Thoughts on Leadership: Catching Success

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in San Diego for Buffini & Company’s MasterMind Summit and then back to the Bay Area for Dwight Clark Day during the San Francisco 49ers open training camp. This afternoon, I spent the day with Intero Real Estate Services managers, ironically sharing the West Coast Offense on how to run a real estate company with them.

Intero team

My great pal Dwight “The Catch” Clark was not only a legendary 49ers wide receiver with five Super Bowl rings to his name – two as a player and three in management – but also a dear, close friend. Dwight was a two-time All-Pro who caught 506 receptions in his career, “The Catch” being the most famed of them all. “The Catch” is considered the #7 most memorable play in the NFL and #1 for the 49ers, although many football insiders call it the most significant play in the sport, ever. Dwight Clark Day was especially poignant – August 7 (8/7) – as 87 was the number of Dwight’s jersey. I proudly wore my signed 87 jersey as I met with friends and members of the team, including Jed York, CEO of the 49ers.

Gino Blefari in his Clark jersey

Tickets for the day carried with them a $5 donation to the 49ers Foundation. Additionally, Letters to 87, the coffee table book compilation of heartfelt letters, rare photos and essays to Dwight, was on sale, with all royalties going to support Dwight’s charity of choice, the Golden Heart Fund. A collection of letters to Dwight were also displayed at the 49ers Museum in front of the lobby’s “What’s Trending” section, and the collection will remain there throughout the entire season. All in all, it was a fantastic day befitting of a fantastic, unforgettable hero. We miss you, Dwight.

Jed York and Gino Blefari

With Jed York, CEO of the San Francisco 49ers.

For this post, I want to return to the Buffini & Company MasterMind Summit, where I was inspired by the words of Brian Buffini, who spoke about Og Mandino and his impactful business philosophies. I know first-hand just how powerful Og’s ideas can be. I was fortunate enough to meet him in 1986 and he then became an important mentor and friend. Onstage, his effervescent charisma was infectious and those who watched him would often remark how perfect his life seemed to be. In reality, Og only ascended to the top of the business throne by overcoming difficult hardships that threatened his very life.

Og Mandino and Gino Blefari

With Og Mandino, best-selling author and motivational speaker.

Augustine “Og” Mandino II was born on December 12, 1923 and as a child, longed to become a famous writer. He was editor of his high school paper and had plans to attend the prestigious University of Missouri and study journalism. Then, just six weeks after he graduated from high school, his mother passed away in his kitchen while making him lunch. “I had a terrible time trying to deal with her passing,” Og had said. Instead of going to college, he went to work at a paper factory and in 1942 joined the United States Army Air Corps. The following year, he received his officer’s commission and his silver wings as a bombardier. “I was an officer and a gentleman two weeks before I could legally vote,” he once joked.

Og flew 30 bombing missions over Germany on board a B-24 Liberator. Coincidentally, Jimmy Stewart also flew in the same heavy bombardment group, the 445th. “Nice man,” Og recalled. (Eventually Og would keep a personalized 8 x 10 photograph of Stewart on the wall of his home office where he wrote his famed books.)

After returning home from the war, Og quickly discovered there weren’t too many employment prospects for, as he explained, “a bombardier with only a high school education.” After months of unemployment, he finally found a job selling life insurance but no matter how many hours of the day or night he worked, he still drifted deeper into debt and medicated his professional defeats with what would become an addiction to alcohol. Soon, his wife and daughter left him. He traveled the country in a wine-doused haze for the next two years, a self-proclaimed “sorry wretch of a human being” at his lowest low.

One, cold wintry day in Cleveland he almost took his life when he saw a gun for sale in the dusty window of a pawn shop. The gun was $29, and he only had three $10 bills in his pocket – the totality of his personal fortune – and by some epiphany, turned away from the shop as the snow continued to fall and life as he knew it began to pick up. Og walked right into the warmth of a library, into the self-help and motivation section. Inside this literary sanctuary, he decided he’d make a fresh start. Eventually, his drinking subsided, and his mental attitude began transforming toward the ever-positive. Still, as Og explained: “The dream of writing had never really faded from my heart.”

Eventually, after working on an in-house communications team for an insurance company, Og became editor of Success Unlimited magazine, growing the publication from a staff of two to 62 and attaining a paid circulation of close to 250,000. Finally, Og was a professional writer, and would go on to scribe some of the most important and influential business books the world has ever known. He wrote the bestselling book, The Greatest Salesman in the World, which has sold more than 50 million copies and has been translated into more than 25 different languages.

For your convenience, here are the 10 success scrolls from ‘The Greatest Salesman in the World,” guiding affirmations that apply to any leader in any industry:

  1. Today I begin a new life.
  2. I will greet this day with love in my heart.
  3. I will persist until I succeed.
  4. I am nature’s greatest miracle.
  5. I will live this day as if it is my last.
  6. Today I will be master of my emotions.
  7. I will laugh at the world.
  8. Today I will multiply my value hundredfold.
  9. I will act now.
  10. I will pray for guidance.

Additionally, here are the 10 vows of success from The Greatest Salesman in the World, Part II: The End of the Story, which expands on the ideas of the 10 scrolls from the previous book:

  1. Never again will I pity or belittle myself.
  2. Never again will I greet the dawn without a map.
  3. Always will I bathe my days in the golden glow of enthusiasm.
  4. Never again will I be disagreeable to a living soul.
  5. Always will I seek the seed of triumph in every adversity.
  6. Never again will I perform any task at less than my best.
  7. Always will I throw my whole self into the task at hand.
  8. Never again will I wait and hope for opportunity to embrace me.
  9. Always will I examine, each night, my deeds of the fading day.
  10. Always will I maintain contact, through prayer, with my creator.

So, what’s the message? If you look at Dwight’s life—at the optimism, the challenges, the incredible victories – it’s easy to connect his own philosophy of hard work, positivity and dedication with Og’s teachings. For both leaders, success wasn’t something that happened overnight. It took a whole lot of determination and willpower to turn personal tragedy into triumph, to catch the impossible and no matter what happened, find a way to win.

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