Wednesday, September 22, 2010
My Dinner With Obama
Well, to be honest, it was supposed to be dinner. But I will get to that in a minute.
I don't bring my politics to this blog unless it coincides with our goal of Helping People Achieve Their Goals To Lead Healthy Fulfilling Lives. But I do want to describe how in one evening I got complete validation that this little business Jon and I started 12 years ago has now evolved from start-up to being worthy of the White House.
Last night we attended an event put on in Philadelphia by the Democratic National Committee featuring a visit with President Obama. Clearly, this was about fundraising, but it was also an opportunity to meet the President and perhaps open some doors.
Jon and I were invited to the event by two attorney-friends from the firm Cozen O'Conner, Mark Alderman who was co-hosting the event, and my long time friend Michael Heller. We got there a half hour early and got coached on "positioning" in the room - literally - how to be at the right place at the right time to not just shake the President's hand, but actually get talk-time.
Time crawled by and the strategy of room-positioning intensified as we saw the security detail move into place. Mark was co-host so he clearly had a right to the first position in the room, but for Jon, Michael and I, it was "block or be blocked". For the next twenty minutes 15 VIP guests tried to subtly jockey to be first. It was "game on", and our intent to be first intensified...
Michael squared up to the left of Jon to block anyone from crossing along the top of the room, while Jon used his giant wingspan to close off the middle. I stood to his right keeping traffic from passing between me and a large table protecting my flank. We looked like we had it nailed, until one guy circled below the tables on an end run. Disaster. Then luckily, they changed doors for the President's entrance, and our position favored the new location. it pays to be lucky.
This is quite literally how the event started, with adults shifting position, eyeing each other up, and Michael and I red-faced with laughter as we urged each other to "box out" the competition. Politics is not pretty people!
At once the door swung open, and in walked Obama. He gave a quick hello and a hug to Mark and then he walked straight up to Jon who said "Hello Mr. President we're the co-founders of Beachbody - This is Carl Daikeler. You might know our products like P90X."
With that Obama moves in and grabs my hand in a handshake and says "P90X! My wife does that. Man, I can hardly keep up with her!"
Did you ever see a fight scene in "The Matrix" when all time and motion come to a stop? That's what happened to me right then as what he said sank into my mind. "The President of the United States just told me that the First Lady was using a product that I came up with one day when I was thumbing through fitness publications at a magazine rack in 2002. The President. His wife does P90X."
In a blink, time returned to normal and I seized the opportunity to cram my entire agenda into one comment; "We've heard a lot of people in the White House are using the program, and we're all really proud of the work the First Lady is doing with the Let's Move campaign in fact we think that to really turn around childhood obesity it's critical that the parents are the example (BREATH) that's what's so impressive about what she's doing because she's a role model that hard work of real fitness is worth it and we'd love to talk to you both sometime about what we're doing with Team Beachbody which is really changing the health and fitness model and is getting more parents accountable (BREATH) which is showing the kids that fitness is not just something we're SAYING is important it's something we're SHOWING them is important by taking on."
Then the President interrupts me and says "I totally agree. We definitely want to hear more about what you are doing - and I mean that." He turns to his entourage and says "Let's make sure of that ok guys? I want to make sure we follow up and connect with them to hear what these guys are doing."
The President turns back toward Jon and I and says "Hey you two guys look like you're in good shape, I guess you know what you're doing!" At which point Michael breaks in and says "Why didn't you say that when you looked at me?" which drew a big laugh from the entire party. Attorneys always get the laugh.
With that I got an "attaboy!" slap on the arm from the President as he walked by and the next wave of hand shakes reached in.
Jon and I looked at each other in disbelief. "Did that just happen?" It was as if we threaded a needle as it ran by, surrounded by press and donors. "Yes, that really. did. happen."
Mark Alderman then stepped in and said "I heard what the President said, so let's lock this in guys" at which point we walked over to the President's two "body men" to give them our business cards, only to learn that one of them also had just completed a few weeks of P90X, and that- in their words - "the entire White House is using P90X."
A few minutes later we went into a room for photos. As my turn approached, the person across from the President whispered something, and the President says "I know these guys, come in here and let's get a picture guys." I took one, then Jon.
A little later, the President gave a brief speech, which was refreshingly similar to the message we ascribe to at Beachbody; That the mess we got into took a long time and a series of complex decisions and circumstances in order to materialize. It's taking hard work, sacrifice and persistence to turn things around, and every bit of progress is easy to second guess because it's easy to forget how bad things had gotten and how close we were to total collapse of the system. People needed to take action and they did. But the work is not over. We still must have a plan, and we must not make the same mistakes that got us where we are today.
I was gratified to hear the President re-emphasize the importance of solving the health care crisis as the number one lever for cutting the deficit. It is not lost on me that Team Beachbody has the potential to make more of an impact on that than any other force in the country. And of all the things that made me proud at that event, that makes me the most proud. I truly believe that. No other business model has such a radical potential to turn things around. It's not going to be easy. But we knew that. We all signed up to take this on, to make a difference, and we know we're a long way from success. We have to stay committed and we have to stay focused on what we know works.
With some closing remarks and a standing ovation the President left before dinner was served to return to Washington, and Michael, Jon and I ducked out to catch the rest of the Phillies vs. Atlanta game.
Footnote: To top it all off, while at the baseball game I got a text from an industry friend who said she was attending a trade-group board dinner. One of the board members, an executive at one of our competitors, broke out a mini-blender during the meeting, plugged it into the wall, and mixed himself a batch of Shakeology.
Things are happening. People appreciate the real thing. Word is getting out there about Team Beachbody, because we refuse to give up. We know we have the solution, and we know it's worth the effort to share these tools with everyone we meet.
Thank you for never giving up!
Posted by Carl Daikeler at 9:49 AM