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The Difference Between a Dream and a Scheme

Jun 24, 2015 | Stories | 7 comments

People talk constantly about dreams. Unfortunately, many of their so-called dreams are really schemes. Too often some loud, charismatic figure is trying to sell you on their “dream” when it is really their “scheme.” They are trying to convince you that they want to help you win, when all they want is your time and your money.

On the other side, there are leaders who truly are building a great dream. They are helping people succeed, motivating crowds, and making the world a better place. There are men and women who are pulling all-nighters, working with their team and achieving great heights.

You may be asking, What is the difference between a dream and a scheme? I can tell you the answer I’ve learned from my experience: A scheme is a plan that helps one person (or a handful) and is usually just a shortcut to enrich the few. A dream truly builds value for the people who participate in the enterprise. A dream is about the many, not just the few. Sure, the guy or gal with the idea is getting enriched, but it’s not just them. A dream truly builds value for the people who participate in the enterprise. Click To Tweet

Let me give you an example of this from my own life.

Rick Williams and I were Co-CEOs of Primerica for fifteen years. Rick is a great human being and my true partner in business.

Beginning in 2006, Rick and I began working to get Primerica independent of Citigroup. The world had changed, and Primerica did not fit the evolving strategy of Citi. Then, in the fall of 2008, the world collapsed. Citi was at the epicenter of the financial crisis.

It all came to a head in early 2009. Because the government had bailed out the banks, and Primerica was still part of Citi, we were forced to cancel all of our events and incentives. This was necessary for Citi, but it was a disaster for the leaders of Primerica. Our business was built on these events. On top of that, our plan to get independent of Citi was put on hold. We were told that no deals were possible at that time. Credit markets were frozen. A dream is about the many, not just the few. Click To Tweet

Citi put a very lucrative deal on the table for Rick and me—if we would sign a new contract and put the whole separation talk on the sideline. From Citi’s perspective, this was a logical and generous offer to us. For Rick and me, who had lost so much of our net worth, this was a godsend.

However, it would have meant nothing to the Primerica team. We had thousands of the most loyal teammates in the field and the home office counting on us. So we didn’t take the deal. We did agree to work with Citi if they worked with us on a plan to get Primerica free.

Through many starts and stops, we finalized a super successful IPO in April 2010. Citi got a great deal and thousands of people got equity in the new Primerica. Primerica became its own successful “refounded” public company. The organization was safe, thousands of independent businesses were saved, and close to two thousand jobs were rescued.

Of course, Rick and I also benefited. But I’ve often thought, What if I had just taken the money? How would I have ever slept at night?

Doing what is right, understanding your motives, and helping your team… that’s a dream to me. Doing what is right, understanding your motives, and helping your team… that’s a dream to me. Click To Tweet

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