Ready to Revolutionize Your Business and Your Life? Creative Destruction Is the Key
Written by: Jon Sabes, CEO
As CEO of an entrepreneurial finance company, I spend much of my time working to grow our business by capitalizing on opportunity. The rest of the time, when I am not with my family, you can find me outdoors, pushing my mental and physical limits as an ultra-distance athlete. And while many claim to work hard and play hard, my quest goes deeper.
My quest is to merge the two sides of myself to find the “ultra” in business and in life – and redefine what’s possible through “creative destruction.”
Even if the term is new to you, the concept likely isn’t. Coined by economist Joseph Schumpeter half a century ago, creative destruction is a theory and process of innovation – and most often associated with economic and business cycle innovation. The theory is rooted in a persistent approach to challenging, destroying, and recreating existing structures. Sound exciting? It is. Sound daunting? It’s that, too. Yet it’s what I strive for every day. It’s what drives me to create new ways of looking at old ideas…to turn old concepts on their heads, apply resources to support new approaches, and, ultimately, discover refreshing ways of thinking about the world, and my place in it.
As challenging as that may sound, making it happen requires following a simple, step-by-step process to transform even the smallest spark into reality:
- Begin with an idea;
- Define a goal;
- Explore your beliefs;
- Create a definite plan; and
- Take action in furtherance of your plan.
At our company, GWG, the process of creative destruction has helped us apply disruptive financial approaches to the long-established and deeply-entrenched life insurance industry. We developed a new type of cooperative that offers consumers market value for life insurance by offering investors the opportunity to have financial participation in the policies – a new version of an old concept – a true mutual life insurance company concept. And that was just one idea. One small spark that led to the complete rethinking of an outdated approach to “business as usual.” The possibilities are endless.
Of course, continually redefining what’s possible can be an exhausting process, and coming up with that initial spark of an idea—much less creating and executing a plan to drive it to fruition—requires a constant refueling of both your mind and the body. One key to succeeding in this pursuit is to regularly get outside, and to do things that energize and invigorate the mind and the body. For me personally, I have found that outdoor activity is what keeps me going. It’s how I recharge, recalibrate, and rediscover myself to keep me inspired to move forward.
One of my very best friends in the world, Scott Olson, shares my thinking. Scott is a fellow innovative entrepreneur and outdoor adventure enthusiast. As an innovative entrepreneur, Scott is well known for creating Rollerblade, and more recently, SkyRide. Adding to our long list of outdoor adventures over the years, Scott and I recently spent several days traveling more than 60-miles through Glacier National Park, where we witnessed some of the most scenic and beautiful wild spaces remaining in North America.
Side-by-side with moose, big horn sheep, mountain goats, and golden eagles, we were treated to all types of weather Mother Nature could dream up. Bright sun. Torrential rain. Overpowering wind. We had trained for the journey and were prepared for the elements, but we left ourselves completely open to the unexpected. Our journey was dictated not by a fixed agenda, but by who we met, the challenges we stumbled upon (including grizzly bears!), the paths we chose, and the earth beneath our feet.
This trip was just one more reminder of the words of Frederick Law Olmsted, co-designer of New York's Central Park, who in 1865 wrote, "It is a scientific fact that the occasional contemplation of natural scenes…change of air and change of habits is favorable to the…health and vigor of [the viewer’s] intellect beyond any other conditions which can be offered them.” My own experience has shown me that Olmstead’s words are true. I know that with every adventure, the road always (always!) continues around the corner. Moving forward with strength, conviction, and creativity requires inspiration and stamina that can be experienced and practiced by pushing your limits in outdoor physical adventures.
Personally, I know that learning how to overcome challenges—defeating barriers towards success—is the only way to survive as a business innovator. And whether I am back-country hiking, running ultra-distance marathons, or finishing an Ironman triathlon, I know the physical challenge of that activity helps me develop the mental muscle memory to know I can find a way through the challenges I am sure to confront.
