Are you living the ultimate life? Join Prism Insurance Agency to discuss the books turned feature films, The Ultimate Gift and The Ultimate Life, with their author, Jim Stovall. Learn his secrets to happiness from his remarkable story as a blind person who created his own success.
JIM: Are you living an ultimate life? Joining us today is Jim Stovall, author of The Ultimate Life which was recently made into a move, starring the likes of James Garner and Peter Fonda. In spite of blindness Jim Stovall has been a national Olympic weight lifting champion, has written numerous books, has spoken to audiences throughout the country as well as creating a television network which makes television accessible to our nation’s 13 million blind and visual impaired people. Steve Forbes, president and CEO of Forbes Magazine says “Jim Stovall is one of the most extraordinary men of our era”. Joining us today is Jim Stovall to share with us his secrets to success despite having challenges that many of us never have to face. Welcome Jim.
JIM STOVALL: Hey, it is great to be back with you.
JIM: We’re so glad that you could take time out of your busy schedule to meet with us and share not only your vision but talking a little bit about your new movie that was just released on DVD, The Ultimate Life. Welcome.
JIM STOVALL: It’s good to be with you and I’m always excited to talk about The Ultimate Life.
JIM: I think we should just start out with you don’t have a financial background and what’s interesting is your book has been bought up by financial advisors to share with their clients throughout the country and that’s The Ultimate Gift, and we had you here and then the movie, The Ultimate Life, is like a prequel to The Ultimate Gift but I think everybody should see the Ultimate Gift first; can you just share with our audience what The Ultimate Gift was all about?
JIM STOVALL: Well The Ultimate Gift is a story; it’s a novel I wrote that was made into a movie with 20th Century Fox. It’s available anywhere you get DVDs or Netflix or anything like that. It’s the story of a billionaire who realizes he’s approaching the end of his life. He has a lot of greedy relatives who have frankly been ruined by his money. He wants to put an end to that and he sees one relative, his grandson Jason, that has some potential so instead of making Jason an instant millionaire when he dies he leaves him a bequest called the ultimate gift and once a month for a year Jason has to learn a lesson. He starts with the gift of work and then money and then the gift of friends and family and on and on and if he can accomplish all these little tasks only then will he receive his inheritance. That’s what happens in The Ultimate Gift and then in The Ultimate Life the story goes forward a little bit and then backward. It actually encompasses my next two novels. After The Ultimate Gift I wrote The Ultimate Life and The Ultimate Journey and we actually took those two novels and put them together into this one movie called The Ultimate Life. James Garner is back and he opens the movie as he did in The Ultimate Gift and we continue with that story. It’s the story of passing along your valuables along with the values and if you give people money and wealth without direction and purpose you’re getting ready for a train wreck.
JIM: I can’t emphasize that enough and the whole purpose of our program, Real Wealth, is that’s what the meaning is. It’s about the values, not just the valuables and I think too often people have way too much focus on the money part and if you don’t have, as you said, if you don’t have those values in check you are definitely waiting for a train wreck.
Lets’ talk a little bit about The Ultimate Life. I think we’ve had people on in the past; they talk about balance in life. I know in The Ultimate Life you have Jason who’s running the family foundation and he gets a little bit wrapped up in that and he goes back to his grandfather’s diary to try to learn what lessons he has and even someone who’s giving as much as that character was can find themselves starting to miss some of the important things in life. Maybe share with us what some of that is.
JIM STOVALL: Well, you know Jason saw the money and the schedule and the priorities ruin his grandfather’s life and he was very critical of that but then when he took over those same forces start acting on him and his life is getting to be quite a mess. Unless you have your priorities firmly fixed in your mind; the things you’re going to do with your time and the things you’re going to do with your money; there are outside sources, there are people and opportunities and advertisements and all those things clamoring for our time and our effort and our attention and our money. You’ve got to be very, very clear and on purpose about who you are and where you’re going. Jason gets kind of bogged down in that and then one of his grandfather’s lifelong friends, the old lawyer, gives Jason a gift which is his grandfather’s diary he had kept throughout his life and then through that we get to go back and find out where did those lessons really come from; what life events brought forward those 12 lessons. We go back to the great depression and World War II and he’s struggling to start their business, and the oil boom and then everything that happens after that so we come full circle and it’s Jason’s turn to establish priorities. When we learn something we can change our own life and when we teach someone we can change their life but when we teach people to teach we can change the world and that’s kind of what starts to transpire here.
