george is the man!
I’m pleased that my newest book has just been published by Castle Carrington. I’m convinced “Pushing The Boundaries! How To Get More Out Of Life” will actually change lives. How? By introducing readers to 32 people from around the world – many of them well known – who take risks with their pursuits by thinking outside the box, coloring outside the lines, feeling restrictive rules are made for others. They are propelled to go where the faint of heart simply never venture. And when you read about how they do what they do, I think you’ll become motivated to be more like them. In fact, as Jack Canfield, noted co-author of the “Chicken Soup For the Soul” series says in the Foreword to “Pushing The Boundaries!”, “Are you ready to take chances to achieve your goals? Or is fear standing in your way? The fact is, fear is the single biggest thing that holds us back. Unless you can step past that fear, you’ll just end up playing it safe and avoid trying new things. And that means it’s unlikely you’ll ever fulfill the dream most of us have of living a more rewarding life.”
Now, let me take a minute to introduce you to one of the individuals who will inspire you.
George Cohon is a legend in business communities and philanthropic worlds. His incredible stick-to-itiveness against a wall of corporate naysayers led him to establish his company – McDonald’s – in Russia. Impressive? Sure thing. But when you realize George worked at this for 14 years before he got success, well then you understand how he is a charter member of the pushing the boundaries club.
Yet, as much as George’s story is astonishing, it’s the man himself that fascinates me. Let me share two personal stores that will help you see why he’s so impressive.
Story #1: Let’s dash back to 1967. George Cohon had left the security of a Chicago law firm to move lock, stock, and young family to Canada as the new licensee of McDonald’s Restaurants for the eastern segment of the country. Though McDonald’s was virtually unknown north of the 49th parallel (hell, it was just starting to catch on State-side!), George had a great belief in himself, his product and the men running McDonald’s in the US. He accepted the challenge and began promptly opening restaurants in his adoptive country.
In a matter of years, George had bought himself a nice home in Toronto’s stylish Forest Hill district. And while he was traveling often—now opening up new venues for McDonald’s across the country—he always insisted on being home for weekends with his family.
So, we proceed to a Friday afternoon where he pulls his car into the driveway, pumped about a good week’s work, and even more exhilarated to be home. As he steps out, he hears his neighbour “whispering” to her husband, “Looks like the dirty Jew is back.” George stops. Until this point, he had no idea his next-door cohorts were anti-Semitic.
Walking inside, George sets down his bags, says hi to his wife and walks to the phone. He calls his lawyer. “I want you to buy the property next door for me,” he says.
“I want you to buy the property next door,” he repeats. “I know it’s not for sale. Just make them an offer. I don’t have the money but let’s just buy the house and be done with it. Let’s just figure out how not to live next door to them.”
Let the record show that George persisted and ended up owning the property. “It was actually a good deal,” he told me. “Ended up being worth an awful lot more than I paid for it.”
OK, a good deal... but… who does this?
George Cohon, that’s who.
Story #2: Let’s fast forward to where George has enjoyed some success so he’s about to buy a new car, a Jaguar. The salesman gives him a price, they negotiate a bit, and it’s a done deal.
George grabs his pen to sign on the dotted line when the sales guy asks if he’d like a cold drink. “Sure,” George says, “a Coke would be great.”
“No, actually, it’s not.”
He’s told they only have a Pepsi machine. George stops, pauses, then states, “You know, you’ll have to get rid of that Pepsi vendor or there’s no deal on the car.”
The salesman is shocked, unsure what to do or say.
The dealership owner comes over and asks, “George, what’s going on? I’ll run across the street and buy a Coke for you.”
“Not good enough,” George says. “Aside from the fact that Coke is the better drink, McDonald’s has a great relationship with Coca-Cola and my son works for Coke. I just won’t enjoy getting in my new car every day being reminded of Pepsi. Let’s forget the deal.” He stands and gets ready to leave.
“What can we do to make this better?” asks the car guy.
“Well, you can get rid of the Pepsi machine,” George says simply.
“I guess... but how would we get a replacement?”
“No problem,” George replies. He reaches for the phone and promptly calls Coca-Cola Canada, speaks jovially to the President for a minute or so, hangs up and says, “At 10 am tomorrow, the President of Coca-Cola Canada will personally deliver a new machine to you.”
And so, Pepsi is toast and, in its place, a sparkling new Coke dispenser.
George buys the car.
Same question: Who does this?
George Cohon, that’s who.
Talk to Rick Hansen about George Cohon. The “Man In Motion” – who I interviewed in “Pushing The Boundaries!” as well, and who traversed the globe in a wheelchair to bring awareness to people with disabilities – shares my enthusiasm for the man. "He's such an amazing person," says Rick. "I can't say enough about what George has done for Canada. His passion and how he just stands up and takes the lead on things he really cares about is amazing."
When I talked with George for the book, I caught up with him in January 2017, at his beautiful home in Palm Beach, Florida, where he and his wife Susan spend their winters before returning to Toronto. I was pumped because I knew George would give me gems to help along my understanding of how to take risks and push boundaries. I wasn’t disappointed. Yet, I’ll confess to being surprised when George told me how enthused he was for the subject matter I was writing about. So much so that he rolled up his sleeves and created marvellous introductions for me to interview people.
And so much so that George is one of the people I dedicate “Pushing The Boundaries!” to.
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