs – Wall of Shame

When Jan Scruggs came home from the Vietnam War in 1969, he faced a Wall of Shame. People booed him when he wore his military uniform in public. A decade later, after watching the film, “The Deer Hunter,” he told his wife that he was going to build a memorial wall to honor the service and sacrifice of all who served in the war. He took $2,800 of his own money and launched what would become the Vietnam War Memorial.

No. 7: Ray Bradbury – Wall of Limited Opportunity

After graduating from Los Angeles High School in the 1930, author Ray Bradbury sold newspapers at the corner of South Norton Avenue and Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles. “When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”

That regimen gave him the confidence to rent a typewriter in a study room at UCLA’s Powell Library and bang out “The Fireman,” a 25,000-word dystopian story about an American society that bans and burns books. He later expanded the story to 50,000 words under the new title, “Fahrenheit 451.”

No. 8: Howard Schultz – Wall of Poverty

In his autobiography, “Pour Your Heart Into It,” Starbucks coffee king Howard Schultz described his family’s grinding poverty. He grew up in the Brooklyn projects. In good times, his father drove a diaper delivery truck. In bad times, his dad lay on the couch with his broken leg in a cast. He had no income, health insurance or worker’s compensation.

Of that time, Schultz wrote: “Years later, that image of my father slumped on the family couch, his leg in a cast, unable to earn money, and ground down by the world, is still burned into my mind. The system had crushed him.”

Now that you know a little of Schultz’s family history, do you think he was deterred later when he went looking for Starbucks investors and hundreds turned him down. Not a chance!

No. 9: Marion Donovan – Wall of Inconvenience

We should all bow down when we hear this woman’s name. Unlike Schultz, she was a Yalie. As a young mother, she didn’t cotton to changing her youngest child’s soiled cloth diapers, clothing and bed sheets. She wanted to surmount this wall of great inconvenience. So, she sat down at her sewing machine with a shower curtain and, after several tries, fashioned a waterproof diaper cover. She perfected her invention by using nylon parachute cloth and replacing safety pins with fasteners. After obtaining a patent for the diaper cover in 1951, she sold it to the Keko Corporation for $1 million.

No. 10: John Shepherd Baron – Wall of Nuisance

In the late 1960s, Scotsman John Shepherd Barron’s bank had closed just before he arrived to withdraw some money. He was still stewing about his inability to access his own money when he was taking a hot bath later that night. That’s when it hit him: Why couldn’t a machine dispense money 24/7 the same way Britain’s beloved vending machines dispensed Cadbury chocolate bars. Two years later, he created the world’s first ATM.

No. 11: Mickey Owen – Wall of Notoriety

If you were a Dodger fan in 1941, there was nobody you despited more than Mickey Owen. The catcher had dropped the final strike of game 4 of the World Series. Had he held onto the ball, the Dodgers would have won the game against the Yankees and tied the Series at 2-2. It was one more reason the Dodgers were nicknamed the Bums.

For years, Owen used his ill fame to stay in the spotlight, including founding the Mickey Owen Baseball School in 1959 in Missouri. Notable alumni include Michael Jordan and Charlie Sheen.

What was Owen’s reaction to that fateful day when he literally dropped the ball: “I would have been completely forgotten if I hadn’t missed that pitch,” he replied.

He turned his whiff into a win.

No. 12: Beethoven – The Wall of Silence

Worse than losing a game is losing your hearing. Overcoming the wall of silence is a horrific wall to climb. At age 48, Beethoven was stone deaf. Yet he went on to compose five more symphonies. He thought them; he didn’t have to hear them.

No. 13 – The Wall of Negativity and Naysayers

Similarly, Edison was hard of hearing. He said deafness was his greatest blessing because it spared him the trouble of having to listen to all the negativity around him.

No. 14 – Laura Hillenbrand – The Wall of Infirmity and Ill Health

You might have read the other day where Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie purchased the book rights to the film, Unbroken, the story of Louie Zamperini, a USC student, Olympian runner and World War II hero who was shot down over the Pacific and survived 47 days in shark-infested waters before he was taken prisoner for two years on Japan’s Execution Island.

Laura Hillenbrand, the author of the previous bestseller “Seabiscuit,” wrote the story despite rarely leaving her bed or ever meeting Zamperini, who is still alive and feisty at age 96. She suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome. How was she able to overcome this wall? By phone!

“When he was telling me his story, I wasn’t looking at a 90-year-old man,” Hillenbrand said. “I was thinking about a 17-year-old runner or a 26-year-old guy out on a life raft. I was able to visualize it I think a lot better because I wasn’t in the room with him.”