JIM: I don’t want to ruin the movie for people so I really encourage them to go out and get it, but what I would say is that’s amazing about the movie. I’ve seen so many movies and they’re really fairy tales. While this is a fictional book boy you sure deal with some very real human emotions and issues and as you were talking about even in The Ultimate Gift the greed, the balancing family life, the drive to do more; when it comes to having the money but then discovering what your purpose is and how things transcend well beyond the money and the importance of family. I mean it’s just a fantastic two movies and I really encourage people to watch both of them. I know when you wrote the books which these movies are based on you shared with us in our past interview but I think it’s worth sharing with the listeners, you really didn’t have a financial background; you weren’t in a real wealthy family. What inspired you to write these books?
JIM STOVALL: I mean I did not grow up in a wealthy family. Ironically I did work for an investment firm as a very young man and then I started losing my sight rapidly and did not pursue that career anymore, thought I was going to go do other things. I’ve written seven or eight books before The Ultimate Gift and they were all how to books or success books or things like that about business. The publishers kept wanting more and more books and I had written everything I knew and a few things I only kind of suspected so I said if you’re going to want another book out of me I’m going to have to make something up; so I made up a story to tell some of the same principles that I had been sharing in my nonfiction books. Well when I wrote The Ultimate Gift I had no idea, as year-old said, I had no idea it was going to be a financial book or have anything to do with estate planning or financial planning or investing or anything like that. I just made the character a billionaire to dispel what I called the Big Lie. The Big Lie in our society tells us that if we just had enough money all our problems would go away and nothing is further from the truth. Money will not solve your problems; neither will poverty by the way but money doesn’t solve anything. It makes you more of whatever you are. If you’re a healthy, well adjusted, giving person money will make you more effective in those things but if you’re a greedy, shallow, self-aggrandizing person money will make you more of that. People who have personal problems that have unlimited money and no responsibility can get themselves in all kinds of trouble.
JIM: I think if you have money you definitely have a responsibility to be a good steward of it and on the other hand I’ve always said to people it’d be easier if we didn’t have anything. Well if you have nothing you have nothing to worry about. . .
JIM STOVALL: Right.
JIM: . . . but that can’t always be the most pleasant way to live. Jim, in your life why do you see that some people succeed where others fail?
JIM STOVALL: I think a lot of people, they have no direction. They don’t know where they’re going so they’re just kind of treading water and someone that’s moving purposely and purposefully will always outdistance someone who’s just treading water. Then I see people that waste their career by pursuing something that’s not their passion. We live in a very competitive world. If you’re not pursuing your passion you will be competing with people that are and they will outwork you because you’re struggling and toiling with your work and they’re having fun, they’re doing what they enjoy. I see a lot of people fail because they don’t have a goal, they don’t know what success looks like, they don’t know what they want and then they’re pursuing something other than their passion. If you don’t love every day, all day of what you do you need to find something new to do. There are certainly things about all of our jobs that we may not enjoy that specific task but we enjoy the overall result. You may love your kids, you may not like changing diapers but it’s part of the overall package. As an overall strategy you’ve got to have that passion.
JIM: I think that’s the ultimate key. You have to have passion; you have to know where you’re going. You have to have a plan. Those are all key things. Today we put the news on; it’s all gloom and doom and this is bad and that’s bad and it almost makes it seem overwhelming. Do you believe people still can become financially independent, successful, millionaires if you will, in today’s economy?
