GAIN THE PASSION
GAIN THE PASSION
March 25, 2022

Chris Widener - The Art of Influence: Why Who You Surround Yourself With Matters More now Than Ever

Chris Widener - The Art of Influence: Why Who You Surround Yourself With Matters More now Than Ever

Chris Widener is widely recognized as one of the top speakers in the world today. His clients are a “who’s who” of American businesses and organizations, including: General Electric, Cisco Systems, Microsoft and the Harvard Business School.

Chris was hand selected by two of the legends of the speaking world to work with them and he now carries on their legacy. Jim Rohn, one of the most successful speakers of the last 50 years, and also known for being Tony Robbins first mentor, made Chris his last protege. 

Chris and Jim co-authored the Jim Rohn One Year Success Plan as well as Jim’s last book, The Twelve Pillars, which has become an international best-seller.  Zig Ziglar, considered to be the greatest motivational speaker of the 20th Century, personally chose Chris to co-host his television show, True Performance. 

Chris’ two books, The Angel Inside, and The Art of Influence are the only two fiction books Zig Ziglar endorsed in his entire life. Along with co-hosting True Performance, Chris also hosted his own show, Made for Success, where he interviewed some of the top business achievers and thought leaders of our time.

Chris is the author of twenty books with three million copies in print in 13 languages and over 450 articles on success, leadership, sales and motivation. His best-selling books include The Angel Inside (which has also been optioned as a movie), The Art of Influence, The Leadership Rules, Live the Life You Have Always Dreamed Of, Twelve Pillars, and the sequel to Twelve Pillars, Above All Else. Chris has also produced over 80 CDs and DVDs on a wide range of topics.


Find out more about Chris
https://chriswidener.com/

Find out more about GAIN THE PASSION Coaching
https://www.gainthepassion.com
Access past episodes and more of the GAIN THE PASSION Podcast
https://www.gainthepassionpodcast.com

Transcript
Voiceover:

Welcome to GAIN THE PASSION with hosts, Todd Foster, Alyssa Stanley and Kelley Skar.

Alyssa Stanley:

Today we have the opportunity to sit down with Chris Widener. He is a world renowned keynote speaker, known for his keynote speech around America's number one influence and impact strategies. He is a member of the motivational speakers Hall of Fame, one of Inc Magazine's Top 100 leadership speakers, named one of the top 50 speakers in the world. He is also a coach and author, and he has co wrote with some of the greats in the motivational speaking world.

Chris Widener:

Hey, thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

Kelley Skar:

Right on, Chris. Well, thanks again for being here. Why don't you give us kind of the Coles Notes version of who you are. What your about and let's dive into the conversation after that.

Chris Widener:

Awesome. Yeah, I've been a speaker since 1988. When I graduated college, I started out speaking to youth because I had a crazy upbringing. 28 homes 11 different schools shipped off to live with relatives twice started drugs in the sixth grade kicked out of almost kicked out of school many, many times 47 written referrals to the principal's office, my 10th grade years, my son would say that's one of the four days I had a transformation summer before my senior year of high school, got a degree in youth and family work, became a youth director in New Jersey of all places. I spent three years doing that till I realized I don't like youth. And after that I started speaking to adults and I ended up ghostwriting for John Maxwell starting in 2001 ish, started working with Jim Rohn, in about 2002 wrote the Jim Rohn one year program. And his last book 12 Pillars ended up with a TV show with Zig Ziglar for about a year and a half called True Performance and have traveled the world 2500 speeches 22 books translated into 14 languages, including my best selling book, The Angel Inside, which was number two on the Wall Street Journal number seven on the New York Times, and number three on Amazon for a week. So it's been a fun ride has taken me all over the world. Primarily I speak on my book called The Art of influence. But it's been great to done radio and television, spoken all over crowds as large as 25,000 people and it's just been a it's it's been a mostly wonderful life as the movie would be called if it was my movie.

Todd Foster:

Well, you've never said any of that before I could tell that. That was good.

Chris Widener:

I said it faster this time.

Todd Foster:

So Chris, you were, it sounds like you're a fun kid back in the day. At what point your life did you go okay. Either your force grew up, or did someone forced to grow up? Or what was the story there?

Chris Widener:

Well, I was completely lost. My dad died when I was four. My siblings were much older than me. So we basically had two families, mom, dad and three siblings. And then I came along for a short little bit for my dad died. And then they all moved out. So my mom basically raised me as an only child. And I just, I just went down the, you know, down the drain. But I was not a good kid. I was in trouble all the time. I was angry. And then summer before my senior year, I was spending the night with one of my friends who gets me into a lot of trouble. And it was a Saturday night. Sunday morning, his mother threw the door open and said get up. We're going to Sunday school. And I literally had no idea what Sunday school was, I'd never heard of it. I'm like, Well, I've done Monday through Friday school. And I've done almost everything else. But that could give a Sunday school a try. And I met a guy who he was a good old boy from Montana. And he was the youth director. And he had two things that he really did for me, number one, its size 11, cowboy boots, you know what I mean? And gave me a swift kick in the butt told me I was going nowhere fast. And that I had a lot of talent and that if I'd corral that I could make something in my life. And then number two, he taught me about God and about purpose and about the bigger picture. And understanding that I wasn't just some last kid with no future but that that I there was a plan for my life. And my job was to find that plan and fulfill it. And those were two great messages that I needed. And it turned my life around and it certainly haven't been perfect, but I've been going in the right direction. And as John MacArthur always says it's not your perfection, but your direction that counts and I've been going in the right direction for you know 40 Something years now and and it's been quite a journey.

Kelley Skar:

Chris, what do you think that message was that that the sides 11 cowboy boot kind of struck into you that that actually made you stand up and listen because I'm assuming that you probably had other people in your life you know, along your journey that were saying hey, come on man smarten up like you're smarter than this it you know, this is the path that you're on is insane. Like what was it that he said that just completely you know completely made you change your outlook on on your path forward?

Chris Widener:

Well it was more tone I think there there were certainly people that told me I was screwing up, but nobody ever nobody ever combined that with and you've got a bright future. It was teachers who yelled at me and coaches that yelled at me and told me what a screw up I was. You know, the only the only reason I was able to play sports was because I was one of the best kids on every team. And otherwise, they just booted me off. They sort of had to tolerate me. But coaches condemned me teachers condemned me sent me to the principal's office. But for once somebody said, Yeah, you're screwing up. But there's a way to make something out of this. You've got great talents, you've got great skill sets, you've got a great personality. And it was basically somebody finally believed in me. And then, you know, from that point forward, I've had lots of people who believed in me, I had a professor in college who believed in me, and I was still really rough around the edges in college, but he allowed me to in our college, everybody had to have some way that they gave back to the community and the college had a thing that did, feeding the homeless in Seattle, on Skid road, and, and he put me in charge of that team. And that was the first time anybody had invested any responsibility. And to me, he saw my negatives, but he knew that if he could give me some positive to replace them, and so he allowed me to use this, this personality that was tending to get me into trouble for something good. And, you know, he believed in me, when I got out of college, I had a mentor who was the CEO of Mars candies, you know, just a little $35 billion a year company who believed in me and, you know, all along the way, Kyle Wilson was the president of Jim Rohn. International, who brought me in to work with Jim believed in me, zig and Tom Ziglar believed in me. So all the way along in my career. I call them boosters, right? Bring on the boosters I wrote an article once called, bring on the boosters we need people who will believe in us and it's one of the things I try to do now, as an older man, I'm 55 now and so now I'm one of the older guys in the room a lot of the times, and I'll see young guys, young men and young women, and I'll tell them, I believe in you, I see what you can do I see your greatness and, and oftentimes, it we just have to borrow belief from somebody. And when people who were successful and older than me and people who are living lives that were different than mine, believed in me. It made it easier for me to believe in myself.

Todd Foster:

So what did you want to be when you grew up?

Chris Widener:

Well, I wanted to be an NBA basketball player, but I was about seven inches too short. I worked for the Seattle SuperSonics from 77 to 84 for seven years when I when I was 11 years old. You know, I tell people all the time, I do not have any celebrity itis like, I don't care who you are put me in the room with the most famous person in the world. I could care less. Because when I was 11 years old, I was hanging out with Larry Bird Magic Johnson, Dr. J. You know all these guys, Kareem Abdul Jabbar like, literally, I just am not impressed by people in terms of oh, they're a celebrity. But I wanted to be an NBA player. I was too short, too slow and to not good enough. So I fell back on the fact that I could talk and I've always made a living talking. Remember in high school when the homeroom buzzer hit? It's like me time to sit down and, and then the guy came on the microphone. Welcome, everybody. It's Tuesday, February 4, and let's stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. That was me. Today we're serving fish sticks and tater tots. You know, that kind of thing. You know, and then, you know, if you're playing on the varsity team, the bus leaves at four o'clock outside the gym, don't miss it. And then in college is this kind of interesting thing in college, I went to a college I knew I was not going to play basketball. So they had an open recruitment for the in house basketball announcer right. So about eight of us showed up in the, in the in the college auditorium basketball arena. And they said okay, they handed us some some sheets, and it had the names of the players. And they said, Alright, go up there and pretend that you're welcoming the crowd and take us all the way through the national anthem. And having gone to 750 NBA games, there was a guy named George tolls and George tolls was the in house announcer at the Seattle Coliseum announcing all those NBA games and prior to me getting the job. My mom had four front row seats to the to the game, feet right on the court. So I've been to hundreds and hundreds of games. And I heard George's voice in my head. So they said Who wants to go first? I said I'll go first. I walked up, I hit the flipside. I said, Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls and welcome to Concordia College Moorhead, Minnesota, where tonight your Concordia conference taking on the St. Thomas Tommy's. Now for the starting lineup. I can still do it. 40 something in my head. And so you know, then I ended up doing drivetime radio, I've given 2500 speeches. So it's always usually been around talking, which, you know, they always say that your greatest weakness is your greatest strength carried it's to its extreme. My greatest strength is talking. My greatest weakness is talking. So there you go. My tongue has gotten me all around the world. And it's also gotten me in a lot of trouble over the years.

