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Together We Can Do!
A story about Norman Vincent Peale, Pretty Woman, Les Brown,
and the Chinese Bamboo Tree by Charles E. Betterton. 

An amazingly simple formula for success was recently discovered by one of the 
most brilliant, and humble, researchers in the field of success and achievement. What was so humbling when I made the discovery is just how simple the success formula really is ... Seriously, after twenty-five years as a student and teacher of success principles, I have identified three factors that I believe determine our level of success in any area of life. 

These are (1) the clarity of our vision, (2) the definiteness of our purpose and (3) the appropriateness of our attitudes and actions. The purpose of this story is to share a similar discovery that the power of positive thinking espoused by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and the power of a larger vision taught by Les Brown are as applicable to organizations and communities as they are to individuals.

I first heard the story about the Chinese bamboo tree from Les Brown in 1992 during a Community Unity Celebration we were producing in Gary, Indiana. Les explained that after you plant the seeds of the Chinese bamboo tree, it has to be watered on a regular basis until the seeds sprout, in about five years after planting them. Then when the bamboo tree finally shoots forth, it grows to full maturity of 90 feet tall in about 40 days.

The story of the Chinese bamboo tree helped me understand that everything is always in Divine Order no matter how things may seem to appear. The essence of the story is about rising above the negativity of people telling you you're wasting your time and energy for years pursuing a project when there is no apparent evidence of any result.

I immediately resonated with the message of needing to have patience, to hold the vision, to reestablish your faith. At that time, I was frustrated about how long it was taking for several community projects I was involved in to come to fruition. Four years earlier, I had conducted a meeting for community leaders in Kankakee, Illinois, to present a vision of six proposed interrelated community economic development initiatives. One of the proposals was to develop a program to be called Kankakee County Can Do! to produce an ongoing series of motivational and development training programs to address negative thinking and publicity about the area.

Two weeks before our first widely promoted Community Unity Celebration in May of 1990 featuring Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and Les Brown, only about 25% of the Paramount Theater's 1,122 seats had been sold. As the originator of the idea who had convinced dozens of residents to participate in various capacities in a project that many people felt was apparently destined to be a failure, I spent many sleepless nights, praying, planning, and wondering what else we could do to ensure the success ofthe program.

Community Unity was not only the theme of the event, it was our mission and purpose. We were located in a county that had suffered the loss of thousands of high paying jobs in the 1980's, resulting in severe economic problems, negative publicity and depression. Someone had even had bumper stickers printed that read "Will the last one leaving town turn out the lights."

After making a few phone calls to several outlets to find out if they knew why tickets were not selling, we learned that many people in the community had not bought tickets because they did not believe Dr. Peale would come to a small city of only 25,000 people like Kankakee. They apparently assumed that the presentation would be a video or a film since the event was being held in the newly remodeled Paramount Theater in the heart of the downtown redevelopment area. The marquee listed Dr. Peale and Les Brown's appearance along with the movie Pretty Woman which was opening in the theater that night just after our program was scheduled to end.

As soon as we learned about this latest in what seemed like a never ending series of unexpected challenges, we called Dr. Peale's office and explained the situation. He graciously sent letters to both local newspapers expressing how he was looking forward to visiting our community. We also reprinted posters and flyers with large type "Appearing live and in person."

In a major newspaper article three days before the event, it was being hailed as a success even if people did not attend as was expected given slow ticket sales. That was because we had successfully managed to build a team of sponsors that included two local hospitals that had been aggressively competing with one another, two local chambers of commerce that were embroiled in a controversy over whether one should merge with the other, and we had obtained the participation of two major ministerial organizations (one white and one African American) that had not worked together before.

The night of the event, the streets were packed with cars and the air was filled with anticipation and excitement. The program was an outstanding success, with standing room only. About 1,200 hundred people from over 200 communities traveled for as long as four hours to take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity the event represented to them.

During the intermission, scores of people lined up backstage to share some personal story with Dr. Peale about how he had had a major impact in their life. Listening to the emotional stories helped me understand that the success and significance of the event could not be truly evaluated in terms of numbers or income. The really meaningful benefits were being realized backstage as I witnessed the impact of Dr. Peale's legacy of helping millions of people learn how to apply positive thinking in their daily lives. It was a privilege to have played a role in bringing all this forth and I experienced a deep sense of joy and a glimpse of what it feels like to have one's efforts "Crowned with the Ultimate Success of the Lord. "

Our audience responded so positively to Dr. Peale and Les Brown that the program ran well over the allotted time and we had to scramble around rearranging the stage and screen so the hundreds of people waiting out front could get in to see Pretty Woman. The overwhelming success of the program was featured in a major front page article the following Sunday. Although the event only made a net profit of $3, the seeds of success had been planted and watered.

