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Half Luck and Half Brains -
Kemmons Wilson's 20 Steps for Success

by John Hogan, October 22, 2010

My background is what academia refers to as "clinical" in nature and several years ago, I addressed several classes at the Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality & Resort Management at the University of Memphis in Tennessee. Having taught as an adjunct professor for 20 years at three different colleges, I have always been comfortable as both an academic and corporate educator, facilitating more than 3,400 classes and programs. 

The classes were interesting and as I was leaving, I spent a few minutes in the small museum type setting that includes some of Wilson's memorabilia. I was never employed at Holiday Inns, but living in Tennessee (then global headquarters for the brand) for more than 15 years certainly brought me into substantial contact with many people who had been. While Wilson was not a traditional hotelier by schooling or experience, he definitely influenced many business practices in franchising, brand support, standards and values. 

Displayed in the lobby of the Wilson School of Hospitality & Resort Management at the University of Memphis are what he called his Steps for Success.

#10 included the title of his book: Remember that success requires "Half Luck and Half Brains". He uses his 20 Steps as episodes and illustrations. I found the content of this book to be quite interesting and not the frequent "bragging" that some biographies lean towards. Written by Wilson at age 83, he shares his "better way" of offering affordable lodging in understandable and practical lessons. The book also includes more than 100 photographs of family, business partners and unique scenes in the evolution of Holiday Inns in the days before the industry became involved in heavy mergers and the danger of the industry becoming viewed as a commodity.

Kemmons Wilson (founder of Holiday Inns) 
20 Steps for Success

1. Work only a half a day; it makes no difference which half - it can either be the first 12 hours or the last 12 hours. 

2. Work is the master key that opens the door to all opportunities. 

3. Mental attitude plays a far more important role in a person's success or failure than mental capacity. 

4. Remember that we all climb the ladder of success one-step at a time. 

5. There are two ways to get to the top of an oak tree.  One way is to sit on an acorn and wait; the other way is to climb it.  

6. Do not be afraid of taking a chance.  Remember that a broken watch is right at least twice a day. 

7. The secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes, but in liking what one does.  

8. Eliminate from your vocabulary  the words, "I don't think I can"  and substitute,  "I know I can." 

9. In evaluating a career, put opportunity ahead of security. 

10. Remember that success requires half luck and half brains. 

11. A person has to take  risks to achieve. 

12. People who take pains to  never do more than they get paid for, never get paid for anything more than they do. 

13. No job is too hard,  as long as you are smart enough to find someone else to do it for you. 

14. Opportunity knocks often. It knocks as often as you have  an ear trained to hear it, an eye trained to see it, a hand trained to grasp it and  a head trained to use it. 

15. You cannot procrastinate.  In two days,  tomorrow will be yesterday. 

16. Sell your wristwatch and  buy an alarm clock. 

17. A successful person realizes  his personal responsibility for self-motivation. He starts himself,  because he possesses the key to his own ignition switch. 

18. Do not worry.  You can't change the past, but you sure can ruin the present by worrying over the future.  Remember that half the things we worry about never happen, and the other half are going to happen anyway.  So, why worry? 

19. It is not how much you have, but how much you enjoy  that makes happiness. 

20. Believe in God  and obey the 10 commandments. 

Keys to Success 
Hospitality Tip of the Week: 

Hotel Common Sense Philosophy #13

�Manage Systems. Lead People. Coach your Team. Be a Real Mentor�

Dr. John Hogan CHE CHA CMHS
Part of the Fifteen Timeless Philosophies in Hospitality
A 2011 Keynote Address and Workshop

Feel free to share an idea for a column at [email protected]  anytime or contact me regarding consulting, customized workshops, speaking engagements � And remember � we all need a regular dose of common sense.

John Hogan is a successful hospitality executive, educator, author and consultant and is a frequent keynote speaker and seminar leader at many hospitality industry events.  He is Co-Founder of a consortium ( of successful corporate and academic mentors delivering focused and affordable counsel in solving specific challenges facing the hospitality industry. is a membership site offering a wide range of information, forms, best practices and ideas that are designed to help individual hoteliers and hospitality businesses improve their market penetration, deliver service excellence and increase their profitability.   Special introductory pricing is in effect for a limited time that also includes a complimentary copy of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD- A COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES.  If readers would like to contribute to the site, please submit your material for consideration to [email protected].  We are interested in expanding our global networks and resources as we support our membership.

Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE
[email protected]

Also See: Ten Quotes Addressing the Topic of SERVICE / Dr John Hogan / October 2010
Hospitality Conversations - Understanding the Developing Perspectives in Quality Assurance (Part 2 of 2) / Dr John Hogan / October 2010
Hospitality Conversations � Understanding the Developing Perspectives in Quality Assurance Part 1 of 2 / Dr John Hogan
Hospitality Conversations: Examining the Learning Options Available in the Hospitality Field / Dr John Hogan / July 2010


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