ASA 07 | Rockefeller Effect


What makes a person great is in who they really are. Alex shares a great and insightful story on the Rockefeller Effect about a young man who made his way to the top by pushing through the tough times with the right attitude. Gathering important key lessons, Alex talks about the significance of hiring for attitude and training for skill. After all, attitude is not something that can be taught; it is a built-in trait.

Learn why it is central to making you a highly skilled and ethical influencer. At the same time, discover how to get new team members.

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Power Of The Rockefeller Effect

The Rockefeller Story

I have no idea if this is a true story, but this is the way I heard it. Around the time of the depression, which is 1929 in New York City, there was a young entrepreneur who was a printer. He would print for other clients who needed printing services. For some reason, because of his attitude, a bad one, he started to lose clients.

He started to lose his team members. Worst of all, he started to lose his family and pretty soon he went from number one in all of Manhattan, which is New York City, to a level where he couldn’t sustain being in business. All of a sudden, he found himself behind the eight ball.

He was incapable of paying his bills and he was contemplating suicide. His wife wanted a divorce. His kids didn’t want to be around him, his employees didn’t like him, his suppliers and vendors didn’t like him because he wasn’t very nice, bad attitude.

It did bleed into not having enough clients, where at one time he was at the top of his game. He found himself on a park bench in Central Park, which is in New York City. I lived there from 1993 to the year 2000. It’s a beautiful park right in the middle of the city.

He was thinking about, “I just want to call this quits. It’s not worth it. It’s too much work. I blew it. I’m losing everything.” He’s on a bench and he sees what looks like a very distinguished elderly gentleman with a top hat dress nicely with a cane.

That gentleman noticed this young entrepreneur’s attitude and said, “Young man, what’s wrong?” He said, “I’m thinking about calling it.” The elderly gentleman said, “What does that mean?” He said, “I’m just thinking about jumping out a window like everyone else these days.” In 1929, 1930 during the Depression, many people jumped off of buildings because they lost so much money and they equated money with happiness.

The elderly gentleman looked at him, he said, “That’s ridiculous. Tell me what happened?” He said, “My employees don’t like me. I’ve had customers leave or in a depression. My wife wants to divorce me, my kids don’t want me around.”

Upon hearing that, the elderly gentleman wrote something on a piece of paper that looked like a check and handed it to the young entrepreneur and he said, “That is ridiculous. You take this, then one year from now, come back to this same very spot on this bench and tell me what you’ve done with this.”

The elderly gentleman disappeared. The young entrepreneur looked at him, looked at the check, it was definitely a check, then the check said $1,000,000. You don’t have to be a mathematician. That’s $1 million in 1930 and that’s a lot of money. He looked at it and he thought, “Yes, right.” That was the attitude.

As he looked in the upper left-hand corner, even though it was signed, it said John D. Rockefeller Jr. The young man looked at it and he said, “My ship has come in. This is it. How could I be so fortunate?”

[bctt tweet=”Experience is the only teacher.” username=””]

He went to his office, he folded the check in half, put it into the safe and he shut the door, put the combination so that no one could open it. He thought, “Check is there. I’m going to do what I can to change the way I do business because I think I can make this work.”

More millionaires in America were created during the years of the Depression in any other timeframe in the history of the United States. Even though things were bad, if you know how to adapt, if you have the right attitude, if you have the traits to know that it’s people that make you wealthy, not projects then things work. He put that check folded in half nice, neat into the safe and spun the combination. He made sure it was closed.

He went to his wife and he said, “Honey, please forgive me. I know I have not been nice. I know I’ve had a bad attitude. I know I haven’t been fun to be with. Please forgive me.” Like any spouse, she said, “No way.”

You can’t get away with getting a yes right away. He had to prove himself because experience is the only teacher, which is an Alexism. He went to his kids and he said, “Please forgive me.” They said, “Of course, dad,” because there were younger.

He went to his customers and he said, “I want to win you back.” They didn’t all say yes, but he started working it. He changed not his skills, but his attitude, which is not a learnable skill. He went to his vendors, he said, “I need additional payment terms because I’m going after customers who can’t pay bills right away. We’re in the middle of a depression, not a recession,” and most of them said, “No way.”

ASA 07 | Rockefeller Effect

Rockefeller Effect: If you believe you have something that can give you more confidence, then you have something that is more influential than having the money.


