Recently, I’ve been asking myself how I ended up in the personal development industry. I’ve been examining the fabric of my memories, following this tightly woven thread back through time, and carefully loosening the stitches. This is what I've found:
I didn’t get to see too much of my father when I was little boy. My parents were happily married and there was no lack of love for either myself or my sister; he was just working most of the time. See, at 25, my dad had a pretty good life. He was wrapping up his last couple semesters at Kent State University, he’d just scored himself a beautiful young bride, and he had two wonderful and caring parents…that is until he got the phone call that no one ever wants to receive, his father had a completely unexpected heart attack and did not survive.
My grandfather, whom I never had the opportunity to meet, was a pretty cool cat as far as I’m told. Besides being a snappy dresser, a holder of sage wisdom and earning the love of everyone he ever met, children and adults alike; he owned and ran a fur and suede cleaning business in Cleveland, Ohio. It did well enough to keep food on the table, but from what I gather it was mostly a struggle. When he passed, all the responsibility of that struggling business fell squarely on my father’s shoulders. Faced with the harsh reality of a life without his beloved father, a new wife, a widowed mother and a business that he knew nothing about, he did what the pillars of families have been doing since the beginning of time…he did what he had to do. He put all selfish desires aside, picked up everyone and everything, dealt with the grief the best he could and diligently did his familial duty.
He kept a hammer in the company van with him at all times because said van was known to stall at red lights. He’d have to crawl under the engine and give it a good whack to get the old van humming again. Twelve to sixteen hour days, often seven days a week, was the norm, but Saturdays were our days. I’d pack up my legos and GI Joes and we’d drive downtown together to “the plant.” As he was usually out the door before I woke up in the mornings and home long after I’d been put down to bed, this was our only real time together; and I cherished this time.
Besides that one awkward morning where Dad decided that it was about time I’d learned about the birds and the bees, my other strongest memories of those Saturday morning drives were listening to an oddly powerful voice with a distinct southern twang. That voice belonged to the one and only Zig Ziglar, a true pioneer in the personal development industry.
My father had dreams. He had no interest in running a fur and suede cleaning business the rest of his life. The North Coast Fur Service was a duty, an obligation to his passed father and a total headache, not at all his calling. Not only did this company barely make ends meet, it kept him from his family who he so adored. No, he knew there was a better way, that he was capable of so much more.
This was the mid 1980’s and my father was a bit of a tech geek. He was endlessly fascinated by computers, so he wisely invested in his future and bought himself a Compaq, one of the very first portable personal computers, and began to teach himself how to write code and program this new and captivating piece of machinery. I don’t know how many of you remember these old computers, but this thing was a behemoth. It was basically a giant suitcase and when placed on its side, you’d remove the bottom panel to reveal a keyboard, a couple 5 1/4 inch floppy disc drives and a tiny 6x6 inch black screen that displayed in green…that’s it…just green. The majority of his free time was spent hammering away at this dinosaur because he knew that it was his ticket out of the fur industry and into a better life for his family. He knew this with all his heart and soul, but his mind would take some convincing. So his commutes down to the plant every day were spent listening to the motivational words of Zig Ziglar.
Would he have made the leap of faith from a solid but challenging business to a yet unproven, intangible industry without having a guy like Zig in his corner? I certainly have trust in my father’s entrepreneurial spirit, but I have far more trust in his abiding love and dedication to his family. Risk gets riskier when there’s more than just yourself to consider. But Dad bit the proverbial bullet and began to sell his services as a database application developer. Within a couple of years, the fur cleaning plant was shut down and he was working every day out of a little corner in the family room. Not only was he able to find a way to create a more lucrative niche for himself doing something he was passionate about, he could work from home and not miss another day of his children’s formative years.
I can’t say for certain how much Zig Ziglar’s tapes had to do with this massively positive shift in quality of life, but I know it played a part. I know those words of Zig’s kept pushing my father along when the times got tough and doubt reared its ugly little head. I know that over the years when I’d call Dad for advice he’d often use Zig’s metaphors to push me along and guide my process.
If I’m looking for a reason as to why I’ve chosen the personal development industry, perhaps this is it: gratitude. I’m grateful for my father’s courage to think outside the box and follow his dream. I’m grateful for all the help with my homework, the daily encouragement, and the on-demand advice. I’m grateful for the pop-up camper and all the family vacations that his new career afforded. Mostly, I’m grateful to have been blessed with the opportunity to grow up with my father, the greatest man I’ve ever known, right there with me, every step of the way.
I had an idyllic childhood and I believe that I have the personal development industry to, at least partially, thank for that. So it’s my turn, now, to give back and help others transform their lives, to start living their dreams and to be a reflection of the true greatness that we are all capable of.