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Classic Influence: Timeless Lessons from the Legends

Focused on the strategic application of the wisdom of history, Classic Influence is an adventurous exploration of the heroes of history and the timeless lessons we can learn from the champions, titans and legends of leadership, influence, and power. Listen in as your host—the Harvard and Columbia trained researcher, author, and speaker, Dr. Johnny Welch, M.B.A.—unveils the hidden blueprints, unlocks the key secrets, and reveals the practical insight and timeless wisdom of history’s saints, sages, sinners and superstars of success. Discover the strategies, tactics, tips and mental tools you can use to master the power and praxis of leadership and influence to achieve your own most daring dreams and goals.
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Classic Influence: Timeless Lessons from the Legends
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Jun 3, 2022

The American film director, producer, and screenwriter Steven Spielberg holds the distinction of being the most commercially successful director of all time. In 1963, when he was only seventeen, Steven Spielberg traveled to Hollywood to participate in a tour of Universal Studios. The bold action Spielberg took next both set him apart from the crowd and put him on an altogether different and faster success track. In this episode of Classic Influence, we travel back to the summer of 1963 to discover the self-authoring mindset and bold actions that separate people like Steven Spielberg, Walt Disney and others from the great mass of people who are content to follow the crowd and think and act according to the designs of others.

Mar 30, 2022

Martin Luther changed the course of human history in 1517 when he nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the All Saints’ Church. But Luther’s bold move and revolutionary stand was not without grave risks, including the distinct possibility of being burned alive. But what enabled such a humble, scholarly, and deeply religious Augustinian monk and theology professor to take such a bold, irrevocable stand against the mighty Roman Catholic Church? Listen in and learn what gave Luther the power to change the world.

Feb 16, 2022

Harriet Tubman was described by one bold abolitionist as “one of the bravest persons on this continent.” Another well-known “conductor” on the Underground Railroad said that Tubman “seemed wholly devoid of personal fear.” After years of daring missions into the lion’s den to help slaves escape, Tubman’s bold courage and skill as a tactician led her to become a spy and a military leader for the Union Army. Listen in and discover the source of her courage and the key secret to her heroic success.

Episode Overview: Harriet Tubman was born into bondage circa 1822 in the slave state of Maryland. After decades of enduring the evil institution, including backbreaking work on a plantation, she was determined to make her escape. “There was one of two things I had a right to,” she remembered thinking at the time, “liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.” And, so, late one cool evening in October 1849, Harriet Tubman set out to attain her freedom, trudging 90 miles alone, through thick woods and across rocky streams along the Choptank River, all under the cover of darkness. So begins the heroic journey of an American legend. In this episode of Classic Influence, we travel back to pre-Civil War America to learn how Harriet Tubman, a selfless and big-hearted young woman, was transformed into a commanding, undisputed leader, tactician, freedom fighter, and spy, ultimately leading a successful military regiment in Lincoln’s Union Army during the Civil War. Listen in and learn the underlying principles of Tubman’s triumphs and the timeless lessons her story has for overcoming the tough challenges and obstacles you face today.  

Dec 16, 2021

A brilliant military strategist and tactician, Alexander the Great stands as one of the greatest figures in history. Alexander was far from the typical military or political leader, however. He was a critical thinker who, like many of his leading Greek contemporaries, prized clear, rational thinking and concise, straightforward speech. Alexander did not hesitate to engage in critical reflection and self-examination, challenging biases, questioning assumptions, allowing for reasoned, respectful critiques. He never simply accepted things as they were, or appeared to be. In this episode of Classic Influence, we travel back to ancient Gordian to learn one of the early, representative legends in Alexander’s storied military career. This episode also explores one of the key secrets to Alexander’s success. Explored from the perspective of ancient philosophers, modern business titans, one of the most brilliant scientists that ever lived, Albert Einstein, and one of the most celebrated coaches in the NFL, Vince Lombardi, this episode also reveals the near universal power of simplicity, and why this critical principle of success is so often underestimated, underutilized, and undersold.