JIM STOVALL: Yeah, I think so. I think it’s easier now than it’s ever been. I really do. There are more tools out there, there are more opportunities than there has ever been but you’ve got to be more careful than you’ve ever been because there are more charlatans and cheaters and liars out there. You know I just completed a book called the Millionaire Map and it was my own journey from poverty to becoming a multi-millionaire and I encourage people to be careful where you get advice from. Don’t ever take advice from somebody that doesn’t have what you want. There are a whole lot of people out there, as you know, that don’t have the money to pay attention or get cab fare across town but they’re going to tell everyone else how to be wealthy. You’ve got to be careful where information comes from because information, as you know, is the commodity we deal with. Money follows information. If you took all the money in the world and divided it up evenly among everybody in a few short years it’d be back where it is today. The wealthy people got wealthy because they know things and perform based on that knowledge and other people don’t.
JIM: Now where do you see the best business or profession to be successful today and reach the goal of being a millionaire or multi-millionaire if that’s what someone strives to do?
JIM STOVALL: You know there are a lot of opportunities I’m excited about in this economy but the right answer to that question goes back to the passion, that important thing. You can name anything and I’ll show you someone being successful doing it. It doesn’t matter what it is. You can be miserable pursuing something no matter how much money you get if it’s not your passion and not where you want to be. I try to encourage people; pursue your passion, do the things you want to really invest yourself in and those are the things that will make you wealthy. You’ve got to realize nobody makes money; the only people that make money work at a mint. The rest of us have to earn money and the only way we earn money is by creating value in the lives of other people. If you want more money you have to create more value for the people you serve or begin serving more people. Those are the only two options you have. Too many people stand around saying I want more money, I want wealth. What you really need to be saying is I want to serve more people and I want to serve those people more deeply than I do. Otherwise you’re like the guy standing in front of the fireplace saying give me some heat and then I’ll throw in a little wood. It doesn’t work that way.
JIM: I heard a comment once and I don’t know what your thoughts on this would be; I’ve heard it said that the people that don’t save work for the people that do.
JIM STOVALL: Correct, money is stored up work. That’s all it is. We trade our time, effort and energy for money and then we can take money and trade it for someone else’s time, effort and energy and they may provide a service for us or they may have used their time, effort and energy to create a product or whatever the case may be, but yeah, I mean sooner or later it all comes down to those who can save and accumulate are the people that control everything and those who can’t save and accumulate have to work for the people that do.
JIM: You’ve used a phrase, ultimate productivity. What do you mean by that?
JIM STOVALL: It’s a concept I’ve had for a number of years. I wrote a book on it with Steve Forbes and legendary coach John Wooden and we broke down the concept of success into becoming more productive. Productivity is just simply a matter of helping more people, serving more people, making a difference in their lives and we broke it down to three elements: Motivation, communication and implementation. The person that wins is the person with passion, as we said earlier. The person that can get out there and be motivated and it makes a difference to them. Communication is just simply the concept of sharing your motivation with others, whether it’s you or me or anyone listening to us now. No one succeeds on their own. We succeed as part of a team. We do that because we can communicate our passion with those people. Then implementation is the final element. We live in a world when it’s all said and done there’s an awful lot said and very little done. Life is not fair; I hate to be the one to come and tell you but life isn’t fair. We don’t always get what we want or need or earn but we will get what we earn by creating value in the lives of other people. We don’t get paid for what we meant to do or wanted to do or do to or learn to do; we get paid for what we did. A lot of people are out there over analyzing everything and they are afraid to pull the trigger.
JIM: It’s amazing; when you leverage the knowledge or the talents of many people; I always said many hands make light work, but you look at a guy like Andrew Carnegie or Henry Ford, they surrounded themselves by experts. They didn’t try to figure it all out for themselves. Whether you’re starting a business or maybe you’re working somewhere and you want to have success; I’ve always told a lot of people back in the 90s where day trading hit an all-time high and everybody was going to become a millionaire overnight, well if you can’t dedicate the time that a financial professional can or you’re not going to become your own lawyer and figure all that out; I look at having a team around you when it comes to estate planning, retirement planning, tax planning, all that, why not get the experts instead of trying to be an expert on everything. It just gets you so far ahead and that’s one of the purposes of this program is to make people aware of all the planning tools that are available and remind people you’ve got a team of experts that you can take advantage of.
