18 Months in the Making
When I started my podcast, Success Habits of Super Achievers, I knew part of the secret sauce I could offer was to give people inside access to some of the great iconic thought leaders that I’ve had the honor to work with.
My experience is unique. As the founder of Jim Rohn International I had the honor to call Jim Rohn my 18-year friend, mentor, and business partner, and as a marketer and seminar promoter I was also able to work with and promote such iconic speakers as Brian Tracy, Les Brown, Mark Victor Hansen, and Denis Waitley.
So when I decided to start a podcast in 2019, I made the decision that it would be long-form, “pull back the curtain” interviews with people I had an intimate, working, personal knowledge and trusted friendship with. And my goal is to help listeners get to know in a deeper way, the wisdom, motivation, successes, as well as failures of each guest so they could go achieve success in their lives faster and easier.
In January 2020, I reached out to my long-time friend Darren Hardy about being a guest on the new podcast. Darren had not said yes to being on a podcast with anyone for almost four years (he shares why on our interview), but he made an exception with me. His schedule was really packed, and we found one window that worked for us both—January 23, 2020.
I live in the DFW area. Since I would be flying to San Diego, I thought I should also reach out to a few other potential guests in the area that would be a great fit. So, I reached out to long-time friends and collaborators Brian Tracy, Denis Waitley, and John Assaraf to see if they would be available for a few hours each.
Serendipitously, all three said yes and that they could accommodate my schedule! Wow, this was lining up to be an extraordinary trip.
The God Whisper
Over a period of three days in San Diego, I was able to interview all four of these iconic thought leaders in their beautiful homes.
When I went to see Denis Waitley, who I had not seen in almost eight years, we picked up where we had left off. In fact, I had been Denis’s agent from 2004 to 2007 before I sold my companies.
If you don’t know who Denis is, he’s one of the most iconic thought leaders and people I’ve ever met. Denis is a world-renowned speaker of over 40 years and has been inducted into the International Speakers’ Hall of Fame. He has worked with Olympians, astronauts, prisoners of war, and alongside many of the greats. His Psychology of Winning audio series did over 100 million in sales, and he has written many bestselling books including classics such as Seeds of Greatness, Empires of the Mind, and Safari to the Soul (which I had the honor of publishing).
At age 86, Denis seemed as sharp as ever! We went two hours strong in the interview. At the end, he gave me and my guest Robert Helms a tour of his six-acre compound in Rancho Santa Fe, which he shares alongside his family members. He referenced in our interview how much he loves the property, all the trees, the birds and wildlife, and the incredible views including the ocean on a clear day.
Then the idea hit me. I’ll call it a God whisper. I blurted out, “Denis, we should do a retreat here!” We can keep it small and intimate, maybe 15 people. What an amazing opportunity that would be. Why not, in the spirit of why I started the podcast, give more people access to the amazing people I interview?
Over the years, the number one thing people have shared with me after they share their love for Jim Rohn is that their biggest regret was never seeing him live.
I can’t change that, but maybe I could make this special opportunity happen.
Denis responded to my comment with an interesting look and said, “Maybe that could work.” He had never hosted an event at his compound and he had never done such an intimate extended retreat. It would be food for thought that we could talk about later.
We said our goodbyes, and I left with a full heart, knowing I had just experienced an amazing time with an amazing man who I considered a mentor, and now more than ever, I was drawn in by his incredible philosophy and his view of life.
I went to my next interview with Brian Tracy and wrapped up my trip the next morning with two hours interviewing Darren Hardy at his place overlooking the ocean at Cardiff by the Sea.
What an incredible two days and four interviews!
All Set for May 2020
A few weeks later when I sent an email to thank Denis, I mentioned the retreat idea again. He said he was open. On a call shortly after, we decided to do it in early May of 2020.
