“In Search of Heroes”
Ralph Zuranski Interviews Perry Marshall
This interview begins with a very brief business introduction but quickly moves on to Perry’s personal side, his convictions and philosophy of life. Departing from the usual business banter, Ralph asks very personal questions about faith and ethics; success, freedom, social responsibility and values. Perry talks candidly about his father’s death, business roles, travels in developing countries, racism, and views on spirituality. Read the transcript here, or listen to or download in MP3 (1 hour 40 minutes total).
Ralph: Hi. This is Ralph Zuranski. I’m speaking with Perry Marshall. He is considered an expert on Google AdWords, of working with Google and generating income for his clients.
He has written many courses to teach people how to use the same techniques that he uses for minimizing the amount of investments that people make in pay per click advertisements and maximize the gain. How are you doing today, Perry?
Perry: I’m doing great. It’s good to be on.
Ralph: The reason I chose you to be one of the heroes is your desire to provide quality service and products above and beyond the call of duty. First, maybe you could explain a little more in detail what it is that you do in your business.
Perry: In the bigger picture I’m a direct marketer. I help people sell at a distance, sell through media. That’s become more and more and more important compared to decades ago or a century ago.
Before telephone and television and radio and everything, all selling had to be done face to face. Before the post office it had to be hand delivered at best.
But technology has brought about a whole completely different way of people doing business with each other. Of course now you can stick up a web site and anybody in the world can access it.
With tools like Google you can pay them $5 and start advertising on their Adwords program and people can find out about it almost instantly almost anywhere in the world. The communication tools that we have now are so incredibly powerful it’s really bewildering to people.
There are two aspects to that. One is more of the technical aspect which is constantly changing but is usually something you can hire somebody to do for you for not a huge amount of money.
But the other aspect of it is how do you actually communicate this to people? How do you persuade people?
When I left my job four years ago I started consulting with sales people, for the most part, on how to not do cold calls any more. I told them how to advertise in such a way that people come to them instead of them chasing the customer.
Then later that year Google AdWords came out and I became intrigued with it really quickly. About a year later I started publishing courses on it.
But basically AdWords is Google’s advertising system. It’s the right side of a page on a Google search where you see the little sponsored listings.
Those ads are triggered by keywords. An advertiser pays when a person clicks. That became a fascinating microcosm and it’s turned into a very, very important thing on the entire internet.
I don’t remember the exact numbers but it’s a good healthy double”digit percentage of all internet advertising. It’s one of those things where you can lose your shirt if you don’t know what you are doing or you can have enormous leverage if you do.
It’s an exciting time to be alive.
Ralph: I was particularly impressed with just your quality and your style and your integrity. I was curious what was your definition of heroism?
Perry: I guess it’s doing the right thing regardless of the consequences. That suggests that there are principles that are above and beyond the immediate concerns of safety or expediency.
Usually the word “hero” refers to someone who saved someone’s life. Such as the men at Pearl Harbor who helped others get out of the boat and got stuck there and drowned. That is what heroism is.
In today’s business I think there is a very pervasive culture in the marketing world that says that whatever B.S. you have to make up to get the transaction done is okay. And even a more subtle belief that truth itself is a very relative thing. “˜What is true for you is not true for me.”™
So what you end up with is, you have a lot of people who really don’t have any appreciation for the Golden Rule and don’t really treat customers the way they would want to be treated. It makes people cynical and untrusting.
I think the biggest thing that anybody in the marketing profession deals with is cynicism and distrust.
We have all this stuff about Deep Throat in the news today, right? 30 years ago Richard Nixon lied to the American public and everybody was just shocked. Now you have Bill Clinton lying about the Lewinsky thing.
You have the Bush administration obviously fabricating things to get us into the Iraqi war. I’m not going to get into the politics of any of this. But nobody is particularly shocked or surprised today if somebody is lying to them.
So it creates this cynicism inflation in the world that becomes harder and harder to overcome. If you make things up and couch them in very believable language in order to overcome somebody’s skepticism, then when they find out the truth, all you have done is you have contributed to cynicism inflation. You have made it harder for them to believe anything you say later.
On the other hand, if you are exceptionally truthful about things then your customers over time will discover what is true of you and they will believe you when they don’t believe others. That’s kind of a long answer to a short question but I think it is important.
It’s interesting you are asking me all this stuff because these topics rarely come up. Everybody wants to talk about tricks and techniques and clever ways of saying things and clever ways of getting internet traffic.
But let’s talk about some really simple things here. That’s what we are talking about today.
Ralph: Yes, it’s important to know who people are and what they actually believe. That’s one of the reasons for the heroes program, the people that I’m interviewing.
People can learn a great deal when you hear the people who are trying to market this stuff answer questions that have real depth and meaning. So the next question I want to ask you is did you ever create a secret hero in your mind that helped you deal with life’s difficulties?
Perry: That’s a great question. It triggers all kinds of possible answers. I think everybody has what might be called alter egos. People you envision in your mind. Like what would this guy do, or what would that lady do, or whatever.
I think in the midst of all this chaos it’s kind of interesting that people wear a little armband that says, “WWJD, what would Jesus do.” I think the truth be told the average person doesn’t have a huge amount of knowledge about Jesus.
But even people who have only a passing familiarity with Jesus somehow intuitively know that he was a guy who would not advocate violence but is someone who would advocate honesty. He is someone who would be a hero and would sacrifice the immediate safety or convenience for a larger purpose.
That is really what the whole Jesus story is about. Certainly for me, Jesus is in the forefront when I think about things like that.
There are other things, too. I was thinking not too long ago about my parents. My dad died almost 20 years ago.
But when I was a teenager my parents went through a horrendous period in their marriage. My mom had a psychiatric disorder and it caused her to behave very strangely.
