My Guidelines for Success

Speaker Name: George Shinn
Speaker Title: Owner
Speaker Company: Charlotte Hornets

George ShinnI have a very simple philosophy that I want to share with you. Also I want to share with you what I've done to help me succeed and accomplish my goals in life. I understand that most of you are pursuing careers in business and that you have dreams or goals or desires. I have some very simple steps that I'm sure most of you have heard since you were children. All I want to do is try to reinforce those simple steps that possibly your mom or your dad or someone close to you, gave you and I want to let you know how important these simple things are in accomplishing success.

I graduated from A.L. Brown High School in the small town of Kannapolis, North Carolina. This was many moons ago, but I don't like to brag about how long ago it was. The Charlotte Observer ran a story on me quite a few years ago, maybe eight or ten years ago, when I was chasing what they called that crazy dream to get a major league sports franchise in Charlotte. They had an investigative reporter who went to the high school that I attended to find out what kind of student I was and how much I had lied about what kind of athlete I was and things like that.

I remember the morning they ran the story. It was a Sunday morning front page story and my wife knew that they were going to write the story for that particular morning. She got up before I did to get the kids ready to go to church. When I got up and walked into the den, she had the newspaper out on the table. I knew she had been reading the story. So I said, "Honey, did they write the story about me today?" She said "Yes, they did, and I found out something about you that I didn't know." I said "You did? What was that?" And she said,"Your graduating rank in high school."

That's how they wrote the lead in the story--they put emphasis on my graduating rank, of all things. They said that George Shinn graduated from A.L. Brown High School in nineteen beep, and he was one of 232 graduates that year. And George, out of 232, (they kept writing that number) out of 232, had the distinct honor in a class of 232, of graduating 232nd. So my wife said, "I didn't know you were the last in your class, and what are you doing bragging about it?" I said, "I'm not ashamed of it; I had to struggle to get there." And she said, "Let's improve your image a little bit. Quit referring to yourself as being last in your class. From now on we are going to refer to you as the anchorman in your graduating class." That does sound better, so now I'm the anchorman in my graduating class.

I share that story with you because I know what it's like to struggle, I know what it's like to be counted out and I know what it's like to be told that you don't have a chance. Unfortunately, that's life and that happens. So we have to apply these little principles to help us rise above those problems and those circumstances. People, being human beings, don't mean to hurt you, but they just like to pull you down, in a lot of cases, to their level. You can rise above that by following good ethics, good principles and always remembering that it's important for you to obey the laws of God and also the laws of man.

Very simply, there are five points I want to share with you. Point number one is called Pride. Point number two is called Attitude. Point number three, Goals. Point number four, Mistakes and point number five, Faith.

Pride is something that we need, that we've got to have. You've got to have pride in things you are doing. You've got to have pride in this university. You've got to be proud of what you do. Whatever career you decide to pursue, you've got to take pride in it. And what it will enable you to do, first of all, is to be proud to be you. Think about it. You get in business and you try to sell your product, and for whatever reason you're not really proud of you. There's no way you can communicate successfully to another human being if you don't first have pride in yourself. So it's very important for you to be proud to be you. There have been billions of people who have walked the face of this earth. There never has been and there never will be another you. You are that unique. You are that special. When God made you, he made you special. And I've heard a lot of people say, "Gosh, I don't like the way I look, I don't like the way I am. I don't like this or that about me." That's crazy. You see, when God made you, he made you the way you are for a reason. He made us all in different shapes. And I can look around here and see that. He made us different sizes and he made us different colors. But he made us and he makes no mistakes. So, you are insulting him when you're not proud to be you. So, point number one, take pride in you and take pride in what you do. You make sure the career you pursue is one you take pride in, one that you will enjoy and love, and that you will follow all the laws of man and God to accomplish your goals.

Point number two is Attitude. How important it is to have the right attitude! You really have got to be thinking right. Someone once said to me, "George, evidently when you were in high school, you were not thinking right to graduate last in your class." Well, I was at least thinking enough to graduate. I made it. There were a lot that didn't make it. So, you see you've got to have the right attitude. And you know, it's almost as easy as flipping a light switch. I've met people in business, I've met people in church, I've met people all over the world that I just didn't want to be around. I mean their old jaws were down and they were upset about everything. They didn't like people, they didn't like things, they were just mad at the world. I don't like to be around people like that. It's important to have a right attitude, to think positive thoughts. If you don't think you can do something, no matter how hard it might be, you will never accomplish it unless you first believe that you can. You've got to think your way there.

