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  • Valerie Hope

Ep. 23 - Time to Come Alive: "The Character Behind Success" With Special Guest Carson Thompson, Business Advisor And Former CEO Of The Bombay Company

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Time to Come Alive: "The Character Behind Success" With Special Guest Carson Thompson, Business Advisor And Former CEO Of The Bombay Company


This time that we get together each week is an opportunity for us to become more conscious of ourselves. We take a moment to reflect, and also because we are more conscious, we have the ability to be more connected, not only connected to ourselves but also connected with other people. Ultimately, being conscious and connected leads to being more creative in life. To create something new, to think of new ways, to bring something about in the world that didn't exist, especially something that brings you to life.

As usual, I would love for you all to join your friends and family and have conversations that also help you become more conscious, connected, and creative. Please share this on your feed or share it on your social media so that way you can engage in conversation about what you hear and insights that you have in the future. We'll do a little mindfulness exercise to prepare us for the conversation that we're about to have and then I can introduce my esteemed guest to you all.

I want you to have a moment to sit firmly wherever you are, feel grounded, and centered. If you're standing, that's fine too. Just focus right now on your posture and take two, perhaps three deep breaths, oxygenating your brain and your body. For some, it might be helpful to close your eyes if you're in a safe spot or soften your gaze. For a moment, I want you to reflect back to your childhood. There's likely a time in your childhood where you had a favorite toy, perhaps a favorite game that you play, maybe a favorite book, record, CD, or cassette.

Think about some item, some element of your youth, your childhood that meant a lot to you. I want you to imagine holding that in your hand or being in that moment when you were playing that game, listening to that music, or perhaps watching a show on television or listening to something on the radio. Put yourself back in that moment.

Take another deep breath. While you're there, think about what was it that you learned about yourself or about the world as a result of that toy, game, or song. What did it mean to you? How has that had an impact on who you are now? Take another deep breath. Think of that inner child of yours honoring that memory. Now, you may open your eyes or refocus your gaze. There's nothing like reflecting on our youth. I think sometimes that makes a big difference in seeing where we came from, why, who we are, how we became who we are, and who we chose to be in this particular place in our time.

I'd like to introduce you all to a wonderful friend. We'll hear from Carson Thompson. We had the benefit of meeting a few years ago. It was my pleasure, probably more than yours at the time, Carson but when I took a class on how to start and run a small business, in the class, this gentleman was full of life and energy. He shared tons of fascinating stories in such an engaging way.

Not only was the actual presentation and the content of the presentation, interesting and exciting, but it was also one of the few people that I knew. I think there are maybe 150, or 200 people in the class who said, “Those of you who would like for me to look at your website, business plan, and marketing plan, etc., please feel free to send me an email. You share tons of information with us as well.

I took advantage of that particular opportunity. Since then, Carson and I have been meeting. I don't how often, Carson. I would say maybe every couple of months or every other month or so, we've had a conversation. It’s because of you, Carson, I'm so proud of the website that I've created, He's helped me hone my message, my tone, and my voice. You have helped me also put together different types of marketing materials because that's his expertise. His expertise is marketing. Now, he's a business advisor, but formerly the CEO of the Bombay Company. I'd like for you all to welcome my friend Carson Thompson. Welcome, Carson[Ma1] .

Thank you, Valerie. It's very nice to have the opportunity to be in the program. I've had to share moments with you where we discussed topics of interest and were able to share and explore things together. It even helped me think back on my life. When I was at that stage of my life, I tried to do this with other people, I identified with them or what they were like.

One of the things that always comes to mind is how uniquely similar we were at one point in our life, because you like me and others don't get to choose who our parents are. We don't get to choose the circumstance that we're raised in. We don't get to choose the kind of relationship that we have with our parents. We don't get to choose where we go to school. Those many choices in life are made for us because of our circumstances.

We don't get to choose the circumstance that we're raised in.

