Stephen Woessner Solocast Episode 29

Episode 238

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Stephen is the CEO of Predictive ROI and the host of the Onward Nation podcast. He is the author of two bestselling books, speaker, trainer, and his digital marketing insights have been featured in SUCCESS, Entrepreneur, The Washington Post, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, and other media.


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Good Morning Onward Nation…I’m Stephen Woessner. Thank you for taking the time to be here with me for today’s solocast — cannot wait to jump into the lesson today — when I wrote out my thoughts to share with you this morning — my pen couldn’t move fast enough on the paper and I started getting cramps in my hand.

Perhaps that is a sign that today’s message is something deeply personal to me — and — really gets me totally fired up.

We’re going to talk today about quitting!

Quitting in life, quitting in business, quitting on family — quitting in all its shapes and sizes. It breaks my heart when I see it happen. People who possess an abundance of God-given talent but don’t apply it.

It’s tragic.

But first…before we dig in…I want to thank you to all of our new listeners to Onward Nation. I appreciate you being here.

Our daily downloads continue to rise — the encouragement we receive through social media — and all of the wonderful emails — are just off-the-charts, Onward Nation. So thank you very much for your kind words.

We are going to be here for a very very very long time — and I greatly appreciate you walking alongside us on this journey.

So, if by chance this happens to be your first episode of Onward Nation — or perhaps your first solocast from me…let me take a brief moment to share some context and then I’ll jump into today’s lesson.

Once a week, I fly solo for an episode without a guest. I call it a solocast. And I started doing that because I had a conversation with one of my mentors and he said to me…

“Stephen, Onward Nation is great and it is wonderful how you always put the spotlight on the business owners — the incredible guests on your show – but I want to know more about what you think — what your path has been — tell me more about what you think about the same questions you ask your guests.”

And I thought — wow — that is a really good question — but it really pushed my comfort zone. Although as I thought about his question — I realized this would be an opportunity to add and share value with you, Onward Nation, in a completely different way.

So I accepted his challenge – and I have to say — I really LOVE preparing for and delivering my weekly solocasts. It gives me an opportunity to really dig deep into a topic or business issue – strategies and ideas – recipes I have learned that you can then take and apply to your business right away to make it more systematic, predictable, repeatable, and measurable.

That gets me so fired up.

And again…if you’re listening to Onward Nation now for the first time…I’ll briefly introduce myself to provide some context to the voice behind the microphone.

Hi…I’m Stephen Woessner and I’m the host of Onward Nation – but – when I am not interviewing today’s top business owners, I am the CEO of Predictive ROI…a digital marketing agency based in Wisconsin. Now, I don’t particularly like the label of digital marketing agency because Predictive ROI does so much more than digital marketing.

What makes us truly unique…is our ability to predict a client’s increase in sales as a direct result of our work…their actual financial return on investment in the form of dollars and cents…and then we take it further than any other company in our industry by guaranteeing our performance…or our work is free.

And because of that – we find ourselves deep inside a client’s systems, inventory, sales team, and all sorts of business development processes.

I love the problem-solving work we do – it oftentimes reminds me of my days of troubleshooting when I was a missile technician working inside nuclear missiles silos on the prairies of South Dakota while I was in the Air Force many years ago. I have been in digital marketing since the advent of the commercial Internet.

I am the bestselling author of two books in the area, I spent nearly 6 years at the University of Wisconsin – at the La Crosse campus, and I taught throughout the state include the UW-Madison School of Business, and my business building insights have been featured in Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur, Forbes, SUCCESS, The Washington Post and some other media.

And I am currently working on my third book. My agent is negotiating with publishers right now and I think we are pretty close to being able to share some awesome news! I will keep you posted for sure, Onward Nation.

Okay, let’s jump into today’s lesson.

I’m going to start us off by introducing you to one of the most influential mentors in my life…he is someone you have likely never read about, never heard of, never quoted…in fact…one the surface…most people might think he led a rather ordinary life because his name was never up in lights.

He never graced the cover of SUCCESS Magazine…he was never the author of a bestselling book. And he never made the list of top influencers…but…that did not limit his influence or the impact he created in the lives of many.

Because the exterior trappings of success are not the true testimony of the quality of someone’s life. The relationships, the love, the personal impact is the really good stuff, Onward Nation.

I have met many successful people by the world’s standards…they had everything…they had fame, they had fortune, they possessed every material thing you could imagine, and yet, they were miserable.

Their spouse was miserable because he or she never got to see them.

Their kids were miserable because the deep emotional connection that should have been there between them was missing — a terrible hole was there instead. A hole that can only be filled by a steady stream of love and caring.

So, I am going to introduce you to one of the people in my life who taught me the true definition of success, as well as the power of persistence, the power of tenacity, the power of grit…the power in moving slowly, consistently, and pursuing something over the long haul.

And when you do these things…great things happen…and all of that was made possible because of his quiet, relentless attitude toward never, ever quitting.

He never quit.

His name was Peter Maronitis.

Peter was born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1902. His family was Greek but they lived in Istanbul. And this was a time when it was not awesome to be a Greek male in Turkey.