The first year we got the Hornets, it was mayhem. It was crazy. People would almost kill for a ticket. People were scalping tickets for a thousand dollars out in the parking lot. I remember well the opening night. I went to the game and it was just terrific. We got our britches beat really good, but we were still an expansion team. I remember walking into the arena and I saw one seat empty. And there was a little old lady sitting next to that empty seat. And I kept waiting, thinking someone would walk by and sit down, but no one did. My curiosity was going crazy and I finally walked over to the lady and I said "Ma'am, I'm sorry, but is this your seat? This empty seat?" She said "Yes, as a matter of fact it is. It belongs to my husband." So I said "Why didn't he come?" And she said, "He's dead." I said, "Gosh, I'm sorry to hear that, but surely with the demands for this ticket, why didn't you give this seat to a friend or a relative?" She said "I tried to, but they all went to his funeral." Of course, she had the right enthusiasm, but I don't know if her attitude was right. My message to you is that you must have the right attitude, think positive thoughts and believe you're going to accomplish what you're setting out to accomplish.

Point number one, again, is be proud to be you and take pride in what you do. Number two is to think positive thoughts. Fill this mind, fill this machine here, this computer with positive things. You know the old story about if you don't put in something good, something good won't come out. So put something good in there, just like a computer and you will get good results.

Point number three is Goals. You've got to have goals; you've got to have a target. Think about it just for a minute. Let me paint a picture for you. Has anyone here ever been to a Hornets game by chance? If you come to a Hornets' game, you pay for your parking, you park, you come in, you take your ticket, find your seat, and you buy some popcorn or whatever you want to buy (and hopefully you'll buy some t-shirts, and hats, and all these other things). And then the Hornets come out on the floor and, all of a sudden, you look up and there is no basket. No hoops. And you think, this is crazy, how can they play? They don't have a way to score. How can they play the game? You know it's a meaningless battle with nothing to gain. To play the game you've got to have a way to score, you've got to have a target, and something to shoot for.

We all have to have goals. I don't care how young you are. I don't care how old you are. Write down what you want to do with your life. Don't say tomorrow I'm getting up at six or seven, or whatever time you're getting up, just because you've got to get up. Have a reason, have something to accomplish. Spell out something you want to do with your life and do it, day by day, with a long-range plan. That's how you'll accomplish your goal in life.

I try to work on being healthy and exercising and one thing I decided to do a couple of years ago was to run. My cholesterol got high. I was told by my wife that not only am I short, but now I'm getting fat and I've got to lose a little weight. And I was told the best way to do that was to get some running shoes and get my rear end out on the road and start running. So I started doing that. But I established a goal--a fairly aggressive goal for me. I decided I was going to run 1,200 miles a year. Now if you think about it, that's a lot of miles. It's a bunch of miles if you're going to do it in a month. You can imagine what it would be in a week, if you could live through it. But if you break it down on a monthly basis, it's 100 miles a month, and if you then break it down weekly, that's 25 miles a week. So with seven days a week, and you set aside five days of that week that you can run five miles, you can run 1,200 miles a year.

That's how you do anything in life. That's how you accomplish your goals. If you decided today that you were going to drive to Los Angeles, some of you would jump in the car and take off, but that wouldn't be the right way. You don't know for sure where you are going to end up. The right way to drive to Los Angeles would be to get a map and map out a plan. Decide where you are going to go and how long it will take you to get there. Plan where you will spend the night. Plan and allow how much fuel you're going to need for your car, how much money you're going to need for food and for spending the night or whatever. Plan how to get there safely and as quickly as possible. You see, it's important for you to plan your life. Your instructors are here to help you, but it's up to you to do the planning.

I've talked about pride, attitude, and goals. Point number four is Mistakes. And the reason I mention mistakes is because you will make mistakes. You see, we all make mistakes. The reason we do is because we're human. We all do dumb things. We do things we wish we could erase or change, but we can't. So go forward and try to learn from those mistakes and try to get better at what you do.

I love golf and I'll share a story with you that I learned from a golf teacher. He didn't help me play golf better; this was just a good point he got across to me. He videotaped my golf swing and put the tape in the VCR, turned it on, showed me the swing and said, "Quite frankly, George, you've got a terrible swing." And it hurt my feelings a little, but he made me feel better when he said "You know, George, the fact you have a terrible swing does not make you a terrible person. You've got a bad swing, but you're not a bad person." And that gave me hope, because we all make mistakes. But it doesn't make you a bad person.

