When Eric Taylor was invited by Geoffrey Brown, general manager of the Lakewood Blue Claws, to produce a non-baseball event at his stadium, Taylor wondered what New Jerseyan might inspire the entire community, adults and high schoolers alike.
Thinking about a movie he had seen in high school, “Somewhere in Time,” starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, he remembered the tragic accident that had left Reeve a quadriplegic.
And that Reeve, rather than giving in to the burdens of his condition, was determined to make a difference.
To do so, he created a non-profit organization, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, dedicated to discovering a cure for spinal cord injuries, and to grants, information, and advocacy to improve the quality of life for people living with paralysis.
Taylor owns a dog tag, sold by the foundation, that combines the Superman emblem and the words “Go forward.” He wears it to remind himself of Reeve’s tragedy and of the strength he used to overcome it.
“You’re looking at someone who was a world famous and celebrated icon, and you see him in a 600-pound wheelchair and he couldn’t feed himself or do what you and I take for granted,” says Taylor. “We complain about someone who pushes us off the road, or about a hangnail or a head cold, and when I look at him, it puts it in perspective.”
The event that Taylor produced on September 29, 2004, in Lakewood, “Empower New Jersey,” happened 10 days before Reeve died, but the 10 life lessons Reeve spoke about that day have continued to inspire Taylor.
They form the basis of his motivational presentation, “Life Lessons from Superman: How I Learned to Fly and You Can Too,” which he will deliver at a dinner meeting of the Human Resources Management Association of Princeton, Monday, June 11, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Princeton. Cost: $60. For more information, call 609-844-0200 or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taylor shares three of the life lessons he learned from Reeve:
Empower yourself first. To be effective in communicating at work or at home, with your significant other or your children, you need to take care of yourself first. Taylor recommends that his audiences follow the acronym “DREAM,” which stands for diet, rest, exercise, attitude, and mental focus, which equal success.
The first three are self-explanatory and contribute to the fourth — attitude. But a positive attitude is not something developed in a day. Sometimes a daily activity can help, like reading a personal development book or something spiritual, or listening to music.
“Focus on things that make you feel good versus watching CNN,” says Taylor. “What you’re putting in your mind or body on a daily basis fuels you.” He himself listens to motivation tapes, reads books like “Think and Grow Rich” or “The Power of Positive Thinking,” or listens to music that makes him feel good.
As for the fifth “dream” item, mental focus, this is created by clearly knowing your goals or what your desired outcome is in a particular situation. Taylor recommends keeping the things you want to accomplish in front of you all the time.
“People have a ‘to do’ list, but they usually have too much to do, and it gets pushed off to the next day,” he says. “I recommend, on a 3x5 card, write five things that you want to accomplish that month, not 20 to 25, because there’s no way that’s going to happen. Keep first things first in your priorities and focus on those five.”
Finding your “why” or your true sources of inspiration. This is what drives you to get up in the morning and to do what you do. For Taylor, his children are the driver. For others it is God and spiritual beliefs. Or sometimes, when he’s feeling uninspired, he will look at his key chain from the Reeve foundation.
Negativity kills empowerment. “If you’re trying to motivate yourself as an entrepreneur, or you’re a manager, or a vice president, or a C-level executive, you have to be positive,” says Taylor.
Positivism means catching people doing something right rather than doing something wrong, acknowledging them, validating them, and supporting them. It means looking for the good and figuring out what you can learn from things that go on around you. “No matter what kind of adversity, challenges, and chaos is around you, there’s still good there somewhere,” he says.
Taylor, who has been in sales much of his life, has seen a lot of rejection in that space, which includes dealing with negative people. When he faces someone who is acting harshly toward him or has an attitude, he says that what he feels is empathy.
“If you come at me, it has nothing to do with me,” he says. “Something must have to do with you to act towards me that way—health, money, or relational issues.”
Taylor grew up in Wall, New Jersey, where his father was a building contractor and his mother a legal secretary. When he was 20, he started a four-year stint in the United States Air Force, where he was in the electronic section command, stationed in England.
“It gave me a world view,” he says. “We’re so focused on America here. It made me realize there are other parts of the world and other people. It kind of speeds up your maturation and opened my eyes up to opportunities.”
When he returned stateside, he went to Monmouth College, where he graduated in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in communication and psychology.
After college, he started a wedding DJ company, Elite Entertainment, that did about 1,000 weddings a year, sending out 17 disk jockeys each week.
He sold that company and bought a sales training franchise, Sandler, which he ran for about two years. Then he launched the Eric Taylor Consulting Group, where he does keynote speaking, consulting, and training in sales and marketing. Once people are healthy, focused, and as positive as they can be, says Taylor, like seems to attract like.
“Focus on where you’re going, not where you’re not going, and you’re going to have a better shot at success in business and in life,” he says, and offers one last bit of advice: “Create a life worth living and a legacy worth leaving.”