What becomes the reality is what we do with each of our circumstances. How do we react to it? Even with that, some of us are not equal. It’s nothing special or unique for me, but it just so happened that I was born to parents on a farm in a little town outside of Wilson, Oklahoma. My father died when I was two years old of typhoid fever leaving my mother with eight children from the age of 2 to the age of 16 the oldest child yet there was so much love and nurturing in our family that I was able to benefit from it.

One of those benefits and I don't know how it happened or why it happened, but there was a particular book that my mother would read to me at bedtime to help me go to sleep. It became my favorite book. I didn't want her to read any other book. I can remember as consciously with as much awareness as it was last night at a moment in time lying in bed in a small narrow bed in our living room next to a wood-burning stove reading a book. We didn't have electricity.

I had heard it before. I heard about it. I began absorbing the principles of it. I made a conscious decision that it was the kind person I was going to be. The book was The Little Engine That Could. There were things I understood about it at the time and there were things I didn't until I became more of an adult and became more aware of them. There are about a dozen critically important truths in that book that when you understand and adopt them in your life, shape who you are. It makes you who you are.

That had an influence on me. Some of those things were that you were willing to try things. The Little Engine That Could was a little girl. People didn't even think about that. It wasn't a boy. It was a little girl. She was a little baby[Ma2]  girl. She never pulled a train up a mountain before. She didn't know that she could, but she was willing to try. She started up the mountain and she wouldn't quit. Regardless of how tired she got, and how much she needed to break, she wouldn't quit. She just kept going until she got those toys over the mountain.

While everyone was happy and congratulating her, soon the rest of the world went on for everyone else, and the little engine was left alone again. All she had left was her own memory, her own mindfulness that she was able to do something. The rest of the story doesn't go on with this but I imagined it to be that she began welcoming things that she could do, that she could try to see if she could make it work.

I began doing that. I began taking on challenges that might not be ordinary. I wanted to see if I could do them. Throughout my life, I used those principles in schools. I've come to organize them in a way that I speak to them quite often. I frequently bring them into the seminars you attended. I do this almost daily in the classes that I teach in high school or middle school because I believe that if we master those things we adhere to those things we will be successful in life.

Everyone gets to decide what success is for them. It may be a big house. It may be a big nice family. It may be jewelry, fur, a speedy car, or trips. Whatever one's definition of success is, they get to decide but then I believe these same principles are the ones that when you've decided what success means to you, then you know how to do it. I don't like to teach. I don't like to provide principles or opportunities without a how-to part of it. I'm going to let you and others ask some questions now.

Thank you. This is wonderful. First of all, I have to admit. Although I've heard of the book The Little Engine Could, I've never read it. I couldn't tell you what other principles are in the book that are important but there's something about you saying that as a young person reading or having this book read to you over a wood-burning stove, that is such a vivid image. Can you tell us a little bit about your environment growing up? If you don't mind also share with us at what point in time, and what generation you are because I think that also helped people with some context and how that influenced who you are now.

I was born on September 10th, 1939. I was four when this happened with my mother. We did not have electricity in our house until I was twelve years old. We did not have indoor plumbing. We had an outhouse where you go to the bathroom. We had a well in the backyard where we got our water. When you bathe, you heat water on a wood-burning stove and put it in a tub. Each one of us bathed in it. We didn't clean the water in between so you always wanted to be first.

We did not have a telephone. There was no television. Many of the modern conveniences, I didn't have growing up. We still used wood-burning fire to cook and heat with. It was a part of my life. With my father dying when I was two years old, it caused me to have responsibilities at an extremely early age in my life. The circumstances where each of my older brothers and sisters grew up. They graduated from high school. They moved away and got married, and the management of the farm fell to the next oldest boy.

When I was fourteen, my brother just older than me, got sick, and I had to manage a farm. It was a large farm with hundreds of acres of peanuts and 50 head of cattle. It was mine to do, and I was responsible for it. I did it. I learned that at an early age there are things that you can do that you might not think you can do if you just try them. I think all of us might sell ourselves short of what we're capable of doing unless we're willing to consider the possibility that we might be able to do them.

We all cut ourselves short of what we're capable of doing unless we're willing to consider the possibility.

