Some people used to say that in order to sell life insurance well, you had to get religion.
If that was true, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones was a giant of the pulpit. He spoke not as if his life depended on it but as if yours did. He wanted to shake up his listeners to ensure they understood what he had to say, even if it involved actually shaking people.
He had developed a small, regional Mutual of New York office in Central New York that averaged $100 million a year in sales in the late 1950s. He was making $150,000 annually when the average yearly wage in the United States was about $4,700.
Then he moved on to motivational speaking, writing and book publishing. His best-known book was Life Is Tremendous, which has sold more than 4 million copies. When Jones was in his natural element on stage, he couldn’t be ignored. He was funny, loud, animated and in your face. He was not shy. Some of his later appearances can be found on YouTube.
Tracey Jones grew up next to the towering personality of her dad but never really knew him as a fleshed-out human being until closer to the end of his life in 2008, when he died of lung cancer.
She returned home after a career as an Air Force officer, Gulf War veteran and corporate manager. She helped manage her father’s book publishing business in Mechanicsburg, Pa., just as the most difficult years hit the industry.
Tracey has since developed her own speaking career, helping companies meet their goals in challenging times. All along the way, she has seen that not only has her father’s wisdom held up, but it is needed now more than ever.
She has expanded on her father’s Seven Laws of Leadership in her newest book, A Message to Millennials. She is pursuing a doctorate in leadership and is active in a prison ministry.
In this interview with InsuranceNewsNet, Tracey talks about what her father’s message means today.
INN: Why did you revisit your father’s work?
JONES: A Message to Millennials is his vintage wisdom and my update on it for the millennial generation. But, of course, it’s for everybody. Truth is timeless and universal.
Whether you have a scientific or a theological bent, we all are here for one another in this community. And we’re here to take care of one another, to serve one another and to propel each other to greater things.
So, I took my father’s Seven Laws of Leadership and added the Seven Functions of Followership. This really put a good spin on his laws, emphasizing that we are all here to pour ourselves into other people and make the world a better place than when we entered it.
I think my father loved life insurance so much because he always felt it was a great way to give people security and for them to take care of the things that were most important to them, even when they’re not there. Insurance really is about thinking of somebody other than yourself.
INN: Why is now a good time for this book?
JONES: The problem I see going on is we’re starting to retract and divide. Technology has us split off from each other, and we don’t need each other as much. We simply can go to our virtual devices and get all the chemical stimulation we need for our brain as far as video games, power, prestige, lust, selfies, self-esteem – you name it.
Although we are more interconnected, virtual reality is not a reality. And, hey, I’m all about technology and artificial intelligence and robots doing stuff better than we can. But human resources is all about us as individuals just being there for one another. And you can’t get there without others.
So that’s where I look at some of the timeless truths that my father espoused, and I look at some of the legacy founders. I think we have what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery.” In other words, if it didn’t come out on the best-seller list in the past five months, it’s useless.
When I hear young people say, “Well, that’s from 50 or 100 years ago,” I say, “If you think about the greats who started it all, who built our civilizations, who penned the epic pieces – if you think they’re somehow obsolete or not as smart as you, you don’t even know what you don’t know.”
You have the internet now and you’re born in this generation and you can code and you can have these huge conglomerates like Google and everything, but we’re still individuals at the core. And that’s how we have to address one another. I think if we can get back to that and put reading back in vogue and make self-awareness and mind renewal cool again, we will be well on our way to making Earth a better place.
INN: Let’s get to the Seven Laws of Leadership. The first one is Get Excited About Your Work. Why is that No. 1?
JONES: I’ve been on top nationally syndicated radio shows the past two weeks, talking about the book, and people have said, “Seriously, isn’t that kind of an antiquated idea?”
It’s not. Your attitude is what makes the job. The job doesn’t make your attitude.
We have this so reversed. We aren’t stepping up and accepting ownership. We expect to always be extrinsically motivated from the outside in, whereas really great lives are lived from the inside out.
Getting married doesn’t make you a good spouse or life partner – it’s what you put into the relationship.
You bring it. Not, “Well, I’m not going to do it if somebody doesn’t give me this or that.” That’s incredibly selfish, and that’s what I’m scared of.
Getting excited about your work means if you want a better job, you must do a better job and you’ll have a better job.
