Some people have a dream and pursue it. Others have many dreams and pursue them, creating a lifetime of doing. In this episode we visit with Nimrod Kovacs who, starting with escaping communist Hungary as a young man, has spent his life dreaming, believing and doing - living his dreams one after another.
Dennis Hodges: So, I'm sitting here today with my good friend, Nimrod Kovacs. Nimrod, it's so good to see you.
Nimrod Kovacs: Nice to see you!
DH: You and I go way, way back.
DH: I mean, to frame it, you were actually my first real boss after university -- to put it into perspective – which is a few moons ago… or a few vintages ago.
NK: Yes, 1982 I seem to recall.
DH: That's right! That’s right. It was. This is the Dream. Believe. Do interview I like to do and talk about dreams that people have or had and what they did or what they are doing. You've got so many stories you could tell, ranging from when you emigrated when you left Hungary and escaped to the West during communist times. Is there a story you'd like to share specifically today that comes to mind?
NK: Well, you know, yeah, I mean when I lived in Hungary at that time, it was a communist country, obviously and I fell in love with rock and roll, and I fell in love with American movies and I said, “I’d love to be visiting the United States and I’d like to maybe even live there.” That was a dream of mine way back. And as it turned out, I had to escape to get out of Hungary at that time, but when after being a refugee in Italy for six months, I showed up in New York City and that was like, you know, I arrived in heaven. So that was a dream.
DH: That’s a very short version of a dream there!
NK: It's true! I mean, and then I firsthand was able to see American movies and listen to rock and roll big time. So that was a dream of mine, which you know, fortunately got fulfilled. And I'm fortunate enough to have lived in America for many, many years and I still do consider America as one of my homes.
NK: So it's a dream. And the other dream of mine is I like to make some money.
NK: I like to be a businessman, so to speak. And you know, I'm a waiter by profession, as you may recall. And I was living in Colorado at that time, working as a waiter in a restaurant and going to college, putting myself through school. And then I said, “Gee, I’d like to figure out what business to get into.” And after college, I went to graduate school at Thunderbird in Arizona and I fell in love with advertising. And I said, “I’d love to be in New York City, in a real advertising world.”
And I remember when I was fortunate enough to be hired by DDB as an agency I worked for, and I remember walking down on 6th Avenue and looking at these huge buildings, all the major corporations, “Ah, yes! This is it! I’d like to do this!” And so that was another dream and you know, the dream came through and after joining the cable industry. God has been good to me; threw some money at me and that sort of like financial part came through as well.
DH: So, it's amazing though because you’ve got something like four or five long stories in there, you know? From escaping from Hungary, as I recall you kind of swam out into the Adriatic over to Italy and so forth.
NK: That’s right.
DH: Okay, that’s one thing. Landed in the States. You wanted to go school and you put yourself through university. You got into university. You went and work in advertising. Worked on Madison Avenue in New York. And you came out to Denver; got into cable television which treated you very well for many, many years. You’ve since launched a winery.
DH: There's a common theme in here, I think. There’s a common theme about that you’ve had dreams and you’ve gone for those dreams.
NK: Well, I mean, you know, the reality is that whatever you can think of and you can formulate in your mind, you can do.
NK: And it's sort of the… everything happens in your head. There's no dream… I mean, obviously, there are some; I couldn’t be an Olympic swimmer, you know or whatever. There are certain limitations to it, but anything within reason, if you set your mind to it, and you focus on it and do the steps, which obviously, what it takes; I mean, obviously the key to success is, as you recall, 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration.
NK: So the hard work cannot be substituted. But mostly everything that I think you want to, you can do. And I'm fortunate enough that everything I wanted to do, I was able to accomplish. I mean, that’s how I got into the wine business; that I've always enjoyed wine. I said, “Wouldn’t it be fun to have a top-end winery?” and that's kind of my current dream, so to speak. I'm trying to build Kovacs Nimrod winery into a world-class winery.
DH: Okay, so with each of those steps you take, you said if you put your mind to it and keep persevering, you can make it happen but there's always obstacles you encounter along the way, right? I mean when you wanted to leave Hungary, it was, in fact, you couldn’t leave Hungary – legally or not – easily, but you found a way around that by – you escaped, essentially.
NK: Right, that’s correct.
DH: But then there's a big gap in there of being at a refugee camp and finding your way to the States. That took some help to get there. But how, as you bump up against these different obstacles, what have you done… besides just persevering, is there any tips you can share in terms of how to drive forward?
NK: It's the power of positive thinking, I guess is the key. It's to believe that you can do it. And you know, it's the “ask, believe and receive.” I mean, that’s kind of how the sequence works. And so you ask for it and believe you can accomplish and do it. And another kind of tidbit I've found is that there are no failures; there are just lessons.
DH: Interesting. Okay.
NK: And anything you run into, something will shift. “What do I learn from this? What did I do wrong in this particular situation and how do I recoup from it?” And then, “How do I find a way around getting to the point?” And in most cases, it's possible.