No. 15: DeWayne McKinney – Walls of Prison

Maybe in a few years, they’ll make a movie about DeWayne McKinney. McKinney served 19 years in prison for an Orange County murder that he didn’t commit. When released, he didn’t possess a driver’s license, social security card, change of clothes or even a toothbrush. The City of Orange, however, paid him $1.7 million for his wrongful incarceration, of which he was left about $1 million after his attorney’s fees.

What were the odds this high school dropout would have any money left a year or two later. Well, McKinney beat the odds. He made it over the wall.

He kept his money in the bank while he gathered information on different investment opportunities. He investigated stocks and bonds, computer start-ups, and real estate opportunities. He attended Fellowship of Christian Athlete meetings, where the mostly well-heeled participants discussed the potential of different investments. “The other guys were so successful, they weren’t really paying attention,” McKinney recalled.

But McKinney was. He heard an ad executive mention that banking deregulation had made it possible for individuals to buy and operate ATMs — a low-risk investment that required little capital, but had the potential for big returns. A month later, he met a man who sold ATMs to investors, who in turn found busy locations to install the machines and profit from the fees customers paid to withdraw cash. In 2002, ATMs cost about $5,000 each. McKinney bought 20. Working with an ex-car salesman and a parolee, he hit the streets looking for small business owners willing to place one of his cash dispensers in their shops. He paid his team $250 for any deal. Soon, his machines were generating about $10,000 a month in fees.

McKinney’s story didn’t end there. Ironically, he found Southern California too confining. “L.A. to me is like being in prison,” he said. So, he moved his operation to Hawaii, where there were lots of tourists and few ATMs. There, he again relied on his prison networking skills. But instead of swapping cigarettes to get his toilet fixed, he was cutting deals with storeowners, giving them a percentage of his ATM fees. Soon, he had secured the best ATM locations on the island. Every person he talked to — his insurance man, his auto detailer, the mail delivery guy — was a connection or a lead for identifying another prime ATM location. He even stocked the machines himself, traveling from site to site in shorts, sandals, and a tee shirt. His friends called him “Brudda,” the Hawaiian equivalent of “dude.” His real estate holdings were in the millions. “Everything I wanted, I worked for and saved for all my life,” said McKinney, who died in October 2008, not because he fell back in with the wrong crowd, but because of a moped accident.

No. 16: Leland Stanford – The Wall of Bereavement

How do you overcome the loss of a child? You don’t, but there are better ways to respond than just giving up. Leland Stanford, Sr., and his wife Jane were traveling with their only son, Leland Stanford, Jr. when he contracted typhus in Florence, Italy and died on March 13, 1884, two months shy of his 16th birthday. That day, the father said, “I know I resolved from that moment to build a university, and we both from that night resolved on this.”

Stanford University opened seven years later in 1891. Future U.S. President Herbert Hoover was in the first graduating class … but that’s another story.

No. 17: Taxpayers and Rate Payers Like You & Me — The Wall of Frustration (Department of Water and Power)

Not every wall we face is a matter of life and death. Some are just there to vex us or piss us off.

Maybe a while back you read that the average Department of Water and Power parking lot attendant made $74,400, not including benefits. How many houses do you have to sell to equal that payout?

There’s no use in being bitter, just try to be better …. by taking your business to a new level! You don’t have to park your career. You can take it as far as you want to go!

No. 18: All of Us – Wall of Misinformation (Swedish Scientists)

How many of you grew up hearing that in shipwrecks, women and children are always the first to be lowered into lifeboats. Well, a couple of Swedish scientists decided to study 18 shipping disasters dating to the 1850s. What they found was the overall survival rate was 61 percent for crew members, 44 percent for captains, 37 percent for male passengers, 27 percent for women and 15 percent for children.

In truth, reality is far different from the myth. In fact, nowhere in maritime law does it require that captains go down with their ships or that their crew members sacrifice themselves.

So ladies, the next time you’re in a leaky boat, grab your own life preserver and fend for yourself. Don’t expect a man to lend you a hand.

No. 19: All of Us – Wall of Experts (William Mulholland)

In our day and age, we face wall-to-wall “experts.” I could point to literally hundreds of examples of where the experts failed, but I’ll mention just one. Since this is a real estate group, does the name William Mulholland ring a bell? In the early 1900s, he was in cahoots with a lot of movers and shakers including the Chandlers of the Los Angeles Times to build the great aqueduct that would carry water to Southern California from the Owens Valley in Northern California. In fact, that great event occurred exactly a century ago in 1913.

