There are certain moments in my life that have been etched in perfect clarity in my memory memory banks that were truly pivotal points in my life.
When I was in High School, I was privileged to represent the United States Territory of Guam in the National Junior Achievement Conference at Indiana University in Bloomington. I joined 3,000 junior achievers from all over the country and its territories.
It was my first trip alone flying the thousands of miles from my island home. I was the delegate that traveled the farthest. I was only 17.
We were put together in groups of 50 and we roomed in the dormitories. School was not in session so housing was available. We were put in some workshop sessions with our group and in other workshop sessions of our choice. There also socials and fun activities.
Just to explain, the Junior Achievement program was set up to teach High School students ( at that time, it has been expanded into other age groups) to learn about business by allowing us to create companies;elect officers and management;develop, produce and market products or services. We also raised capital by selling $1.00 stocks. Once completed, we wrote an annual report.
Businesses sponsored a J.A. business and provide adult mentors from their company. These adults will donate their time in the evening on a weekly basis by being with us and advising us while we ran our companies.
At the national conference, we were privileged to to sit down with global and national business leaders in small groups to discuss several topics of commerce. They often shared their personal journey. The President of the United States even flew in and addressed us. It was an inspiring experience.
Delegates had the opportunity to volunteer for committees that ran certain activities and functions at the conference. I decided to be part of the elections committee which ran the national junior achievement elections which decided the national youth leaders for the coming year.
Our committee decided that a great way to promote voting was to to do these little skits between acts at the yearly Talent Show that everyone attended as part of the conference. Our theme was centered on cereal commercial characters. I was selected to play Tony the Tiger.
For those of you who don’t know , Tony the Tiger, was and is the brand symbol of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes cereal.
I was terrified because I had never addressed a national group like this one. I was a kid from a small island. I had no acting ability.
Of course, I got a lot of verbal support from the committee. Then I put on the outfit and was made up. I looked like something between a native of Borneo and a bad Daktari parody of an animal.
My heart was pounding when I entered the stage and went directly to the center of it with the spotlights blinding my view of the audience…but I heard the laughter and the volume increased in crescendo.
My heart sank but i was still resolved despite my nervousness.
I shouted out my line “Remember to Vote because ….It’s GREAAAAAATTTTT!” using my best Tony the Tiger impression with a slight island accent.
The laughter only became louder and I felt humiliated.
But then something happened… the laughter stopped and applause took over. I saw through the glare of the lights that the whole audience was on their feet. I heard “We will vote, Tony!” “We love you, Tony!” “You’re great, Tony!”
That single act put a spotlight on me that lasted the whole conference. I was nicknamed the Tiger from Guam. I made many friends and I was able to talk about my island and my Junior Achievement experiences to lots of groups.
I also had a fan club of girls who would just come up and kiss me on the cheek . It became a thing to do. This resulted in a date to the big gala with this beautiful girl from Puerto Rico. This will sound funny to my friends now who know how different my life is now when it comes to women.
So I have to credit Tony the Tiger for teaching me to take risks and face my fears. He also taught me that not all laughter was done for shaming. It was simply a precursor to a standing ovation.
I have remembered this lesson in my business dealings.
When we are out of our comfort zone and extend our self in a vulnerable way with strangers at a networking event or addressing potential clients or speaking in front of a group of your associates…don’t be afraid to take the risk. Because the results you will get for your business will be GRRREAATTT!