Transcript of Interview with Dr. Gene Landrum
Dan: Welcome to another episode of Shoulders of Titans. This is Dan Lok, and today I have the privilege of bringing you an exceptional individual, a business titan, an entrepreneur who’s built massive companies, a marketing genius, a professional speaker, a best-selling author, one of my business heroes. I don’t get nervous a lot, but I’m a little bit nervous today. Someone who’s been an inspiration of mine for years. Gene, welcome to the show.
Gene: My pleasure. Thank you very much.
Dan: Gene, before we dive into business concepts or strategies, tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into what you do today.
Gene: I was in Silicon Valley, and I was working with Nolan Bushnell, the guy who invented Pong. I was doing a lot of building offices and things around the United States for awhile. It was kind of strange. I learned that some people really get the job, and some people don’t. Especially when you hire people to work for you, some people are kind of lost.
Our brains have two sides. The left side of the brain is very ordered. They call it concrete-sequential in psychology. You do what you’re told; you don’t ever go outside the box. 90% of the world are like that. They’re like, “You do this. You get a job. You sit at a desk, stay there, and do what everybody tells you. And someday, somebody’ll give you a watch.”
The people who are outside of the box–and I happen to be of that ilk; I was tested by a psychologist–are extreme right brain. Your right brain is functioning more than your left brain. And the right side of your brain is where the creativity is. You are uniquely different from most of the world. That doesn’t make anybody right or wrong; it’s just that some people are seeing the big picture, like me, and other people just do what they’ve been told, and they never do anything that the rest of the world’s not doing.
For a long time, I taught people who were pursuing MBA’s. I would tell my students, “What happens if you’re running something, and you’re the boss, and you don’t show up one day? What do they do?” Students would answer, “They just do what they’ve always done.” I would ask, “What if something happens that’s dramatically different, and students would reply, “Well, they’re kind of lost.”
My whole point is that you’re there for one thing, which is change. When something goes wrong, there’s a crisis. They need you to help if things go awry. A lot of people don’t understand that very well. They get lost if something is amiss.
Dan: I always say I’m an entrepreneur because I, like other entrepreneurs, am otherwise unemployable. Nobody would want to hire us.
Gene: That’s absolutely true, because we’re not doing it like everybody else is doing it.
Dan: Tell us about your first couple business that you started. Were they successful right from the beginning?
Gene: Yes. I once built something called Unicom Systems. I was asked to go out and open an office. Offices are stores now to sell unique products. I opened one in Dallas, TX, and then I went to Houston. What happened was, I started learning things. Some people have trouble adapting to new things. If they are doing something quite unique and new, you need to give them a map. If you’re going to drive across the United States, if you just start going west, you’re going to run into new things. So people drew a map in case they get lost.
I happen to have won 100 tennis tournaments. A guy walked up to me one day and said, “You’re driving me crazy! I have no idea where you’re going to hit the ball!” Because most people will stand according to the way they are going to hit the ball back. He said, “I don’t know what you’re going to do, man!” I looked at him and said, “You know why? I don’t know what I’m going to do, either.” I said, “I’m ambidextrous. I can use both hands. I can put the racket in the other hand and hit the ball that way, or I can not hit the ball where people expect it to be hit.” I happen to be uniquely different.
Consequently, I win a lot of tennis tournaments. (I was once ranked in the United States in racquetball.) It’s very fast. How did I get good at racquetball? I was still young–28, I think–and I was hired to open up a business. The thing was a disaster. The man had lied to me. He said, “We’ve got a million dollars to help you, Gene.” Well, he hadn’t anything. He reached out to me that I was still getting the million dollars. I got really upset when he came to me, and I said, “I’m out of here.”
I quit one day, and I went to the beach in Santa Cruz, California. I bought a health club that had two handball courts back then. It was in the early days before racquetball became a big thing, and there was handball. It had a swimming pool, and it had some saunas, and things like that. It was a health club. A dock in the ocean, in Santa Cruz. I bought that thing and started running it, and I had to teach some people how to play handball and racquetball.
Well, I didn’t know anything about handball, but as I started playing, I got really good at it, for some reason. The guy said, “You know, you’re really something else. Why don’t you go get in a tournament?” I went and got in a tournament, and I won the tournament. And he gave me a racquetball, and then, I won the championship in Northern California, and then I went to San Diego and won a big tournament, and then I won the regional championship. I went to the national single’s championships, and I became really quickly on tour in the United States. And I didn’t have a lesson or anything, but I was very, very quick and very adaptive.