I developed a capacity out of necessity to believe that I could do things. I had my own little motto, and it was that if you're not going to finish, don't start. There's another aspect of it that I learned, and I learned this from a coach. His name was Bud Wilkinson. He was the head football coach at the University of Oklahoma. He won three national championships. He won 47 games in a row. That's unheard of but he taught the principle that the most important thing you have to do is not have the will to win. It has the will to prepare to win.

When you think about it with athletic teams, playing musical instruments, or being in drama. Whatever you're in, when you realize the amount of time you spend in preparation compared to the amount of time you do the event, you need to become aware that preparation is critical, and you need to prepare for every aspect of it. For example, in the three principles that I teach about being successful, which are positive character traits, effective communication skills, and utilization of time, preparation becomes one of those critical parts of it that we have to do.

In doing them, when you realize, for example, that out of the five forms of communication skills of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and nonverbal, in most circumstances, in presentations, even in interviews, your nonverbal communication is more important than your verbal. Many people understand that I should prepare for what questions I might be asked or what questions I might ask, but do they prepare for how they present themselves, how they look, how they dress, what their posture is, or what their facial presentations are because that has more to do with whether you're hired or not than what you say.

Carson one, I want to jump in real quick before we get too far down there. One thing you mentioned about having the will to prepare to win. I've also read that when you're thinking about sports teams specifically, not only are they spending the majority of their time in preparation, but they also spend a good portion of time in rest, recovery, and reflection. I'm curious, how did you apply those principles you mentioned the preparing to win into business it always seems that there's something to win. There's something to strive for, but the preparation time seems to be less and less in the business context. Can you talk more about that?

It is as equal in business as it is in sports where you have a team. It's preparation for more than one person. This is not for the CEO to prepare. This is for everyone who's engaged in that activity to prepare. At the end of my business life at The Bombay Company, we had 3,000 people to keep prepared. You are edging into something a moment ago that is also critically important. A part of what we do and how we do it is there must be time in between what we do and what we don't do that we get ready for the next thing.

I don't refer to this as taking time off, a vacation, or resting. It's recharging. You think in terms of recharging a battery to a telephone or a battery, we have to be recharged. If we don't recharge ourselves in the way that we need to in the amount that we need to, when we need to, then we're going to be less effective. Preparation and execution are critical, and then recharging to get ready for the next is critical.

Carson, back in your days at The Bombay Company, how do you reconcile the need for a marketplace to be constantly moving forward on the cutting edge against different competitors or wanting to market share? There doesn't seem to be a cycle that allows for that recharge. There seems to be a go-go-go case in the business world. How do you reconcile that as a leader?

We're always preparing the people on the team for what comes next and what to do next. Whether it's twenty people that we had when I bought The Bombay Company or 3,000, your organizational structure is constantly preparing your people for what is next. We are aware of the competition. We are aware of the marketplace. We are aware of what is happening. We prepare ourselves for what is going to be done in the up.

It's a constant effort that you keep doing. The larger organization doesn't change. You just have more people. We had people throughout the United States, Canada, and Asia. My job among other things was to see to it that all 3,000 of these people were prepared. They did execute. They did recharge. They did exercise the positive character traits they needed.

There are three components to success and I will absolutely guarantee anyone, everyone, that if they effectively do these three things, they will be successful. The first one is positive character traits. Positive character traits can include many parts of it, but they involve self-discipline, self-motivation, self-control, honesty, integrity, dependability, and perseverance. There's a longer list that you can have of them.

I have a seminar I'm working on doing that has over 30 positive character traits, and understand, they're not character traits. They are positive character traits that must be learned and unyielding. You never don't do them. You always do them. The second one is effective communication skills, which are reading, writing, speaking, listening, and nonverbal. I mentioned the nonverbal. Listening is the next most important one because that's the one we do the least well. Too often, instead of listening, intently to understand and comprehend, we're thinking about what we're going to say next and wish the person hurry up and shut up so we can say it.