Anybody who has had a person with a psychiatric problem living at home would relate to this. It can be very weird and very stressful.
I remember me and my brother and sister having a little pow”wow with my dad. We told him we thought he should just leave her and her silly perception of what is going on and go have a real life.
He steadfastly refused to do that. He said, “No, I stood up in front of God and a whole bunch of people and said I would stick with her till death do us part and that is exactly what I am going to do. Because when you make a promise, you keep it.”
When things like that happen at the time it is like, “Okay, I guess Mom and Dad are going to grind through this.”
But later, when I got into college, I majored in Electrical Engineering. It didn’t take too long to see that I was on a very steep learning curve. The first couple of years the freshmen and sophomore classes were weed”out classes where 40″60% of the class would fail.
You would stay up all night just to get a C, not to mention a B or an A. And on top of that, it was really rudimentary material like Calculus and all that.
I didn’t really find much of it particularly interesting, either. It didn’t get interesting until my junior and senior year. It was just a big grind and I wanted to quit.
But for some reason I didn’t. There was some part of me that would not give me permission to go do something easier. Because I knew deep down that I really belonged there.
I really needed to master the stuff and get the hard stuff out of the way to do the fun stuff later. But you had to master the basics before you could do the more creative things.
I think my dad’s persistence in the face of adversity probably had a lot to do with me sticking it through. And today I’m very glad.
What I was thinking at the time when I was in college was I would much rather be majoring in English or something. That stuff came a lot easier to me than the math and the science did.
I was very interested in the math and science. I had some very specific reasons why I was there. But it just did not come as naturally to me as writing papers, which I thought was a lot more fun.
But I stuck with it. Today I don’t spend most of my time doing math problems. I spend most of my time writing copy and being a communicator and really operating in my talent zone.
But one of the reasons that I’m good at what I do as an internet marketer is I developed the analytical side. I’m very glad today that I ground through all that engineering stuff.
I can pick up a physics journal or a math book or something like that and understand it. I understand what it’s talking about. Some of my marketing projects get me into more advanced mathematics like the Taguchi Method and stuff like that.
It’s really nice when you have something under your belt and you have mastered it. You don’t use it every day, but when you do need to use it it’s there.
In business, it differentiates me from others who do what I do who maybe don’t have that analytical capacity.
Again, another long answer to a short question but I think at the root of everybody’s life is certain principles and values that you either believe in or don’t believe in. Things that you subscribe to or don’t.
They definitely affect everything else that you do. But most people never directly see those. And most people never ask about them or talk about them but they are there.
Ralph: I agree. Your dad gave you a great example of what true commitment and being a person of your word. That is so critical to have any integrity in the businesses that you are involved in.
Their integrity seems to be one of the major considerations that I had when I chose people who I thought were heroes. Do you believe there are certain principles that you believe people should be willing to sacrifice their lives for?
Perry: Yes, I do. It’s very interesting you would ask me that question. Just last night my wife and I went to a play. I think it was called “Big Time.” I’m sure it’s kind of obscure.
It was about this guy, Paul, who works on Wall Street. He has the big office and works in the big company. The world bends to his will because he is wealthy and powerful. He’s a young, successful guy.
All the characters in the play are in this category. They are all living this kind of shallow existence and they’re all kind of petty.
Paul has these fights with his girlfriend that highlight his pettiness. If he doesn’t get his way he tells her that she is a loser.
She decides that she is not sure about him and tells him that. He bursts out in this tirade about what a loser she is and if she wasn’t such a loser she would realize how important he is and how much he is helping her.
This is proof positive that she shouldn’t be with this guy. And proof positive that he doesn’t love her at all, because if you love someone you don’t call them a loser and treat them that way.
In this story Paul has dealings with a Minister of Finance from somewhere in South America, Venezuela I think. And the country is in turmoil. It’s a big deal and there is a lot of money involved.
The implication is that this is all tainted money that was probably stolen from poor people and it is all corrupt government slush fund. But of course Paul doesn’t really care about that.
So he goes down to Venezuela. He goes down there to meet with this guy and in the middle of this meeting the government caves in. One of the rebels who helped overthrow the government kidnaps Paul.
So Paul is in this room with the kidnapper who is wearing this military uniform and is pacing back and forth. So now you have this young business man dude in a shirt and tie, locked in a concrete cell in Venezuela.
It turns out the guy who kidnapped him went to school in the U.S. and is probably a lot smarter and more educated than most people would assume. This rebel had his reasons for being part of a group that overthrew the government. The government was corrupt and was oppressing people. The rebel says to Paul, “I’m fighting for freedom. I’m fighting for what I believe is right and I’m willing to die for it.
“Is there anything you are willing to die for?”
Paul just stares back at him like he is speaking gibberish. So he repeats, “Is there anything you are willing to die for?”
Paul came down there to do a financial deal, right? So what is his life all about?
So he asks again, “I said, is there anything you would be willing to die for?” And Paul says, “No.”
That line was the punchline of the whole story. That if there wasn’t anything you would be willing to die for, if there wasn’t anything you would sacrifice for, it’s because you believe that you are the center of the universe. And everything is supposed to revolve around you.
That’s why everyone in this play acts like the world revolves around them, which is why no one can get along with each other because there is no sense of higher purpose. There is no sense of honor. There is no sense of decency. There is just me, me, me, me, me.
The only reason we live in a free country is because people paid with their lives believing that the freedom of their children, the future of their country, was more important than they themselves were.
Ralph: That is so true. I think that a lot of people don’t ever get to that point where they think of what would they die for. Or even more importantly, what would they live for? Not until they have experienced the lowest point in their life.
What was the lowest point in your life and how did you change your life and how did you change your life to win a victory over those obstacles?
