I arrived in Las Vegas, exhausted after a long flight from Ho Chi Minh City via Seoul, to find my luggage had gone missing. It was 4pm on Friday 29 March and it had taken what seemed like an eternity to get through passport control. When it was obvious that my bag would not be making an appearance on the carousel I asked a lady at the desk where it might be. I told her that I had flown with Korean Airways and was rather stunned when she started to babble on about the threat of a nuclear attack from North Korea! I was tired, I had no luggage and now I was being forced to listen to the ill informed, and frankly irrelevant, opinions of a woman I had asked for help.
My bag was finally located. It had apparently been mislaid during the transfer in Seoul and was now on its way to Los Angeles. I was told that it would be delivered to my hotel within a few hours. I was relieved that at least it had made it to the right part of the right country and went to collect the fabulous convertible Ford Mustang I’d hired for the week. I
raced down the highway and onto the legendary Casino Strip. I was staying at the Golden Nugget in downtown Vegas where I ate a meal and then went to my room to read a book and wait for my bag. Although I tried to stay awake I must finally have dozed off at around 1.30am.
I woke at 4.30am, which gave me plenty of time to prepare for the marathon I was due to start at 6am. I got into the Mustang and made my way into town. While I was stopped at a traffic light a man appeared at my window holding a gun. He asked me to hand over all my belongings. With the weapon just inches from my face I did as he requested without protest. It was obvious to me that this man was not happy, so I asked him how he was doing and why he felt he needed to rob me. He explained that it was because he had no job and needed money to pay for food and rent. Although he had just robbed me at gun point I felt pity for this man and asked if there was anything I might be able to do to help. He was visibly surprised by this but asked me if I could perhaps drive him home. I told him to jump in and give me directions. He told me he lived 20 minutes away. I reassured him that I was not upset about the robbery and that I had no intention of involving the police. It was then that I looked at my watch and realised that it was already 5.30am and there was no way I could drive this man home and make the start of my race.
The choice was not difficult. We talked, exchanged phone numbers and as I dropped him at his door I promised I would be in contact to see how he was getting on and if I could do more to help. I then headed off to the marathon I had come to Las Vegas to run. I arrived at 6.15am and apologized to the organisers. They listened in shock to my story and agreed that I could have a late start. I managed to complete the race, tired and sweaty, less than four hours later.
I was woken suddenly by the sound of my hotel room’s doorbell. It was the bell boy delivering my bag. I checked my watch and saw that it was 2am. I had only been asleep for half-an-hour. I took my bag and lay back down on my bed struck by how real the dream I’d just had seemed. My bed was soaked in sweat, as if I had just run a marathon. Did the dream mean something? Was my subconscious trying to communicate that however important running might be in my life it is far more important for me to help others? My mind then wondered back to one of the most fulfilling, happiest times of my life. I was at university in Australia when I, together with my wife, organised a charity golf event for a young boy dying from Leukaemia. Together we managed to raise US$18,500 and I remember realising at the time that this was what I was born to do. I tried to get back to sleep, but all I could do was reflect on the message from my dream.
At 6am I drove to Bellagio for its world famous Easter brunch. I then spent the rest of the morning visiting various running and cycling stores to buy equipment for my first ever triathlon on the island of Bali on 23 June. By the time I was finished I was tired. It had been a long day. But I had booked a 21km run around Red Rock Canyon at 4pm. Because I had not had much sleep the night before I considered calling Las Vegas Running Tour to cancel. As I picked up the phone I realised that I was making up excuses for backing out. Winners never lose and losers never win. I put down the phone and told myself to just go for it. I also promised myself that I would not use being tired as an excuse for not performing to the best of my abilities with my running guide, Jimmy.
I met up with Jimmy, my running guide, at the Red Rock Casino at 3.30 in the afternoon. I was instantly struck with how positive he was and how full of energy. We clicked immediately and it felt like we had known each other forever. We arrived at Red Rock Canyon, with its impressive sandstone rock formations, at 4pm and started our desert run. It was immediately obvious that Jimmy was extremely fit as he attacked the hills at
full tilt. He told me that so far in his life he had completed seven Iron Man competitions. Impressed I asked him how he had managed to complete so many of these extremely physically gruelling triathlons. He replied that it was all down to a great deal of hard work and self-discipline. I then pressed him further and asked whether he felt he applied this hard work and discipline to other areas of his life. The look on his face told me that he had realised that he did not. It was obvious that Jimmy didn’t lack ambition because he told me that he had a dream of expanding his business, just that he was not sure what action to take to make the dream a reality.