But after that great engineering marvel (or swindle of precious water resources), Mulholland continued to build more dams and reservoirs, including the St. Francis Dam. When completed in 1926 above the San Fernando Valley, the St. Francis was large enough to hold a year’s supply of water. Responding to reports of leaks, which had appeared on March 12, 1928, Mulholland and his chief assistant inspected the dam and declared it safe before returning to Los Angeles. A few hours later, when almost all of the Valley’s residents were asleep, the dam burst. “The water was a hundred feet high when it roared down San Francisquito Canyon and into the channel of the Santa Clara River, heading into the Pacific Ocean. The flood killed at least 450 people, wrecked 12,240 homes, and ruined 7,900 acres of farmland.”

No. 20: Elon Musk – The Wall of Failure

NASA’s Space Shuttle has been permanently mothballed so the business of space transportation has fallen into private hands, with mixed results. Not long ago, Space X, a company founded by Pay Pal co-founder Elon Musk, sent a rocket into space ferrying the ashes of astronaut Gordon Cooper and actor James Doohan, the beloved Scotty on “Star Trek.” The rocket blew up. Besides that high-profile embarrassment, Musk burned through about $100 million in cash.

But don’t feel sorry for Musk. He overcame that catastrophe. NASA recently awarded him a $1.6 billion contract.

No. 21: Stephen King – The Wall of Rejection

We’re all sales people here, so we know that it’s hard to escape the wall of rejection. But, no worries. Rejection can lead to election. Author Stephen King received so many rejection letters that he kept them in a journal he called a “Record of Failure.” King stuck each new rejection on a nail. “By the time I was 14,” King said, “the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. So I replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing.”

No. 22: Ernest Hemingway – The Wall of Perfection

Being perfect at what you do — producing that one masterpiece — is another almost impossible wall to overcome. But you can’t stop striving for perfection. Ernest Hemingway told the Paris Review that he revised A Farewell to Arms 39 times before he was satisfied. In fact, a new 2012 edition of his 1929 masterpiece reveals that he rewrote the ending 47 times.

There will always be new walls popping up to test and challenge us. To have the greatest success in overcoming them, try to develop the following qualities:
1. Be adventurous. Be someone who likes challenges, chaos, upheaval and creative destruction.
2. Fight resistance with persistence.
3. Always be ready for one more try and one less alibi.
4. Be someone who cares more about your imagination than your image.
5. Be someone who sees results more than risks.
6. Be willing to jump off a cliff and build your wings on the way down.
7. See rejection and failure as emboldening, not embarrassing
8. Treat all stumbling blocks as stepping stones, all obstacles as opportunities, all problems as possibilities, all stop signs as guidelines and all terminations as transitions.
9. And by all means, stop hanging out with CAVE people. CAVE people are Citizens Against Virtually Everything.

With better decisions, better tools, better people around you, and a strong, unrelenting faith in yourself, you can tear down any wall holding back your success!

Food for Thought: Eat Your P’s to Grow Rich

Paul RevereI’m here today to talk to you about Selling’s 5 Ps: Prospecting, Preparation, Presentation, Persuasion, and Post-Sale

The First P: Prospecting

How many of you here today know who William Dawes is? I thought so!

On April 18, 1775, he jumped on his horse at midnight to warn his fellow colonists that the British were marching on Lexington and Concord, Mass. Yet, you’ve probably never heard of him.

However, you’ve most likely heard of that other guy, Paul Revere, immortalized in the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Why did Dawes fade from the pages of history when Revere became famous?

Revere was a prospector, networker and connector and Dawes was not. Revere was intensely social and gregarious, with an uncanny genius for being at the center of events. Besides being a silversmith, he was a fisherman, hunter, card player, theater-lover, frequenter of pubs and a businessman. When he knocked doors, people listened. When Dawes knocked doors, few answered because they didn’t know who he was.

So the lesson is, get out from behind your desk and get out there. Meet people, be with people, and build relationships.

Things always have a way of happening when you’re out among people.

Somebody who was always out there was Herbert Vogel, who was a postal clerk his whole life. He died this year at age 90. He never made more than $23,000 a year. His wife Dorothy was a reference librarian. But the couple somehow amassed a multimillion dollar art collection. How did they do it? They prospected. They befriended struggling artists, often asking to purchase a painting, drawing or sculpture despite their modest income. Sometimes, they’d exchange services like babysitting or pet-sitting for a keepsake or memento. More often than not, undiscovered artists, desperate for a sale and the emotional support, obliged. In more than 30 years, the couple crammed almost 5,000 works into their one-room, rent-controlled New York City apartment, never selling one. A few years back, they donated their treasures to the National Gallery of Art.