The final one is time utilization. It is so critical. I make an offer to the people when I present this one that I offer to make any person a billionaire if they can answer yes to any of four questions and I'll do this quickly. One of them is if you can help me get more than 60 seconds in a minute. The second one is can you have them get more than 60 minutes in an hour? The third one is, can you help me get more than 24 hours in a day? And the last one is, can you help me get do-overs in time?

When everybody has answered, “No, you can't do any of that. I'm not allowed to make them a billionaire because they can't show me how to do it, then the question is, “What does that tell you about time?” It's so crucially important. I'm telling people that if you practice positive character traits, effective communication skills, and productive time utilization, you will be successful in your personal life and in your career. My role as CEO, my role as teacher, my role in working with people like you that I have the honor to is to teach them the principles and help them find these principles and how to do them that are going to change their life.

Not Quite Strangers | Character Behind Success
Character Behind Success: If you practice positive character traits, effective communication skills, and productive time utilization, you will be successful in your personal life and in your career.

I will say, Carson that out of those principles, especially positive character traits, I think that's what drew me to you and your teaching, your ability to make your stories and your message come to life, your generosity. I think that's one. It wasn't one of the positive traits that you listed, but there is something about generosity that I see in you so clearly. I'm curious, what has you now, at this point in your life, spent so much of your time and energy giving back and contributing to people's lives like me and the students that you teach?

Many people have done so many things for me like teachers, ministers, professors, business people, and the people that I've known, met, and learned from. They've taught me so much that I know is valuable and I know is important so I can't not do it. I have to do it. There's something inside me that compels me to do it and won't let me not do it.

What do you get out of it?

The hope is that they will learn and apply it in their own lives, and then they will share it. If we can get people who know this. I used a phrase in what I'm doing and the first words in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” What he means is they don't have to be proven. They're so obvious. They're so certain. I don't have to prove them.

These three truths of positive character traits of effective communication skills and productive time utilization, they're so obviously true that I don't need to convince anybody they're true. They can see that they're true. If they practice them in their lives, it'll demonstrate they're true that I want them to share them with other people.

I'm curious about what you think now. What's the biggest shift when you see other leaders focus on other areas of business? I think you're pointing to something I read once in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which is a book that you can see I spent a lot of time in. Stephen Covey talks about how people over time have focused less on character and personality.

For example, what you mentioned about honesty or self-discipline. Those are the driving forces for how we do our work like being a certain type of person rather than defining ourselves for labels like, “I am extroverted,” or, “I am a go-getter,” or, “I am innovative.” There's something around the positive character traits being more [00:29:54] the amount of sense of being versus some of the habits that we've created.

When you think about these, one of the best examples is the thing about is your glass half full or is it half empty. Am I a positive person or a negative person? You relate that to what you're talking about with other people and quite frankly, you realize how foolish they are. What we're about has nothing to do with whether my glass is half full or half empty. My glass is refillable. I can refuel my glass.

The question is not, “Am I an optimist or a pessimist?” It's not, “Is it half full or half empty?” It’s, “What am I going to do to fill it and keep refilling it,” to the extent that people learn the truth of what's important in life. I think they as individuals will find happiness, satisfaction, and peace with themselves. They'll share it with their organization because my organization was like me. They were a reflection of me.

I would not let them be like me if someone in our organization was mistreating someone because they had more power than that lesser position did. I wouldn't tolerate it. I often told them, “If you're going to treat your people that way, you better start running because I’m coming after you.” We're not going to do that with people here. It's not going to happen. Every person in your organization needs to become the living embodiment.

Now, the way that I can reach the most people right now is teaching high school and middle school. I don't want to pat myself on the back, but one of the teachers told me, “I've been teaching for over fifteen years, and never before did I ever have a substitute teacher that I would let fill in for me regularly. I never found one until I found you.” As I was leaving that day, the assistant to the person who handles the substitute teachers, it was their last day at school and I told her goodbye for the summer and reminded her that we were moving to Santa Fe this fall.

I thought I might be back for the early part of the fall before we left. She said, “I sure hope you do. Our students talk all the time about how much they love you and having you as a teacher.” When you're getting across to them, you're always respectful of them. You're always considerate of them. In preparation for being prepared, every day before I go to class, I envision, in fact, I do this at night in bed before I go to sleep, what challenges I might encounter tomorrow and what am I going to do if I do.

