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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.