Eventually, he won them over and then he went after new customers. I’m not clear on the marketing strategies he employed, but over time he won the heart of his wife. He won the heart of his kids. He won the heart of his suppliers and vendors. He won the heart of his customer.

He made it so that it would be logically and emotionally good for them because he was a people person, not just the project person. He had a good attitude.

Over the months that passed by the sixth month, the way I was told the story, he was the sixth most successful printer in all of Manhattan, New York City, which is very fruitful and profitable market. Within nine months, he was number two. Within a year he was number one. He was back on top because he had the attitude and he had the attitude to be vulnerable. He went first and that’s key.

If you go first and you’re vulnerable with people whom you want to change your relationship with, then they’re either going to forgive you or they’re not going to forgive you. If you don’t go first, you have no control over that happening and that’s what he did.

Within that year, he was so excited because he didn’t spend a single nickel from the check he got from the distinguished elderly gentleman a year before. He couldn’t wait to go back to Central Park on the same bench where he promised to meet the gentleman. He brought the check back uncashed not utilized and he was number one printer in the city, making hundreds of thousands of dollars.

[bctt tweet=”Ethical influence is more about transparency, vulnerability, and the willingness to go first.” username=””]

He was excited. He came to the bench, he saw the distinguished gentleman who was there, who promised to be there and he said, “Sir, you’ll never believe.” All of a sudden a woman who looked like a nurse dressed in white with the hat, the white shoes and all that, got the gentleman and started to hold his hand and escort him away.

The young entrepreneur said, “Where are you going? Do you have any idea who that is?” As they were walking away, the nurse looked back and said, “Has he been telling people he’s John D. Rockefeller Jr. again?”

The Person You Need To Be

Think about that. If you believe you have something that can give you more confidence, it could be a check, it could be good and kind words from someone who loves you or whom you love. It could be a mentor who’s giving you guidance. Isn’t that more influential than actually having the money? If you believe you have the money to do it, then you go through the be, do, have scenario.

First, you’ve got to become the person you need to be. You do the things that that person will do and then you have the results, you have the tidings and the profits that that person has. Most people focus on have, do, be. “First, I’ve got to have the money, and then I can do certain things, then I can be the person I need to be.” They’ve got it backward.

This young entrepreneur figured out that by being tricked into thinking that he had a $1 million check, which he never cashed, he changed his life. That is a long-term change, by going first, by being vulnerable and by understanding the mistakes he had made in attitude, not skill.

I know lots of people who have skills, but I know people who have an attitude that always eclipses in success and in wealth over the people who have skill.

Think of Nelson Mandela. Think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Think of Mahatma Gandhi. Think of those people, were they ultra-wealthy? Do they have those things that made them wealthy and gave them the ability to capitalism, to buy the things they need or did they have the right attitude? Mother Teresa of Calcutta, 1979 won the Nobel Peace Prize. She wasn’t rich, but she was wealthy because wealth is what you have after all the money is gone.

Ethical influence is more about transparency, vulnerability and the willingness to go first. The Alexism for this story is that you don’t need a parachute to skydive. I have no idea if you’ve ever skydived from a plane before, but I know with absolute certainty, you don’t need a parachute to skydive. You need a parachute to skydive more than once and you can borrow that if you want.

Parachuting and skydiving don’t always go hand in hand. Some people skydive without a parachute. This guy found that there’s million-dollar fake check from someone who was probably in an old folk’s home or maybe in an insane asylum. Although it was fake, that was the parachute he emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically packed on his back so that he could parachute again and again when he was getting rejected. How does this apply in your business?

Finding great talent means that you want to hire for attitude and train for skill. One of the only profitable airlines in the United States is a company called Southwest Airlines and they do a lot of things well. They have a culture that is super cool.

[bctt tweet=”Finding great talent means that you want to hire for attitude and train for skill.” username=””]

I interviewed a former CEO of theirs. I met the CEO on one of their planes. They don’t have first class and they all have coach. It’s a socialist airline. You have A, B, C. You get to go on A first, B second, C third and you get to pick whatever seat you have. The CEO was sitting a few seats behind me. I was so impressed that he actually is someone who eats his own cooking.

ASA 07 | Rockefeller Effect

Topgrading (How To Hire, Coach and Keep A Players)

One of the things I know is that when you are looking for talent and you’re looking for people to come on board, the worst thing you can do is ask them what their strength and weaknesses are and expect them to tell the truth, rather do what I did and have done for the past decade. I learned from my good friend, client and mentor Brad Smart, who is the author of Topgrading and his son does what he does as well.

