"Saddle up.” It’s an old western term from frontier days in which the lead wrangler told his posse it was time to saddle up their horses and go forth on a ride, or a mission blazing new horizons. It’s what WorldVentures Founder Wayne Nugent used to say to Jefferson Santos when it was time to start out or start over. Jefferson knew an adventure was about to begin when he heard those two words.
Jefferson first met Wayne more than 20 years ago. At the time, the men were 20 and 28, respectively. From the outset, Jefferson was duly impressed by Wayne, who had a pedigree that was mighty enticing. For starters, Wayne had a magnitude of charisma and his personal financial security was enviable. So, how did he get there and how could Jefferson follow in his footsteps?
It’s a story worthy of starting from the very beginning.
Raised in Richardson, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, Jefferson’s travel bug bit him early with a father whose career was in the airline industry. And his mother was the first to introduce him to network marketing. Speaking volumes for his free spirit, optimism and entrepreneurship, he had zero skepticism toward the stigmas of network marketing. He also adds that his enthusiasm was high, but his ability was low.
His ability, however, was very high in understanding teamwork and being infinitely teachable. Since he was a child, Jefferson had always been a good athlete and, at times, a stellar athlete. Although he’d never been a part of a winning team on a grand scale, he notes with a bit of a retrospective chuckle that he was enrolled and played football at the U.S. Naval Academy during a year when they underperformed. The year after he left, the team won a bowl game. The same was to happen at Texas Christian University (TCU) under the coaching tutelage of Pat Sullivan. Once again, he played football and, once again, the team endured a lackluster record. Once again, the year after he left, TCU won a bowl game.
Most people would view that with discouragement, but Jefferson didn’t. What he learned from it was that it wasn’t enough to merely be a good athlete; the team had to excel at working together. “WorldVentures wouldn’t be here today if everyone didn’t do their part,” Jefferson says. “It’s the team. It’s each and every member of the team. But it’s also very much the team as a whole.”
SETTING THE STAGE
When Jefferson met WorldVentures founder, Wayne Nugent, he was badly in need of both a team and a mentor. At the age of 20, he had negative US$1,100 in his bank account and was US$70,000 in debt.
The question that bubbled to the surface was, “Could I be doing something way better than I am doing right now? Could I be a way better person? Could I be not just good but could I be great? So I knew I had to be better than my best. And I had to do better with each passing day than I did the day before.”
When he met Wayne, he was a sponge for learning; Jefferson’s task was to introduce as many people as possible to Wayne and expose them to his business. For Jefferson to get Wayne’s time, he had to put prospects in front of him to prove his value. His key to success in piquing the interest of his friends he wanted to introduce to Wayne, was to make it personal.
Wayne and Jefferson would hold court at a table in the back of one of their favorite Dallas sports bars. Jefferson would invite his friends to meet Wayne by telling them, “Wow, I’ve got someone I really want you to meet!” In other words, Jefferson would prime the conversation with his own enthusiasm and set the stage for Wayne to excite the prospects and customers, just as he’d been excited.
Just as Jefferson’s path to Wayne had been not-exactly-a-straight-line, their path to WorldVentures was not a point-A-to-point-B journey, either. Hence was born the phrase “saddle up,” which Wayne would excitedly spout before taking or testing a new direction.
Jefferson had grown up remembering things he’d heard that were hard to shake. “Money is hard to make! Money is hard to make!” said his mother. And he always figured that, indeed, it might be hard to make, but there had to be smarter ways to make it. His mother’s saying had inadvertently created an internal obstacle for him. He didn’t mind the hard work, but why was money hard to make?
Another seminal moment in Jefferson’s journey was reading Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” From that, he would learn simple Carnegie revelations that would lead to his own success. Simple edicts such as: speak with enthusiasm, really know what you’re talking about, get your body language into the game and never hold back on your ideas.
So when Wayne called Jefferson and once again uttered “saddle up,” and the new venture involved travel, Jefferson was already on board. Wayne’s presentation began with basic foundational ideas. “You believe in the unbridled power of network marketing and you absolutely love to travel. And when you travel, whom do you most want to travel with? Family and friends.” Boom, the idea was in its infancy, but poised to take off.
