At this very moment I am on my way to being happier, wealthier and more successful than I was at this time last week, and I have Jerry Jones to thank for it.
Allow me to explain. Last weekend I flew to Dallas to report on the first regular-season NFL game at the opulent new Cowboys Stadium. In the interest of experiential journalism, I hung with tailgaters, wedged myself into the mosh pit that passed for balcony viewing and spent far too much time in the presence of large, sweaty men in Jason Witten jerseys who possessed very strong feelings about both Tony Romo (HE SUCKS!) and beer (WE SHOULD GET SOME MORE!).
More constructively, however, I spent a chunk of last Saturday morning with Jones, whom I'd never met before. Now, no matter what you think of Jones -- and it's fair to say he inspires a wide array of feelings -- there's no denying that he is an exceptionally skilled businessman. He made his fortune finding oil where others thought there was none, has watched his investment in the Cowboys rise 856 percent in value and has now built an enormous, revenue-generating stadium in the middle of a recession. And despite all that, god bless him, he has yet to appear on Dancing with the Stars.
In addition, at 66, he's led a pretty good life. A starter for Arkansas on a Cotton Bowl team, he's been married to the same woman for more than 40 years, has tons of kids and grandkids and is sitting on a pile of money that could probably fill his cavernous new stadium. All of which got me to thinking: Considering all the success he's had, couldn't we all benefit from living our lives a little more like Jerry Jones?
Seriously, what if, when faced with a dilemma, rather than muddling through it we were to ask WWJD: What Would Jerry Do? Surely it would be but a matter of time before we were richer, more successful and suspiciously younger-looking.
So I set about putting together a list of guiding principles, based on what I knew about Jones and on my time in Arlington, and here's what I came up with. Read it, learn it, live it.
1. Get the party started
During our hour-long conversation, Jones mentioned "party" or "party atmosphere" seven times when talking about the new stadium. And what a party it was! I spent the better part of a half in the "party pass" section, where $29 got you standing-room only tickets. I have never been to a Nickelback concert, and do not plan on ever going to one voluntarily, but my guess is that this was like being at one, if your standing-room spot was so far away you couldn't see the stage and everyone had already been doing beer bongs for eight hours. Cowboys fans littered the outdoor plaza, some passed out on the grass, others swaying like shrubs in a high wind, still others propped up against concrete stanchions, most staring glassy-eyed at the omnipresent video screens. Those who weren't in Cowboys gear sported Affliction T-shirts and those not in Affliction T-shirts must have been from out of town. Men pawed at women, women ran from men, beer spilled.
Okay, so maybe this one didn't work out exactly as Jones planned -- fire marshals lost control of the crowd, and many fans were upset that they couldn't see the game. But it's the idea that we can emulate: take an ordinary experience, like watching a football game on big screens on a concrete plaza, then call it a "party" and, voila, it's worth $29!
So next time you have a mundane task and need help, spice it up with a little patented Jerry Jones spin. Right away, I put this strategy to use. I had the kids to myself the other night, so I called my friend Dan and invited him to come over for a "party" at my place.
"Cool," he said. "Who'll be there?"
"Girls! Crazy girls!" I said.
"You mean your daughters?"
"Um, yeah, them."
I could tell he was totally psyched.
2. Micromanage everything
When Jones and I met in one of the luxury suites, we were only supposed to talk for 15 minutes. Soon enough, however, he was leading me on a tour of the stadium, which wouldn't have seemed unusual were it not for the fact that Cowboys p.r. man Rich Dalrymple had already led me on an hour-long tour only moments earlier. Dalrymple, who is quite good at his job, had been thorough and informative and most of all quite concerned that he'd forget some detail that Jones would then inquire about. "If he asks you about the artwork," Dalrymple said to me more than once, referring to the 14 pieces by renowned artists that Jones commissioned for the stadium, "Just tell him I showed it to you, okay?"