Oct 29, 2021

Joan of Arc’s story remains one of the most remarkable stories in the long history of military leadership. Consider this singular, striking distinction: “Since the writing of human history began, Joan of Arc is the only person, of either sex, who has ever held supreme command of the military forces of a nation at the age of seventeen” (Garlow). In the words of Winston Churchill, “Joan of Arc was a being so uplifted from the ordinary run of mankind that she finds no equal in a thousand years.” But what is it that set Joan of Arc so far apart? In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll travel back to France during the Hundred Years’ War to explore the most critical, definitive factor in her success, the key lessons we can learn from her example, and why the wisdom of her leadership continues to echo across time to this day.

Aug 31, 2021

After leaving for law school in London at age 18, when Mohandas K. Gandhi finally returned to India in 1915 he was 45. Despite his prolonged initial absence, the deeply spiritual Gandhi quickly rose to become one of the most influential figures in India's history. In fact, for a man who possessed little more than a loincloth and glasses to defeat what at the time was the greatest empire on Earth, without so much as throwing a stone, we might well look to Mahatma Gandhi as the most brilliant strategist and transformational leader that ever lived. In 1999, TIME magazine credited Gandhi as runner-up to Albert Einstein for “Person of the Century.” But Einstein himself said, “Mahatma Gandhi's life achievement stands unique in political history. He has invented a completely new and humane means for the liberation war of an oppressed country...We may all be happy and grateful that destiny gifted us with such an enlightened contemporary, a role model for the generations to come....[who] will scarce believe that such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood.” Today, known as “The Father of India” and “The Apostle of Non-violence,” Mahatma Gandhi is a global icon. In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll travel back to India in 1915 and discover how Gandhi built an unbreakable charismatic bond with his followers and, in the process, forged the foundation of his influence in India, Great Britain and beyond.

Aug 4, 2021

On Christmas Day in 1119 A.D., countless prayers were finally answered when a French knight known as Hugh of Payns banded together with 8 other knights in a brotherhood of highly skilled religious warriors. The nine knights all took “vows of poverty, chastity and obedience” and pledged themselves to protect the Christian pilgrims who were traveling on the roads to Jerusalem. Operating as a sort of elite special forces of the Middle Ages, the exceptionally disciplined and well-trained military order was unlike any religious order that had come before. In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll travel back to the Holy Lands during the Crusades to explore the key factors that led to the surprisingly rapid rise of the Knights Templar, the most formidable military order in the history of the world. This episode also reveals the one central factor that best explains the Templars’ eventual downfall and their scandalous, viciously concocted end.

Jun 8, 2021

Episode Overview: In the 12 century B.C., after the ancient city of Troy fell following the Greek’s cunning trick with the Trojan Horse, a number of Trojans escaped with a fleet of ships. After years of wandering in search of a new home, the Trojans endured a particularly treacherous episode of violent weather and rough waves in the Mediterranean, a storm which nearly destroyed their fleet. When they finally landed on the banks of the Tiber River to take shelter, the women soon decided that they had had enough of the aimless wandering. The men, however, were intent on returning to the ships and continuing with their mission as soon as the storm passed. According to Virgil, what the women did next altered the course of Western history. Listen to this episode of Classic Influence now and discover how a crafty and courageous use of leverage won the day for the women and changed the future of ancient Rome. This episode also reveals some of the most useful ways of thinking about leverage, how leverage can heighten your odds of success, and a handful of simple, easy-to-implement examples of leverage that you can adapt to your own goals in support of your own effort and will to succeed.

Apr 29, 2021

On September 26, 1918, in the midst of World War I, George S. Patton’s moment of testing had arrived. Patton was leading a light tank brigade up a hill overlooking a German occupied town when he was suddenly face-to-face with his greatest fear. What happened next changed Patton’s life forever, transforming him from what he himself referred to as “an utter, craven coward,” into the great 4-Star General, “Old Blood and Guts,” widely revered as an audacious hero of World War II. Listen in and discover what happened to Patton when he and his men were trapped in a hailstorm of machine-gun fire, how he responded to the panic inducing barrage of racing bullets that surrounded him, and the key takeaway lesson he shares about finding courage under fire. Highlighting the nexus between courage and rapid growth, this episode of the Classic Influence Podcast also reveals Patton’s strategy for keeping his fears forever in check.