Todd Foster:

I can relate, my mom always said growing up, man. If you could just make money, spewing shit out of your mouth. You'd be a very rich man. Look at me, Mom, look.

Chris Widener:

There you go.

Kelley Skar:

I want to talk about your book Chris. The Art of influence, maybe give us a quick synopsis of the book and let's dive into that conversation.

Chris Widener:

I had written the book, The angel inside, which took a very well, and then wrote Jim Rowan's book 12 pillars. And a couple people had told me you ought to write short little fiction books, sort of like the Ken Blanchard books. That's sort of my niche, right? Well, I had a two book deal with Random House. And so originally, it was going to be the secrets of influence. But that name was already taken. So we changed it to the art of influence. And it's a story about a young guy who graduates from North Col. Kellogg School of Business, and his grandmother gives him a little gift card. As since he was the first kid to go to college, first kid graduate with a an MBA, she gives him a little gift card at a backyard barbecue. And in it, she says, you get to spend a week with Bobby gold. And Bobby gold is a fictional character who's one of the 10 richest men in America. And he says, How do you know Bobby gold? Are you kidding me? He thought she was going senile. She said, Oh, I guess I never told you. I was his nanny when he was growing up. And when I found out you were going into business, I asked him if he take you under his wing. So Bobby gold is sort of a combination of sort of a swashbuckling business guy sort of a Donald Trump business kind of guy combined with a Richard Branson you know very ostentatious his jet was gold you know and and all that and by the way, his jet I can't probably shouldn't tell you exactly who it is. But a friend of mine is is the private pilot for one of the very very, very wealthiest guys in the world, top five guys in the world. And I called him up and I said, I gotta write about a jet. Can I come down and look at your? And he said, Yeah, sure. Come on now. So it's actually a jet it is old jet. He sold it now. It's a Falcon 900 e x. He drives a 650 now, but anyway, that's actually a jet of one of the most world's most well known billionaires. So there's a lot of little what do they call me video games, Easter eggs, and that there's a scene in a in a baseball stadium that is based on a friend of mine, who was the president of one of the major league baseball teams and, and some of those kinds of things, but it's fictional. It's usually a mentor mentee kind of relationship. And, and in this one, Bobby gold takes this young man Mark asunder. And he he says to him at the very beginning, he says, Well, you graduated from Kellogg business school. So I know you know, the science of business. Now I'm going to teach you the art of business and the art of business is to understand people and how to influence people. And its four main, four main lessons integrity, which brings trust, optimism, which brings admiration service, which brings loyalty and excellence, which brings respect. So how to gain trust, respect, admiration, and loyalty from people. And this fictional little stories are easy for people to read, I call them I call them one legged stories, because you can read them on one leg of a, of an airplane trip. And I also tell people, nobody's going to accuse me of having gone to MIT after reading one of my books, they're there just a little bit longer than a long coloring book.

Todd Foster:

How did you discover you're a writer, I sit down, and I'll write something, I have writer's block, and it will take me three hours to write one sentence, let alone 20,000.

Chris Widener:

Well, I actually write my books in a week. And here's how I do it. I study and study and study and study and study and study and study. And then I'll go into a Starbucks or someplace Monday through Friday, I start at 8am. And I leave at 5pm at or as soon as I get to 4000 words for the day. And at the end of the week, I have 20,000 words, and I send them to an editor. But I'll tell you how I ended up doing that. When I was I had written books prior to Angel inside which became the best seller. And at the time, I had just gotten rid of my last ghost writing client, I said, No, I'm not doing ghost write anymore, because I was giving all my best ideas away. And because I have integrity, I would be sitting there typing and I come up with this idea. And I'm like, I'm on the clock. I gotta give it to him. And I give it to him. Nobody would have known except me, right? But I thought I gotta give it to him. And so I said, the only way out of this is for me to not go straight for anybody. So there were a few books that were big at the time, a few ideas there was the Da Vinci Code was big. And there was a book called How to think like Leonardo da Vinci. And so I thought Da Vinci I wonder if there's an end. So those who know Renaissance history know that there were four people who lived in Florence in the early 1500s. Raphael was there he was sort of in and out. But Da Vinci lived there. Mecca Valley live there. You know, Florence in the early 1500s, was sort of the birth of citizen legislature. And Machiavelli wrote the prince didn't want to write about like cheating and stealing didn't think that would be much of a personal self help book. So So that left me with Michelangelo and I didn't know much about Michelangelo. So I spent about six months studying reading books. I read the agony and the ecstasy actually watched the movie The agony and the ecstasy Starling starring Charlton Heston and he has tons and tons of research studied maps of the city of Florence. Now we do Food and Wine Tours there. I was married in a vineyard outside of Florence a few years years ago, the old Domenici family farmhouse, which is now a 28. Room boutique hotel owned by the anari family, which is the world's largest than your oldest vineyard as well. And so I was going to write a book on life lessons from Michelangelo and I got two pieces of advice that literally changed the course of my writing history. One was from Charlie, tremendous Jones. Do you guys remember Charlie? Tremendous Jones. Charlie, tremendous. Jones was a contemporary of Zig Ziglar. And Jim Rohn. He's passed away. Now, you have the most dynamic personality of any human being I've ever met. Very, very funny guy, you should watch some old videos of his. For example, he would always say I've been married 55 years. And what happens when you say that everybody Oh, that's amazing. And he'd say, stop, stop stops, stop. And it will be positive. That's only 47 of them were any good. He said to me, he owned a, you know, a company called executive books out of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and he said, Chris, I got some advice for your next book. Make it short. Nobody reads long books anymore. Make it short. So I went into a Barnes and Noble in Bellevue, Washington, a converted bowling alley. And I went to picked up a Ken Blanchard book, I counted how many words on a page, I multiplied by pages, and it was 20,000 words. The second piece of advice, again, this sort of random piece of advice, a guy named Mark Sanborn, and you guys probably know, Mark, he wrote a best selling book, I think it's sold 5 million copies now called the Fred factor. One of the top speakers of the last 30 years, former president National Speakers Association, probably been featured in Success Magazine many times. And he said, Chris, you ought to make it fiction. And I went, huh, fiction. The great thing about fiction, you didn't make anything up, right? I mean, so you don't want to make up facts or things like that. But I love writing fiction, because you can construct anything that you want to and you can take those lessons and put them right into something. And, and so that's what I did, I found 10 life lessons out of the life of Michelangelo. And, and I wrote that book, and people loved it. And, and still to this day, I get emails from people saying That book changed my life. And it was published, we self published it, Jim Rohn international self published it, we sold 120,000 copies before we sold it to two Random House. And then it debuted number two, number seven, and number three, the one that I liked the number three on Amazon, though, because it was literally actually number three, a lot of times people's number one best selling but it's books, you know, business books, business books for men, business books for men and accounting business books for men and accounting, who've LED work less than seven years, you know, it's like 14 divisions down. This was actually number three. And it was behind the pre launch of Harry Potter. The pre release of Harry Potter and the last book of JRR Tolkien that his grandson found in his in his in his attic after his grandpa died. So I'm I guess you're gonna be number three, it may as well be behind the greatest fiction series of all time. And the guy who wrote Lord of the Rings, I mean, okay, I was number one. Yeah. So, and I and it's the only book I love. I like all of my books. I love that book. It is a, in my opinion, pun intended, I guess. It really is a masterpiece. And I and I really kind of even think God really helped me write it because it's a perfect blend of history, art, geography, spirituality, self help. And there's just nugget after nugget after nugget in that book. And it's, it's the only book of mine that I love, love, love. I love the book. And it's been in 14 languages. The last one just picked up a couple years ago, in the last couple years. Another one of the Chinese derivatives, picked it up. So I'm very proud of that book, proud of all my books, but I really love that book.

