I’m not saying Santa Claus isn’t real. Wouldn’t dare. I love the big fellow as much as the next guy. In fact, if my rabbi hadn’t ruled it out when I was a kid, I would have climbed gleefully aboard his lap. What I am saying is that Santa’s belly, the one belonging to Ashland’s unofficial Santa, is, for the most part, fake. And Ed Taylor, who “becomes” Santa on behalf of the Ashland Chamber of Commerce and other groups, couldn’t be jollier.
Going into the last holiday season—his seventh—Taylor, 56, had lost about 120 pounds. Impressive, huh? But this column isn’t a weight-loss success story. And it’s not about Santa Claus. It’s about a good and gracious guy—and a consummate salesman—who’s tapping his skills as an Internet marketing consultant and speaker to share the simple secrets he uncloaked on the way to semi-“sveltehood.”
For more than a while now, Taylor has measured his success by the bottom-lines of the clients he’s counseled. (www.edtaylor.com) With his new venture, showing the way to a “spiritual awakening,” success may not be as easy to quantify, but Taylor expects it to be soulfully satisfying. The foundational “concept,” says Taylor, relates to how spiritual beliefs affect our thoughts and how those thoughts affect our actions and outcomes. In other words, change a belief and you’ll change the results.
For that, Taylor’s the poster boy. “In my case, I realized I had disempowering beliefs about food. For instance, because I was successful, I felt I was entitled to eat what I wanted when I wanted.” Doing a literal gut-check as well as a reality check—he saw a 325-pound man with sleep apnea, whose only exercise was walking through airports—Taylor began to ask himself the hard questions: “Is it true? Can I really eat anything I want [without detrimental consequences]?”
But reaching a logical conclusion wasn’t enough. Previous weight-loss programs hadn’t worked. And even his public pronouncement at a Chamber of Commerce meeting that he would drop 100 pounds in a year didn’t begin to pay off.
Nothing changed, says Taylor, until he opened himself to the validity of the spiritual and psychic encounters his wife and daughter had been having. Raised in a devoutly agnostic family, going even that far was a stretch. Still, once he began swimming in the waters of spirituality, he wondering whether the idea that “the body is your temple really is a divinely inspired message?” If that’s true and it’s also true that we’re on a spiritual journey, says Taylor, “we owe it to that journey to make this vessel as healthy as can be.”
The result of acting congruently with that belief, says Taylor, was the need to purchase a Santa belly for padding. (By the way, as anyone who knows Taylor can attest, there’s nothing fake about the beard he begins to grow out in earnest before the spring thaw.)
For Taylor, making the radical shift in beliefs was the hard part. As a lifelong salesman, pitching the concept to others is likely to be far easier.
A Southern California kid who’d moved with his young wife to Eugene, Ore. after a brief stint as a commercial fisherman in Newport, Taylor was seduced by a mysterious ad that said only, “Earn While You Learn.” When the “slick guy” interviewing him revealed that that the job entailed selling cemetery “property,” Taylor recoiled, expressing his uncertainty. In fact, he probably would have hurled himself through the exit door if not for the man’s response. ‘You couldn’t make it in this field anyway,’ he told Taylor
Taylor concedes he was goaded by the challenge. “Bottom line is that I found myself talking the guy into hiring me to sell cemetery plots.”
While he confides that “something rubbed me wrong” about the industry, Taylor stuck with it until his Dad, who had founded the Help-u-Sell real estate franchise business, convinced him to come back to California and work with him.
After motivational speaker Tony Robbins spoke at a Help-u-Sell convention in the early ‘80s, Taylor, already finding his niche as a marketing maven, was hired to help him grow his company. Unable to find a telemarketing outfit that was tooled to aggressively promote Robbins’ seminars nationally, Taylor created the sales infrastructure and developed the strategy. Success bred success, and Taylor’s clientele of motivational and inspirational speakers—including Depok Chopra—grew.
Always on the look-out for “the next hot client,” Taylor tracked the trends. So, by the mid ‘90s, when the Internet became “a thing,” he mined the “talent” in Silicone Valley. Only one problem: “While the speakers were incredibly interesting to me,” says Taylor, “many of them would put our audiences to sleep.”
That problem begged a solution. Taylor not only came up with one, but found himself tapping the knowledge he’d gleaned from the tech-savvy speakers in his stable to start a new business. Marketing himself on an Internet that was in its infancy—no web site, no email—he employed “news groups” to market a training program for informational speakers, funneling prospects through 800-numbers.
Though he, himself, had never been a speaker, Taylor began taking his own “show” on the road in the mid-90s, showing seminar students how to leverage the emerging Internet opportunities to help their business grow. At the peak, he found himself doing more than a 100 seminars and webinars a year.
These days, at least when he isn’t grooming his beard for Christmas—it overfills his Facebook picture—Taylor’s still at it, working with clients to help them keep ahead of the Internet marketing curve. In fact, if I can get my rabbi to look away, I might just land on Santa’s lap and threaten to stay there until he gives me the secret to optimizing traffic on my web site.
Santa Ed makes his debut this season on Nov. 26 at 5 p.m. in the Ashland “Festival of Light,” joining Mrs. Claus at the Black Swan Theatre to meet with children from 6:45 p.m. to 8 p.m. Through the season, he’ll be on hand each Saturday for free Pictures with Santa from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the OSF office at East Main and Pioneer.
Alan “Rosey” Rosenberg can be reached at (541)778-8949 or email@example.com