By Gino Blefari
This week my travels found me in Baltimore, MD and Lancaster, PA to meet with the outstanding team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Homesale Realty, led by Co-founder and Managing Director Doug Rebert; Co-founder and Managing Director Pete Slaugh; Rick Doyle, president of realty operations; and CFO Rod Messick. I delivered both my 7 Principles of Success and How to Create An Unstoppable Mindset Routine to the members of the brokerage and speaking against the backdrop of these extraordinary cities made me really think about the significance of both Lancaster and Baltimore’s rich history, and how some of the central themes in my talks are echoed in the cities’ past.
On Feb. 7, 1904, the city of Baltimore was struck by what is now known as the Great Baltimore Fire. More than 1,500 buildings burned as a result of the devastating inferno in a span of just 30 hours. Exactly 1,231 firefighters were called to Baltimore to get the blaze under control, though in the end 140 acres of land in Central Baltimore were completely destroyed, 35,000 residents were left unemployed and the city faced $150 million in damages (equal to about $3.84 billion today). By most accounts, the Great Baltimore Fire is considered the third-worst conflagration in American history. It’s also known as one of the greatest examples of perseverance in the face of certain despair.
Speaking to the forlorn members of his city—then a crumbling town of ash and despair—Major Robert McLane had this to say to the Baltimore News: “To suppose that the spirit of our people will not rise to the occasion is to suppose that our people are not genuine Americans. We shall make the fire of 1904 a landmark not of decline, but of progress.”
The city of Baltimore came together like none other after that message, and not only rebuilt from ruination in a matter of years but also used the fire as an opportunity to adopt a city building code that required fireproof materials—such as granite pavers—to be incorporated into all city structures.
Lancaster boasts a similar story of resilience in the face of strife. After the end of the American Revolution, the city of Lancaster became an iron-foundry center, providing Americans with two of the most common products necessary for pioneers to settle west in the new Frontier: the Conestoga wagon (named after the Conestoga River running through the city), and the Pennsylvania long rifle, devised by gunsmith and U.S. congressman William Henry. In other words, for Lancaster, the aftermath of a deadly war was increased industrial productivity that directly shaped the very borders of what America would soon become.
So, what’s the message? Well, it’s one I deliver over and over in both my 7 Principles to Success and Mindset Routine talks; staying positive is easy when times are good but it’s when things get hard that you really need to maintain your focus and composure. Why? Because it’s the hard that makes you great. It’s the willingness to do the hard that makes you great. When things are easy, your abilities aren’t tested or stretched or pushed to their limits, and any sudden success achieved can just as quickly be lost. A true leader with the right mindset to succeed is one who looks at a war-torn town and sees industrial opportunity or one who finds his or her city burned to the ground and from those ashes, sees a chance to rebuild into something even greater than before.