Bishops and Kings

I would love to take credit for this, but I can’t. Elaine was reading a book last night and this was a quote in the book that I thought was worth repeating: “It’s about bishops and kings.”

Past failures are great bishops, but very poor kings. Past failures, like bishops, can teach you and you can learn from them, but they make very poor kings of our lives. The point is to learn from them, but not let them control your life.

I have made many mistakes in life and business, but I have also made a few right decisions. I chose to learn from the mistakes and not let them control my life. I want to tell you one of the greatest success stories I know.

The man’s name was Kemmons Wilson from Memphis, Tennessee.

Kemmons passed some years ago, but I do most of the hotel work for the Kemmons children and have been doing so for 20 years.

Kemmons grew up dirt poor, and he was a home builder in Memphis. He was a young father with five children. In the early ’50s, they took a family vacation trip to Washington, DC. Along the trip, they stayed at various hotels, and every hotel charged a different price; there was an extra cost for each child. It made Kemmons so mad that when he got back to Memphis, he decided to start his own hotel company that would let kids stay free with their parents as well as have a swimming pool and restaurant on site. It would cater to business travelers looking for consistency and families that needed a clean hotel when traveling.

He founded the chain Holiday Inn of America, and he opened the first Holiday Inn in 1953.

As you can imagine, the idea took off and Kemmons was transformed into a wealthy man as he led Holiday Inns of America through development, franchising, and going public with the company.

Something a lot of people don’t know about Kemmons was that he failed a lot. Kemmons would invest in just about anything if he thought someone had a good idea. In the office of Kemmons Wilson Companies, when Kemmons was still alive, there was a wall that the staff referred to as the “Wall of Shame.” Kemmons would invest in hundreds of companies and the vast majority of those failed. I would guess that of the companies that Kemmons invested in, he may have had limited success with 15%-20%, but the most important point is that he had huge success with maybe 1%. So, the “Wall of Shame” had pictures of all the businesses he had invested in that failed.

See, Kemmons knew that he would not be successful in everything he did, rather all he needed was a couple of successes to outweigh the failures. He never stopped investing in other people and their ideas until he was almost 90. He believed you must keep going forward rather than looking back.

Kemmons learned to let his failures be a bishop in his life, but he never let it become the king.

That’s pretty good advice for all us, whether it is on a personal level, business level or spiritual level. We have all failed many times, but the objective is to not let the past failures control our future. KT

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