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Beating the Odds

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Notes about Hattie and her speaking
About Hattie, a little bio
• Some excerpts from Hattie's book,
   Beating the Odds

• About these live events

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How do we hear the voice within?

From where does the voice come?

Tom Valez

When Tom Velez was 5 years old, his father gave him a violin. He had talent, he practiced and excelled. He studied at Julliard but while there discovered he wasn't the best. However, in math classes he was always the best. He used music to work his way through college, but he did a bachelors and masters degree in mathematics.

Tom was recruited by NASA where he worked on sending an American astronaut to the moon and at the same time did a Ph.D. in Mathematics. He left NASA to join the Mars team at Martin Marietta, then eventually started his own business.

Today his company is building a satellite for Singapore.

I asked Tom if he felt he did the easy thing, and he said "Yes." Is math his magic? Was he "called" to it? I think, yes. If something comes easy we should pay attention -- that's the "go with your strengths" principle. This easy thing is probably tied to your magic. Why should Tom spend years competing for the concert stage with students at Julliard who he knew were better? Why not go to the top in mathematics where he was always the best?

This does not mean much discipline is not required.

To take our talent, or magic, to a productive level requires structure, discipline, and plain old elbow grease. The good thing about structuring your life around your magic is you will make a living -- you may even make an extraordinary living -- and at the same time, you will have fun and experience joy in doing your work.

Steve Day

When Steve Day was growing up he heard his father talk about business around the kitchen table. Steve's father was a business professor and Steve was fascinated with the people in the stories his father told. These were always stories about men and women who had a great idea then figured out how to build a great business around that idea.

Steve never wanted to be a professor, he always wanted to be like the heroes in his father's stories -- a businessman. This is much less specific that J.T. or Yvonne. But, at a young age, Steve knew he would own a business. At 12, Steve started riding horses and fell in love with the sport. Given that, it is not surprising that Steve owns State Line Tack, which sells all the equipment a person needs to care for and ride a horse.

Steve's magic is combining his formal education with a passion for horses.

As a Harvard MBA, he knows how to "think business," but there are plenty of MBAs who haven't been good at owning their own business. Steve puts the information from the education together with the inspiration he derives from the sport itself and we see miracles. When he bought State Line Tack, sales were $8 million, today they are nearly $50 million.

Steve did exactly what Jack Maxwell recommends.

Jack Maxwell

Jack is founder and CEO of the Maxwell Companies, which are six separate personnel businesses with a total of 1,200 employees. Their fastest growing company focuses on physical and occupational therapy staffing. Jack is a Certified Personnel Consultant and for more than 20 years has worked with people to help them find their ideal work.

He advises, "Look back at your childhood and recall the things you loved to do.  This will give you a clue about what kind of work you should pursue."

The interview with Jack Maxwell,  His companies specialize in getting the right person into the right kind of work, and will do about $21 million in sales this year.

Hattie: Have you always known what you wanted to do with your life?

Jack:  No. Because I was good in math and science in high school, my counselor suggested I study engineering in college. Of course, that's what I did. After graduating I went to work for Exxon. I never hated my work; In fact, my favorite job at Exxon was purchasing because I worked with our customers and would go on site to our projects. That was much more fun than doing the typical tasks of an engineer. However, I was content to stay with my original path until the company moved me and my family to Billings, Montana. For a kid from central Louisiana who had never lived out of the south, we were all taken aback by the beauty, but there were problems.

Hattie: Were you home sick?

Jack:  No. My wife was freezing. After one winter in Billings, she told me that would be her last. I asked to be transferred back and the company refused. They were happy for me to stay in Billings for five years, which was our original agreement, but they would not give me another job in warmer climate.

Hattie: Did you send your resume to other oil companies?

Jack:  No. An engineer friend of mine had started a personnel business specializing in placing engineers in the oil industry. He was making good money and encouraged me to get into the business. We would not own a business together; We would work together sharing information, which would make us both more profitable. You see, in the personnel business, you have to have a job to fill and a person to fill it with. He may have a job and I may have the perfect person, and vice versa.

Hattie: So, how did you begin?

Jack:  We earned $20,000 from the sale of our house in Billings. I bought a franchise of the Dunhill Personnel Company and we had the $7,000 to live on until my business started to earn profits. Remember, my wife Sue and I had three small children and I didn't have a job for the first time in our marriage. We decided to move to Tulsa, Oklahoma because it was close enough to Faraday, Louisiana that we could visit family easily, and the oil industry was booming in Tulsa in 1975. Hattie: Let me get this straight. You quit a good paying job, for which you were college trained, to start a personnel business about which you knew nothing? Jack: Yes.