Perry: That’s a good question. Everybody has different hard spots in their life. They are always hard for different reasons and lots of times you can’t compare one to the other.
My dad died when I was 17. There was a three year process of fighting cancer and the emotional roller coaster of “Dad is going to be okay, Dad’s not going to be okay, Dad’s going to be okay” and all that.
Most people, by the time they are well into adulthood have probably experienced that with somebody. I remember being really upset about that.
I remember having this conversation with my mom where I said, “Well, I guess God gave me a dad and if God is going to take my dad away then God can do that.”
Later on ” it would have been about a month after my dad died ” I was a senior in high school and I was taking this class. We had this interesting assignment to write a philosophy of life. By virtue of having been through the wringer with this I had given those questions a lot more thought than probably most kids do at that age.
I hope I remember this correctly “I wrote down three things and I turned this in. I said, “Nothing is worth living for unless it’s worth dying for, because to live for something is to spend time which you can not get back in pursuit of it.” That was the first one.
I didn’t make up any of this stuff myself. I got it all from other people. The second one was “The difficult things you deal with in life will make you a stronger, better person, but only if you let them.”
The third one I think comes from the Westminster Confession. It says, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
That was my philosophy of life at age 17. And I don’t think I would change that now. I think that was pretty good. But being forced to confront a lot of hard issues is, I think, the only way you really figure out what is important and what is not.
Ralph: So you really think that it’s important to have a positive view of setbacks, misfortunes and mistakes?
Perry: It’s very important. It’s one of these deals where you can have it either way.
Which way do you want it? Do you want to look at the tragedy in your life like life sucks and then you die. That it’s all meaningless?
There are a lot of people that do. They look at life exactly that way. And they actually resent people who don’t.
There’s a saying that goes something like this: “People who dance are considered crazy by those who can’t hear the music.” And I think it’s really like that.
Is tragedy just tragedy? Is that all that it is? Or is there music somewhere, is there purpose going on somewhere?
This really gets into the deepest aspect of what your philosophy of life really is. These are all very religious questions. I think we have this sort of taboo in Western society that you aren’t really supposed to discuss that kind of stuff.
But the fact is, everybody is going to have to wrestle with it some time or other. And when they do, they are either going to be equipped to deal with it because they have been discussing it, or it’s going to blind”side them.
Then they are going to be forced into this new train of thought that they never learned about in school and nobody was supposed to talk about in polite company.
They end up going through it alone. And doesn’t that make a person all the more cynical if they think that life sucks and then you die?
Ralph: Do you think that it is important to have a dream or vision that sets the course of your life?
Perry: Absolutely. When you talk about dreams and visions and stuff sometimes I think you can trivialize it.
For example, “What’s your dream?” “My dream is to drive a Mercedes.”
Well, I hope your dream for your life is bigger than that. And I don’t mean more expensive, either. I mean more substantive.
But even in the mundane sense it always helps if you know what you are working for. When I was a kid it always helped if I knew why I was doing the paper route. It was never enough to just think that I was saving up some money for some day.
Ralph: Do you think it takes courage to pursue new ideas? It seems that in everybody’s life, other people are comfortable with the way that you are and if you start changing, they are either going to have to reject you or they have to change also.
Perry: I think courage is the king of all virtues. If you asked, “What are the greatest virtues?” you could talk about love and honor and trust and all that.
But none of those things really have any dimension to them unless you have the courage to pursue them. It always takes courage to do it. You are always at odds with most of the rest of the world when you embrace virtue.
It’s always easier to fudge a little bit. It’s always easier to make it up. I’m certainly not saying that I’m perfect in those regards.
But what I can be is aware. Or if somebody calls it to my attention that I said I would do something but never did, well then I need to agree and fix that.
Ralph: One thing that everybody experiences is doubts and fears. They fear injury, failure, rejection, and some even fear success. How do you overcome your fears?
Perry: When I feel trepidation about something I’m planning to do it’s usually because it is important. You usually don’t feel fear about doing trivial things. Some people don’t even feel fear about getting on a motorcycle and going 100 miles an hour.
I know a lady who got in a very compromising sexual situation with somebody ” a family member actually. It happened years ago and it was just kind of sitting there, boiling under the surface.
Nobody knew about it. She had to deal with this all the time but it was too taboo to really bring up.
Finally she was talking to my wife and I about this and we told her that she needed to talk to the other person about it and confront them about what happened. This is something you would categorize as abusive, she being the victim.
She was afraid of wrecking the guy’s life. And if you think about it there is something honorable about that, because even though the other person had hurt her very deeply, she was still concerned for his well”being.
But we told her that she simply could not keep trying to sweep this under the rug. We told her it would not get better until she dealt with it.
Well, eventually she did, and it took an enormous amount of courage to bring it up. But that opened the door to making the situation something they could deal with and begin to solve the problem.
Things like that are really scary. But again, the fact that it is scary tells you that it needs to be done.
A lot of times it’s things that are a whole lot less onerous than that. It takes courage to take out a small business loan and hang out your shingle. You know that the odds are against you and that you could fail.
One of the things that I learned in my 20’s was that if I fail, if I get rejection, if people say no, if they don’t take me up on my proposal, or if I get an F class and have to take it over, guess what? It’s not the end of the world.
Life did not come to a screeching halt when I flunked this test. Life did not grind to a screeching halt when I flunked the class and I had to take it over. And it didn’t make me a bad person. It just means that I didn’t make it that time.
Successful people of any stripe learn to look at failure as a corrective force in their life. That it’s something that kind of shakes the slag and the garbage off of you. It weeds out the trivial stuff and focuses you on what is important and eventually you figure out the formula.
