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Sandro Forte – Rising from life’s challenges: The interview on Pitch with The Panther

CHRISTA ATWOOD

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Hello and welcome, Sandro. Can I be more privileged than I am today? You woke up early this morning to join me to do this, and I want to thank you for that. More importantly, I’m going to hand over to you because I want to hear your story. So, Sandro, the floor is yours.

SANDRO FORTE

Thank you, Christa. Yes, you’re right. I’m on the other side of the world at the moment, so it’s a bit of an early start, but it’s a real privilege to join you. I realise we’ve only got a short time, so I’m going to try and keep this as brief as possible. I’m known for being a bit of a chatterbox. 

I’ll try and keep this really brief and succinct, but I think probably the best place to start, really, was when I was seven years old. It’s a long time ago now and almost forgotten what it was like to be seven. But I remember 1976 really well because that was the year in which my father Leo was diagnosed with lung cancer, and he was a very successful entrepreneur. We lived in a big house; we had all the trappings of success. I was the oldest of four children. My mum, 20 years younger than my father, was a stay-at-home mum, maintaining and looking after a big house, and, of course, the four children. 

Two years later, after a very long, difficult battle against a terrible disease, as we know, my father passed away. But what was really significant about his passing, Christa, was that within two years, my mum was made bankrupt. We lost the house, the business that he ran, simply because, and we’ll talk a little bit about mindset, there was this kind of paradigm. I call it a paradigm, which is a belief system that has no basis for reality. And there’s loads of examples of those. That little voice that sits on your shoulder and gives you a hundred excuses rather than reasons as to why you shouldn’t do something. And I think at that time, a lot of people saw my father as a successful businessman, and they presuppose that he must be getting advice from lawyers and accountants and financial professionals, for example. But of course, that wasn’t true. 

So despite the fact that he was very successful and working long hours, what ended up happening was that everyone kind of walked past him in the street, metaphorically, didn’t step forward, didn’t have the courage to have a conversation with him, and so our world turned upside down. 

So during my teenage years, when I was 13, my mum remarried, met a lovely man, and Dave became my best friend in the world. He was a wise old owl, and he was my confidant. He always encouraged me to be the best version of myself that I could be.

And when I ended up leaving university at the age of 21, I won’t even embarrass myself by telling you what I wanted to be. But needless to say, it didn’t work out, and I needed a job. So I went to work for a family friend who was running a financial services business. And despite the fact I didn’t wake up at any point in my life prior to that and think I’m desperate to be a financial advisor, I needed a job. But one thing that was really, really interesting about that opportunity was that the very first person I knew I needed to be speaking to was Dave, because Dave was the new breadwinner in the family. And I realised that if I didn’t have a conversation with him about life insurance, for example, and anything happened to him, my mum would be back in the same position as she was all those years before. 

But unfortunately, for the two years that it took me to have a conversation with Dave, eventually, in 1991, those two years between ‘89 and ‘91 were unmitigated disasters for me, because I used to do what, of course, we’re all guilty of doing from time to time, which is making lots of excuses as to why I shouldn’t have that conversation.

And that was the moment, Christa, which I decided and learned that positive mindset, a really robust mindset, is such an important part of the journey of success in life and business. And when I talk about positive mindset, I don’t mean positive mental attitude. We can all wake up in the morning or listen to a great speaker or read a great book and decide that today is going to be a great day. But those experiences are very short lived because there’s nothing subconscious. 

So I’m a great believer, and I prove from the presentations I give and the book I’ve written, that you can learn success in life and business just as you learned to walk, talk, swim, ride a bicycle, drive a car. In other words, you repeat things over and over again subconsciously, that takes you from where you are today, that’s the intention to do something, a goal, an objective, call it what you will, and an outcome. The trouble is, because of this little voice that exists which keeps us comfortable, makes excuses, the gap in between today’s intention and tomorrow’s outcome, there’s something in between, and we call it life, interference, stuff. Whatever you want to refer to it as, it’s the thing that gets in the way. And we all know members of what— 

CHRISTA ATWOOD

We all do it. We’re all guilty of it. I mean, this is just a continuous, isn’t it? We’re like, oh, my gosh, nope, I’ve got to do this before I do that. I’ve got to do that before… and, yea, I totally relate.

SANDRO FORTE

And we all, of course, know members of what I call “the discouragement club”. So those are the people that are all around us complaining about everything that’s going wrong in the world rather than seeing the opportunity. 

So I developed, as a result of this, two years of procrastination, kind of beating myself up every day, playing through the outcome in my mind. And this was a very, very important lesson I learned way back when: that if I stopped focusing on the outcome, in other words, if I stopped worrying about what was going to happen but focused on the things I could control like having a conversation, picking up the telephone, having the courage to start a conversation with somebody, although I couldn’t always determine the outcome, seven, eight times out of ten, the outcome would always take care of itself. 

So I learned this little technique, which was a positive affirmation technique where I’d set goals, put them all onto cards and read them back to myself every day. But the two rules that I have to adopt when I set these goals is that, number one, they have to be in the past tense. They have to have happened already. And secondly, I have to describe on that card how I felt when I achieved it. 