Hattie: Were you scared?

Jack:  Well, I threw up everyday for a year. Not only was I scared, I was under overwhelming stress caused by all of this change. People need to know . . . it is normal to be fearful, nervous, and edgy when there are large changes in their lives. Changing work is very high on the "life stress table," then couple that with a move half way across the country, then pile on the uncertainty of cash flow and the result can be disaster if you don't understand what's going on.

Hattie: Tell me about Dunhill.

Jack:  Well, I went to the two week training program and at the end the owner wanted to give me my money back. He knew I was going to fail and he didn't want me to be angry or disappointed with Dunhill. I told him, "You don't understand. I'm a Maxwell and Maxwells don't quit."

Hattie: How did your parents communicate that philosophy to you?

Jack:  They didn't quit on anything. They had a difficult life but they didn't complain. When I was playing football, my father would help me with my techniques. While trying to tell me how to block, he decided it would be better to show me, so he shoved his shoulder through the sheet rock in my bedroom. His point? You don't hold back. You don't do anything halfway.

Hattie: So, are you glad you didn't quit?

Jack:  Absolutely. Not only did I not fail with Dunhill, my office was the #1 rookie office in my first year and I continued to break records and stay at the top of the organization.

Hattie: I am very confused. You're an engineer. You are supposed to be good at details, you are supposed to be good at process not people. How can an engineer do so well in a people-intensive, sales-driven business?

Jack:  Remember, my counselor suggested I study engineering because my math and science grades were good. Is there a high school anywhere in America where a kid can get excellent grades in sales? Or, are there academic programs to measure people skills? Not really. What the counselor didn't take into account was my extra curricular activities. I played in the band and every year we had a fund raising project. Even though I lived in the country and had to make my sales throughout a sparsely populated area, I sold more magazines than the kids who lived in town.

Hattie: Do you recall how you felt as a high school student out selling? Was it fun for you or was it just a task assigned by the band director?

Jack:  Oh, I remember it was fun for me. I love people. I love engaging in conversation. I love getting to know people. Also, I'm competitive. My attitude about a job is: do it and do it best.

Hattie: So, do you think we should pay attention to our childhood when we want to figure out what kind of work will be most gratifying?

Jack: Yes, yes, yes.

Hattie: I believe strongly that finding our best work is critical to living long, productive lives. What advice can you give a person who wants to find their calling?

Jack:  First, look at your childhood very carefully. Talk to your parents, aunts, uncles, and siblings about what they remember you being involved in. Think about what you would do without being pressed to do it. Think about how you used your spare time. What types of clubs and organizations did you belong to? Did you play a sport? Did you play a musical instrument? Were you on the yearbook or newspaper staff? Were you a class officer? Did you stay after school to help a certain teacher? If so, what did that teacher teach? Second, do some testing. Go to the local junior college and take every test they offer that teaches you about yourself. Or if you have plenty of money, go to a psychologist who specializes in career counseling. They have tests to take you through a process of self-discovery. The only problem with this advice is if you do it, you may have to change everything like I did. What I tell people though is the short-term pain of change will be worth the long-term gain.

Hattie: Can a person succeed if they are not using their natural gifts in their work?

Jack:  Yes. You can succeed in work if you are not using your natural gifts, but it takes an inordinate amount of your energy; You're frustrated and it's no fun. Many people are in this situation.

Hattie: How do you help people find their ideal work?

Jack:  I asked them to share with me their values -- what is important to you in your work? Most people find it difficult to articulate their values. So, I give them five words to prioritize. Challenge, Location, Advancement, Money and Security. I ask them to rank these in order of importance and then write a short essay on what each word means. After the meaning is clear, then I want them to write specifically how they would measure their values. Why don't you do this exercise, Hattie?

Hattie: OK. I would put these words in this order:

Challenge Advancement Location Money Security

Jack: It is a myth that Americans are money driven. In most cases, your list is typical. Meaning, money is in the bottom half. On the other hand, if I'm talking with someone who has been out of work for a while, who got fired, who grew up in poverty or has no savings, they will put money high on the list. If I'm talking with someone who is looking to improve themselves and has had some level of success, they will put money low on the list. It's almost as if people who have money have learned it is not the secret to great happiness.