Ralph: It’s interesting that you would say that and that you would tell that story about that lady. There is always the question, as far as the importance of forgiveness, of those who offend and oppose us. And on the opposite side of that there is accountability of people who do offend us.
Where do you think is the balance between having people be accountable for the bad things that they do or the wrong things and actually forgiving them for the things that they did to you personally?
Perry: That is a really great question. I think it’s more important than it might sound on the surface because everyone of us has people that we have forgiveness issues with.
Each of us has done things to people that were wrong and that we need to be forgiven for. But that doesn’t really help very much until we realize that is the case.
You can’t just live in denial thinking you have gone your whole life without hurting anybody or doing anybody wrong. All of us have hurt others.
On the other side all of us have little grudges, or sometimes big grudges, that we hold against other people. I don’t think you can be healthy while walking around with those things. I think it’s impossible.
Everybody talks about how if you eat peanut butter and the peanuts had insecticide on them or something, are you going to get cancer? Does this cause cancer, does that cause cancer?
I would be willing to bet you every penny I have that things like anger and grudges and stuff like that cause more diseases and mental health problems than any of those other things.
I have a friend who is a minister. He likes to say there are a lot of churches where if they caught the pastor smoking they would throw him out in a heartbeat.
But if that same minister bickers with people and fights with people and spreads rumors about people and has these little fiefdoms and wars for 30 years, they never throw him out for that. I mean, which is worse?
I’d rather live with a smoker who is at peace with himself than a non”smoker who is contentious. So there are all these things that are surface level. But everybody has to deal with that stuff.
If you ask, “Is there anybody you need to forgive?” All of us can think of somebody that we need to forgive that we only partially did or maybe didn’t at all. Maybe we’re still swearing that we are going to get even with them.
You just have to let go with that. I interviewed one of my customers and he told a very interesting story.
He worked at some company, one of his vendors. He kind of knew this guy who worked there, but not very well. One day that guy just disappeared.
It turns out what actually happened is he molested a child or something like that and was put in jail. He was in jail for three years and then they let him out.
So now the guy has a probation officer and he has this thing around his leg. He has to come to the office and plug it in.
The thing around his leg lets the probation officer know where this guy is 24/7. He has 20 minutes to get home and plug the thing in.
He has maybe 1 Â½ hours on Saturday to go to the bank and go grocery shopping and then he has to be home to plug it in again, just like that.
So he comes to see John one day and tells him his story. He says, “John, I knew you way back when. I was working at this company and then I got in trouble. I lost my family, my wife divorced me, I lost my job, I went to jail, and my entire life fell apart.
“John, would you give me a job?”
Well John gave him a job. Later, John ends up hiring another one like this, too. Now he has two former sex offenders working at his company.
John was raving about both of these guys because they always show up on time every single day. They work very hard. He doesn’t have to pay them as much as he pays other people because they are thankful to have any job at all.
They are so appreciative of John for giving them a chance. If John gives them a problem to solve they figure out how to solve it. They are great employees.
This is a strategy for finding an employee. Now obviously John does not run a daycare center. There aren’t any kids there so that’s not an issue. But this was a strategy for getting a good employee, and we all know that really good employees are very hard to find.
So I interviewed John and John told this whole story on one of my CD’s that went out to my subscribers. Then I got this angry email from this guy that says, “I can’t believe you are advocating that we take these criminals and give them jobs.”
I said, “I can only give you my opinion. First of all, the information you get from me is a cafeteria. You can take it or leave it. Not every idea applies to you.”
I told him, here’s how I look at this: Those two guys went to jail and as far as society is concerned, these men have paid the price they are supposed to pay. These men are still on probation.
The Lord’s Prayer says “Forgive us our sins as we forgive others who sin against us.” I told him that if a person has done their penance to society and they want to be forgiven, then as a Christian, my obligation is to forgive them.
It doesn’t mean that I have them run my daycare or that I do anything stupid like that. But it’s a two”sided coin. All of us have bones in our closet. We all have things that we are ashamed of.
We all hope that other people will give us some slack. So we have to give other people slack, too. It doesn’t mean you are to be stupid.
I had a tenant steal from me. So we evicted her. She was sorry and she cried and apologized. We told her that we forgive her, but that she needs to find another place to live.
I did not think it was appropriate to not have a consequence. She needed to learn.
After all, it took us awhile to figure it out. It had become a pattern, which almost always there is. There is never just one cockroach.
Just because you forgive somebody doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences. I did forgive her and I’m not angry at her.
She never even paid us back, but I’m not going to go after her. That’s just going to be unnecessary time and money and headache.
Ralph: It’s easy to forgive somebody if they have offended us or stolen from us, but the harder part is to hold them to accountability and make sure that they realize there are consequences for their wrong actions.
Perry: Right. And there are consequences. Consequences are the only way that people learn to straighten themselves out.
If somebody is coming to work drunk every day, you better make sure there are some consequences because the problem isn’t going to solve itself. That’s for sure.
So a lot of times the most loving thing you can do with somebody is to have a harsh consequence. And that’s the reality of living in an imperfect world.
Ralph: I think that’s the true definition of love. That if someone is going down the wrong path to actually try to steer them to a better path or help them find a better path.
Perry: Absolutely. You remember Jerry Garcia, the guitarist with The Grateful Dead? I listened to an interview with his drummer, Mickey Hart.
It was a radio show and someone called in and said, “How come you didn’t keep Jerry from overdosing on drugs?” And Mickey goes, “Dude, have you ever had a friend with a drug problem? You ever tried to get him to stop? It’s not like we didn’t try.”
Jerry did what Jerry was going to do. Who knows what they did to try to stop it? But obviously it didn’t work.
And obviously the consequences for Jerry along the way were not bad enough. If the consequences had been worse when it was a less onerous problem, Jerry Garcia might still be alive and would still be doing Grateful Dead concerts.