Sometimes, we can get very good at things that we don’t now know that we’re good at. Then, I became a tennis player, and I won the tennis championship right there in Northern Naples, Florida. Just so you know, without having a lesson, I became very good at tennis. Of course, tennis is very quick, and it’s very similar. I won tournament after tournament after tournament.
Dan: So you’re out of the box, no conventional wisdom, and you kind of create your own way in sports. I think that also transfers to business and the business world as well.
STARTING CHUCK E. CHEESE
Dan: You’re most well-known for the Chuck E. Cheese story. How did you come up with the idea, and how did you launch the company?
Gene: Before I tell you that, let me tell you this: I have a theory: People think you’re instantly successful. They just do. You know what? That’s BS. Nobody’s instantly successful. I have a theory. I’ve done a lot of work on this, and you can tell by my book: It takes 10 years to get really good at anything. Then, it takes another 10 years to become the best in the universe, if that’s your thing. Let me give you an example: At 12 years old, Michael Dell started selling stamps without his parents’ knowing it. He made $2,000 at twelve years old, selling stamps. Then, he went down to Houston, Texas, and they gave him a laptop to go to college. He took the laptop apart, and he found out, “Oh, there’s a motherboard, there’s a power supply, there’s a screen, and there’s a keyboard.” And he said, “Well, that’s all this thing is!”
He was unbelievable. He launched Dell at 20 years old. Then, he started making their computers and selling them. He got an IPO, and he started selling them. At 32, he’s a billionaire. What am I telling you here? You ought to listen to this. 12 years old, he was selling stamps, he was doing his own thing. At 20, he was an entrepreneur, and at 32, he was a billionaire. A billionaire! Unbelievable.
Let me give you an analogy from the female side. Oprah was 19 years old when she went to Chicago and they asked her to appear on a TV show (she was very articulate). By 29, she had the biggest talk show in the universe. At 39, she was the first female billionaire. Think about that. 19, 29, 39. Ten years plus ten years.
Now, where were we? Oh–how did I get going?
Dan: By the way, Gene, I’m using a Dell computer as I’m recording this. Michael, if you’re listening to this, I’m a Dell customer, okay?
Gene: At Chuck E. Cheese, it’s a fun story, I was actually working for a guy named Nolan Bushnell who invented video games. He had asked me to go do some work in terms of putting video games out. In fact, let me just give you the background.
Every city in the United States has a law that says you cannot have more than 2 coin-operated systems. End of story. If you sell food or drinks, you can only have 2. You can have a cigarette machine, and back then, you could add a pinball machine. Why? Because they thought that when you had video games, it became a hangout for hoods, for bad people. They thought that was really, really, really bad. The cities all passed a law saying you could only have 2. This is a true story, so I think your listeners will find this interesting.
I was hired to write the first home game, how you could play a game on a home television. I did that. I drew the specs, I wrote the specifications for that; I did it. I went down to Disneyland, and I was walking around, and I thought, Disney has hundreds and hundreds of games here, and I guess the laws just think that Disney is different. I walked out, and it hit me right between the eyes. I said, “I got it! I know what!”
I went back to Bushnell, and I said, “Hey, man, I tell you what, I have the solution. I have the answer.” He said, “What?” I said, “Yeah. We have to build another Disney.” I ended up creating 150 games. I can put 150 games in a place that was against the law. Why? Because, and you realize this if you’ve ever gone to a Chuck E. Cheese, I built a stage show. No one cares about the stage show. It was just to make it like a Disneyland.
I went in to the commission and said, “Look! I built a mini-Disney! It’s not like a game arcade. This is totally different. I want to put in a bunch of game things.” The mayor said, “Oh, okay.” And do you know what I did? I actually opened the very first one in San Jose. I’ll never forget, as long as I live, I opened it on May 17, 1977. I called the mayor and said, “Hey, Mayor, I want you to come over and look at this because I happen to have Miss San Jose County (I had invited her), and I’ve invited Miss California, and if you think you’re going to be here, I have the press coming. The mayor said, “Oh, you have the press?” I said, “Yeah, I have all the television stations. I’ve invited the radio stations. I’ve invited all the newspapers–The San Jose Mercury, The San Francisco Chronicle, and that ain’t all–to my grand opening. You get a free pizza, you get dinner with Miss California and Miss Whatever.”
I got all these people there, and they were all going crazy. Do you know what happened? Did I get some free press? I got press, I got the radio stations. I didn’t have to run an ad for months and months, because I had done something that was totally, uniquely different, without asking people what they thought. I did my own thing. Sometimes, you have to be willing to do your own thing and do it on your terms. You can get real success.