The point of prospecting is to get out there and make things happen. You may not always know where you’re going, but people – customers – will find you.

When the naturalist John Muir started out, he didn’t know he where he would end up.

In his early 20s, he walked from Louisville, Ky. to Cedar Key, Fla., about 1,000 miles, with the intent of catching a steamer to South America to explore the Amazon. By the way, before he left, when he had asked his father for a little money for his journey, his father replied, “No, depend entirely on yourself.”

When Muir got to Florida, he found that there were no steamers leaving for South America, so he caught one to California by way of Cuba and New York, and of course, after he arrived in the Golden State, he put Yosemite on the map and became the founder of the Sierra Club, etc.

So, the lesson is, don’t call it a day too early when things don’t always go your way. Keep looking and hunting.

You have to stay in the game, and keep working new angles and looking for new turf.

Mark Twain found new turf. When Mark Twain was a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi, he was making more money than the vice president of the United States. But when the Civil War came, the river was closed to all traffic, so he was out of work. He joined the Confederacy for about a week. After discovering he wasn’t cut out for soldiering, he headed west and struck a literary fortune.

Another 19th Century prospector was Alexander Graham Bell. In trying to invent a hearing device for his hearing-impaired wife, he inadvertently invented the telephone.

Do you see a pattern here? Prospectors don’t lay back. They keep covering ground.

In the 1950s, Ray Kroc was a guy who sold paper cups and malt mixers for a living. When he found out that some San Bernardino burger joint owned by Dick and Mac McDonald was buying more of his machines than any of his other customers, he paid the brothers a visit. Shortly, he was pitching them on the idea of franchising their restaurants.

When Howard Schultz saw that a little northwest coffee company was buying up all his coffee makers, he flew across the country to learn more about the coffee company with the funny name, Starbucks. The rest is history.

Therefore, talk to new people every day. While you’re searching for prospects, never forget that you are a prospect, too. So, look sharp, be sharp, wear your nametag and always be ready to let people know who you are and what you do.

The Second P: Preparation

Nobody prepared for a game like Kurt Warner, who led the Rams to a Super Bowl victory in 2000, and almost did it a second time with the Arizona Cardinals in 2008.

Once, he was asked how much time he thought he put into practice each week? After thinking for a spell, he said, “About 50 hours.”

He broke it down: “I watch film from last week’s game, then there’s film on our new opponent, then we get the playbook to study, then we start sequencing the plays we want to run, then we go out on the field and practice the plays, then we condition, so altogether about 50 hours a week.”

Thus, if a football game consists of four 15-minute quarters or an hour total, Warner’s practice-to-play ratio was 50-to-1. But then the interviewer realized that because Warner only played on offense, his real practice-to-play ratio was more like 100-to-1.

Warner was hugely compensated for the minutes he played each week. Asked what his best football memories were, he didn’t talk about the money he was paid but rather helping lead two down-on-their-luck football franchises back to greatness.

So, follow Warner’s Winning Ways:

• Mastery before money, and
• Relationships before revenues

In your business world, that means knowing all of your products and services inside and out, and the benefits they provide. And then like Warner, hit the practice field long and hard so that when you do come face to face with your clients for those few precious seconds and minutes, you’ll turn in a super performance.

Sometimes, the best way to prepare is to find a quiet place away from all the hustle. Sometimes, you have to literally step away from the fray.

The best example I can give on how this preparation technique works is to share how Sir Isaac Newton made all his great scientific discoveries in the 17th Century. He didn’t make them while he was a student at Cambridge. He made them in the quiet of the countryside.

He had to leave Cambridge for 18 months on account of the Black Plague that struck England in 1665 and the Great Fire that followed in 1666. He went to live on the family farm in Lincolnshire until the threat subsided. During that down time, he formulated many of his major contributions to science, including integral and differential calculus, many of the laws of optics, the universal laws of motion, and the law of gravitation.

So, find a quiet place to prepare. Soak in a hot tub, take a walk, turn off the radio on the way to work, etc. Find some peace.

Final point: The more successful you are and the more money you make, the more you should prepare. Darwin Smith, the former chief executive officer of Kimberly Clark, celebrated in Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, showed how this principle worked. Upon his retirement from Kimberly Clark, he said, “I never stopped trying to be qualified for the job.”