Everybody thinks the grass is always greener somewhere else. But if you transplant your crappy, invasive attitude into your dream job, guess what? You’re going to strangle out your dream job. It’s you. It’s not your job.
It’s like George Costanza [from Seinfeld] when he breaks up with his girlfriend and says, “It’s not me, it’s you.” It’s always you. And if you change your thinking, you’re going to change your problems.
INN: How do people know that they have invested enough of themselves and it is time to move on?
JONES: Of course, this doesn’t mean that every job is going to change into your dream job.
But I tell people that when you leave a job, make sure that the only reason you leave a job is because you have outgrown your role, and there’s no place for you to go. But don’t leave because you’re unhappy, you have a crappy attitude, you think your boss is tough or abusive when your boss is just trying to get you to do the right thing, or you think it’s going to be better somewhere else. Because that’s not going to be the case.
It’s helping people grow in self-awareness, self-discipline and self-restraint, which, in psychology, are the three defining things that separate youth from adulthood. What scares me is when I see adults who are incredibly un-self-aware, un-self-disciplined and un-self-restrained. Because they’re reverting to a childlike state. There’s a lot of that going on.
They can improve, but they almost have to go back and pass through the psychological gates that they missed earlier in life.
A lot of adults are in this kind of delayed adolescence. “I don’t want to go to work. I don’t want to be responsible. I don’t want to be financially liable for the kids I fathered.” It’s like, wait, what? You’re in adulthood now. That’s part of what goes on with being a productive member of society.
It’s not about you anymore. It’s about you pouring your life into others. So we have to get back to that.
INN: Many of us have some degree of what you described. If people recognize that in themselves and that they have this work to do, what should they do next? How do they overcome the inertia to get moving toward real change?
JONES: Well, you hit the nail on the head. Do you have the ambition to self-actualize and realize, “I have some areas to work on”?
There have been people who have told you things in your life at different stages and you’ve thought, “Wrong. You’re wrong.” But then you had an epiphany. How did that happen?
If people reach the point where they finally say, “Oh my goodness, there’s more that I can do to alleviate my suffering,” then I probably would have them get a coach or a mentor.
I’d put them on a healthy reading program. I’d sit down and have them look at all the negative influences in their life and fumigate the fleas that are biting them. Those fleas are the negative people, the negative habits, the negative talk, the negative TV, the negative media.
I haven’t watched the news in three years, one month and 28 days, and I’m so much better for it. I went back to start on my doctorate two years ago, and that forced me to be very disciplined in what I spend my time listening to, doing and at.
What happens when you don’t alleviate the non-value-added things in your life? It’s just like when these prisoners come out after they’ve been locked up for 20 years. They’re out a week, and they either overdose and die or they’re back in prison – because they go back to the same filthy, toxic habitat.
So you’ve got to be really honest, and it’s hard. You have to extricate yourself. Because your old life – your old friends, your old habits, your old language – is no longer going to suit you.
You probably will get a lot of pushback. So you must be very resilient to get to these regenerative moments when you finally say, “Oh my gosh, I am morphing into something different.”
Then you need to find a new support group that’s going to encourage you. Because you cannot get it right if you don’t have the right people around you.
None of us is strong enough to do it on our own. Not even my father, not even me, not you, not Jesus, not Gandhi, not Martin Luther, not anybody. So you have to get in the right circle.
INN: Besides getting with the right people, what else should people do to make a significant change?
JONES: The good news is, there are so many great people out there who have been where you are, who are willing to give you a hand up to clarity and help you put the action plans into life, so you actually can make this second nature. Because if you don’t embed it and make it second nature, you will revert to your old habits pretty quickly.
I’m a huge believer in structured action plans. Because no matter how visionary you are, if you can’t break it down into actionable steps and tiny bites, you’ll lose momentum. You’ll be on this treadmill where you’re doing stuff but not actually checking off steps.
Not everybody is going to applaud what you are doing. Some people actually may try to sabotage you or drag you back down. I’ve seen that happen a lot.
Change is scary, and people are going to lose you. You’re going to be a different person, and they may not want to lose the buddy they used to get into trouble with or be lazy with, or who had all kinds of nonproductive behaviors – gossiping, cheating on their time sheet and taking off work early.
INN: The next law is Use or Lose. What is it we’re using?