If you’re looking for a way to revolutionize your business (and your life!) the process of creative destruction can help make it happen. To keep you fueled for the journey, I urge you to get outside and redefine your own limits.
NBA Player Carl Landry Demonstrates the Value of Persistence in Life and Work
Written by: Jon Sabes
When you meet Carl Landry, stand-out college basketball player and nine-year NBA player, you imagine that becoming a professional basketball star was a straight forward run for the 6-foot-nine-inch power forward.
However, when you go deeper into Carl’s background, becoming a NBA professional was less than certain and little came easily to the 33-year-old from Milwaukee:
- He was cut from his high school team as a freshman and averaged less than ten points a game when he did play as a senior.
- He started his college career not at Purdue, but a junior college where it was not clear he would play.
- When he finally got to Purdue, he tore his ACL in his knee his first year and reinjured it the next year.
- While his family held a party for him the night of the NBA draft, he slept in the Philadelphia airport after missing a flight following a workout for the 76ers.
- In the NBA playoffs, Carl had a tooth knocked out, but came back in the same game to make a game-winning blocked shot as the Rockets beat the Utah Jazz 94-92.
Landry, who I interviewed on my podcast, Innovating Life with Jon Sabes (www.jonsabes.com), is a remarkable example of the value of “persistence.” In a time where technology creates the image that anything is possible at the touch of a button, persistence is an under-appreciated trait. When I spoke with Carl, I clearly saw someone for whom success has only come through a force of will that made him a NBA player, but it also made him a better player every year he played. That’s the kind of personality that has produced greatness in business as well as sports.
Carl was, in fact, drafted that night he spent in the airport. The Seattle Supersonics chose him as the 31st overall pick and then traded him to the Houston Rockets where he rode the bench for much of the first half of the season. When All-Star teammate Yao Ming was injured, he stepped in and played a key role in the Rockets astonishing 22-game winning streak (the third longest streak in NBA history). And, that season, after sitting on the bench for 33 of the first 36 games, he was named to the All-Rookie second team.
Carl was the first in his family to go to college. “I told myself that this was my ticket out, so I did everything I possibly could to be the best person in school and also on the court,” he said.
His family life in Milwaukee showed him what he didn’t want to do. “Just being honest with you, seeing some my cousins, peers, they went to work for jobs paying six, seven dollars an hour or they didn’t go to work at all and then living off welfare. I didn’t want that.”
When he was first injured, he had to contemplate the end of a career before it even got started. “When you have an ACL tear, it’s over…no more basketball,” he told me. “I said, God, give me health again and I’ll do everything I can to leave it all out on the line and be a successful individual.”
On my podcast, Carl pointed out another interesting lesson he learned in the NBA: Not doing things just to fit in.
“Fitting in was easy,” he said. “Doing everything that everybody else does was easy. If I stood out in some type of way, I’m going to have different results. I’m going to have stand-out results.”
That’s called the “Law of Contrast” and it produces that exact effect of changing the outcomes that everyone else is experiencing. Carl is smart, he recognized that differences make a difference, and doing whatever it takes is what is required to make real, meaningful differences.
Every off-season for the last 11 years, he has run a camp for kids in Milwaukee where he tells youth his story of hard work and persistence. “I always tell the kids to apply themselves and always be persistent,” he said. “If you dream, apply yourself and be persistent. With hard work, man, the sky’s the limit.”
When Carl says the sky’s the limit he means it. He is smart to recognize that it’s important to dream big, because if we don’t – we may be selling ourselves short. “You have to dream bigger than your mind could ever imagine,” he said. “I wanted a nice house. I wanted a nice car. I said, and I got all of that. So, what do I do, do I stop now? Maybe I didn’t dream big enough.” That’s a big statement coming from a kid who grew up to be the first in his family to graduate college and go on to be not only a top NBA basketball start, but a good businessman, father and someone who gives back to the community.
I’m convinced that in whatever he takes on as a basketball player or in his post-hoops career, Carl Landry is not going to stop getting better at whatever he does, and in the process of doing so, make the world a better place.
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