Hattie: I remember an interview Eddie Murphy did with Barbara Walters. He was sitting in his California mansion and he said to Barbara, "Just a minute, I need to just talk to the people." He turned away from her and looked straight into the camera and said, "I thought that money would make me happy. It doesn't. Do something important with your life that will make you happy." Then he turned back to her and the interview proceeded.

Jack:  Right. There's a base line below which most people do not want to go, especially if they have a family for whom they are responsible. However, lots of people have "downsized" in order to do what they really love.   Hattie, I'm not letting you off easy today.   Write down what challenge means to you.

Hattie:  Here's what I wrote that day:  "Challenge. Something that requires me to think, engage and be in the present moment. Something that is new everyday. Something that calls on some part of me I don't know I have. I could never do the automatic, repetitive task. Even though there's comfort in repetition and an opportunity to keep improving, I become bored too quickly to stick with a task that repeats. I would start day dreaming about doing something else right now. When people ask me what I do, I want to tell them and then they respond, "Wow! How fascinating. Something different. Not everyone is doing it or could do it."

Challenge implies hard. But, a particular kind of hard. Hard in its own way with its own definition of hard. While living in New York City I became fascinated with the doormen. They stand on duty waiting to serve. Its hard work. For me, it's impossible. Having to wait is the hardest thing for me. Challenge doesn't mean doing something that is impossible for my personality, it means stepping everyday into some form of darkness. When I step in, I bring some light then work hard to bring full light.

Jack:  So far so good for you, Hattie. It seems that what you are doing is most challenging. But, you have been philosophical. Now get specific. What does challenge mean to you specifically?

Hattie: Challenge means creating my own work. I love selling, and that is my way of creating my own work. I have an idea and when I sell it, I have created work for myself. If I have what someone wants, they can buy it from me. If I don't have what they want, I'll lead them to some other sources. Selling requires refined communication skills and words have always flowed for me.

Jack:  So, you don't think you could be challenged working in a job for someone else?

Hattie: No. It seems to me that doing a job has too many fences. I have only had a few jobs in my life and they always felt restricting. I'm not saying they were easy, just not challenging.

Hattie: I see what you're doing. You recommend a person take some time and get clear about these five words.

Jack: Yes, it could be the best time a person could ever spend. If you're not willing to do the work of self-discovery, you'll get on in life, however, you'll never have the fulfillment you deserve. You will have to put forth too much for too little. If you've found your magic and are using it in your work, you will wake up before the alarm ready to go to that work. You'll have a constant flow of creative solutions to the problems you face everyday. You will have energy for other people and be relaxed and at the same time, intense. The best example of this is when you watch a professional athlete. You see confidence in their face and intensity in their eyes, but an easy grace in their movements. Once you have found your magic, you'll be able to laugh at your mistakes and learn from them, take initiative and be seen by others as special and gifted.

Chapter 1:   What is Your Personal Magic?

by Hattie Bryant

Author's preface

beatodds.jpgOpen this first chapter and see how others have discovered their personal magic.

Some say it is their calling, and others call it their special talent or gift.

We believe there is uniqueness within all of us and that each of us has something special to give to the world.

Start a business in which you have expertise.

Heliodoro and his two brothers are bakers. There wasn't anything they couldn't do with flour. As a cook, he also knew the importance of tortillas as one of the essential ingredients for making great Mexican food. Finally, he knew how to build machinery. When he lost his job and could not find another job that could pay him the $750 a month needed to support his nine children, he started making tortillas by hand. Soon after, he invented his tortilla machine, and the rest is history. When you see an opportunity, jump on it!    


"Death isn't the enemy, fear is."

     - Ellen Gilchrist


Jim Spoor knew his industry, human resources
. As the human resource manager for a large company, he found it difficult to obtain useful and timely information from the large information systems structure.

In 1981, when IBM brought the personal computer to the marketplace, Jim was convinced that the PC could enhance the efficiency of his work. The problem: human resource management software did not exist. Here was his opportunity. Jim thought carefully, but, moved quickly. Just as the PC was gaining acceptance, he was in the marketplace with his first software product.

Be willing to sacrifice everything to make your idea a reality.

  • Jim and Nancy's children were grown.

    They decided that since they had been poor once, they were willing to be poor again. They took a second mortgage on their home, cashed in their life insurance policies, and in the beginning, drew no salary. When you start a business, you will have to take a risk.

  • Rita started her company with a $65,000 divorce settlement.