Alyssa Stanley:

Writers perplex me because it it takes a lot to put, like I have so many thoughts going on in this head of mine, but sometimes to put it down on paper is I mean, it's a real struggle, right? So and the whole world of ghostwriting perplexes me as well, because the amount of blood sweat and tears intellectual property, all of the things that you pour into that paper for I mean, sometimes a ghostwriting contract is about nine to 12 months, right? So you spend all that time and then you just like handed this baby over. How do you do that? I would have a really hard time doing that because then they publish it right and it's their name on it.

Chris Widener:

You gotta find the right ghostwriter. And my first ghost writing I wrote his articles. I didn't write any of his books. But I worked for about 18 months writing John Maxwell's nationally syndicated column and early 2000s. And one of the reasons they picked me was because John was a former pastor turned business speaker. I was a former pastor turned business speaker. So you want to find somebody that gets your worldview gets your voice. That's very, very useful. important to do. And so, and I did struggle with it. I struggled with ghostwriting. I remember one time, I remember one time I was sitting at Starbucks, and I was writing an article. And at the top it said, you know, John Maxwell was writing the article. And it was funny because it was I lived in Seattle, and I was in a suburb of Seattle, where they pioneered all the things they wanted to try. So ours was 4500 square feet. It was the first time they ever had fireplaces, first time they ever first place they ever had all the luxury, you know, big, overstuffed chairs. First time they ever had a board room setup. And there was a guy on the other side of my laptop, and he was sitting there for three or four hours. And at one point, I kind of just took a break, and I leaned back. And he said, he stopped. And he said, Hey, what do you do? And I said, Oh, I'm a writer, and speaker, and he said, What do you write about? I said, leadership and, and stuff. He goes, Oh, I love leadership. And I saw really like, Who do you like, he was John Max, my favorite writer of all time, I'm like, yeah, he's amazing. And, you know, and John does a lot of his books, I think collaboratively with Charlie wet so and they usually have a whole team there. So it's not really sort of true ghost writing. I mean, they do the writing, but you want to find somebody that gets it that has that, you know, that has that worldview and confined your voice. There are people that I would, I would never go strike for because I would never, I would never be able to capture their voice. But it was really easy for me to work with John. And it was a great privilege. I mean, what an amazing guy, amazing writer, amazing speaker, amazing business guy, and the ministry that he's compelled all over the world as well, just a great privilege. At the very beginning of the trajectory of my career. It wasn't the beginning of my career, but it was really that first ramp up. But it's important to find somebody just ghost wrote a book when COVID hit and I lost all my speaking engagements, because there were no more meetings. The CEO of a very large clothing company, very well known clothing company wanted to write a book. And it was easy for me it was it was easy, because we have very similar perspectives and, and things like that. So you want to find somebody that shares your worldview, your perspective, and, and really even your tone, I guess, you know, if if there I could never write for somebody who's just straight laced and buttoned up. And I couldn't do it, because I'm too snarky. And too, you know, I try to make things funny and light and snarky. And, and I haven't even turned the Snark button on yet. So hopefully, we get warmed up here, we can get really snarky, but no, you want to find Same, same kind of tone. But it's it's fun. But eventually, I decided I wanted to I remember I wrote something one day. And I remember thinking, wow, that's a really good turn of a phrase, I should keep it. And then I went, No, I can't keep it. I got it. But I didn't like it. Because I knew that I was going to write it for someone else. They were going to say it and get famous for saying it. And when I said that, they'd be like, he's stealing from that guy. And I'm like, No, it was actually came out of this noggin. So I decided to make a change. And for 20 years, almost 20 years, I didn't do any ghost writing. And then with COVID I had a friend, he's a friend of mine, the CEO and so he asked me to help him and I did. It was fun.

Kelley Skar:

How were you able to set your ego aside? That's that's I mean, you know, we're all human beings. Everybody's got ego. Right. How do you set your ego aside? Yeah, that, you know, and for our listeners, he's got your ego aside, right. They're paying you a lot to set your ego aside. Okay. I gotcha. Yeah. No, very interesting stuff, man. I mean,

Chris Widener:

It wasn't the ego. It was the ethics. I struggled with the ethics of ghostwriting.

Kelley Skar:

Expand on that a little bit.

Chris Widener:

I've struggled with it. And then you know, but then I one of the things I always used to say is what do you think George Foreman is making all those grills? Of course not George Foreman, not making all those grills like you know, go Hey, George, I need a grill. All right, let me wire one up for you. You know, you got people making those grills, but it's the George Foreman grill. So you know, and ghostwriting is a dirty little secret. A lot of the books you're reading, particularly by famous people, they did not write a lot of them. And it's the dirty little secret in the industry. And there's a lot of ghostwriters make a lot of money. And you know, to John's credit, he always gives Charlie credit in his books you open the acknowledgments thank you to my writer Charlie wet so I always thought Charlie had the best job in the world gets paid a ton of money. He has a piece of the action and he can walk through an airport without getting mobbed. You know, it's like it's like a backup quarterback in the NFL. I'm a quarterback you know, never get hit. Right. But I have two friends who were quarterbacks and the backup quarterbacks in the NFL Tom slick and and Jeff camp and I said that to him once at a luncheon we read and they both got angry at me because I'm like, you guys got the best gig in the world backup quarterback in the NFL. And they like we talked about I want to take the snap. So anyway, but yeah, so I eventually I mean, I I just struggle. I don't think it's unethical. It's just for me, it felt like I want to write my own stuff. I'm gonna own my own stuff. But again, it was you know, writing with Jim Rohn was an amazing amazing opportunity for me, you know, I will be the only person for all of eternity that gets to say I wrote his last book. You know, and then and then after he passed, I wrote a sequel to the book called above all else and, and so that was kind of fun as well.

Todd Foster:

When you're writing their voices. Do you hear their voices in your head? Like, you know, I mean, I'm assuming you're you're writing in your words yet you hear their voice, right? The deep baritone of Maxwell.

Chris Widener:

Well, you know, yeah, like, I've got five lessons for you folks. They all start with, you know, it'd be John or whale, Zig Ziglar. Zig Ziglar. Sounds a little bit like Ronald Reagan with a southern accent. But you just add the letter A to the end of every word. And no, I don't do that. And of course, Jim. Jim, I always love talking about Jim and Zig when they speak because Zig prance to the stages. That's the number one question I get all the time. What was it like to work with Jim and Zig? Literally, almost every podcast, what was it like to work was in gym music, they were completely different. And the lesson that I learned from working with those two guys was to be yourself. And the reason why is is because those two guys, they hit the upper echelon of that business, and they could not have been more different. And yet they were friends. Zig would prance the stage and he marched and then he get down on his knee, and he'd yell, and then he whispered, sometimes, you know, and Jim never left the lectern. Like I always joke. I was joke. This is Jim's Big power move, man. You knew he was fired up when he would take off his reading glasses like whoa, Jim's coming out, right. He just took his reading glasses off. We're about to get unbridled Jim Rohn here. But I realized I didn't need to be Zig. And I didn't need to be Jim. I needed to be Chris. And that's the biggest lesson I learned. I learned lots of lessons. But the one that stuck with me the most was I didn't need to be them. I needed to be me. And they proved that to me by being them. And they both hit the highest levels. I mean, you name the top five motivational speakers of all time, and those two are always going to be in that list.

Todd Foster:

When did you feel like you finally hit it big? When did I finally feel like I hit it big?

Chris Widener:

Probably when the angel inside hit the best selling list because I was working with Jim, I would travel a little bit with him. I do you know, some of the events the Jim Rohn weekend leadership event, which which was Anaheim July 30, through like August 1 or second 2004. And I emceed that event, we sold tons of that those DVDs went worldwide and sort of people started knowing me, but that when I really felt like I had achieved what I wanted to achieve was when I gave my first speech on a stage of over 20,000 people. And, and that's when I kind of really went, Wow, this is what I always wanted.

Alyssa Stanley:

I have a question about where you said that you didn't like working with youth anymore.

Chris Widener:

I was a youth director. And I was leaving a Bible study talking about something like really important and some kid ripped apart. And I went, I went to college for this. I spent all that money to have some kid fart in the middle of my talk. And that was that was kind of like I'm done. But no, I coached high school basketball. And I loved that. And I do like kids, I like my own kids. You know, they're not teenagers anymore. But, but know that I can still not still remember the kid's name. And I won't embarrass him because he's probably 40 now, but I still remember his name. And I remember thinking I'm out of here. I'm not going to do this. I spent way too much money in college.

Todd Foster:

Yet, you think that one fart changed your life from that one fart?

Chris Widener:

When you think about when you think about working for the Seattle SuperSonics meeting my youth director working with John Maxwell, Zig Ziglar and Jim Rohn. And a fart that an eighth grader let in New Jersey, all pivotal moments of my life.

Todd Foster:

That's, that's when you knew you had a big that's when I knew I hit it.

Chris Widener:

But that's what I knew. I was believing that I was going to go hit it big. Alyssa is like I did not see that turning in the podcast.

Todd Foster:

I love that one. That was great. That was that's the first time we've ever had anyone say they were driven by a fart. Yeah, to better life.