We worked out the details and the cost to attend. I would get the people, we would plan out the event, and Denis just wanted to make sure it would be extra special for those attending. I would open it up to members of my Inner Circle Mastermind first, feeling confident it would fill up before I could even take it beyond that invitation to my larger list, which it did.
Within a few short weeks of setting the date and filling the 15 spots, word of the COVID-19 virus started to increase.
By mid-March, we knew it wasn’t looking likely that we would be able to make the May dates work with travel restrictions to California and with Denis being 86. So, we postponed to the fall. As we got closer to fall, I alerted the group that it wasn’t looking good as there were still too many unknowns. Everyone was disappointed. Maybe we could do it in the spring.
The Battle of His Life
In December, Denis called to tell me he had been diagnosed with throat cancer. He would be starting aggressive chemo shortly after Christmas.
Wow! COVID was disappointing and felt challenging. But cancer and chemo at age 87 was a whole different battle. My thoughts were now focused on how best to support Denis, and thoughts of hosting the retreat started to look dim and unimportant.
In mid-January, Denis sent me an update and a message to share with my Inner Circle. Here is what I shared.
Denis is so grateful for all your prayers! At age 87, going through chemo for throat cancer is challenging to say the least. Here is an update on Denis as well as a note from Denis to all of us.
Denis said he is getting a feeding tube 5 times a day but that he is the only person with an exercise machine in his room. He is also going around and cheering up the patients on his floor while wearing his mask. He is the only one who stays out of his bed unless it’s time to sleep. He said that he wants us all to know that he plans on taking a Safari to Africa with his family in July 2022. He purchased a non-refundable vacation there already. He also is using a portion of album sales to support the Maasai Tribe in Africa and to continue to save elephants. He has helped save 100 so far.
Note from Denis to Us
Fame and fortune have never been priorities for me, although we all seek relevance. Now, approaching my 88th year, I understand that status seekers are chasing a mirage offering an oasis of salt water that only increases their thirst for permanent significance. I am a simple, apprentice gardener, in a small plot of earth that changes daily through the seasons. My goals are to sow the seeds of greatness within my family and offer them to all I encounter; in a small way planting shade trees for future generations under which I will never sit.
This is my real game of life. I am in the Superbowl, coming from behind in the fourth quarter. I reach deep within to reaffirm my core values. I know that to be victorious I need to look inside. The Keys to Winning are there and always have been if I have the awareness to seek and find. Your self-esteem and mine is intrinsic, not material. I will win by focusing on desired outcomes, instead of negative surprises, dwelling on solutions not problems. Easy to be a critic; better to be a role model. This I believe.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your kindness and support. I feel your prayers, your energy, your power, and your special gifts that will in large measure result in my return to optimal health and wellness.
With love and gratitude, Denis
Obviously, we were all moved by Denis’s inspiring message!
Denis and I would email, and he would tell me how painful and difficult what he was going through was including how difficult it was being in isolation from his family during COVID. Yet he was determined to win this battle!
I would communicate with the group of 15, not with any thought that we had a new date for the retreat, but just encouraging everyone to pray for Denis. I was so moved by his emails and his focus on the tools he had taught others all these years about mindset, positivity, belief, and visualization, having worked with POWs, Olympians, and astronauts. Denis was having to take some of his best tools and apply them.
Lessons on Living an Extraordinary Life
In June, Denis turned 88, and he was allowed to go home after his chemo had been completed. He was still on a feeding tube, but he was soon able to talk. He was unsure if all the cancer was gone, but he was feeling good and was so happy to be back home with his family.
In late July, Denis invited me to come out to San Diego for a small gathering of friends and family at their beautiful compound on August 14th. I said, “100% I’ll be there.” I was so happy to see Denis after 18 months. He looked and sounded incredible. He was in great spirits!
The next day we got together again. He told me he had used the retreat as something to look forward to while he was in the hospital—how you need to always have three and six-month goals ahead of you.
He said he felt up to doing the three day retreat and wanted to do it! We looked at potential dates that would work for him and his family that I could put out to the 15 attendees.
