The theme of greatness prompts me to ask, how did you become involved in the JFK administration?
I had worked my way through college with a job at ABC. When I finished school I was invited to come be in charge of program development, which basically meant I would be running the network.
Quite an amazing thing for such a young man!
I dont believe in things being impossible. You hear it all the time: If you believe you can, you will, and I believe this in a very real way. If you have faith in yourself, there is no impossible.
Actually, failures a very difficult thing to achieve. You cant be a failure unless you are truly committed to being that.
So I took the job and put together quite a teamI hired [Ted] Koppel and [Charles] Osgood and a whole list of others. Because I was so young, I was written up in the paper. [JFK Press Secretary Pierre] Salinger saw the article and said, Hey, were looking for someone who knows the electronic media. That's how I ended up at the White House.
Television was still so new and untested, politicians didnt trust it.
Thats right. You should have seen the cameramen fighting for outlets in the White House press room. The print guys would sit there with their paper and pencil, waiting for us to start, while the TV guys would go scrambling around because we didnt have enough plugs.
I was very pleased and honored to be part of that team. And I learned a lot as a member of that Kennedy clan. I learned that its about believing in yourself.
Here I was, barely out of college, with a job at the White House, playing touch football at the Shrivers place on the weekends. Sometimes Id stop and ask myself, How on earth did I get here?
But thats my point: stop worrying about what other people think or say or do. Understand that its all about believing in yourself.
That is the greatest act of faith anybody will ever be called upon to make.
The people Ive known who have been successful, from JFK to Colonel Sanders to Fred Smith and many others, have all had one quality in common: theyve all had total self-confidencewith grace. Its not about ego or arrogance; its about grace and dignity. Its about feeling good about yourself and believing in who you are and what you can accomplish.
That spirit certainly typifies that era. Aside from putting a man on the moon, which is the one everyone remembers, there were so many achievements with such long-lasting legaciesthe Peace Corp, civil rights .
I remember the five-member task force that created the idea of the war on poverty: David Gottlieb, Jules Sugarman, Ira Walsh, Harry Miller and me. One day the five of us went down to have a beer after we had put this marketing concept in place so that Congress would buy it.
The real work of the war on poverty was that it was a marketing job. We had to sell our product. That product was that we wanted $300 to 500 million to start this program, which would later become part of the Great Society. To sell it, we knew we had to put an unforgettable name to itso wed come up with war on poverty.
We sat there over our beers, saying, Boy, we did it, this is fantastic! The Presidents going to love it. Hell take it to the Hill and sell it
And all of a sudden, I had a thought.
I said, Wait a minute, guyshold on! I dont think were done yet. We have Job Corps, we have Vista, which is the domestic Peace Corps, we have all these grant programsbut weve left out a significant group of human beings we need to take care of because they cant help themselves. And since they dont vote, nobodys thought about them.
So we went back upstairs, took off our jackets, rolled up our sleeves, and created a program known as Project Head Start.
For me, that was the greatest success I experienced during those days.
Sarges wife Eunice was so impressed that she asked us if we would come out on the weekends to help her create a program for the special kids. In just a few weeks, we created the Special Olympics.
What a legacy!
And heres the thing: none of that would have happened if we had not put our egos aside and put our focus on what people needed from us.
People are always looking to us for leadership. Everybody does. Theyre looking to us for that quality that stops focusing a spotlight on little things and turns a floodlight onto the big picture. They look to us for greatness.
A job at the 1960s White House must have been a hard act to follow. Where did you go from there?
I was fired by Nixon when he took office, and took a job as head of marketing and public relations at American Airlines. While I was there, I got a call from John Y. Brown, Jr., who was the CEO of Kentucky Fried Chicken. He had bought the company from Harlan Sanders in 64, and he wanted me to come take a position as Senior Vice President of Kentucky Fried.
I said, John, youll excuse me, nothing personal, but Im the head of marketing at American Airlines. I have a home on Park Avenue and another home on the water in Old Lyme, Connecticut. I just dont see myself getting too excited about moving to Louisville, Kentucky.
