Each week, #SpanningtheNeed will present an “Inspirational Person of the Week’ and have a “Q & A” with one of its many gifted individuals and/or groups who are willing to go out of their own way to help others. This week’s featured is Eric Thompson from Satolli Carpet & Flooring Covering in Warren, Ohio.
Name: Eric Thompson
Position: Owner of Satolli Carpet & Floor Covering | Owner/Performer at The Comedy & Magic of Eric Thompson
Thompson was born and raised in Warren, Ohio. After completing his high school education at Howland High School, Eric attended Youngstown State and Kent State Universities. While still a student, he began performing magic and sleight of hand at local bars and restaurants. At about that same time, he wrote a few jokes and worked on his delivery and presentation of stand-up comedy at Tickle’s Comedy Club in Warren on their weekly amateur nights. After winning several consecutive amateur night competitions, Eric was booked to be the opening act for several headlining comedians that were on their national tour.
Shortly thereafter—and after much encouragement from several well-known and highly regarded comedians—Eric combined his stand-up comedy act with his well-honed magic act. He refined and sharpened his talents at open mic auditions and amateur nights at comedy clubs in Pittsburgh, PA, Cleveland, and Akron, OH, and in the mid-1980s, Eric launched his entertainment career with a tour through more than eight states and Canada. He performed shows at colleges, comedy clubs, nightclubs, performing arts centers, corporate events, and private parties.
While traveling abroad many years ago, Eric recognized that many families, especially those with children, lacked necessities that we often take for granted in the United States. Hearing about the impoverished nations and seeing the suffering are two different perspectives.
The seed was planted when Eric thought about the people who were lacking consistently clean water, basic nutritional needs, and access to any medical treatment, schools, and jobs. He continued to search for a way to help when a long-time friend approached him offering a seat on a plane heading to meet a group of missionaries in Latin America. Eric jumped at the chance and the missionary director decided the best way to use Eric’s skills as an entertainer would be to organize shows in each of the many villages they would visit. The news of a professional American entertainer coming to perform for them brought out large crowds and anticipation in every village they visited.
What made you want to go into this field?
From a young age I learned to help others. Being raised in a church environment and in a society where my grandparents worked for a charitable organization that helped so many taught me that there was a real need for all of us to help others.
What is the biggest factor that has helped you to be successful?
I don’t give up easily. I was taught that if the first attempt doesn’t work and it’s important enough to accomplish, there are other routes to the same end. Keep trying, change strategies and never give up.
What is the biggest professional mistake you made along the way?
Trying to do too many things at once. After many years I finally understood how “good” can usually be the enemy of “great.” I know that accomplishing something to a good enough level and quitting could easily doom a project or effort that with just a little more determination and sweat it could have been a great realization or achievement. There are absolutely degrees of success. And the higher degrees of success are usually not much more difficult than finishing with an average level of success.
If you could start all over again, what would you do differently regarding your profession?
I would have started traveling the world at a far younger age. The knowledge and experience gained from immersing myself in foreign cultures and customs vastly different than my own has taught me more than any other lessons like humility, empathy, benevolence and compassion. Those traits along with learning that poverty and injustice are unfairly distributed in cultures around the world and across the united states. That children are often harmed and permanently scarred both physically and emotionally by the actions of greed and power-hungry governments is both unforgivable and unfathomable. I would also have more seriously applied myself to my education and earlier years in work. I was too often seeking fun and laughter at the expense of my grades and earning power.
What inspires you to do good in our community?
The feeling of unadulterated joy that comes from improving the circumstances in someone’s life is indescribable. The smile that comes as a break from poverty, suffering and oppression, even if just for a few minutes, is a ridiculously powerful tool to use for the betterment of humanity.
What song best describes you or is the soundtrack to your life?
Music plays such an important role in my life. There is always music playing and I attend so many live music performances that choosing one song that motivates me at every point in life is impossible. The variety of musical genres can alter moods from down to great with just a few bars. That said, a song that truly improves my mood and motivates me to improve is anything sung by my grandchildren. The innocence and unconditional love I share with my grandchildren is impossible to illustrate.
What is your best accomplishment/experience in life?
I have been so fortunate in life to have shared many experiences and accomplishments. From playing a pickup game of stickball in Cuba to baking bread with old women in a mountaintop village in Guatemala to performing in orphanages, hospitals and schools in the poorest most oppressed regions of the world, it’s impossible to choose just one or two “best” experiences. I have operated Satolli Carpet & Floor Covering for thirty years. That is an accomplishment, especially through economic downturns that have plagued our community over the last three decades from losing thousands of good paying jobs to factory closings, the drain of population as young people and families leave the area for better opportunities outside of northeast Ohio. The average income has fallen, the population has grown older, new construction has plummeted, and big box home improvement stores have invaded, yet Satolli Carpet & Floor Covering has survived by providing excellent service at fair prices. That said, the biggest accomplishments and experiences I hope have yet to be realized. I continue to work hard, travel and perform around the world seeking to bring joy and laughter to those who need it most.
Who is your role model and why?
There are so many, far too many to list without forgetting some. My grandfather taught me a lot about love and helping people. My mother was a nurse and she lived the attitude of helping to alleviate suffering in others. I saw that in her and her friends. I had teachers that changed my life. I had contemporaries that impacted my life’s path. I have close friends whom I admire so much and try to emulate. My children and grandchildren inspire me. There are well know people in business and entertainment that have had a huge impact on my life. I have been blessed with a myriad of inspirational and motivational people in my world.
Is there one person that you would like to meet, past or present, and why?
Just like the above answer, I don’t know where to begin listing the people with whom I would love to share a meal and from whom I would appreciate being able to absorb wisdom. From the determination and wisdom of some early settlers of North America, or the blind faith exhibited by characters of the Bible, or the expertise and fearlessness displayed by some of the most successful names in business and industry, or the drive and resolve and pure self-discipline of hyper-successful athletes, or entertainers who broke through the ceiling and competitive obstacles to rise to the top of their genres to become professionals in their fields and earn the respect and admiration of fans.
A favorite quote you live by?
There are many inspirational quotes that motivate many facets of life. A couple of my favorites are:
“I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man who produces the cloth shall starve in the process.”
“People are not ignoring you. They are busy with their own lives and the way to stop feeling ignored is to get busy with yours.”
“Rich people have small TVs and big libraries. Poor people have small libraries and big TVs.”
“If you don’t value your time, neither will others. Stop giving away your time and talents. Value what you know and charge for it.”
“Motivation will almost always beat mere talent.”
“Amateurs built the Ark. Professionals built the Titanic. Don’t be afraid to do something you are not qualified to do. Embrace the ability to take risks.”
“If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.”
“Talk about your blessings more than you talk about your problems.”
“It’s not the employer who pays the wage. Employers merely handle the money. It’s the customer who pays the wage.”
“Everything will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.”