Giving thanks to all my family and friends. Cheers to all.
Let me awaken every morning and be thankful for what God has brought me.
Let me awaken every morning knowing things are as they are meant to be.
Let me awaken every morning knowing life is a journey and I am just a part.
Let me awaken every morning knowing the day will
bring challenges, opportunities and learning experiences.
Let me awaken every morning with self-love and self-acceptance, so I may be more tolerant of myself and others.
Let me awaken every morning with an open heart, so love may rush in and out like the tide of the mighty ocean.
I’ve been thinking about the concept of pressure after a conversation I had with several recent college graduates who are at the beginning of their careers. What is pressure and how do I handle it when I feel it? When I think about this topic, I immediately think about sports and how the great competitors face incredible pressure at specific moments. Yesterday’s PGA as Jason Day closed in on his first major win with Jordan Spieth on the hunt. Day has had so many near misses, putting those nagging doubts out of his head and playing strong for a record breaking 20 under major was incredible to watch. How does one do that and what can the rest of us learn from it?
I decided to go back to a classic and highly motivational book I have gone to since my days of Cornell wrestling, The Edge, by Howard E. Ferguson, 1982. Here is the legendary coach of one of wrestling’s greatest high schools, St. Edward of Lakewood, Ohio take on pressure:
“Time’s running out. Your team trails by one basket. The noise of the crowd is deafening.
What do you do? Do you hide, or do you break from your opponent and come out to get the ball for the last shot?
If you’ve prepared mentally and physically as we have mapped out, you’ll never need to worry about pressure; in fact, you’ll go out of your way to put yourself in pressure situations. You’ll be the type of athlete who thrives on a close game, a tight match. Pressure is something you put on yourself when you’re not prepared. If you don’t have faith in what you are doing and you fear the unexpected, then its something for which you didn’t properly prepare. All pressure is self-inflicted and, like anything else in life, you can look at it in several ways. You can look forward to it or you can cringe in front of it. … If you welcome pressure, you’ll be amazed at how successful you’ll be. When the situation gets tight, you’ll have the edge because you’ll know: 1. There’s just as much pressure on your opponent, 2. Exactly how to handle it, and 3. Chances are he(she) won’t.
No matter how confident you are though, sometimes you’ll find yourself caught up in a pressure situation and little doubts of your ability will creep into your mind. No need to panic, no need ot think its unnatural. Even the great ones have moments of fear. The secret to their success is that they know exactly how to handle these moments – they know they can’t avoid them, so when the pop up, they don’t lose it – they handle them. They slow it down a little, they go back to their very fundamentals of their particular sport and they concentrate. Slow it down. Get your confidence back. Get your edge back. Then face the pressure head-on.”
In business, just as in sports, you make a choice in a “pressure” situation. You can either embrace it with the confidence of preparation and a belief in your ability and your content or your can let it get to you. I’ve probably given 1,000s of presentations or speeches over the years to important audiences, customers, and business leaders. In every one of these situations, even early on, I felt the pressure in the form of adrenalin. I grew to feed on these situations. I embraced them. Even early on, these were the situations I sought and thrived on. Whether it was getting a meeting with Walmart’s Sam’s Club at 23 years old and traveling to Bentonville, AK to present on my own, taking the lead on presentations to our major suppliers or going out to the investment community and raising $100s of millions while still in my twenties, I put myself in “pressure” situations. While there were always ways in which I could have improved or done better and each of these experiences could have been terribly nerve racking, but instead they where incredible learning experiences in which I thrived.
As a person starting out in the business world, you will have opportunities presented to you to take a lead on a project or to represent your company in a meeting. Take them and embrace them. These are the moments that separate the performers from the rest. These are the moments that enable one to stand out from the crowd. Feeling it is natural, even with proper preparation.
“Pressure is something you really put on yourself. If its not real, why put it on yourself?” -Kyle Dake
Kyle Dake is an American former collegiate wrestler at Cornell University. He won four NCAA Division I national tittles in four different weight classes. With his fourth title in 2013, he joined Cael Sanderson and Pat Smith as the only four-time NCAA champions.
As NBA legend, Larry Bird put it back in his playing days, “In the closing seconds of every game, I want the ball in my hands for that last shot – not in anybody else’s, not in anybody else’s hands in the world.” I look at business situations similarly.
While no one expects a new entrant to the workforce to excel in every situation right from the start, you will have opportunities to put yourself into a “pressure situation”. Seek these out. Always be the one who raises their hand and steps up. Don’t fear failure. Take the chance and be willing to put yourself into these situations. You may not realize it at the time, but your boss and other senior people in your organization will notice. More importantly, you will gain experience and confidence by going through these experiences. The more you do this, the more you will have confidence and never get rattled.
