Orrin Woodward LIFE Leadership Team

Winner of the 2011 Independent Association of Business Top Leader Award; Orrin Woodward shares his leadership secrets.

Entrepreneurial Dream

The American Dream
When I was a young, growing up in the small town of Columbiaville, Michigan, I loved watching and competing in sports. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat taught me so many lessons that I applied to life. In fact, I believe the lessons I learned from watching, playing, and modeling my favorite athletes helped form who I am today. Furthermore, because of my sports heroes, I became an avid reader of sports biographies, learning many of their secrets to success.

I had no idea how instrumental the hundreds of books read of my sports heroes would affect me. In truth, it wasn’t until I began teaching leadership for a profession that I realized what an impact my early reading had on my life. The numerous stories of young men who dreamed, struggled, and persevered until they had their victory, taught me that anything is possible in life if one is willing to work hard enough and endure through the expected setbacks.

Perhaps I was naive and should have known better, but my meritocratic world-view was shaped by my playing, watching and reading about competitive sports – one of the last remaining bastions of a performance based meritocracy.  In other words, in the competitive arena of sports, no points are given because of your previous record, your family’s background, or your ability to talk smack. Each game has pre-defined rules, an impartial referee, and competitors who begin equal with the right to become unequal based upon their performance as individuals and as teams.

In high school, I suffered from severe low self-esteem, constantly viewing others as better than myself. In many ways they were better, however, I carried it to the extreme, typically defeating myself before the competition even began. It’s hard to hide from the scoreboard, especially when you are a runner and wrestler. All eyes are upon you and you cannot blame anyone else for a lackluster performance. The scoreboard provides the facts for both victories or defeats.

Although starting late in both endeavors (junior year), I rapidly improved through hard work, great coaching, and experience, ultimately receiving several awards – most improved wrestler my senior year  (losing 5-2 to the national record holder for pins in a high school career),  All-Genesee County in Cross-Country, and anchoring the 2 mile relay in track that set the school record.  I say all of this, not to relive high school sports, but to share a key principle learned. It’s only through the willingness to endure painful experiences, persistent practices, and constructive feedback that a person can separate himself from the crowd. Simply put, meritocracy demands performance.

With my foundational principles formed along with a Manufacturing Systems Engineering degree from GMI-EMI (now Kettering), I boldly entered into my professional career. I believed through the application of the same principles that had helped me achieve success in competitive sports, that I would quickly rise to the top at GM. However, nothing could have been further from the truth.

It’s not that my career didn’t start well enough. For in less than three years of working full time, I was awarded four patents, was in the process of winning a national technical benchmarking award and received a 19% raise. Additionally, my division committed to covering all my tuition expenses for the #2 nationally ranked MBA program though University of Michigan. I was living the life I had dreamed, being on the fast-track at General Motors and developing a tight relationship with the Director of Engineering of our multi-billion dollar Delphi division.

So What Went Wrong?
One of the most painful moments in a person’s life is when he realizes there is no port of call for his ship of dreams. In other words, even people who work hard, waiting for their ship to come in, will find they waited their life away. The old plan of working hard, getting good grades, going to college, and getting a good job with benefits is DEAD! In fact, it’s rotting corpse has been buried for years.

My personal realization of this fact came when Laurie was pregnant with our first child. Naively, I went to my boss and explained to him my dilemma. Laurie was working as an accountant, but we both wanted her to be a stay-at-home mother to raise our family. I asked my boss what I needed to do in order to be promoted to 8th level and receive a company car. I knew it would take this level of income to fulfill the plan of having Laurie home.

One can imagine my shock when I was told that I was only 25, and no matter how hard I worked, or what I accomplished, I would not be promoted until at least 30 years of age. Moreover, our division had over 100 extra 8th levels already so being promoted at 30 was a long shot. Talk about a bubble being burst! This was a blow below the belt that I was completely not expecting. I felt like a rat in the proverbial rat race, running around the maze as fast as I could with dead ends everywhere I looked. I vowed to get out of the rat race, no matter how difficult or painful.

20 Responses to “Entrepreneurial Dream”

  1. […] Orrin Woodward in his post LIFE TEAM RETURN on INVESTMENT, had a great line,  “Sadly, most people  neglect the greatest gift that God gave them (their mind), choosing instead to pour money into areas with little or no return on investment”.  I really can’t add more to what these great leaders have to say other than as you learn it feeds your hunger to learn more.  It can also sometimes be madding because the more your learn the more you realize just how much you don’t know.  Regardless of where you are on your learning, self growth journey keep it up there are people who need to be inspired by your example. […]

  2. […] Guru, Speaker, Best Selling Author and Community Builder ORRIN WOODWARD had a great post.      Character = Integrity * Courage  “Character is that special […]

  3. […] of Those Things?? NOT!!! 24 11 2011 Having been involved directly with Orrin Woodward, Chris Brady and Bill Lewis for nearly ten years, I am qualified to share information about the […]

  4. Michael James said

    It amazes me how you take the time to share some deep thoughts when you don’t have to!

