Early on in my “career”, opportunities to own my own business passed me by more times than I care to discuss.
The opportunity to advance, to grow, to have things come together… I passed a bunch of those by also. I was like the dude standing on the roof waiting for the helicopter and not jumping in row-boat after row-boat cause I was too stupid to realize that opportunity rarely looks like you expect.
I was spending all my time getting ready… I had decided on what university degree I had to have, I thought if I had the right classes under my belt or had this much money in the bank or was at this particular place in my life then I’d be “ready”.
I found lots of people who were in business, growing companies, making things happen. I thought if I just hung with them they’d present me an opportunity when the time was right. Turns out that’s partially true– hanging with winners doesn’t hurt but it’s also not a free pass.
Then, when I actually was presented the chance, I needed $120,000 bucks to make it happen and I had a maxed out Visa, a new baby and an old blue Buick with a bench seat that we named SOB ( slide over baby ). I spent months going from bank to bank, friend to friend, eventually cold calling people I didn’t even know but was desperate to convince someone to support my vision.
I didn’t notice I was 20 years old and naïve as they come but everyone else did. Looking back, I can’t believe the guts I had… ignorance really is bliss, I’m living proof. I became blinded by my passion and commitment to a dream and I’m still often plagued by this.
I was rejected so many times, in so many ways that it hardened me. I don’t know how I kept going but I did and the rejection was in a way fuel… I remember thinking that I was creating a story I would tell someday and here I am doing just that.
After I’d totally given up, which I often did until a good night sleep would have me pounding the pavement again, my phone rang twice in the same day.
The first was a private investor who said if I could come up with half the money, he’d match it.
He might as well have asked me to jump over the moon.
Then, the phone rang again and it was my local bank. The banker had known me since I was a little kid ( although looking back I still was ) working in the local video store and she said she’d never met somebody with so much passion, commitment and focus. I wasn’t surprised by her discription of me….. That was my entire sales pitch… it was what I was banking on, literally. Every time I got in front of someone I would say “Listen, I’m your collateral.. that’s it. My drive, my desire, my absolute knowing I can do this, that’s what you can be sure about”.
I told people I was born to do this and you know what? I was. But I needed people to believe in me to get started.
The banker lady told me she’d met with her people and was sorry, however she could only offer me half of what she thought I needed… I would need to find a private investor or simply save up the money for the rest. This too would have been like asking me to jump over the moon had I not received the other call an hour earlier literally providing exactly what she was asking me for.
Within 3 days I was sitting at her desk signing my name more time than I’d ever signed in my entire life to that point combined. When I got to the last page she pulled the paper back and stopped me to have a “mom” talk. I was younger than her oldest kid.
I’ve written her since to tell her how much she changed my life that day. She changed it not just because she took a financial risk on me ( which, for the record, I paid off in less than a year and it was a 15 year loan ) but also because of what she taught me in that moment.
When she pulled the paper away she said, “before we continue, you need to listen to me about two things”:
1. Be grateful. Lots of people got you here to this moment and you better be grateful now and forever. The moment you stop, you’ve failed.
2. You must do your own work; those who have reached success will only show the way but you alone must do the work.
I believed her and did exactly as she said and I’m still doing the work and I’m still really grateful.
Now, a bunch of businesses later I have a simple motto I live and operate by and it’s in large measure because of her:
Work Hard. Tell the Truth. Love the People.