Ralph: You can just do your best and leave it in God’s hands. There is only so far that you can go.
You have to realize that when you try to help people going down the wrong path the first thing they are going to do is to hate you and blame you. It takes a tremendous love for that person to be willing to accept their anger and to accept that abuse.
Perry: Yes, and I’ll even go further. I’ll say that most people with a big problem blame the problem on the solution.
Ralph: Can you explain that?
Perry: If some guy has an alcohol problem and his wife tells him that he needs to get help, he is probably going to tell you that the reason he drinks is because of her.
The truth is she is the one who loves him the most of anybody in the world. That is why she is telling him to get help. But because she is telling him and no one else is, he is mad at her.
He might be really, really angry at her. And really, if you aren’t willing to deal with the consequences what can you blame but the solution?
Ralph: I think the answer and one of the big solutions is just serving others.
Perry: Right. About six years ago my wife’s brother lived in Sao Paulo, Brazil. We went down to visit him. He had been there a long time and we had never gotten down there because of the time and expense.
But we scraped together the money and we went. He had this friend named Paulo who took me and her to the slums of Sao Paulo.
It was shocking. We have nothing like that kind of poverty in the U.S. After I came back from Brazil, I thought to myself, “Bill Clinton is an honest president and we don’t have any pollution. We don’t have any poor people and we don’t have any violence.”
I can truthfully tell you that aside from a gated community, the best neighborhood in Sao Paulo is more dangerous than the worst neighborhood in Chicago. And it gets worse from there.
Paulo knew his way around and knew where he could go and where he couldn’t. So we trusted him and he took us around and we met all these people and saw how they lived. It made us very thankful for what we have.
He had this program where he was helping kids get off the streets and keeping kids off the streets in the first place. And we decided after that, whenever we get a chance we are going to go see how the other half lives.
Because of that, in the meanwhile I have been to Mozambique, which is the 18th poorest country in the world. Last fall I was in Nairobi, Kenya, and saw a bunch of orphans.
In various different ways we have been able to help people in those kinds of circumstances. That is a whole lot more fulfilling than driving a new car off a parking lot.
Because when you do that you are honoring the fact that some things are more important than “˜my little agenda.’ You are getting outside of yourself.
When you spend a day meeting kids or parents who are dying of AIDS you don’t come home and say, “My Latte is too foamy!” It totally gives you a different point of view.
Here in my daily life, if my kids are sick we take them to the doctor. It’s good to get reminded every now an then that not everybody has that luxury.
I met a seven year old boy who was dying of AIDS for lack of a $1 bus ticket to go get a free shot. He was already too far down the road to be helped.
I’m not going to try to describe to you what he looked like or what it was like. But suffice it to say it was very sad.
But you can do things about that. Matter of fact, if I had a few wishes one of them would be for every person who can afford it to go to Africa just once.
Go to a place like Nairobi and see how other people live. Spend a little bit of time thinking about what we can do about this.
People need medical skills, education, business skills and all this kind of stuff. We have things. Not just money, but skills and helping hands.
What could people do? If people did that it would solve those problems and we would live in a much better world. People are very slowly solving those problems but it sure would be nice to see them get solved faster.
Ralph: That’s so definitely true. What power does prayer have in your life?
Perry: It’s one of my core disciplines. I think it’s one of the most important things. Most of the time I think the biggest role that prayer plays is not so much getting what you want or having some wish granted or whatever.
It’s more like saying, “Well God, I don’t know what you want me to do today but to the best of my ability I’m going to align myself with that. I’m going to try to follow where I’m led.”
There have been a handful of situations where I wouldn’t know any other way to describe what happened other than to say a miracle happened. Not often, and it’s few and far between.
I have this friend in Ohio named Geri and she had Lupus for years. She did all the stuff you do for it. I don’t have time to go into all the details, but basically one day someone prayed for her and it was gone, never to come back.
It was very sudden, too. It didn’t happen over a period of three months or something. Now if you look up Lupus, “Lupus” and “cure” do not usually go together in the same sentence.
So sometimes, things do happen. There is certainly no question in my mind that prayer changes things. But the thing that changes the most is me. And frankly, I’m the one that needs to get changed.
Ralph: Sanctification is a long process. Salvation comes as a free gift but sanctification is much harder and it takes a lifetime. There’s no doubt abut that.
That’s why it’s important to have a sense of humor in a serious problem. You have a sense of humor?
Perry: I have a friend who says that his purpose in life is to make God laugh. That’s his little thing. I’m quite sure God has a sense of humor. I see it every day.
Ralph: Who are the heroes in your life, Perry?
Perry: That’s a hard question to answer because I think I’m old enough to realize that nobody is perfect. It seems that most of the people who have influenced my life in extraordinary ways also have extraordinary weaknesses.
If you meet a person with really great strengths, they almost always have really great weaknesses to go along with them. People that I know who are alive today, I don’t know if I would categorize them as heroes but it would be interesting to do: Make a top ten list of the most influential people in my life.
Ralph: Who would be those people who have had that major positive impact on your life? I know your dad would be on the list.
Perry: My dad would be on the list. Another guy that would be on the list is an English Professor in college I had, Dr. Knoll. He pulled me aside one day and said he had been reading my papers and would like to talk with me sometime.
So a few weeks later I went to his office and he starts telling me all this stuff that he had figured out from reading the papers I had written, that I hadn’t figured out about myself. It was amazing.
Dr. Knoll really saw way further down the road than I ever did. He was a great, great teacher. He would definitely be on the list.
I think different people affect your life in different ways. For example, and this is a weird example, about seven or eight years ago I went to a Rush Concert. It was three hours of the most extraordinarily executed musical performance that I had ever seen.