Carson, why do you do that?

It’s because I want to be pre-programmed that I don't automatically get upset and yell at this person. I don't abuse them. I don't call them out in front of other students. I want to deal with a situation in a positive way and to do that, I need to be prepared for how I do it. I don't talk to individuals. Sometimes when I'm making a point that an individual needs to learn, I'm talking to the entire class and not that person. While I'm doing it, I may walk up close to that person, but never look at them. They know, and everybody else in the class knows what I'm doing. That's how I'm going to do it but I do it in different ways.

Different personalities need to be treated in different ways in order to reach them. My objective is not to penalize them for how they screwed up because I don't know what their situation is at home. I don't know what happened that morning before they came to school, but I want to put a positive spin on this hoping that they will recognize it. I'll share one more with you. There's one of the students who kept talking to two other students and sitting next to them. It was obvious those students didn't want them to. I stopped the class and said, “I want you to understand. I am very easy to get along with until I'm not and you are the ones that determine whether I'm easy to get along with or not.”

Everything changed. That student knew who I was talking about. Other students smiled. It was all over. That student didn't do that anymore. I never even looked at them. I didn't say one word to them. I had prepared what I was going to do and I used different techniques and different approaches. I did that with 3,000 people at The Bombay Company. I don't treat them all the same.

They don't all have the same circumstances. I understood, and this ultimately was the reason I retired when I did. With 3,000 people working on our team, Valerie, behind those 3,000 people were another 3 or 4 people. I had 9,000, 10,000, 11,000, or 12,000 people who were responsible for what I did and they weren't controlling it. They couldn't destroy the company. I could. The pressure got so much to me after seventeen years and I said, “I can't do this anymore.”

I got out of it with a pacemaker defibrillator rather than dying of a heart attack, the Charles Tandy 0:37:13 did. I knew it was time to get out. I had to for my family and I had to for them that I had so much pressure that I was sitting in a car once, and my right leg started uncontrollably shaking. I couldn't stop it. There was so much pressure and much tension. That only happens if you care about people. If you don't care about them if it doesn't matter to you what happens to them, it just matters what happens to you then you're not affected that way.

However, if you care about people, and when I am in the classroom, in the program that you're in, or in the classroom with the seniors in high school, it's very serious business. I must do the right things the right way. I must set the right example. I must say the right things. It’s an obligation that I own. It’s a privilege and a joy. I love it.

I have one more question. Carson, let's talk a little bit more about this idea of leadership and learning. You care a lot for those who you were leading. What do you see now? You've been out of the corporate game for how long now?

Since 1997.

However, you've still been dipping your toes in working with entrepreneurs or other business people. What do you see now that's missing that you think we need to either go back to or spend more time on?

I see people who want to start a business and want to be successful in it the same as I saw them then. I admire and respect them so much and want to do what I can to provide guidance and insight for them. I consider that an honor and a privilege. Unfortunately, at other levels, I see serious problems. I think our country, in far too many ways it’s left its principles that we don't have the character. We don't have the honesty that we need to have. We need some great people who live on a basis of honor and positive character traits. I see far too little of that now, and it worries me. We're sitting here with a country of over $20 trillion in debt, and we can't sustain that.

This country is going to go through a financial upheaval. I don't know when it's going to happen and it is so sad because so many people are going to be hurt. I don't even know how you protect yourself. I don't know how we get out of it at this point. There are examples of Greece and others. It is true that every great civilization in history has died internally before they died externally and we're doing it. I'm not taking sides with Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, or anybody else of any color or anything else. I want our country to be doing things that work and we're not. I'm very saddened by what I see happening but I had a professor in college sociology who was talking one day about what we can and can't do.

He said that there are things that are wrong in the world and you can't solve all of them so all you can do is be on the side that you're part of the solution, not part of the problem, and do what you can and be satisfied with that. I won't say that I'm satisfied with it, but I do know that I'm on the right side of history doing what I do. Does that mean I'm always perfect? Does it mean I never make mistakes?