Like the story of the Chinese bamboo tree, the growth was finally becoming evident even though the project's evolution over five years seemed unproductive and unfruitful. For example, of the one hundred community leaders who had been invited to attend the initial presentation on the CAN DO! concept in 1988, less than a dozen were there. Fortunately, one of those was Walter J. Charlton, one of the most prominent and generous philanthropists in the community.

Through the leadership of Mr. Charlton, multi-sector collaborative partnerships were established that generated widespread community interest, participation and support in Kankakee County CAN DO! This experience helped me better understand that we can really only be ultimately successful when we "stand together in agreement with one another." Having a good idea without the means to implement it is like having an unopened packet of seeds and expecting them to produce without being planted, watered and nurtured until maturity. 

            Today, Kankakee County is reaping a continuing harvest from the initial planting of the seeds of success through the efforts of CAN DO! which was co-founded by
Mr. Charlton in 1995. The CAN DO! Mission Statement Includes five Major objectives: 1. Provide expanded access to development training programs. 2. Foster community unity and multicultural understanding. 3. Promote positive thinking within and about Kankakee County. 4. Generate funds for worthwhile community service projects. 5. Foster personal, organizational and community development & empowerment. As a result, about 10% of the County's population has benefited from additional programs with Les Brown, Brian Tracy, Jim Rohn and William Bailey. Through the investment of community leaders in scholarship funds for CAN DO!, hundreds of youth, low income residents, members of the clergy and non-profit agency personnel were able to participate in powerful, life changing events that they would not otherwise have had an opportunity to attend.

The CAN DO! model was developed in conjunction with the Center for Spiritual, Personal And Community Empowerment, a nonprofit organization established to help people, organizations and communities see, believe and achieve all they can be, do and have. CENTER SPACE is now helping other communities learn how to apply the model through You CAN DO! Too, a workbook that contains all the procedures, forms and promotional materials.

While there is no directly measurable correlation with CAN DO!, it is interesting to speculate what impact the program may have had on the recent Reader's Digest rating of Kankakee County as the 18th most livable place in the country. By applying the entrepreneurial "can do" spirit presented in this little story and throughout this book, we can all help create a shared vision of a better world. We can co-create loving, nurturing communities where individuals and organizations realize more of their inherent potential by applying the universal laws of successful living. We can envision and actualize our highest possible individual and collective potential by living, growing and serving together in harmony with love, hope, trust, and respect for everyone regardless of race, creed, age, gender, or religious preferences. Together we really can do it. 


Copyright 1999 by Charles Betterton. All rights reserved.


Charles Betterton is the founder and CEO of CENTER SPACE, Inc., a nonprofit membership organization, that fosters spiritual, personal, organizational and community empowerment. CENTER SP ACE is developing a University for Successful Living TM and an international network of locally initiated Centers for Successful Living TM that offer a broad range of publications, seminars, and workshops to help people, organizations and communities see, believe and achieve all they can be, do and have.

CENTER SPACE's target audience is primarily the 95% of the world's population who is not generally provided access to state-of-the-art development training programs and successful living principles. The organizational mission is to establish a comprehensive system and process to develop and deliver ongoing training and capacity building resources within churches, nonprofit organizations and communities.

Charles has over 25 years of administrative experience in national and local government and nonprofit organizations involved in spiritual, personal, organizational, community and economic development. He holds a Master's degree in Community Economic Development and is the author of the Introduction to Personal and Professional Success Techniques Seminar; Motivision TM: 21 Steps to Successful Living; and The Ultimate Life Inpowerment TM Planning System. For more information, write to: CENTER SPACE, 127 Sun Street, Stelle, IL 60919 or call 760-212-9931. 






The CAN DO! Empowerment Resource Center is a joint venture of three affiliated non-profit organizations: Ultimate Destiny University; CENTER SPACE (The Center for Personal, 
Spiritual And Community Empowerment); and the
Center for Conscious Sustainable Living.


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