9 April 2020
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Think different!

My old colleague at Triple M, the very entertaining Doug Mulray, who dominated Sydney radio breakfast ratings for years, always jokingly told his audience to “avoid clichés like the plague”, which was the classic kind of stuff that rolled out of Doug’s quick-thinking brain on a daily basis. And when he and Andrew Denton teamed up, it was an irrepressible force explaining why they rated so highly.

Andrew went off to the ABC and was replaced by Dave Gibson, the master of voices and very funny characters, such as Gloria, Bog Dan the Turnip Boy, Mr Fymie (based on Frank Lowy) and Rolland Rolladoor from Rolland Rolladoor’s Rolladoors! It was a joke on small business owners trying to get free publicity on a top rating radio show and it underlines the power of someone thinking outside the square.

Reflecting upon Rolland got me thinking about how important being different is to success. Andrew Clifford from the impressive fund manager, Platinum, made the point in a story he wrote on Switzer Daily, that when it comes to investing, being a contrarian and not following the herd can be rewarding.

This made me think of clichés and quotes from highly successful people that anyone hellbent on being successful could do worse than live by many of these rules of thumb, if you like, from very smart people.

My favourite investing one comes from the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, who taught us his foundation strategy for stock-buying in this little ditty: “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.”

With our stock market down 3% for the year while our economy keeps performing better than expected, it looks like a classic case where it should pay to be greedy when too many are fearful right now. Sure, Donald Trump has made stock playing harder but the US economy and company earnings make me think this could be a good time to be greedy.

One of the most enduring lessons, which I often bring up in my Weekend Switzer articles was the advice Edward de Bono (the father of lateral thinking) gave me when I interviewed him. He insisted “successful people think outside the square.”

And it has become a key driver of business ideas, which is why a business commentator like me has a listed fund on the stock market called the Switzer Dividend Growth Fund. People would often asked me how I invest, and I know I’m driven by good dividend paying companies, so I put together a fund of 30 or so stocks that have a good history in this department.

One great Aussie entrepreneur who thought outside the square on the road to unbelievable business success was Shark Tank’s Janine Allis, who founded Boost Juice. Apart from going to the USA and noting a trend in fruit juice businesses, which inspired her, with her husband Jeff Janine genuinely came up with so many outside the square ideas to build their business.

The best was giving away a Boost Juice franchise on radio with the free publicity that excited radio jocks gave out promoting the giveaway was worth over a million dollars, which was more than four times the money given up in giving away the franchise. Brilliant!

A guy who has done it all is Richard Branson. If you haven’t read his book, Losing My Virginity, then you aren’t in the success caper. He gives so many inspirational ideas that it would be madness for a small business owner to ignore the book but his drive is valuable for anyone who is aspirational.

When he was drawing up his plan for what became known as Virgin Megastores, Branson insisted when it comes to doing really big things “first you have to believe if you can make it happen.”

That belief bit and dreaming big, reminded me of what Nabi Saleh (co-founder of Gloria Jeans Coffees in Australia with Peter Irvine) told me about setting high bars for your dreams.

Nabi argued that big dreams power you to bigger and better performances. He said even if you don’t make it, “you will end up a lot higher than when you started.”

Billy Ocean, the US singer, once belted out those unforgettable words/cliché “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” but I first heard it from a young personal trainer called Less Motto in the 1970s.

He was a pioneer of fitness classes where he would punish you with push-ups, sit-ups and anything else that took you out of your comfort square. He took me to fitness levels I’d never been to before and his Billy Ocean line that “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” always comes back to me, even when it comes to business.

I was blessed to hang out with successful people for nearly 30 years in my capacity as a business commentator and then a business builder. What I remember most of all are the clichés and quotes that simply sum up many of these successful people.

For example, Aussie Home Loan’s John Symond gave me the best business lesson, which I think resonates with all your relationships, when he said: “People will forget what you say but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

I first understood the value of clichés and nifty quotes from John F. Kennedy. I was fascinated by his turn of phrase but more importantly I knew how they had cut through and how they stuck in your mind.

The classic case in point was: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” And here is a typical Kennedy cliché: “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”

And here are two that bring me back to where I started talking about how being different and contrarian is the basis of success.

JFK once told us that “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth”. Another time he counselled: “Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.”

There’s a great Apple ad that salutes the crazies like Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and more who dared to dream, think outside the square and achieved big time!

My advice to anyone who wants to do something big in life is to put down a plan and then work on hanging out with inspirational winners who’ll help you make it.

If you don’t know any winners, go searching — that should be in your plan. Read books about inspirational people. Jim Collins who wrote the huge best-selling business book, Good to Great, said he created a board of mentors by buying books of the greats of business. He’d then imagined they were on his board. The books gave him the advice for success and he had to be smart enough and motivated enough to change!



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