“Courage is grace under pressure.” Ernest Hemingway
Last week, I chose to graduate a bit early from YPO “Young Presidents Organization” into WPO “World Presidents Organization” its sister organization for the over 49 crowd. While I will remain active in WPO and the Food & Beverage Network and Deal Network in particular, the past twelve years in YPO have enriched my life greatly and its a good moment to reflect on that. Also I’d like to give special thanks to Todd Maurer for his remarks introducing me. These are my remarks giving thanks at the graduation ceremony.
Todd Maurer giving remarks on Smoke Wallin at YPO graduation 2015
YPO GRADUATION – J. Smoke Wallin
Thanks Todd, I really appreciate your kind words! Speaking of giving thanks, today is the anniversary of DDay 1944.
In 2003 when I joined YPO and “Forum Unplugged” my kids were 13, 11, 8 and 3, today they are 26, 24, 21 and 16… wow nothing like kids to express the passing of time.
Since then I’ve been blessed with a lifetimes worth of experiences professionally and personally as a direct result of YPO. This was not an accident. It did not just happen to me. You see, I don’t believe in doing things part way. Either you commit or you do not. When I joined YPO I made a commitment to give and get as much as I possibly could.
Henry David Thoreau said “True friendship can afford true knowledge. It does not depend on darkness and ignorance.” This is YPO.
From Australia to India to the UK to cities throughout the US, YPO members have been welcoming and helpful to my family and me. I know this because I dined at their homes, visited their businesses, attended their events and engaged with them in business. I know the last 12 years of my life have been greatly enhanced by this commitment.
I will express my gratitude by sharing a couple of stories and mention a few people.
First, I met my wife Anitra on a YPO trip and that changed my life forever. Thanks Darling.
YPO George HW Bush Event – Smoke & Anitra 2004
I could stop there, but I won’t.
I joined Forum Unplugged and have had 12 years of deep relationships, friendships and confidences with 22 Forum mates. They include:
- Scott Webber
- Don Palmer
- Brent Eckhart
- Mark Jackson
- Bill McCarthy
- Allen Furrer
- Dan Horner
- Chris Hilger
- Richard Horn
- Mike Bosway
- Matthew Claymon
- Gregg Schorr
- Nelson Reyes
- Jim Rapp
- Brian Acton
- Kent Morris
- Todd Maurer
- Anthony Brown
- John Ryan
- Bryan Brenner
- Dave Foellinger
- Dan Filby
YPO Forum Unplugged
These are some of the finest individuals I’ve ever come to know and I am grateful for all they have done for me in my journey.
Some of our very best friends today are members we met through YPO including Bryan and Lara Sperber in Phoenix and Lesley Berglund in Napa
Through Networks, I’ve expanded my industry network tenfold. Engagement in networks has been the single most important business and professional development aspect of YPO for me. Fortunately, I’m excited to be able to continue through WPO as I Chair the 2016 Food & Beverage Roundtable in Napa, CA.
Looking back, I’ve lived so much life over the past 12 years it’s hard to summarize in a couple of minutes. I’m not alone when I say it has come with great successes and great loss. I’ve lost partners, friends and employees to both accidents and suicide. I’ve had incredible business ups and downs and started numerous new ones along the way. Throughout all of it, I’ve had YPO people to help me be better or simply to be there when I have needed it most.
To all of us, but especially those newer members… I’d like to remind you of some things that did not exist when I joined:
- starting in my industry – there are 1,000s of new breweries, wineries and spirits brands available today that did not exist
- There was no iPod or iPhone or iPad
- There was no Facebook or Twitter
- No AirBnB or Uber
- no Freedom Tower
- no Lucas Oil Stadium
All of these things that are now a part of the world and our every day lives.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
– A. Einstein
Looking forward, what will the next 12 years bring? I spend a lot of time thinking about what’s next in brands, but I won’t try and answer that question here. There is one thing that I do know…. I am confident many YPO people will be involved in changing both the world and my life for the better.
Thanks for everything you have given me.
On this Memorial Day weekend I am thinking about all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of Freedom. The world we live in is a dangerous one, fraught with men with evil intentions. But for the sacrifice of a brave few, those men would have their way on all. We can see it in places near and far, from the evil men who brutally tortured and killed a YPO family in Washington DC (Savvas Savopoulos) to the evil being inflicted on whole countries in the Middle East. Left unchecked evil prevails. We live in a the greatest country, a place where an individual, no matter if they were born into poverty and extreme disadvantage can do and be anything they set out to achieve. A country where the world’s people, seek out more than any other, to take refuge from evil, to build a better life for their family, to live free. We are all privileged and I give thanks to those who have made it possible.
