Make A Difference – From Being Successful to Being Significant

Make A Difference: From Being Successful to Being SignificantMotivational Press is the leading mid-tier publisher of business, leadership, health & wellness, and personal growth books internationally. On September 6 they published Make A Difference: From Being Successful to Being Significant by Ron Finklestein and Michael LaRocca. It’s an allegory about a successful businessman who wrestles with the question of “why are we here?” It can’t be just to get rich, can it?

Ron and I never discussed the order of our names. He approached me about writing this. He created the main character and I created the other guy. Ron created the nine laws, and I stole quite a few of Ron’s words, so I thought Ron’s name belonged first. Plus, he’s probably got more name recognition than I do. Brush with greatness, y’all.

The best way to explain a topic like this is through examples, and I used many of Ron’s, but I also surprised myself with how many were in my own head. Some of my observations came from what I’ve learned while editing documents about capture planning over the years, but a few predated that and came from my time as a purchasing manager. I didn’t know I had it in me.

Only Jan and I knew that, when I wrote about the Purchasing Manager who couldn’t make purchasing decisions, I was talking about one of my old jobs. Until now, since you just read it here.

The nine laws, by the way, stress enlightened self-interest, total ownership, measurable results, ideas, focus, self-discipline, persistence, the value of other people, and action.

As a novelist, I create fictional characters of great depth, get to know them, think of them as real people for a while, and then finally get inside their heads and “channel” them. In the case of Make a Difference: From Being Successful to Being Significant, I channeled Ron Finklestein, who isn’t a fictional character at all. I’ve edited several of his books over the years, and I agree with every word he wrote in The Nine Principles, so it was actually easier than a lot of the stuff I do. More satisfying, too.

I enjoyed explaining The Platinum Rule™ in my own words. Years ago, I edited a book about it that was written by Dr. Tony Alessandra, Scott Zimmerman, and Ron Finklestein. The Platinum Rule states that you should treat others as they want to be treated, and it’s been the topic of several books. But when I needed to compress it into a single chunk of dialogue, I wrote:

We all have different styles, preferences, skills, personality types. Some are more introspective, some more outgoing. Some visual, some aural, some kinesthetic. Don’t assume everybody’s like you. Hear them, know them, mesh with their styles and needs.

Helping others is what it’s all about. The most successful people are those who genuinely want to help others. Every business book I’ve gained anything from stresses this, for the very simple reason that it’s the truth about life. One reason it was so easy to stop working on The Last Titan and write Make A Difference: From Being Successful to Being Significant is because they share this theme.

Don’t try to change people. It’ll just leave them frustrated and you exhausted. Focus on having others do what they’re good at. There’s a reason we often celebrate Joe Montana throwing to Jerry Rice but never Jerry Rice throwing to Joe Montana.

(We all know that’s true. I’m just bragging because Montana-to-Rice is one of my examples.)

We fail more than we succeed. There are no mistakes. Failure is feedback. Fail forward, and grow from it. This particular law hit home for me so strongly that I just felt like sharing it here in my blog post.

I read somewhere that people can be unmotivated at work, but if you see them doing something after hours or on the weekends, they’re almost always motivated about that. I had to add that observation to our book because it dovetails nicely with one of the laws, plus it’s the story of my life.

Persistence is my cat demanding a meal. She’s also an example of focus. And success. And cats own the Internet. I wrote that. In a book about business, leadership, success, and personal development. Nice. I also got to read this part in the audiobook, which was fun.

That’s right, it’ll also be an audiobook, not just a print title. I was terrified, but when I finally got around to firing up the recorder, I enjoyed it. Ron took the odd chapters and I took the even ones, and I expect the contrast to be brilliant.

Persuasion, I explain, isn’t manipulation. Sales isn’t reaching into a bag of tricks. It’s honesty, and helping people do what they want or need to do. That’s getting to be rather common advice, but I enjoyed repeating it because that is how I built

This is probably not the only business book to ever rave about bicycling, golf, writing, jogging, or editing, and it’s surely not the first to ever quote Monty Python, but it’s probably the only business book to mention Devo.

In the audiobook, Ron got to read the part I wrote about the guy who’s too lazy to become a writing coach or a ghost writer. Only Ron and I knew that, in that scene, I was spoofing myself. Until now, since you just read it here.

In the audiobook, I got to talk about bicycles and about Devo. I win.

You can get a copy of Make A Difference: From Being Successful to Being Significant by Ron Finklestein and Michael LaRocca right here.

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Sandlot, a football novel by Michael LaRocca

Sandlot by Michael LaRocca

Sandlot is a novel about a guy returning to Burgaw, North Carolina, after 12 years in China and, eventually, starting his own football team. I wrote it after I returned to Burgaw, North Carolina after 12 years in Asia, most of which I spent in China. Original, ain’t it?

Actually, it’s a bit more complex than that. It’s about being 48 years old and still not knowing what you want to be when you grow up. It’s about estrangement between fathers and sons. It’s about what we call reverse culture shock, about looking at your home from the perspective of an outsider, and learning to belong again. It’s about sharp dialogue and bad one-liners. And yes, of course,  it’s about football.

