I miss you, Jack, though I only met you once. I still share with others and to myself your story of barging into a board room to meet an executive who kept ignoring your meetings. I remember your speech and thinking then, more than 35 years ago, that I wanted someday to touch lives as a speaker, too.
Jack Yianitisis died on August 3. (His tribute page can be found here and some of his wisdom can be found here.) A Marine and veteran of the Korean War, he was in the motivational speaking business when I heard him speak. I can’t even say that I officially met him. A local bank to the Alief area of Houston had Jack in for a presentation and they “loaned” him to the chamber to be their luncheon speaker since he was in town. (To this day, I’ve wanted to have a bank as a client like Jack did.) Somewhere, I have the recording that I made of his motivating, inspiring message that day. He gave his best and it stuck with me.
Among his stories, he shared that he was working hard to get a particular client but the executive kept standing up Jack come appointment time. On about the twelfth attempt to meet the potential client, Jack was again stood up and the receptionist said that the man was in a big meeting. Jack, disappointed, returned to his car and there he considered a key question. “If I have something that will truly benefit this man, I cannot walk away. Not again. If I truly believe I can make things better for him and his company, I must talk to him.”
Jack returned to the man’s office, walked past the receptionist and straight through the closed double doors of the board room. He said that when he walked in everyone looked at him like he was a waiter bringing them water. He approached the man he had been trying to meet and said, “I talked to God this morning. Why can’t I talk to you?”
I’ll never forget that story. I remind myself of it often when I am facing fears or doubts about talking to a potential client or contact.
Jack shared that he ended up working for that man for about 14 years, as I recall.
I have thought about Jack many times over the years as I have worked to help others with my speaking. I have thought about Jack a lot when I face challenges and fears. And all because of one presentation I heard when I was a 20-something writer-photographer trying to find a place for his heart and craft in this world.
Many times over the past five years, in particular, I have tried to find Jack. I found information about him, but the listed phone numbers were disconnected. I tried again today.
I think Jack would like me to remind you to always give your best, laugh a lot, maintain your faith, be strong and be humble. You might be touching someone’s life. He did mine.
God bless you, Jack.