A Story Of Vision & Courage.
In The Belly Of The Whale
The road to any promised land is fraught with many difficult choices. But in the end, they boil down to two: do I lie down and admit defeat or do I pick myself up and go on? A year and a half ago, my client Paul Lanigan stood in such a place. The plans he had made to deliver a unique motivational seminar lay in ruins. What had looked like a sure winner on paper had failed to draw the necessary numbers and Paul faced the same simple but awful choice as countless others before him: do I lie down and admit defeat or do I go on?
These moments define us. His heart still heavy from the latest disappointment, Paul set his sights again on the prize that had first drawn him. Since 2001, he had built a successful business in sales training using the approach developed by the legendary David Sandler. Whilst this approach was aimed specifically at effecting a change in attitude and habits in the sales field, Paul was struck by how much of the philosophy applied to any significant change in life. He was inspired to develop a seminar that would challenge people’s thinking and have a real impact on both their personal and professional lives.
On paper, it had looked simple. Paul secured the support of a legendary sporting figure, put together a solid programme for the day and began promoting the event. But despite positive noises from both the media and public, sales were slow and the numbers weren’t adding up. Shortly before the planned date, Paul reluctantly called things to a halt and retreated to lick his wounds and start all over again.
Sick To The Stomach
The taste of defeat still bitter in his mouth, he did something that is particularly difficult for the entrepreneur. He revisited his original plans and brutally reviewed them to determine what had gone right and what had gone wrong. He invited me to join him in this review and together we raked over the bones of the original idea. I’m always inclined to consider these things from the point of view of what story is being told. I wondered whether there had been sufficient struggle in the story of a naturally gifted sportsman who had offered us many moments to savour but who had not, to my eye at least, had to conquer any demons to do so.
Paul saw something in this and acted decisively. He took the original plans he had had for his event and began to rework them. He began to describe the big story that he wished to tell and to sketch it out in broad strokes. He determined that his event must relate an epic tale of courage that would inspire those in attendance. At the same time, he knew that he had to take this story and make it real and relevant to his audience. He set out to choose and build a team that would help him to do just that.
Fire In The Belly
At this time, Paul contacted the entrepreneur and sportsman, Mark Pollock, whose own story was inspiring audiences in Ireland and overseas. Six years before, Mark had seen his hopes for a promising career and sporting and business life dashed when he was suddenly struck blind. Since then, he had rebuilt his life and achieved an extraordinary range of feats including marathons in the Gobi desert, an expedition to the North Pole and medals in international rowing competitions.
It seemed to Paul that Mark’s story had all of the epic elements that he was looking for. He sat down to design an event that told the bigger story, the universal one, using Mark’s story as a framework. Paul then invited three others, Valerie Pierce, Pat Henry and Vere Wynne-Jones, to bring their own mix of expertise and personal experience to the event. Valerie, a best-selling author and expert on effective thinking, would offer a proven strategy for turning adversity to advantage. Pat, whose approach to physical wellbeing has attracted successful business people and public figures from around the world, would provide a programme for shaping up to a challenge. Vere, a journalist with an outstanding record in presenting the news of the day on Irish television and radio, would bring his own unique authority and sense of fun to the narrating of the story.
Paul now had the format for a compelling day. Each of the event participants would weave their own story into a classic tale of struggle, disappointment, courage and action and offer the audience a range of tools with which to tackle adversity in their own lives.
A Stomach For The Fight
He had an event format and a team. Now Paul was faced with another difficult decision. He was keen that we should not fall into the trap of using the same language as others in describing what we planned to be a unique event. It seemed to us that the territory that we were covering had epic undertones and we planned to use some of the stark imagery favoured by classical writers. I went a step further and suggested that we name the event I’d Rather Go Blind. This seemed to me to run the risk of antagonising some of our potential audience but we believed we would speak even more powerfully to those who were willing to confront their obstacles to success if we chose this vivid title.
Paul wrestled with this name for a while, and despite his own misgivings and those of some around him, he took the courageous step of naming the event I’d Rather Go Blind.
My Gut Tells Me…
It is customary at this point to relate how the rest is history and everybody lived happily ever after. But the road to Paul’s promised land is a long one. The first I’d Rather Go Blind event in January saw him take his first, sure steps along that road. His promotion for that event attracted the attention of a large multinational company who invited Paul to offer the event to its own team. Feedback from both of those events has been remarkable. People spoke of how the event’s unique approach and format had revolutionised their thinking and attitude. Self-professed veterans of such events talked of how they felt motivated for the first time to get up and do something.
The momentum is growing. Paul is now planning a third event in April and this one promises to be the most successful yet. The road is still a challenging one but others are joining him to walk it in ever growing numbers. He and his team are delivering real results for their audience and something in his gut tells Paul that his dream is coming true.