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In 1965, Art Williams's father suddenly died of a heart attack. The whole life insurance policy he had at the time left his family uninsured. Arthur L. “Art” Williams Jr. eventually founded the insurance company A.L. Williams & Associates which became Primerica in 1991. Art Williams is well known for his books and speeches. His most famous speech “Just Do It” was originally delivered at the 1987 National Religious Broadcaster Convention.
I was asked to talk to you about how to win in business. I think it's a good subject for you to think about because I believe business in America is in a crisis situation today. All you have to do is read the paper, and every month see our trade deficit, and it's just a very depressing situation.
To speak to you about how to win in business, there's a lot of obvious things I could talk about. You first have to find a need. You've got to fill the need for the consumer out there. You've got to have a market. You got to have somebody to sell your product or your service to. You've got to, if you really want to get big and win big, you've got to have a uniqueness, there's got to be something a little bit different from you than all the competition out there. But by far the most important thing you've got to have to win in business in these United States today, is a very unique kind of mental toughness.
I believe the difference in winning and losing in the free enterprise system, is so small it's almost too scary to talk about. You can 99% of the things right in business, and yet if you don't possess what I call that winning edge, that mental toughness, folks it's impossible to win.
I believe the thinking in corporate America has been screwed up over these last 20-25 years. And I believe this screwed up kind of thinking started in our big liberal universities today. I believe a college degree in business from most universities today, is not worth the paper it's written on.
I just had a son graduate from the University of Georgia a few months ago. The reason I think that, is because most of these professors and most of these universities today, haven't got enough common sense to get in out of the rain. They don't have any idea what it takes to win out there in the real world. They deal in a bunch of theory. These people have tried to fill up corporate America with this kind of thinking.
These are the special people, if you're born rich, if you're born on the right side of the track, they rule you the privileged class in America. If you're born poor from an average ordinary background like I came from, they say you're supposed to give up all your big dreams and all your big ambitions and all your big hope. If you have a high IQ, they rule you brilliant. If you have an average IQ, like me, they say you ought to drive a truck or be a janitor.
Well bull. That ain't the way, that ain't the way it is and that ain't the way it ever was. They ain't nobody ever designed to test, nor will they design a test, that can measure the heart of a man or woman. The things that are unique to winning in business in America today, are not outside artificial things like IQ's, college board scores, college degrees, and stuff like that.
The key to winning in these United States, is what's inside a person. It's your integrity. It's your people abilities. It's your character.
I believe in developing this winning edge. I've got 212 points that I won't be able to go over with you tonight, but let me just give you a flavor of what I think you got to do to succeed in these United States.
Number one, you've got to get excited. Folks, I don't believe anybody will ever tell you anything more important than this in winning these United States. 90 plus percent of winning in anything you try to do in America today, you've got to be excited. People in America won't follow or believe in a negative, dull, disillusioned, frustrated, dadgum cry baby. People want people that are positive and excited and enthusiastic and tough.
The greatest lesson. The greatest definition I ever heard. I thought about this 10 million times when I wanted to quit along the way of a winner. This guy said, “Almost everybody in America can stay excited for 2 or 3 months. A few people can stay excited for 2 or 3 years, but a winner will stay excited for 30 years or however long it takes to win.”
Another key to building this winning edge and this mental toughness, is you got to become a dreamer again. You know I'm a Methodist and we just changed ministers a few weeks ago, and our new minister came in and the church was just packed. And the first thing he said is, “Well looks like everybody came out to see the mucky perform.” And the second thing out of his mouth, he said, “For a church to be a great church, you got to have a dream. If you don't have a dream, you're dead.” And boy I sat up and I said, man me and this guy are going to get along good because he knows what he's talking about.
See folks, I believe in order to win, you got to feel good about yourself. When I was coaching football for 7 years back in Georgia, and I had a paddle in my coaching office it was about this thick and this long. And at the fat end I had little holes bored into it, so you could really get some speed and blister that little butt. You know when they misbehaved, and I had a rule on my football team that if any kid said I can't, if any football player heard one of my football players said I can't, he got to bring him in the coaches' office and give him three licks. And it took me about a month to get all that thinking out of my players every year, and I'd have football players knock on my door at recess and at lunch and after school. And he said, “Coach, he said it. Coach, he said it.” And I'd make that kid bend over and I'd give that other kid the board, he'd bust him three times. And folks, it didn't take long. You couldn't create a word game to get one of my kids to say I can't.