I've done a lot of public speaking over the years, and I'll share a story with you about when I was on the West Coast. I had a speaking engagement there and this was early on in my career, way before the Hornets. I had written a couple of books at that time and loved to speak. I knew I could communicate with people and wanted to share with others. I was just starting a family then, and had my first child at that time; and he's 21 years old now. I see people here my age or a little bit older, who maybe have two or three kids and they'll understand. But while I was traveling, I was always looking for something for my kids.

This was my first child and it's amazing how these things work. I've got three kids and my wife and I were going through old photograph albums of our children within the last few months. We counted thirteen full albums with bunches of pages of pictures of child number one. We hunted for days to find thirteen pictures of child number three. It's really amazing. In my early career I was living in Raleigh and we bought a real nice high chair. We had planned on having four kids until my wife said we were going to only have three and that's what we ended up having.

We bought this high chair and it was oak; not one of those cheap plastic ones. We were going to let the other kids use it. And I remember when Chris would be eating and he'd drop his spoon on the floor. The first thing my wife would do would be to go over to the faucet and turn on the hot water. She would let the water get real hot so that you could see steam coming up from it. Then she'd get a clean rag and grab that spoon and wipe it off and then stick that spoon under the scalding hot water and burn all those boogers off that spoon. Then she'd wipe it off again and give it back to Chris, child number one. When child number two, Susan, was born, and she'd drop her spoon, the procedure changed a little bit. My wife eliminated the scalding part. She still wiped it off, and then she would give it back to child number two. Now when ole' Chad came along, Chad was number three, and if he dropped his spoon on the floor, she'd pick it up and right back in his mouth it would go. And he's the healthiest kid we've got.

Getting back to the story, I was out on the West Coast, and I was looking for a teddy bear for child number one. As I was walking through the airport concourse, a smell, this aroma, something from a bakery, lifted me up and I just followed it. And there was a little cubby hole, and all you entrepreneurs out there can take heed from what a great salesman this guy was. He was selling cookies. And these cookies had just been baked and he put them out near the door and he had specials. He had little bags of cookies on special that night, and he had a big fan in the back and it was blowing that smell out and you could see the suckers come walking by and turn around and walk right in that store. It was incredible. I was one of the suckers. You see I like cookies, and I love chocolate chip cookies, and they had a special on chocolate chip cookies. I decided I was going to get a dozen. I bought the cookies and I was going to go take my seat and enjoy my cookies, read my book, and wait on the airplane.

I also bought a Diet Coke, and you figure that one out. Somehow or another we think that Diet Coke is going to kill the calories in those cookies. Trust me, it doesn't. I had a Diet Coke and a dozen cookies and I walked over to this cute little vinyl, maybe plastic, chair. Attached to that chair was a table that had a little coaster where you could put your Diet Coke, and on the other end of that table was another chair. So I took my seat, got my book out, and put my cookies in the middle of the table.

All of a sudden, this very attractive, good-looking woman walked by and sat down in the seat next to me. We'll I'm red-blooded and I couldn't help noticing this good-looking woman. But I started reading my book and, all of a sudden, I saw her reach in my bag and get one of my cookies. And I couldn't believe it. You know, I bought a dozen, and I'm a planner. I had a goal and I was going to eat all twelve of those cookies. I knew there were only eleven left so I reached in and pulled the bag over to me to let her know they were my cookies. You know what she did? She reached over and pulled the bag over to the middle of the table and she got another cookie. I couldn't believe it. It was back and forth. You couldn't believe how fast we were eating these cookies. Finally, there was one cookie left. Guess who got it? She did. She got the last cookie, then picked up the bag, turned it upside down to shake the crumbs out to let me know there were no more cookies. And you know what she did? She broke the cookie in half and gave me half. Can you believe the audacity of this ugly old woman? I was shocked. I couldn't believe it!

All of a sudden I heard the last call for my plane. I didn't have time to go back and get another bag of cookies. I just couldn't believe this had happened to me. So I grabbed my briefcase, I grabbed my bags, and I started heading to the airplane saying, "Gosh, this is crazy, this is absolutely crazy." This woman did this to me, but I said to myself, "I'm a positive thinker, I'm a planner and I'm going to rise above this. I am going to get on the airplane and maybe this airplane will give me a decent meal that I can enjoy on the way home. I'm going to sit back, read my book, and enjoy this cross country trip." So I took my seat. I was in first class so I had a little room. I decided I was going to get my book out and as I looked in my briefcase, I found my bag of cookies. That's right. I had been eating her cookies.