That’s the way you have to be. Riches don’t respond to wishes,” Napoleon Hill said. So plan and prepare how to obtain them.

The Third P: Presentation

This is what you live for and have been preparing for. When the lights go on, you have to perform. But don’t treat your performance as an audition when you sit down with your client. Simply be the prepared, polished, consistent performer you are.

Take your cue from Fred Rogers.

For more than 30 years, Mr. Rogers welcomed millions of viewers (customers) into his neighborhood because they knew precisely what they were getting — a familiar friend who wore a zippered cardigan sweater and tennis shoes. Indeed, he even kept his 143-pound weight the same, refusing to do anything that might make it fluctuate. He went to bed early and swam every morning and didn’t drink, smoke, or eat flesh of any kind.

He also made a point to behave naturally on camera rather than acting out a character. “One of the greatest gifts you can give anybody is the gift of your honest self,” he said.

He wasn’t flashy or a flip-flopper. There was no bait-and-switch. He just delivered the goods. He protected his brand (i.e., neighborhood or farming area) through honesty and constancy and authenticity. He was extremely effective because he was extremely selective.

You can do the same.

In your presentations, aim for precision and concision, a rule unfortunately I always seems to violate. Furthermore, aim to complete instead of compete, to connect instead of correct, to coach instead of criticize, to serve instead of sell.

Let current and potential customers know exactly what you can do for them. Don’t make claims that you can’t fulfill. If there are certain values you subscribe to, share them, display them, and live them. Be consistent. In other words, if you’re selling “green” homes, don’t drive your clients around town in a gas-guzzler.

The Fourth P: Persuasion

I think this is the toughest “P” to get your arms around. To be great in the persuasive arts, you have to be comfortable in your own skin. You also have to believe that what you believe is far more important than what anybody else believes or says about you. Therefore, you have to be extremely confident and self-assured. That’s how you build Disneyland out of an orchard grove, even though everybody thinks you’re crazy.

Like Disney, you have to believe that no matter what is thrown at you — like a real estate deal that’s going to blow apart — you have what it takes to hold it together. You have to adopt a sales attitude like Brownie Wise of Tupperware fame, who said, “Remember the steam kettle; though up to its neck in hot water, it continues to sing.”

You will continue to sing and sell if you maintain a calm, clear and optimistic outlook on what you want to achieve. At age 52, Ray Kroc suffered from diabetes and arthritis. He also had no gall bladder and was missing most of his thyroid. Reflecting back on that time when he was on the verge of building a hamburger empire, he said, “I was convinced that the best years were ahead of me.”

If you’re convinced that your best years are ahead of you, you’ll be convincing to others. If your vision and purpose are clear, you’ll be persuasive in any situation. There will be no objections you can’t handle.

You don’t have to resort to tricks or cut your commission. You simply have to say what you do and do what you say. When you’re reliable and the real deal, you become naturally persuasive and passionate.

To maintain your aura of authenticity and persuasion, simply take Will Rogers’ advice, “Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.”

The Fifth P: Post-Sale

Fortune is in the follow-up. Disney knows that a 1 percent increase in repeat business translates into millions of dollars in extra revenue. In 2011, Ford converted its No. 1 loyalty rating from the Polk automotive survey into $20.2 billion profits, the second highest in its history.

It’s not enough to just stay in touch, however. Keep working to anticipate your customers’ needs. Give them what they want. Not what you want.

Mark Twain was probably the most conspicuous person on the planet in the early 20th Century. In trying to explain his popularity, he said his writing was like water, while other writers’ works were more like fine wine. “A lot more people drink water,” he joked.


If you stay true to the 5 Ps of Selling, you’ll be rewarded with two additional P’s. Productivity and Profit!

Good Selling!

Learn from Lincoln: Speech Delivered by Harvard Reject Peter Bennett, Nov. 16, 2012

Our 16th president was filled with darkness and light.

Thanks for having me.

I am the author of Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject. It’s an encyclopedia on success – your success! I don’t care what situation you face or predicament you’re in, you can turn to the appropriate section in the book and begin reaping real answers and solutions to achieve the outcomes you desire.

It will help you aim higher than your current reach. It will help you tear down the walls holding back your success. It will help you HIGHER yourself when the world isn’t hiring. In the book, you’ll meet scores of teachers, everyone from Jesus Christ to J.C. Penney, to help you complete your particular journey in life.