Bring it home a little bit more personal, when April and little Art were just this little and could understand words. Every time they said I can't, I made them do three push-ups. Folks, there ain't nothing you can't do in America if you want to bad enough.
Another key in building this winning edge, is folks you've got to stand for something. People in America, the good people in America, are fed up with here with these dadgum fence sitters and mealy mouths. Our corporate America has an especially black eye in business today. Most people in America think you can't find a company; they think you can't find a salesperson, that'll tell you like it is and stand behind their word. They think these companies will sell anything, say anything, just to make a sale, just to make a profit. Well you know what, folks if you want to win in the free enterprise system in America today, you've got to stand for something.
And another point, thank you, Is you, is yes, you're going to be controversial. Folks, if you want to win in these United States today, just get ready. You're going to be controversial. The only way not to be controversial is to be average and ordinary. They just call me anything but average and ordinary.
Now I know some of you might say, “Well you know, I don't think I like Art Williams. He sounds like an old tough butt to me.” Well folks, I'm telling you, you can be good and tough at the same time.
I bet nobody's ever talked to a religious broadcaster like that.
Another key, another key to developing this winning attitude that'll give you a chance to do something great in American business, is folks you've got to make a total commitment to what you're about. Do you know almost … The American people have lost their toughness. They've lost their ability to make a commitment.
See folks, in trying to win in business you're just going to have so many false starts. You think you get it going time after time, and you just get knocked back to ground zero. And it's your ability to compete, to pick yourself up off the bat one more time, to go for it one more time, that's going to determine success or failure.
You know we've got a divorce rate in America, some 50% right now. You know it just seems like that people that go in business today, they have an attitude well I'm going to stick my toe in it. If I start making all this money, get all these promotions, then I'll see this thing through. Well folks, that's not the way it works.
The first step to winning in business in America today, is you've got to make a total commitment. Total commitment gives you that little extra ounce of courage you need to fight back through the tough times. Winning in business, demands the same kind of commitment that winning in marriage demands.
You know I fell in love with my wife in the second grade. Only girlfriend I ever had. We went off and got married our freshman year, had both of our children before we left college. We're true business partners in marriage. We go everywhere together. I spend more time with her, been married to her 26 years, and I've got two grand babies, love them more today than I ever have. But I don't like her all the time.
There's a bunch of times everyday that I don't like her. You know I'm a nut about brushing my teeth. If I can get a toothbrush, I'll brush my teeth 4, 5, 6 times a day. And Angela's always forgetting everything, you know. She always leaves the cap off the toothpaste, you know. And when I go in there to brush my teeth, the cap's off so it's got that hard little crust around the edge, and that just burns me more than I can tell you.
I get on Angela's nerves about a lot of things. We were having dinner last week, and every time we'd get through Angela kicks me under the table. You know what gets me back in my room, and says, “Art, you ain't got no class. I wish Art you could learn to eat with your mouth closed.”
But see folks, if you want to win in business, everything's not going to work out like you want it too but you've got to be committed. I want to have great kids. I want to have a wonderful relationship. I want to have tremendous grand babies.
Another key in building this winning edge in business, is you've got to learn to treat people good. Another thing's that these universities pollute America corporations with, is this attitude you better not get to know your employees. You better not become friends or get to know the spouse or the children, of your employees because you might have to fire them. You might have to reassign them. And if you're close friends, you can't manage people in a tough minded way. Bull.
Folks, the only way to manage people and get the most out of people, is treat them good. Learn to love them and care about them. Yes, it hurts from time to time, but it's the only way.
You know everybody you work with in business, you've got to look at them and pretend there's a flashing sign on their chest. Everybody's asking you, make me feel special. Make me feel important. Say something good to me. I want to be somebody.
Another key of winning in business in America today, is folks you got to establish the right kind of priorities. First company I went with 15 years ago, was ITT. When I was out there struggling, dying every day, wanting to quit and go back in coaching a thousand times. My first hero's in this business were Vice President's at ITT making 40 or 50 thousand dollars a year. And I said, “Man if I could ever get to be that kind of person, it'd be a dream come true.” I couldn't want anymore out of life.
A few years later I earned the right to get promotions to that level and found so many of my heroes in business, their personal lives were a disaster. They were alcoholics and divorced 3 and 4 and 5 times.
I just read an article about the author of In Search of Excellence, and I saw where he says, “I can't find evidence of any successful business person in America that doesn't have tunnel vision, that just doesn't give everything to business.” Folks, I said back then, 15 years ago, that if that's the price you've got to pay to win in business, it's not worth it.