I know the only way to achieve something is to create a solid plan and then work towards it, every day, without getting distracted. I explained to Jimmy that having a vague idea that he would like to grow his business was a bit like preparing for an Iron Man by going out for a run every now and then. We talked some more and decided that my new fiend should start by educating himself. I told him I would jot down the names of a couple of books I thought he might enjoy by self-help experts Brian Tracy and Anthony Robbins. We
continued to chat and our run around the canyon went well. We arrived back at the car park in just under two-and-a-half hours.
Jimmy checked his watch and told me that we had completed 20km. I may have been exhausted, but I had planned to complete the half-marathon distance of 21km. I told Jimmy this, and with a wry smile he suggested a few laps of the car park. We must have looked like a pair of madmen to onlookers, but I didn’t care. We finished 21km as I had set out to do in 2 hours and 34 minutes. I was hot, tired and extremely happy. The run was perfect preparation both mentally and physically for the week ahead.
The reason I was in Las Vegas was to attend the three-day Zappos Culture Boot Camp. It started on Tuesday morning and is geared towards training leaders to create and maintain positive culture changes in the workplace.
The camp is the brainchild of Tony Hsieh, the man behind shoe and clothing retailer
Zappos.com and author of New York Times bestseller, ‘Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose’. I joined my colleague Andru and 36 other business professionals from a number of different industries, but mainly ecommerce. It was an incredible experience to spend time at the offices of the online shoe giant that was set up in 1999 and then sold to Amazon.com for USD 1.2 billion a decade later.
At Zappos we were taught how to better create a vision and core values, improve human resources and recruiting, develop core culture changes, offer better service to customers, better coaching and training sessions to our staff and broaden our goals. We also had the chance to visit the Fremont East neighbourhood of the city where Tony has set up various projects aimed at revitalising this part of downtown Vegas. It was then time to see Tony’s apartment and have a Q&A session with the man himself. I was like a child in a toy store because we were discussing topics that I am truly passionate about.
By the end my hands were aching because of all the notes I had taken, and I am now keen to begin planning how to adopt the ideas and create an even greater culture in Sophie Paris.
The culmination of the Boot Camp was a Zappos family All-Hands Meeting and Happy Hour attended by all 1200 Zappos employees. The gathering was full of energy and laughter, but my biggest surprise was still to come. Tony introduced the final guest speaker of the day who is one of my all time heroes – the business guru and self-help author Anthony Robbins. Seeing him live has long been on my list of 100 things to do before I die. It was also one of my top 10 personal development goals for 2013. Hearing him speak made me realise how important it is to visualise and write down very clear goals, or as author of ‘The Secret’ Rhoda Byrnes puts it: ‘Ask, Believe, Receive’. I do not believe it is simply down to luck that I keep fulfilling my dreams.You can see the last 20 seconds on his presentation here. This is the level of energy I have at the moment by the way!
Before heading to the airport on Friday, I had another chance to meet up with Jimmy. While in Las Vegas I’d had some time to reflect on our first meeting and made a list of recommended reading and some action points for him to consider. I am very much looking forward to staying in touch with my new friend and watching him turn his dreams and
goals into reality. I received an email from him a few days ago with a photo of four of the books I had recommended attached. I strongly believe that Jimmy has taken his first step towards a more successful, fulfilling and happier life. Buying the books is like signing up to compete in a marathon or triathlon. He has paid the entry fee and now needs to discipline himself to set aside the time to train by reading every day, create a plan for the future and put that plan into action.
I would like to send special thanks you to all the new friends that I met at the Zappos Boot-Camp, especially Andrew Quinn and Kristen from HubSpot and yes you play the Trooper very well Andrew! Nora Crivello from Westak and Bob, Debbie and Richard from Echo 360, do not mention the Moose! And also Jonathan Wolske the Culture Evangelist of Zappos Insight, you really made the House of Blues go through the roof on Thursday night! Was
also great to meet Jack Nicholson my all time favorite actor over a beer and cigar (although it might not have been the real one). Had a blast with Sylvie and Natalie, thanks for the Wynn pool pass and green tea Chocolate girls. The trip to Las Vegas has helped me believe even more strongly that my purpose is to inspire and empower others – something that I commit to always do.