We all finally picked October 1-3, 2021.
This was really going to happen!
We kicked it off at Denis’s place on a Friday night with a Mexican hacienda reception. In addition to Denis, his family, and our 15 attendees, I invited a few of Denis’s speaking friends, the same three that I came to see 18 months before on my podcast trip—Darren Hardy, Brian Tracy, and John Assaraf along with their wives. I love how things come full circle!
It was an amazing opening night!
Saturday morning, we kicked it off with Denis sharing the challenges he had growing up with a very negative mother and a father who wasn’t there much and then eventually left home. But he had an incredible grandmother who gave him the encouragement and philosophy that helped mold his life and inspired him to write his book Seeds of Greatness.
Denis also took us through his early years including attending the United States Naval Academy. Later, he shared how he met and went to work with Jonas Salk, the Olympic team, Apollo astronauts, and POWs, plus how he spent time with Billy Graham, Ronald Reagan, John Wooden, and so many other world-renowned thought leaders.
Saturday afternoon, Denis never missed a beat as he did a Q&A session with us. Saturday night at dinner, he asked us all to share more about ourselves as we went around the table. Denis wanted to know more about each one of us, and after we each shared he shared feedback and insights.
Denis’s energy and recall was unbelievable! Our jaws kept dropping as he shared so authentically and with precision his wisdom and insights.
Over the course of those three days, Denis gave us all a glimpse into the possibilities of what living an extraordinary life could be like.
Denis wowed me many times over the years, but the example he set over the past 18 months as he faced his biggest battle of all time will forever leave an indelible impression on me and the others attending, and we will never be the same!
As I reflect back over the past 18 months, I’ve learned so much during this process about trust, humanity, patience, hope, timing, and resilience.
I can say, along with all 15 attendees, with 100% certainty, it was worth the wait. In fact, the wait and what caused the wait is what made it so overwhelmingly special.
Thank you Denis for leading by example and teaching me some of life’s most valuable lessons one more time! Much love my dear friend and mentor!
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What Others are Saying About Kyle
“Kyle, thank you for our partnership and friendship. Friendship is wealth and you make me a rich man. Love and Respect!” Jim Rohn, Iconic Philosopher & Speaker
“I guard my endorsements carefully. Regarding Kyle, he is simply a marketing genius! No joke. Kyle was the wizard behind the successful business of my mentor Jim Rohn. Every marketing dilemma I have ever had Kyle has given me the brilliant and elegant solution on the spot. Kyle’s consulting has saved and earned me hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.” Darren Hardy, Former Publisher SUCCESS Magazine
“I have worked closely with Kyle Wilson for 20 years. He is one of the best all-around marketers, promoters, business-builders and entrepreneurs in the business today. We have generated more than a million dollars together.” Brian Tracy, Int Speaker & Author
“Kyle Wilson is brilliant and so very knowledgeable and an icon in this industry. He was the power behind Jim Rohn. Kyle is my longtime friend and someone I have a great deal of respect for.” Les Brown, Iconic Speaker and Author
“Kyle is a valued friend, a marketing superstar and one of the most knowledgeable people in the personal development industry.” Robin Sharma, Author of Monk Who Sold His Ferrari
“I’ve known and worked with Kyle Wilson for over 20 years. Kyle is the ONLY person that ALWAYS under-promised and over-delivered every single time my dad Zig and I worked with him. He is a valued friend and some one I have great admiration and respect for!” Tom Ziglar, President of Zig Ziglar Corp
“Kyle is one of my old and dear friends and one of the smartest marketing guys I have had the opportunity to work with. He is the scrappy marketing guy. What I mean by that is, there are lots of guys who will put out business plans and do all kinds of nonsense and swing for home runs. Kyle is the real deal and finds ways to create product, add value, help people, build community, he’s unbelievable.” Eric Worre, Author of Go Pro