Because I’ve done this stuff that’s really kind of interesting, I was invited to make a speech at Cowboy Stadium two years ago. I was there, and at halftime, I was inducted into the National Hall of Fame. They put right on the award that I was the creator of Chuck E. Cheese, and they put me into the Hall of Fame for having done that.
Dan: Gene, from that story, I think there are a couple of valuable lessons. I’d like to dive a little bit deeper. So basically, you went to Disney, you got this idea, and it’s kind of original, but you’re kind of taking something that is proven to work. Disney is working well, and there are so many different restaurants out there, but I assume that at the time, there wasn’t really a go-to place for families that’s family-friendly. And you thought, “Well, why don’t we create a place for kids?” It’s not just another place to eat or drink, because there are so many places they could go. It’s truly like a mini-Disney.
RESPONSES TO THE IDEA
Dan: When you first came up with the concept, when you talked to other people such as your business partner, he was supportive, but what about others? Were they like, “Oh, this is a great idea!” Or were they saying, “No, this is crazy”?
Gene: Great question. You know what happened? Bushnell, whom I work for, he was an electrical engineer. He thought I was kind of smart. He used to introduce me to people and say, “He’s a quick sketch. So pay attention.” He wanted to have cheeseburgers. I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but I was a math major and a psychology minor. I was interested in the psychology of “why”–why people do things. I did some research, and I thought, “Pizza.” I had always been kind of a jock, and I played softball when I was very young. And softball teams, where do they go after a game? Pizza parlors to have a pizza. I thought, “I wonder why that is.”
Just so you know, all my first Chuck E. Cheese’s had round tables, like King Arthur and the Round Table. Here’s why: nobody’s at an end. Everybody’s together. Isn’t that interesting? You’re all together. So I put these round tables in there, so you’re all sharing a pizza. It’s a sharing kind of thing. If you’re out with your kids–on Friday night, where does the executive go? They don’t go where they want to go; they ask their kids, “Where do you want to go?” And the kids say, “I want to go to Chuck E. Cheese.” Why is that? Well, because they have pizza, and the kids could sit there, be with their parents, and share the pizza.
I have to tell you a quick story. I was signing books in Los Angeles with a guy named Steve Allen. He died a few years ago; he was married to Jane Meadows. I had just written a book called Profiles of Female Genius. On the cover of that, I had Margaret Thatcher, Oprah, and Madonna. I’ll never forget as long as I live–this is really an interesting story. I’m doing a big thing in Los Angeles at the convention center, and Steve worked as a cover, and he hated Madonna. He hated her guts, because he was a very pious guy and very grounded. Remember she was doing the sex book? He said, “Gene! I’m trying to get that no-talent slut thrown out of this town! You’re calling her a genius! What are you doing, man?” I almost said, “Silly me.” It was in front of a television camera. And he said, “Gene, what are you doing?”
I smiled at him, and sometimes you have to kind of agree at first. I said, “Steve, you’re right. Madonna is a very mediocre singer and dancer. She was just voted the world’s worst actress! I’m lying about how a marginal talent happens to have $250 million in the bank.” That’s a true story. At the time, she had $250 million, and she was terrible. I said, “Steve, you know why? It ain’t about talent. It’s behavior. It’s how you do. You choose when you shop the world. You’ve gotta be willing to understand that, and go there, and a lot of people just want to do what’s right. They’re afraid of not doing what everybody else is doing.
I’ve done a lot of work on how men and women are different. I’ve lectured extensively on that. Most women feel life is a journey. Most men feel it’s a destination. You go on a trip with your wife or your daughters, and they’re like, “Let’s stop and look at that park.” Men just want to get to where they’re going.
Dan: That’s very true. When we men go shopping, we just go to the mall, get what we need, and leave. That’s it.
Gene: You’re so smart. I’ve used that example. I go the mall with my daughters or my wife. I’m just going to find what I want. I need a new pair of shoes, and I’m gone. I’m gonna leave. My wife is stopping and looking, and she’s getting a kick out of seeing what’s there and finding new stuff. I have a theory in life. I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but I’ve made thousands of speeches. I’ve spoken at the United States Capitol. I’ve spoken everywhere. Most women want to know, and a lot of men just think they know.
Dan: That’s a good one.
Gene: I can say that to you, but women just run in there, and they keep searching. I’ve given many, many speeches, as I’ve told you, and it’s pretty interesting.
