What Can You Learn from the People You Unexpectedly Meet?

APR 18, 2012 1:30am ET
Comments (4)

The great Charlie “Tremendous” Jones is very well known for this quote: “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” Because I am a voracious reader, I have always focused more on the “reading” portion of this quote. And I habitually quote it to my nonreading friends challenging them to expand their horizons with the world of books.

A few weeks ago, I was reminded of the other part of that quote: “...the people you meet...” My habit when traveling is to take at least two books, one for the flight to the destination and one for the return home. It is always my goal to read at least two books on any trip. And I have to admit to you that after boarding a plane, many times I sink into that book, ignoring everything (and everyone) else around me until landing.

On one particular flight, I became intrigued when a nicely dressed gentleman sitting beside me was obviously working on a presentation on his laptop. When I asked him if he was a professional speaker, his response was “no, but I am giving a speech.” One thing led to another, and I discovered that he was the former CEO of both Maytag and the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Wow, what an opportunity, I thought. I pulled out my handy dandy notebook and asked if he would mind giving me a short interview for my blog. Lloyd Ward graciously obliged, but then again, where would he go? We are thousands of miles up in the air!

I discovered, either through the interview or later research, that Ward was also the former captain of the Michigan State basketball team, and earned his MBA degree in 1984 from Xavier University in Cincinnati. He had served on the board of directors of General Motors, JPMorgan Chase and the Belo Corp., as well as serving on numerous nonprofit organizations, including the Ronald McDonald House, the Dallay, YMCA, Paul Quinn College, the Jimmy Johnson Foundation and Inroad of Southwest Ohio. He was named one of the “Top 25 Executives of 1998” by BusinessWeek magazine, one of BrandWeek magazine’s “Marketers of the Year” in 1998 and Executive of the Year in 1995 by Black Enterprise magazine.

His service at the 2002 Winter Olympics was intriguing to me so my first question was “What did you learn by serving as the CEO of the 2002 Winter Olympics?” He gave me five points:

1) There were 201 countries represented at these Olympics. It became real to him that we are not merely citizens of this country, but we are also citizens of the world.

2) The grandeur of our culture is magnified when placed beside the culture of other countries. Many times we do not appreciate our country or culture. He came away with a greater appreciate and love for our nation.

3) Although he was already a world traveler, he felt most of his visits had been planned and orchestrated through business meetings, etc. His point was that rarely do we see things the way they are—we see things the way people present them. The Olympics were different—they were real.

4) In the businesses in which he had served in the past, it was many times about the bottom line, the profits and losses. The Olympics gave him a broader spectrum of life, of societies and people. It not only connected him with powerful thought leaders from around the world, but he remarked, “I felt I could see all of the colors of the rainbow and it helped me to develop a true world view.”

5) For his final thought, Ward declared what was the most important lesson he took from being a part of the Olympics. He understood, at a visceral level, the pursuit of excellence.

How do you become an Olympian and be the best that the world has to offer? He noted that a common theme with each one of these elite athletes was that at the dawn of each new day, their quest was to be better than the day before. They truly believed in the possibility of success and worked tireless toward that goal. They sought daily continuous improvement.

That is a lesson to all of us in the mortgage business today. If we truly want to become the champions of our market, we have to be on a continuous quest for excellence and believe in our hearts that it is truly possible to succeed.

I have wondered many times since meeting Lloyd Ward, how many missed opportunities there have been for me to speak and interact with individuals who have truly made a difference in the world. This man has made a significant contribution to the world of business and sports and I was privileged to hear his story one on one.

I am going to try to do better on this. What about you?

Comments (4)

First time to read you blog. Indeed a good article and great inspiration for me. Keep the good work.

Posted by | Wednesday, April 18 2012 at 1:39PM ET
What a great opportunity to talk with and get good advise to share. Glad you took a few moments to chat with your seatmate.
Posted by | Tuesday, July 10 2012 at 2:13PM ET
Love this site and marked under inspirational,
A good lesson for all of us. . Jim Rohn once said: "To reach success. .you stand on the books you've read in the past" . . or something like that. I'm a voracious reader as well. .
Posted by | Tuesday, July 10 2012 at 4:42PM ET
This is my favorite Lloyd Ward quote from the above interview "We are not merely citizens of this country, but we are also citizens of the world." As a Christian, this strikes home!
Posted by | Tuesday, July 10 2012 at 10:34PM ET
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