Because Spielberg’s new movie, “Lincoln,” hits movie theaters today, I thought I’d share some lessons on Abraham Lincoln, one of the many teachers you’ll meet in Life Lessons.

We have another reason to honor and listen to Lincoln. As president, he declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, with the first one being celebrated on Nov. 26, 1863. Exactly one week before that first official Thanksgiving, Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, which took all of 272 words and less than 3 minutes to deliver, far less than the 15 minutes your broker asked me to speak today..

You should also know that more books have been written about our 16th president than about any other American in history. As of November 12, 2012, the number of books on Lincoln (which includes biographies, autobiographies, histories, titles on specific topics, etc) stood at 2,515. The only other U.S. president that comes close to having that many books written about him is George Washington at 1,347.

So, if the two faced each other in an election, Lincoln would win 65% of the vote to Washington’s 35%.

Indeed, there has never been anyone quite like Abraham Lincoln.

Let me give you few quick facts about Lincoln.

  • He was our tallest president at 6-foot-4. He weighed about 180 pounds, wore a size 7 ¼-hat and size 12 to 14 shoes, depending on the shoe and shoemaker.
  • He was the first president to be born outside of the original 13 colonies.
  • About 130 photographs were taken of Lincoln in his lifetime, but there wasn’t one taken of him with his entire family. In fact, he was never photographed alone with his wife Mary.
  • Lincoln was the first president to have his image on a U.S. coin. The Lincoln penny, which came out in 1909, would have been Lincoln’s 100th birthday.
  • Lincoln is the only president to hold a patent. He invented a flotation device for the movement of boats in shallow water.
  • Abraham Lincoln’s salary as president was $25,000 a year.

One last thing, you should know about Lincoln, and this fact is by far the most important: Lincoln was an incorrigible and unapologetic jokester and storyteller who also experienced deep bouts of melancholy. He was Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, David Letterman and Jon Stewart rolled into one. His stories were the grease that lubricated his friendships and his rise to the highest office of the land. He loved to hear them and he loved even more to tell them. His laughter was his life-preserver as he faced the greatest crisis any president has ever known. His early law partner, Ward Hill Lamon, said thus, “Wit, with that illustrious man, was a jewel whose mirth-moving flashes he could no more repress than the diamond can extinguish its own brilliancy.”

He had legions of critics, who, unaccustomed to his prairie and backwoods humor, thought he was a clown or a buffoon. But it was his humor that was the glue that held together his sanity and the nation.

Now let’s get to some of Lincoln’s life lessons that we should all try to emulate if our goal is to achieve real success and significance in life. Imagine how much more success you can achieve if you begin applying some of Lincoln’s practices to your own life.

Here are my Top 15:

1.Give Back – The $250 Fee
Lincoln literally believed in giving back. He and his early law partner Ward Hill Lamon represented a client in a simple case that required little of their time. When Lincoln learned his partner had charged a set fee of $250, he protested. Lincoln said, “That is all wrong. Give him back half of it.”

When his partner explained that the client was totally satisfied with the bill and services rendered, Lincoln replied, “That may be, but I am not satisfied. This is positively wrong. Go, call him back and return him half the money at least, or I will not receive one cent of it for my share.”

Even the judge was upset by Lincoln’s modest fees. In rasping tones that could be heard all over the court room, the large 8th circuit judge bellowed, “’Lincoln, I have been watching you and Lamon. You are impoverishing this bar by your picayune charges of fees, and the lawyers have reason to complain of you. You are now almost as poor as Lazarus, and if you don’t make people pay you more for your services, you will die as poor as Job’s turkey.”

2. Don’t Be a Pig – The Human Hog
Lincoln was a prairie lawyer who served clients throughout Illinois’ 8th Circuit. Traveling constantly, he picked up lots of tales and spun several himself, including this yarn about a Cortlandt County farmer:

A farmer had raised a hog of such tremendous size that people came from miles around to see it. When one curious visitor asked to sneak a peek, the farmer said, “Sure, but I’ll have to charge you a dollar.” The stranger glared at the farmer for a minute, handed him the desired money, and started to walk away. “Hold on,” said the farmer, “Don’t you want to see the hog?” “No,” said the stranger. “Lookin’ at you, I’ve seen as big a hog as I ever want to see!”

3. Appreciate the Value of Money – The Boat

Don’t think for a second that Lincoln wasn’t a capitalist or didn’t appreciate the value of money. Indeed, in the White House, Lincoln recalled for Secretary of State William Seward how he earned his first dollar. He had built a boat, and two strangers wanted their bags ferried to a larger steam boat. After transporting them, they flung two half dollars at him. Lincoln said, “I could scarcely believe my eyes when I picked up the money. You may think this a little thing in these days, and it seems to me now like a trifle, but it was an important incident in my life. The world seemed wider and fairer before me. I was a hopeful boy from that time.”