I have another theory that I’ve written about–Parkinson’s law. It really is a great quote: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion, regardless of the amount of work there is.” I’ve seen this over and over. A nuclear reactor–you’ll go to a board meeting, and it’s approved in 15 minutes. They approved a nuclear reactor. You know why? Most people don’t know enough about it to ask intelligent questions, so they shut up. And if you tried to get a bicycle rack through the board, it would take 2.5 hours to get a bicycle rack to the front of the building. Everybody understands a bicycle, right?
I use Parkinson’s law all the time. I have a theory on this, if you want to make a note on something that I call Dr. Gene’s Soliloquy. It’s okay to not know something. It’s also okay to not know, and not know it. It is not okay to not know, and not admit it. God forbid you don’t know, and you don’t know you don’t, and you don’t care. I call that Dr. Gene’s Soliloquy. If you don’t know something, you don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t need a job. Get people to listen to stories from people who’ve done things, people who’ve done creative stuff.
I deal with creativity, I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but 20% of high school dropouts, 1 in every 5, are gifted. You know what “gifted” is. But a gifted student has over a 130 IQ. They’re very unique. I’m married to a former counselor for her whole high school. She stayed out of that. I did some research, and guess what? At age 5, children have 100% of their creative process. In other words, whatever creativity kids have, there’s all kinds of studies on this, they have by age 5. Guess what? At age 7, what do you think they have left? Half.
WHY PEOPLE LOSE CREATIVITY
Dan: What happened?
Gene: You are so good. That’s the question: What happened? They went to school and were told, “Sit there. Shut up.”
Dan: Don’t raise your hand. Don’t make noise.
Gene: Don’t make any noise. Don’t do anything. Just sit there and shut up and listen, and I’m going to tell you how to live your life. By the time they’re 16 years old–and I’ve got a whole study on this–75% of their creativity is gone. And at age 40, do you know how much the average kid in the United States has? 1%. They’ve lost 99% of their creativity because of getting programmed and going to school. And this is heresy on my part, but guess what? There are 4 guys who are worth about $200 billion. Their names are Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs (he just passed away), and Larry Ellison. $200 billion.
Wait till you hear this: Together, they don’t have a bachelor’s degree. If they did, they would have gone to school, if they would have stayed–a few of these guys went to Harvard; they were very bright–and what would have happened? They would have gotten a job, a good job, making a quarter of a million a year, sitting at a desk in some major corporation. If you do that, will you be a billionaire? No chance.
THE CURRENT EDUCATION SYSTEM
Dan: What’s your take on the current education system?
Gene: That’s part of the problem, because the educational system is that we put kids in boxes, and we try to program them. We tell them, “Just sit there and do what you’re told.” Are they going to be more creative? No. I love the concept of “I’ve never been to school so that I can do this,” but let them go do whatever turns them on. Let them go out and do their thing. Open an office. Do something. Go try to find something where it’s really, really important to do that kind of thing.
Look at Mark Zuckerberg. I’ll use him as an example. You’ve heard of him, right?
Dan: A little company called Facebook.
Gene: A little company called Facebook, and what’s he worth now? I think it’s $50 billion.
Dan: Yeah, close to that.
Gene: He’s a bright guy. His mother was, I think, a psychiatrist, and his dad was a dentist. Did he go to school? Yeah, he went to Harvard. He was bored, and after a semester, he left. And he goes to Silicon Valley and starts hanging around with some people, and he went and did his own thing and started Facebook and launched it. His parents thought he was nuts, you know. “What are you doing?” He was like, “I don’t want to be in school and do that stuff. I want to do my own thing.”
Sometimes, as parents, we have to permit kids and students–I have a theory by a guy named Paul Keres. He said, “Students with a 140 IQ waste half their time in a classroom.” Those with a 180 IQ waste it all. Isn’t that wild?
Dan: They don’t even need to be there.
Gene: Exactly. They do not need to be there. They really don’t. I talk about that and go through a thing of Richard Branson. I use his example. Number one: I tell them when I give lectures, “Be charismatic.” I don’t know if you’re familiar with Richard Branson.
Dan: Yes. I’m a big fan.