There was ethnic cleansing, and sometimes a Greek adult male wouldn’t make it back to his home at night because he had been whacked behind a shed somewhere or rounded up to fight for the Turkish army against whoever they were fighting at the time. That was the harsh reality of the day — that Peter’s father had to navigate each day when he left his home for work.

And one day, tragedy struck and Peter’s father didn’t come home. Peter was the ripe old age of 8-years old…his father didn’t come home…and now it looked as though Peter was the man of the house. Peter ran out of the house…in pursuit…to find his Dad…he searched the city…he got onto a train…he continued his search…looking…desperately…he didn’t quit…it was Peter’s first taste of a the relentless pursuit for someone — for something he loved.

But still…his father would never return.

So, Peter at 8-years old was indeed the man of the house.

He dropped out of the third grade in order to make enough money to support his mother and his younger brother and sister.

Eight years old, Onward Nation.

Peter did it…without complaining…without feeling self-pity…without feeling disadvantaged. He did his duty and he did it with excellence. Every day…for 10-years.

And despite the end of his formal education at the 3rd grade…he never stopped learning. He studied and read whatever he could get his hands on…and in doing so…a dream was sparked in his mind.

His dream…Peter wanted to make his way to the United States and then own his own restaurant…to build a better life for himself and his family.

He promised his mother, sister, and brother that if he made it to America, he would save his money and come back to get them so they could all live together.

When Peter was 18-years old — he received that opportunity!

Through some mutual friends…Peter’s dream was set into motion. But isn’t it interesting, Onward Nation…how through determined, unrelenting focus, hard work, and grit — what we want most in this world finds its way into our circle?

And Peter’s focus had definitely been unrelenting.

So, Peter made it to the United States with no money and couldn’t speak the language. He followed the mass of Greeks who were headed to Canton, Ohio to work in the steel mills.

Peter worked in the mills for a couple of days and realized that was not going to be the path that would get him closer to his dream of owning his restaurant.

Instead, he pursued a job in a downtown Canton restaurant where he would cut vegetables and wash dishes on the night shift. As you might imagine, Onward Nation…it was back-breaking work…he bent over a sink and then a cutting board…all night, every night.

But he did it…with a happy and grateful heart because he was in the pursuit of his total happiness, Onward Nation. He was in pursuit of his dream!

During those years working in the restaurant, Peter learned English. And then providence set in…one of the cooks on the day shift befriended Peter and gave him his old knife set so Peter could sharpen his food preparation skills.

And he did just that because that knife set was his ticket to getting off of the night shift and onto the day shift as an apprentice where he could make more money.

Within a short period of time…Peter was on the day shift and saving all his money.

After just 6-years, Onward Nation, without knowing English, with no money, without a formal education, without a network of influential contacts, and while gritting it out doing work that many people today would refuse to do — Peter had saved enough money to open his own restaurant and bring his family from Istanbul to live with him in Canton.

He delivered on his promise to himself and to his family.


Not by getting funding from some angel investor. Not through a Kickstarter campaign. Not through loans from family members. Not through an economic development grant. No!

He was successful because he refused to quit when his body and mind tried to convince him to do just that.

He refused to quit.

But…as you may have guessed…there’s more to this story.

Peter opened his restaurant called “The Ideal” in downtown Canton at a time when Canton was often considered “Little Chicago” because of how organized crime running rampant.

In fact, if you read Napoleon Hill’s brilliant book, “Outwitting the Devil,” he shares a story about his visit to Canton in July 1926 to meet with local publisher Don Mellet. And how Mellet was gunned down by mobsters while Napoleon was in town for the meeting.

And the mobsters who killed Mellet also threatened Hill and forced him out of Canton. Yep, that was Canton at the time…the same time Peter was courageously running his brand new restaurant downtown…right in the thick of all the action.

Wow, Onward Nation.

But even the threat of organized crime didn’t make Peter quit. He pushed forward. And just when he thought he was making progress…the United States and the world entered the Great Depression.

Here is a photo of Peter standing behind the lunch counter of “The Ideal” during the Great Depression. You will see the humble beginnings of a very humble man. And if you were to have asked Peter about his business plan during the Depression, he would have said, “If you take care of your customers, they will take care of you. Because everyone’s got to eat.”


A simple business plan that Peter executed flawlessly every day.

In my opinion, Peter Maronitis was also the creator of the original value meal…he sold homemade soup and sandwich for a nickel. During the Depression, Peter gave away more soup than he ever sold.

And yet, the story of Peter doesn’t end there.

Peter married the woman of his dreams in Julia — and together — they ran the restaurant and raised four wonderful kids along the way.

In their kids, they instilled their lessons of Family Comes First…take care of your customers…and all of the business lessons they had learned through 42-years in the restaurant business.

And when Peter and Julia retired…they shifted their attention toward their 10 grandchildren and instilling all of these powerful lessons into them so they could be well equipped to move ONWARD and become leaders in business, their communities, and be great parents.

