When the Odds Are Against You

It’s true that no one knows you better than youBeat_The_Odds know yourself. But how well do you really know your true nature? That probably depends on how much you’ve lived through. If life’s been relatively easy, you may have no idea what you’re made of.

Think about it. It’s easy to be kind, patient, and generous when everything is going well. But what if you lose your job or suffer a debilitating accident? Will you still be generous? Will you be kind to those who try to help you, or resentful because they aren’t going through the challenges you’re facing?

Helen Keller wrote in her journal, “Character cannot be revealed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

These are insightful words. I think it’s particularly important to note that she says that adversity inspires ambition. After all, if you never face adversity, what’s going to drive you to achieve your dream or fight for your cause? Chances are good you’ll leave the tough jobs for someone else to do, as you drift easily through your comfortable (and probably boring!) life.

If you have experienced challenges though, you’ve had a chance to test your limits. Adversity is what inspires you to find new ways to do things, to reevaluate why you’re doing them, and push through until you succeed. Plus, you develop a better understanding of who you really are.

Paul Newman also said something important about character: “A man with no enemies is a man with no character.” In other words, we shouldn’t just form our opinions of others based on who their friends are. We should also look at who and what they stand against.

For example, a few years ago, my friend started a small charity. He managed to set up a meeting with a fairly wealthy donor and flew to Edmonton to meet him. When they met, my friend sat down with the potential donor and explained his charity, what they were working towards, and what they stood for. The meeting was going great; the donor seemed excited and engaged.

But then he looked at my friend thoughtfully and asked, “In what ways have you and your organization been attacked and opposed?” My friend was happy to report that he had received nothing but support.

But the donor looked disappointed. He said, “Well, that’s too bad. If your charity really amounts to something, you’ll get your share of opposition. When that happens, come back, and I’ll be happy to donate to your cause.” With that, the meeting ended.

My friend flew home, a little confused. But the longer he thought about it, the more he understood the donor’s decision. Seasoned leaders understand that until we’ve met strong opposition, our character’s never truly been tested.

When was the last time you met adversity in your life? When it happened, what did you learn about yourself?

The Toughest Players

Recently, I’ve had a lot of conversations with friends about sports, debating our favorite teams, athletes, and games. And as the end of another great NHL season approaches, I figured what better time to comment on my favorite sport, and also the toughest sport out there: hockey.

Just imagine, for a second, football being played like hockey.

Put boards around the field, so instead of being tackled out of bounds safely on the soft ground, players would be falling into an unmovable reinforced wall. Instead of skidding off the field in a controlled manner, they’d be hitting solid boards.

Next, add in the speed. On skates, hockey players are moving three times faster than your average football player.

Instead of playing with an air-filled ball, a hard rubber puck—that has a maximum velocity of 170 km/h—will be used instead.

photo courtesy of canada.com

Lastly, give everyone a weapon. A hockey stick.

Football players wouldn’t seem so tough then, would they?

Now, let’s factor in playing time:

There are only 16 games in the NFL’s season, which is a stark comparison to the 82 games played in the NHL’s regular season.

Football games may be longer than hockey, but the playing time for an individual is lessened due to the alternating of offense and defense lines. In hockey, a starting forward typically plays one third of the fast-paced sixty-minute game. And in just one shift, a hockey player could endure two to three checks.

Though football games are filled with tackles and high-speed collisions and NFL football is my close second favorite sport, there’s no question that hockey players are still the toughest athletes out there, playing the toughest—and greatest—game out there.

As for baseball and soccer—well, these videos can speak for themselves:

Now, let the discussion begin! :)


so God made a leader

Hey everyone!

After receiving many requests for a video I recently presented in Moline, Illinois, I’ve decided it’s time to get back on the blogging horse!

The Ram Trucks 2013 Super Bowl commercial is an all-time favorite of mine, so we decided to emulate it in a Kaizen Leaders version.

Here’s the original:

Great, right? Now, here’s our version:

A special thanks to Lewis Thibault, Alicia Pilo, Scott Lacrosse, and Denis Leger for helping bring the video to life.

Until next time!


You are the people you associate with

Blog post 14Think about the top five people you’re spending time with. Are they successful? Committed to a cause? Do they toughen up when they need to? If this sounds like the people you’ve surrounded yourself with, chances are good that you’re going to be pretty successful yourself.