Gene: He did really well. Is he very charismatic? Yeah. Did he do lots of interesting things? Yeah. All the stuff he’s done, he’s unbelievable. Richard Branson is really quite interesting. I have a good example, by the way. I never was an ice skater; I was always into athletics. But there’s a guy named Wayne Gretzky. He’s an average-sized guy (I think he’s 5’11” or 6′ tall). Everybody was bigger than he. They were bigger, they were stronger, they were faster. I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but I think when he was 21 or 22, he broke every single scoring record in hockey. He broke all the records. Everything. I’ll never forget that at one university he once went in, and they said, “I need to test you.” They gave him all kinds of tests on everything else. They couldn’t understand it. How could this guy break every record, and leave guys who were faster and bigger and stronger in the dust? You know what he said? I love this. He looked at the guy and said, “All I know is, I never skate to where the puck is; I only skate to where it’s going to be.” Wow! Is that unbelievable, or what?
Gene: That’s the optimum intuition. I’ll give you an example that your listeners need to listen to. IBM founder Tom Watson started it in about 1915. He said, “At the very beginning, I had a very clear picture of what IBM would look like when it was finally done.” Is that unbelievable? He started with an answer. That’s what I’m trying to tell everybody. Start with the answer, and now go back to the beginning. Do you know where you’re going? There are a lot of things you run into on the way. You run into trouble.
The largest corporation in the world today is Walmart. Who was that done by? A guy named Sam Walton. I always loved his story. They brought Sam to New York. Kmart was already in business. He passed them up and left them in the dust. He left every other company in the dust. They asked him, “How did you do that?” He said, “I always thought that if everybody was doing it one way, there’s a good chance you’d find your niche by going in the opposite direction.”
I don’t know if you’re aware what he really did. He went and found places in the suburbs where other major corporations, such as Sears, weren’t there. He left them in the dust. They went into a mall. He said, “I’m going to go out where the people are.” That’s where he put his Walmarts.
Dan: Didn’t he start it off in a farming community where it was a little bit more remote?
Gene: There again, you’re absolutely right. That’s exactly what he did. He was willing to do what other people wouldn’t do. Listen to that, people. Find out what they are doing, and be willing to go where they don’t. You have to be willing to be a change artist.
I have another example here that I talk about. Heart bypass patients. I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but if you have a serious heart problem, and you’re in a heart bypass, they’re told to change their lifestyle. Stop eating bad stuff. Stop eating stuff that’s clogging up your blood vessels. It’s going to kill you. Guess what? You know how many change? 10%.
Dan: I was thinking 5%, but 10% is good.
Gene: 10% change. 90% are willing to die. They won’t change their lifestyle. They won’t change what they’re eating. They want to have their meat, potatoes, gravy, and whatever. It’s one of the things that I talk about in my lectures, what I call Risk-Reward Syndrome. Risk-Reward and Zero-Sum Gain. You have to bet big to win big. You only win what you’re willing to bet.
I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but this is another true story that I found really, really interesting. I don’t know if you know who started FedEx. It was a guy named Fred Smith. He became a multi-multi-billionaire. But guess what? He was just getting started. He had some family money, but he ran out of money. He had no money left. He was sitting in Chicago, and he went up there to find some venture capitalists. VC guys. He needed a few million bucks, or he couldn’t move his concept forward. I don’t know if you’re aware that he had $500 in his pocket.
Back then, you could do this, and you can’t do it anymore, but if you had a plane ticket, you could get on a plane to go different places. So he walked by and saw, “This one is going to Vegas.” This is a true story. It’s unbelievable. Earlier, back in Memphis, he had lost his gamble, and they wouldn’t give him any money. He had $500 in his pocket. He flew into Vegas, he started gambling. He sat at a $100 blackjack table and started playing. He gambled all night, for 8 or 9 straight hours. Didn’t go to sleep. Kept getting drinks that would keep him awake. He converted his $500 into, I think, $17,000. He goes back to Memphis with the money he got in Vegas because no one would give him any in Memphis.
Dan: Talk about balls and guts.
Gene: Exactly. I call it Dr. Gene’s Can-Con. You gotta con yourself. It’s a Can-Con Dance. I’ll tell you an example of that. I think you know that I’m not young anymore. When I was 72 years old, I was in Lake Tahoe playing in a tennis tournament. I’ll never forget this as long as I live. I was a pretty good tennis player, and I got to the finals, and I said, “Who am I playing?” They said, “You’re playing that kid there. He’s the top tennis player in high schools all around the area. I said, “What?” He said, “Yeah, he’s 17 years old.” I said, “He’s 17? And I’m playing him?” And I go out there, and he runs over and jumps over the fence. Talk about pissing me off. He jumps over the fence, this high school phenom, and it turned out the guy was 55 years younger than me.