The genesis for DreamTrips was called Smart Travel. Over the next several years, Wayne would hone and perfect the impetus for what would become WorldVentures.
During that time, Jefferson would be facing some of his own personal challenges. He says, “There are three major changes a person can experience in their life and I had all three stressors simultaneously: changing jobs, moving and the end of a relationship.” Add to that, the first few iterations of Wayne’s travel network marketing and didn’t bear the fruits that were hoped for.
Eventually Wayne launched WorldVentures in 2005 with Jefferson as the very first member and zero funds in the startup bank account. “It was a really exciting and very scary time … all at the same time.”
“We’re gonna flop or we’re gonna fly, was what we said as we set sail,” remembers Jefferson. Through their collective hard work, however, the first several DreamTrips completely sold out. The very first one was a Royal Caribbean cruise that included a port of call to the private island of CocoCay in the Bahamas.
“I immediately fell in love with the whole team aspect of it. It looked like, felt like football,” says Jefferson. “My background has always been around teamwork. And Wayne was sort of like the big brother I never had. I purposely crawled under his wing so he could mentor me.”
FREEDOM RINGS TRUE
A big change that facilitated Jefferson’s success, not just in WorldVentures but in all his ventures, was when he realized that he needed to love people and use money. Not the other way around. “I needed to listen to people — a lost art. I needed to hear what people’s needs, strengths and goals were. And then find out what I have that can help them.”
What Jefferson and the team had that most people wanted was the freedom, which allows them to travel.
“Think about it. People work for 40 or 50 years to be able to do what? Travel. Until then, people work 50 weeks a year to travel two weeks. It doesn’t make sense,” he says. The cover article of Time magazine’s June 1, 2015, edition asked the question, “Who killed summer vacation?” The gist of the article is that Americans are taking less and less time to travel because they’re worried about who’s going to get ahead of them, and are concerned about money and time. It’s not a secret that America is the least traveled first-world country on the planet. And travel is a direct result of freedom.
Harkening back to his days as a football player, Jefferson says that many athletes who see the WorldVentures opportunity absolutely love it because it has a parallel. “Whether it’s high school, college, career or post professional, teams have an attraction to WorldVentures, because they see that camaraderie again that they missed,” he says. “It’s what they were missing once they gave up a team sport. It’s fighting together on the field, going after the enemy, going after the opposition, and that’s what we’re doing here. Except in this case, the enemy (if you were to call it that) is an average life or a mediocre life.”
While he never was on a winning college team, Jefferson notes that he’s now played on a much bigger field with a whole lot more wins. “As a college ball player I never got the beloved ‘bowl ring’ that every warm-blooded American male dreams of. But you know the cool thing? Because of WorldVentures, I’ve gotten many rings that mean so much more to me. The $100,000 ring, the $1 million-dollar ring, the IMD ring, and the beautiful thing is that along the way, I’ve helped a lot of people achieve their dreams. And so those rings mean a whole lot more to me than a bowl ring would have meant.”
He adds, “It means more because of all the presentations, all the meetings, all the no-shows, all the shows, all the yeses and noes; and seeing all the people win on the team has obviously been so much more meaningful now, than a football bowl ring would have meant then.”
Ask anyone who has been successful in WorldVentures — it’s even mentioned in most Voyager articles — that three of the most important components to being successful is taking full advantage of training, training and more training. Jefferson reinforces that by saying, “With our training you get access to the top million-dollar earners. It’s like training and personal development on steroids. Our training is unheard of.
The personal development of this training spills over into every other facet of a person’s life. Jefferson cites his own wife’s accomplishments beyond WorldVentures. Megan is an accomplished and immensely talented singer/songwriter with an EP (shorter version of an album or CD) on iTunes. She would not have even ventured into the professional music arena if it weren’t for the confidence, encouragement and friendships she gained in WorldVentures.
“We all have that self-doubt when we start out. But call it the ‘campfire effect’ of people saying ‘you can do it, you can do it,’” says Jefferson, and Megan agrees. It’s what makes her successful in WorldVentures; it’s what makes her successful in the music business.
But to understand WorldVentures, a person has to be WorldVentures. To be a part, you have to assume the DNA of the team, the training, the product, the events, the hanging out time, the history and especially the future.