Now, of course, I haven’t achieved any of these goals, so it doesn’t make logical sense when I tell people about this goal setting technique. But the thing we know about the subconscious part of our brain is it doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined. So once we drip feed this information every day, and it must be every day without fail, eventually we start to learn subconsciously to move towards something, and we will get out of bed and go to the gym, even though our conscious mind is going, stay in bed. It’s nice and warm. Who the heck wants to go to the gym, you know, on a cold, wet winter’s morning? 

There’s obviously a lot more to that than this, but I normally say 20 to 30 goals is the optimum number. And the only other thing I would add is that unrealistic goals actually great to include in your list of 20 to 30. And a goal, by the way, is something you might be doing tomorrow or at the weekend. You know, the promise to read your kids a bedtime story or to change a light bulb because it’s been driving you mad for weeks and weeks and weeks. 

So you can have lots of small goals, big ones, long, short term, but the unrealistic goals, and I think back to when I was eight years old, I think, and as an eight year old, I wanted to be an astronaut. And my mum, love her, patted me condescendingly on the head and said, you might want to rethink your ambitions, sunshine. And I remember that really vividly because I thought, well, why can’t I be an astronaut? But it was only that she had her own limiting beliefs, as we all do, and then impose them on somebody else. 

So this whole mindset shift exercise is really powerful, and everyone I’ve shared it with has come back after a period of time, normally 30 days. And what happens is you start to think differently, act differently and people migrate towards you. So I use this little technique, and one of those cards was the conversation that I had had with Dave, even though I hadn’t had the conversation yet. And eventually, in December 1991, I found the words. They were kind of a jumbled mix of I don’t know what. And I simply said something like, it would be remiss of me not to at least have a conversation. In other words, to focus very much on the process, not the outcome.

To my surprise, Dave said, yes, actually; I’ve been thinking about it. I do realise that if anything happens to me, your mum is in terrible financial trouble again. So, yeah, although we’ll have to make some sacrifices because, you know, insurance isn’t necessarily cheap. And, long story short, we put into place a very modest level of cover. They couldn’t afford very much. 

And it had taken me two years to really get to the point where I kind of onboarded my first client, and it was my best friend in the world. And that’s the moment that I’m proudest of in my entire career. Despite all the great things that have followed, that’s the proudest moment. Why? Because it was my epiphany; it was my crossroads. It was the moment where I had a simple choice to make, as we all do every day, which was to step forward or step to the side. And I decided in that moment to step forward. And everything I’ve done since then has always been about if you put one foot in front of another, metaphorically, it will always lead to an outcome, always. And most of the time, a positive one. 

But the most important part of this whole experience, this whole journey, my story, if you like, is that in February 1992, so this is just two months after I’d found the courage, after two years of procrastinating, dave, just like my father, was also diagnosed with cancer. It was a very, very aggressive form of stomach cancer. Within probably a week, he was in hospital, and a few days later, he was dying. And my mum and my brothers and sisters were taking it in turns to sit by his bedside, and I remember like it was yesterday, Christa, sitting on one occasion, one moment, when it was just him and me, and I was holding his hand, and he’d been drifting in and out of consciousness; he was clearly in a lot of pain. And he opened his eyes one last time, and he looked me straight in the eye – I still get emotional about it after all this time – and he said to me, son, thank you for what you did for your family. I’m so proud of you.

And it’s not his pride in me that’s important, in terms of what I’ve just said. It was thank you for what you did for your family. And it’s the word “did” that has resonated with me all these years, because we are measured. Our success, our outcomes in life are determined by what we do, not what we say we’re going to do, not what we write down and share as a goal, and we set as a New Year’s resolution at the beginning of the year and then fail to do at the end of the year. It’s what we do, Christa, that’s important.

So I’d actively encourage everybody – it’s not about academia. It’s not about experience, age, the products you sell, the prices you sell them at, the quality of the product. It’s about what you do that determines great outcomes. 

So that is a 10-minute, abridged version of a 30-year experience.

CHRISTA ATWOOD

Wow. I wanna thank you. Thank you for sharing the storoes. And I wanna just say, give us a takeaway. What would be the biggest takeaway? I know you talked about “did”, but if someone was to say to you, what is the takeaway that you can give us now, as in 30 seconds?

SANDRO FORTE

So you can absolutely learn success in life, whatever success means to you. You can absolutely learn to do that subconsciously like you can learn other things. But the most important message is focus on the process not the outcome, because how many times in life have you ever got to a destination and looked back having felt fear about the journey and looked back and go, oh, that wasn’t too bad after all?

So I would actively encourage people, one small baby followed by another, and you’d be amazed how quickly you get from one place to another.

CHRISTA ATWOOD

I wanna thank you so much for your time, your energy and that amazing story for us to relate to as well. You know, I think a lot of things a lot of times that we don’t actually realise that these are making us stronger. Our experiences bring us to a place where we’re comfortable. And thank you for sharing this really hard story that you did today. Appreciate that. Thanks.

SANDRO FORTE

Thank you, Christa. 

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