JONES: What gets you somewhere will not keep you there. A lot of people, when their business is cooking and they have money coming out their ears, will sit back and coast. But if you don’t use it and take it to a new level, you will lose it.
It’s the second law of thermodynamics. Everything tends toward a state of disarray and disorder. The push that got your choo-choo going – eventually the friction of the road and the air and the grinding of the machinery will cause it to stop.
Unless you’re infusing it with a force – enthusiasm, motivation, passion or ambition – you eventually will start to slow down.
So you must constantly be using.
Action cures this depression – action that is not focused on you and how sad and sorry you feel.
I’ll give people a list of things to do to help themselves, and I’ll go back, and guess what? They haven’t done one of them. Then I know that they didn’t want to get help; they wanted to get attention.
So you must really look at yourself and ask, “If somebody gave me a book to read that would cure all my ills, would I sit down and read it?” And if the answer is no, you just want to sit there and enjoy being miserable.
Your body can catch a disease of the mind. And there are a lot of people who have a pathology where they actually have a personality disorder. Then there’s a huge population that has allowed stinking thinking to make them physically sick.
I’ve gone down that road before. I caught myself and I stopped it and said, “Whoa, I’m not going to this dark place.” But the minute you sit there and ruminate and think about yourself or isolate yourself, you’re on a one-way train to neuroticism.
Neuroticism is one of the big five personality traits with a negative connotation. It will lead to increased hostility and anger in life. It actually can make you psychologically ill and kill you off early because of stress.
The good news is, as we get older, we tend to decrease in this, because we become more comfortable in our own skin. We become more sure of our own selves; we have better networks; we’ve matured. But if you haven’t matured, you stay in this kind of infantile, crybaby state where you want everybody to come meet your needs. That’s not the way life responds to adulthood.
Lots of people say, “Well, that’s just the way I am.” And I say, “Nope, not from a spiritual standpoint and not from an evolutionary standpoint. You are not supposed to be that way.”
Science and scripture say this is a one-way ticket to a terrible life. People say, “Well, Tracey, it’s just because you believe this.” Nope, it’s science.
INN: It seems like the bottom line is that being sedentary isn’t just being sedentary – it also leads to entropy. And so people might think that they’re not doing anything, but they are.
JONES: It’s the second law of thermodynamics. And that’s why I tell people it’s science.
It’s the old story about the frog in a pot of boiling water. You put a frog in a pot and you turn the temperature up one degree at a time, and the frog doesn’t realize it’s killing itself if it doesn’t leap out until it’s too late.
Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not true. A lot of people say, “I don’t feel that way.” Well, that doesn’t matter. This is a universal law.
With the current of life, especially in 2017, and the way we are all interconnected, there is no status quo anymore.
Life is like an escalator and you think that you’re just standing on the step. But the escalator is either moving up or down, and you’re going with it regardless of whether you take action.
INN: The escalator is a good analogy. The next law is Give to Get. How is this law related to the others?
JONES: If I give something just to get something, that’s not truly giving. That’s trading.
I work with a lot of millennials who say they’re socially conscious. OK, if you are showing up to volunteer just so you can take a selfie or get a backpack, that’s not altruism.
Giving means you give everything you have regardless of anything you might get back. Because the act of giving makes you a better giver.
The greatest commandment in the world is to love one another. And that’s not just in the Bible. From an evolutionary standpoint, if we didn’t come together as a group, we were SOL. We need to be together as a collective society for many different reasons.
A lot of people say, “Well, I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to go the extra mile at my job because I won’t get paid for it.”
So you’re trading your moments in life for a bare-minimum paycheck. And if you’re going to do only the bare minimum, you are going to be seen only as a bare-minimum value. But when you’re constantly giving and adding value, you are a richer person.
Prosperity isn’t only about your paycheck. Prosperity is about becoming a richer person because you’re a giver. Then other people are drawn to you because you have this incredible ability to encourage and edify others.
That’s what Give to Get is really about. It’s the antithesis of me, me, me – it’s all about me. It’s like being an organ donor while you’re still living. How much of myself can I donate while I’m living to make people’s lives better?
When you dial into that, you will become a leader like no other, because that’s truly service. It’s the heart of servant leadership – that it’s not about you.
