I arrived in Las Vegas on a Thursday afternoon. It was November 5th, 2009 and for the first time in several years I had decided to fly in from Los Angeles instead of making the four and a half hour drive from my home in Santa Clarita. I wasn’t nervous, at least not overly so until I’m riding in the limo sent by the car service from McCarran International Airport to the hotel.
The purpose of this trip is to connect with about fifteen people I have been working closely with online, and another forty with whom I have been in a Mastermind with over the past year and a half. But five of us have an even greater purpose for being in Las Vegas at the M Hotel that weekend; we are finalists in the “Better Your Best” contest that will be held on the stage in the great ballroom.
The event is “Big Seminar,” begun by marketing legend Armand Morin. His events are known by marketers from around the world and have been around since before I came online three years earlier. I had attended Big Seminar twice before, both times in Atlanta. This was going to be a very different experience in this new hotel. The M Resort and Casino had just opened eight months earlier. It was actually in Henderson, Nevada, about ten miles south of the Strip in the heart of Las Vegas and had cost just over one billion dollars to build over the past few years.
After checking in to my room and before taking the elevator to drop off my bags I head straight for the meeting room level. We will be in the Milan Ballroom in the Villaggio Del Sole Piazza. It’s even fancier than the name implies. There are a dozen or so people setting up for the more than one thousand people who will be attending this event over the next three days. I ask a lady with a long blond ponytail and a clipboard if I may go up on the stage and she nods yes. I slowly make my way down the center aisle and pause at the bottom of the steps when I hear someone call my name.
It’s George Callens. George was and still is Armand Morin’s business partner and right hand man and he has always been kind to me. He gives me a hug and I take his hand as he helps me up to the stage. Looking up at me from the main floor level he says,
“Are you nervous about tomorrow night?”
“I wasn’t until you asked me,” I answer, smiling down at him.
Up on the stage I get my bearings and look out into the almost empty ballroom, but it isn’t the people I’m concerned about right then. Where was the timer? I scan the back wall until I spot it. It is an oversized black countdown timer with red numbers that will give me and the other finalists just four minutes to make our presentation to the audience on Friday night. If you go over by even one second you are disqualified. I had practiced what I was going to say at least three hundred times in the weeks leading up to this, first by reading it off my computer screen, then by reading it from the paper I’d printed out, and finally from memory in front of the mirror, in my car, and to everyone who would allow me to share it with them.
I have come to win and have done everything within my power to see that happen. I think back to April of 2008, eighteen months earlier when I first attended Armand’s Big Seminar in Atlanta and witnessed the finals of that years “Better Your Best” contest. I can remember what I was thinking as the finalists took their places on the stage on that Friday night…
I wish I could compete in a contest like that. But I could never do that. I’m not smart enough or business savvy enough or good enough.
Not enough. I have thought of myself as not being enough for a lifetime. A year with Armand Morin and his Mastermind and that has all changed. I’m more than enough. I’m a contender and can do anything I set my mind to achieve.
The “Better Your Best” contest began years ago when marketer Joe Polish held a contest for people in his Mastermind. He and Armand are friends and Armand tells Joe he would like to have this type of contest for the people he is mentoring. The first year he gives away his treasured, classic BMW as first prize; after that year the prize is twenty-five thousand dollars cash.
I check into my room and greet my friends as they arrive from all over the world. It’s fun to be a part of something much bigger than myself and feel comfortable in my surroundings. I’ve come a long way these past few years.
Friday morning Big Seminar begins and Armand announces the speakers for the weekend. Then he discusses the contest and invites me and the other finalists up on stage. I’m terribly nervous but Armand puts me at ease. He jokes and makes small talk as we introduce ourselves to the massive crowd. He reminds everyone to return to the ballroom after dinner to hear us each speak and to vote for their choice for winner.
Armand does not get a vote. He has a panel of four anonymous judges who each have one vote. The audience votes are tallied at the end of the night and count as one vote.
After dinner we all return and take our spots on the stage. I have remembered my small bottle of water and wish it were a large one. Armand teases us as he decides who will go first. It isn’t me, but suddenly I wish it were so I would be done with this. Then I sit back and ease into my situation, the surroundings, and the opportunity. Instead of rushing through this experience I want to relish every moment.