JIM STOVALL: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. You need to focus on that. As I said I started out my career as an investment broker and I worked with a lot of people but even then, and this was 30 years ago, no one can keep up with all of the advancements and developments and changes in the field. Different people specialize in different things and whether it’s an estate planner or financial planner or lawyer these people spend all day every day focused on this one little element of your success. There is no way by yourself you can go do that. Even if you could, it’s like a surgeon; you really shouldn’t operate on your own family. You really should get advice from people who are detached and unemotional about your situation so they can specifically give you the best thinking based on the best information that’s currently available.
JIM: We’ve got to take a quick break but when we come back Jim I want to have you talk to people who say, you know what, this is tough, life’s tough, I can’t do it. There are all these problems. I want you to share your story and how you overcame obstacles. Please stay tuned.
TONY: Now a personal story from the 2010 life foundation spokesperson for life insurance awareness month, actress Leslie Bibb whose recent credits include roles in Ironman II, Confessions of a shopaholic and Talladega Nights, the Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Leslie was just three years old when her dad died. At that time Leslie had no idea what life insurance was and how it benefited her mother. Today Leslie realizes the enormous impact it had on her life. Let’s hear her story.
LESLIE BIBB: Hi, I’m Leslie Bibb. Photos are my memories, my parents together dancing to their favorite song and celebrating with friends. Young and in love they never suspected that their lives together would be cut short. Everything changed when my mother received the awful call that there had been an accident and my father hadn’t survived. All of a sudden the task of raising four girls and keeping our family together fell on her shoulders. My mom’s burden was lessened by my dad’s thoughtfulness. His life insurance policy enabled our family to pick up and carry on. The love we show while we are alive is why we live. The love we show after we are gone allows life to continue on. My dad loved us enough to expect the unexpected. Life insurance was his legacy of love to us. No one should be left grieving and in need. Take care of your loved ones by thinking ahead to the unthinkable.
ANNOUNCER: Learn more at lifehappens.org. A public service message from the nonprofit life foundation.
JIM: Welcome back as we continue to visit with Jim Stovall, the author of the book The Ultimate Gift. He’s written several books and just recently they made a move on not only The Ultimate Gift but now the followup which ends up being a prequel The Ultimate Life, a must see for all families.
Jim, we were talking before the break of all the ways that people can be successful. Sometimes people get in a rut where they think life’s got way too many cards against me and you mentioned before the break that you lost your eyesight. I always look at people like yourself who have overcome what I feel would be almost an insurmountable obstacle and you’ve made a huge success. You’ve accomplished a lot of things to help other people and I think that’s been a key to your success, but what do you say as a blind person to someone who says they want to become successful but just have too many challenges?
JIM STOVALL: Well, my challenges are no greater or lesser than yours or anybody listening to us right now. We’re all only as big as the smallest thing it takes to divert us from where we want to be in our lives. Whether it’s blindness or divorce or bankruptcy or loss of a job or illness or whatever it may be we all face those things on a daily basis. For every person you can show me that has gone through one of those obstacles and has been destroyed by it I’ll show you someone else who went through the same exact circumstance and used it as a springboard to their success. As a young man I had no aspiration other than to be an All American football player and then I wanted to into the NFL. That was my goal, that was my career. The scouts and coaches felt I had the size and speed to do that. I didn’t have a plan B. I didn’t study. I didn’t have a fallback position, a safety net, nothing. That’s what I was going to go do. Then one year during a routine physical to go play another season of football I was diagnosed with a condition that would cause me to lose my sight. All of a sudden you’ve got to take a really close look at your situation and assess where you are and I instantly realized there are no blind guys in the NFL; a few referees we’re a little concerned about but no players at all. I realized Jim’s going to go do something different here. I discovered Olympic weight lifting and I got to finish my athletic career doing that so I began writing books and making movies; probably no one less likely to do that. I run a television network on a daily basis; that’s my job, that’s what I do. I’m in my office now at the Narrative Television Network and we provide specialty programming for all the major broadcasted cable networks. That’s what I do. I write books I can’t read that are made into movies I can’t see. What an absurd concept, but it works for me because it is my passion; it is what I want to do. Everyone listening to us now; whatever that thing is out there keeping you from where you want to be if you’ll focus on your passion and you’ll focus on serving other people and get your attention off of yourself you’ll be very successful. Remember it’s not about you and me, it’s about them. If we create value with them we get everything we want.