On the other hand, if those five people aren’t working towards anything, quit when the going gets tough, and have poor lifestyle habits, you probably do the same things.

My mother smoked for 42 years. Eventually, she got to the point where she needed a machine to help her breathe at night. When she reached that point, she decided it was time to quit. But amazingly, some of her friends weren’t supportive. They would offer her cigarettes and try to convince her to start smoking again. Thankfully, she resisted, but those friends were no help at all.

Fortunately, we get to choose the people we spend time with. For example, in the early days, when I was still building my business, one of the men I was working with called me up and asked if we could talk. We met in person, and he told me that he wanted to take a break from the business. As I questioned him, I realized that this “break” was actually a subtle way of quitting. So I responded with, “Ah, man, we were doing so well. I was really relating to you, we were getting along really well, and I was enjoying my time with you. We were kickin’ butt. We were on a path to really growing our business, and I thought you’d become a leader in our company. And now you want to quit. It’s really sad.”

Harsh, right? Well, I was probably a little harder on him than I should have been, but it was really important to me to make sure I was surrounded by successful, likeminded people. After all, one of the pillars of my system is knowing that there’s only one way to turn a loser into a winner. It has nothing to do with giving them money and opportunity. It’s all about changing the way they think.

That was a tough conversation, but there was an important principle I needed to pass on. If you spend time with people who are willing to give up when they get tired, or when things get tough, their attitude will influence you. Having courage means loving yourself enough to say, “I will not let my goals be hindered by people who aren’t willing to work to achieve theirs.”

It’s possible that my former associate did have a good reason for taking a break–maybe he wanted to play baseball to strengthen his relationship with his son. If so, that’s wonderful. But we need to remember: we can’t achieve our goals if we’re constantly falling back on excuses.

Take a few minutes to think. Are you letting excuses stop you from achieving your goals? If so, it’s time to reconnect with your reason for pursuing that cause in the first place.

Learn from experience

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Blog post 13When you’re trying to achieve something, do you reach out to someone who’s done it before? Or do you tend to go it alone?

I believe that when you’re trying to reach a goal, listening to the right mentors can make a huge difference. When I was in the military, I constantly listened to the stories of people who had more experience than me. Even when those stories didn’t seem relevant to anything I was going through at the time, I’d often find that I’d be able to apply pieces of what I’d learned later on. After all, there’s no substitute for experience, but listening to the people who already have it is a pretty good alternative.

One of my mentors, Orrin Woodward, used to tell me that it’s important for people to read, listen, and associate. We need to learn from our mentors, take it all in, and apply it to their lives. Because when we do this, we’re building an inventory of knowledge, which gives us something to draw on when things get tough. And Orrin didn’t just suggest I start reading–he set an example. Every time I see him, he makes new recommendations. And I’ve done everything I can to read the books he suggests. Sometimes I even read them more than once, knowing that I’ll learn more the second time around.

Reading books by leaders in your field is also important to your success. And when I say “reading”, I don’t necessarily mean that you have to pick up a book. You can also listen to audiobooks. In fact, that’s my preferred method of reading; whether I’m in my truck or my office, I’m constantly listening to something. Even when I’m working on something else, the CDs are still on in the background, and my mind is still absorbing plenty of new information. More than once, I’ve heard one of those great ideas come out of my mouth and I’ve found myself wondering, “where did that come from?”

Taking in this kind of advice can set you apart from the crowd when it comes to building your business. For example, a few years ago, I was mentoring a friend who had been experiencing some amazing success. I told him he should start reading. He resisted, forgetting that business is competitive.

Unfortunately, his competition was reading. And my friend started losing business to that other company. Why? Because reading not only gave the other business leader an edge, it also gave him access to the experience of other successful business owners. That mistake ended up setting my friend back by three or four years.

Remember a couple of posts ago, when I mentioned that if you start making the right choices on a regular basis, it’ll be easier to do it when things get hard? Reading and spending time with the right mentors is just a couple of those “right things” that will help you on your way.

