FKW: FTC James | Shift Happens

Shift Happens: Using Failure For Success With James D. Feldman

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FKW: FTC James | Shift Happens


Do you have a problem in your career that keeps you from moving forward? The simple solution is to look at the problem without letting the fear of failure paralyze you, and when you do, a shift happens. You begin to see the possibility of failure not as roadblocks but as building blocks to success! Today’s guest, James D. Feldman, the author of Shift Happens, believes that failure is the second cousin of success. If you want to be successful, you have to be prepared for failure! Once you conquer your fear of failure, you’re no longer afraid to go inside the problem, look at it with a 360-degree view, and pivot until you find the solution. Listen to Mitch Russo’s chat with James and be inspired to move forward!

Listen to the podcast here:

Shift Happens: Using Failure For Success With James D. Feldman

James, this is clearly your power, skill, talent, gift and idea. It’s the way you put things together and the way you see things. This is what you do for your clients. You have this amazing list of clients, something like the Fortune 1000. I asked you before how you got to have a client list like that. You said by cold calling them or by speaking to them one at a time. Explain to me what that process is for you.  

Let’s start with my first client. My first client was Toyota. Toyota had just been told by the government that there were going to be import restrictions, limiting the number of new cars. It occurred to me that they would have to look for other ways to increase revenue for the dealers. I went to 100 dealers and talked to them and they all said, “We’re going to have to ramp up our parts and service business.” I went to Toyota Corporate with a solution as I identify the problem. They said, “We don’t know who you are but I’ll tell you what. We’ll give you $10,000 to create the project. If we like the project, we’ll go from there.” I took the project. I took the $10,000. I took every nickel and every dime I had and poured it into the solution.

I then went back to 100 dealers either by in-person, on the phone, etc. and showed it to them. I got their input. When I went in back to Toyota, they said, “We have to put it out for bid.” This was my idea. I don’t want it out for a bid. That’s the policy. I knew that they were setting me up for failure. What I did is I came back and I created a fifteen-projector slideshow. I brought an entire team out to Toyota on one condition. I was the last one to present because I didn’t want them to say, “There are other people who are going to present.” You’ve already seen them and so I presented them. Each person in the room, I got their names in advance. I have a leather-bound book with their name on the book. Each book was sealed so that they couldn’t open it during the meeting. They sat there, watched it and they said, “We’ll get back to you in two weeks.” I said, “Gentlemen, you don’t understand. Now is your lucky day. I want a decision now.” That’s pretty gutsy. I knew that if I didn’t decide, I would go home bankrupt because I had nothing left, Mitch. I had spent everything bringing it to that point.

Don't confuse impossible with inconvenience. Click To Tweet

I know how much it cost to produce a 15-projector slideshow because I used to order them for my company. I used to set those up for our sales meetings, of which were several thousand people. I would imagine you spent more than the $10,000 they gave you.  

It was a lot of my pasta sauce money.

I almost hate to ask because I’m afraid of the answer. What happened?  

They sat there and they said, “Go outside and wait.” I came back in and the guy said, “We have one more question.” I got nothing left. He said, “Can we see it again?” “The whole presentation?” “Yes. Mr. Toyama Toyota would like to come down and see it himself.” The Chairman of Toyota came down with his four interpreters. They watched it and sent me back outside. Half an hour, I waited. They brought me back inside and said, “We think you’ve made a big mistake. You don’t have a big enough budget. We’re going to raise the budget to $2 million for this program. That’s how much we like it.” With every single dealer, they had a thing called a super report. I got Toyota legal to let me have a copy of it. It came out every single week of what went on in a dealership. They ended up after paying me, netting $11.9 million.

Let’s break that down. What are the lessons? I know that you knew enough to go and do that but what didn’t you know after receiving that order? What were the lessons that brought you to the point of closing a deal like that?  

Don’t confuse impossible with inconvenience. Number two, don’t try to sell your big ideas to small-minded people. Number three, be prepared to fail because failure is the second cousin of success. Here’s what I did, Mitch. I loaded that, “How are they going to go back to 100 dealers that I got engaged in this process and tell them I wasn’t going to do it?” By the way, those 100 dealers represented a little over 85% of the total volume of what Toyota did. I carefully cherry-picked those guys.

FKW: FTC James | Shift Happens
Shift Happens

James, what I want to hear is I want to understand your intellectual property and your process. You’ve written an incredible book called Shift Happens! My goal here is to help readers truly get what you do and how you do it. James, what is it that we could teach readers about your Shift Happens process?