Although the book is over 600 pages, Topgrading and he has assisted people like Larry Bossidy of Honeywell or Jack Welch of some of the best Fortune 500 companies in the world to help hire talent.

Instead of asking people what their strength and weakness is, he would ask for people who would be a reference to them. He would say, “I need three references. What would they say your greatest strength is? What would they say your greatest weakness is?” He’s not asking the person directly. He’s asking what their reference would say and that’s the way you get the truth.

Many times, people don’t have references because they didn’t leave the company on favorable terms. The two most important days of work are your first and your last. There’s a difference between literacy and fluency. Literacy is learning. It’s knowing how to speak the language and the plain language that whatever business you’re in or whatever type of interaction that you’re engaged in.

Fluency is being good at it. You’re not in the business to consumer business. You’re not in the business to business. You’re not in business to government or business to patient. You’re in H to H. This is something that my good friend, a former student, mentor Ryan Deiss taught me.

H to H is human to human. Unlike securities that are sold on Wall Street, past performance is always an indicator of future success with human beings. You’re looking for A players. If you hire B players, they won’t want A players in the company because the A players, will show them up, meaning they won’t look good.

The number one reason for an A player to join you is not salary. In fact, there are four other reasons why they will join. Your salary is number five. Poll after poll, survey after survey, the reason why top talent joins you is not because of the money, but it’s because of their opportunity to ascend or to be more creative and two other reasons.

Jack Welch is one of the most acknowledged and revered CEOs in history of American industry and he was the CEO of General Electric, GE. From what I know about him, he started in the mailroom. One of the things that he focused on is the beliefs that people have determines someone’s behavior. He would fire the lowest top 10% of the company and people didn’t want to be there, but if they were there, they have the expectation of being fired.

If you know the story of Jim Carrey, the actor. He wrote himself a check for eight figures. He didn’t have two nickels to rub together, he was broke and it said acting services rendered. Eventually, with the movie Dumb and Dumber, he got the exact amount that he wrote to himself. You can call that a vision board. You can all that an intention, but it’s a belief. Beliefs determine behavior. Behavior does not determine beliefs.

[bctt tweet=”Do not hire people who you’re motivating. Hire people who are self-motivated.” username=””]

A review about the specific insights you and I have rediscovered is hire for attitude, train for skill. A players are all about attitude. B players hate A players. A players don’t like B players because it causes them more work. B players don’t like A players because they get showed up and they don’t look good.

Next, attitude is not a learnable skill. A skill or a new style of training is learnable, but the attitude is not. You want to hire people who you’re not motivating. You want to hire people who are self-motivated. Most importantly, the team that gets along always outperforms.

I would say always in most cases the team with the most talent. I’ll go back to 1983, college basketball, North Carolina State, Jimmy Valvano, a very passionate and committed coach. Every practice, he would have his team cut the net at the basketball hoop, so they would be mimicking and actually experiencing what it’s like to win the national championships. They should have never won the national championships in 1983.

You can look it up on YouTube, but it’s a very inspiring story. Jimmy is no longer with us but his soul and his attitude lives on and that team has a reunion every year reminding themselves of what their attitude was like that year.

I want you to be like them. Remember, all three of these distinctions can only work for you if you work them. That’s our review. I want you to go to and that’s if you have an iPhone. If you have an Android phone, go to and type in your biggest takeaway or a-ha moment you experienced. You can do it in the review section and you’ll be asked to rate it. I hope I’ve earned five stars.

Hire For Attitude

Go ahead and declare your one big takeaway in iTunes or Stitcher and it will take three minutes out of your day, but what you declare could provide you a lifetime of learning. The goal is to teach you how to find great talent.

I have one final gift, and this is in honor of our seventh episode, a complimentary copy of my eBook that’s titled Alexisms: Useful Life Lessons from A Recovering Serial Entrepreneur. You can get it on Amazon, but you have to pay for it. You can get it instantly at no cost. If you download it at

I hope our paths cross again. I hope you’ve enjoyed this. The show is dedicated to making ethical influence within your reach so that you can achieve and even exceed your sales potential because nothing happens until something is sold. Albert Einstein said, “Nothing happens until something moves.”

Selling is the movement in business. Please do whatever it takes to join me because our topic will be all about Sam’s dirty little secret to billions. I encourage you to invite a friend or bring a study buddy. I can’t wait to connect with you. All good wishes.

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