You know what I did? True story. Hopefully, your listeners can learn from this. I said, “Excuse me; I have to go to the bathroom.” I walked in the bathroom and sat down. I don’t know if you know about behavioral kinesiology. I know a lot about that. I went in with a, “Change your mind. Change your brain to be what you’re not, to be more than you are.” You can sometimes do that. There are people who get that. You are what you are. Well, guess what? You can be what you’re not if you can program yourself to do that. I walked in, I sat down, closed the door, and sat down on the toilet. Not to go to the bathroom; I just went in to change myself. I said, “I cannot be 72 years old. I’m going to be embarrassed.” There was a whole big audience out there that was watching this finals match. I said, “This is going to be embarrassing.”
So I said, “I know how to be 40.” And when I was 40 years old, I think I told you I was a ranked racquetball player in the United States.
Dan: You were in your prime.
Gene: I was in my prime. I was 72 at this time. I said, “Okay; I’m 40.” This is a true story. I’m not making this up. It’s a true story. I said, “I’m 40 years old today. Reprogram yourself, Gene. You can’t be what you are, or you’re going to be embarrassed.” So I walked back out on the court and started playing.
And all I started doing was hitting the ball back. I don’t know if you or your listeners have ever played tennis. I started hitting it over his head, making him run back. He was running back hitting it. Then, he’d run back up to the fence. You know kids are impetuous. He started hitting balls into the net, and he started hitting some out. Then, he started making mistakes, because I was making him hit so many balls and run all over the damn court. He was making all kinds of mistakes. Bottom line is, I won.
Dan: You kicked his ass.
Gene: He was in total disbelief. You pay a price when you do things like that. The next day, I couldn’t get out of bed.
Dan: Oh, my goodness. You hypnotized yourself.
Gene: I was running myself like I hadn’t run in years. Did I pay a price? Yeah. But I had my trophy. I’m going to tell your listeners one more thing that I do a lecture on. One of my heroes in life has been Buckminster Fuller. Bucky Fuller, I don’t know if you’re aware of it, built a geodesic dome at Epcot. We have dome things now all over the world, where we can watch matches in bad weather? He invented it. Did he have an engineering degree? Nope. Did he have any photo on that? Nope. He designed it himself. He designed it, he created it, and he became a brilliant engineer who was not even an engineer. He would fly over to India and get a lot of money telling them how to do stuff.
I have a great quote from Bucky. Bucky says, “The drive to make money is entropic.” If your listeners don’t remember what entropic means, it’s dangerous. It’s error. You have to decide if you want to make money or make sense. The two are mutually exclusive. That is unbelievable. If you chase money, you don’t get money. Think about it. What did he do? If you’re trying to get money, if you go do what you want to do–in his case, build a geodesic dome for a stadium–will the money come? Ha! It delivered in trucks.
DON’T CHASE MONEY
Gene: Your listeners need to know that. “Don’t chase money.” Dr. Gene told you. Chase ideas. Chase what you love, and guess what? You’ll get whole bunches of money. Sometimes, if you’re running a company, you have a budget. I talk about this all the time. Budgets are tools; they’re not bibles. Stop getting lost in budgets. Because bureaucrats–you know, the government–are always saying, “We can’t do that. It’s not in the budget.” You hear that all the time. Well, you stupid idiot, then you get rid of the budget. The budget’s a tool. It’s only a tool. It is not a bible. Stop it. Dr. Gene told you.
By the way, I said that at the United States Capitol. I told you that I spoke there. 1998, I think it was.
Dan: I can just imagine their reaction.
Gene: They were looking at me like I was raving crazy. But you’ve got to be able to dare to be unique and be different. You have to do that. I have a great quote on doing stuff like that. Jeff Bezos–you know who he is, right?
Gene: Yeah, Amazon.com. I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but he was making in New York City–he went to Princeton; he was a very bright guy. He launched Amazon.com. At 29, he was making a million a year in New York City, and he quit. His boss said, “What are you doing?” He said, “I have an idea.” He told him about Amazon, and he said, “You’re making a million dollars a year. What are you doing?” He quit his job and got in a car. He had just married his wife, and she must have thought he went nuts. He drives across the United States, and he told his wife, “You drive; I’m going to draw up a business plan, and I’m going to launch this idea I have on how to sell stuff, how to sell books online.”
He said, “I want to sell books.” What did he know about that? Nothing. He said, “I know I want to sell books online. I like to buy books online. So I’m going to do that. I’m going to draw up a plan. You drive us out there.” This is a true story. He keeps driving and driving, so he told her to drive to Seattle, Washington. By the time they got there, he had his business plan. He had no money; he totally ran out of money. He had nothing. Zero. They were sleeping on the ground. They were sleeping in a sleeping bag, he and his new wife. He had nothing. Then he started pitching his plan and doing everything. He said to himself, and I love this quote, “When I’m 80, what will I regret most? Doing it, or staying with my job in New York?” He could have stayed there making a million a year, but he had to convince her, because sometimes, people have to do that.