It’s about being able to serve alongside and not letting any task be beneath you. When you lower yourself and humble yourself, you are actually raising yourself up to a higher level. It’s paradoxical; it’s very counterintuitive. Because everybody today is like, “I’ve got to tromp on everybody, I’ve got to get million-dollar sales, I’ve got to be the No. 1 Amazon best seller.”
Can’t you just do a good job and enjoy and bask in the knowledge that you did a job well? I mean, that’s the only recognition we used to get – when you go to bed at night just knowing, “Man, I kicked butt today. I don’t know if anybody else knows it, but I gave today my all,” and that’s why you fall asleep and you’re exhausted and you wake up the next day ready to go.
INN: The next one is Production to Perfection. So, what’s wrong with perfection?
JONES: This means that no matter how good you get, you’re never going to get it exactly right.
People will say, “Well, I’m waiting for the perfect life partner” or “I’m waiting for the perfect job.”
Just take the job. Even in the jobs that are “beneath you,” you will be learning something and you will gain experience.
This is kind of the analysis paralysis, where people say, “I’m scared to make a decision. What if I make that wrong hire?”
I quoted [Gen. George S.] Patton in the book. He said, “A poor decision made today is better than a perfect decision made tomorrow.”
If you keep kicking the can down the road, you’ll never make a decision. That’s why, when doing things with people like this, they say, “I don’t know if I should leave my job.” OK, let’s do only one thing today that puts us on the pathway toward getting it more right.
Even if you make the wrong decision, the next day you slightly tweak that wrong decision and make it a little less wrong and a little more right.
It takes the pressure off you. You don’t have to be like, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to get it right.”
I publish books, and I promise you every book that has ever gone to print has at least one mistake in it. It just happens. So publish it and then the second printing will correct it.
People will say that they don’t want to give away their wealth until they die. I understand, but there are people who really could benefit from it right now. There are people who, if they don’t get food in their belly or get off the streets, may not be around when you die.
So living in the moment, doing the best you can with what you have right now, helps you perfect where you’re going.
You’re constantly tweaking every day. You hoist your sails. Maybe the wind isn’t blowing, but you make little adjustments. Then the next day maybe the winds are blowing.
You’re constantly tacking and hoisting and jigging according to what happens in life.
Excellence is just doing the best you can right now. Then you have a threshold. If you’re sitting there waiting to do something until you can get it right, you don’t even have a baseline of how you can perform.
There are always unintended consequences. There’s always something you missed.
Tomorrow is going to be different from today. You may have an aneurism tonight. So you’ve just got to live in the moment.
INN: The next law is Exposure to Experience. You have the analogy of the key ring. Would you explain what that means?
JONES: When we’re born, we all have an empty key ring at our side. And every experience we get in life – good, bad or ugly – gives us an additional key with which to get through life. The key to a successful life is, the more keys, the more options, the more lessons learned.
It’s about not being afraid to take risks and to take chances. That’s the biggest thing. You really want to understand that exposure to experience is about growing your experience bag.
Even if you didn’t get it right, you got experience. And you can’t get good judgment without experience, and you don’t get experience without poor judgment.
Fail often. Fail early. I have this one quote in the book that says that the quickest way to success is to cram 50 years of failure into 15.
I can remember my dad telling me, “Tracey, if you can cold-call and sell books door-to-door and make a sale, that’s the hardest thing in life you’re ever going to do.”
So guess what I did in college? I said, “Let’s get the hard stuff out of the way.” And man, did that teach me a lot.
I actually have a pretty healthy relationship with failure because I know if I try something and it doesn’t work out, well, at least I’ve got that experience. It gives you the confidence and resiliency to say, “OK, so what’s next?”
Some people get depressed because they think bad things shouldn’t happen to them. I don’t know where they learned that universal law. Just deal with it, embrace it, figure out what it’s meant to teach you and go on to the next thing.
I can tell the people who really have been through fires and have scars. And that’s who you want to be, because it makes you a richer, tougher, smarter person when you have more keys.
When you think, “Well, I didn’t think that was going to happen. What am I supposed to do now?” you can say, “Oh, look, I’m sure I have some type of key that can help me overcome this problem.”
And that’s a nice way to go through life, because I hear people say, “Oh, if I lost my husband, I don’t know what I’d do.” Well, you might want to figure that out, because one thing’s for sure – we’re all going to die.
