Monday, August 11, 2008

A Joyous Evening with James Skinner

by Carmelita C. Ballesteros

When I woke up on the twentieth of June, I prayed for a marvelous and magnificent day. I knew it was going to be a long day because I had several appointments to keep plus an evening talk (7:30 – 9:30 p.m.) by James Skinner.

Who’s he? The e-mailed invitation from Wendy Kwek, co-founder of Executive Directions in Singapore, said that James Skinner is a multimillionaire and business builder. Currently, he’s involved in the online business, YouPublish, with his business partners Mark Victor Hansen (co-creator of Chicken Soup for the Soul series) and Roice Krueger (Founder of listed company, Franklin Covey).

The end-of-the-week talk was free and there was going to be a buffet dinner, also free! So what have I got to lose? Some sleep, that’s all. (I’m a morning person.)

After a warm and brief introduction, James Skinner strode to the front of the seminar room with about 80 attendees. The audience gave him a long and hearty applause. Obviously, they knew him although I didn’t.

What was joyous about the evening?
First, James Skinner radiated joy. He grinned boyishly as he greeted all of us. He laughed at himself, laughed at his jokes, and laughed with the audience. He exuded a childlike curiosity and sense of adventure.

Second, he didn’t give a talk, he didn’t give a lecture, and he didn’t read from a powerpoint presentation. Instead, he told stories which were humorous, suspenseful, and inspiring. I cannot tell if they were true, but they were definitely energizing and invigorating, considering my biorhythm.
Here are some snippets from James Skinner’s talk:
He began by asking, “What is the biggest company in the world?” After several wrong guesses from the audience, he said it is VISA card. Each employee of VISA brings in a revenue of US$1 billion per year! James said, “Money is not real. You can make as much as you want. You can make as much as you can imagine.”
To illustrate imagination in wealth creation, James told us the story of his friend Peter who was bankrupt. Peter told himself that it was a good excuse to build all over again. So he browsed the web and decided to start rebuilding his life by buying a penthouse although he was flat broke. (laughter)
Peter called the real estate agent and asked what it would take to own the penthouse. The agent said, “One hundred thousand dollars in 24 hours as non-refundable deposit. One million dollars in 12 weeks.”
Since Peter was penniless, he mortgaged his mother’s house and paid the US$100,000 deposit on his penthouse. How was he going to make one million dollars in 12 weeks?
Peter was in London at the time, so he paced the streets of London, convinced that there was a way to make one million dollars in 12 weeks. He just didn’t know how. (laughter)
He chanced upon a sizeable vacant piece of land and asked the owner how much the selling price was. The owner said, “one million pounds.”
Peter said, “I’ll buy it at one-and-a-half million pounds.”
The owner said again, “I’m selling it at one million pounds.” (laughter)
Peter said again, “I’m buying it at one-and-a-half million pounds. Give me 12 weeks to close,” said Peter.
“Done,” said the owner.
So now, Peter had a sizeable vacant piece of land, but he must produce one-and-a- half million pounds in 12 weeks to close the sale.
Peter knew there was a way. He just didn’t know how. (laughter)
So he paced the streets of London some more. He noticed that there were many Chinese immigrants in London. He phoned a friend to ask about the culture of the Chinese people. His friend said the Chinese love the number 8.
“Eureka!” Peter divided his sizeable vacant piece of land into eight by eight parcels and sold them at eight thousand pounds apiece to the Chinese. He made himself enough money to pay the owner of the land, pay for his penthouse in full, redeem the mortgage on his mother’s house, and do other things he loved.
James, buoyed by the energy of the audience, continued with another fascinating story. He said a friend of his was bidding to create the Tokyo Disneyland. To win the bid, his friend needed US$500 million. Let’s call his friend Victor.
So Victor went to a bank and asked the president to lend him US$500 million so that Tokyo Disneyland might become a reality. The bank president signed the check pronto!
James went on telling inspiring success stories till ten in evening, 30 minutes longer than the announced time frame. But the audience was so animated that we could have stayed till midnight.
The third reason it was a joyous evening was that James made frequent summaries of the lessons he was teaching in short, catchy sentences:
  • Money follows guts. (the most important lesson)
  • Treat people well.
  • If you want a different answer, ask a different question.
  • If you want a different result, do something different.
  • Find someone who has the capability to say yes to your request.
  • Big people want to be part of big ideas.
  • If you’ve ever been a dissatisfied customer, then you have a million-dollar idea.
  • Implement your own idea.
  • Banks need people who need money!
  • Contribute to humanity in bigger and better ways.
  • Stop watching TV. Get a life.
  • Time management is doing less things. Work on what matters.
  • Focus is the challenge.
  • The solution to every problem is the same. Make more resources available.
  • Create a great company culture by celebrating people’s achievements.

Speaking of people’s achievements, how did James Skinner and his partners Mark Victor Hansen and Roice Krueger celebrate the birth of their latest big idea, YouPublish? How did they show their development team that their impossible feat of creating YouPublish in 97 days was deeply appreciated?

James said that he and everyone involved in the project, including their families, had a wacko party. As the party began, he announced that his five-geek development team survived on pizza while working on the project.

And so they’re going to celebrate by having some more pizza! On cue, waiters came in carrying boxes of pizza which they presented to the development team. Each of the five geeks opened his/her box of pizza and saw that it contained envelopes with a picture of pizza on it.

Were they going to eat pictures of pizza? Each of the five geeks opened an envelope gingerly. Wow! Each envelope contained 25 Benjamins (one-hundred dollar bills) in cold cash!

James didn’t say how many envelopes there were in each box…

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