DiscoverClassic Influence: Timeless Lessons from the Legends
Classic Influence: Timeless Lessons from the Legends

Classic Influence: Timeless Lessons from the Legends

Author: Dr. Johnny Welch, M.B.A.

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Classic Influence explores the timeless lessons learned from the icons of influence, the legends of leadership, power, and sway. Listen in as your host—the Harvard and Columbia trained researcher, author, and speaker, Dr. Johnny Welch, M.B.A.—reveals the timeless wisdom and insights, unveils the hidden blueprints, and unlocks the key secrets of the legends and heroes of history to discover the strategies, tactics, tips and tools you can use to master the power of influence to achieve your own most daring dreams and goals.
49 Episodes
In 1939, George Dantzig, a humble graduate student at Berkeley in San Francisco, changed mathematics history when he showed up 10 minutes late for his final exam. Listen in as we travel back to Northern California in the midst of the Great Depression to discover the powerful role that expectations can play in transforming your career and your life. In this episode of Classic Influence, we will also take a brief look at how people often unintentionally set themselves and others up for failure or success depending on the beliefs they hold, the words they use, and the frames they mindlessly adopt. Finally, we’ll revisit one of the critical, recurring themes on this podcast: What you honestly think your future can become has a powerful effect on how your future turns out.
Walt Disney’s ultimate, iconic success belies the years he struggled to make ends meet, often going without food to cover the bills. In this episode of Classic Influence, we travel back to Hollywood in the early 1920s to discover the ownership mindset, appetite for risk-taking, and bold actions that set people like Walt Disney apart from the pack. This episode also explores the power of titles, symbols, and rules; the challenge of authority and how to create it; and how to navigate these social constructs to maximize your options and increase your probability of success. This episode also reveals the urgent need to adopt an abundance mentality and reframe roles while maintaining relationships and trust. Be sure to catch this insightful journey into the world of young Walt Disney and the strategies that can help abolish one of the biggest obstacles to your own success.
The American film director, producer, and screenwriter Steven Spielberg holds the distinction of being the most commercially successful director of all time. In 1963, when he was only seventeen, Steven Spielberg traveled to Hollywood to participate in a tour of Universal Studios. The bold action Spielberg took next both set him apart from the crowd and put him on an altogether different and faster success track. In this episode of Classic Influence, we travel back to the summer of 1963 to discover the self-authoring mindset and bold actions that separate people like Steven Spielberg, Walt Disney and others from the great mass of people who are content to follow the crowd and think and act according to the designs of others.
Martin Luther changed the course of human history in 1517 when he nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the All Saints’ Church. But Luther’s bold move and revolutionary stand was not without grave risks, including the distinct possibility of being burned alive. But what enabled such a humble, scholarly, and deeply religious Augustinian monk and theology professor to take such a bold, irrevocable stand against the mighty Roman Catholic Church? Listen in and learn what gave Luther the power to change the world.
Harriet Tubman was described by one bold abolitionist as “one of the bravest persons on this continent.” Another well-known “conductor” on the Underground Railroad said that Tubman “seemed wholly devoid of personal fear.” After years of daring missions into the lion’s den to help slaves escape, Tubman’s bold courage and skill as a tactician led her to become a spy and a military leader for the Union Army. Listen in and discover the source of her courage and the key secret to her heroic success. Episode Overview: Harriet Tubman was born into bondage circa 1822 in the slave state of Maryland. After decades of enduring the evil institution, including backbreaking work on a plantation, she was determined to make her escape. “There was one of two things I had a right to,” she remembered thinking at the time, “liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.” And, so, late one cool evening in October 1849, Harriet Tubman set out to attain her freedom, trudging 90 miles alone, through thick woods and across rocky streams along the Choptank River, all under the cover of darkness. So begins the heroic journey of an American legend. In this episode of Classic Influence, we travel back to pre-Civil War America to learn how Harriet Tubman, a selfless and big-hearted young woman, was transformed into a commanding, undisputed leader, tactician, freedom fighter, and spy, ultimately leading a successful military regiment in Lincoln’s Union Army during the Civil War. Listen in and learn the underlying principles of Tubman’s triumphs and the timeless lessons her story has for overcoming the tough challenges and obstacles you face today.  
