How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success
By Michael Cox, PhD, CPA and Founder of Rushmore © 1995
Two types of aspiring students contact Rushmore: (1) those that are already a success and know that they must continue to learn to succeed and (2) those who want to learn how to succeed. Our program will help you no matter which type you are.
I learned to succeed by using non-traditional, distance-learning methods. These methods moved me from a position as a struggling accounting instructor with an income of $13,000 per year to an entrepreneur who started three successful businesses. I have refined these methods in the Rushmore approach to learning.
Let me tell you what non-traditional distance learning is not. It is not:
- Driving to a campus, sitting in a classroom and listening to a lecture by a professor who has little practical experience in the business world;
- Learning that is dictated by a professor’s generic goals for a large group of students;
- Taking tests that require you to memorize numerous facts;
- Fitting your life to the schedule of the college and the professor.
Non-traditional distance learning is:
- Education designed by you to meet your personal goals;
- Deciding what to read and when to read it;
- Setting your personal educational goals, assessing your progress towards these goals and measuring the concrete results of your efforts.
In my experience the best way to learn is through creative emulation. I have three sons. I noticed every day that they learned something new. It did not take long for me to see that they were watching me, trying to do whatever I did. Using this simple method, they learned to walk, run, open doors and climb stairs. When they did these things, they looked exactly like me, adding their individual creative touches. I call this process creative emulation.
I used creative emulation to reach my goal of playing tennis on the professional circuit, emulating those players who were winning professional tournaments. I read every tennis book that I could find and examined issues of every tennis magazine, looking for articles on technique. I watched top professionals on television, sometimes videotaping matches and playing them back in slow motion. I went to see pros play in person. I even studied the science of hitting tennis balls by reading books on physics and kinesiology, the study of human motion.
As I studied, I made numerous observations that I recorded in a journal, which eventually consisted of several notebooks and thousands of index cards. I used this journal to help me apply what I had observed. This process turned me from a third-string player on a second-rate college tennis team in 1972 into a player who could win on the professional satellite circuit in 1980. Along the way I developed one of the best approaches to learning tennis. My two older sons, Caleb and Christopher, are now learning tennis by using creative emulation. They watch me and then emulate what I do.
In 1983, shortly after finishing my PhD and while I was teaching at the University of Arkansas, I set a goal of starting a part-time business conducting lectures and seminars. I used the same approach toward this goal that I had used for tennis. I subscribed to business periodicals, such as Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and Success. I read countless books on time management, human relations (among them Dale Carnegie’s timeless How to Win Friends and Influence People), speaking The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking (again by Dale Carnegie), teaching, entrepreneurship and management. I worked hard on my classroom teaching skills, developing the speaking and teaching skills I would need in my business. Once again, I wrote down ideas from my reading and teaching on index cards. As I applied the time management concepts from my reading and developed a filing system, I became better organized, especially when writing papers.
The next step in my transition into the business world was the purchase of a Macintosh computer in early 1985. Again, I set out to learn all that I possibly could about how to use this machine in business. I subscribed to computer periodicals, many of them free trade magazines. I learned how to use spreadsheets, databases, graphics and word processing, desktop publishing and outline processing software. I published articles on how to use all of them.
I became a part-time computer hardware and software reseller and consultant. Because of the software skills I had developed, I became more confident of my ability to do greater things in business. I realized that I could manage large projects with many co-workers, customers, resources and products. I continued to read more business books. I learned to write more effectively, enjoying the process from outline processing to completed project.
I began to conduct Macintosh seminars for the public in 1988. These seminars went so well that I was able to leave traditional education for good in 1989. My one-person home business flourished over the years and grew into a group of larger companies that taught computer and business skills to more than 11,000 participants.
In 1993, I made the second most important decision in my life: I got married. My wife, Iola, is a CPA with a MBA from Southern Methodist University. Not only is she a wonderful mother to my sons, but she also has a superb business sense. She has inspired and helped me in each of the businesses I have started. In his book The Millionaire Mind, Dr Stanley says that the key to success in business and life is your choice of a mate. I could not agree more. This paper could be titled How I Went from Failure to Success by Marrying the Right Person.
Today I continue to use non-traditional distance learning to develop my skills and increase my earning capacity. I subscribe to numerous magazines and trade journals. I read a dozen books each month. I watch videotapes and listen to audiotapes. I attend marketing seminars and participate in follow-up conference calls. I continue to learn about new software. Most importantly, I still note almost every idea I learn from my readings or my own thinking. The only difference is that I have abandoned index cards in favour of recording my ideas on my Palm Pilot, later transferring them to my computer to be organized.