The drummer stole the show. I have never seen musicianship like that. In the musical arena that guy is definitely a hero. It changed my awareness of music.
A definitely big influence in my business life is Dan Kennedy. I first heard Dan Kennedy speak in 1997. He coaxed $300 out of my pocket and I bought some of his books and tapes and it transformed my understanding of sales and marketing.
I actually know Dan pretty well now. I’m in one of his coaching groups and I talk to him every month.
Is Dan like a hero of my whole life? No, but he is a luminary in business.
When there are people who change the way you think about things, people who influence you that way, a lot of times it’s worthwhile to dig all of that water out of that well that you can. You don’t just skim it from the surface.
Like with Dan, I was just at a group meeting for two days just last week. Why do I go to that? Because Dan consistently brings insights into situations that I would not come up with myself. And it continues to happen.
Now if the time came where I wasn’t really getting anything new that I hadn’t already gotten, then I would stop. But as long as you continue to learn something new, you keep going back. We had a discussion about one topic that was very illuminating that no one else in the room had really fully considered.
There are other people. I would have to sit down and think about this. But you get the idea. There are authors, people who you may never meet. There are very influential thinkers.
Any direct marketer has been enormously influenced by Claude Hopkins whether they read his stuff or not. It would be a very good idea for anybody in marketing to read Claude Hopkins because he is one of those true luminaries
When somebody is one of the really first people to figure a whole bunch of things out it probably means that they are brilliantly smart. And that what they tell you about other things is equally valuable.
Ralph: Why do you think heroes are so important in the lives of young people?
Perry: I think everybody is going to have heroes one way or the other. The question is whether they are good ones or bad ones.
If some basketball player thinks he is not a role model he is sadly mistaken. At any given time there are thousands of guys shooting hoops dreaming about being an MBA basketball player. A few of them actually make it.
Well, how many of them are consciously aware of the fact that there is another part of their job description that they never really thought about. No, you don’t just play basketball. You live a certain way and kids want to be like you.
That’s an important part of the job. Is that basketball player going to influence them to be more responsible and to be a better citizen? Or does he think he is only teaching them how to shoot hoops?
The other day somebody sent me a link to a web site where the guy had made his web site look exactly like mine. It wasn’t a copy, but the format, the colors, the layout, the writing style, everything was exactly like mine.
I don’t think he crossed any legal boundaries or anything. I suppose I’m sort of flattered by that. I hope it works for him. But the point is, like it or not, I am obviously a role model for other people.
Anybody in a public sphere is. And so that means that how I conduct myself in public is more important than I would like to think. It means that I am teaching people simply through my actions at any given time whether I realize it or not, because I am in the public eye.
That’s kind of scary. You have to be careful about zinging off some email to somebody. They are upset with me so I’m going to be upset back and be belligerent or whatever ” that just adds to the negativity.
Ralph: I agree with that. Do you think there are any heroes in our society today who aren’t getting the recognition that they deserve?
Perry: Oh yes. Oh yes. What I think of when you said that is when I was in Mozambique two years ago. Her name is Robin Perry. She was about 55″60 years old.
She and her husband were retired and they decided to spend their retirement years helping very poor people in very poor countries, including Mozambique. So for a couple of days I just followed Robin around.
So I’m just trailing around behind her and she marches into a village with a box of medicine under her arm. She marches into a mud hut with all her stuff and all these women and children line up.
She has this guy that is translating from Sena into English and the impromptu medical clinic begins. I saw everything. I saw AIDS, malaria, protein deficiencies, scabies, burns, malnutrition, infections, everything.
I’m just sitting there watching this. And it’s not like they have some privacy form that everybody is going to fill out or anything. I’m just watching all these people come on through.
With the supplies that she had and the knowledge that she had, she did what she could to help them. I swear that if she had sat there for four days straight, that line around the hut would have been coming and coming and coming for four days.
There was like this inexhaustible supply of need. That was quite an experience.
She died a little over a year ago. I went to her funeral in Iowa where she and her husband were from. She had gotten sick and they came home. We knew this could be coming; in fact I remember a conversation with her. She’d had some surgeries and it looked like the problems were taken care of but everybody knew it could come back and it did.
So I’m at her funeral and at the end of the service they had this open mike where people could tell stories, and one after another after another got up. It was amazing. Robin was a hero.
Ralph: Do you feel that the people who are really the heroes are the ones who reach out and help others? Those people that basically want to make a difference in the world and in the lives that God places along their path?
Perry: Yes, and everybody has a different kind of opportunity to be a hero. I don’t think everybody is supposed to go to Mozambique, although it would be nice if more people did.
I have a friend who was on that trip. She was just like me. She was just visiting and seeing what was going on.
But she decided to go back there and live there and she is living there now. And that’s her calling.
For almost 20 years it’s been my feeling that it’s my job to be a regular business guy, but to be interested and involved and supportive of things like that. To tell other people what is going on.
It’s just like any other marketing problem in the world of inventors and inventions and new technologies and those kinds of things. The guy that can invent the better mouse trap is often not the person who is talented at telling the world about it.
The world doesn’t beat a path to his door unless he figures out how to be the marketer of that mouse trap. That’s also true of people who go do good things.
Take for example my friend, Jeanine, who decided to go live in Mozambique. Does she have any particular fundraising skill, or communication skill, or letter writing skill or ability to make television commercials about all the stuff she is doing?
No, she is just using her talent and she is exercising it to the best of her ability. But everybody has talents.
I’m helping out Children’s Relief International, the organization that is sending Jeanine and who sent Robin over there. I can help them communicate better. I can help them raise funds better and help them find people to sponsor children and stuff like that. That’s my skill.
