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But He Looks So Ordinary…

Making a difference in other people’s lives – now there’s a noble pursuit. Unfortunately, most of us reserve our “make-a-difference” efforts for our spare time.  When it’s convenient.  When we can muster the energy.  But what if you made it your life’s pWilliam Wallaceassion?

Then you might discover that when all is said and done, your own life is blessed.  Beyond measure. Like Tom Hill’s has been.

If you read Tom’s resume, he sounds larger than life. It reminds me of the exchange in Braveheart, when William Wallace is addressing the ragtag group of Scotsmen assembled before the mighty English army:


William Wallace: Sons of Scotland! I am William Wallace!

Young Soldier: William Wallace is seven feet tall!

William Wallace: Yes, I’ve heard. Kills men by the hundreds. And if HE were here, he’d consume the English with fireballs from his eyes, and bolts of lightning from his arse.


I haven’t personally witnessed Tom Hill’s fireballs and lightning bolts, but based on his list of accomplishments, you may be tempted to duck for cover, just in case.  Tom reads a book a day (yes, you read that right).  He ran his first marathon at age 60, and ran his most recent one at age 75.  Soon he’ll run his twentieth half-marathon. He’s written several books, including the national bestseller, Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneurial Soul. He’s got his pilot license. He skydives. He’s an early adopter of new technologies and an unabashed Apple evangelist. He’s got a doctorate in Educational Administration. He’s had a successful career as a professor and administrator at a leading university. He built a ReMax real estate business that generated annual sales exceeding $3 billion. And now he’s a man on a mission to help others create extraordinary lives.

If you’re like me, you’ve pictured a cross between Lebron James and Ben Franklin, with a dash of Ernest Hemingway, and maybe a bit of Chuck Yeager. You expect the ground to rumble when he walks into the room.  He’s probably got a voice like James Earl Jones, right?  Then you meet this soft-spoken man with distinguished grey hair and you scratch your head. He looks like he’s about 140 pounds, soaking wet. He has a disarmingly soft southern drawl, with an “aw, shucks” kind of delivery.

How he arrived here is not a straight line. Tom has reinvented himself. Twice.

Tom was a professor and administrator at the University of Missouri, when he decided at age fifty to scratch an entrepreneurial itch.  He got involved in real estate with ReMax and built a company of regional franchisees with transaction sales exceeding $3 billion annually. He sold his real estate business in 1999, and became a life coach, writer and speaker. His goal is to make a major and positive difference in as many lives as possible.

Tom now reaches people through speaking engagements, a weekly e-zine, frequent podcasts, and conversations on his handy iPhone.  He refers to his life coaching clients as Eagles, and he considers it his mission to help them soar.

Tom HillThe first time I heard Tom speak, I sat with a group of executives and heard about his system to take control of your life – and your future.  He included several “Tom-isms” (even though he frequently credits others with the idea, quote or resource). He didn’t force ideas down our throats, but introduced most of them with a preface like, “wouldn’t it be amazing if you could…” I soon realized that everything he suggested was something he could do. Had done. Is doing.

I’ve seen Tom speak enough times to know the normal stages people go through the first time they see him. As Tom begins, people flip back to his bio, look up at him, and then back to the bio again.  Then comes the sidelong glance at their neighbor, with a look that conveys the thought, “That’s the guy? But he looks so ordinary…”

When you ask Tom about how people’s lives have been changed, he gets a gleam in his eye, and says, “Pull up a chair.” He can tell you about relationships healed, goals achieved and lives transformed.  Each story is peppered with the occasional “Isn’t that fantastic?” or “I was so blessed by that.” He says that his greatest reward is watching people whose lives have been transformed pay it forward and impact others.  You talk about leverage!

I speak to Tom occasionally, and every conversation ends the same way: Tom asking, “So how can I help you?”  By helping others, he’s been able to make introductions, connect resources, and make new contacts himself.  These interactions allow him to learn – every day. He is the poster boy for lifelong learning.

Whenever I’ve asked Tom how he’s doing, he invariably responds, “Karl, I’m blessed beyond measure.”

Some random Tom-isms:


  • OIMF – stands for putting the “Odds In My Favor.” This includes wearing a seat belt, exercising a minimum of five days a week, reading a minimum of a book a week (to put you in the top 1% of all adults in America). Tom prepares his wife’s coffee every morning so that her first encounter of the day with him is a positive one.


  • Have a daily focus on becoming the best person possible in five areas:

-          Spiritual  - the most important, and often the most neglected

-          Health – if I don’t take care of myself, who will I be a burden to?

-          Relationships – most of the things you want in life involve other people

-          Emotional – your attitude and sense of self worth

-          Professional – taking care of the intellectual and financial side


  • Money doesn’t change anyone, it just amplifies who you are.


  • One idea, well executed, can change your life forever


  • One person who’s attracted by who you’ve become, can change your life forever.


  • “You are the average of the people you have met and the books you have read” – Charlie “Tremendous” Jones


  • Establish six year, three year and 18 month goals.  The 18 month goals create a growth curve.  Most people quit before the 18 month period – and miss out on a powerful transformation.


  • “Nothing changes until the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of changing”


  • Make a list of all the people that without batting an eye you would give them a kidney. Who are the most important people in your life? Have daily contact with those that you love the most.


  • If you write down the 10 adults you spend the most time with you will be the average of those ten.


  • Give a compliment to a stranger every day.


In my “About Me” page, I mention that my goal is to become what James Michener calls a “Master in the Art of Living;” someone who “pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.”

Tom Hill is living proof to me that such a status in attainable. By making it his life’s passion to make a difference in other people’s lives, he grows, learns and leads an incredible life. He’s blessed.  Beyond measure.


7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Another powerful story Karl, that enlightens, enriches and inspires. Thanks for sharing Tom with us. He’s living proof that our greatest treasures lie within if only we will take the time to stop,listen and believe in the power of our own dreams.

    February 29, 2012
    • Karl Sprague #

      Thank you Kathy. That’s what I love about the way you write. You can capture in a a few sentences what it took me a thousand words to write!

      February 29, 2012
  2. Woah this blog is magnificent i like studying your posts. Stay up the great work! You already know, lots of individuals are hunting around for this information, you can aid them greatly.

    March 15, 2012
    • Karl Sprague #

      Thanks, remax, for the kind words. I hope you find future posts just as helpful!

      March 20, 2012
  3. I found your blog on Tom Hill’s site (it shows up as a trackback). This is so well-put! I just heard him speak, and you captured everything I loved about him. So inspiring, rich with ideas I will put in place immediately.

    October 4, 2012
    • Serenity, Tom is a special guy. His message resonates, and his programs work. He is also a role model for the lifelong learner, and someone committed to getting better every day. I’m glad you got the chance to see him in person. Good luck. – Karl

      October 7, 2012

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