Nothing is guaranteed. So the more experiences you have, the better equipped you’ll be to handle whatever life throws at you.
INN: That seems to lead right into the next law: Flexible Planning.
JONES: My dad would say, “Always plan for it to go wrong.” But people expect everything to go right, and then when something goes wrong, they’re just destroyed. And my dad would say, “Of course you’ve got problems. But you’re not dead.”
It’s pragmatic – a cautious optimism. I’m going to do everything I can and I’m going to do the Law of Attraction mojo and I’m going to draw good things to me, but I’m going to assume everything is going to go off the tracks. I am going to assume this person is not going to come through.
But a lot of people can’t handle it when things don’t work out right. They’re very rigid. And you’re going to get snapped in life, because going through life requires a certain amount of fluidity and flexibility.
INN: Do you hear people saying that this seems to be the opposite of positive thinking?
JONES: Yes. When people say that it’s anti-positive thinking, I say, “No, it’s not anti. It’s realistic thinking.”
Being a positivist doesn’t mean that I am an idiot or that I put my head in the sand. I still expect the best to happen, but I’m very aware that it may not. You can hold both of those thoughts in your mind.
If you assume that it’s all sunshine and roses, you’re not aware of the evil that’s out in the world. When you do see it, it will blind you or destroy your faith in humanity.
I have great faith in humanity, but I’m very aware of what lies at the root of all of us. So it’s healthy pragmatism.
INN: The last law is Motivated to Motivating. What does that mean?
JONES: If you can’t be your own biggest cheerleader and can’t self-motivate, you will never achieve what you need to in life.
You have to learn what motivates you. You have to be your own best shrink and confidante. We need others, but happiness is an inside job.
These things that I do slowly help me uncover my inner happiness, which was always there. I just had covered it up with a lot of crap – a lot of excuses, thumb sucking, unhealthy habits and procrastination.
You have to find your motivation. You have to dig deep.
INN: What would you recommend that people do to help train themselves?
JONES: You can watch TED Talks. You can watch webinars. You can get on all this stuff.
I rarely had a mentor at work. But there are mentors everywhere – members of your church, your neighbors, your parents, your grandparents, your aunts, your uncles, people online. I mean, all these people now are pouring out their wisdom and their authenticity virtually. Take advantage of it.
People are talking about getting a computer chip put in their head. And I’m thinking, “Really?” I do things to help me learn every day.
I read three books a week. I’m constantly reprogramming my brain. I don’t need a computer chip.
But people just want to be smarter automatically. They want to snap their fingers and automatically become thinner and have perfect children.
It doesn’t work that way. And that’s why people like virtual reality – because it’s hitting all the pleasure connectors in their brain without their having to do any of the work.
INN: Thanks for going through the Seven Laws of Leadership. How have you seen millennials relating to these?
JONES: What started this whole thing is I would have so many people call me. They were successful men and women in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and they would say, “I heard your father when I was 21, 25, 28” – millennials’ age now – “and what he shared with me made such an impact.”
So I realized we all had an adult come into our life and speak to us in a way that rocked our world. Dad did it because he was so energetic and such an edifier. He was a motivator, but most of all he was an encourager.
When I speak to millennials, they aren’t asking, “How do I get away with doing the least amount of work?” But they say, “Tracey, I want to be a leader. How can I become a leader?”
This book is all about encouraging them to become the leaders that we need them to be by honing their followership skills. That’s really what my father always taught me – “Tracey, you don’t know what you don’t know. There are so many things out there in life that are always making you a better version of yourself.”
So, I was always in this teachable followership mode. Leadership and followership are two sides of the same coin. You can’t be one without the other. Millennials really are hungry to start engaging and giving back. I think it’s important for them to realize it’s the little things; it’s the entry-level jobs; it’s all the steps; it’s progressive. It doesn’t happen easily or quickly.
So I am saying nothing different to them than what my father told me.
INN: What are some differences between the time when your dad or you were coming up and now for millennials?
JONES: My dad’s legacy was more of “you go to work for somebody, and no matter what, you work, you work, you work and you stay loyal.”
I’m all about loyalty, but if the company is evil or you have somebody you can’t work with, you’ve got to know when to go. So I updated it. Because we have the latitude to do things that my father’s generation didn’t, and we should take advantage of them.