JIM: I remember from the last time that we visited you didn’t just wake up one day and become as successful as you were; through these challenges you went through what a lot of people did. It took you a while to pick yourself up from the bootstraps right?
JIM STOVALL: Oh, you bet. It took almost 10 years, 12 years from the time I was diagnosed I would lose my sight until I was totally blind, it was kind of a slow progression. Then I do remember that morning I woke up in my 20s and I was totally blind, age 29 and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I’d never met a blind person; I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do. I moved into this little 9 x 12 foot room in the back of my house. I really thought I would never leave again. The thought of traveling a million miles a year and speaking to over a million in arena events or running a television network with over a thousand stations or writing 25 books or having four of them made into movies or the thought of talking to you and your audience right now, that was about as foreign to me as going to the moon. I sat in my little 9 x 12 foot room for several months before I could even venture out of there. The first day I ventured out of there I didn’t make millions of dollars or write bestselling books or start a company; I walked 50 feet to my mailbox and that was the day that changed my life because it’s all about taking that first step. Too many people they’re afraid to take that next step because they don’t know where to go after that. They don’t see the clear path all the way to success so they’re waiting for all the lights to be green before they’ll leave the house. If you’ve got a goal, if you have a passion, if you have somewhere you want to be in your life you may not be able to get there today but can you take one step closer today and then tomorrow you’ll take another one and the day after that you’ll take another one. If you have that passion and that goal inside of you you’re supposed to be doing something today to get closer to it. If you don’t have that passion or that goal, go get one right now. I mean this life is too big, it’s too abundant, it’s too bountiful for you to live less than where you should be.
JIM: I think back to when I was in high school; I had what has been coined as stinking thinking. I look back; I had a negative attitude and I had a woe is me attitude and my inspiration was reading a book called the Magic of Thinking Big. That changed my mindset.
JIM STOVALL: Yeah.
JIM: Now you talked about for months you were just staying in the room; I’m sure there was a little self pity along the way; what was the thing that got you to take that first step? What inspired you to do that?
JIM STOVALL: Well I had a lot of friends and a lot of family members that cared but one little old lady down the block brought me a taped series that Dr. Dennis Whaley had made. She had actually take me the year before to one of these big positive thinking rallies but then she knew I’d like Dennis Whaley so she brought me this taped series. It was Dennis’ psychology of winning. I wore those tapes out, I mean literally wore them out. I had to call the company and have them send me more and I actually went through that one, got on my third set of them. I internalized what it said. One of the big things Dennis did in that series was he kind of wrote this epic poem called If You Think You Can You Can. I had people telling me from visual services and the state of Oklahoma, well you’re blind now, you have to be realistic. You can’t do all the things you used to do. You’re never going to make any money. You’re never going to go anywhere. You need to just lower your expectations and live here. Then I heard Dennis saying if you think you can, you can and I realized somebody is lying to me here. We all get to decide that. We all hear those two voices in our head. One tells us we’re big, we’re grand, we’re wonderful and we can go do anything we want to do and the other one tells us, what makes you think you could ever do anything in your life worthwhile; because we know ourselves better than anyone else. We know all the good things about ourselves. On a daily basis you and I get to decide which one of those two voices we’re going to listen to and the future hangs in the balance.
JIM: Let me ask you this question; taking it all the way forward. What’s it like having these two books made into feature films?