Apr 8, 2021

One cold evening in January 1936, with the world in the midst of the Great Depression, Dale Carnegie addressed a sold-out, standing-room-only crowd at the luxurious Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City. Despite the global economic crisis, Carnegie, in a series of full-page newspaper ads, had promised the attendees that they could increase their incomes, and he was about to deliver on that promise. But how exactly did Carnegie come to discover these priceless, proven secrets of social, professional, and financial success? In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll travel back to the 1930s and discover how a man born into poverty on a farm in Missouri came to become one of the best-selling authors of all time, “The Father of Self-Help,” and, in time, the head of a thriving personal development empire the likes of which the world had never before seen.

Mar 11, 2021

On December 17, 1903, a pair of self-taught, visionary American engineers achieved their dream, forever made the world a smaller place, and helped usher in the age of globalization. It was the first successful piloted, powered airplane flight in history, and with it the Wright brothers revolutionized the world. Competing against the greatest minds in science and technology at the time, the Wright brothers were far from the most likely candidates for pioneering aviation success. Neither one of the brothers graduated high school, went to college, or had any formal training as an engineer. Nor did they have the financial support of the more established aviation pioneers. And, yet, they had everything they needed to succeed. In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll travel back to the late 19th century and see what set these two middle-class Midwestern bicycle mechanics apart from the aviation pack. Listen in now and you will also learn the one critical characteristic of success shared by most everyone of America’s most wealthy business titans, including Andrew Carnegie (1835—1919), John D. Rockefeller (1839—1937), Warren Buffet (1930—), and Bill Gates (1955—).

Feb 22, 2021

Abraham Lincoln was born to poor Kentucky farmers in 1809. Raised in a one-room, dirt-floor log cabin on the American frontier, Lincoln’s early life was filled with long hours of manual labor, and many years of trial and tribulation, setback and struggle. But Abraham Lincoln, fiercely ambitious, was determined to rise up from his humble origins, and make his mark on the world. “The way for a man to rise,” he said, “is to improve himself in every way he can.” And, so, Lincoln worked hard, educated himself, and found ways to grow and improve. Eventually, he carved out a career for himself as a successful prairie lawyer. And, yet, he still wanted to do more. In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll travel back to America’s pre-Civil War era and learn how Abraham Lincoln, ultimately, after a lifetime of heartbreaking setbacks and defeats, achieved the ultimate election victory by steadfastly turning his unquenchable ambition toward serving the people and winning their esteem. Drawing on Winston Churchill’s address at Harvard University in 1943, this episode also reveals one of the main, most widespread reasons why people fail to achieve their greatest, most ambitious dreams. 

Jan 29, 2021

In the 1950s, still at the start of his acting career, and frustrated by the lack of work, Don Rickles began hustling gigs as a standup comedian in Los Angeles, Miami, and New York. Finding that his audiences were also failing to respond to his prepared material as a comic, Rickles started to boldly lash out. In fact, he began insulting people in his audience, particularly the hecklers. With this, Rickles finally began to see his audiences respond. Sometimes, however, Rickles went too far, boldly insulting the wrong person at the wrong time, and suffering some humiliating consequences as a result. Listen in to this episode of Classic Influence, and learn how boldness can backfire when it rises to a level beyond what your target or audience will endure. Given the potential consequences of a lack of boldness, which are often even more severe, this episode also reveals the essential approach to take to build your capacity for bold action, and, thereby, tap your true potential, and succeed in your chosen field. Finally, returning to the opening story of this “Take Bold Action” series, you will discover the single most critical secret of Napoleon Bonaparte’s remarkable return from Elba and which, in defiance of Europe’s greatest powers, enabled him to once again become the Emperor of France.

Jan 7, 2021

In 1553, Mary Tudor’s dying brother, King Edward VI of England, was plotting behind the scenes to remove his half-sister from the line of succession. In the midst of the English Reformation, and the wider European Protestant Reformation, the Protestant King Edward was eager to keep Mary, a loyal Catholic, from reversing his and his father Henry VIII’s precious Protestant reforms. But Mary Tudor was not having it. She was the daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, and she was the granddaughter of Isabella of Castile. The crown of England was hers by right of law, and she would not permit her brother or his scheming, double-dealing counselors to deprive England of its rightful heir. In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll travel back to 16th century England and watch as Mary Tudor attempts to boldly seize the English throne, and thwart her brother’s foolhardy coup. Looking to Mary’s daring example, this episode also reveals five critical factors to consider before implementing any significantly risky, bold action plan.

