Posts Tagged ‘Abraham Lincoln’

POSITIVE THINKING

March 17, 2011

WARNING, THIS IS PROBABLY THE MOST PERSONAL LIVEWORKS NEWSLETTER I’VE EVER WRITTEN.  READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED

Lately it seems that I’ve been identifying myself more by the last two-years of temporary defeats with my food festival, rather than the 20-plus years of building successful events.  After living life with the motto “failure is not an option” I’ve let the loss of money and reputation dictate who I am and how I’ve acted.  With the economy being what it is and the number of books and articles written on the subject, there are probably others out there in a similar circumstance that could learn from my experiences. 

Look at any successful person in life, no matter how you measure success, and you will most likely find confidence.  The fact is that there is almost nothing we can control in life.  Certainly what’s occurred in Haiti, New Zealand, and now Japan proves that.  The only things we really do have control of are our thoughts…and depending on the way we are wired, these thoughts can lead to success or failure.  The key is to not stop thinking…and thinking positively

Having a motive other than money is another important factor to success.  In my case, 2009’s trial run of the food festival concept was just that.  Never in our wildest dreams did we expect to make money and draw the crowds we did.  The idea was simply proof of concept and to make sure everyone (guest, talent, restaurants, promoter, staff, and press) had a good time.  With just a few technical glitches involving our cashless payment system and lack of staff as the doors opened, the first few hours of the show failed to fulfill either goal as lines grew to “amusement park size”.  Moving forward, we could fix the operational issues.  Success was within grasp.

The money was an all together different story.  We refunded everyone’s money in 2009.  In fact it was the first time I ever put significant personal money into a project and after seven-figure losses, had no idea how to support my family.  Not only was our savings wiped out, we had no real income to speak of.  Without loans from family and friends we would have never made it.  Lesson learned… having family and friends that care about you can change your life.  Cherish what’s important. 

Moving into 2010, there was only one goal on my mind; to make the food festival successful….which to me meant making money.  After a falling out with our previous partners, we went to what we considered a logical place to hold our events, football stadiums.  They had the perfect lists to market to (season ticket holders) and plenty of room for us to setup.  Unfortunately although we did factor weather in…it wasn’t not enough…and our marketing partners that had done such a wonderful job on our show in 2009 didn’t exist in 2010 (radio, print, online, clubs, etc).  Price also became a concern.  In 2009, we had ancillary charges built into our ticket price…and they totaled only $10.  This would not be the case with 2010.  As the shows came closer to playing, our pre-sales were not picking up as they had in 2009.  In hindsight, we should have cancelled the shows…but we were broke and thinking of money. Somehow we would be able to fix what’s broken and wrap strong.   

We didn’t wrap strong.  In fact without going into too much detail, we ended-up losing even more money.  The food fest owes more money than it ever grossed.  In my mind, I felt like a loser…and that has been the image I’ve been projecting ever since.  All the years of the Aspen Conference, HORDE Festival, MTV Campus Invasion, Woodstock, Jeep Tour, our cruises, etc…meant nothing.  If my 13-year old said I was a loser, I was a loser. 

Then something weird happened.  Investors started getting interested in the food fest idea.  Actually, the fact that we were two-time losers…wanted to pay all our debts…and wanted to try again…all worked to our favor (who knew???).  Although the number of people we drew in 2010 was soft, our food and beverage numbers were record-breaking.  If we could put the numbers from 2009 together with per caps from 2010, we have one strong show.  All of a sudden we were thinking creatively again. 

For one thing, I never wanted to look at bankruptcy as an option.  We owe money and I would rather raise the money, pay everyone back and move forward than walk away from those that trusted us…that trusted me.  Again to my surprise, this had also worked to the fest’s favor.  You see, one of the things investors like besides making money is doing business with people who have shown integrity through their careers.  They were happy we wanted to pay our debts versus declaring bankruptcy.  Gee, maybe I should have lost more money (just kidding of course).

The last two years have been the worst of my life.  Getting sick, death of family and friends, nothing has had the collateral and emotional damage that losing everything and letting people down has had.  Yet the moment I started thinking…positively… things began to change.  I went back to the computer to make sense of the numbers…combed through every note from every meeting…every email…and all our post-mortem meetings. This could be fixed.

As of today we are holding dates in multiple cities for an even better food fest concept and will have a few new partners (investors, promoters and brands) to help us along the way.  We aren’t there yet but we sure are getting close. 

There will be a new food fest in 2011…along with more cruises, festivals, and the biggest Aspen Conference in our history this December.  All this change with a simple attitude adjustment… and positive thoughts… of something other than money. 

I would like to thank all the family and friends that believed and continue to believe.  I would like to thank our staff, vendors and talent.  I would like to thank my heroes Abraham Lincoln, Walt Disney, Bill Graham and PT Barnum for continuing to show me the right road.  I would like to thank all of those authors that have written books and articles that have influenced my thinking.  And I would like to thank you for reading the LiveWorks Newsletter.

Keep Thinking…Positive Thoughts!

Best,

 Jim

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CRUSH IT!!!

September 22, 2009

A few weeks ago Bill Maher did a special edition of his HBO show Real Time by pulling away from the program’s usual format and only interviewing two guests.  One of those guests was Bill Moyers.  Moyers, one of the most respected journalists of our time spoke about what is needed from our leaders in Washington (but it applies to everyone), Passion.