Peter and Julia wanted their grandchildren to understood their family’s history…the risks taken to get here…to stay here…and what it takes to create a life that revolved around service…around grit, tenacity, and never ever quitting…no matter the odds.

And in the end…how important it is to be kind and compassionate…that those are the keys to success.

Some years later — after Peter’s retirement — his adult son Bill Maronitis, who also became the owner to two successful restaurants, asked his father, “Pop, why did you give away so much soup during the Depression?”

And Peter looked at Bill, and with compassion and kindness in his eyes, said to him, “I gave away the soup because I know Jesus is coming back someday — I don’t know what Jesus will be wearing — or what Jesus will look like when he comes — so I’m going to be kind to everyone.”

When Bill Maronitis shared that story with me several weeks ago — he had tears in his eyes — which made me do the same.

Look, Onward Nation…there will be times that will weaken the best of us. But the truly great, those like Peter Maronitis, they are the ones who got back up…dusted themselves off and got back to their work without feeling sorry for themselves.

Don’t let yourself fall into the seductive trap of self-pity — yes, it is intoxicating — yes, it can be comforting for a season during a period of loss — of grief — and we need to take the time to honor the loss — but if we are not careful — the thoughts of self-pity, or telling ourselves that we cannot move past an obstacle, or that we are somehow not worthy of conquering that next challenge — or saying to ourselves over and over again that we can’t do something — those thoughts of low quality, of pessimism, will destroy your pursuit of happiness.

Your thoughts of fear will cause you to slow down — ever so slightly — each day — and you will begin to move at the pace of the herd.

And that is not the pace and tempo you need to run at, Onward Nation.

Little by little — if you are not vigilant — you will slowly quit, each day.

Don’t ever quit, Onward Nation. Ever.

Total happiness is only achieved by the relentless pursuit of what you love most in this world — something or someone — you love more than anything else — that your love is so intense you cannot breathe without it.

For Peter — his total happiness was driven by creating a better life for himself, his family, and taking the steps and necessary risks to make that happen. And he did it.

He didn’t wait for someone to make it happen for him. He was generous, he gave, he took care of the people around him — and they took care of his during his times of need, too.

But, and maybe you’re asking yourself…”How does Stephen know all of this to be true?”

Because, Onward Nation…Peter Maronitis was my grandfather. And Bill Maronitis, Peter’s son from the soup story…is my uncle…and my godfather. My Uncle Bill is also one of my first mentors and a strong and dependable father figure in my life to this day.

I have the honor of being one of the 10 grandchildren who had the privilege of learning these lessons of success directly from Peter. And the four amazing kids Peter and Julia raised…are my Aunt Joy, my Uncle Bill, my mother, and my Aunt Elaine.

And Canton, Ohio — well — that is my beloved hometown, Onward Nation.

Peter was a great man who gave everything for what he believed in. He took a great risk to come to a foreign country — to create a better future — to create legacy for all of us.

So the photo of Peter in his restaurant that I mentioned earlier — it hangs on the wall in my office next to my desk — and my Uncle Bill has the same photo framed on the wall in his restaurant to this day.

It is a visual reminder of our family’s legacy — where we came from. Our roots.

There has been many a long night when I am working in my office late — when I would much rather quit and go to bed…and then I look up from my work…and see Pop looking at me from the photo on my wall…and I think to myself…he did all that he did for me so I could live this kind of life…so I could have the opportunity to spend time with you Onward Nation, so I could do all that I do and enjoy today.

He did that for me. He worked so hard and took so many risks.

So what in the world is my excuse? That I can’t send out that last email…write one more invitation to a rockin’ awesome guest…create the strategy for one more client?

His legacy helps keep me laser-focused on my most vital priorities — and my hope is that Peter’s story has done the same for you, Onward Nation.

Don’t ever quit. Never ever give up.

You were meant for greatness. You are a child of the most high God. You are instilled with an abundance of talent and gifts. Please don’t let something so small as fear — or your circumstances — limit all you were meant to be.

As my mentor Don Yaeger says, “Greatness is available to all of us IF you are willing to do the common things uncommonly well.”

So be uncommon, Onward Nation — and never ever quit.

So with that said…

I want to thank you for taking the time to be here with me today. It is an honor to have you here — thank you for tuning in — your time is sacred and I am delighted you chose this episode to be what you listen to, study, and take with you on your morning run, or maybe Onward Nation has become part of your daily commute, or in some other way has become part of your morning routine.

However our daily podcast fits into your daily routine — I want you to know how much I appreciate you sharing some of your invaluable 86,400 seconds you have in your day with me and the strategies we learn and share each day from today’s top business owners.

And please continue to let me know what you think of Onward Nation…good or bad…I always want your feedback. My direct email address is [email protected] — and yes — that is my actual Inbox. No fancy filters or filing system and I read and reply to every single email.

So please let me know how you think we are doing. I look forward to hearing from you.

We will be back tomorrow with an incredible interview with Doug Parker — and you will love our conversation about how you cannot out give your time, talent, or treasure. Don’t miss it.

Until then, onward with gusto!

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