Building Courage

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blog post 12When I was in training, our instructors would have us run for hours. This was no light jog; it was a sweaty, gasping-for-air marathon. They’d watch until they saw us begin to struggle. But did they let us stop? Not a chance. They’d push us to run through our exhaustion and draw from energy stores we didn’t even know we had.

This might seem excessive to someone without military experience, but there was an important reason for this exercise; it built courage. It prepared us for that inevitable moment when we’d have to make a tough choice between satisfying our bodies’ needs (in this case, taking a much-needed rest) and doing the right thing (trusting that our instructors had our best interests at heart and following through with the training).

Wondering what this has to do with courage? Imagine you’re on a ship. You’ve been working hard all day, performing tough physical tasks in harsh conditions. You’re exhausted. Your muscles are aching and you’ve strained your back. You’re on your way to bed when someone shouts the words that you never want to hear at sea: “Man overboard!”

What do you do? There isn’t much time, so you need to make a snap decision. Do you cross your fingers and hope that someone else steps in and fishes him out? Or do you push past the fatigue and the screaming muscles and dive in after him?

The running exercise was designed to help build both the courage and the stamina to go after that person. Our instructors wanted to know that if someone needed us, we’d find the courage to help, even after we’d reached our limit.

Would you have ignored the shouts, leaving that man to someone who was able to conquer their exhaustion? If so, I’ve got good news for you: courage is a habit that you can develop. Start making the right choice on a regular basis, and when the going gets tough, you’ll be more likely to find the courage to do the right thing. Think about it. If you start cutting corners on the little things, how are you going to respond when real courage is required?

When I was at one of my first big business meetings, I remember being astonished by all the people who weren’t taking notes. After all, how would they remember what they had learned? Building a business is tough even with advice—I couldn’t understand why would they make it harder on themselves by failing to preserve that important knowledge.

The tough questions

The tough questions

Claude Hamilton Tough QuestionsDuring my talks, I like to ask my audience a few tough questions. These questions are difficult for many people, but the funny thing is, the people who would rather avoid these questions are usually the ones who need to think about them the most.

The tough questions:

  • Are you doing a good job? For your country, your family, your friends, and your career?
  • If you’re building a business, are you doing it for money? Or are you chasing a dream or fighting for a cause?
  • Do you believe so strongly in your life’s work that you’ve cried over it?
  • Have you felt the thrill of making a real difference in a part of your world?
  • Does your cause inspire you to be bigger, better, and stronger?
  • Are you willing to fight for your cause?


Although these questions can be uncomfortable, the answers will tell you if your life is on the right track. And if it’s not, your responses will put you on the path that your life is meant to take.

There’s a second way to know if you’ve veered off your life’s path, and it has to do with attitude. If you find that you’re spending a lot of time consciously adjusting your attitude, chances are good you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere. Because if you’re truly heading in the right direction, you’ll be so excited, so passionate about your cause, that you won’t need to make adjustments—you’ll naturally make the right choices for the right reasons because you’ll be able to visualize your goal.

Some of us find our life’s purpose early on, but for others, finding that cause takes a lifetime. If you haven’t found your purpose yet, keep your attitude in check, do the right thing when you make your decisions, and keep thinking about your dreams. Eventually, something will click, your attitude will fall naturally into place, and you’ll know that you’ve found your cause.

It’s important to remember that even if you’ve found your life’s purpose, you’ll probably still spend some time in the Dissatisfaction stage, the place where most people give up because they think it’s just too hard to achieve their dreams. But if you’re tempted to throw in the towel, remember that everyone has something unique to offer and, if you’ve got the right attitude, your best efforts will make a big difference for others—your family, your friends, your colleagues, maybe even people you’ll never meet.

Want your dream life? Find the cause that you’d work towards for free, simply because you feel driven and passionate about it. I guarantee that if you find your purpose, you’ll also discover all the happiness and joy that your life has to offer. And remember, the first step is keeping a positive attitude.

There’s one sentence in my book that sums up today’s post perfectly, so I’ll leave you with this: “You will never, ever regret working your hardest for the thing you care about the most.”

