Tenacity and the ability to turn failure around are keys to
success, and no one has a bigger key ring than Bill Morris. He
has plenty of toys, but demonstrates a life with lasting values
and teaches this to others with his “Formula for Success.” This
ex-international controller of Kidder Peabody now finds meaning
in dishing up soup for the homeless, and counsels Wall Street
execs that earning money isn’t all there is to life. He set a
world record for doing sit-ups all for the Make-A-Wish
Foundation, where he is a board member.
Success, Bill Morris Style
you could do 20,100 sit-ups in your lifetime? Bill Morris did
that many in 11½ hours - without a bathroom break. He set a
world record that was recognized by the “Guinness World
Records.” But he wasn’t put in the book because his feat was
The 54-year-old ex-Wall Street CEO and CEO of Success4Teens now
tours the country speaking to kids, athletes and execs about
success. And they listen. “When a guy does 20,100 sit-ups in a
row,” says the man with abs of steel, “they get very little
The man is a contradiction in terms: a corporate wiz, who loves
giving out money to street people, serving at soup kitchens and
helping disadvantaged kids; and a spiritual guy, whose racing
red Lotus sits in the driveway of his spacious Monterey home. He
has one hazel eye and one blue. “Jane Seymour was the last
person to notice,” he says. He looks young, but has white hair
and a goatee. And while he is an overachiever, he knows that a
loving family is the greatest success.
He blinks back a tear after pulling out letters from his two
sons that extol his supremacy as a father, their best friend and
role model. “I must have done something right.”
Morris’ motto is “Learn, earn and return.” And when his bio is
read on stage, he always says, “If you think that’s impressive,
you should see my list of failures.”
The go-getter also inspires his audiences with, “I say there are
only three types of people in the world: those that make it
happen, those who watch it happen and those who say, “What
The dictionary defines success as “attainment of wealth and
A: I disagree. Success is setting personal life goals and
achieving them, as well as being able to give back to other
people. For me, success isn’t money. I know more unhappy
millionaires that you can shake a stick at. Two main elements of
success are to be nonjudgmental and to laugh. Finding out what
you’re good at and taking it to the max. You have to be
laser-focused on your goal and let nothing get in the way of it.
And when you fail, don’t wear the hair shirt and beat yourself
up. When kids fail, they quit. But I say embrace the failure and
ask, “What did I learn from it?” I didn’t do sit-ups all at one
time. I worked up to it.
Q: Recent failure?
A: I’ve produced a video that I thought would be the best thing
since bottled beer. But nobody has stepped up to the plate as
investors. I’m still working on it.
Q: Most successful person ever?
A: Mother Teresa is one of my idols. In my book, she is numero
Q: Were you most likely to succeed from birth?
A: No. I don’t think anybody is born with that. It’s either
self-induced or given from the parental unit. Kids who don’t
have moms and dads can be successful.
Q: Who were your cheering and booing squads?
A: My mom encouraged me to get into my first diving competition,
and I won. Booing squad? If it was there, I was deaf.
Q: What was your idea of success at 15 versus now?
A: I was getting through high school in the Bronx. Out of 225
freshmen, my rank was 165. When I graduated I was ranked
seventh. It really comes down to your time- management program.
I had to determine what to give and give up.
Q: I’ve read that Orville Redenbacher said education is the
key to success, but Hank Ketcham said, no, it’s determination
and persistence. Which is it?
A: They’re both right. In both cases, they have 50 percent of
Q: You’re an award-winning jock (racquetball, boxing, squash,
triathlons, etc.) and businessman. What has it cost you/your
A: At age 31, I was international controller of Kidder Peabody
and was responsible for everything in London, Geneva, Tokyo,
etc. It probably cost me my first marriage. My kids were 3 and
4. From that day forward, I was determined to spend my free time
with them. I gave up golf, etc., and did bike rides and spent
athletic time with them.
Q: How can people swim with the Wall Street sharks and still
maintain decency and serenity?
A: You have to understand that 98 percent of everybody on Wall
Street are decent, giving, human beings. At times, somebody gets
greedy. But sooner or later, they’re brought to justice.
Unfortunately, they give a bad name to others.
Q: As a board member of the Make-a-Wish Foundation, for which
you’ve raised $150,000 in pledges doing sit-ups, what’s the most
touching wish you’ve heard?
A: Oh, man, one of the best was when I’d given some athletic
advice to the New York Knicks. I was able to hook up Charles
Barkley with a dying child whose wish was to meet him. We drove
down to see the boy in New Jersey. I know Charles was dead tired
from playing playoff games, but he spent hours with the kid. The
boy’s eyes lit up like they were electric. His room was a shrine
Q: How have Wall Street execs, who contributed pledges,
responded to your motivational speeches?
A: They get an appreciation of time management. Maybe the guy
who spends 15 hours a day at the office will decide not to be as
aggressive, and to allocate more time to his family, even though
he’ll probably earn less. I asked one executive what the most
important things to him were. In this order, he said, “My job,
my kids, my wife.” That was scary . . . I also talk about how
important fitness and good nutrition are. I address mind, body
Q: Your biggest setback?
A: Probably divorce. Not being able be successful at that
Q: You teach teens how to get it together mentally,
physically and spiritually. Which is most important to success?
A: It’s a three-legged stool. If you don’t have one leg, the
stool won’t stand.
Q: Talk about teens, fat, salt, sugar and TV!
A: (Laughs) They all seem to go together, don’t they? Too much
TV and fat will put a kid on the couch forever. When they don’t
exercise, they have low self-confidence; and if they don’t eat
right, they don’t have the brainpower to absorb their lessons in
school. They nod off in the afternoons. It’s a domino effect,
destined for failure. I’m trying to get kids off the couch. One
of the topics (in my Formula for Success programs) is: “You
can’t run a Ferrari on regular.”
Q: When are you an imposter?
A: Never. What you see is what you get.
You say you actually post your goals on a lampshade, to see each
morning, just as you advise others to do. Do you allow time for
A: Absolutely. It’s part of the Formula for Success. Active rest
is really important for the body. You can’t work out seven days
a week. The body needs rest. Sunday mornings I read The New York
Times. I definitely know how to relax.
Q: Your favorite quote?
A: Henry Ford said, “If you think you can do it, you’re probably
right. If you think you can’t, you’re probably also right.”
Universal Update: A recent
check of Bill’s Web site revealed that he is, indeed, selling
his video tapes; and that he reaps large payment as a national
and international motivational speaker and workshop leader, for
corporations and schools. No doubt, the rewards are more than