Alyssa Stanley:

Yes, I was ready for you to be like there was this kid who wasn't listening and really disrespectful and blah, blah, blah. It did not see this.

Chris Widener:

But I will tell you this though. I have lots of kids. I mean, I had a significant impact. And sometimes and this is a great lesson. Sometimes it's the kid you never know you impacted or the person in your office you never knew you impacted. And I'll give you two stories. I'll start with a kid well start with a kid in college first of all girl I went to college with I went to a very pretty small college. And I knew her I never spent any time with her outside of school. But you know, we were in almost every class together. And my senior year of college you know, you get your your annual or whatever, you know, and you write you know, stay cool. See you next summer, you know, whatever. But she wrote to me at the end of our senior year. And it's the only comment I can remember anybody wrote to me in any annual ever junior high high school or college, she said Thank you for asking all the questions I was too afraid to ask. And I still remember that, to this day. It's the only thing I can ever remember anybody writing, because I got in trouble for asking a lot of questions. But the second one was after I left the ministry, as a youth minister in New Jersey, there was a kid that used to come to youth group with he had two or three really good friends that were very involved in he kind of just tagged along. Why moved out to Seattle. And he died in a in a fire a home fire. And the pastor who I'd worked with out there, he wrote to me and he said, I never knew you had such an impact in his life. And I went, I didn't know that I did, either. What are you talking about? At his funeral, he had written his college entrance exam of about me. And it got him into one of America's most prestigious Ivy League schools. And it was about the impact I had on his life. And if you would, if you would have said named the top 20 kids you had an impact on in that youth group, he would not have even because I didn't know it. He was absorbing like a sponge. But he was a quiet kid. And he hung around with two louder kids. So anytime we were together, it was mainly engaging with those, you know, loud, gregarious kids, and it made me realize you just never know who you're impacting. You never know. And I was, in an unfortunate way fortunate to find out but it was a good life lesson for me. But you know, it came at the expense of him passing away in a in a house fire.

Todd Foster:

So you went from let me get the timeline right here. You somehow got into college after being a so called Trouble Maker,

Chris Widener:

The check cleared, that was the primary way to get into my college. If the check cleared, you're in.

Todd Foster:

It still works. It's amazing how that works.

Chris Widener:

Because I was I was 149 out of 172 kids in my high school class. You know, zig always says I was in the top half of the class that made the top half possible. I was in the 10th of the class that made the top 90% possible.

Todd Foster:

See you made everyone else look good.

Chris Widener:

Now, I've always been doing that, Todd it's a big gift.

Todd Foster:

Yeah. So So you went you went from high school to college, then college? And then you got into the ministry? And then you went over to Seattle?

Chris Widener:

Yep.

Todd Foster:

And then were you lost? Or how did you get wrapped up in the whole Maxwell bronzer thing?

Chris Widener:

Well, so I was what they call a church planter in Seattle. That means you start a church and they give you no money to help help. Great. So I moved into and Seattle, Greater Seattle area where I grew up is one of the least churched states in the union, like 8% of people go to church in Washington state, particularly Seattle area. And they had no money for me. So I started speaking and writing to make money. So I started doing little motivational speeches. I mean, I started out doing youth groups and summer groups and colleges and you know, all that kind of stuff. And then the Kiwanis and the rotary and this and that the other thing. And then I got on the internet very, very early, which was nice because I was in Seattle. And I remember I had a fax journal, there was a thing called the Cairo radio news fax, it was four pages came out every day, it was the top of the news. So I created one called the American Community Business Network. And it was four pages of computer tips, customer service tips, we had 10s of 1000s of subscribers. And then I licensed it all across America. And I always left the bottom third of the page where they could put in localized advertising. So I sent them, I sent them the, the the copy for the week, and then they would put in cut and paste using Microsoft Publisher. And I built it up so big, and then the internet hit. And in Seattle, everybody had email. So I'm like, Screw this fax thing. I'm going email, baby. So I sent one last fax it said, we're done. It's all an email sign up here. And I went from 10s of 1000s of people to 800 people on my email list. Oh, and then I built it to 100,000 people. And I met Kyle Wilson at Jim Rohn International and then and then I I got out of the pastor at the full time ministry, I mortgaged my house. My house was worth like 300 grand. I took $100,000 mortgage on the house. September 26 2002. I put on my first conference, I hired John Maxwell. I hired Vince Lombardi Jr. and I hired the first guy up Mount Mount Everest, one of the founders of REI name escapes me. I've actually got a picture of him right there a big one he sent me. First guy in May of 1984. Huh, Hillary? No, no, no. Although, by the way, parenthetical? Do you know that Zig Ziglar his real name is Hillary. Just just a little tidbit that's free of charge. That's in his book. He says Now you know why they call me sick. But anyway, I can't remember the guys name and it really makes me upset because he was a fantastic speaker. And I lost a bunch of money on that event. And then I did another one with John where we actually made some money. So I was kind of broken even on to Vance and I'm like, I am not going to keep doing the the event business. So I just was speaking. And I got to know John and his team, there was a guy named Kevin small there, and David Hoyt and Mark Cole. And some of those guys were all over there. Got to know them. And they brought me in to write with John. And then then at that point, Kyle and Jim Rohn said, Hey, why don't you can do that with us? And so I did that. And, and, and from there, it was kind of from there was great. Once you're done ghost writing, do you become a ghost to the people you wrote for? Are you still closer friends with these people at all? You know, I was never really friends. I was friendly. I mean, it's not like any of those guys and I went on vacation together. But you know, zig actually got the TV show with Zig primarily because in probably 2004 2005, I started a business called made for success. And we licensed audio programs from other speakers. This was another way I've made myself famous. This is kind of a strategy that I used. So we licensed on a non exclusive basis. My first guy called was Mark Sanborn, I said, Send me a CD that you want me to sell and make you some money, and you keep all the rights to it, but I will pay you every time I sell it. And then we created like, 18 different skews. And it was boxed set was success, leadership, verbal command, sales success. And we would put 14 CDs and one DVD in a box. And we were selling them through Costco and Sam's Club. And we were selling 50 to 75,000 bucks a month through Costco and Sam's Club. And we're making amazing money doing it. And so you got 15 people in there. And, and so you got a big giant box, they could fit in a small box. But in Costco, they want you to feel like you know, you're logging out your CDs to the car, you know, or whatever. So the giant boxes and it had a flap on the front. So on the front was the name, and it had four people's names on the front. If you wanted to know who else was in it, you open the flap and there were the rest. On the floor. On the cover. I always had three famous people. So I'd have John Maxwell Zig Ziglar, Jim Rohn, or Dennis Wheatley, or Brian Tracy or somebody like that. But Chris Weidner was always the fourth name. And so I branded myself, I was the only one on every box. And then I swapped out the other three famous people. And that was one of the ways I built my brand. I was selling, you know, probably 600,000 to a million copies a year through Costco for quite a few years. And everybody was hearing my CDs, and everybody was seeing my name. And then of course, Jim Rohn was pushing me and then Zig Ziglar and I had the TV show, and from Florida from 2004 to 2009. It really just exploded out that way. So 2009 hits, then what I got into politics, and you probably don't want to talk politics, which is fine, but we can talk in sort of a generic, generic way. But one of my best friends ran for governor. And he was relatively unknown. And he said, Look, you're the Professional Speaker. Will you help me? So we, we, I wrote his speech and I traveled three or four days a week with him and, and he ended up winning that race. They had a recount, and he won again. And then another recount, and he lost, and we'll just leave it at that. But that was my that was my thing into politics. And I ended up I've done speech coaching for everybody running for president, the United States all the way down to dog catcher, maybe not that level City Council. And, and so I help in fact, in fact, I just moved to Chattanooga, and one of the first people I met, she's running for Hamilton County Mayor, which is kind of county executive. And first thing he asked me to do was can you do coaching, speech coaching, debate coaching, stuff like that? So, so yeah, I like doing that. I like helping other people find their voice and find their stories and convince and persuade and influence other people. And, and then I ran for the US Senate in 2010. Or as I like to call it my ill fated run for the US Senate. And so I ended up doing that. And it was, it was a lot of fun, though. I mean, my kids, we were on the road. I went to Walla Walla, Washington more times than anybody would ever want to go to Walla Walla, Washington. Although Walla Walla has become this amazing wine center, like within like 20 miles of downtown Walla Walla, a town so good, you say it twice. There are like 350 vineyards and tasting rooms. It's a spectacular place, get out of Napa and go up to Walla Walla and the upper end of that Willamette Valley, Oregon, up into Washington. And really some great wines in Washington State and I love seeing them you know, I was just in Houston this last weekend and and went to this little wine bar and they actually had four or five Washington wines there. It was really, really great to see it's a it's an underestimated or unrecognized place have some really great wines particularly I think Pinot Noir is are good out of Walla Walla.

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Todd Foster:

So I like to piggyback then on your political career, the short lived when you had, you seem like you're not a person who quits or gives up. And if you're like me or anyone else out there a high D, you're very competitive, and you want to win. And you did not win. And you never went and ran again. So do you believe you didn't have the belief in it in the first place? Or was it more of the game or the thrill of the catch?