  5. […] About […]

  6. […] Campers and Climbers.  Great article by ORRIN WOODWARD, Mentor, Leadership Guru, Coach, and Author that talks about PDCA and how to use it on your journey […]

  7. […] Orrin Woodward’s new book “Resolved” he clearly identifies that he is a follower of a great GOD. If we […]

  8. […]  First of all, the fact that he won me over speaks to the esteem with which I held (and still do) Orrin and the belief I had in his ability to follow through on his commitments. It also proves the power […]

  9. […] American Constitution – A Republic if You can Keep It.  This is a great article by ORRIN WOODWARD, leadership guru, mentor, LIFE Coach, and Best Selling Author.  I believe TEAM and LIFE will be a […]

  10. […] founders of the LIFE business, dedicated to bringing life-changing leadership training to everyone, Orrin Woodward has “stood tall in the pocket,” working tirelessly for excellence, setting a solid […]

  11. […] I like most about this video from ORRIN WOODWARD, Leadership Guru, is it that we need to educate on principles and truths.  Educate and then expect […]

  12. […] a time of uncertainty, there are people who stand out above the crowd. Orrin Woodward, born and raised in Columbiaville Michigan, has stood above the crowd for over a decade. Believing […]

  13. […] founders of the LIFE business, dedicated to bringing life-changing leadership training to everyone, Orrin Woodward has “stood tall in the pocket,” working tirelessly for excellence, setting a solid vision for […]

  14. Orrin,
    I too hit a point of shock when my wife and I realized that by making the decision to keep Emily home to mother our children, and solely surviving on my income as a public works employee, we actually qualified for government assistance of $400 a month in groceries. Even talking about this sickens me to this day.
    Also, How does a guy like me, who pays nothing into the federal tax payroll deduction option, qualify to get 7-8 thousand dollars in a tax return each year? It isn’t right.
    With that burden, trying to get by on one income, we started a self employed business, only to wind up $100,000+ in debt, outside of our home, and nothing to show for it, except some Bankruptsy papers.
    Emily and I, are an example of a growing and expanding product of a system that you and Chris Brady developed, with the rest of the LIFE founders. We have always stuck to our gloves in making strong efforts to keep mom home from a job, although failing that decision for a couple short periods of time, and now our 4 beautiful little girls are less than 90 days away from having mom and dad home every day!
    What you are doing is working, and we are proof of that! We are forever grateful for you and what you continue to do to amaze us. We will change this country, one home at a time.
    The best part of our story is yet to come, it includes playoffs to those I had to file Bankruptsy on, paying back family members that trusted is enough to help get our self employed business started, oh yea, the trip to Hawaii for our tenth anniversary is back on the table as well, something we had given up hope on. Thank you Orrin Woodward!

  15. I’m amazed at how offended some people become when you challenge the leadership ideas being promoted today with truth about what being a real leader is. Leading not simply for the sake of developing followers but leading with truth and character that is not as present in todays world that it once was.

    Since becoming involved with the Life business I am amazed that the principles I was taught as a child and through my accomplishing the rank of Eagle Scout truly are present in todays world. My experience in corporate america and similar comments of “your to young to lead” etc enabled a mediocre mentality to fester and grow within me. What a pleasure it is to know that even if you walk alone in principles and character you can lead and influence others to do the right things, even when the world tells you it can’t be done, or that you are wrong for standing on principles and truth.

  16. Great points. People are confused some times by how wealthy the idle elite are. We are talking Billionaires and above! If you lead everyday and pay millions of dollars in taxes (which I do), then you are not part of any idle elite, since the elite hardly lead and pay little to no taxes. As a matter of record, Nelson Rockefeller when he was approved as a non-elected VP for Gerald Ford, admitted he paid no taxes for numerous years. He was a billionaire and paid no taxes?!? http://www.voxfux.com/features/rockefeller/ch1-4.html The Idle Rich and Idle Poor are killing the workers of the West. Not coincidentally, they keep the workers divided by useless terms like Democrat, Republican, and Independent. The division ought to be those who are willing to work and those who after free rides! If that was the division, then we would have a chance to restore our countries. thanks, Orrin

    • I was thinking how crazy it was, my mindset, to just be ok with the free handout, of government help. A voice of reason inside me just said its wrong, but asking my peers, they all said “take all you can get!” a take mentality, wow. So, no surprise when the truth of LIFE came, and how excited I’ve been to apply these truths.
      My point would be that everyone that is receiving a hand out, is just ok with it, doesn’t bother them at all. We should be shocked! It’s the adage, “give a man a fish, you feed him for a meal (and leave him standing with his hand out) teach a man to fish, you feed him for a life time.
      I lived in a backwoods area of the united states where it was frequent to find 5th generation families that are welfare recipients. THAT’S ALL THEY KNOW HOW TO DO! For 5 generations, not even one of them held a job, earned an income of any kind! Insane!
      Thanks for teaching truth Orrin

  17. Orrin:

    This very well may be the best article you’ve ever posted on this blog. This is a profound insight into the structure of our society, in which the exceptions to the rule such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, or even Snoop Dog and Tupac, for that matter, who’s against-the-odds and sometimes against-the-system success distract us into thinking that the “little guy” can still make it to the top, when actually, the average every day American is squeezed between two idle classes who have closed the doors to his advancement, and in fact, live off the fruits of his labor.

  18. Jeffrey Lawrence said


    It is such an inspiration to have you as a leader! You really do stretch us and grow our elephants! Thanks for being a dreamer!

  19. oliver said

    Orrin, Thanks for the coaching and mentoring i really enjoy your blog.

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