If you’re happy with what you’re doing, ask yourself: “When you’re 80 years old, will you still be happy with not having chased your dream you might have had?” His dream was to have created the thing called selling online. By the the way, he was 34 years old at the time. It was 1994. He did that, and now he’s worth $50 billion. Unbelievable.
Dan: Gene, part of what makes you such a great teacher and communicator is, you’re such a great storyteller. And you have an amazing memory. You can remember all these stories. I’m amazed.
Gene: It is unbelievable. My wife has a Ph.D., and she’s a bright gal, but she’s done the standard thing. I told you that I spoke at the United States Capitol, and we were driving over there, and she said, “Where are your notes? Where’s your stuff?” I said, “I’m speaking to 500 people who are Senators and Congressman. I don’t know what they do, and they don’t have a clue what I’m going to tell them.” I spoke for an hour or an hour and a half with Trent Lott, with Congress in session. In any case, sometimes, you have to be willing to do that.
By the way, your listeners may want to hear this if they want to make talks or speeches. I found this somewhere, maybe in Chicago, years ago, that what you tell people is only 7% of the effectiveness of what you’re going to do. How you say it, the delivery, is 38% of what you say. Your attitude, appearance, aura, and demeanor, your charismatic energy, is 55%. I didn’t make that up; that came right out of a university study. And I do seem to have done that and energized that, for some reason. I don’t know how I do that, but you just have to.
By the way, you have to have lessened inhibition. Have you heard of Tesla? I think there’s a new Tesla car. But you know who did that.
Dan: Elon Musk.
Gene: He was one of the greatest geniuses that ever walked this earth. Tesla–do they have innovation? They had 7 times less inhibition than the average person. Totally uninhibited. They were willing to go do things that other people are not willing to do. You almost have to be willing to do that.
Let me tell you a story. I was making a speech in Sarasota, Florida. I was in Sarasota, and I walked off the stage, and a very attractive, blond lady in her 40’s walked over and said, “Doc, I’m a Ph.D. in psychology. You just blew me away. I’m going to buy some of your books.” I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but I finish most of my books quoting Joseph Campbell, one of the greatest visionaries that ever walked the earth. He had a thing he always said when he finished his speeches: “Follow your goals. Not somebody else’s thing; you follow yours. Make your work your hobby. Then, you’re not working.” He would always say, “Just follow your bliss.” I finished my speech saying, “Just follow your bliss.” This blond Ph.D. walked over and said, “Hey, Doc, you blew me away, man. I’m going to buy some of your books.” She looked at me and said, “Where is it?” I said, “What?” She said, “You tell me to follow my bliss. Where do I find that thing?” I almost fainted. She’s got her Ph.D., and she said, “Where’s my bliss? I gotta find it.”
I’m pretty quick on my feet, and I looked at her, and I said, “Hey, honey, what do you want to do when you grow up? What do you want to do in life? Would you rather teach in South Beach in Miami?” I said, “Go do it. Not next year, not next month. Quit your job. Go.” I said, “You have a Ph.D. in psychology, honey. Do you realize that cruise ships have lectures all the time? You could go around the world just watching, just doing your quotes. Just go do. Follow you bliss, honey.” That’s a true story. You’re aware that most people can’t do that. Are you aware of that? They just can’t do it.
I have all these quotes that I use. Here’s one from Babe Ruth. I’m a great baseball fan, and I don’t know if you’re aware, Babe Ruth not only hit more home runs than anybody, I think it was 1923, he hit more home runs than any team in the whole American League. He not only led the league in home runs, he hit more home runs than every team, total, in the whole league. In 1931, the New York Times interviewed him because the New York Yankees had paid him $80,000 a year. At the time,President Herbert Hoover was making $35,000. He made $80,000 in 1931. The New York Times reporter interviewed him and said, “Hey, Babe, why can you earn more money than the President of the United States, Herbert Hoover?” Babe, without thinking, just looked at him and said, “I had a better year than he did.” Is that a great line, or what? It was during the Great Depression. In 1931, the banks are closing, and he said, “Hoover had a bad year; I had a good year.” That cracks me up.
ADVICE FOR YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS
Dan: If you could give a piece of advice to young entrepreneurs who are building their business and want it to become successful, what would you say to them? Just one piece of advice.