It’s not about what you think but how you think. The first thing to do is remember that if you use the box’s metaphor and think outside the box, we have no idea what’s inside. If I give you a gift then I say, “Mitch, you can have what’s in the box or $10?” How do you make an informed decision? Strictly, yes. If, on the other hand, you get to open the box and I say, “I’ll give you $10 for what’s in the box.” You know what’s going on. Use that same thing with the problem. The problem exists. How do we know that? Somebody told us there’s a pain point. We’re losing revenue. We’re losing market share, whatever it is. We know there’s a problem. Now you go in and you start to analyze what makes up all those things. You start to move them around. I call that simple math, multiply, subtract, add and divide.

A perfect example is the history of the electric screwdriver. When that first came out, it was a motor and a screwdriver. Somebody said, “Why don’t we put something else on it?” It became two, instead of one then it became four. They just started changing the heads. Somebody in France said, “If we turn it on its end and make it a bigger motor, we can put blades on it and make a Cuisinart.” You start to see how one idea builds on another as long as you’re open to adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. Also, you’re open to failure because God knows how many times I failed.

You’re saying that you take an idea, begin execution and go as far as you can. If it doesn’t succeed, you simply examine the results and the environment you’re in and you try something new. We know that a guy named Thomas Alva Edison had done this 2,000 or so times. The idea of pivoting is not new. This is what happens when you get two old guys on a show together. I’m going to blame these cell phones for destroying our ability to hold attention and all these crazy internet offers that everybody gets 200 emails a day.

When I was building my company, there was no internet and smartphones. My cell phone was bolted into the trunk of my car. I wasn’t taking calls on my cell phone. Let’s put it that way. What I got out of that was I got the ability to focus. Focusing led me to make mistakes. Some of them are very big like kill the company mistakes and then forcing a solution to pivot into a different direction. You’re saying almost the same thing but you’re probably doing it faster than I did when I was doing it.  

I refer to it as 3D thinking. The 3Ds are Depth, go inside. When you’re inside, you get a 360-degree view of the market. You look outside and ask, “Who’s going to pay for this?” because if nobody is willing to pay for it, it’s a hobby. It’s a waste of time. The last part is, “What’s your determination? Do you have the financial backing? Do you have marketing expertise? Do you have a trusted mentor or a coach to help you go through this?” You start to move it forward.

Now, this process seems somewhat natural to you after all these years. Have you mapped this out so that others can use it? 

Yes. In fact, COVID is responsible for it because I had nothing to do like everybody else. My business has been in hospitality, gaming and food. You put the list down of who got hit the hardest. I had all those as clients. I decided I would write my book. This last book, which was my thirteenth book was written during COVID. I pumped that book out in 45 days. I’m giving it away to your audience.

James, the name of the book is called Shift Happens! I’m excited to read it because you gave me a copy too but we’re not going to talk much about that until we get to the next section of the show. Let me ask you this final question before moving on into the fun part where we get to know you a little bit better. My last question is this. Let’s say that you’re reading the blog right now and you’re reading everything that James and I are talking about but you say to yourself, “That does not apply to me. The reason is because I’m dead broke. If I don’t do something, I’m going to starve. My family is going to be in trouble. We’re going to lose our house.” How does your thinking apply to an immediate, desperate problem like that?  

Be prepared to fail because failure is the second cousin of success. Click To Tweet

Everyone is desperate. I don’t know many people other than the plexiglass people and the mask people that are making money. You’ve got to say to yourself, “Am I going to do things the way I did them before?” More importantly, “Did I have that idea before and it didn’t work? Let me dust it off. Let me look at it.” The truth of the matter is there are going to be more millionaires and billionaires made after this pandemic than in the history of the world because there will be people out there that see those ideas and say, “I can make this happen.” When you take that risk, I understand completely. When people say they have no money, what does that mean? Does that mean that you’re not eating, that you’re on food stamps? Does it mean you can’t go to the golf course as often as you wanted? You can’t take that trip that you wanted? Everybody’s got a different way of looking at it. There are going to be people who do their homework. They go inside the box. They write, share and fund their plan because people got money. They’re hoarding it. There’s more cash sitting around than probably the history that I’ve been around.