DH: Interesting! Positivity, I mean, makes all the difference in the world. When you buck up against these obstacles just to keep thinking forward, keep pushing forward.
DH: What have been some of the hardest parts in trying to move forward? Any particular instances of obstacles you ran into that jumped out at you as being really hard?
NK: Basically, I found that whatever happens to you, you really cannot really control it. It's sort of like, almost like the alignment of the stars. And there are some good periods and not so good periods. But what you can control is how you react to it. And if you got all pissed off and you know, blame the world and you know, get angry and blah, blah, blah, you're in a bad mindset to really understand what's going on. And getting back to a good mindset, I think is very important for any advancement. And I've found that the key to that is gratitude.
DH: Okay, explain.
NK: It's fundamentally… you should start out by being grateful for all the things you have. And those could be small things -- you're healthy, your family is okay, you have food on your table, you're not cold and all that stuff -- so, these small things. And after going through that list of stuff, then you are in a mindset of positivity. And when you're in a mindset of positivity, then all of a sudden, clarity comes about all the other things that you may have found to be difficult to cope with. And then after clarity comes, then you are in a position to be able to navigate through the timeframe or the maze, so to speak, to get out of the hole, so to speak, or overcome the obstacles and move on.
DH: And be ready to receive.
NK: Ready to receive. It’s really that I believe that all the key successful people I met, all were pretty positive and pretty grateful for all the things they had. And I think it's something that we should all learn from.
DH: Excellent! You said there are no failures, there's just lessons.
NK: That's correct.
DH: Any major lessons that you recall that shaped you or that sent you in different directions?
NK: Oh, yeah! I ran into a wall a few times over the years.
NK: But fortunately, I didn’t die. You know, remember what Nietzsche said, “Anything that won’t kill you will make you stronger or teach you something new.” So, I mean, I've done a lot of things. I mean, you know, obviously I'm an old guy. I'm 65 now. I will be 66 this year. So I've seen a few things over the years, and you know, yes, I ran into some difficulties and took some time to understand what they were and fortunately I was able to regroup and move on.
DH: There you go. What have been some of the biggest surprises along this journey of yours? Anything that you find that has been really significantly eye opening along your way?
NK: Well, you can rely only on yourself, basically; that's one lesson. I mean, you are that person who makes things happen. And some people are helpful and some people are not, but you cannot rely on that. And you know, there are really no huge surprises. I mean, we assume that you need to carry on yourself and move on and basically… I mean, I really do believe -- this may sound strange -- but I believe that there is no such thing as “objective reality.”
NK: It's only “subjective reality”. Everybody lives in his own world and they perceive what they perceive. And therefore, convincing people to your reality is completely useless. It’s like, you know, remember the old saying that “teaching a pig to sing”? I mean, obviously the process, you know, irritates the pig and you know, kind of frustrates you because a pig ain’t gonna sing.
NK: And so there are certain things that, you know, I believe that I can change people’s views, but they cannot be because this is how they look at the world and I just have to kind of learn to deal with it and move on. [Laughs]
DH: Excellent! So a lot of people out there that have dreams they are pursuing or wanting to pursue or thinking about pursuing, any sage advice for them that you would share in terms of what they can do to move themselves forward?
NK: Well, set a realistic goal first of all. And I've said earlier, if I want to be an Olympic swimmer at age 65 would be very difficult. So a realistic goal -- what is attainable, obviously -- and set your mind to it, and whack at it every day.
DH: Every day.
NK: Every day. I mean, it's sort of like, you know, remember that it's you know, obviously a business guy you are, and remember the Boston Consulting Group’s, it's a little kind of priority thing which had two dimensions in four little boxes: one is importance; another one is urgency. Remember that?
NK: And the four little boxes. So what's “very important and very urgent” is something that people need to spend most of their time on. But there are, in reality, there are very few things which are very important and very urgent. I mean, if you have an accident and you need to rush someone to the hospital, obviously is that. And then there is a box which is “not urgent and not important.” And many people will spend their time in the box, like playing video games or fucking around, or you know, just doing useless stuff.
But there is a box, which to me is the most important thing, is “what's important but not urgent.” How do I deal with relationship issues? How do I deal with my children? How do I make a difference in the world? Which I can sit on a day or two, but really, I have found that if you set your day every day, pick those important things and spend enough time on those to move them forward for that day. And then move them forward next day, and move them forward the next day, and then we'll get the important things accomplished and don’t spend any time on non-important, non-urgent things. A waste of time is a waste of time. It's a waste of life.
DH: That’s excellent advice. It is a waste of life. Absolutely. It is.
NK: Right. So I guess that’s how it works for me.
DH: I think it’s great! Nimrod, thank you so much.
NK: Dennis, it's my pleasure!
DH: Good to see you.
NK: It's always good to see you.
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