But he kept after me and finally got the Colonel on my case. They invited me down to a Christmas party about a year later, and while I was there the Colonel offered me some equity.
For the first time in my life, I had the opportunity to own a piece of the action; that changes things. My father worked for the phone company: they gave him a salary and fifty years later, a watch.
Much as I hated to leave American, I moved to Kentucky and became the Senior Marketing Officer for Kentucky Fried Chicken.
I stayed around there for a few years, and then we got acquired by Heubline and went public. Two things happened when we went public: one, my equity became quite valuable, which was great. And two, as a senior officer, I of course got fired.
Just like when Nixon took office.
Rightfired again! It seemed pretty depressing at the timebut as I said, you have to have faith in yourself, and I did.
So Im sitting there in Louisville, Kentucky, out of work, and someone writes about me in the Wall Street Journaland soon I got a call from someone who had read the article. He said his name was Fred Smith.
I see you just got fired? says Fred.
I say, Yeah, thanks for pointing that out. Appreciate your reminding me.
And he says, Im thinking about starting a little company. You want to come down to Memphis?
I tell him, Fred, when youre out of work, youll go anywhere, even Memphis.
So I get down to Memphis and Fred tells me about this hub and spoke concept he had.
I say, Fred, let me get this straight: you want to pick up tiny little packages from all over the country and bring them to Memphis in the middle of the night? And then sort them all and send them all out again by dawn?
Hes beaming at me and says, You got it!
I said, Fred, thats the dumbest, craziest idea Ive ever heard.
And he looks at me and says, Any dumber than selling chicken in a cardboard box?
He had me there. He might just as well have said, Any crazier than putting a man on the moon? Or waging war on poverty?
If youre looking for elements of greatness, heres one: youve got to have an attitude. JFK, Harlan Sanders and Fred Smith all had attitude: they came up with ideas everyone else would have thought were crazy, and ran with them.
I realized I had a real leader in Fred, and I joined up.
And the rest is history.
The story of FedEx: we changed the way the world does business. And its amazing that we succeeded, because we lost a million dollars a month for the first thirty-six months or so.
And this is before the days it was fashionable to lose that kind of money.
I was there for ten years or so, at which point it was time for a bunch of us original senior officers to move on. We were the pioneers who staked out the territory, now it was time for the settlers to come in and take over.
Now I go around the world with Tom Peters and Jack Welsh, Rudy Giuliani and Alvin Toffler, General Schwartzkopf and General Powell, talking to people about what it is to realize greatness.
Of all the things Ive done, Im loving this the most. Ive been very blessed with the career path Ive had; now I get to use that credibility, that résumé, as an opportunity to reach other people, especially young folks. I can help them recognize that we all have greatness within us. That greatness is an inside job.
Greatness is not something far away and only for the few. Greatness is right here, in each of us. And if you can make it by selling chicken in a cardboard box, then its pretty clear that were not talking the Hubble telescope here.
I dont think theres an entrepreneur in the world who hasnt
heard the story about Fred Smith submitting his business plan for FedEx as an
assignment in business school and getting a C minus. But thats part of
the fascination of your story: Theres something in you thats somehow
honing in on extraordinary opportunity before its obvious to everyone
Ill tell you the truth: I took the job Fred offered because I hated the bureaucracy of the corporate world. The bureaucracy of the corporate world means that youve got to do what youre told, and nobody has permission to be creative and to take action.
I believe the best way to be successful in any professional organization is to surround yourself with people who know more about their job than you ever will, and then get out of the way.
Sounds like youre defining entrepreneur.
You talk with any of these men I work with now, Jack Welsh or Giuliani or Toffler, theyll all say the same thing: the whole thing of greatnessgreat achievement, great accomplishment, great impact on the worldis no mystery whatsoever. Its so ridiculously simple. Its about people, and getting out of the way.
How do weand I mean the larger we, America, modern culture, humanity in generalhow do we so often miss it? How do we get trapped by mediocrity?