The other thing that’s important for people to understand that I hear you say clearly now. I remembered once I was in a sales call and someone said to me, “I’d love to do this but I don’t have the money.” I said, “Yes, you do.” He said, “What?” I said, “No, you do have the money but somehow you don’t think this is important.” He said, “No, I don’t have the money.” I said, “Let me ask you a question. If your daughter was hit by a car and you took her to the hospital and they said, ‘The only way we could save her is if you give us $10,000.’ Would you come up with $10,000?” He said, “Of course, I would.” I said, “The point here is that you don’t seem to want this enough. You are putting your daughter ahead of yourself, which I understand that as a father but because you’re putting someone else ahead of yourself, you’re depriving yourself of the things you need to move your life forward. That’s why you don’t see this as being valuable.” He said, “Yes, you’re right.” I do it all the time. Yes, by the way, I did close that sale. 

I think everybody has had that a-ha idea whether it was your grandma’s cupcakes or it was another way to walk the dog or something. There are lots of ideas kicking around. The people who don’t have lots and lots of ideas typically have lots and lots of money.

James, we’re at the point in the show where we get to know you a little bit better based on two silly questions that I’ve now asked over 300 times. Every time the answer is different doesn’t mean that the person I’m asking about is different but the answer is. Here it is. Who in all of space and time would you like to have one hour to enjoy a walk in the park, a quick lunch or an intense conversation with?

Leonardo da Vinci. 

Others have said him before but I want to hear your reason why.

FKW: FTC James | Shift Happens
Shift Happens: Don’t try to sell your big ideas to small-minded people.


He was not only a Renaissance man but he was also a visionary. When you can look at a block of marble and see David inside, when you can look at this big dome that you’re going to have to lay on your back and create the Sistine Chapel, when you can invent things for medicine and aeronautics, etc., this is a guy who constantly was generating ideas. The fact that he kept his notes in a book writing backward so other people couldn’t steal them. This is a guy I would like to sit down and have a chat with.

Others have said Leonardo da Vinci but then the answer is always different. I love your answer because it would be the same reason I would want to spend with him as well. If I could get this set up for you, would you mind if I came along and just be a fly on the wall?  

Absolutely but I get the film rights.

I’ll be working on it, though. I just want to be in on this. This is going to be good. Here is what I call the grand finale. It’s the change-the-world question. I’m very interested in how you answer this. What is it that you are doing or would like to do that truly has the potential to change the world literally?

Don't let the failures bring you down. Click To Tweet

For every success, you have to start to build on the failures. If people could learn anything from me, don’t let the failures bring you down. At one point in my life, I was over 500 pounds. I was a walking time bomb. There was a magic moment. When I took my stress test and failed, I hired a trainer to do it so I could retake it six months later. I was high-fiving myself that I passed. I hadn’t lost any weight. The cardiologist said to me, “I don’t know what you’re so happy about. If you don’t have a heart attack, if you don’t have a stroke, you have diabetes and high cholesterol. You’re a textbook candidate for amputation and/or blindness.” That is what I refer to as a meaningful message.

I would like to be the person that delivers some of those meaningful messages to other people. When my client said, “I’ve been fired. I’m not going to be able to stay here because they’ve offered me a job for a third of what I’m getting,” I said to him, “You can’t leave. You will be an unemployed 59-year-old person with a pre-existing condition. You don’t have a shot at it. Take whatever crap they give you and start to get somebody to help you with your resume and LinkedIn.” He’s got a new job at more than what he was making at the old job.

FKW: FTC James | Shift Happens
Shift Happens: It’s not about what you think but how you think.


James, this has been a great experience. I think we mentioned you’re going to share your entire book for free. That is pretty darn cool. Do you want to give us an overview of what’s in the book and what people will get by reading it?

Here’s what happens when I do something like this. It’s called an ample sample. If they liked the book, if they find something, they’re going to look for a mentor or a coach. If I was in their shoes and had just read this book and I had this epiphany, who would you call? It’s that simple.

You can make it happen! Click To Tweet

There’s a lesson here as well. If you know James and I were talking and you’re wondering about how to get clients, a book would be a great way to do it. The readers know that I have two books. My last book, Power Tribes, has brought me most of my clients in the last couple of years. It’s very simple. They read the book and said, “This is incredible. There’s no way I’m going to do this myself. Why don’t I hire the guy who wrote the book on how to do it?” I urge you to get a hold of James’ book and understand how he’s laid this out and maybe even find out if he can give you some help as well. James, this has been an incredibly fun experience for me. This has been so fantastic and powerful. Thank you again for the time. I can’t wait until we get a chance to talk again soon.  

Thank you very much for the opportunity. Remember, you don’t have to let shift happen. You can make it happen.

We can.

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