We asked Michael Bergdahl a few questions regarding his new book High Expectations are the Key to Everything and here's the long awaited interview:
Q. Michael, you’ve written three successful books before HEATKTE, all related to Sam Walton and Wal-Mart. What gave you the inspiration to write a book independent of them and more about individual success stories?
A: My newest book is personal. My wife, Sheryl, to whom I have now been married for 37 years, suffered a catastrophic “stroke” which changed our lives. Initially she was in a coma due to brain swelling and might have died. Though permanently paralyzed, she survived, adapted to her permanent disability, and she now continues to thrive ten years later. In this book we discuss the changes each of us went through, and how we ultimately became stronger individuals as well as a stronger family. Sheryl and I decided to write this book to share our inspirational story of overcoming adversity but more importantly it is written to help readers overcome the obstacles they face to achieving success in their lives.
Q. Can you tell us about one experience, apart from the ones in the book that made the most profound impact on your life?
A: Sheryl and I had always been city dwellers for most of our lives. When our children were at the age when they were about to start school we decided to give them a different lifestyle. We left the confines of city dwelling and instead bought a spacious farm. Our home sits high on a hill overlooking the farm, and the creek which bisects our property. We see a steady stream of wild animals throughout the day that stop by the creek for a drink of water. Many of the life lessons we talk about in the book would never have been experienced by us if we hadn’t lived on a farm, where we could learn from our natural surroundings. My home office window overlooks the farm and the creek, and that beautiful setting is where I have written all my books. Farm living fundamentally changed Sheryl, our children and I, in profound and wonderful ways.
Q. The book beautifully describes all that you need to do in order to attain your dream and achieve success but what would your advice be to those individuals who even now struggle to find their dream, let alone work towards it?
A: Keep believing in yourself; you were meant to achieve your goals in life! Everyone fears failure but some of us actually fear our own potential success! I believe everyone has something special to offer the world, and sometimes the biggest impediment to attaining that special something and achieving dreams is lack of self-esteem. In actuality, many people set their goals too low, which guarantees no better than average or even mediocre performance throughout their lives. Achievement in life starts with believing in your own ability and then overcoming founded and unfounded fears. The fact is we all have fears, but in order to reach our full potential we must confront and overcome those fears. Is it fear of failure that causes people to set their goals too low or, are human nature and our own psychology structured in such a way that deep down inside each of us fears our own success? We don’t know for certain, but what we do know is this: if you don’t have high expectations for everything you do, you will achieve far below your true capability. It is a shame when any one of us sets our goals so low that they are easy to reach; with that strategy you can only achieve average performance and results.
Q. For every individual, the definition of success is different. What does success mean to you?
A: At different stages of my life I had different standards for personal success. For much of my working life I worked in large corporations where I viewed success as bringing home a paycheck to make my family’s lives comfortable and safe. I was a “hunter/ gatherer” and Sheryl was the “nurturer” of the family. After Sheryl’s stroke I was forced by circumstances to become the “family nurturer” for the first time. I became “Mr. Mom.” I had to help the children with their homework, cook the meals, wash the dishes, do the laundry, clean the house, buy the groceries, pay the bills, take care of the farm, and earn a living. Really for the first time I was forced to get to know the details of each of my family member’s day to day lives. Today, my definition of success is much broader. It’s about being a good father, husband, caregiver, and provider. To be honest, being really connected to my family is success to me.
Q. What would your message be to all the new, young people, fresh out of college and b-schools in terms of achieving success in their chosen careers?
A: You can have a balanced life with a good job, time to spend with your family, and financial security. But let me answer this question by asking the reader a few of my own. Are you willing to invest the time, energy, and effort that is required to achieve your goals? Do you have higher standards than your peers for what you want to achieve in life? Are you confident in your own ability; do you believe in myself? Is there something you are really passionate about achieving in life? Are you willing to take risks in order to achieve my goals? Are you realistically optimistic about your future? Are you prepared to face and overcome adversity? Most importantly, are you willing to work harder than you've ever worked before to get what you want? If you answered “YES” to these questions you've got the right outlook! But did you know that when you strive to achieve your dreams, along the way you’ll need to confront unwarranted criticism from your peers, friends, family members, naysayers, and self-defeating negative internal self-talk. It is in those times you must continue to believe in yourself. Embrace these 14 two letter words as your personal mantra for success:
If It Is To Be, It Is Up To Me, To Go Do It!
Q. Lastly, any plans for another bestselling book on the horizon?
A: I am just finishing a follow-up book to HEATKTE. In this new book I have written 365 of my best “high expectations” quotations to provide daily inspiration throughout the year!
MICHAEL BERGDAHL is a professional international business speaker, turnaround specialist and author. He has appeared on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, Univision, CBS National Radio and Bloomberg TV. Bergdahl was the Director of “People” at the Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. He worked in the FMCG Industry for PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay Division in the sales organization and headquarters staff assignments. Bergdahl received the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) life certification from SHRM. He is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a B.S. in Sociology/Behavioral Sciences.
SHERYL BERGDAHL is a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University, Sheryl was awarded a B.S. degree in Social Welfare. Professionally, she has been a teacher and social worker, and she has assisted her husband, Michael, on his professional speaking engagements.