This is how Jones operates, peering over shoulders and revising and, always, doing things his way. True, it may undermine the authority of those who work for him, or make for repetitive tasks, but it's clearly working. After all, have you seen his new stadium? (No, really, have you seen it? Because I don't think there's been any media coverage at all)
So, for your own good, commence micromanagement immediately. If your wife makes dinner, watch and critique at all times -- More salt! Braise longer! If your buddy brings over a six-pack, send him back out for better beer -- your drinking enjoyment is at stake!
3. Stop wasting your time with sleep
During our talk Jones told me he'd been averaging two hours' sleep during the week leading up to the opener. He'd go to bed at midnight, then wake up at 2 a.m. and feverishly work out for an hour and a half -- "lots of push-ups, sit-ups and cardio" -- before returning to the stadium to oversee preparations. Yes, his eyelids looked a bit heavy and his voice was a tad raspy, but otherwise he was bursting with energy. "I've found that I can operate on very little sleep for long periods of time," he told me. "Even better than when I was in my 20s."
The lesson? Stop being such a baby. Set the alarm for 2 a.m. Then go straight to your gym, which will probably be closed, and demand you be let in. Then show up at your office, which will probably be locked, and get a start on the day. After a week of this, you'll feel great, look great and be ready to take on the world. Then make sure to tell everyone just how little sleep you get, so they know just how serious you are about success.
4. Go against the crowd
Zigging when others zag is how Jones made all that oil money, and it's how he bought the Cowboys. People forget that when he purchased the team, in 1989, not only were the Cowboys a mess, but one of the stipulations of the sale was that he also had to buy Texas Stadium, at the time seen as a financial handcuff. And just look at his football decisions. He signed Pacman Jones when everyone said he shouldn't, and the same goes Terrell Owens. Okay, those didn't work out so well, but you get the idea: Be a contrarian!
5. Go Big!
This one's self-explanatory, provided you've ever seen a Jerry Jones home game or press conference or followed any aspect of his career (this is a man, after all, who tried to buy an NFL team when he was 24 years old, entirely on credit). One example from Sunday: Just before kickoff, Jones' prized Gargantu-tron showed a series of captioned photos that began with the Pyramids before showing the Parthenon, the Great Wall, Taj Mahal, Roman Coliseum and, finally, inevitably, Cowboys Stadium. You may call that self-congratulatory and tacky. I call it genius.
So look for ways to Go Bigger! every day. Have your own jersey made for pickup basketball games with "Cash Money" on the back. Add a tagline to your e-mail espousing your credentials; for example, "Eddie Jamison is a lawyer at Jacobs, Marley & Jensen. He is also way better looking than you." Remember, superlatives are your friend, and self-aggrandizement is your default position.
6. Be magnanimous
As I walked out of the stadium with Jones around noon, a group of Cowboys fans who were there for a tour -- at $15 a pop! (further proof he's a financial genius) -- saw him and did a double-take. He inquired about their experience. They said the tour had been sold out, so they weren't able to go. "I'm really sorry about that," Jones said, seeming genuinely concerned, then added brightly: "How about we take a picture together then?" At this, the fans lit up and scooted into position and snap went the camera. Everyone walked away happy.
The lesson? Rather than telling the fans the truth -- that it was their fault they were late and missed the tour -- or asking why in the world they wanted to spend a cumulative $60 to tour an empty stadium, Jones was empathetic and offered a (free) alternative.
So here's an example of how it would work in your life. Say you're from Pittsburgh and you run into a Cowboys fan who looks glum. You ask him why and he says, "Because my team hasn't won a playoff game in 13 years." At this point, instead of telling him the truth -- that his team has brought in mismatched parts, has overpaid prima donnas and has underperformed in crunch time -- you could offer to let him take a picture with your Steelers championship banner. That should cheer him right up!
So there you have it: Six steps to a better life, courtesy of Jerry Jones. Go ahead and get to it -- you can thank Jerry later. Seriously, he'll be waiting to hear from you. Don't let him down.