As an example of the passion needed today, Bill Moyers brought up John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech from 1960.  Specifically the lines “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”  Moyers points out that if President Obama asked Americans to do the same today…to sacrifice for their country…he probably wouldn’t see a second term (sad to hear but probably true).  Yet at the same time, it is exactly what is needed.  The President was elected because he gave Americans, and to some degree the world…Hope.  You can do the same in your office.

Many see mixing passion with business as unprofessional.  It is misunderstood.  I bet Jim Cramer was seen as crazy by “the establishment” on Wall Street before he got his own TV show.  And I have to believe that was the case with my friend Gary Vaynerchuk (and Kramer’s friend too)…who wrote a book about it called Crush It http://crushitbook.com

Crush It calls for readers to cash-in on their passions.  And who would know better than Gary.  He took a small family run business and turned his passion for wine and Business 2.o into what is now VaynerMedia;  a multi-million dollar enterprise that encompasses retail (The Wine Library) in New Jersey, online retail (winelibrary.com), publishing (He has two books @ age 33), and Gary’s widely popular web TV show, Winelibrarytv.com.  He has even added travel to the portfolio with his second cruise, The Crush It Cruise http://www.crushitcruise.com (full disclosure, The Agency Group Events produces this cruise with our partner Mike London).  Where are the Gary Vaynerchuks of our business?

We saw passion in our heroes…from what is now an almost forgotten business.  People like Bill Graham (anyone within 100′ knew he had passion), Mo & Lenny @ Warner Bros., Frank Barcelona, and of course Ahmet.  Their passions were the acts, fans, and the business of music.  My personal heroes are Abraham Lincoln (honor …and he fought for what he believed in), Bill Graham (devotion to fans and those that play for them), Walt Disney (details in creating the experience for fans) and P.T. Barnum (his ability to communicate with consumers).  All four men had passion and spoke passionately for what they loved.  Today we all seem to be weighed down by the quarterly numbers of every other mature, consolidated industry.  Yet for most of you, the numbers have nothing to do with why you got into this business. 

It is time for all of you to stand-up and become the JFK’s of your offices!  What we all need right now are leaders we can believe in.  Ones that inspire us to do great things (JFK wanted to put a man on the moon)…so we will want to sacrifice…be part of something bigger than ourselves.  Bill Moyers is a great man and he has inspired me.  Bill reminded me of the things we can do when given hope…when we are part of a “Great Group”…when we are pushed to succeed vs. torn down.  Bill, Bill, and Gary reminded me to Crush It. 

Speak with you soon…

Jim

THE UNITED STATES CELEBRATES

July 2, 2009

Many years ago, I received a cherished gift from Nikki Wheeler’s (UTA music agent for those of you who don’t know her) Dad.  If you have ever visited my office, you may have seen the mini-statue of the Lincoln Memorial on my desk.  The crazy thing is, Mr. Wheeler is “from the land of Lincoln” and had no idea how much the President meant to me…shaped my beliefs…actually did a whole tutorial on him in college, etc.  I just hooked Mr. Wheeler up with lift tickets or something like that (I honestly don’t remember) when my family was still living in Aspen.  He wanted to give a gift (classy guy) for the effort.  Since that day, Mr Lincoln has sat on my desk.  Whenever I’m thinking my life is hard, I look over at President Lincoln.  Whatever is going on couldn’t be as bad as blaming yourself (as many biographers say Lincoln often did) for a civil war, countless lives lost, and a country divided. 

After Lincoln’s assasination…as the Civil War came to an end, General Robert E. Lee, Commander of all Confederate Forces wrote that he had serendered as much to Lincoln’s goodness as he had to Grant’s armies.  This one sentence has always moved me.  Someone who led forces against Abraham Lincoln’s government was talking about how the man’s goodness pushed him to peace.  This is a great story to pass on to your friends and family as we all celebrate the birth of our country.  It is people like Robert E. Lee and Abraham Lincoln that make me proud to be an American.

Happy 4th Everyone!

Jim

WHY OBAMA’S STIMULUS WILL WORK

April 14, 2009

I only know one person (that I’m aware of) that knows our President personally.  She called me in 2003 and asked if I would contribute to his run for Senate in Illinois.  What got me was what Ann Marie said…  “Barack speaks to our higher angels”.  I don’t know about you, but I had never heard anyone describe a politician in those words before and wrote a check on the spot. 

You have all read articles about those that have dropped everything in their lives to be a part of Team Obama…either during the campaign or now as part of the President’s Cabinet.  When these people are asked why, they always talk about President Obama’s character.  It is this character that will make the President’s stimulus plan work.

Was it a good idea to bailout the banks and Detroit?  Who knows.  The President really didn’t have much of a choice.  If the banks failed, there would be millions of Americans without homes.  That is not the kind of course correction we need right now.  No, his plan will work simply because he is a good man.  In my opinion, President Obama is the honorable person to sit in the Oval Office since Abraham Lincoln.  He wants the best for our Country…for all Americans.  It is this kind of leadership that will help all of us strive to become better people.  The President certainly proves that good guys don’t always finish last.  In fact, they can become leaders of the free world.  So start planning a bright future because there will be one.

Need a place to start, the next Dinner Club social is Thursday, May 7th.  Meeting places and times in each city TBA (btw, there has been a call-out for a Toronto meeting so get on it Canada). 

BTW, you can also find me on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/jimlewi

Speak with you soon…

Jim