Chris Widener:

No, I'll tell you exactly what happened. We had like 13 people running. And we had one very far person who was sort of out here. And he and I realized that he was going to get 25% of the vote, because he was the only one who staked that position out. And the rest of us were like, Senator, you know, and I knew he's going to get 25. And the rest of us were going to split 75. And I realized there was no way I could when the people from Washington DC were calling me. And they were saying, Hey, would you be willing to get out of the race, so that your friend could get in, because they wanted somebody who would raise a bunch of money and spend a bunch of money, so that my opponent would have to spend her entire war chest because otherwise, if they don't spend the money, they can give it to everybody else. So it was kind of a chess piece move is what it was. So it was sort of a combination of, I realized there was no way I could win. And I took one for the team. So I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved meeting people, I love speaking to crowds, I loved that my children got to see their dad involved in the civic discourse. And and, you know, that's what America is about. We're about self governance. And I don't care if you're left, right, middle, run for office, make your voice heard. You know, it, that's what makes America great is we're one of the few places on earth that has freedom of speech. And and I think everybody's voice ought to be heard. You know, I think I think all sides ought to be heard, because we're we are about the free flow of information and the exchange of ideas. And that's what makes us unique, you go to some countries, and and they say, here's what we believe. And you say, I don't believe that they go come with us behind the building. And you're done. Right? One of the things that makes us great is that we get to, we get to say what we believe whether it's onpoint or totally crazy, but that's the beauty of it, is we have to figure out what's right by hearing all the different sides. So I was proud to participate in it. And you never know, who knows, you might you might see me running for something else in the future. I'm now in Tennessee. And for those of you can figure it out, I feel like I'm finally home in Tennessee feel like, feel like I'm finally home. So I love Tennessee.

Todd Foster:

I've got two things here. Number one, the only reason I would ever run for office would for me to find out what I did in my early 20s.

Chris Widener:

And believe me, they will find out.

Todd Foster:

Oh yes, they will. And number two why Chattanooga now?

Chris Widener:

Well, it's interesting. I've two daughters, one goes in. I have six children. But these two daughters one goes to Vanderbilt, the other goes to University of Alabama. And so my wife and I were living in Scottsdale. She had only ever lived in Los Angeles in Scottsdale. I've only ever lived in Seattle in Scottsdale, except for going to college in Minnesota. And we said let's pack up and move closer to the girls. Well, halfway in between the girls between Nashville and Tuscaloosa is Huntsville. And I didn't want to live in Huntsville. And so equidistant is Chattanooga. And so we ended up we ended up picking Chattanooga. And if we got time for a story, it's unbelievable. Because people still say why'd you move to Chattanooga? I say I have no idea. On July 5 2020, we came out to Chattanooga, and in all my speeches, I'd never been to Chattanooga, and we land in Chattanooga. We spend the night at the hotel. We been there. 12 hours we get up in the morning, my wife says will you go down to the coffee shop in the lobby and get some coffee? I'm gonna jump the shower, get ready. We're gonna go look for houses. I said, Sure and I said before I left at 7:45am, I said, God, this is the craziest thing I've ever done packing up and move to a city I've never even been to before. I said, just give me a sign. I don't ask for a lot of signs. Give me a sign. I go down into the lobby, walk into the coffee shop, start shift. I'm the only one there. It's in the middle of COVID. I'm the only one there kid behind the counter. He's about 20 years younger than me. And we get to talk in and I said so. Have you lived in Chattanooga your whole life? And he says no. He says, how about you? And I said no, no, we're thinking about moving here. I live in Scottsdale now. But I grew up 50 years in Seattle. He goes oh what part of Seattle? I said Oh, a little bedroom community about 30 miles east of Seattle and it's called Snow Kwame. He looks at me and He cocked his head and he goes did you graduate from Mount Sinai High School? And I said I did graduate from high school he stuck his fist out give me a fist bump said So did I buddy. And believe me it gets better. So I said interesting. And I said, what's your, what's your last name? And he said his last name. And I said, I said, you know, this other guy who was a pastor, friend of mine, same last name. And he says, I love pastor Monty pastor Monty is the greatest guy. Oh, he's amazing. But no, we share the last name, but we're not related. I said, Oh, well, that's, that's really interesting. And then I said, Do you know these people? Yeah, I went to school with their kids. Do you know these people? I went to school with their kids, you know, these people that we knew, like, 100 people. And then after talking for 10 or 15 minutes about all the people we knew, he says, he says, Do you know what's really weird? And I said, what he goes, Do you know where I moved when I left? Snoqualmie said, where he said, Scottsdale? said, yeah, that's weird. And he goes, Do you know what's even weirder? I said, What's that? He said, Do you know where I moved when I left Scottsdale? And I said, I'm guessing Chattanooga. And he goes, How weird is that? And I said, weirder than you will ever know. And I walked back up and my wife goes, what took you 30 minutes to get coffee as it you are not going to believe this story. And literally, from that point forward, we were moving to Chattanooga, and people say why you move to Chattanooga, and I have no idea. I still to this day, do not know why we moved to Chattanooga. But I believe there's a purpose to it.

Todd Foster:

Man, my biggest fear would have been him saying, eventually, dad?

Chris Widener:

Right! Or do you know what happened after I moved to Chattanooga. I came down with cancer. Like that would have been like the part I didn't want to hear something? You know what I mean? Dad? No, I know who all my kids are Todd.

Todd Foster:

Oh good. That's good.

Alyssa Stanley:

Chris, you have an ability to almost like shape shift in different stages of life in shifting to what you think needs to happen. Or maybe what your gut tells you what needs to happen, or what God tells you what needs to happen. What do you contribute to that ability to shift? What seems like so seamlessly shift and make things happen? In the new sphere of wherever you're shifting?

Chris Widener:

I think moving all the time. When I was a kid, I really think it's, I can build instant rapport with people like instant rapport. I could You could throw me into a room. I went to a giant fundraiser the minute I got here, like the minute I got here, and the first thing I did, I walked into this giant 12,000 square foot mansion, you've been to a fundraiser before, right? You walk in, you get your wine and you sit on the corner. Okay, well, I'm going to talk to and I ended up talking to the Vice President of cumulus radio, like he walked over to me, Hey, let me introduce myself, and then the owner of the house, and he's like, let's go to lunch. I want to find out more about what you do. Like God has given me a gift to really just connect with people. And I think it was because growing up it was sink or swim. I think there's probably some kids that went to went to live in 20 homes went to 11 different schools, who would be wallflowers and just say, I can't deal with it. But I moved, and I walked in, and it was sink or swim. Like you either learn how to meet people connect with people. I find people interesting. I really find people interesting. Darren Hardy told me when I had my interview show on tst. And he said Your show is my favorite show. And I said well, why? And he said, you just get these great interviews, what makes you such a great interviewer when I said, I think I just find people interesting. And if they're interesting to me, I think they'll be interesting to everybody else. If I just get interested in ask questions, I'm probably going in the same direction as everybody else. So probably that, and probably because my dad died when I was four. And I realized that life is short. So life is short, you make the most of it. My brother when he turned 41, my mom called him up. And she said Happy Birthday. And he's all thanks a lot. And she said, how you doing? And he said, Oh, great, you know? And she said, Well, you don't really sound great. She said, Well, I gotta tell you gotta be honest with the last year I've been afraid of dying. And she said, Why have you been afraid of dying? And my brother said, Well, you know, dad died when he was 40. And when I turned 40, I was afraid I was gonna die. So I'm glad I'm 41 now, and my mother, and only my mother could have done that. She said, your dad wasn't 40 When he died, he was 41. So my brother he thought he was gonna die. But no, I think I think that probably moving around a lot. You have to you have to learn how to connect with people and make changes and make do with what's happened. And I think understanding that life is short or life can be short. In 12 pillars, Jim and I wrote that you can't determine how long you live, but you can determine how well you live. And I think that that's what I want to do. I want to live life well. And I've I've had some extraordinary opportunities. I think I'm the only person in the history of the world that has spoken in Cairo, Egypt and Los Angeles, California in the same day. I've written in a ticker tape parade when the Seattle SuperSonics won the world championship. I was 13 years old. 500,000 people were driving down through the thing and these old cars and waving to the crowd and you know, where do you go from there? 13 Like, how do you ever talk that? You know, I've stood on stage with 25,000 people in front of me I've written best selling books and and really, you know, not to brag, but it's just it really has been a humbling thing. Like, I look back on my life and I think this has been a heck of a ride and I'm so thankful and grateful to God that, you know, I've got great kids, I've got an amazing life. I've got a wonderful wife, I've been able to travel and do great things. I've made millions, I've lost millions, you know, everything. And it's just, it's an enjoyable life, enjoy it each and every day. Because, you know, no, you just never know, some of us get 100 years, some of us get 60 some of us get 10. But, you know, there's some kids that diet at an early age, you know, who make more of an impact than somebody who just breathes air for 70 years. So it's about how well you live not about how long you live.

