Finally at wits-end, I mustered the courage to talk to our family doctor. We went to church together and I felt at least I could trust him for a straight, confidential answer. From my perspective, he had a pretty sweet life; a cute wife, nice home, fancy cars and made a lot of money, etc. I stopped him in the hallway and asked if he had a few minutes to answer some questions. He graciously agreed. I stammered at first, “I’m not sure how to begin, but my life is sort-of falling apart and you seem to have a really nice life--how did you do that?” I will forever remember the shocked look on his face as the question caught him completely by surprise and he shifted uncomfortably in his chair. I could visibly see him grasping for some sort of adequate response.
I don’t remember his exact words, but the ideas burned holes through my mind like a red-hot branding-iron through a canvas ground cloth, “Eldon, I think you are seeing things from a faulty perspective. I do make reasonable money, but my life is not peaches and cream like you make it sound. Let me tell you about the other side of my coin. My family life is o.k., but we have plenty of problems and places to improve. My expenses are astronomical. My wife and kids usually take vacations without me. I work extraordinarily long hours and I feel more like a slave than the owner to my practice. You’ve probably noticed I don’t participate in many extra-curricular activities either…”
He continued, “as far as how I got started, my parents pushed me pretty hard through high school, I went to college for an additional 14 years during which time I got married and had 3 kids. My family and I had significant financial problems though that time and by the time I graduated I was so far in debt, I was terrified about paying it back.
Once I finally finished my internship, it took a lot of courage and talking to convince my parents to put a second mortgage on the home they had worked for all their lives. It was almost paid off and I felt very guilty about even asking. Then I found out that the most they could get was $65,000.00.
Not only did I not think it was not enough but it also to added that much more to my already overwhelming school debt. I started with as little money as I could and a lot of prayers that enough people would actually walk through my door and enable me to pay it back! Things are certainly better now, but things are still pretty stressful, especially the liability factor…”
Now, I was shifting uncomfortably in my chair with a shocked look on my face. I didn’t know what to say. I was more confused than before. I thanked him for his time but returned home with an even more anxious feeling in my heart and a knot in my stomach—seemingly further from any kind of answer than I started. For the next couple of weeks I couldn’t get his words out of my mind. At first I was sympathetic but soon began to get a little angry. I decided to go see an attorney acquaintance in the neighboring town.
After a very short conversation, he told me that he was an attorney only because his father was an attorney and his grandfather before that had started their little business. He said, that shortly after high school, he went to college for another 7 years, passed the bar and then went directly to work in his grandfathers and fathers business. He said “I never really thought seriously about doing anything else. It was the only thing my family ever talked about as far as my livelihood.”I started to think to myself, “I never had those kinds of opportunities—especially built in. I grew up on my parent’s dairy farm where we milked 80 to 100 head of Jersey cows, bottled and sold our own raw milk. When I was about 12, they sold the dairy and moved to a smaller farm in another town about 150 miles away. There my dad opened a small custom cabinet shop. I finished my school years and into my adulthood, mostly building cabinets and working construction jobs.
My parents pushed me to learn life lessons about being honest, working hard and being kind to others but never really pushed me for school work. I naturally took that to the extreme and flunked out of Jr. High school. I did graduate from high school however; it was in that about 5% of my class that made to top 95% possible. Likely even then only because it was the best bet my principle and teachers had to never have to deal with me again. After all, I never did homework; by the time I was 35 years old, I had only read about 10 books in my entire life—and most of those were written by Dr. Seuss.
I was offered a college scholarship for wrestling, but couldn’t stand the thought of more schooling, so I passed. Everyone thought I was crazy and though wrestling was the only part of school I ever enjoyed, I would have rather been bucked off of my horse and run over by a herd of stampeding cows than go back to school.
Deep down inside however, there was a lot more going on. I didn’t even let myself understand that I was completely convinced that college would only be a major failure so, subconsciously I kept myself far enough away from it through excuses and justifications, so that it never became a realistic option.
So, here I was 34 years old, a wife and 2 kids, frustrated and confused. Should I go back to school? I entertained the thought on many occasions, but something inside me told me I shouldn’t. I believed there was a better solution and I had a strong feeling that somewhere, somehow I would recognize it when I heard it.
For the next year I talked with many more people; church leaders, corporate leaders, small business owners, college counselors, a psychologist, etc. etc. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but the more I heard about college and careers, or that I should just be happy with what I had, the angrier and more determined I became to find a better solution.
Almost exactly one year from the day I spoke with my family doctor, I had become so frustrated and angry and seemingly no closer to solving any of my problems, that I felt like I was ready to literally explode. I was awake about 2:00 in the morning with insomnia, trying to find a movie on television to calm my nerves and my mind. There seemed to be nothing worth watching which just added to my frustration.
As I surfed through the 40+ channels from the satellite, an infomercial came by. Immediately as it appeared on the screen, I heard a gentle but powerful voice, as clear as can be, say, “watch this guy”! It startled me at first but I shook my head and continued surfing.