Here are a few of my favorite parts:

I became an orphan on my 48th birthday. That’s why I returned to North Carolina after 12 years in China. If I didn’t have to help settle Daddy’s estate, I might never have returned at all.

I snapped the ball to myself and dropped back as all hell broke loose.

Holy shit.

So many bodies coming at me. Big bodies. It seemed like the whole team. I couldn’t see shit.

I didn’t look at them. Just like crossing the street in China. I looked down the field. The pine, the blocking sled, my guys, the other guys. I got a glimpse of Rotten Roscoe and I flung the damn ball for all it was worth.

Suddenly I was buried in big stinky foreigners – um, fellow Americans of passion and enthusiasm. First I noticed there was no air in my body, then the dizziness, and then the pain. Then the noise. Then my brain latched onto the fact that I was on the ground. My back hurt like hell. My ribs managed to complain a bit too.

The large hairy-faced young man atop me wasn’t a teammate.

“You again,” I moaned.

He grinned. “Welcome home.”

“Ohh,” I groaned. “I haven’t been tackled in…”

“Years? Didja forget we play tackle?”

“Oh God, I think I did. Oh.”

“I’m Tater.”

“Nice to meet you.”

Then I noticed the happy whooping screaming. That was Rotten Roscoe and Gilroy celebrating a touchdown. Mostly Roscoe.

“What’d you do?” I asked Tater. “Send your whole damn team after me?”

“Pretty much. We didn’t think you could throw that fast.”

Rotten Roscoe and Gilroy reached me as I got to my feet, with two defenders following at a walk.

I noticed I was the oldest guy out here. And the smallest. Being old felt normal, but being small didn’t.

“I can’t play anymore,” I warned Rotten Roscoe before he could try some kind of macho chest-bump celebration that would’ve knocked me on my ass. My hand was on my lower back, old injury, although really the pain was very much in my ass. I hobbled my aching ass off toward Daddy’s… toward my barn.

“Hey,” Rotten Roscoe yelled at my ass. “We play again next Saturday.”

I was looking at something or other on the shelves of the local Food Lion, stunned at how few people there are in American supermarkets, even more stunned at American prices, when a lady suddenly yelled, “Ass wipers?!”

I wasn’t the only customer to stare at her.

“Oh.” She laughed nervously. “Oh, um, I didn’t know my son wrote that on the shopping list.”

It’s good to be home.

“I was reading about that hand transplant,” said Rotten Roscoe. “Did you hear about that?”

“Yeah, I did,” said Stephen.

“If that was you, and you had somebody else’s hand, could you jack off with it?”

“Who’s your favorite quarterback?” Roscoe asked.

“Jim Kelly,” I replied. “Smart, accurate, strong arm, mobile, tough as hell, and he always knew where his helmet was.”

“What’s the difference between a mosquito and a slut?” said Marcel. “When you slap the mosquito it stops sucking.”

“Comedy is not pretty,” said Cash.

I could only shake my head. I laughed at shit like that but I didn’t have the balls to say it or even Tweet it.

“I told my landlady I had a leak in the sink and she said go right ahead.”

Note to self. Tweet that one.

I looked at the new guy. Were all my teammates burly? It seemed like it to me, but maybe it was just that reverse culture shock thing. This burly man, however, was also quite menacing.

“Betsy,” he said, offering his hand.


“My name. Betsy.”

I shook the hand. Beefy. “Nice to meet you…um… Betsy.”

“Like Betsy Ross. My name’s Ross Crosby. Everybody just calls me Betsy.”


“I useta play fullback at UNC.”

UNC as in University of North Carolina? Damn.

“What happened?”

“Got kicked out. Broke a guy’s neck. It was a accident.”

“Oh. I’m glad you’re on my team.”

“So was he.”


“God said don’t read my blog. Adam said where is it? God said I AM dot com but don’t read it. But Adam and Eve read it, so he kicked them out of Eden where the Wi-Fi was.”

“Kirk,” said Kent as we ran, “did Adam and Eve get to keep the Apple?”

“Do you know what Deng Xiaoping said about this?” I asked.

“No, I do not know what Deng Xiaoping said about this.”

“It doesn’t matter whether it is a white man or a black man. If it catches footballs, it is a good man.”

“Deng Xiaoping never said that.”

“Well, he would have if he’d played football.”

I needed to move on. I needed to do what I was meant to do in this life. Suburbia, wife, kids, swing set, a dog, field trips to the mall, a workshop where I can hide and cry in quiet desperation.

“Vipassana. Mindfulness. Focusing on nothing but right here, right now, no future, no past, just now, like Cesar Milan’s dogs, living in the now. When we take the field against a bunch of cops and make them our bitches, think vipassana football. Feel every hit. Smell every stink. Focus all your attention on right here, right now. This is football, man. It’s life, it’s football, it’s the most fun you’re ever going to have.”

“What about fucking?”

“It doesn’t last 60 minutes. Football, gentlemen, is what it’s all about. Feel it!”

“I knew your daddy. Damn fine man. Scary as hell, but a damn fine man.”

 Best way I can think of to sum him up in 140 characters or less.


Actually, my favorite part is the link where you can get your own copy of Sandlot.


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