Dec 15, 2020

In early 1898, days after the USS Maine was sunk in Cuba’s Havana Harbor, killing some 260 American sailors and marines, Theodore Roosevelt, who was still only the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, began doing all he could to prepare America for war. This included resigning from his desk job at the Navy Department in Washington D.C., and forming the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, known as the “Rough Riders.” What he did next came as quite a surprise to those who knew him, particularly given his extraordinary ambition. In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll travel back to the period just before the Spanish American War to uncover a few of the key characteristics that contributed to Theodore Roosevelt’s striking success. This episode also reveals Theodore Roosevelt’s proven personal strategy for conquering fear.

Nov 19, 2020

A populist champion of the poor, Huey Long grew up during America’s Gilded Age, and got involved in politics in the years before the Great Depression. Despite the considerable economic hardships he faced throughout his early life in Louisiana, and the ferocious political opposition he faced throughout his political career, Huey Long rose to become one of the Pelican State’s greatest political stars. Beyond his fierce ambition and quick mind, it was bold action that set Huey apart. In fact, Huey Long was willing to take whatever bold action was necessary to overcome his humble origins, make a name for himself, and do as much good as he could along the way. In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll travel back to Louisiana in the early 20th century and see what we can learn from the bold and brash actions of Huey P. Long. This episode also looks to the example of Robert M. La Follette, and his surprising response to the political machine in Madison, Wisconsin when they warned him not to run.

Oct 22, 2020

In February 1815, after nearly a year of appearing to accept his fate, Napoleon Bonaparte suddenly began planning his island prison escape. Despite his exceptional leadership and unshakeable self-confidence, the idea that he might simply show up on the shore to retake France from the Bourbon monarchy was patently absurd, and probably one of the most daring adventures of his life. In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll travel back to the Island of Elba toward the end of the Napoleonic Wars and watch as Napoleon slips past his captors, with the long-shot hope of returning to power in France. Along with revealing one of the vital secrets to Bonaparte’s success, this episode also explores why and how boldness can be such a powerful force, often creating its own favorable circumstances. You will also discover a powerful tactic for keeping your own fears in check, enabling you to take increasingly bold action to achieve the daring outcomes you desire.

Sep 20, 2020

In 1940, with America on the cusp of entering World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to run for an unprecedented third term. Despite the longstanding and deep-seated tradition—going all the way back to George Washington, who voluntarily left office after just two terms—Roosevelt, a savvy political operator and masterful communicator, found a way to frame the decision so that it not only won the support of a majority of Americans, but also helped spur the nation to meet the emerging Nazi threat. In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll travel back to the 1940 presidential campaign, hear from President Roosevelt in his own voice, and discover the surprising power of a well-crafted frame. This episode also reveals how Harriet Tubman used reframing as part of her covert missions to rescue slaves, and how it helped her to become “the Moses of her people.” As illustrated by President Ronald Reagan to devastating effect in his own race for the White House, listen in and discover how frames can be tremendously powerful tools of influence. Listen in now and you will also learn the 4 core steps of reframing, along with 5 strategies for generating new, more effective frames, and you will quickly discover why reframing is an indispensable tool in the pursuit of your own clear purpose and goals.

Jul 22, 2020

One dark night in the winter of 1956, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was leading a mass meeting at his local church when his house was bombed. What he did next became a defining moment in his life, and in the fight for civil rights. Borne out of King’s habit of taking time get outside of the arena, it was not the action that anyone expected, but it was just the right move for the moment and the movement as a whole. In this episode of the Classic Influence Podcast, we’ll take a trip back to Montgomery, Alabama during the early years of the civil rights movement to discover one of the most powerful practices, and key secrets to King’s success. As we learn from Dr. King, a master strategist and critical thinker, your future will largely be determined by the quality of your decisions. To make the most effective and strategic decisions, you must recognize the threat of reactive, unchecked passions, and avoid being moved by your emotions and moods. This episode also reveals one of the most crucial steps you can take to ensure you are making the best, most effective and strategic decisions you can to ensure the outcomes you desire.

