Lesson seven in The Laws of Success in 16 Lessons is about enthusiasm. Hill’s take on the subject is that our actions, as well as our attitudes and mindset, all of which contribute to our level success, become fired with potency when we bring enthusiasm to the mix.
As a wise person commented to me on one occasion, “nothing is as infectious as enthusiasm” and I believe that he was absolutely right. If, for example, you are a sales person, how do you expect to get other people interested in your products and services if you yourself are not enthusiastic about them?
As I read the chapter, I was reminded of one occasion when I experienced the effectiveness of the principle that Hill is advocating. It was when I organised a sponsored walk to help children in an orphanage in Honduras. It all began when I was sitting in church one day, listening to the weekly announcements. One announcement concerned a list of things that people might like to donate to the orphanage. I specifically remember that tins of beans, tomatoes and baby food were on the list.
Let me fill you in with a little background. A small group of people, based in Derby here in the UK, had been supporting the orphanage in the Valley of the Angels, Honduras, on an entirely voluntary basis. Every year, they would send out a container full of stuff that was donated by various groups, usually attached to churches in the area. When I first heard of the arrangement, I thought it seemed a little odd. The cost of sending a container all the way to Honduras seemed, well, a little inefficient to me.
When I asked why they didn’t simply sell the stuff that people donated and then send money to the orphanage, I got an interesting answer. It seemed that it was almost impossible to get some of the things that they were able to send in the container. Over the years, the orphanage had expanded and people had visited and helped to build classrooms and other buildings almost entirely from the stuff people donated.
Back to my little story. This particular year, they were planning to send out an extra container and I started wondering if it would be possible to fill that container with tins of beans. By the way, I don’t know why I latched onto beans, rather than the other things, but that’s what happened. So I started to think about how it could be done as I sat there and, as a consequence, I didn’t listen to the sermon very much (shame on me, I know).
The next day, the thought was still on my mind. I decided to see what I might be able to do and I started thinking about a sponsored walk. So I quickly knocked up a little form and began to ask people around the office if anyone would be willing to sponsor me. I thought it would be a bit of fun to get them to ‘pay’ in tins of beans rather than money. The whole idea seemed to cause quite a bit of merriment.
People got caught up in the fun of it and before long, everybody in the office had agreed to sponsor me. Several people in the office liked the idea so much they asked if they could take part too. They duplicated my form and also started collecting sponsors. It was then that I rang my wife and told her what I had been up to. I emailed her a copy of my form and, by the end of the day, she too had filled her form with willing sponsors.
The following day, I started to think about really expanding our horizons. I realised that we would need some big companies to make significant donations to achieve the goal of filling a container. So I started calling them. The thing is that by the time I began to speak with the PR departments of these big companies, I was full of enthusiasm for the project and I just know that somehow came across.
When I was speaking with a lady at HP, she said that they get many similar requests, but somehow this one seemed different and she eventually agreed the sponsorship. Somewhere, I do have a copy of an old church magazine with the exact numbers in it, but I cannot now remember exactly how many fork lift trucks of beans that HP agreed to donate, but it was an enormous quantity.
That was when I started calling other large organisations and after being told by TESCO that local managers were entirely in charge of their own stores and that they wouldn’t deal with a matter like this centrally, I called the local supermarket. Again, the local manager thought it was a great idea and he agreed to donate several fork lift truck loads of beans too. This had all happened by the Tuesday following the Sunday that I had heard the announcement – just two days and a few phone calls later.
Wednesday night was the church youth group meeting and I went along to tell them what had been happening, to announce the plan for a sponsored walk and to ask them if they would like to get involved – every single one of them was enthusiastic about the plan. We were going to walk the length of the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire over all the peaks from the foot of the Worcester Beacon to the top of the British Camp (Hereford Beacon).
The following Sunday, I announced the walk to the congregation of our church and everyone loved the idea. The church had a very small and aging congregation and, during the following week, those little old ladies did what they do best. In their quiet unassuming way, they began to fill up the church hall with tins of beans. Somehow the local newspaper got to hear of the event and, the following Wednesday, they sent a photographer along to the youth group.
By this time, there was quite a stack of beans in the hall and it made a great photograph for the paper with the youth group all sitting there amongst the tins. The newspaper printed the story of the sponsored walk and the little tower of beans in the church hall just got bigger and bigger over the rest of the week as more people got involved.
The following Saturday, the local radio got us in to speak on the air about the sponsored walk and more and more people began to donate. Some people wanted to donate money rather than tins of beans and so I went into a local supermarket to find out how much a tin of beans cost – at the time it was 25 pence. So that’s what we charged people. They sponsored us in units of tins and for every tin they could donate 25 pence if they preferred.
With all of the tins of beans arriving at the church, and all before the walk had even taken place, I was conscious that we were creating a massive logistical problem in relation to transporting the food. So I contacted HP and – bless them – they agreed to deliver their consignment of beans directly to the container in Derby. By the way, I have nothing against the people at Heinz, but, in eternal gratitude, I will eat HP Baked Beans for the rest of my life.
The following Saturday, we walked the length of the Malvern Hills. It was a very cold day with snow on the ground and the Malverns looking at their beautiful best. Meanwhile, the local church elder arranged for a lorry to come to the church hall to take the mountain of beans that were continuing to pile up over to the container, with the driver agreeing to donate his time and the company donating both the lorry and the fuel.
What happened next still amazes me today. At this time, supermarkets here in the UK got involved in a kind of competition about prices and one of the commodities that they were using as a benchmark was the price of a tin of beans. To cut a long story short, the price of a tin of beans was driven down to an all time low of just 4 pence at the precise time we were engaged in this project. That meant that every 25 pence that had been donated did not buy one tin of beans, it bought six tins!
The following weekend, we all went to the church to load the lorry. It was quite an old thing, I believe this kind of vehicle is known as a flat bed. Anyway, we filled it up and I was seriously wondering if it would make it over there at one stage. My wife and I also drove over to Derby with the money we had collected. We went to see a supermarket in Derby to give the manager quite an unusually large order. To his credit, he also agreed to transport the food we purchased to the container for us, free of charge.
Rather than use all of the money to buy beans, once we had hit the target we had set for beans, we spent the remaining money on tins of tomatoes and baby food. As a consequence, I understand that the group supporting the orphanage, which had intended to send two containers, actually sent three that year.
It was not very long after the containers arrived safely in Honduras that a hurricane devastated the area around the orphanage. But, it turned out that they had enough food stockpiled to not only serve the needs of the orphanage, but also those of the surrounding area too. In addition, I later heard that, because of better nutrition at the orphanage that year, medical bills fell.
It still brings a tear to my eye when I think about it. No doubt you will have your own explanation as to how all of this happened, but I still think back to that conversation with the lady from HP and I know that somehow, enthusiasm played a big part in getting their cooperation. With what I still think of as a quite amazing sequence of events, I like to think that God helped us out a bit too.