red adairphil anschutzPhilip
Anschutz, the American businessman with an estimated net worth
of $7 billion, started in the oil business drilling his own wells. His
first efforts in the 60s were unsuccessful, turning up one dry hole
after another.

When he finally hit oil, everything looked great
for a day… Then a crisis followed which he called “the most important
event” in his business career. One of his wells caught fire!

Anschutz heard that Universal Studios was making a movie starring John Wayne called
Hellfighters about the legendary oil-field fire fighter, Red Adair
(see picture right – Adair later put out the oil well fires in Kuwait during the Gulf
War, 1991).

Anschutz persuaded Universal to pay $100,000 to
film Adair putting out his well fire for their movie. The studio cut
the check. Adair put the fire out. The footage is in the movie. Anschutz pocketed a profit and saved
his business.

hellfighters movieNow,
why do you suppose Anschutz called it “the most important single event”
in his business career? Here is more from him, “There’s always a point
that if you go forward, you win — sometimes you win it all — and if you
go back, you lose everything, and that was that point for me. …You don’t
learn that in school. You have to have the initiative, be able to be
pragmatic and tenacious, seeing all of the opportunity that could

In my experience, this is exactly what separates
people who play big from people who play small: Seeing all the
opportunity that could exist.
Like a well-executed Judo move,
they take the force behind calamity and turn it to their advantage.