May 22, 2020

One of history's greatest sagas of survival, the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew's quest to cross the South Pole is a gripping reminder of the power of optimism, endurance, and hope. Where the expeditions of scores of other daring explorers ended in drunkenness, despair, and death, Shackleton's leadership, his command of the psychology of his crew, and his capacity to project a cool and collected optimism in the midst of the most trying circumstances, and in the face of the most devastating setbacks, led to a life and death difference for his men. In this episode of the Classic Influence Podcast, we'll travel to the frigid waters and the mammoth sheets of ice of Antarctica to learn from the leadership and influence of one of history's greatest explorers.

Mar 31, 2020

In 1970, Arnold Schwarzenegger won both the Mr. Universe and the Mr. Olympia contest making him the greatest bodybuilder in the world. At just 23 years old, he was also the youngest Mr. Olympia ever. Of course he won the genetic lottery, only a fool would deny that. But that was only enough to get him into the game. What set Arnold Schwarzenegger apart was his profound ambition, relentless work ethic, and an ability to stay hyper focused on his dream. But the real secret to Schwarzenegger’s success was a hard lesson he had to learn, and it was the key to scores of others. In this episode of the Classic Influence Podcast, we’ll travel back to the first decade of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s meteoric rise and discover what we can learn from his story about how to achieve your most difficult goals.

Feb 26, 2020

In 1518, in defiance of the greatest empire on earth, the Spanish conquistador and explorer, Hernando Cortés, risked everything in pursuit of his goal, including his reputation, his wealth, and his life. Despite the grave risks and considerable forces allied against him, Cortés, with one bold stroke, turned the tide of events in his favor. Listen in now as we uncover the pivotal incident in the life of this notorious Spanish conqueror, and extract the key lesson we can learn from his example. Drawing on a parallel incident in the life of Alexander the Great, this episode of the Classic Influence Podcast also details the vital importance of purpose and renunciation, and how we often need nearly impossible challenges in order to unearth and mobilize our greatest inner resources and personal power.

Classic Influence Mission: Our mission is to join you in your journey to the top by bringing to life the stories of the heroes of history and superstars of success, extracting and distilling their insights and wisdom into practical action steps, strategies, tactics, tips, and mental tools that you can use in your own life to achieve your own most daring dreams and goals.

Jan 24, 2020

The California Gold Rush led to the largest mass migration in U.S. history. From all over the world, men came to mine their fortunes. But it wasn’t the gold that led to the most enduring fortunes. In this episode of the Classic Influence Podcast, we’ll travel back to Sacramento Valley in the mid-1800s, meet a few of the pioneering producers of the Gold Rush Era, and explore the vital wealth building mindset these icons help unveil. Listen in now and discover a far more resourceful mental map for looking out at the world. This episode also reveals the secret formula for success direct from California’s first millionaire.

Dec 16, 2019

Writer and explorer, fighter and reformer, scholar, historian, statesman, and sage; Theodore Roosevelt disdained idleness. “In this life, we get nothing save by effort,” said the Panama-Canal-Building, Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning President. “I never won anything without hard labor and…working long in advance.” In fact, the “highest form of success,” Roosevelt said, comes “to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil.” Listen in now to this episode of the Classic Influence Podcast, and discover how Theodore Roosevelt became first an apostle, and, ultimately, the champion and exemplar of the Strenuous Life. This episode also exposes the frightening prospects for those preoccupied with comfort, convenience, and ease. Finally, you’ll learn how hard work and strenuous action are like secret weapons of success enabling you to achieve what Roosevelt called “the splendid ultimate triumph.”

Nov 15, 2019

According to legend, Ragnar Lothbrok was the most famous Viking of his age, and he remains one of the greatest heroes of Viking history. But did a Viking leader named Ragnar Lothbrok actually exist? In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll explore the power of this everlasting legend, and why the Vikings told and retold his story over and over again. This episode also reveals the power of story, legend and myth, and how a compelling epic can shape and, ultimately, transform the future. Drawing on the example of Ragnar Lothbrok, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and others, this episode also unmasks the power of your personal story, and the cardinal importance of assuming your rightful role as both the author and the protagonist of your own heroic life history, and the power the storyteller role plays in the pursuit of your grand aspirations and goals.

Classic Influence Mission: Our mission is to join you in your journey to the top by bringing to life the stories of the heroes of history and superstars of success, extracting and distilling their insights and wisdom into practical action steps, strategies, tactics, tips, and mental tools that you can use in your own life to achieve your own most daring dreams and goals.

For additional resources, updates and more, please visit us online at Classic Influence.

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