Its fear of failure. If youre afraid youre going to fail, youre going to fail. Heres what we need to do: transform the word fear to faith. Take that fear and turn it into faith.
If youre living in fear professionally, what safer place than a job
with a time clock and time card? You cant fail if youre just on
You walk into your office, sit down at your desk and you can hear the umpire go, Safe! Youve fooled them for another day.
After FedEx, how did you become part of this speakers circle?
I was working with a speakers bureau, and there was an opening in Buenos Aires. They decided to take a long shot and stick me in the program. My talk went so well that they kept booking me. I asked them, Listen, youve already got all these famous speakers. Why do you keep inviting me back?
They said, The others sell ticketsyou deliver the message.
Whats the message?
I just tell people the truth. I tell them, Dont give up, youre going to be fine. Im not a motivational speaker, Im a validational speaker.
Tell me the difference.
The motivational speaker will get you excited for a little while, then it wears off. I went to a meeting like this last week. Who was the speaker? I cant remember! But I have people calling me years after hearing me speak, telling me I changed their lives. Of course, I didnt do that: they did. I just validated their greatness.
A validational speaker is someone who will get you not just excited but believing in yourself. Its not that you believe in what he said, its that you believe what he told you that you had inside.
Most people think the best policy is never to expect much out of life. If you expect too much youll always be disappointed. Thats the worst thing you can tell anybody, that they might as well give up seeking.
In a networking business, that transfer of beliefwhat you call validationis
a huge part of the job description. How do we do that effectively?
In order to communicate effectively within our organizations, we need to create a culture based upon shared vision, shared information and shared responsibility. And these things only stay shared when you keep sharing them.
The biggest mistake you can make in communication is to assume its done. You know the old story of Maggie and PatMaggie says to Pat, You never tell me you love me. And Pat says, Maggie, I told you I loved you thirty years ago when we married. If I change my mind, youll be the first to know.
You cant assume these things. Communication is something you have to water and feed, like a plant. Why do you think so many people fail to build a downline that really works and generates revenue for the entire group? Because theres no effective communication.
Dont tell them how much money you made last month or how great the company is; validate them, what they can do. It has nothing to do with dollars and cents; its about people. Its about passion, attitudes and relationships.
What you call the Maguire absolutes.
Thats right. Fred Smith never addresses a group without first saying, Before I begin, Mr. Chairman, thank you so much for that warm introduction. And hell go on: On behalf of the thirty people at the company .only today its 300,000 instead of thirty!
He always points out that they are the company. The people in your downline organization are not manual laborers.
Its not simply about the number of calls youre willing to make. Its how you make people feel about themselves.
You look at the group as a shared enterprise, and apply that sense of belief
in yourself to the larger you.
Thats it. We each represent all of us. We need to have faith in ourselves, get in there and be proud of what we dobecause when we do something great, were like a rising tide that raises all the other ships, too.
Frank, whats your take on this maverick profession of ours that for
a few decades has been struggling to figure out what it wants to be when it
grows up? Where do you see network marketing going in the larger business world?
If you can create the kind of culture Ive been talking about, I think its potentially the greatest economic opportunity that has ever existed.
I believe Americas economic future, the health of its commerce and service, is rooted in effective network marketing. People are sick and tired of the deprivation of human dignity they experience at the hands of so many of todays corporations, which in the past ten years have scooped up all the quid for the guys on top, leaving behind some very talented people without a future.
I think its only a matter of time before people realize that the greatness they seek is within them. True greatness has nothing to do with Enron or MCI. Its all inside ourselves.
Network marketing is turning off the spotlight of working for a corporation, and turning on the floodlight of the greatness that we all have within us. We have unlimited potential. The only thing that gets in our way is our own underestimation of our full potential. Were too ready to accept other peoples expectations and opinions about how far we can go or how high we can fly. But thats all b.s.
I love what youre doing in network marketing, because youre creating an opportunity to affect the self-esteem of many, many people. Thats the essence of what youre doing: youre giving people hope and providing a launching pad for people to discover their own greatness. You are the future.