A brilliant military strategist and tactician, Alexander the Great stands as one of the greatest figures in history. Alexander was far from the typical military or political leader, however. He was a critical thinker who, like many of his leading Greek contemporaries, prized clear, rational thinking and concise, straightforward speech. Alexander did not hesitate to engage in critical reflection and self-examination, challenging biases, questioning assumptions, allowing for reasoned, respectful critiques. He never simply accepted things as they were, or appeared to be. In this episode of Classic Influence, we travel back to ancient Gordian to learn one of the early, representative legends in Alexander’s storied military career. This episode also explores one of the key secrets to Alexander’s success. Explored from the perspective of ancient philosophers, modern business titans, one of the most brilliant scientists that ever lived, Albert Einstein, and one of the most celebrated coaches in the NFL, Vince Lombardi, this episode also reveals the near universal power of simplicity, and why this critical principle of success is so often underestimated, underutilized, and undersold.
Joan of Arc’s story remains one of the most remarkable stories in the long history of military leadership. Consider this singular, striking distinction: “Since the writing of human history began, Joan of Arc is the only person, of either sex, who has ever held supreme command of the military forces of a nation at the age of seventeen” (Garlow). In the words of Winston Churchill, “Joan of Arc was a being so uplifted from the ordinary run of mankind that she finds no equal in a thousand years.” But what is it that set Joan of Arc so far apart? In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll travel back to France during the Hundred Years’ War to explore the most critical, definitive factor in her success, the key lessons we can learn from her example, and why the wisdom of her leadership continues to echo across time to this day.
After leaving for law school in London at age 18, when Mohandas K. Gandhi finally returned to India in 1915 he was 45. Despite his prolonged initial absence, the deeply spiritual Gandhi quickly rose to become one of the most influential figures in India's history. In fact, for a man who possessed little more than a loincloth and glasses to defeat what at the time was the greatest empire on Earth, without so much as throwing a stone, we might well look to Mahatma Gandhi as the most brilliant strategist and transformational leader that ever lived. In 1999, TIME magazine credited Gandhi as runner-up to Albert Einstein for “Person of the Century.” But Einstein himself said, “Mahatma Gandhi's life achievement stands unique in political history. He has invented a completely new and humane means for the liberation war of an oppressed country...We may all be happy and grateful that destiny gifted us with such an enlightened contemporary, a role model for the generations to come....[who] will scarce believe that such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood.” Today, known as “The Father of India” and “The Apostle of Non-violence,” Mahatma Gandhi is a global icon. In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll travel back to India in 1915 and discover how Gandhi built an unbreakable charismatic bond with his followers and, in the process, forged the foundation of his influence in India, Great Britain and beyond.
On Christmas Day in 1119 A.D., countless prayers were finally answered when a French knight known as Hugh of Payns banded together with 8 other knights in a brotherhood of highly skilled religious warriors. The nine knights all took “vows of poverty, chastity and obedience” and pledged themselves to protect the Christian pilgrims who were traveling on the roads to Jerusalem. Operating as a sort of elite special forces of the Middle Ages, the exceptionally disciplined and well-trained military order was unlike any religious order that had come before. In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll travel back to the Holy Lands during the Crusades to explore the key factors that led to the surprisingly rapid rise of the Knights Templar, the most formidable military order in the history of the world. This episode also reveals the one central factor that best explains the Templars’ eventual downfall and their scandalous, viciously concocted end.
Episode Overview: In the 12 century B.C., after the ancient city of Troy fell following the Greek’s cunning trick with the Trojan Horse, a number of Trojans escaped with a fleet of ships. After years of wandering in search of a new home, the Trojans endured a particularly treacherous episode of violent weather and rough waves in the Mediterranean, a storm which nearly destroyed their fleet. When they finally landed on the banks of the Tiber River to take shelter, the women soon decided that they had had enough of the aimless wandering. The men, however, were intent on returning to the ships and continuing with their mission as soon as the storm passed. According to Virgil, what the women did next altered the course of Western history. Listen to this episode of Classic Influence now and discover how a crafty and courageous use of leverage won the day for the women and changed the future of ancient Rome. This episode also reveals some of the most useful ways of thinking about leverage, how leverage can heighten your odds of success, and a handful of simple, easy-to-implement examples of leverage that you can adapt to your own goals in support of your own effort and will to succeed.