    This decision not only put her cash at risk, but also put her potential to earn a living at risk because her ability to earn a living working for herself was unknown. To become a "full-time" entrepreneur, you must be willing to leave the security of employment.

There is no security in a job.

Gerhard Von-der-Ruhr also believes an entrepreneur needs a strong ego, but not a big ego.

Lillian Handy believed that working in a firm whose survival depended on government contracts was more risky than starting her own business. Why? Because she wasn't the boss. Follow your dreams.


   "Every man dies but not every man really lives."

- Braveheart


Yvonne LaFleur grew up in the country and came into the city on the street car. Her family was poor, but she had four aunts who all worked in large department stores in New Orleans. At the age of four she decided to own her own store some day. Her philosophy has always been, "think best and be best."

Twenty-five years ago with only $10,000, she decided to open the "best" jeans shop in New Orleans. As she made money, she ventured into every aspect of women's clothing. She is a seamstress, designer, and hat maker. Yvonne used her talents to follow her heart's dream to create a one-of-a-kind small business.

Personal magic is unexplainable power

By some it is seen as supernatural power. You have magic and you have to find it to choose the right business for yourself.

Because running a business is too hard unless you tap into that magical power deep inside of you. Some might call this magic power one's talent.

It's obvious in celebrities.

Barbra Streisand has a magical voice. She also wanted to be an actress and has tried to establish herself as such. However, it is only when she opens her mouth to sing that we all feel her true magic. She is not a bad actress. She is simply a magical singer. If you don't like her voice, please don't excuse this example. Her career in film as an actress and director only followed her singing success, but it is her singing that really sells.


"Never question the truth

of what you fail to understand

because the world is filled with wonders."

–Frederick Buechner


A great cook uses recipes and so do I. We could both prepare the same meal from the same recipe, but if she has a special gift for cooking -- a little magic -- her dish will taste better than mine. This is old green thumb idea. If two gardeners put forth the same efforts and apply the same techniques, but one has a green thumb, the fruits of her garden will look and taste better.

I am calling this green thumb phenomenon magic.

It can not be explained scientifically and so the whole idea is rejected by many. You can be good at many things, however you will probably only be great at a few things. Since you'll spend so many of your waking hours working, you want to be great at your work.

When I say great, I don't want to get off course by defining greatness as being wealthy or seen by others as great. You define for yourself when you have achieved something great.

According to Webster, work is "Effort directed toward some goal."

When you apply your magic to your work, you see miracles happen.

We all need to exert effort, so work is good for us. In a film I saw at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, they said that astronauts who spend too much time in space have to re-adjust to gravity. Their muscles have to put forth such little effort in the weightless environment of space, they lose their power. Their legs have difficulty working on land because they have not had to work in space. You, like I, know some individuals who grew up with a silver spoon. It's almost as if these people live in a weightless cubicle. They don't have to work to put bread on the table, so they lose their power.

Work is good.

It structures time, focuses energy, releases creativity, forms relationships. Without work we become lethargic and despondent.

Inside my family

On a personal note that become a tragic note

My mother was a magical mom. She had just the right touch for nurturing children in every way. When she "got laid off," she didn't figure out a way to continue using her magic with other children.

My mother suffered from depression the last 22 years of her life. I was the youngest child; and when I left home, she lost her work. She lost her purpose. She tried to kill herself five times. She had every kind of resource available to her, but it was all too late. She dreaded the loss of her work before it happened, expected the loss to be terrible, and it was.

No work, no fulfillment.  Work is good and noble because it is achieving some result that helps people. Make another person's life better and you have fulfilling work.

But how do you find the work that suits you best and allows you to use your magic?

My Niece.  I believe in trying every method to discover as much truth about yourself as possible. My niece was studying nursing in college because she got a nursing scholarship and her best friend was a nursing major. She hated it, so after two years of torture, she took an aptitude test administered by Johnson-O'Connor. The results revealed that she does not have the aptitude for science needed to be a great nurse. Instead, she should be a police officer, social worker, public relations director, or use her extraordinary verbal skill in other ways.

Some people know from childhood what is going to fulfill them.



  "No story is a straight line.

The geometry of a human life

is too imperfect and complex,

too distorted by laughter of time

and the bewildering intricacies of fate

to admit the straight line into its system of laws."