Kelley Skar:

That's a great point, I think you you you kind of nailed this without, you know, possibly a lot of people listening to this podcast, may not be able to connect the dots but you moving 28 times truly is your superpower. Like you really kind of tied into that you you talk about moving 28 times in 11 years as kind of this idea of how tough your life was, and I'm sure that it was tough, I'm not minimizing it, but you were able to turn it into a superpower and in something that's actually propelled you forward, we moved here, you know, I I've only moved a couple of times in my life and you know, I'm Canadian. So we when we grow roots, somewhere we grow roots, like our were firmly planted and it's, we're not a roots. There you go. That's, that's part of it. But you know, at the end of the day, we're just we're not as we don't move around as much as as Americans do. I you know, I've got a lot of American friends and this seems to be a common theme with Americans is that they move all over the country, they just pick up and they'll go, right whereas with with Canadians, we just don't and so, you know, I moved maybe three or four times in my life, we made a move from one province to another from a big city to a smaller city and and my wife and I were really worried about how our kids were going to adapt and you know, the resiliency that that you show as a child is is insane. I wish you could just bottle that up and sell it because God damn you'd be a millionaire you know, billionaire trillionaire whatever. I mean, if you could bottle that up and just didn't seem to sell it to people, it's it's, it's it really is crazy. So I just I guess I wanted to point that out Chris, more than anything else is, you know, you kind of turn this around what a lot of people can look at and say God, you know, he must have really had a tough life. Man, you did something and you were able to turn it around and really use it as as, as your cloak I guess as your as your,

Chris Widener:

I learned this from my mother success secrets I learned from my single mom. And, you know, my mom, we lived in a house that recently sold for $3 million. It was the biggest house in Sandpoint Country Club in Seattle, which was at the time probably the second most prestigious Country Club. My dad was the fifth partner at NBBJ, which is one of the top 30 architecture firms in the world. I think they just did the Facebook campus or the Google campus. He he made $90,000. So yeah, last year, he was alive 1969 He was doing very well, but he had $30,000 with a life insurance. So my mom had to sell that house because she couldn't afford the $400 a month mortgage payment. And she had not worked outside the home for 15 years. And so she started selling real estate and she flipped houses long before they was on television. And you know, so she went to work and she made something happen and she took care of me and and so I learned that resilience from my mom. She never complained, never whine she hauled her cookies off to work. She sold houses at night. I was a latchkey kid before you have the term latchkey kid, I'm a key on my shoe string around my neck. You know, and part of the reason I got in trouble was that she was gone in the evenings. But you know, there's an upside downside to everything. But resilience I learned from my mom. And and then I think I just I have a fighting spirit. I want to make the most out of life. I think anybody can reach deep. I think anybody can reach deep, it's in there. It's a matter of whether you have the courage to reach deep and the tenacity reach deep. And just always be able to keep hope keep hope alive, and know that there's something better I mean, I've had my back against the wall so many times and I just refuse to quit because there's got to be a way out there's got to be something that can come good out of this. And I've found it to be pretty generally true.

Todd Foster:

I've realized by being in coaching and being a public speaker and doing training, consulting that most of us out there doing this have had mess ups in the past either mean lots of right i i really to a lot of what you went through up to 48 times moving and that type of thing yet. I believe it makes us stronger many times what we do is we end up getting scared of what's next and you're one of these guys it sounds like who just says The heck with it. I mean, the worst gonna happen is I die. How would you? I guess coach someone into getting over that fear of doing something different?

Chris Widener:

I think to show them the option. Okay. Jump forward 30 years now you're on your deathbed. Now you just have regrets. You know, Tony Campolo. Remember Tony Campolo. He was a speaker by 40 years ago. And he became famous for a speech he gave. He was a professor at Eastern University. And he gave a speech called, it's Friday, but Sunday's coming and he was sort of a, he was a pastor, but he really wasn't a pastor. He was ordained, I think, and it was about it was about, you know, Easter, right on on Friday. It's Friday, and he just died. And it's Saturday, and everybody's like, Oh, no, our guy just died, what's gonna happen now, and he said, it's Friday, but Sunday's coming. And he just gave he gave a great speech, he became famous over that speech. But he wrote a book called who switched the price tags. And he was a sociologist at a sociologists, Professor, if I remember, right, and he did a study of octogenarians. And he went to a people at plus and said, you know, what do you what do you most regret in your life? And the number one answer was not taking more risks? People play it safe. And the problem is, is this there's an end. And typically speaking, you get weaker and weaker, more and more tired, more and more frail. You know, unless one of these billionaires configure the fountain of youth, we it's just the way it works, right? I mean, look at this, those of you who can see I got wrinkles, man, I didn't have these when I was 20 years old, I earned every one of these wrinkles, and I got gray hair now. It's just the way it works. And pretty soon, you're going to be old and frail enough that you can't go hike the Appalachian Trail, you know, in those kinds of things and go to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and, and all the things and so I think you just have to say what do you want the end of your life? You know, one of the first I don't know if it's the first Covey's seven habits, I think it is begin with the end in mind. When I get to the end, man, I want to be able to say I did it all. I want to be able to say I did it all. Now doing it all doesn't mean a lot of the ones that a lot of people think right, I have no intention of hiking the Appalachian Trail i Bravo, good for you go hike, the Appalachian Trail. That's not one of the things I want to do. But all the things I want to do, I want to do those things. And, and I hope that God gives me enough years to be able to get them all done. But I think that's what I would do is I would just point out, there's going to be an end. And at the end, you don't get to do anymore. You're going to be a winner and say you did them all. Are you going to say yeah, I I spent all my time you know, watching reruns of Gilligan's Island, you know, you got to get out there and do what you want to do.

Todd Foster:

So what do you have left to do? Since you want to do it all?

Chris Widener:

Wow, what do I have a certain giving pledge that I want to be able to give a certain amount of money away in one big fat check. That's one thing I want to be able to write a check for a certain amount to a charity that I believe in, I really do believe that I'm going to run for office again. And when this time I, I really accomplished most of my writing goals. I've accomplished most of my speaking goals. I you know, I want to I want to be married and I'm in a wonderful marriage the rest of my life. And Denise and I we have an amazing marriage we start every day, we get up we pour ourselves some coffee, we light a candle or the fire. We read the Bible together, we pray together for the day, we start every day together and building each other up. And that's a that's something that we do we travel together, we love to travel together. I want my children to have I want my children to have what they want out of life. And so I try to encourage them, I try to give them good advice. You know, the older you get you sort of start living vicariously through your kids and and you take joy in the successes of others. I'd like to I'd like to be known as a mentor for other people. Because I had extraordinary mentors, people who believed in me, I nothing I love better than finding somebody a guy or a girl who's 3035 and, and just telling them, You know what you're doing fantastic. You've got the makings of a great leader. I just spoke for a guy out in Lake Las Vegas two or three months ago young guy, he's 40 Looks like he's 28 and his fiancee asked me if I would do a video for his birthday. And so I shot a video and sent it out to him and and that's what I said you're an amazing leader. You've already done incredible things just keep going help more people you're helping them find financial independence and and I feel like that's something I really want to be known for as being somebody who helped as many other people as the people who helped me because you know, it's not really about money. Money is a great way to keep score and enjoy certain things but you know, when you die it all goes back in the box and it goes to somebody else. But the memories and the the ripple effect that you make in other people's lives. That's what lives on. You know, somebody say I met Chris Widener before he died and I remember the encouraging word he said to me when I moved out I moved out of New Jersey. And I moved to start churches in Seattle, I got a check from this guy who was the CEO of Mars candies. And I thought, Oh, that's cool, because I didn't ask anybody for money. That's cool. And the next month, I got the same check. And I'm like, well, that's really cool. And then the third month, I got it same. I'm like, I better call him. So I called him up. And I remember him. So I still remember this. This was, this was no later than probably September 1991. So that's how long ago it's been. And he said, Chris, I believe in you. And I believe in what you're doing, and I'm going to keep sending you money every month. And, and I don't think he ever really realized just that powerful moment, because here he is this extraordinary business leader, right? You know, unless he worked for Mars, which is highly secretive. They were not allowed to be on covers of magazines, and all this, but one of the biggest companies, and I thought, here's this successful man, who said he believes in me. Wow. And I still remember that. When they asked me to be the emcee for the Jim Rohn weekend leadership event. Wow, that that they believe in me enough to give me that microphone. When Zig Ziglar asked me to co host his TV show. I'm like, wow, I remember I walked into the studio first time, I'd never met him before. And I felt like a priest who'd been called to the Vatican to serve communion with the Pope. And so you know, and I viewed my job as sort of like batting practice, like, throw the ball, let him hit it, throw the ball, let him hit it. And after the second or third episode, Tom came to me and Tom said, Hey, I've been talking to zig, and he'd like you to talk more. He'd like you to say some of your ideas. And I went, wow. Zig wants me to talk with him. And give my thoughts and my ideas every moment along the way. And not just famous people like zig and those guys, but but people I care for from high school I hadn't. I had not connected with this kid. I called him for his birthday. I have not talked to him in 25 years. And I told him, I said, you know, I want to wish you happy birthday. We're still Facebook friends. And I said, I also want to tell you that you gave me one of the my best pieces of advice. I think it changed my speaking career. It was in the early 90s, probably 93. He came and saw me speak. And when I came offstage, he said, Chris, you're amazing. I always knew you're going to be amazing. You're a fantastic speaker. And he said, but can I give you some advice? And I said, Sure. And he said, If you want to be world class, I'm going to give you a piece of advice. I said, What's that? He said, You need to be as funny onstage as you are off stage. And I went, huh? He goes your whole areas when we're just sitting around shooting the ball, you're hilarious, but you're too uptight up there. And he was dead, right? I thought I needed to be a professional speaker. I'm a perfect, I've got a microphone now. And these people are listening to me, you know, and I'm going to proclaim the truth. And then I just realized I just need to be myself. Claims Roy Bond's guard. And, and Roy told me a night like 1992 1993 be as funny on stage as you are offstage. And now I goof around, and I act things out. And I use funny voices and you know, all sorts of stuff. And I truly believe that was one of the best pieces of advice I could ever be I could ever get from a kid I went to high school with. And he told me be as funny on stage as you are off stage. I was being somebody else. I was trying to be somebody else.