4. Keep Only What Is Yours – The Poor Woman
In his early 20s, when Lincoln was a store clerk in New Salem, Illinois, a poor woman made a small purchase. After closing up and totaling the sales, he realized that he had overcharged the woman 6 cents. That same night, Lincoln walked three miles so as to return the money to the woman.

5. Be a Person of Vision – The Autograph
Other than his signature that appears on official documents, only one autograph of Lincoln has been preserved. It was written when he was 14 on the leaf of his school book. This is what it said:

“Abraham Lincoln, his hand and pen, he will be good, but god knows when.”

6. Don’t Let ‘Em Know What You Don’t Know – The Drill Sergeant
People forget Lincoln trained as an Indian fighter. Indeed, Indians had killed his grandfather. When he was 23, he was named the captain of his Indian-fighting company. One day he was drilling his men who were marching side by side 20 abreast as they approached a gate. Having forgotten the command for assembling his men in single file so they could pass through the gate, he shouted, “This company is dismissed for 2 minutes, when it will fall in again on the other side of the gate.”

7. Set High Standards – As Your Father In Heaven Is Perfect, Be Ye Also Perfect

One of Lincoln’s favorite quotes was from scripture. It read, “As your Father in Heaven is perfect, be ye also perfect.” Lincoln, more than anybody, knew he was far from perfect, but this understanding didn’t prevent him from seeking excellence.

8. Don’t Give Up Too Early – Horse for the Course
“Don’t change horses in midstream.” It turns out that the popularity of the phrase comes from a speech Lincoln gave in 1864 to the National Union League, which wanted him to run under its political banner for a second term. In the speech, Lincoln said, “An old Dutch farmer remarked to a companion once that it was not best to swap horses when crossing streams.”

So, as business people, instead of abandoning ship at the first sight of trouble, review your plans and goals first. Perhaps, all that is needed is a tweak here or there and rededication to your purpose.

9. Know Your Audience – Good Listener, Bad Listener
Lincoln had an inexhaustible supply of stories; more important, he knew when and how to share them. Lincoln said, “There are two ways of relating a story. If you have an auditor who has the time, and is inclined to listen, lengthen it out, pour it out slowly as if from a jug. If you have a poor listener, hasten it, shorten it, shoot it out of a pop-gun.”

Apply these rules when you give your listing presentation. If your client is 80-years-old, don’t try to wow her with a slick Power Point presentation. Always customize your presentation to your audience.

10. Celebrate Who You are and Where You Came From — Man of the People
If Had Had Lincoln been born a blue blood, would he have been able to summon the haunting, hallowed words of the Gettysburg Address or the healing words — “with malice toward none and charity for all”– in his second inaugural address?

11. Turn Obstacles into Opportunities – A Case of the Uglies

Lincoln reached the White House despite losing eight elections, failing twice in business and suffering a nervous breakdown. But he won his two most important elections: in 1860, when he was elected president, and in 1864, when he was reelected.

He never let poverty or poor appearance or even depression, his or his wife’s, hold him back. Indeed, he used these detriments to his advantage.

Lincoln knew he didn’t have Brad Pitt’s good looks, but his homely appearance didn’t prevent him from charming people and winning their affections. His humor gave him humility.

Alas, Lincoln told this joke about himself: “Once I met a woman riding horseback in the woods. As I stopped to let her pass, she also stopped, and, looking at me intently, said: ‘I do believe you are the ugliest man I ever saw.’ Said I, ‘Madam, you are probably right, but I can’t help it!’ ‘No,’ said she, ‘you can’t help it, but you might stay at home!’”

12. Never Be Afraid to Speak the Truth – The Hot Stove League

Lincoln’s first secretary of war was Simon Cameron, a man so corrupt that the only thing he wouldn’t steal, according to Lincoln, was a hot stove. Lincoln replaced him with Edwin Stanton.

13. Plant Seeds of Hope and Possibility – Thistles and Flowers
In February of 1865, the President granted the request of two Pennsylvania women to free men who had been arrested for resisting the draft. Turning to his friend, Joshua Speed, Lincoln said, “Die when I may, I want it said of me by those who know me best that ‘I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower when I thought a flower would grow.’”