There are a lot of things that are wrong in the world, and you can't solve all of them. All you can do is be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

No, but you know me well enough to know how hard I try to be the best person I can be, the best role model I can be, and the best teacher that I can be to influence the lives of as many people in a positive way as I can. I have two little phrases I use. One of them is that if you're moving fast enough, old age can't catch up with you and the other one is to aspire to inspire before you expire. To the best of my ability, my strength, and my energy, I'm doing that.

One of the things that I admire about you, I also see it in my parents. They're both in their ‘70s now, and they learn. I think I got a lot of their energy and their zest for living. I remember my father got his master's degree at age 55, 57, or something like that. He also got a black belt in Taekwondo in his ‘50s. My mother has continuously been involved in her community. I find that there's some quality of life that is enhanced because they're constantly learning. I'm curious, at this point in your life, what are you learning or what is there left to learn?

There's still a lot left to learn. I'm studying and learning each day. I came across the saying about whether are we positive or negative because our glass is half full or half empty. When I came across that, I said, “Carson, you're stupid. You're smart enough. You're supposed to think of these things yourself. You didn't. You found it from somebody else. What else is there that I'm missing that is a true lesson? Which ones do I need to be correcting like that one?” I'm always looking for those things about I can be better and I can do more. I can be more positive. I can learn more. I can share more.

Always look for things that you can be better at.

The other thing is time management. You need time management so that you have time to get around two more people. As I mentioned, my wife and I are moving to Santa Fe. I've checked the two high schools there that I can teach at. The only university it would be possible would be in Albuquerque. I'm not sure that with that distance and with the weather I want to do those things but I'm developing a program to do everything online now. I've written a book about how we did what we did at The Bombay Company, Radio Shack, and Tandy Leather Company. I want to teach it.

I've written a webinar about the power of positive mindsets and how much mindsets affect our lives and businesses. Also, which mindsets should we focus on learning which ones are the most important, which ones will produce the greatest good in the shortest period of time and how do we do it? I don't think teaching things is as valuable as it should be unless we teach the how-to.

You mentioned the definition of success. You've mentioned those three things. The positive character traits, effective communication, and productive time management. I'm curious about when you were four years old and you were listening to The Little Engine That Could, what at that point in time was your definition of success, and how has that evolved over this time of your life?

My definition of success then was how does a little person without experience, degrees, and everything pull that train over at the mountain? I decided that I wasn't sure of everything that you needed to do to make that work. What I was sure of was that I should try. I started accepting things. I began teaching the Sunday school class when I was fourteen years old. I asked our church to let me do it. I had it organized with the students. I asked them to let me do it so I could learn communication skills and they did.

I started at a young age saying, “I don't know what it is that I need to know in order to do this, but I'm going to try and I'm going to take it on.” In the process of trying, I'm going to learn. I still do things. I still accept invitations and challenges to things to see if I can do it and to see what I can learn from it. There are many more stories in my career of what happened in Argentina, of what happened with the Canadian government, and what happened with the IRS that sometimes the most important thing you learn about the things you try to do is you just don't give up. You learn not to give up.

Every time you succeed, you become more inclined to try and not give up. It's amazing how much more and I'm going to tell you one more story. I had a very good career at Tandy Corporation and had a lot of success in doing the things that I did. I would meet with Charles Tandy, who was the master at doing things. We had phenomenal success in doing things. I would meet with him thinking that he was going to praise me, but instead, he chewed me out.

He would say, for example, “You had a 42% sales gain.” “Yes, sir.” He's going to pat me on the back. “How much more would you have to have done to get a 45% sales gain? That's three more points of the sales game. How much more would you have done, Carson? What would you have done to get three more points?” He then raises it to 48%. You can get 48%, right? If you can get 48%, it's just two more to get 50%. The lesson from Charles was great is never good enough. You always want more. You always try for more.

Not Quite Strangers | Character Behind Success
Character Behind Success: Great is never good enough. You always want more. You always try for more.

