Dave Kerpen | How Successful People Think
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How Successful People Think

How Successful People Think

I love to give the following puzzle to new team members at our companies, Likeable Media and Likeable Local:

Using four straight lines and never taking your finger off of your screen, connect all nine dots below:

It’s easy, of course, to connect the nine dots with just three lines, if you take your finger off of the screen. But it’s a much harder problem to solve with the rules I gave. Scroll down for the answer to the puzzle, if you can’t solve it or wait. In the meantime, here’s a clue and a story:

Think outside of the box.

Now, the story behind the picture at the top of this post: Today is my seven year wedding anniversary. 7 years ago today, I got married to the love of my life Carrie – at what most people would consider an unusual setting – a baseball game.

Several months prior to July 8, 2006, when we got engaged, we had a problem. I really wanted to have a large wedding – the kind of wedding where I could invite everyone I knew to share in our joyous celebration. But Carrie and I didn’t have enough money to host a traditional New York wedding and invite everyone we knew.

Luckily for me, Carrie, a marketer by trade, had a brilliant out-of-the-box idea: partner with a minor league baseball team to create a wedding-themed promotion, sell sponsorships and get a ballpark wedding paid for – a wedding that we could literally invite thousands of people to attend. Sponsors could get great value in the promotion, which would likely generate buzz and media attention, and we could get a huge wedding paid for. As a diehard baseball fan, I thought the idea was perfect – but it would require willing partners to make it work.

We pitched the Brooklyn Cyclones, a minor league affiliate of the NY Mets, and GM Steve Cohen liked the idea enough to give it a shot. We created the “Our Field of Dreams” promotion and were off to the races. We successfully pitched 1-800-Flowers.com to sponsor our flowers, Smirnoff to sponsor our alcohol, Entenmann’s to sponsor our desserts, After Hours to sponsor our tuxedos, and several other local and national sponsors, totaling about $100,000 in trade value.

We also asked sponsors to donate cash to the David Wright Foundation, and we were able to raise $20,000 for the Multiple Sclerosis Society through our wedding.

And on July 8, 2006, I got married to the love of my life in front of 500 friends and family members (and 5,000 strangers) at the end of a baseball game. We walked underneath the bats held up by the Cyclones team as pictured above. It was an amazing wedding with an amazing partner.

As it turns out, the wedding was also an amazing marketing and public relations promotion for our vendors/sponsors. It generated about $20 million in earned media through coverage on the CBS Early Show, ABC World New Tonight, CNBC’s On The Money, the New York Times, and hundreds of blogs. Our vendors were so thrilled with all of their ROI, in fact, that a couple of them asked us what we could do for them next. We couldn’t get married again, so we started our first company.

An incredible wedding took place, and a company was born – all through one out-of-the-box idea from my brilliant wife Carrie. The lesson here is clear:

Successful people think outside of the box.

Successful people don’t just see problems, they see opportunities. They don’t just see obstacles, they see solutions. And when they don’t see solutions right away, successful people get creative to find solutions.

Remember the puzzle we began with? Successful people think outside of the box, literally, and then find this solution:

Once you think outside the box, this puzzle, and your life, get a lot easier.

Happy Anniversary, Carrie, and here’s to all of youthinking outside the box, getting things done, and becoming more successful.


Now it’s your turn. How have you gotten creative to solve a problem at work or in your life? How doyou stimulate out-of-the-box thinking in yourself and in others? Were you able to solve the puzzle? Please let me know your thoughts in the Comments section below, and please do share this post with your network if you liked it.

  • Laura Duarte
    Posted at 13:52h, 08 December Reply

    Thanks for sharing your story. Right now I’m working in a presentation to inspire my leaders and collegues thinking outside of the box. I believe that the limits only exist in our minds.

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