I've been telling this story on that woman for twenty years. Can you imagine what she's been telling on me? We all do dumb things. We all make mistakes. We're human beings. But, you see, I can laugh about it. We've got to laugh at our mistakes, and put them behind us. Learn from your mistakes and move forward. Keep your eye on your target.

Glen Rice is probably one of the greatest shooters that's ever lived. He and Dell Curry are pure shooters in basketball. But can you imagine Glen Rice trying to hit the basket looking in another direction? He can't do it. He has to look at his goal. That's the only way. If his eyes aren't on the goal, he'll never hit it. Period. You are the same way. Keep your eye on your target, on your goal, no matter what kind of mistakes you make. You're human, you're going to fall, you're going to stumble, you're going to do dumb things, you're going to do things that will embarrass you, that you hate you did; but get stronger. Don't get bitter, get better. You can do that.

And the final point is very simple. It's called Faith. Now I'm going to preach to you for just a minute because to me that word is very broad and has many meanings. You need to have faith in this country and faith in this system, particularly if you want to be an entrepreneur, if you want to make money, and if you want to sell your product. If you want to go out and do your thing, you've got to believe in the system. It works. Trust me, it works. This is the only place, the only country in the world, that a guy that graduated last in his high school class could have a dream of owning a professional franchise and accomplish that goal. Only in America. Have faith in the system. It worked for me and it will work for you. I promise you. But you've got to have faith in it. You've got to believe in it. And you've got to support it. Right, Harlan? It will work for you.

And you've got to have faith in other human beings. You see, no matter how smart you are, no matter how rich you are, no matter how all the other things you are, the way you getup here when you're down here is not on your own abilities. Do you know how you get up here? Do you know how I got up here? I can't say it was because I was smarter than someone else. You know my graduating rank. I got up here because a lot of people lifted me up. And, you see, the more people you have lifting you, the higher you go. I didn't write that rule, someone long before me wrote it, but it works. It's the way you get reelected. The more people you have lifting you, the higher you go. It's the way I was able to accomplish the goal of getting the Hornets and being successful. Because the community believed me, trusted me, and they lifted me up and they supported me. That's the reason I've accomplished my goals, because a lot of good people held me up, higher than I ever dreamed I'd get.

I still got there based on these principles, on faith in this country and faith in other human beings. And realize and understand the fact that when you deal with people, people let you down. And unfortunately people that are dear to you are usually the ones that let you down. But don't compound the mistake by you letting them down. Rise above it and understand and know that you need other human beings to reach a successful life.

I mentioned this earlier about pride, but I'll also say this about faith. You've got to have faith in you. God created you special and it's important to you to believe in you. Have faith that you're not just another human being, you're special. You've got to believe that, you've got to tell yourself, "I'm special." You see, I believe I am. I mean, I'd like to be taller, but I can't change that. God made me the way I am for a reason. Sometimes my wife doesn't understand all those reasons, but I believe it. And I consider myself to be special. Not above you, just special. You must feel that way, you must feel special and have faith in yourself. You must have faith that when you start out on a task, you'll make that shot. If you've got your eyes on that target then you've got to believe, "I'm going to make it. I'm going to make it." You've got to keep telling yourself that.

I used to put notes on my refrigerator and I used to carry them in my car. I've listened to tapes reinforcing what I'm telling you. And it was the fuel that I needed, particularly when people were shooting me down and saying, "You'll never do it, it won't work, you're going to lose your rear end."

Something inside of me kept saying "Go for it. Go for it." And you've got to keep going for it, you've got to have faith and to me the bottom line on all successful living is very simple. You've got to have faith in God. Now I'm not going to preach to you on that one, but I'm sure you've heard that from your mom or dad or some loved ones. Let me tell you from my own experiences. It's critical. You're going to have some tough times in your life. Some of you young people may not have experienced losing a loved one through death or divorce or problems like that. But if you haven't, you will. It's coming. You're going to have friends who will come and put their arm around you and tell you they love you and that they're there for you and it means a lot. But there is nothing more important than having faith in God, particularly in those difficult times, because they will come. Trust me, they will come. Just be prepared.

That's the one thing that my mom taught me that I have always remembered. And she was right and I've learned this. With all the problems I've had in my life, with all the mistakes I've made, I've found that one thing is the strongest source of strength to all mankind, and that's when a mere human being like you will have the strength to get down on your knees and ask God for guidance.

You can accomplish your goals. You will if you apply these simple principles and put a little muscle behind your dreams. God bless you. Good luck to all of you. Thank you very much.