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Next Time You Find Yourself in Prison...Try This. Really.

Next Time You Find Yourself in Prison...Try This. Really.

October 15, 2009

Nottingham Prison was one of the jails "Alfie" Hinds escaped from. But he didn't do it alone.

'Alfie' Hinds truly was one of the most notorious escape artists ever. Jailed for stealing jewelry, he escaped from a high security British prison not just once but 3 times and went on to make quite a bit of money as an author and speaker. I'm not making this up!

So what in the world can we learn from an escape artist about running our businesses better? I'll tell you'

Soon after Hinds broke out of prison the first time he was captured. But while being held, he appealed his conviction in court and that's where he planned his next escape with the help of friends. He had them smuggle a lock to him. As he was escorted to the rest room, he overtook the guards and locked them in the bathroom with the padlock he was given so he could flee.

My point?

You can't free yourself from jail. You need help. Throughout history, the greatest escapes from prison usually occur with the help of a friend.

Now I'm not trying to give you tips on how to break the law. What I'm saying is that we often find ourselves in a sort of jail. The jail I'm talking about is the one in which we can't see ourselves clearly, and that keeps us from achieving our goals.

It's difficult for us to see ourselves for who we really are. We're rarely unbiased and even the greatest saints needed a mentor to help them overcome their character traits.

Every one of us has blind spots, which are those things we tend to do, but are unconscious of doing. Picture a well-worn bike path with ruts carved out by bike tires. That's what it can be like doing the same thing over and over. As you try to get off the path, you slip right back into the rut.

So what's the solution? I hinted at it earlier. We need someone to help us such as a mentor or a trusted friend who can help point out our blind spots.

Even though Mariah Carey is one of the top-selling female singers, she got stuck in a jail of her own creation. Blinded by her phenomenal success she would go for days without saying a word to anybody. She once spent $9,500 on a life-sized cake made in her own image. Unfortunately, she went deeper and deeper into the depths of her own jail and she had a horribly difficult public breakdown.

She wasn't able to free herself from jail until doctors could treat her and give her the honest evaluation she needed. Today, she's more popular and more successful than ever.

Bill Gates has Warren Buffett as a mentor, who is chiefly responsible for helping Bill and Melinda Gates start their charity work. Andrew Carnegie was a mentor to Charles Schwab. Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways, had as his mentor Freddie Laker, a British airline entrepreneur who started the no-frills business model and once told Branson, 'Make a fool of yourself. Otherwise you won't survive.'

Who is your mentor? Who can you trust to give you honest feedback?

Another way to find your blind spot ' ask! Survey your friends, coworkers and clients. Find out what they're really thinking, not just about you but about the business.

Offer rewards for customers who respond ' and tell them not to hold back. Make sure you convey a desire for true growth that doesn't look like a PR ploy. Another tip: Take a look at how your company is described on independent blogs. Is there validity to their critiques?

So whatever happened to Alfie Hinds?

He escaped a third time and this time he sought the help of the press. While on the lamb from Scotland Yard he gave interviews, sent recordings to the press and using his knowledge of the British legal system he was eventually pardoned!

He became such an outspoken critic of Britain's laws in the 1960s that he published a book on the topic and became a celebrity in England as a sought after speaker and debater.

Always taking you from where you are to where you want to go,


Jon Goldman