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 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–was Winston Churchill.
Without his resilience and courage, I’m not sure things would have worked out the way they did.
There are so many life lessons to be learned by studying Churchill.
And I finally fulfilled a lifelong dream earlier this month 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 you 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 I ever studied in history.
And 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?
Coming from Churchill, this has so much more meaning…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 to also act 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 city of London) into rubble…and he came out the other side stronger than ever with more resolve and optimism to go forward.
Second biggie…being tough but fair…a Churchill premise that resides deep in the fabric of how we should all do business.
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” (last week 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 it is just the contrary…I believe you have to understand what you are dealing with money-wise in all of your business dealings before you can make proper decisions about how important money (or price) may be…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 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 so clear that he had a knack for cutting to the chase, “calling the question” and getting to what really matters to create progress.
My mentor and #1 Titan in my business life, Marty Edelston, was like that too.
“The only things worth talking about are the things you can’t talk about.”
When I eulogized Marty at his funeral last year, I told everyone he was like Vince Lombardi…the football coach who was incredibly tough to play for…even leading to you cursing him under your breath regularly:
“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 his case, not executing on excellence 100% of the time could have led to the end of the world. Heady stuff.
And all of this will lead to winning football games (Lombardi); to building a $100 million plus business (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 for life at this point…and paying for season tickets is far from “following them into battle.” 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…and thanks for letting me share my 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…
Until next week,
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:
P.P.S. Although I couldn’t get Winston Churchill to speak at “Titans of Direct Response,” I’ve got so many other Titans I have followed into battle my entire career…and they are all coming to share their wisdom and experience. Our VIP program is already sold out but we still have lots of room for you on September 11th and 12th here in Stamford, Connecticut for two days that will be talked about for years to come.
And here is an interview I did with copywriter Roy Furr where I talk about one key lesson I have learned from each of the Titans…I think you will love it whether you are coming in September or not.