If I had to summarize John Catsimatidis’s new book, How Far Do You Want to Go?: Lessons from a Common-Sense Billionaire, it would be two words Catsimatidis uses in a key passage. Simply put, and paraphrasing slightly, Step in. Stepping in is what sticks in my memory, not the actual education-based strategy and methodology Catsimatidis references and cites.
Stepping in to me is the operative terminology – it is the bastion of common sense tactics to draw from when pursuing the American dream of success, prosperity, and personal freedom. Probably one of the most powerful passages of the book to me was a chapter dedicated to Catsimatidis moving from an immigrant kid from Greece, not speaking a word of English, to achieving a level of success where he forged a relationship with President Bill Clinton. “Once the results came in, I figured that was it for me. Both my guys, Tsongas and Bush, had been beaten.
Bill Clinton didn’t know me from Adam, and I’d been against him twice. Generally speaking, that’s not a very good way to generate dinner invitations to the White House. But soon after Inauguration Day in January of 1993, an invitation arrived in the mail. The return address was 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, DC. It was from President Clinton, asking Margo and me to a reception at the White House,” he writes. “I have to admit I was taken aback. Frankly, I was a little uncomfortable about saying yes. Was he confused about who I was? Had no one mentioned I’d written checks to his opponents? We made up some excuse about our schedule and sent our regrets.
But if Bill Clinton is anything, he is persistent. A few weeks later, a second invitation addressed to Margo and me arrived in the mail. Again, we said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ Then, a third invitation came. Again, we didn’t go. It was only when the fourth invitation arrived that I said to Margo: ‘He is the President of the United States. I think we should just go.’ We looked at each other and shrugged. ‘Okay,’ Margo said. So we went.”
That had a big impact on me. While I didn’t grow up with the same challenges and goals as Mr. Catsimatidis, being the son of an immigrant myself I recognize what the kind of tenacity and live-to-work ethic can bring to the table. And as Catsimatidis demonstrates time and again, the opportunities can be numerous, and it all boils down to the individual themselves. “Born on a tiny Greek island, traveling across the ocean, the circumstances were different back then, but the concept was the same: our dreams were what got us here.
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My parents never considered themselves poor or oppressed or downtrodden. Why should they have? They had ambition. They had hard work. They had each other. And they also had me, their first and only child, a brand-new generation to carry their dreams forward. America was the land of opportunity. Lucky for us, we were here,” he proclaims.