Once upon a time there was a man who rode a horse, wore a mask and brandished a rapier. He was dedicated to helping the downtrodden and fiercely protected those upon whom bad men preyed. His name was Zorro! The legend of Zorro dates back to 1919 and was a movie and television show. I have fond childhood memories of this dashing figure – he was a fictional hero to many in my generation. Why? Because he stood up for his beliefs. What do you believe in more strongly than anything else? Have you discovered how you want to express this belief? Everyone should be Zorro at least once in their life and stand up for something in which they believe.

We don’t have to be radicals to stand up for that which we believe. It’s not necessary to march in a picket line or participate in a demonstration to accomplish this. The key is finding a productive and positive way to be a modern day Zorro. We start with truly understanding ourselves and our core values. What do we really care about? Why is this important?

I submit that there are three parts to discovering and acting upon that for which we want to take a stand. The first part is fact-based. Perhaps we have strong beliefs about the U.S. Constitution. Or maybe it’s the environment, the sick or the poor. It might involve entrepreneurship, politics, animals – the list goes on. Whatever it is, we need to do extensive research to develop our position. This fact-gathering process will help shape our beliefs in an intelligent manner. And we’re more likely to persuade others to understand and respect our beliefs if we can present a thoughtful fact pattern in support.

The second part in becoming Zorro involves emotional intelligence. It’s the fire and the passion that we have when we are in the belief-zone. But it goes a step beyond and allows us to manage our passion and emotions in a constructive manner. We use our emotional intelligence to maintain quiet strength and conviction, and thus we have “emotion for” our beliefs without becoming “emotional.” When we become emotional, we risk our credibility if others perceive that we are excessive in this regard. To persuade others to support our position, we must find just the right balance between facts and emotions. If there is too much emphasis on facts, others may not see our passion and are unconvinced. If there is too much emphasis on emotion, others may discount our position in similar fashion.

The third and final part in becoming Zorro focuses on how we take action. This requires planning and starts with determining what form of action will have the greatest positive impact on the largest number of people. Obviously we must scale our action plan to fit the resources we have available – time, treasure and talent. My wife and I are passionate about educating young people to become teachers. In 1999 we created a scholarship program for high school students that want to attend our alma mater and enter the education field. Not only have we made a serious financial commitment, but we also make it a point to get to know each one of our scholarship awardees and his or her parents. We also maintain contact during their college years and even beyond.

One of the factors in determining our action plan was the fact that a teacher touches and shapes the lives of many young people. When we did the math, we realized that over a period of many years we could make a difference in the lives of thousands of young people by helping educate teachers. One hundred teachers in the classroom for 20-years with a class size of 20 will educate approximately 40,000 children. After understanding the exponential nature of the numbers, it was a no-brainer to fund our scholarship program.

We should all take the opportunity to be Zorro at least once in our lives. By crystallizing our beliefs through facts, emotion and action, we can make the world a better place.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.



Question: I was asked recently to explain why my company does what it does. The answer I gave was somewhat superficial but got me to thinking about this question. How would you answer if asked, “why?”

Answer: A friend of mine loaned me a terrific book by Simon Sinek called Start With Why. Sinek’s premise is that the leaders of too many companies don’t have a real clear idea why their companies exist. Of course they’ll say that the WHY is to provide outstanding customer service or to deliver great value to their shareholders. But how inspiring is that? He cites companies like Apple and Southwest Airlines that built their business around the WHY.

Customers can be inspired to buy a product. Employees can be inspired to work for a company. In both cases the source of this inspiration is a genuine understanding of WHY. Many companies stress the WHAT or even the HOW, but not the WHY. An excellent example of a company that epitomizes the WHY is TOMS Shoes. TOMS is a phenomenal success story about Blake Mycoskie, a young entrepreneur who visited Argentina and liked the simple shoes he saw so much that he made a deal with local craftsmen to make a supply of them in a variety of colors and styles. Then he brought them to the United States and sold them. Sounds good, right? But the most important part of the story is the WHY. Mycoskie’s business plan from the start in 2006 was to donate a pair of shoes to a poor child in another country for every pair of shoes that was sold. Through 2012, TOMS has given away more than one million pairs of shoes.

People who buy shoes from TOMS like the design, simplicity and the reasonable cost. But there are many shoe companies that sell shoes that are attractively designed, simple and reasonably priced. The difference-maker for TOMS’ customers is the WHY – the fact that a for-profit company is actually willing to give away its product to children in need, and at the same ratio as what it sells.

Whether you own your own business, or are an aspiring entrepreneur working for someone else, see if you can answer the WHY question. Sinek says that the WHY is just a belief. The HOW is the action you take to realize that belief. And the WHAT is the result of those actions – everything you say and do; your products, services, marketing, PR, culture and whom you hire.

When we are able to answer the WHY question about our businesses and even ourselves; our customers, employees and everyone with whom we associate will be more inspired to become enthusiastic advocates for us.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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