Then every year or two, I can get on a plane and go over there and be reminded that I have the easy job. And really it’s true. I kind of joke that in the next life it’s going to be me doing the work and they’re going to be doing the fundraising.
Ralph: That may be so. There are so many people out there who say, “Look at the great things I’m doing for God.” Yet they don’t look around in their own families and their own communities and see what God is already doing and join in. I know that’s what Jesus did. He said he did the work of his Father.
It’s important to just look at your family, your friends and the people in your community that you are involved with. That’s where I think the hardest work is ever done because that’s where our greatest joys come from and our greatest sorrows.
Perry: Charity begins at home.
Ralph: Isn’t that the truth. Well I know you are making the world a better place by just the things you have shared with us so far.
Do you have good solutions to the problems facing society, especially racism, child and spousal abuse and violence among young people?
Perry: This gets me into another story. A long time ago, way before we had kids, Laura my wife one day mentioned to me that one day we should have foster kids.
I looked at her like, “You want to do what???” Like this is totally out in left field and is something that I would never think about.
When you say “foster kids” the first thing I think about is that some kid is going to come live with you for a few months or a few years and then leave. You will never see them again.
That’s too hard. Especially after you get to like them and have a relationship with them and then they just get sent off somewhere. So that was really foreign.
It took a long time, but she slowly warmed me up to this idea. After our oldest was born we decided to take a foster baby for a few months. We would be the interim solution for just for a little while. We would stick our toe in the water.
Everybody knows that this is not going to last for very long. It’s just a temporary situation. We are just going to try this out.
Sure enough one day the agency has a 1″week baby girl named Drea. “Do you want her?” “Well, okay, we’ll take her.” So I come home from work and we get this little black baby from the West Side of Chicago.
While she was living with us I felt like a glorified babysitter. To me it was just temporary and I wasn’t going to get attached to her. Laura was, but not me.
As far as I was concerned it was just a lot of work. With our own kids Laura nursed them. But you don’t nurse a foster baby so guess who gets to get up in the middle of the night and get the bottle? Me.
So I kind of do not like this. I’m muttering to myself, “How come Drea’s mother has to be into drugs and all this stuff and can’t take care of her?” I’m being kind of gripey.
Well finally we get another phone call and Drea’s grandmother is going to take her in so they don’t need us to be doing this any more. So 2 Â½ months later Drea disappears and I figured that we would never see her again.
Laura is kind of depressed and I was probably a little relieved. I’m just being honest with you.
Ralph: Oh, I know. I grew up taking care of foster kids. My mom was a nurse so she took the most severely damaged children into our home. I had to change the diapers like you did, but at an early age. So I know what you are talking about.
Perry: We thought that was the end of things. But a couple of weeks later we get this phone call again. It’s the case worker and he says that Drea’s grandmother wanted to know if we would like to be Drea’s godparents.
She didn’t know anything about us. But she decided that, so we said we would. I had never been anybody’s godparent before. That hadn’t been a tradition in our family. Other people do that but not us.
So we truck on over to The Old Ship of Zion Church of God in Christ on the West Side of Chicago. We are the only white people there.
Now I have to explain something about Chicago. There is a lot of racism in Chicago and it’s all kind of under the surface. It’s kind of an icy, nobody”talks”about”it kind of racism.
When we first moved here 12 or 13 years ago it seemed very hard to make friends with black people. Later I came to understand there are a lot of good reasons for that. There is an unbelievable amount of discrimination that goes on in the workplace.
I was a manufacturer’s rep selling stuff to manufacturing companies in Chicago. I want to say that in two years, except for an automotive plant and a steel mill, I’m not sure I ever met an African American person who was in a management position.
In Chicago it’s like black people get the crummy jobs and white people get the good jobs. And white people are oblivious to this. They just don’t know what is going on. They probably don’t ever even think about it.
So there has always been this kind of icy feeling that I felt around black people. They didn’t really want to talk to me. It wasn’t that they were mean or rude, it was just that they weren’t interested and please don’t bother them.
It became apparent that whatever racial barriers there were with most people suddenly did not apply to us with Drea’s grandmother and her family. And ever since then, and I see them every week, it’s like we are their white cousins from the suburbs. And they are our black cousins from Chicago.
With them and us, whether someone is white or black doesn’t matter. It’s a non”issue. It’s not like there aren’t differences. It’s not like we don’t joke about them or talk about them or whatever, but they aren’t a barrier.
Of course their culture is different. It is completely different. But that’s okay. We are all people. I definitely learned that if people do things like take in foster children that can break down racial barriers.
You mentioned violence. There is a lot of violence in the inner city. Drea has three brothers and they are all older than her. One of them is 13 and he is getting into that teenager zone where you are hoping that he stays on track.
I look at it like I can’t fix all his problems. I can’t solve all the problems that you have when you live in the inner city and all that.
But I can be a steady, unwavering person in his life. I can be an example that not every guy is hanging out on the street corner or doing whatever people do in the inner city.
I think in the long run that will make a difference for him and the direction he goes. I can’t solve every problem but I can do what I can do.
Ralph: So you believe that the way that we can change a lot of problems in society is being good role models for others and also being involved in their lives. Being a source of support and inspiration and being examples of integrity.
It’s just doing the right thing. As you said earlier, the definition of a hero is just doing the right thing when no one is looking.
That seems to be a common theme of all the hero interviews that I have done. A lot of heroes had wishes for the world and their life.
If you had three wishes that would come true for the world and for your life, what would they be? I know you already expressed one wish, so you have two more.
Perry: I’m not sure exactly how I want to put this, but maybe one way to put this is that I would wish that everybody would have the persistence and the opportunity to discover that God really does hear us when we pray.