So much of Jefferson’s DNA is “passing it along” to other members of the team, literally every member of the team. He reflects on his own struggles nearly a decade ago. “Teaching and training. I love it. It’s a responsibility to me. And I’m passionate about it. I want to shorten someone’s learning curve. If I can say something or shoot a video that shortens someone’s learning from six years to six months, or from six weeks to six minutes, I will continue to do that for the rest of my life. That’s part of my God-given purpose.”
As you might guess, Jefferson has one of the biggest and most successful teams in the company. So how does one do the same? “I believe leaders lead, people watch those leaders, people emulate,” he says.
“The founders and leaders of WorldVentures create an environment of greatness, not for egoist purposes but for servant-leader purposes. WorldVentures is a factory for greatness if you really want it. All in a service mentality.”
GOOD THINGS HAPPEN
“The next decade is going to be incredible,” Jefferson says of WorldVentures. “We all have our motivations — to be significant, to be remembered, to matter. To have meaning not just in our own lives but in other people’s lives, too.” To pull a quote from Jefferson’s best-selling book, “Higher Life,” (available on Amazon.com): “When going on a trip, take luggage, not baggage.” A saying which means to shed every ounce of unproductive thinking, negative reinforcement and traditional misconceptions.
As much as Jefferson is a leader and a teacher, he is also an avid student. He looks to — and steers others toward — thought leaders like Peter Diamandis, whose book, “Bold,” addresses the “six D’s of exponential growth,” forecasting growth in our economy and thinking at a lightning pace. Diamandis’ thinking is embraced by people like Jefferson as a way to harness and use 21st century tools to launch bold, hugely profitable and life-changing projects.
But it’s not just business leaders that Jefferson looks toward to navigate his life, but also those in the spiritual realm. He attended a business seminar years ago which had a spiritual bend. One of the spiritual advisors who spoke at the seminar brought to Jefferson’s attention what would instantly cause a shift in his attitude not just toward work and money, but more important, what to do with the money he makes.
“My whole life, I wanted to be successful because successful people make a lot of money, although everyone has a different measuring stick for success. But, according to recent studies, the church has lost its influence; the people who are influencing people now are celebrities and business leaders who make a lot of money,” says Jefferson. But what this Christian leader challenged him to do was to learn business skills so he could make money, be influential and do good things with his money. In short, she said, “When good people make money, good things happen.”
Jefferson continues, “I know it sounds cliché, but the woman told us to ‘let go and let God.’ It was a huge punch in the face because, up until that point, I had been trying to be the God of my life. At that moment I realized, now I have my true purpose. So I realized I have to go make money not for money’s sake, but to be of influence and do good things with what God is giving me. That caused something to click inside of me. My tone changed. I called all my team members from that seminar. And they were like, ‘something is different with you.’”
From that time on, for Jefferson, the convergence of faith and business would be inseparable. Jefferson realized that his goals and outlook had changed — if not 180 degrees, very close to it. He realized that goal was three things: income, influence and impact. He had to generate income for himself and the team, but he also had to influence the lives he touched and have an impact on the world at large. He wrapped his own arms around this new business mantra, and he encouraged his leaders at WorldVentures to do likewise. With a new battle cry, new goals and new faith, his business took off like a meteor.
“It’s crazy, but culture is everything. Culture trumps everything,” Jefferson says referring to the indescribable culture of WorldVentures. “The encouragement and instruction you get here is without parallel. You get everything you need to succeed. You just have to do the work.
“We’ve got other companies looking at WorldVentures, billion-dollar companies asking, ‘What are they doing?’ But it’s not just one thing, it’s multiple things. It’s like a cake mix. It’s everything that’s baked together.”
Jefferson continues, “For the first time in history, we’re going to be able to participate in exponential growth. Because of all these converging technologies and the smart people in WorldVentures, we’re positioned to make and be a part of history.”
Being an entrepreneur is a “life sentence.” But a very good life sentence. “It’s not for everyone. It’s not for the faint of heart. Entrepreneurship has you go face-to-face with yourself.” And for those with the heart to work with Jefferson, it’s time to “saddle up.”