The moment that infomercial came back around, the same voice again said; “watch this guy”! I started to argue that I hated infomercials and I wasn’t going to watch such stupid things. A few more times the voice gently but authoritatively said “watch this guy”! Finally, almost out of exasperation I relented “OK, OK, I’ll watch him (there obviously isn’t anything else on worth watching)!”
For the following 30 minutes or so, I became intrigued with what “this guy” said. His name was (still is) Robert G. Allen. I had never heard of him before but he was talking about real estate investment and had a few other people with him on his program who had studied his course. They didn’t look any smarter than me and seemed to have changed their lives for the better (at least financially) so I decided to order his book.
Mind you, this was virtually the first book I had ever purchased, with the actual intent to read, in my entire life. When it came, I started reading. I will remember forever the feeling that he was talking directly to me. “Eldon”, I could hear him say, “I can teach you all the techniques and help you develop the skills to be a successful real estate investor, but it won’t do you any good until you handle some deeper issues about yourself first...”
“You see, Eldon, everything in your life is the way it is, because, for whatever reason, you feel like that is where you deserve to be. You need to get straight with who you really are and the real purpose of your life—and begin to feel worthy to live at a higher level before you can ever leave where you are and get to where you’d rather be…”
Then he said that he was an expert in real estate but not personal development. However, he had traveled the world, and come to know the best and brightest personal development minds on earth. He explained how they were his mentors and he had put together a set of cassette tapes, especially for me and here is a toll-free phone number to order them.”
I had never heard anyone talk like that in my whole life and yet it had such a familiar ring. I believed him and so I ordered the tapes. When they arrived, I looked through them. There were 12 of the world’s leading authorities on personal and professional development. Other than the name Earl Nightingale, I had never heard of any of these people before.
I picked out one that sounded interesting and plugged it in. I was not prepared for what happened next. It was Denis Waitley’s Seeds of Greatness and the most captivating talk I had ever heard in my entire life. He had the exact message I’d been trying to find for over a year. I listened over and over again. I started writing down his ideas and discovered realistic approaches to virtually every question I had been asking—and more.
I started learning about the importance of and how to appreciate who I was, accept full accountability and responsibility for myself and my own life, make sure I decided where I wanted to go, realize that nothing could stop me if I listened to and followed the right people, that even when times get tough, to never give up because, one way or another, there is always a way, make sure I had a firm resolve and full expectation to make it happen, etc.
I was hooked. I listened to all those tapes, over and over and over again. I started ordering more tapes, then I discovered something that I had never understood before, I’m going to share it with you because it completely changed my life. This was an amazing discovery to me. In the neighboring town there was this thing called a library. I’m not sure I had ever seen the inside of a public library before and I certainly had no idea whatsoever that it actually contained books by the same authors as the ones I had been listening too.
The only books I ever heard of, especially those that came from the library, were ridiculous fantasy love and crime stories and I couldn’t imagine wasting so much of my precious time reading such pathetic things. If I wanted a break, I rather watch a movie or spend a little time with the family and then go back to work. This was the first time in my life that I had any incentive to read and overnight, I became completely addicted to studying personal and professional development.
I was either listening to tapes and/or reading a book everywhere I went. I purchased a stereo system for my shop and listened to tapes literally all day long as I worked. I went to bed listening to tapes, took showers, ate my meals, worked in my shop and drove listening to tapes, reading books and taking notes.
Almost like magic, small things began to change, I was happy almost always—except when someone tried to shut off my tapes or interrupt my reading and then I instantly transformed into something that resembled a mountain lion when some other animal was threatening her cubs. I started looking forward to the future. For the first time in my life, I began making plans and dreaming about things that I never thought possible before.
I started sharing what I was learning with other people and they started looking at me like I had “gone off my rocker” and become an eccentric—and I was—and I liked it! I began studying people like Jesus, Buddha, Confucius, Aristotle, King Solomon, Ancient prophets and wise men of the ages, Americas founding Fathers, Sir Isaac Newton, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Albert Einstein, William James, James Allen, Wallace Wattles, Jay Paul Getty, Helen Keller, Sam Walton, Denis Waitley, Paul Zane Pilzar, M. Scott Peck, Robert Kiyosaki, and far too many more to list.
Eventually, my wife started liking me better, my kids started to initiate conversations with me. I’m not telling you that everything changed all of a sudden, but little by little; even imperceptible changes, but cumulatively they began to catapult me forward in quantum leaps of growth in my own self value which inadvertently began quantum leaps in virtually every other area of my life.
The more I studied and practiced what I was learning, the more I began to realize that education was something entirely different than schooling, this was real learning, not just amassing information. I began adopting the mindsets and perspectives of these brilliant thinkers and literally employed them as my personal mentors. I deliberately sought them out for deeper understanding and better solutions and my life began to reflect their kinds of results.
I began to realize that this approach to learning had taught me something that all the schooling in the world could never have done. Things like the intrinsic value of universal laws and principles and specifically how they applied to the unique circumstances in my life.
I saw more and more that these elite human beings think completely different than the masses. They have been the most unconventional thinkers of all time—that’s why they are the elite… Not that they just thought differently, but that their thoughts were aligned with reality and instead of illusion and their results proved it, without question.