About a year ago we tragically and suddenly lost two greats of our industry, Audri and Jim Lanford.
I shared their story at the time of their death–and I feel it is worth repeating. I don’t want them to be forgotten and the lessons they taught us were significant.
I met Audri and Jim in January of 2000 when they hosted (with Jay Abraham), the “Billion Dollar Internet Strategy Setting Summit and Custom Marketing Makeover Process”.
How’s that for an outrageous promise? And check out the promotion for it–it’s a classic–click on it above.
It was one of those events like “The Bencivenga 100” or “The Titans of Direct Response” that everyone remembers…not just because the content was amazing and that the speakers were best-in-class–but also that it was held in January of 2000, only weeks after many had predicted the end of the world on January 1, 2000.
Well the world didn’t end at the start of the new millennium, this Internet thing did catch on (have you noticed?)…and Audri and Jim solidified their position in the marketing community as thought leaders, innovators and champions for a new era in direct marketing.
Because their death was so sudden…and totally random and unpredictable (it involved a gas leak which destroyed their house while they were home), I want to share the most important lesson of life being so capricious…and that none of us knows if today will be our last.
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift… that’s why they call it the present”
Despite being heartbroken by their loss, there are some additional lessons I would like to share from Audri and Jim since I have a feeling that most of you have never heard of them; but if you currently do any marketing online, you owe a debt of gratitude to them for paving the way for so many things you probably take for granted today.
My friend Jeff Walker—also a good friend to Audri and Jim—shared a video tribute to them at the time of their death and talked about their “commitment to testing.”
It has always been a way of life for all marketers (yes, even before the Internet) and I never met anyone more “scientific” about how they thought about testing than Audri and Jim.
And not just testing lists…we’re talking concepts, new business ideas…everything.
I don’t know if they were into science and math at the deepest level but I always thought that if M.I.T. had a school of direct marketing, Audri and Jim would be the most decorated graduates.
(Jeff reminded me that Audri earned a PhD from Stanford…not surprising)
They had a “professorial” way about them…but with more tenacity than any marketers I have ever met…a devastating combination of smarts and savvy.
They combined their voracious appetite for unrelenting testing to find the winner with a hunger to use only the best marketing resources and techniques they could find, and adding in a deep passion for everything they did—and the result was success after success from two of the most innovative human beings you will ever meet.
I love this marketing formula which I have written about in the past:
Audri and Jim expanded that formula and made it about so much more…and this is how they might have calculated things:
Relentless Testing + Best-in-class resources + Passion = Exponential Innovation
The two formulas are kissing cousins for sure…but when I think of Audri and Jim, I think way beyond “Direct Marketing Success” as the result of all they accomplished…they were pioneers who never stopped learning, never stopped teaching and therefore never stopped innovating.
It was no accident that they held a “Billion Dollar Internet Summit” only weeks after many predicted there would be no one alive on the planet let alone that we would be on the verge of the most exciting time in history to be a marketer.
One other big thing I learned from Audri and Jim–and why I want to honor them today—is that they gave me, and everyone they touched, the lesson of taking inventory of our “non-negotiables.”
It is imperative that no matter what stage we might be in our life at any point in time, figuring out your non negotiables (i.e. those things you will not do or engage in under any circumstances) is a critical exercise.
I know a lot of people who beat to their own drum, who are rugged individualists, and who love to go right when everyone else is going left.
Audri and Jim were certainly rebellious in that way; but I believe for them it was much more than just daring to be different…it was about living life boldly and never compromising.
I think in the dictionary next to the word “congruent,” you could see a picture of Audri and Jim.
Audri and Jim were always at the cutting edge in all they did and could have gone into hundreds of different businesses…but they were always about making the right choices for them; and they were all about never violating their non-negotiables when it came to life and business.
They always did what they wanted to do and what felt right in terms of their values, skills and passions; and they lived where they wanted and interacted and surrounded themselves with people who were aligned with those values.
Like so many intellectually gifted people we all know, Audri and Jim were somewhat private…but they spoke with their actions and their lives are a lesson in congruence for all of us who knew them…and now you know about them too. How they designed their life together is worth emulating.
The big lesson for today is that tomorrow is promised to no one…and as Jeff said in his video and I will repeat here (however clichéd it might sound), hug your family, reach out to some friends to tell them you love them…and then just innovate in every aspect of your life…today.
Also, I encourage you to live life boldly and never compromise on your non-negotiables even in the face of mounting pressure to “settle” and do things that you know are inconsistent with your core beliefs.
I know that’s easy to say and not to do when life’s mounting pressures (like paying the mortgage or doing things out of necessity rather than within your passion) allow you to “negotiate” that it’s OK to settle.
But at least be self-aware when you are not living your life the way you really want to live it so when the time comes where you have more freedom, you can dictate the terms.
When your house is paid off (micro example) or when you have the freedom to no longer compromise on your non-negotiables and not engage in things you swore you would not engage in (macro example), you can, in the spirit of today’s tribute, “be like Audri and Jim.”
P.S. To honor Audri and Jim today, I want to share something very special from their mentor and mine, Jay Abraham—a link to the documentary film about him.
I remember being at that seminar in January 2000 and thinking that Audri, Jim and Jay were ahead of the curve…and this documentary about Jay’s life will give you some insight into how he thinks and how he manages to stay ahead of the curve all the time.