Perspective is everything

Perspective is everything blog post 10

Perspective is everything blog post 10One of my military leaders was a great storyteller. At the time, I was spending a lot of nights in a helicopter with a team of Americans. Some of those nights were long ones, so our leader helped us pass the time by talking about our missions, and why we were doing them. Those talks had the potential to be pretty boring, but his stories had a way of giving me goosebumps. He made every mission feel significant, even if we were doing something as simple as taking pictures. In fact, his words were so inspiring, I felt like even if I weren’t being paid, I would still be up there, doing whatever we were doing that night.

Why did this man evoke so much commitment and loyalty? Because he showed us that we had a cause. By the time he’d finished talking, we already felt like we were making a difference, just by sitting in that helicopter. And our leader was right—what we were doing did matter, but we didn’t realize how much until he found the words to express it.

After my perspective changed, my attitude improved almost automatically. Now that I had a cause I understood, I had something to work towards. I felt committed to accomplishing a task that would better the world, and that was more motivational than anything else could have been.

Just think about it. In World War II, were soldiers fighting to earn money? Not a chance. They were fighting for freedom, a greater cause that provoked passion, commitment and a sense of duty.

I’ve carried that lesson with me as I worked to build my business. Even though some days were incredibly tough, I was working towards a cause that kept me motivated. And my cause wasn’t money, either. More than anything, I wanted to give my wife a way to stay home. Most mornings, she was in tears as she left for work, in anticipation of being mistreated by her co-workers. So there was nothing more important to me than helping her out of that situation.

Although, realistically, I needed money for her to stay home, I wasn’t visualizing dollar signs when I went to meetings every day. I was focused on my cause—giving our family a way to live, grow and learn from each other.

Once I found my cause, my work wasn’t so hard anymore. I started having fun, because I was able to picturing the life I was working for. The more I pictured it, the more excited I got. And the more excited I got, the harder I worked to achieve my goals. Eventually, even the rejections got easier. I began to focus my efforts on helping others, and each small success brought me a sense of excitement and achievement that kept me going until I was able to help someone else. And now? I’ve achieved that family-oriented lifestyle I was working so hard for. And it’s all because I found my cause. What’s yours?

Caring When It Counts and Your Positive Attitude

Claude Hamilton blog

Claude Hamilton blogLast week I wrote about a business rejection that made a big impact on me— because it made me worry about the future of my business and whether or not I had the strength to keep going when the going got tough. But there was another rejection that really bothered me, in an entirely different way. It was an experience that I may never forget, and I wrote about it in Toughen Up.

This rejection happened during those early days of my business, when I was constantly busy setting up meetings, making connections and just generally working hard to get my business off the ground. I was meeting a man at his home to talk about what my business had to offer. I pulled up into his driveway, next to a car with a safety rejection sticker plastered on the window. I glanced up towards the house and saw a big satellite dish in the yard, and flickering images from a large TV in the living room window.

As I walked towards the door, I began to make connections in my mind:

  1. The owner of the vehicle obviously couldn’t afford to fix whatever problem had warranted the reject sticker—or else they would have had it done at the garage. As a result, the car couldn’t be used.
  2. I’ve noticed a strange trend over the past few years. The bigger investment people make in their TV, the less money they seem to have. This man had made a pretty significant investment.

These two conclusions led me to make an assumption—this man needed to earn more money. Why else wouldn’t he fix his car? I wanted to help. I was welcomed into the home, and I spent some time talking with the man and his wife about what I had to offer.

Now, rejection is one thing, but nothing could have prepared me for his final response. He said, very matter-of-factly, “I don’t think there’s anything I want bad enough to do more work for.” I was floored. I wanted to blurt out, “what about the brakes on your wife’s car?” but I held my tongue and glanced over at his wife. When those words came out of his mouth, she paled. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more helpless look than I saw on her face that day. She was about eight months pregnant and she was still getting up every day and going to work. That woman was tough.

But despite her positive attitude, her spouse’s attitude—which featured a serious lack of self-discipline and focus—had caused her to lose her personal freedom. And although she was trying to push through, doing what she could for the family, the toll she was paying was written on her face that day.

I left the home feeling sad for the family. There was nothing I could do to help someone who didn’t want to work, and couldn’t recognize the needs of his family. And unless his attitude changed, his family’s situation would never improve.

I wanted to tell this story because it illustrates how critical it is to have a positive attitude. But even more than that, I wanted to express the kind of impact a negative attitude may have on your loved ones.