You compliment people for what they have done and say, “We've done that and that feels good, doesn't it? How can we get more?” What can we do to get more? What things do we need to do? What training do we need to do? What people do we need? What associations do we need to do with people? What else can we do to accomplish even more? You keep setting your sites higher and higher. You keep finding out that you can do them. I go, “I didn't know I could do that.” “We did. Now, let's do more,” and you keep going.

Besides that example with Charles Tandy, can you think of what's been a time when you've been challenged or when you had to take advice from The Little Engine That Could to get over that particular challenge?

The biggest challenge was in Argentina. Do you want me to tell the story quickly?

Yeah. We do.

I was offered an opportunity to become president of the Tandy division, and I'd been very successful in what I'd been doing but we had a business in South Texas that had facility manufacturing facilities in six towns there. We only had enough business for about three of those six plants. I was appointed president in order to solve it. I sized up the situation. I had no idea what I was going to do. I met the people. I knew that if I didn't come up with a solution I was going to have to fire a bunch of people.

We're going to close plants and when we do, we're going to devastate these little towns. Those towns were Shiner, Texas, and Hallsville, Cuero, Gonzales, and Hallsville. Also, Yoakum. I found a program in Argentina where if you got cut parts, you could get tremendous advantages and export credits and in-currency credits. We worked out the program. I spent time there. We did things. We put it together. We believed it would work. We committed to it, and it worked phenomenally well.

We were going into the marketplace where previously we had the poorest program of anybody in the country. We suddenly had by far the best and we were cleaning up the market. We were taking business away from everybody and it was phenomenal. Everyone was happy. The Little Engine That Could have crossed over the mountain and was going down the hill and then there was a train wreck because in March of 1976, a military hunter overthrew the Isabel Peron government and disbanded every one of the programs.

One of my business associates from there called me and told me what had happened. He said, “Carson, we've lost this program. You're going to have to come down here. We have to find a solution. I went to Buenos Aires during a military crisis with war going on in the streets of Buenos Aires. They were fighting. There were tanks in the streets. Jeeps with .50 caliber machine guns, soldiers everywhere, and people being killed. This was a desperate situation.

I had an opportunity to meet with one of the members of the military hunter in their government. It was Casa Rosada, the Pink House. If you know about Vita [0:55:14], it's the House of Government. I was going to a dangerous place meeting with one of the members of the military junta. For three weeks, I worked on this with banks, businesses, and the government. During the time I was doing this, I had started out with an allergic reaction to shellfish, and I was hurting. I was sick. I was itching all over.

I was excusing myself in meetings to go to the restroom and put on a solution like the stuff that we have here called Calamine lotion. My clothes became so stiff that when I got back to the hotel room that night I could pull my shirt off and lean it up against the wall. It was unbelievable. I was sick and I was hurting. My wife was scared to death, and she and her two teenage daughters are back in Texas and here I am working on this.

When I thought about it and my safety, my life, and my family, I realized I couldn't come home. I could not leave until I got this solved. I stayed and I worked. I explored possibilities. I met with senior KLIX, a member of the military junta. We began working through this as possibilities of how it could be made to work. After three weeks, we got a solution to it.

I lost 15 pounds and you know me, I'm slender to start with. I was mentally exhausted. I was itching. I had welts all over me, but I couldn't quit because to quit, I had to come home and tell my wife and my two daughters that I had failed. I had to tell several thousand people and our company that I had failed. I had to tell Charles Tandy that I had failed and I couldn't do that. I had to stay there and stay there as long as it took. I guess if I hadn't got it solved after three weeks, I'd still be down there.

When these things happen, you become the hero and all the stuff that goes with it. It wasn't me. It was all of the people. We had the things we did with the program, but we made it work and because of that, I was then assigned very quickly five more divisions in the corporation. The corporation then separated into five corporate companies and I became chairman and CEO of one of them. It was in that company in 1980 that I bought The Bombay Company, and with The Bombay Company, we took it from 2 stores to 440, from 20 people to 3,000. From the $26,000 that I'd paid for it, of company money, not mine, to a market value of $1.1 billion.