Kelley Skar:

Why did you say that you think that you would go back into politics? Like what's, what's the draw?

Chris Widener:

My theory is one of the problems in America on both sides. And and I consider myself an equal opportunity political basher. I have my own beliefs. But frankly, I would I don't care what your label is, if you vote what I think is right, I would I would totally support you. I don't care left, right, blue, black, orange, bright, red, blue. I don't care. But I have a theory. And my theory is is that the problem with with politics today is we have the willing, not the table. And our job is to convince the able to become willing. And it goes to what Todd just said, If I were to ever run, remember what you just said, If I were to ever run, I would do it to find out what I did in college. And that's a lot of people's problem. I have a billionaire friend of mine who I have begged to run for politics. I have said to him, Your country needs you like I've played the Your country needs you card. I'm not going to do it. And you think about a lot of these folks. They're like, they're like, Hey, I could sit on my 400 foot yacht on the weekends. Or I could have them pick apart every little nuance of my life that ever happened. You know, I smoked weed once at a college party. And you know, and that's the problem. We have the willing and not the APR, and we need to convince the able to become willing. And I believe that I'm able, I believe that I'm fair, I definitely have my opinions. But I'm fair. And I believe that I'm willing to listen to the other side. I will I will make my voice firmly heard. But if I'm wrong, I'll admit I'm wrong. And I think I think we're in a heck of a problem. I think we have a I think we're in real trouble. From national debt which has been run up by both sides, both of them both, I would say both of them spend like drunken sailors except I wouldn't want to embarrass drunken sailors. When I ran for the US Senate in 2010, our national debt was $9 trillion. It's over $30 trillion. Now, 12 years later, and that is a burden on our children. And it's something that that real Americans need to take a closer look at things like that. And I don't care what your label is, I just care that we do the right thing. And we leave this country better than we did before. So that's why I don't need the fame, it certainly doesn't pay that well. And for some people, it would, they would think that's a lot of money, but it's really not that much that much money for all the crap you have to take. And I just believe it's something that I could make a difference in. I think that I'm a good communicator, I think that I could communicate some ideals in such a way that I could put together a coalition of people who maybe don't agree with me and everything, but say, I trust this guy enough to not go Flacco off the rails, you know, we vote for people and the next next thing, you know, they're like, they take a right turn or a left turn, like, I didn't think that was gonna happen. So I guess that's a long winded answer to a short question.

Todd Foster:

That goes right back to your friend telling you to be yourself on stage and off stage. Same thing with politics.

Chris Widener:

I try not to I try to, you know, I have a speaking tour that we run. And we we actually have a rule there. No bashing? No, no, no negative, no comments, no, whatever, I don't believe in calling the other side names. You know, have a civil discussion. Our founding fathers man, they thought like crazy when they were hammering out the the declaration, Independence and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. And then when they were done, I mean, they would just duke it out. And like, no way you're wrong federalism and federalism, you know, all this kind of stuff. And then what they do at eight o'clock at night, they were drinking pints of beer down at the pub. Because ultimately, I believe that all people are God's people. And as I always say, at the foot of the cross, we're all the same. And we might have differences in politics, we might have differences in sexual preference, or, you know, all those kinds of things. And, but I believe that we all want our country to be better. And I think that we need able leaders who can lead in a positive way and do that.

Kelley Skar:

Lead and listen to each other. I agree with you, I think, you know, societies become very siloed. And there's there's no opportunity for dialogue anymore. You know, we're kind of we're at this point, in our society, North American society anyways, where you're either left or your right. And there's, you know, it let's let's, if we really want to dive into into culture for a second, let's look at what's happened with Whoopi Goldberg in the conversation around the Holocaust and how, you know, she was suspended for two weeks now, you know, my wife and I were actually talking about this this morning. And it's interesting that I look at a lot of the so called right wing pundits out there that are, you know, kind of speaking about this. And everybody on the right, of the center of the of the of the equation is all they're all saying, it seems to me that, hey, you know, it's great that they suspended her, but we're going down this path where we're not allowing free speech to happen anymore. Right. But then you've got the people on the left that are like cancelled, Joe Rogan, right, cancel this. Cancel that. And how do we bridge the divide? I think is the big question that that we've come down to right now. I don't know if you guys are watching what's happening in Canada right now. But we've got this trucker convoy that's occupying our capital city or national capital city in Ottawa. And we I as a Canadian, we really feel like this is really starting to open up some dialogue and the left and the right are actually starting to speak to each other now, in more of with civil language in the idea of civil discourse delivered they better start talking to each other. That's right, they are truckers.

Chris Widener:

No, I better I have to, we have to be willing to listen. But here's the problem. And frankly, if this would have been take the Whoopi Goldberg thing, the same people are saying why did they canceller if a right if it would have happened on a right wing show, they would have said, fire him since right prison? Everybody. Nobody has the integrity when when your guy does it. It's bad when my guy didn't mean to do it. Right. Right. You look at the governor of Virginia that just got ousted, right. The guy was in blackface. And you know, but if that would have been a right winger, he'd have been gone the minute the picture hit the news, right? And by

Kelley Skar:

Chris, our, our prime minister was found our prime minister was found to have black in three separate instances. Right, and he's still the prime minister of our country, and then he's left so

Chris Widener:

So here's your here's the problem. When somebody else does something wrong, we judge their actions. When we do something wrong, or our side does the wrong we judge their intentions. That's the problem. We don't judge our actions. We judge our intentions. I didn't mean to I was only having fun. It was College. You know, whatever, he did it, fire him. And that's and both sides do it. But I do a little thing. I play a little game with people when when we're arguing politics, I'll say, hey, let's do something fun. How about this? How about we switch sides? You take my side, I'll take your side. And you know what almost inevitably happens. They don't know my side. Right? I'm not the first person they've ever talked to that holds my opinions, but they've never listened. I want to listen, because frankly, I don't want to pick a side, I want to pick the truth. And I don't care where the truth comes from. There's positions that I hold that are on the other side, that other people would say that's a that's a that's a position the other people hold. And I, I got, well, I think it's right, I think it's the truth. So I don't care if that party happens to be the one that perpetuates it, I want the truth, I want what's best for us, not just, I want what's best for my little, as you call it silo. And I agree, we are in polarized silos. And even within each of the two parties, you have silos, right? All of a sudden, all of a sudden, somebody who you thought was on your side, they go, they go off the, you know, they go off one way, and they say something, they agree with 95% of you, but they say one thing, and it's like taken out of the party, you know, and Ronald Reagan used to say, if somebody is with me, 80% of the time, they're on my side, you're never gonna agree with somebody on everything. So we not only do it to the other side, we do it to the people in our own group. And it's really unfortunate, it's really unfortunate, we needed to listen, we need to all calm down, we need to stop labeling people. And we need to listen, and we might find some things that we agree with on the other side. And frankly, I think we need to get to know other people, I have a lot of friends of mine who hold really, really opposite opinions of mine, but I really liked them. And, and frankly, you know, they wrote me on this this tour that we're doing, which is a political tour. There are people who hold wildly different positions of mind, but they text me and they say, I'm so proud of you. I'm proud that you're standing for what you believe in. It's amazing what you've pulled off. This is fantastic. And these are people who are pretty much diametrically opposed to me, in my political beliefs, and and I write back to them, I say, you do not know how much that means to me. I know you don't agree with me, but the fact that you're rooting me on is really beautiful. And I consider you a friend.