15 years later, a multi-millionaire. Folks, I can stand and preach to you but you can't separate your personal life from you business life. God's got to come first. You're family's got to come second. And business has to got to come third. And I believe if you have a lousy spiritual life, and a lousy personal life, long range it's going to be devastating to your business.
Another thing in building this winning attitude in business, you know I see tall people making big in business and short people, dumb people and smart people, fat people and skinny people, but if you cut open the winners in business I see a heart of a champion. And all these are competitors, and they don't quit.
I believe desire and will to win, is everything. I don't know why I'm like I am, but my butt's always burning. There's always something say, “Art dadgumit, you're supposed to go for it. Art dadgumit, you're supposed to be somebody. You're supposed to make a difference with your life.”
What does a $500,000 year person do, that a $50,000 a year person doesn't do? You look at the outside and study those two individuals, everything seems to be the same. They both are the same sex. They both are the same age. They have the same training, the same positions. The same contract. The same French benefits. They both are successful. They work hard. They're good family people, make tough commitments. But what's the difference? What does the $500,000 a year person do, the $50,000 a year person doesn't do?
He pays the price of a little bit more. He works hard and a little bit more. He's loyal to the company and a little bit more. He bleeds and a little bit more. He makes money and a little bit more. He saves money a little bit more.
If you want to win in these United States, you got to be tough, and you can't quit.
The last thing I'll talk to you about today in building this winning edge, is folks if you want to win in business, you got to be a leader. Leadership is everything. You show me anything in these United States that win, I'll show you a leader at work. You show me a successful church, Boy Scout troop, club, football team, business; I'll show you something run by a leader.
See I thought at one time in my life, you had to be smart to win. I used to have these smart people that dressed so pretty, and talked so pretty, and used these big words. They just intimidated me. I said, “Art you can't ever be that good. Why don't you just throw in the towel and go on back and coach football for a living?”
And I found two things out about smart people. I think it's almost impossible for a smart person to win in business in America today, because I find smart people spend their whole lifetime figuring things out. They always trying to figure out an easier way, and a quicker way. And another thing I found out about smart people, is they just don't get around to doing nothing.
And see somebody like Art Williams, everybody said, “Well he can't do it. Somebody like that can't do it.” But he does it.
See folks, I want you to know almost everybody in America almost does enough to win. They almost get there. They almost are over the hump. They almost have it going. They almost, in everything they do, almost is a way of life to almost everybody in America. But the winners do it.
What do they do? They do whatever it takes to get the job done. They do it, and do it, and do it, and do it, and do it, until the job gets done. And then they talk about how great it is to be somebody they're proud of.
We need leaders in America who can do it. If you want to become somebody, do it. If you want to go in business for yourself, do it. If you want to become financially independent, do it.
I hear too much talk in these United States, everybody can talk a good game. We need people in America, who can do it. I go all over this country … and I have people say, “Art, you can count on me.” Wonderful. Just do it.
“Art, I guarantee this is my last stop. I'm going to win now.” Super duper. Just do it.
“Art, if I could just have one good month and get the ball going I know I could make it big.” Super. Just do it.
“Art, if I could just pay off this debt I could really go.” Great. Just do it.
“Art, if I could just sell my house.” Do it. “But houses ain't selling?” Do it anyway.
“Art, I'm not making any money. What can I do?” You just do it. “Do what Art?” You do it, and do it, and do it.
“Art, I guarantee I'm going to win this contest.” Super duper. Just do it.
“Art, I'm over the hump now, watch my smoke.” Great. Just do it.
“Art, I want to make it so bad I can taste it. What do I do?” You just do it.
“Art, I'm a Vice President now, can I quit doing it?” Nope. “Art, I don't know if I can keep on keeping on. I'm really hurting. What do I do?” You just do it. “Do what Art?” You do it, and do it, and do it.
“Art, all my life I wanted to be somebody important.” Well do it then.
“Art, I'm going to save money so I don't have to go through this again.” Great. Just do it.
“Art, I don't feel like I've had enough training. What do I do?” You just do it.
“Art, my manager don't give me no help. What do I do?” You just do it. “Art, you don't understand. I was Mr. Everything at my former company. You don't mean I have to start off down here at the bottom and do it, do you?” Yep. You really got to do it.
“Art, what's the primary difference between winners and losers?” The winners do it.
They do it, and do it, and do it, and do it, until the job gets done. And then they talk about how great it is to have finally have achieved something you need. And how glad they are that they didn't quit like everybody else. And how wonderful it is to finally be somebody they're proud of. And make a difference with their life.