March 19, 2017

Believe it or not, the Titan I want to talk about this week is NOT a direct marketer!

And while he’s pretty far removed from the usual folks I talk about in this space, I think about him often because I believe that without his decisive actions, none of us would be pursuing our dreams, with complete freedom, in direct marketing (or anything else for that matter)…

I was an English major in college but if I had to do it over again, I think I would have majored in history…and since graduating (never to pick up a Dickens novel again), my particular historical passion has been World War II.

(And for anyone new to this list, don’t worry…I will bring this around to some critical business and marketing lessons shortly…stay with me).

I am convinced that the single most important figure in that war—the man who is more responsible than anyone as far as saving the world from total disaster – is Winston Churchill.

Without his resilience and courage, I’m not sure things would have worked out the way they did.

I was reminded of Churchill recently while watching “The Crown” (on Netflix…highly recommended…John Lithgow plays Sir Winston in the show).

There are so many life lessons to be learned by studying Churchill.

A few years ago, I fulfilled a lifelong dream when I toured the “Churchill War Rooms” in London (see photos at the end of this post).

I highly recommend you visit if you ever get to London…there’s also a Churchill museum in the same building which is awesome.

Both the War Rooms and the museum give tremendous insight into how this man was able to accomplish all he did…often under relentless pressure to make life and death decisions every day (especially during the war).

This man understood leadership like no one you will ever study in history.

And he did it most of the time with a scotch in one hand and a cigar in the other.

The fact that he lived until he was 90 kind of debunks a few things we know about drinking and smoking.

I often think that the way this man “engaged with life” (and obviously thinking more often than not about making an impact and creating a legacy for the ages) might have helped with his longevity.

Just a theory.

His philosophies around leadership also serve as business lessons on a very deep level.

I want to share two biggies that have resonated with me over the years.

First, on courage…

“There is nothing more exhilarating than being shot at without result”

Sounds like the “marketing wars” we participate in every day, doesn’t it?

Or how you work inside of a huge commitment before you really know how you are actually going to execute on that commitment.

The top coach for entrepreneurs on the planet, Dan Sullivan, has been known to say:

“Courage is a crappy place” (although he has used a different word than “crappy”—starts with an “s” and ends in a “y”—but this blog is rated PG)

It actually means that as entrepreneurs and marketers (and even world leaders), we must embrace courage as our friend even under the toughest circumstances.

When we talk about Churchill’s brand of courage, it goes to an entirely new level.

This is a man that might have saved all of humanity from one of the most evil forces the world has ever seen…by not only “dodging bullets”…but by acting decisively and proactively in the face of that intense enemy fire…while so many others just gave in or gave up.

And as far as “The Battle of Britain” goes, he was dodging bombs and not just bullets–that turned much of his beloved country (and the city of London in Particular) into rubble…

He came out the other side stronger than ever with more resolve and optimism to go forward.

The second big lesson we can learn by studying Churchill:

The importance of being tough but fair.

This is a Churchill premise that hopefully resides deep in the fabric of how we all do business in the world.

I have written previously about, “It’s not always about the money” (when I told you about Gene Schwartz) and “The Power of 100-0” (when discussing negotiation) and both of those posts may have made it sound like money doesn’t really matter…or that I was being flippant about making a good deal (or the right deal).

But that is far from the point.

I absolutely believe you must understand all of the issues around money when making any business decision–so you can make the best decisions regarding how important money (or price) might be in the overall deal or negotiation…and what a fair deal really looks like.

And my absolute favorite Churchill story illustrates this concept beautifully:

According to legend, Winston Churchill once asked a “socialite” if she would sleep with him for 1 million Pounds.

When she admitted that she would, he offered her ONE Pound…and THEN she objected:

“Winston! What sort of woman do you think I am?”

Winston then replied:

“Madam…we have already established what you are; now we are just haggling over price.”

When you read Churchill’s quotes and stories, it is crystal clear that he had a knack for cutting to the chase, “calling the question” and getting to what really matters to create forward progress.

My mentor and a Titan in his own right, Marty Edelston, was like that too.

One of his favorite quotes, which I think Churchill would have been in agreement with, was:

“The only things worth talking about are the things you can’t talk about.”

When I eulogized Marty at his funeral in 2013, I told everyone he was like Vince Lombardi…the football coach who was incredibly tough to play for and known for being a difficult taskmaster…often leading his players to curse at him under their breath regularly.

From that eulogy:

“When you play for coaches who are tough like Lombardi (or Marty), you often feel more pain than pleasure; but when you look back on the most valuable lessons (and traits) you picked up by being dealt with in a tough yet fair way, you never regret a moment of that relationship. I know I owe my own mental toughness to the tenacity of Marty and him being a demand for excellence 100% of the time.”

I have a feeling that Churchill was one of those “tough but fair guys” as well…

Interesting to note that in Churchill’s situation, not executing on excellence 100% of the time could have led to the end of the world.

Heady stuff.

And all of this “tough guy stuff” will lead to winning football games (Lombardi); to building nine figure businesses (Marty); …or winning World Wars (Churchill).

Back to football (and that’s American football for all you World Cup fans).

My favorite team since I was a little kid is the New York Jets who were originally called the New York Titans.

Given that the Jets haven’t won a championship since I was 10 (and I am no longer a young man!), I’m sort of glad they changed their name since “Titans” is my new go-to moniker for “greatness” or “top of the heap” and it represents the kind of people I want to follow into battle.

The Jets?

I am just stuck with them for life at this point…and paying for season tickets is far from “following them into battle” and it is also incredibly painful most years.

Unfortunately they are not Titans…

I follow the work and teachings of Winston Churchill because he knew how to get everyone to follow him into battle…which is something
all of us should emulate.

Thanks for letting me share some revelations I’ve had over the years studying one of the most colorful and important people in the history of the world.

And I bet Churchill could go into the locker room right now and get my Jets to play better…




P.S. Me and my hero in London












Me and my hero at The Museum of World War II in Natick, Mass (he’s a little waxy but still powerful):










And what we need to do always:

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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