Gene: Here’s the one piece of advice I needed, because you’re talking to me in Lake Tahoe, where I go skiing. You go skiing down the mountain, and I’m using a skiing analogy. You have to be willing to do what other people won’t do, go where they won’t go. Go down past where everybody else has gone. Guess what? The great geniuses of the world are willing to go down and go through–now, I’m telling you this for a reason. I don’t know if you remember how our brains work, that I just told you an analogy about. Our brains are programmed that they do not grow or expand unless you do new things. You get into a rut, and you keep doing the same things over and over, so you’re not learning, because you’re not going down new paths.
So your brain–I don’t know if you’re aware of it, because I’m telling you something that’s pretty sophisticated here; came right out of Stanford and the University of California–they found out that brains grow and expand by growing to new places and doing new things. Stop getting lost in viral mind infections so you are lost in a brain that is not doing that. Go and pick up new things. You’ve got listeners that are hopefully doing that.
Dan: So go the opposite direction and don’t be so concerned about what other people think. New places, new ideas is preferable. Makes a lot of sense.
Gene: Exactly, exactly, exactly. Be willing to be different, and be unique. Go open up your own pizza joint or your own whatever or start your own business doing your own thing or doing what you’re doing and trying to help people be uniquely different. The only way you can do that is going and doing it and being different. You can’t learn new stuff unless you’re willing to go down strange roads. You find two paths, go down the one you don’t know anything about. Could you get stuck? yeah. Could you learn new stuff? Yeah.
Dan: It’s so simple, but it’s so profound. Out of all the books you’ve written, which ones would you recommend to entrepreneurs?
Gene: I have the 8 Keys to Greatness. It’s ten years old now, but it’s not printed in Chinese and Japanese. It’s printed in four or five different languages. I took 8 things such as you and I just talked over–be charismatic, be confident, be willing to be a rebel–those are my 8 keys. So my 8 Keys to Greatness does that. But my brand new one, if they order it from me, I will sign it–it’s called Icons and Con Artists. Always be iconic. Be willing to go where the pack isn’t. I got the idea about a year ago to write that book. Do you know what I did? You’ll find this interesting. I thought about it, and I said, “I’m gonna write this.” Then that morning, I woke up at 3:00 in the middle of the night. I got up, went out, and got on my computer. My wife said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I got an idea.” I sat and typed for 24 straight hours. I needed to get it to an editor to get it right, but I wrote that book in 24 hours.
Dan: And of course, Profiles of Power and Success, that’s one of my favorites of yours. That’s a classic.
Gene: I wrote a book about male genius, then one about female genius. And I said, “I gotta write about some of the great people that ever lived.” As you know, I did Napoleon, I did Frank Lloyd Wright, I did all these great people in that book. I did Helena Rubenstein and Isadora Duncan. That was pretty interesting. I did Adolf Hitler in that book, by the way. Some Jewish gal, somewhere in Palm Beach, I think, she said, “I’m interviewing you, but you put Hitler in this book. He was a yo-yo.” She was really pissed. I said, “Look. I want to show you, how did a guy who never even got through high school become the head of a major nation, Germany? I want you to know how he did that.”
Dan: We call all learn from bad and good.
Gene: We can learn from the good, and we can learn from the bad. Absolutely. Even a guy like Picasso, who was not a nice guy. Rupert Murdoch, who was a tough guy. He was an immigrant. I talk about that stuff, about how these people do these things.
Dan: So Gene, the best way for them to get ahold of your book is to go to your website, or Amazon?
Gene: I’m not sure if my website is still running. The way to get hold of me on the internet is GeneLandrum@earthlink.net. If they go there and say they heard me on your show, I’ll send them a special book of quotes along with a book. If they buy my Iconic book (it sells for $18.95), I’ll sell it to them for $12, and I’ll send them an extra book of quotes along with it.
Dan: Thank you so much, Gene. I appreciate it. My audience appreciates it.
I wish we had more time. You have so many stories.
Gene: I have some really interesting stories if we ever get to do something again. The stories are really quite interesting of how people change their lives. I don’t know if your people have read Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. As you know, I have a lot of stuff on sales psychology. He said, “Willie Loman is dead. You have to understand that and believe that. You have to be willing to go and do stuff.”
One of my newest books is How to Transform Yourself to Transcend Yourself.
Dan: Thank you so much, Gene. Thank you for inspiring us today with your story and your generosity in sharing your thoughts and ideas. I appreciate it so much.
Gene: My pleasure. Thank you.