On September 26, 1918, in the midst of World War I, George S. Patton’s moment of testing had arrived. Patton was leading a light tank brigade up a hill overlooking a German occupied town when he was suddenly face-to-face with his greatest fear. What happened next changed Patton’s life forever, transforming him from what he himself referred to as “an utter, craven coward,” into the great 4-Star General, “Old Blood and Guts,” widely revered as an audacious hero of World War II. Listen in and discover what happened to Patton when he and his men were trapped in a hailstorm of machine-gun fire, how he responded to the panic inducing barrage of racing bullets that surrounded him, and the key takeaway lesson he shares about finding courage under fire. Highlighting the nexus between courage and rapid growth, this episode of the Classic Influence Podcast also reveals Patton’s strategy for keeping his fears forever in check.
One cold evening in January 1936, with the world in the midst of the Great Depression, Dale Carnegie addressed a sold-out, standing-room-only crowd at the luxurious Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City. Despite the global economic crisis, Carnegie, in a series of full-page newspaper ads, had promised the attendees that they could increase their incomes, and he was about to deliver on that promise. But how exactly did Carnegie come to discover these priceless, proven secrets of social, professional, and financial success? In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll travel back to the 1930s and discover how a man born into poverty on a farm in Missouri came to become one of the best-selling authors of all time, “The Father of Self-Help,” and, in time, the head of a thriving personal development empire the likes of which the world had never before seen.
On December 17, 1903, a pair of self-taught, visionary American engineers achieved their dream, forever made the world a smaller place, and helped usher in the age of globalization. It was the first successful piloted, powered airplane flight in history, and with it the Wright brothers revolutionized the world. Competing against the greatest minds in science and technology at the time, the Wright brothers were far from the most likely candidates for pioneering aviation success. Neither one of the brothers graduated high school, went to college, or had any formal training as an engineer. Nor did they have the financial support of the more established aviation pioneers. And, yet, they had everything they needed to succeed. In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll travel back to the late 19th century and see what set these two middle-class Midwestern bicycle mechanics apart from the aviation pack. Listen in now and you will also learn the one critical characteristic of success shared by most everyone of America’s most wealthy business titans, including Andrew Carnegie (1835—1919), John D. Rockefeller (1839—1937), Warren Buffet (1930—), and Bill Gates (1955—).
Abraham Lincoln was born to poor Kentucky farmers in 1809. Raised in a one-room, dirt-floor log cabin on the American frontier, Lincoln’s early life was filled with long hours of manual labor, and many years of trial and tribulation, setback and struggle. But Abraham Lincoln, fiercely ambitious, was determined to rise up from his humble origins, and make his mark on the world. “The way for a man to rise,” he said, “is to improve himself in every way he can.” And, so, Lincoln worked hard, educated himself, and found ways to grow and improve. Eventually, he carved out a career for himself as a successful prairie lawyer. And, yet, he still wanted to do more. In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll travel back to America’s pre-Civil War era and learn how Abraham Lincoln, ultimately, after a lifetime of heartbreaking setbacks and defeats, achieved the ultimate election victory by steadfastly turning his unquenchable ambition toward serving the people and winning their esteem. Drawing on Winston Churchill’s address at Harvard University in 1943, this episode also reveals one of the main, most widespread reasons why people fail to achieve their greatest, most ambitious dreams. 
In the 1950s, still at the start of his acting career, and frustrated by the lack of work, Don Rickles began hustling gigs as a standup comedian in Los Angeles, Miami, and New York. Finding that his audiences were also failing to respond to his prepared material as a comic, Rickles started to boldly lash out. In fact, he began insulting people in his audience, particularly the hecklers. With this, Rickles finally began to see his audiences respond. Sometimes, however, Rickles went too far, boldly insulting the wrong person at the wrong time, and suffering some humiliating consequences as a result. Listen in to this episode of Classic Influence, and learn how boldness can backfire when it rises to a level beyond what your target or audience will endure. Given the potential consequences of a lack of boldness, which are often even more severe, this episode also reveals the essential approach to take to build your capacity for bold action, and, thereby, tap your true potential, and succeed in your chosen field. Finally, returning to the opening story of this “Take Bold Action” series, you will discover the single most critical secret of Napoleon Bonaparte’s remarkable return from Elba and which, in defiance of Europe’s greatest powers, enabled him to once again become the Emperor of France.
