|Artist Owen Garrett presents his portrait of John Rich to the talented musician at 2012 GKIC SuperConference.|
It’s been many years since I followed country music, so I didn’t recognize “John Rich” when I saw his name as the celebrity keynote speaker at the GKIC SuperConference for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
That all changed after he took the stage on the opening day of the event.
Not only did he entertain the audience with one of his hit songs, he inspired us with stories revealing a strong entrepreneurial spirit. That spirit has led to unprecedented success in the Country Music industry. He is the only artist who’s had a hit song in a band, in a duo and as an individual.
And he’s not just a musician. Throughout his talk, he referred to himself as “a small business guy.” When traveling on the road doing concert tours, he has 30-40 employees depending on him for their livelihood. You could feel his pride in providing jobs to others.
No Silver Spoon
John didn’t grow up with any special advantages. Far from it. He and his three siblings were raised in a trailer park in Amarillo, Texas. His father was a preacher at a small church and didn’t earn enough to make ends meet, so he also worked odd jobs on the side.
Today John’s living conditions are quite different. He has a swimming pool on the roof of his house in Nashville and was proud to tell us about it, ending that story with an important insight: "Anyone who thinks you should apologize for succeeding probably hasn't succeeded."
He carries a copy of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in his back pocket and reads them often to remind him that everyone has the right to the “pursuit of happiness.” None of us is guaranteed happiness. He thinks of those words when he looks at his pool.
So how did he transform his circumstances? As he tells it, the one thing he could control at the age of 18 was "a piece of paper, a pencil and a guitar.”
During the past 20 years, he has written 2,000 songs.
This is a man who committed early in his life to make something of himself, and he has done it in spades. Listening carefully, I captured some of the key reasons behind his success, and they’re instructive for anyone who wants to achieve great things:
“Show up prepared.”
When he started, John searched out people he wanted to emulate. He would walk up to them and announce that he wanted to be like them. He assured them that he wasn't trying to take their ideas. He’d already written 500 songs, and he had 60 of his best pieces ready to share with them.
When word got around that he showed up prepared, it led to him writing with Grammy-level people. He made it EASY on them and impressed them.
“The first step to success is to SAY it and put it out to the world.”
As a contestant on The Celebrity Apprentice in 2011, John proclaimed, "I'm going to raise more money than anyone in the history of this show." He accomplished that goal for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and won the coveted title.
He suggests that you “pressure yourself and watch what happens when you announce you're going to do something that sounds impossible.”
“You’ve got to be a relentless maniac about what you're doing.”
You must have unyielding persistence to see things through in the face of the inevitable rejections and challenges you face.
"If everyone loves what you're doing, you're not rocking hard enough."
Be different enough that people either love or hate what you do. Don’t be in the middle, and don't be afraid of criticism.
“When the ball starts rolling, don't watch the ball roll. KICK the ball or strap a rocket to the ball to keep it going strong.”
Don’t get complacent when you get your first taste of success. Leverage it to take you to even greater heights.
"If everyone in this room succeeds, our country gets stronger."
John was speaking to a room of 1,000 entrepreneurs and small business owners. His suggestion that building a successful business and hiring people was “the way to serve your country today” got him a standing ovation.
He encouraged each of us to find ways to help others because GENEROSITY is one of the most important ways to breed success.
And John was a shining example of this last piece of advice when he opened up the floor for questions at the end of his talk. He not only gave thoughtful answers to each person, he looked for ways that he could help move that individual’s business forward.
John Rich made a strong positive impression on his audience that day. And in the process, he gained hundreds of new fans…including me.