If I hadn't stayed in Argentina and solved that, it never would've happened. The Bombay would've gone into bankruptcy and gone out of business but I was The Little Engine That Could person. I won't fail. I don't quit. I keep going. I've thought about it many times. That may not have been the smartest thing for me to do to be in that environment with a shooting going on where I could have been killed and left my wife with two teenage daughters but when I weighed all of the factors of what could happen, the things that could go wrong is, I couldn't leave. I couldn't quit. I couldn't give up.

I did the same thing later with the IRS and I did the same thing later with the government of Canada, as in many other instances of smaller things, the wage and price controls that Nixon put in place in August of 1971. These were critical life-changing things. I wouldn't quit until they were solved because I'd made a commitment when I was four years old.

That’s a mic drop moment, Carson because they're coming full circle. Whatever challenges that we all individually face, whatever that message is we want to share. The thing that draws me to the stories that you shared with me, including this one and this positive character trait of self-determination that you took on at age four, is that you took on a way of being.

That way of being informed of the actions that you were going to take or not take throughout different points in your life. The things that I appreciate about you are not about the circumstances. It is not about the situation. It's about who you chose yourself to be and then you get to generate that every time you confront or you're involved in some situation that calls forth that way of being.

You don't have to be four years old listening to a story for you to have a beginning in your life like this. You can start at any age, anytime, and in any circumstance regardless of what your situation with your job is or your marriage is or your children or anything about your life. You can still start this kind of thing in your life. It's not a time constraint. It's not limited to four-year-olds on a farm. It's at any time in any place.

You can start being this kind of person and you can start practicing positive character traits, effective communication skills, and productive time utilization to start at any time. The way I've done it, that works for me, there's more that goes into it than this, but the simplest version of it is that I have not found myself very successful in stopping doing things but I have found great success in changing things.

I'm going to give you one. This is not true, but if you're smoking and you want to stop smoking, start doing something else every time you have a need to smoke. There are some things or character traits that I learned growing up related to money, and we didn't have any. There was an automatic reaction to what you do when it comes to spending money that you start with, “I don't have the money to spend.” I grew up into adulthood with we had money, but when my wife would want to do something, I automatically was, “No, we don't have the money. We shouldn't spend our money on that.”

All of it is me repeating something that I learned early in my life that is no longer valid. I need to change it so I replaced it. Anything we're doing in our life that you don't want to do anymore, think of something that you can replace it with so that every time that thing happens, then you replay it with a new thing. The next time it happens, you replay it with a new thing, and the next time you replay it with a new thing. I go back and do things over. I did them one way. I didn't like it that way. I can't go back in time and change, but I can right now replay that in my mind of how I wish I'd done it. If you do that enough times you change.

I'm going to echo the sentiment. Catherine said, “I could hear him speak all day,” and I could too. You're so insightful. I so appreciate you, Carson, for not only what you've done to support and serve me, but also what you've taken on in this life of yours to contribute, share, and enhance the lives of other people. I'm grateful for you to be on our program.

Thank you. It's been my privilege. As I told you, there's a part of me that does what I do because I want to, but there's also a big part of me that does what I do because I have to not do it. I'm so obligated that I'm working the rest of my life to pay off that obligation of what people have done for me.

Thank you so much. I want to thank all of you who are reading this. Please share this on your social media. In the next episode, we have a special guest as well. I only have a special guest on this program, Mariam Alam, who is a graduate student, and a mother. She's a wife and she's from Pakistan. She's going to be sharing with us how the practice of Ramadan and her Muslim faith has enhanced her life in ways that we can all enhance our lives too. Thank you so much, Carson. Again, thank you all for being here. I wish you all the wonderful rest of the week.

Thank you.

Important Links

Bo Bennett: “Success is not what you have, but who you are.”


Growing up without a father, running the family farm by age 14, and lacking creature comforts like running water and electricity made Carson Thompson even more focused on building his character. He attributes his success to being positive, effective in communication, and wisely managing his time.



·         How he aspires to inspire before he expires.

·         The difference between recharging and relaxing.

·         What’s even better than having the will to win?


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