JIM STOVALL: Well it’s a great experience. The Ultimate Life was actually my fourth, we made two movies in between The Ultimate Gift and The Ultimate Life; a Christmas Snow and the Lamp and right now today they’re working on the book that I wrote after The Ultimate life called the Gift of a Legacy. It’s the fourth book in The Ultimate Gift series and we’re working on a movie for that now. It’s been an amazing experience. When you write lines that James Garner or Brian Dennehey or Louis Gossett Jr or Peter Fonda or amazing talented people deliver it’s a great experience. In this last movie in The Ultimate Life Michael Landon Jr., directed it and he was fabulous to work with. They tell me I have over 10 million books in print in several dozen languages around the world. That’s been a real blessing for me but I realize there are millions of people that no matter how many books I write and how well I write them there are millions of people who are never going to read a Jim Stovall book, but they’ll go to the movies. For me it is the coin of the realm; it’s the genre that works. I’m convinced that if William Shakespeare or Mark Twain or Ernest Hemmingway were alive today they would not only be writing books but they would be making movies as well because that’s where we are in the 21st century.
JIM: One other thing I’d like to just touch upon because I think you’re being unbelievably inspiring to our listeners today as people can maybe tell I’m very passionate about what you’re doing and I really believe in what you do. When I read the book The Ultimate Gift and then saw the movie I thought that was The Ultimate Gift too; to be able to see it on film and share it with my kids because not being able to put a gun to their head and make them read the books, they all love seeing the movie so it was a great way to touch them and given some inspiration. I’d like you to spend a little bit of time too talking about the television network and how much you’re doing for people there and if people aren’t aware of it they certainly need to be aware of it. Share a little bit about what you do there and how that’s helping people.
JIM STOVALL: When I was in that little 9 x 12 foot room I told you about after losing my sight I thought I’d never leave there again. Before losing my sight that room had been my television room and I had my TV and VCR over there at the time, my collection of classic movies; I love John Wayne and Henry Fonda and Gregory Peck and all these amazing people. I’m sitting there in my room in the dark totally blind, depressed and the only other thing over there was the TV and the VCR. One day out of just sheer boredom I put on an old movie, a Humphrey Bogart film I’d always enjoyed called the Big Sleep. I thought I’ve seen this film so many times I’ll be able to just listen to this and follow along. You know it worked for a while but then somebody shot somebody and the car sped away and somebody screamed. I forgot what happened. I said somebody ought to do something about that. The whole world is praying for a great idea and they trip over one about three times a week. The only thing you’ve got to do to have a great idea is go through your daily routine, wait for something bad to happen and ask how could I have avoided that and the answer to that question is a great idea. The only thing you’ve got to do to have a great business is ask one more question; how could I help other people avoid that. The answer to that is a great business. I thought about that movie and being unable to enjoy it. I did a little research, found out there are 13 million blind and visually impaired people in the United States. Put them all together and it’d be the largest TV market in America and I began a company. We add sound tracks, extra sound tracks to TV shows and movies that were on network TV and come out on DVD and Blu-ray. For those of your listeners who go out and get The Ultimate Life for example, if you get the DVD or the Blu-ray on the menu under setup you can pick English or Spanish or a 5.1 surround sound, well one of the options you can select is narration for the visually impaired. You put that one and in between the dialogue of the characters you’ll hear one more voice that says “he slowly walks across the room and peers out the window. She turns and hands him the file”; it’s just all the visual elements of the program, so we help millions of people hear what they can’t see and that’s been my business for 25 years and kind of the base from which I’ve done the books and movies and speeches and my syndicated columns but it all surrounds the core work we do here at Narrative Television. It’s great to do good business but it’s even better when you just do good. We had the privilege of doing both.
JIM: I’ve always been a big believer in the more people you help the more you get rewarded.
JIM STOVALL: Absolutely.
JIM: It’s interesting because I came across that by pushing my SAP button on the television and accidentally found it; didn’t know what the heck that was or why they had it there and then we had you as a guest and man has that an awesome thing that you’ve been able to do that and help so many people.
TONY: Hey Jim we really appreciate you sharing with us today. You’ve been a big inspiration for us. I’d really encourage everybody if you haven’t watched The Ultimate Gift or The Ultimate Life it’s a great move to watch. Next family gathering get them around the television set and watch those movies and then have a family discussion and set your priorities. It’s just a fantastic tee-up for that. Thanks Jim.
JIM STOVALL: Hey, it is always good to be with you and I look forward to our next time together.
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