Matter of fact I think that the whole idea and that whole personal experience of spirituality is really at the root of a lot of things. That includes people who insist that there is no God and that all that stuff is made up.
I think at the root of that is usually a personal experience: “I tried praying. I was in a hard time and my prayers just bounced off the ceiling.”
I know what that feels like. I think all of us do.
One thing that I consider to be self”evident, needing no further proof or discussion, is this: I do not judge God. God judges me.
I think there is a world of difference between believing that the world is a senseless, crazy place and believing that there ultimately is some order to everything.
If I had another wish, maybe one of those wishes would be that every kid could grow up in a family that’s kind of like my parents were. Even though everything was really tough and really brutal at times, they stuck together anyway.
Again, at the time I did not look at my dad as a hero. To me it was like a stubborn policy he had that I wasn’t sure I agreed with.
It was only later that I realized that it was a heroic choice. For a little while, at least, it would have been easier for him to renege on his commitment. How are those for a couple of wishes?
Ralph: Those are good wishes. And I understand what you are talking about. Trusting God and leaning not on your own understanding and acknowledging Him in all your ways and letting Him direct your paths.
That takes a tremendous amount of faith. Looking to see what He is doing in your life or in the people around you. Probably one of the hardest things in the world to do is to let Him direct your path.
Just having that faith and seeing everything as a part of His plan for you and more importantly a plan for everybody in the entire world because nothing can happen to you that doesn’t affect everybody else.
Perry: That’s true. In the 1960’s a guy came up with the term “Butterfly Effect.” At MIT he was studying weather patterns when he discovered that the tiniest little change could potentially cause an enormous change somewhere else.
The wings of a butterfly here could cause a hurricane there six months later. There was literally no way to know or track all the cause and effects down to the granular level but that’s how nature really works.
I think when you make a right choice or a wrong choice, if you do the right thing you decide to be a hero even if nobody is paying attention, or not to. It’s the same thing. You just never know.
You don’t have to know how things are going to turn out. You trust that there is a plan and you do the right thing in the interim simply because it’s the right thing.
Ralph: What do you think about the “In Search of Heroes” program and its impact on youth, parents and business people?
Perry: I think if you are asking these kinds of probing questions of business people you are certainly bringing out a whole dimension in business. Business people hardly ever get asked these kinds of questions.
You are trying to create some air time so younger people are hearing from business people and different leaders and getting the inside story. I think if the inside story gets heard it can only help.
Ralph: The good thing about these questions in the heroes program is that it’s based on the philosophy of Earl Nightingale and his program “The Strangest Secret of the Mind of Man.” It’s the realization that people will only achieve the level of success that they desire until they actually become the type of person who has excellence and integrity. Until they begin providing a service to humanity that is worth the financial gain that they desire.
By letting people listen to these individuals like you who are very successful in the business world they are given role models. They learn from listening to the interviews.
They learn what type of people you have become and what you think about. They learn how your mind works and about testing those areas with difficult problems.
They learn how that will give them the role model that they need to basically become the type of people that will allow them to achieve the level of success that they desire. It’s going to be a lasting success.
Like what you were talking about earlier regarding those people who take the short cut and anything that is expedient. Rather than being like those people they learn to be like those who do the right thing when nobody is looking.
To be like those who provide quality service and that are always seeking to provide a service that goes above and beyond everybody’s expectation.
They learn that this is the true model for success. And they learn to not only to follow this in their personal and financial life, but in every area of life.
Perry: I think it is possible to be successful in a whole bunch of areas of life. I think a lot of people have this idea that they can be successful in business or help poor kids somewhere or do whatever but that they certainly can’t be successful in all the spheres.
Well you certainly can’t do everything. But at the same time I think you can be successful in all the arenas of your life, at least in some measure. It’s not like I have to be a loser in this department and a winner in this other department.
Ralph: What do you think of the things that parents can do that will help their children realize that they too can be heroes and make a positive impact on others?
Perry: Well, I think it starts with taking responsibility to be a hero yourself. There’s the old phrase, “What you do speaks to loudly, what you say I cannot hear.”
We aren’t perfect and we don’t have it all figured out but we can do what we know we need to do. And sometimes when those tough decisions come along our kids need to see us make the tough decision and do the right thing and not take the easy way out.
This is a little bit of a rabbit trail, but another thing. I think the best success manual for a business person is the book of Proverbs in the Bible.
I think that in Proverbs there is more useful, practical wisdom about how to deal with other people and the kinds of people you deal with than just about any other place that I could name. I know every entrepreneur has his list of books that had a big impact on him. For me that one would be right at the top of the list.
What is Proverbs about? It’s all of the fundamental differences between wise people and fools.
I don’t know of any other kind of discernment that would be more valuable than being able to go into a crowd and have conversations and start working with people and quickly figure out who is wise and who is foolish. Who is honest and who is not.
The ability to frame the world in that way is absolutely priceless. You can’t really appreciate it until you really read through Proverbs a couple of times.
You could read the whole thing, probably, in about an hour. But that’s not how you read it.
There are 31 chapters so my favorite way to read it is to read one chapter a day. If today is the 21st then you read the 21st chapter. And it has something for you.
Ralph: Yes, and it always seems to have different information each time you read it depending upon what is going on in your life that day.
Ralph: Well Perry, I really appreciate your time. I know how busy you are. Thank you for sharing all the things that you did.
It is really profound all the information that you provided. Is there some parting information that you would like to share with the young people listening to this interview?
Perry: Pursue wisdom. It’s an elusive thing but it’s out there. Proverbs is a great place to start.
Be a hero. Whatever circumstances you are in and whatever skills you have, there is a way that you can harness those and be successful and pursue the things that are important to you in your life. I think life is just a process of discovering what that is.
Ralph: That is so profound. And again, I really appreciate your time.
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