14. Don’t Hold a Grudge – Resentment Doesn’t Pay

When friends of Lincoln advised against appointing some of his main rivals to his cabinet, he replied, “You have more of a feeling of personal resentment than I have. Perhaps, I have too little of it, but I never thought it paid.”

So business people, don’t automatically rule out people from joining your team just because they once did you a bad turn.

15. Don’t Be a Prisoner of the Past – The McCormick Harvesting Machine Co.
In 1855, Lincoln had been retained by the defense in a patent-infringement suit brought by the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company. When the trial was switched from Chicago to Cincinnati, his clients decided to dump him in favor of Edwin Stanton, one of the nation’s preeminent legal minds. But they never informed Lincoln, and he didn’t hear the news until he appeared in Cincinnati prepared for the trial. Although professionally embarrassed, he didn’t sulk over the snub. Instead, he stayed to observe the trial.

Seven years later, when Lincoln sought a new Secretary of War, he appointed Stanton, choosing to remember how impressed he had been by Stanton’s courtroom brilliance, not how he had once been slighted and ignored by the legal giant. His greater purpose and focus on assembling the best people for his cabinet supplanted any painful blows to his ego.

Interestingly, when Lincoln died at 7:22 a.m. on April 15, 1865, in a house owned by tailor William Petersen, across the street from Ford’s Theater, Stanton was by his side, whispering, “Now, he belongs to the ages.”

Maybe Lincoln was such a poor hater because he had experienced so much personal pain and loss. His grandfather Abe was killed by Indians. His mother died when he was just 9. When he was 19, his sister Sarah died while giving birth. Only one of his four sons lived to adulthood.This son was Robert Lincoln (1843-1926).

Strangely, near the end of the war at a train station in Jersey City, N.J., Robert fell off a platform while attempting to board a railcar. He was saved from possible death by Edwin Booth, the actor and brother of John Wilkes Booth (1838-1865), the man who would assassinate President Lincoln a few weeks later in Ford’s Theater. Booth was traveling with his friend, John T. Ford, owner of Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where Lincoln was assassinated. Amazing!

Although spared from death by Edwin Booth, Robert Lincoln was either present or nearby for three of the nation’s four presidential assassinations. Robert arrived at Ford’s Theater shortly after his father was shot on April 14, 1865. On July 2, 1881, he was at the Sixth Street Train Station in Washington, D.C., where he was an eyewitness to the shooting of President Garfield by Charles J. Guiteau. On September 6, 1901, at the invitation of President William McKinley, Lincoln attended the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, N.Y., where McKinley was shot by Leon F. Czolgosz.

It wasn’t surprising that Robert started turning down invitations by his friends to attend their gatherings and social affairs. But he carried on and served the nation with distinction.

We all have a destiny. You have a destiny.

Being a Realtor or someone who works for himself requires Lincoln’s inner toughness. When you feel that toughness wavering, read a little more about him and like Lincoln, don’t take things so darn seriously. He faced insurmountable challenges, with humor and grace, and he overcame them.

And so can you!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Actor Bill Cobbs Joins Legion of ‘Harvard Reject’ Fans

Actor Bill Cobbs, now appearing in the ABC hit show, “Going On” starring Matthew Perry, is the newest fan of Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject.

I swear there’s one guy who gets more air time than either President Obama or Republican challenger Mitt Romney, and he is actor Bill Cobbs.

The ubiquitous actor, who appears in the current ABC sitcom “Going On” with Matthew Perry, has been in Star Trek Enterprise, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, The Bodyguard, Bird, The Color of Money, The Cotton Club, Trading Places, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and scores of other popular movies and television shows.

It’s almost gotten to the point where one of the first questions Hollywood producers ask before going into production is, “Is Cobbs available.”

Cobbs, a Cleveland, Ohio, native who lives in the Inland Empire, is more than just a fine actor, he’s a patriot who served as a United States Air Force radar technician for eight years and animal lover who a couple of years back came to La Verne and volunteered his time to participate in Linda Blair’s (“The Exorcist) WorldHeat Foundation’s Craft Fair, organized by La Verne resident Becky Altringer, to raise money for abandoned and abused animals.

That’s when I first met Bill, and I’ve closely followed his great career ever since. He’s also the latest fan of the motivational and inspirational book Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject (www.HarvardReject.com), which among its many themes shares a multitude of stories, anecdotes and insights on the Black experience in America.

Bill, here’s to you, and the best of luck on your latest television series, “Going On.”

Because, if there’s anybody, who has it “Going On,” it’s you!