This poem, by General Douglas MacArthur, commander of the Allied Forces in the Pacific during the great struggle against evil in World War II, has hung on my wall for 26 years. I can think of no better message to all of my children (sons and daughters) than that contained herein.
“Build me a son, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.
Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee-and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.
Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.
Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.
After all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength. Then, I, his father, will dare to whisper, ‘I have not lived in vain.’”
– General Douglas MacArthur
As we all enjoy the holiday weekend, including the many who come to town for the Indy 500 Sunday, let’s all take a moment and reflect on these words. Happy Memorial Day Weekend.
May 23, 2015
Savvas Savopoulos YPO Member
The Wallin Children May 2015
I just received this from the Cornell Athletics dept (and my old wrestling coach, Andy Noel, our athletic director)… and all I could think was wow, what an amazing life. I thought I’d share it here. Thanks Andy for sharing. Remembering Louis J. Conti Cornell University Class of 1941, US Marine Lou Conti was a two-way single wing pocket guard on Cornell’s 1939 and 1940 teams that beat Ohio State in Columbus and Ithaca. The 1939 team was undefeated and voted national champions. The 1940 team played in the famous 5th down game at Dartmouth. Lou was AP All-East in 1940 and played in the 1941 East-West Shrine game. In recognition of his athletic prowess, he was inducted into the Cornell Athletics Hall of Fame in 1981. Lou died on February 14, just two weeks after his beloved wife Dottie passed. In 1942, as a Marine Corps Lieutenant, Lou flew dive bombers in World War II’s Pacific theater. He was assigned to Marine Scout Bombing Squadrons and flew many missions in the Central and South Pacific from Palmyra, Guadal Canal, Munda, Bougainville, and Green Island in the Solomon Islands. In 1945 he was assigned as Commanding Officer of the photo recon detachment on Okinawa in support of that operation and flew photo missions over Japan in preparation for the U.S. invasion (that fortunately never happened). In 1949, he joined the football coaching staff at Cornell as an assistant and was concurrently commissioned as a Captain in the Marine Corps Reserve. He was recalled to active duty in 1952 and served as Operations and Executive Officer of the Marine Photographic squadron of the 1st Marine Air Craft Wing in Korea. He flew 102 combat missions in Korea. After a second tenure as an assistant coach with the Big Red, he began his business career in 1956 with General American Transportation Corporation’s (GATX) Tank Storage Division. There, he was instrumental in making it the largest company of its kind in the world and increased sales in a 10-year period from $10 million to $250 million annually. He went on to become the Chairman and CEO of Marine Transport Lines, a public company spun off from GATX. Lou served as a director for Emerson Electric Company. At the time, Chuck Knight was the Chairman, President, and CEO; Al Suter was the COO, and Bob Staley the Vice Chairman. All were Cornell `57, Knight and Suter football players and Staley a world champion oarsman for the Big Red. Dick Loynd `50 was also on the Emerson board, and also a former football player. The five were great friends and provided the bulk of the funding for the construction of “Friends Hall” and named so in honor of their friendship. (I got to know Chuck when I was Co-Chair of the Owen Distinguished Lecture Series at Vanderbilt and with my Cornell connection I was his host for the visit and I had the privilege of introducing him to the school). While furthering his civilian career, Lou continued to be active in the USMC Reserve before retiring as a Major General. As a civilian, he was appointed by the Secretary of Defense to Chair the Reserve Forces Policy Board. He served in that capacity for eight years and upon his retirement was named Chairman Emeritus. For his service with the Department of Defense, he was awarded the Distinguished Public Service Medal. For his military service, he was awarded the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, and five Air Medals. Lou was a devoted family man, a great athlete, served his country with distinction and was a generous benefactor of Big Red Football and a friend to all Cornell athletes. He and Dotty had six children, one of whom lost his life as a Marine in combat in Viet Nam. Lou and Dottie lived in Inverness, IL.
On behalf of the entire Cornell community, we send heartfelt condolences to Lou’s family and friends. The Cornell Football Association very appropriately named its most prestigious award the “Lou Conti Lifetime Achievement Award.” It recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the program over many years. Lou will be missed, but never forgotten. A life well lived…rest in peace dear friend.
Also as posted in the Chicago Tribune here… A memorial Mass will be held, February 24, at 9:30 at Saint Theresa Catholic Church , 455 Benton Street, Palantine, Il 60067.