Alyssa Stanley:

My daughter and I were having a conversation the other day, and they she's in fourth grade. And they were talking politics on the playground. And she had asked me about this view that another child had said, and I said, Well, we'll hold on regardless of that view. Why are you guys talking about politics on the playground? You're in fourth grade. Yeah, he knows why I didn't understand what they were talking about. I said, and it's because you guys, you guys don't know enough to have an opinion. D, the knowledge that you guys hold it your age, is not enough to have an opinion. Talk about horses, play. Cops and Robbers play like something other than politics. But she goes, I just don't understand. Because it seems like everybody's so mad at each other. There's two sides to politics, right? And I said, Yes. You know, you have your and I talked about that. And she said, I just don't get it. I said, Well, what do you think would fix it? She says, I think people just need to be kind and respectful.

Chris Widener:

Have you ever heard of a guy named Bob Goff? This is totally true. You reminded me of a story. There's a guy named Bob Goff, you should have him on the show. And he tells I tried to get a movie deal around this story. I tried to sell this story as a movie. Because this is a true story. He's a very wealthy attorney. And on 911, his children were at home and they didn't have televisions. And he was at work at his office, and he came home. And he wanted to break the news to his children. And so he started talking to you know, what do you think we ought to do it and they basically said, we need to become friends with people from around the world. We should we should reach out to people from around the world. Every part of this is a true story. It's one of the most beautiful stories I've ever heard. So he says, Well, what do you think you guys could do? And they said, We should write a letter to the president of another country. And he said, which countries should you write a letter to? And they said, all of them. And they said, okay, and he said, he said in his book, I didn't know there were like 275 countries. But we did. We wrote a letter to 275 countries and said we would like to come and visit you. And Bob told his children. He told his children, if anybody lets you will, will go. And he's like that was a mistake. He said, we ended up spending six months traveling from country to country to country to country. They had so many presidents and prime ministers and dictators and everybody invite them. And he tells one story. He doesn't say that it's Russia, but he's, uh, he says that they were speaking Russian. So it might have been part of the so no, the Soviet Union was done by them. I don't know what it was. But anyway, these kings and presidents would bring the whole family in. And he said at one point, they're sitting there and this Prime Minister, I think it was Putin, I don't know, whoever was in charge back in the early 2000s, that I kind of read between the lines. And he comes in, he says, Do you do children love pastries, and they are sweets. And he said, We love sweets. And he like this. And in comes this parade of people with cakes and pies and cookies and everything. And there it is kissing is eaten. And these presidents would spend time with Bob and his wife, and three or four little kids. At the end of every meeting, they gave the president of gift box. And I think they lived in Colorado at the time. And in the gift box, they opened it up. And it was a keychain with a working key to their front door. And they said You are welcome in our home anytime you want to come to America. True story. One of the most amazing stories I've ever heard, it should be a movie. And, and so about, I don't know, two years later, one of the kids gets an email from the Prime Minister of this other country. We're coming to America, and we miss our American friends and your visit that you had in our country. And we would like to know if that key still works. And they stayed in Bob Goff home. And I think that is such a powerful story. You should have him on just to tell that story because he could probably go into Wave. I mean, obviously, you're going way more detail and tell lots of fun stories. This was just a chapter in one of his books. But what an amazing thing. You know, that's one of the things about my travels, you know, I've traveled Russia, Egypt, Singapore, China, Australia, Spain, Germany, you know, all over, right? I remember going to Egypt, I've been to Egypt, twice, speaking once in Cairo, and once outside of Cairo, and one of their new cities they built. And I remember, they took me through, you know, went to the pyramids, and went to the Sphinx. And they took me to the papyrus museum. And they had a driver, they took me to the, and then they had a guy who was a university professor and taught me things and, and all those kinds of things, and about history. And at one point, I knew that were taking me to the nice places. I knew they were kind of keeping me off the beaten path. And I said, I want to go to where the real people live. I don't want to go the touristy places. And he kind of looked at me like this, like, Are you sure? And I said, yeah, maybe we didn't get out and do a lot of things. But I wanted to see how people live, I wanted to see what life was really like. And that's been one of the best things is you realize that people may live in a different place. But in many ways, we're all the same. In fact, I gave a speech to 7000 Iranians in Tehran via Skype, probably two years ago, 7000 people, and I'm looking at them on the screen, because their computer, I could see the crowd, they had me up on the IMAX. And at the very end, I gave about a one minute, little speech at the end, I said, Before I close, I want to tell you something, I know that my government and your government don't get along. And there's lots of fighting. And there's lots of arguing and those kinds of things. But here's what I know about people. I know that you love your spouse, and I know that you love your children. And I know that you want to have a healthy, long, healthy life filled with love and joy. And so do we Americans, and in many ways, the Iranians and the Americans forget the government's, the Americans in the Iranian people are very, very similar in regard to how we want our lives to be. And I got a two minute standing ovation via Skype. And I don't believe it was for the speech I gave, I believe it was for the connection I made at the very end, when I said, Look, our governments may fight. But we're the same. We want the same thing. We want love. We want life. We want joy. We want our children to have a better life than we did. And that's the common denominator. A lot of arguing about how to get there. But we all pretty much want the

Todd Foster:

Wow. same thing.

Chris Widener:

Vote for Chris Widener. Thank you very much.

Kelley Skar:

There we go.

Todd Foster:

Yeah, that's, yeah, well, you have some hell of speeches, I guess. And you've written your own speeches, and you've written speeches yet. I believe presidencies and governors and mayors, basically went on their speech writers and how they deliver it.

Chris Widener:

So there's a lot of that there was one presidential candidate who didn't take my advice, and he should have who was that? Can you'd mention that name?

Todd Foster:

Yeah, I'll tell the story. John McCain's team called me and they said, how can we he wouldn't have won. Anyway, I'll tell you that. Obama was a freight train coming down the tracks. It was never going to get the but they called me up and they said, We want you to help. Mr. Senator McCain, compete with Obama on the teleprompter. And I said, Okay, I'm gonna give you two pieces of advice. The first piece of advice is the advice you don't want, but you should take and the second piece of advice is the advice you want, but you shouldn't take and if okay, what's the advice that we should take that we don't want? I said, dumped the teleprompter. Well, we kept up the teleprompter. This is the other problem with politicians. You got like these 26 year old kids who are four years out of the University of Virginia, telling them every single word they can say and can't say, and I'm like, You're a 60 year old billionaire, say what you want. Right? And so anybody why we can't take it off the top. I said, He's the Maverick, like, his brand is literally the Maverick, right? He's been in, he's been in the United States Senate for 185 years. At this point, we can't do it. They sterilize everything, everything is sterilized with these politicians. And whether you like Trump or not, I think that's one of the reasons he won no sterilization, it was unbridled opinion. And you knew where you stood with him whether you liked him or not. And again, whether you like him or not, that's it's up to you. But that's one of the things I think was different than the average politician. Because I'll tell you what, I know people on my side, and on the other side, they're nothing but stuffed blue suits, and they'll tell you exactly what they think you want to hear. And then they go do something else. So anyway, I told him, I said, dump the teleprompter, let him be the maverick. He knows his stuff. We can never do that. I said, Fine. Just give him bullet points in the teleprompter. Let him see where he needs to go and then say what he thinks. And no, no, we can't do that. I said, Okay, well, you're not gonna take that advice, which I knew you wouldn't. So here's the advice I will give you. The problem is, is you have a camera and a teleprompter at 12 o'clock, and at 10 o'clock, and at two o'clock. So the problem is when he's reading the one at 12 o'clock, where the camera is, and you guys can see me because we're doing video, I don't know if there's going to be video when you release it. But when you watch my eyes, I'm reading the teleprompter. Now. I'm going to shift to 10. And I do this before I shift and now you know I'm reading. Most people think Obama is this amazing speaker he you've never seen him speak without a teleprompter. Like literally you have never He spoke at a at a rodeo and They drugged a teleprompter into the middle of a rodeo thing. You know, they just decide now manure, and they probably put up a teleprompter like he is an amazing teleprompter reader. But when he goes off the teleprompter, Google it sometime. Obama loses teleprompter and you'll see right. So I said dump that one because everybody knows you're reading. Now the best part of it is, is that John McCain, the only thing anybody can ever remember a single speech he gave was at when he received the Republican National Convention. He received the, the, the nomination, he gave his acceptance speech, read it, read it, read it, read it. And at the very end, he went off the teleprompter. And that's the only part anybody can because he got fired up his time definitely fired up. And he was and he was him. He was the maverick. He was the maverick he was himself. Like we've been talking about this whole podcast, he finally became himself. And he should've been himself the entire time and he would have lost by less. Much lesser margin.

Alyssa Stanley:

Chris, this has been amazing. If anyone wants to learn more about what you do, or perhaps book your speaking services, where could they learn more about you?

Chris Widener:

chriswidener.com, they can find all my books there.Go to chriswidener.com. If they hit the store, it'll take them to Amazon. They'll see the dozens and dozens of audio programs, books and all that kind of stuff. And there's an email there, Chris@chriswidener.com. Very simple.

Alyssa Stanley:

Awesome. Thank you.

Chris Widener:

Thank you for having me. It's a lot of fun. I love what you guys are doing. And I appreciate you letting me part of be part of the team for even an hour so it's great.

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