My name is called and I bolt out of my chair. I can’t remember which of the other finalists went before me and for a split second I’m thrown off course. I gather my thoughts and step to the microphone. The timer flashes and the four minute countdown begins. The house lights keep me from seeing all except the first two rows of the audience. I hear my voice, strong and steady as I tell my story.
I know I was up on the stage that night and that I delivered my presentation flawlessly. This experience will stand out in my mind forever as the turning point in my life and business. I saw someone in the front row motioning for me to wrap up and I recognized her as one of my mentees. What she didn’t realize was that I was in full and complete control of each word and motion. The audience was spellbound as my story unfolded. At the three minute and fifty-five second mark I delivered the last sentence, took a small step forward and said,
“My name is Connie Ragen Green. Thank you very much.”
The buzzer sounds and I receive a standing ovation. I sit down and another finalist is called. Then it’s over and it will be twenty-four hours before the winner will be announced. I know it will be me; somehow I can feel this, but I never express that out loud over the twenty-four hours that will feel like the longest in history. I am grateful for this experience and can already feel the effect it will have on my life.
Later that night I gather my friends, colleagues, and those I mentor for an informal Mastermind tucked away in a remote corner of the ballroom. Armand has agreed to be a part of this, along with Marlon Sanders, Dr. Jeanette Cates, and Pat O’Bryan.It is a magical time and I casually pinch myself to make sure I am awake.
Saturday is the second day of Big Seminar. More presentations are given by people who are legends in this business of online marketing I am just starting to feel like I have a grasp on mastering. I run into people I know and some I recognize but haven’t met in person before. So much history and knowledge is here this weekend and I am a full participant. I think back to an event I attended in 2005 where a man was wearing a t-shirt that said “I was at the Big Seminar” and I told him I knew what that was. He said he had gone the previous year and I announce that I will be speaking there some day. We both laugh because he doesn’t know I’m serious.
After lunch on Saturday and before we go back inside of the ballroom I look for the other finalists. As I make eye contact and move in closer I ask them when they stopped their daily entries to the online journal we kept for the months we were competing in the contest. The answers vary from “a few days ago” to “I honestly don’t remember because it’s been so long.” My last journal entry was made on Thursday night from my hotel room. In it I said that I believe I have done as much as possible to better my best with my business and that I believe I deserve to be the winner. Besides this and the four minute stage presentation, the third piece is a package we were to put together and send in almost a month ago. My package is three hundred pages in length and chronicles every step I have taken over the past several months.
On Saturday night we again reconvene after dinner. The finalists are invited up on stage, along with winners from previous years who are in the room. I am surrounded by marketing royalty as men and women I know or at least know of exchange hugs with each other and with me.
The third place winner is announced first. It’s the hot blonde who I had heard was the favorite to win this year. She accepts a laptop computer as her prize and shakes Armand’s hand with a limp wrist and a crooked smile. Then the second place winner’s name is called. He will win five thousand dollars. It is down to three of us and Armand makes some jokes at our expense to draw out the process of choosing this year’s winner. Now I’m not so sure I will be chosen.
Then I hear the voices of a couple in the front row. I was sure they were two of the judges, or two people counting as one vote and now I am positive. The wife whispers to her husband “She doesn’t realize she’s the winner,” and in that moment my name is called by Armand and I am presented with an enormous cardboard check. The previous year’s winner, Jack Bosch is on my other side. I have a shocked look on my face and my eyes are those of a deer caught in the headlights.
I have won first prize in the 2009 “Better Your Best” contest. The audience is on their feet. I am at peace amid the cacophony. I am a winner. I have a bright future. I am enough. I will always be enough.
The remainder of the weekend is a blur. After calling my family to share the news I am again caught up in the celebration. There is a limo ride through Las Vegas and the wind is in my face as I stand up to look out through the moon roof. I am encouraged by people I barely know to gamble with the high rollers, to buy everyone a drink, and to sleep with a very handsome but very young male prostitute. I roll my eyes at that one but no one picks up on that.
I’m so glad I will be flying home in the morning rather than driving back to California. The weekend’s events have left me exhausted and ready to let someone else be in charge of my homeward bound journey’s navigation.
The day after my winnings came in the mail I drove over to the Sit ‘n Sleep store about ten miles from my house and purchased a new mattress and box springs. I planned to be very busy with my business over the next several years and knew how important good sleep would be to me. As I drifted away on the first night after it arrived it felt like I was sleeping on a cloud.
I’m Connie Ragen Green, author – publisher – entrepreneur and world traveler. And I am enough.