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Last Update: Wednesday June 23, 2021

Key Idea: Don't Look Back

Optimists don't look back. Joe Dannis could be sad about his past struggles to invent a product that helps so many people.  However, he chooses to focus on his success and the next catalog and the next great product. There's no time to fret.

Key Question:


Optimists look ahead.  They don't cry over spilt milk. That's how they stay optimistic! As the song says, they "pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start all over again." Every business owner must be more of an optimist than a pessimist. It's true that some days are terrible and some customers cheat you and some employees disappoint. All the negatives have to be looked at as lessons that life is teaching us and that way they are turned into positive experiences. Sounds corny but this way of thinking has proven to work for the people in this world who are maximizing their potential and helping others to do the same thing.

Q: What made Hattie cry during the interview with Joe?

A: She cried when Joe said if he knew when he started what he knows now he never would have launched his company. Think of all the people who have been helped profoundly by Joe. Think if they never would have had the opportunity to, "Sign Naturally?"

Bob Orenstein, founder of International Wine Accessories, told us, "I think that business people are optimists, that we trudge on, regardless. You know, it's almost like going through a blizzard. You're probably going to freeze to death; you're probably going to die before you get over to the other side; but why give up? Maybe it wasn't about being so optimistic, as that this was the only path to take. I was just going forward 'cause there was no turning back. And it worked." About two years after this conversation with Bob, he sold his business for $18 million. His looking forward, not back, paid him huge rewards.

Think about it

Do you look ahead? Do you feel good about the future? Are you excited about new ideas and new technology and new ways of doing things?

Clip from: Dawn Sign Press: The Pain of Starting

Joe Dannis, California's Small Business Person of the Year

San Diego: What are the most commonly used languages in the USA? Answer: English, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, French, German, then ASL. Yes, ASL. American Sign Language.

No less than 500,000 and as many as 2.5 million people use ASL every day. In this episode of the show language is subtlety transformed into hand, finger, body and facial combinations.

Take away any one of the basic senses and deep-seated creative power within the human mind is enlivened and focused interiority awakens. With today's micro-technologies, the deaf and blind are teaching us all about subtleties within language and our skills to communicate it. Here we meet extraordinary people in the midst of a revolution.

Joe Dannis is an advocate for American Sign Language. The Small Business Person of the Year from the State of California, Joe Dannis started DawnSignPress in 1979. He has always been out on the edge... being the first to advocate something new. Joe and his team publish materials to teach sign language for the deaf. Although he publishes videos and books for both children and adults, his biggest customers are schools and universities that offer courses in American Sign Language (ASL).

Today you'll meet Joe Dannis. He is one tough businessman, but he remembers nine very lonely years in the beginning. If he had to do it all over again, he probably would not. Learn from someone who has been over the hot coals and whose wisdom runs deep.

Go to all the key ideas and videos...

Dawn Sign Press

Joe Dannis, Founder

6130 Nancy Ridge Drive
San Diego, CA 92121

Visit our web site:

Office: 8586250600

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1979

Don't Look Back

I wouldn't do it again. Sad to say, I wouldn't do it again. It's tough. You think that the American dream to start a business, to become a rich millionaire and retire, that's baloney.

You pay all these taxes, you keep going. If you make the money, and then they take half of it away. If you spend it, fine, but then you don't have the money.

HATTIE: You had adversity at the beginning. You were by yourself, you were lonely, you were depressed. You weren't making any sales, you didn't have the right product, and it took several years to hit your home run? Why didn't you give up then, and then why haven't you given up now because you haven't hit another home run?

JOE: The reason that I am still going and still working is because I have earned too much money from too few products. What kept me going is the struggle, the struggle. I was stubborn and I had faith in what I was doing, and I could see what had happened to my competitors. And if I didn't do what they did, I would be allright. And I saw how they were being successful. They, too, were small businesses, and they had taken off. So it was a matter of time. I knew that if we published the sign language, we would take off. So it was just a matter of time, waiting, waiting five years to develop that, plus two years to produce it, a total of seven years that I had been waiting, and I was so patient. And when we published it, it took off, in nine years. I was nine years into the red, and I was into the black in just a few months. It was disgusting.

Sometimes you think once you're successful, it comes easy. But before you're successful, it's so hard.

HATTIE: That's it; I'm crying.

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