INN: What are some of those advantages today?
JONES: Things such as the ability to job-hop at a moment’s notice. And the ability to go back to school.
My father flunked out of school in the eighth grade. He grew up during the Great Depression. He had to help raise his siblings. Not many people are doing that now.
So go out, get higher degrees and get better certifications. You can join networking groups. You can go and meet CEOs at different chamber events and at young professional groups. They have the ear to a lot more power.
We used to have to move up the ranks slowly until we got ushered into the inner sanctuary. Now millennials get a seat at the table right away. So they have the ability to move up the ladder a lot faster than we did, in my opinion, because they’re better connected.
But you still need to have those core people skills. You still must have the four personality traits that psychologists say you need – openness to new experience, conscientiousness, agreeableness and extraversion – all of which together give you the ability to turn a negative into a positive. You need to have a pleasant, empathetic, altruistic personality.
So that’s the stuff that my dad taught me because he taught me all those personality traits. Only I try to put them into context now. Now it’s your personal brand.
My dad didn’t have to worry about people videoing him doing something stupid at a party and then having it posted on the internet. People do that now, so you must be more cautious.
I help millennials realize they’re on stage from the minute they’re born. We didn’t have that. And it’s not always cool. They may think it’s cool, but it’s really not cool.
INN: Your dad was the consummate salesman. So what sales concepts from your dad still apply today?
JONES: Sales is still hustle. And my father hustled until I watched his last breath go out of his body and his soul depart to heaven. I’m not kidding. He still was on email. He still was telling me to type up stuff.
He could only whisper at the end. But he was still making calls and trying to touch and impact people.
But I think a lot of young people believe sales is so easy now because you just put it up online. They say, “I don’t need to hustle anymore.”
You still have to hustle. There’s a sea of stuff online now. You have to have the touch points. Get your good CRM database, meet with somebody, cultivate leads, offer to help them: “Hey, here’s an email; hey, here’s a book; hey, come to this event; hey, here is this.” You get to pitch after you find out what they want.
Younger people struggle because they think they just want to be the creators: “I just want to come up with new, cool stuff.” I hear a lot of “Tracey, I’m not a salesperson. I’m a creative.”
Well, somebody’s got to be buying it or you’ll be bankrupt.
Read Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited. There are three sides to an entrepreneur. There’s the creator, the process person and somebody delivering the goods. There’s the Hedgehog Concept in Jim Collins’ Good to Great.
If you can’t monetize your mission and sell it, you’re not going to be in business very long.
I am not a salesperson. My father? There was nobody like him. He just was this force of nature, and he was so engaging and excited. It didn’t matter what he was selling; you were buying it. Or he’d give it to you.
What I’m learning now is the importance of being really disciplined in your sales and being sequential in your steps and the automation of the follow-ups and tracking people.
The data mining is so much richer for sales. It’s insane. And getting to the gatekeeper can happen so much quicker.
But you must be very delicate and diligent and purposeful in assessing your customers’ needs and laying out your plan of how you can help them. That will never go away, and that’s pure salesmanship at its heart.
It’s not just sending out an e-blast or connecting on LinkedIn, and then the minute you connect with them, you say, “Hey, I’d like to tell you about this program.” What? You did not connect with me just to try and sell me.
INN: Another interesting aspect of insurance and finance now is the shift toward holistic advising and away from product selling. In fact, younger people going into the business don’t seem to see themselves as being in sales. Obviously, there are some good reasons for the shift, but is something being lost?
JONES: Yes. We don’t call it sales anymore. We call it serving. It’s just like servant leadership.
Still, somebody has to be buying something. And here’s what I tell people: If you had a product or a service that really could change a person’s life or make it better, wouldn’t you want to at least call and talk to him or her about it? Do you really dig your product? Do you really believe that it can transform somebody’s life?
I had to know that the books I was publishing could transform lives in order to pitch them. Part of the sale is getting excited about it.
That’s why my father sold so much life insurance – because he loved it. Yet other people would say, “Who wants to buy life insurance? I can’t sell it.”
What does the product mean to you, and how can it make somebody else’s life better? Once you get clarity on that, you’ll be able to sell anything. Until you get it, it’s just not going to work.