In 1553, Mary Tudor’s dying brother, King Edward VI of England, was plotting behind the scenes to remove his half-sister from the line of succession. In the midst of the English Reformation, and the wider European Protestant Reformation, the Protestant King Edward was eager to keep Mary, a loyal Catholic, from reversing his and his father Henry VIII’s precious Protestant reforms. But Mary Tudor was not having it. She was the daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, and she was the granddaughter of Isabella of Castile. The crown of England was hers by right of law, and she would not permit her brother or his scheming, double-dealing counselors to deprive England of its rightful heir. In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll travel back to 16th century England and watch as Mary Tudor attempts to boldly seize the English throne, and thwart her brother’s foolhardy coup. Looking to Mary’s daring example, this episode also reveals five critical factors to consider before implementing any significantly risky, bold action plan.
In early 1898, days after the USS Maine was sunk in Cuba’s Havana Harbor, killing some 260 American sailors and marines, Theodore Roosevelt, who was still only the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, began doing all he could to prepare America for war. This included resigning from his desk job at the Navy Department in Washington D.C., and forming the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, known as the “Rough Riders.” What he did next came as quite a surprise to those who knew him, particularly given his extraordinary ambition. In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll travel back to the period just before the Spanish American War to uncover a few of the key characteristics that contributed to Theodore Roosevelt’s striking success. This episode also reveals Theodore Roosevelt’s proven personal strategy for conquering fear.
A populist champion of the poor, Huey Long grew up during America’s Gilded Age, and got involved in politics in the years before the Great Depression. Despite the considerable economic hardships he faced throughout his early life in Louisiana, and the ferocious political opposition he faced throughout his political career, Huey Long rose to become one of the Pelican State’s greatest political stars. Beyond his fierce ambition and quick mind, it was bold action that set Huey apart. In fact, Huey Long was willing to take whatever bold action was necessary to overcome his humble origins, make a name for himself, and do as much good as he could along the way. In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll travel back to Louisiana in the early 20th century and see what we can learn from the bold and brash actions of Huey P. Long. This episode also looks to the example of Robert M. La Follette, and his surprising response to the political machine in Madison, Wisconsin when they warned him not to run.
In February 1815, after nearly a year of appearing to accept his fate, Napoleon Bonaparte suddenly began planning his island prison escape. Despite his exceptional leadership and unshakeable self-confidence, the idea that he might simply show up on the shore to retake France from the Bourbon monarchy was patently absurd, and probably one of the most daring adventures of his life. In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll travel back to the Island of Elba toward the end of the Napoleonic Wars and watch as Napoleon slips past his captors, with the long-shot hope of returning to power in France. Along with revealing one of the vital secrets to Bonaparte’s success, this episode also explores why and how boldness can be such a powerful force, often creating its own favorable circumstances. You will also discover a powerful tactic for keeping your own fears in check, enabling you to take increasingly bold action to achieve the daring outcomes you desire.
In 1940, with America on the cusp of entering World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to run for an unprecedented third term. Despite the longstanding and deep-seated tradition—going all the way back to George Washington, who voluntarily left office after just two terms—Roosevelt, a savvy political operator and masterful communicator, found a way to frame the decision so that it not only won the support of a majority of Americans, but also helped spur the nation to meet the emerging Nazi threat. In this episode of Classic Influence, we’ll travel back to the 1940 presidential campaign, hear from President Roosevelt in his own voice, and discover the surprising power of a well-crafted frame. This episode also reveals how Harriet Tubman used reframing as part of her covert missions to rescue slaves, and how it helped her to become “the Moses of her people.” As illustrated by President Ronald Reagan to devastating effect in his own race for the White House, listen in and discover how frames can be tremendously powerful tools of influence. Listen in now and you will also learn the 4 core steps of reframing, along with 5 strategies for generating new, more effective frames, and you will quickly discover why reframing is an indispensable tool in the pursuit of your own clear purpose and goals.
Comments (2)

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Jul 22nd