Great ideas will not translate into success unless you have a way to organize, evaluate and implement them. This is where computer software comes into play. You can use the amazing power of software in such areas as management, marketing, finance and accounting to take your ideas from the planning stage to reality. Such software, especially outline processing and personal information management programs, transformed my career as I went from an unsuccessful professor to a successful professor and then to a success in business.
The key to successful creative emulation is to emulate successful people, the doers of the world. One should emulate those who do, not those who only talk about doing. This concept eliminates most of the professors at traditional colleges and universities who talk a lot about doing, but do little as they teach. The best way to emulate someone in business is to follow him or her around and observe what he or she does. If you perform this task long enough, following the right person and applying what you observe, you should succeed.
The second best way to emulate is to listen or read about what your model business person (or mentor) does and how he or she actually does it. You might visit your mentor. If this is not possible, you may want to uncover what has been written by or about this person. You can begin by looking for information at the library, a bookstore or on the Internet. You should read pertinent books, magazines and trade journals about your mentor and his or her business. You should attend relevant conventions, trade shows and seminars. Next you should repeat this procedure, studying other mentors. The more you know about how your mentors have succeeded, the more insight you will have to help you succeed.
I used this system with tennis. I now apply this system in business. You, too, can use this system to seek business success while you earn your Rushmore MBA, Master’s, PhD or DBA degree.
These are some of the books that are in my personal library:
Goal Setting and Management
- How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life, Alan Lakein
- Mastery and Management of Time, Sydney F. Love
- How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie
- The Three Boxes of Life and How to Get Out of Them: An Introduction to Life/Work Planning, Richard N. Bolles
- The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Lessons for Personal Change, Stephen R. Covey
- Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill
- Time Management for Unmanageable People: The Guilt-Free Way to Organize, Energize, and Maximize Your Life, Ann McGee-Cooper
- The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management: Proven Strategies for Increased Productivity and Inner Peace, Hyrum W. Smith
- The Time Trap: The New Version of the Classic Book on Time Management, Alec Mackenzie
- First Things First, Stephen R. Covey
I have read and adopted many of the ideas from the foregoing books. These ideas, combined with the use of time management software, dramatically increased my personal productivity and management skills. In turn, I developed the confidence and ability to start my first business.
- The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Do Not Work and What to Do About It, Michael E. Gerber
- Winning Through Intimidation, Robert J. Ringer
- Look Before You Leap: Market Research Made Easy, Don Doman, Dell Dennison and Margaret Doman
- The Start-up Entrepreneur: How You Can Succeed in Building Your Own Company into a Major Enterprise Starting From Scratch, James R. Cook
- The Successful Business Plan: Secrets and Strategies: Start-to-Finish Guide to Creating a Successful Business Plan, Rhonda M. Abrams
- How to Make Millions with Your Ideas: An Entrepreneur’s Guide, Dan S. Kennedy
- Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Practice and Principles, Peter F. Drucker
- The Portable MBA in Entrepreneurship, William D. Bygrave
- Managing Imitation Strategies: How Later Entrants Seize Markets From Pioneers, Steven P. Schnaars
- Going Public: Everything You Need to Know to Successfully Turn a Private Enterprise into a Publicly Traded Company, Frederick D. Lipman
- Guerrilla Financing: Alternative Techniques to Finance Any Small Business, Bruce Blechman and Jay Conrad Levinson
- Starting on a Shoestring: Building a Business without a Bankroll, Arnold S. Goldstein
- Magazines: Forbes, Inc., Success, Entrepreneur
- Psycho-Cybernetics: A New Way to Get More Living out of Life, Maxwell Maltz
- Unlimited Power: The Way to Peak Personal Achievement, Anthony Robbins
- A Millionaire’s Notebook: How Ordinary People Can Achieve Extraordinary Success, Steven K. Scott
- Awaken The Giant within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny, Anthony Robbins
- The Magic of Thinking Big: A Unique Way to Magnify Your Thinking Patterns and Achieve the Things You Want, David J. Schwartz
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert B. Cialdin
- How to Make Your Advertising Make Money, John Caples
- How to Write a Good Advertisement: A Short Course in Copywriting, Victor O. Schwab
- How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling, Frank Bettger
- The New Maxi-Marketing: The Classic Guide to Transforming Your Advertising, Promotion, and Marketing Strategy for the Information Economy, Stan Rapp and Thomas Collins
- Spin Selling: Situation/Problem/Implication/Need-Payoff, Neil Rackham
- Online Marketing Handbook: How to Promote, Advertise, and Sell Your Products and Services on the Internet, Daniel S. Janal
- High Probability Selling: Re-Invent the Selling Process, Jacques Werth and Nicholas E. Ruben
- Managing Major Sales: Practical Strategies for Improving Sales Effectiveness, Neil Rackham and Richard Ruff
- Breakthrough Advertising: How to Write Ads that Shatter Traditions and Sales Records, Eugene M. Schwartz
- Major Account Sales Strategy, Neil Rackham
- How to Master the Art of Selling, Tom Hopkins
- A Whack on the Side of the Head: How to Unlock Your Mind for Innovation, Roger Von Oech
- Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Business Creativity for the 90s, Michael Michalko
- Serious Creativity: Using the Power of Lateral Thinking to Create New Ideas, Edward de Bono
- The Thinkers Toolkit: Fourteen Skills for Making Smarter Decisions in Business and in Life, Morgan D. Jones
- Jump Start Your Brain: A Proven Method for Increasing Creativity up to 500%, Doug Hall
- Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Problem-Solving, Alex F. Osborn
- A Technique for Producing Ideas, James Webb Young
- Wake up Your Creative Genius, Kurt Hanks and Jay Parry
The Deterioration of Traditional Education
At Rushmore our students have academic freedom. At traditional business schools, only faculty members with tenure have academic freedom.