I do think that being a consultant is great. But you still have to drill down and get to the ask or make the call to action. If you get too much in the coachy realm, it’s more like, “Well, and if you feel like ever…”
No, you need to let them know. You still have to close.
Don’t keep asking, “Hey, how are you? Do you want to go have lunch or coffee?” Go in with a purposeful ask. It’s just like fundraising. You have to go in, you have to know where their heart is, you have to know their ability to give and then you have to ask. You have to ask hard. Because otherwise nothing gets built.
INN: You mentioned how difficult your father’s early life was. Would you tell us more about that?
JONES: He did pretty well for a guy who came out of horrific poverty and abuse and flunked out of school in the eighth grade. So if there’s anybody who could have licked his wounds and been hostile about the hand he was dealt early in life, it’s him.
He could have just sat and ruminated about it. He was up there speaking with speakers who had doctorates. Here, my dad flunked out of the eighth grade.
But comparison is the thief of joy. It’s not where you start; it’s where you finish. And man, did he start out horribly. It’s all the more joyful that he climbed so high.
A lot of people will say, “I was born this way” (i.e., nature). Or “I wasn’t coddled or given affirmation as a child” (i.e., nurture). Psychologists now say the biggest impact in defining how successful and happy you will be in life is your environment.
So even though my father was dealt a crappy hand early in life, in terms of both nature and nurture, he had people who mentored him.
He found my mother, he found life insurance and he found the Lord, and those were the environmental factors that made “Tremendous” tremendous.
When I learned all this about him, I understood so much more about why he was so tough with the people who came to him with problems.
He would grab them and hug them out of love, but he was quite stern with them. Because he couldn’t compute how you could be so wrapped up in your own selfishness when you had so much opportunity around you.
So it was tough. Between the ages of 14 and 19, his mother had five children. Remember, this was in the Deep South. This was not a setup for success.
INN: Where in the Deep South?
JONES: Tallassee, Alabama. So, here is his mother, this poor young girl, a baby having babies, five in five years, and she was not in a solid relationship. She would leave her family and come home and leave them again.
So, there were some abandonment issues there along with poverty. His father didn’t have a lot – this was the Depression era – so people were just trying to make ends meet. His father was always out working. My father was the oldest, so he would take multiple jobs.
He would be so tired, he’d fall asleep at school. In eighth grade, his teacher told him, “I’m going to have to hold you back a year.” My father was so embarrassed, he never went back to school.
His father had moved to Alaska. So my father went up there and never went back to school.
INN: How did he better himself to get out of poverty?
JONES: It’s the old Jim Rohn quote: “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.”
My father discovered the power of books, the power of hanging around great men, and the power of reading the Bible and being intrinsically transformed by spiritual truths, and it all started mulling around and coming out of him. And he made himself a fortune.
But it was bad, a lot of the stuff he told me. He had some foster relatives who, by today’s standards, would be in jail for some of the things they did. He had never told me. I had never known.
INN: When did you get to talk to him about his early life?
JONES: When he wrote his final book. He dictated his final thoughts to me three days before he passed. And I put them in a book called It’s All About Jesus.
He was in hospice care and near his death, and I said, “Dad, we have to finish this book. You said you wanted to tell me these things.”
He had never talked about his childhood. All I knew was it wasn’t too good and he grew up in the South and he was poor. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t even know he flunked out.
So then he shared with me these things. And at the end, he actually cried and squeezed my hand like he was saying, “There, I don’t have to be embarrassed about it anymore.”
So even though he had conquered this, it still was a part of him.
INN: It’s pretty amazing that he held on to all that all the way to the end.
JONES: It really shocked me to the core, and it helped me understand. It made him so human to me, because he was always just larger than life.
So when people confide in me and say that terrible things have happened to them, I tell them, “You’re never going to erase that. But being able to live life joyously, you don’t have to let it define you.”
I work with guys coming out of jail, and some of them have some pretty nasty things that they’re always going to carry with them.
But they have to move on. They can’t ask God, “Why wasn’t I born into a family that would have loved me more?” or “Why didn’t I have a mother who wasn’t abusive?”
We can’t ask those questions. All we can say in life is, “Here I am, for whatever reason. I’m going to try to come out on the other side better and having touched lives more than when I entered.”
That’s all we can do.