- Pat Conroy


J.T. Curtis  My brother-in-law, J.T. Curtis, is one of those people. J.T.  is  the "winningest"  high school coach in America. I think the reason he is so successful is he is focused like a laser -- he has always wanted to be a coach and that is all he has ever done. He played college football, majored in physical education, did a masters degree in education, then started coaching junior high and high school.

He has even been at the same school for the entire 32 years of his coaching career. Even though he is often wooed by colleges, he believes he is in the right place. If you play for J.T. Curtis, you will be on a winning team. His teams have won 20 state championships since 1971. Many of his students play from 9th to 12th grade and never lost a game. His teams so dominate their class in football that they now play two divisions above their own. With only 500 students in the high school they compete against teams from schools with 3,000 students.

J.T. doesn't know what it feels like to wonder what he should do with his life. He has simply always known and hasn't felt any need to change. He's in his element, at home with children and high school students, and he thinks of coaching as his calling and destiny.

Other coaches listen to him teach in clinics and probably rush home to try to apply his techniques. The only problem is, they don't have the same kind of magic. None of us can copy, we can only take an idea and mold it into something which works for us.

R.G. Bryant.   My father was a minister and spoke often of "being called by God." He would have made a wonderful salesman or business leader, but he was never interested in making money. He wanted to provide for his family, which he did, but he was never motivated by money. I believe he was comfortable with very little money because he grew up poor and knew low salaries came with the territory of being a minister.

Sure, there were plenty of perks: I don't think my father ever paid for a round of golf; there was always someone handy to pick up the tab for the preacher. What is "being called by God?" Do you have to be a minister to have a "calling?" I don't think so -- I think J.T. is "called by God" to be a coach although J.T. would probably not say he was "called."

Now, let me tell you a little more about Yvonne; she feels "called" to be in retail, John is "called" to be a tax attorney.

Inside the television show

Yvonne LeFleur

Yvonne LeFleur was four years old when she rode the streetcar into downtown New Orleans to visit her aunts who worked in a large department store. The moment she stepped into that shiny place, she knew she wanted to have her own store.

Yvonne says, "I believe it is a true gift from God to know early in your life what you want to do. This way all of your education and preparation are focused toward a specific goal. Yvonne did not want a department store, she wanted a unique specialty shop and her motto is to "think best and be best." When she was four, why did the thought pop into her head that she wanted her own store?

I think it is the spirit within, guiding; you might think it's like God handing the ten commandments down to Moses, or we all might simply agree -- it's a mystery. I concur with Yvonne -- it's a blessed mystery. You must realize by now that any business you own is a reflection of you.

When you walk into Yvonne LeFleur's shop in New Orleans, you feel her magic. The business she has built is uniquely hers and could never be copied. She selects the merchandise, designs many of the pieces herself, makes hats (for which she is famous) and even has her own fragrance. Running her own store is all she has ever done as a professional and she blends it right in with rearing her seven children.

Making tons of money is not Yvonne's priority, so she doesn't.

Does it surprise you to read that in a business book? There is an assumption that every business person expects to make profits. I know from my own experience living in the world of small business that money is not the primary motivator of most successful people. Service is. Yvonne's magic? She listened to that little inner voice when she was four years old and didn't question it. She acted on that calling and she's been doing magic for 25 years.

John Michener

John Michener, a mentor, friend, and customer of mine, told me when he was 12 years old he decided he wanted to be a tax attorney. Frankly, when I was 12, I didn't even know there was such a thing as a tax attorney.

John's father opened a gas station at the end of World War II. By being in the right business at the right time -- everyone was coming home from the war and buying automobiles.  Mr. Michener became quite successful. John would go with his father on business appointments and met the tax attorney who handled his father's business.

John went through college in three years, finishing with a degree in accounting. He passed the CPA exam, then went straight to law school. He worked for a Big Six CPA firm for 10 years to learn the ins and outs of the IRS, then opened his own law firm. At one time it was the fastest growing firm in Fort Worth, Texas. How did he know he wanted to be a tax attorney? What drew him to the work? I believe his success is based on the fact he followed his instincts, which is another way to say he "was called." These instincts reveal our magical parts to us.


"Get busy living or get busy dying."

- Shawshank Redemption


Magic is magic.

J.T. Curtis, Yvonne LeFleur, Steve Day, Tom Valez and Jack Maxwell have found their magic. They knew their calling when they were young.

But, how do we find our magic and know we are called?

You must look deep inside, read books, take tests, ask other people what they see in you.

What are you waiting for? Look inside and find your magic.