Charles Sykes is the author of the book, ProfScam: Professors and the Demise of Higher Education. This is how one reviewer sums up Sykes’ book:
This book is a devastating indictment of US universities, which Sykes calls vast citadels of waste, ruled with an iron hand by an oligarchy of arrogant, tenured professors who are overpaid and underworked. He names specific universities, professors, dates and places and asserts that a university education is a scam which cheats students, parents and taxpayers. He says the universities offer more and more courses of less and less importance, including a plethora of junk courses referred to by students as “guts” (slang for a course that can be passed with no more preparation than gut instinct).
Another reviewer had this to say about Sykes’ conclusions:
In Chapter 1, Sykes lays out the truth about the modern academic culture without sugar-coating. It is the same problem that crops up in every aging monopoly: the complacency of the protected group.
[Sykes claims that]… “professors have convinced society that this culture is essential for higher learning and have thus been able to protect their own status and independence by cheating students, parents, taxpayers and employers and by polluting the intellectual inheritance of society. Over the last 50 years, this academic culture has secured professors almost ironclad job security and the freedom to do whatever they like – and do it well or poorly – or do nothing at all.”
Another relevant book on the state of American education is Inside American Education by Thomas Sowell. The following is a summary of this book by A.R. Huggins of Memphis University:
“The purpose of education is to give the student the intellectual tools to analyse, whether verbally or numerically, and to reach conclusions based on logic and evidence.” With these words begins a treatise on the failure of American education–elementary, secondary, and college levels–to prepare today’s students for the future. Among the many causes of this failure are the poor intellectual capabilities of elementary and secondary school teachers; the politicizing of education, especially the emphasis on world-saving agendas; the affective approach to curriculum (striving to reshape the attitudes of students); and the presence of “assorted dogmas,” including multicultural diversity, relevance and educating the whole person. All these causes and more are clearly discussed, with some frightening true-life examples, to illustrate that students aren’t learning the basics because the basics aren’t being taught.
Page Smith is a historian who authored the eight-volume People’s History of the United States and the book, Killing the Spirit. The following is a review of the latter book:
“Historian Smith … has produced an excellent general history of American higher education, beginning with a discussion of its current problems. Smith’s insights and controversial comments have the potential for upsetting those wedded to the status quo in higher education. … Approximately one-third of the book deals with the “sacred cows,” foibles and fallacies of higher education: tenure, graduate assistants teaching instead of faculty, the “publish or perish” syndrome, women’s studies, the non-scientific social sciences and the inhumanity of the humanities.”
The education establishment is not doing well at the primary or secondary level either. Charles Sykes has also written a scathing condemnation of this sector in his book, Dumbing down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can’t Read, Write, or Add.
One reviewer summarized Sykes’ conclusions as follows:
Nowhere has the flight from quality, plaguing American life these days, been more obvious than in our primary and secondary schools — on the whole, the graduates seem less well-read and less well-spoken, less knowledgeable and less able to compute. In this book, Charles Sykes asks why and lays most of the blame at the feet of the trainers of teachers, the writers of textbooks and the educational policy wonks that influence them. He convincingly shows that in many different school systems and in many different academic fields, with the help of goofy textbooks, watered-down requirements and “re-centered” test-grade scales, American students have come to value feeling good about a subject over being good in it. Sykes’ recommended reforms include abolishing the Federal Department of Education and its state counterparts, abolishing undergraduate schools of education, establishing more alternative routes to teacher certification and establishing merit raises for good teachers. Good ideas all — now if we can only get politicians to put them into action!