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An Attitude of Gratitude


I turned my law school hobby into my first big business success, but only seven years later I had turned what once was the largest company in its industry into a total disaster. I was the typical entrepreneur: excited and motivated about building a business, but bored and ill-equipped to maintain it once it became established.

I’ve turned that failure into many, many success, reminding myself and teaching others how to stay away from the pitfalls all startup-minded entrepreneurs face.

Nevertheless, at the time that business was spiraling into oblivion, my life became a complete mess. Not only did I lose my employees, equipment and customers, but almost all of my personal belongings went with it.

No more Porsche, no more condo in the city, no more house on the lake, no more extravagant trips, no more wild nights on the town, no more money in the bank, no more six-figure lines of credit.

And, as a result, no more self-confidence.

I retreated into a cocoon of self-pity, hiding from friends and family, ashamed of how badly I had hurt myself, my employees, my customers, my suppliers, and everyone else who had put their trust in me.

I felt that no company would give me a chance to hold a position of any responsibility, and since it was the height of the Carter Recession, I knew that no bank was going to extend me capital to start up another company.

Penniless and homeless, I bounced around from friends’ floors and couches to weekly-rent boarding house rooms, wondering what the future held in store for me.

Fed up after a few weeks at a boiler room telemarketing job, I opened the paper and answered a Help Wanted ad for “Management Training”, one that promised training in all areas of a business, from sales to warehousing to accounting to management. Anyone who’s ever answered one of those vague, blind ads knows what the ad was really for: door-to-door sales.

Thanks to my stubborn determination, I refused to quit – even though I was horrible at persuading anyone of anything, and despite dreadful working conditions and unbelievably long hours (nine years later, I was still building door-to-door sales businesses, training sales reps and spending a considerable amount of time “in the field” myself).

But it was during those early, trying days when it seemed that I couldn’t sell ice water to an overheated desert wanderer if he dropped to his knees and begged me to that I became a devoted fan of Zig Ziglar, the consummate door-to-door salesman-turned-motivational author and speaker.

I read Zig’s books and listened to his cassette tapes over and over until I wore them out, falling in love with his positive outlook and many memorable “Zig-isms.”

One quote of his has stuck with me, deep in my heart, ever since I first heard it:

The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more you will have to express gratitude for.

In his book, Better Than Good, Zig went on to say: “There are people today who, instead of being thankful for the medicine that will make them better, complain about the taste. But not passionate people who have an attitude of gratitude. …They take nothing for granted and give thanks for everything.”

That’s certainly the case throughout the United States today, where millions of people are refusing to work jobs that they feel are beneath them, complaining about how difficult and unfair their lives are instead of getting to work creating value for society, which would in turn bring them the freedom and wealth they outwardly protest against, but inwardly crave.

As I sit down to Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, I’ll be thankful for my beautiful wife Michele, our crazy, rambunctious cocker spaniel Emanuel, parents who set strong examples, cared for me and helped make me who I am today, and loving in-laws with hearts as big as the moon.

I’ll be grateful for great friends, mentors, coaches and partners, readers, fans, followers, members and some of the greatest clients anyone could ever hope for.

I’ll feel blessed for the liberty that comes from living in the greatest country in the world, the self-sufficient lifestyle I’ve built for myself, the freedom to work only with clients and on projects that interest me, my extremely short “commute” to work and all the time I get to spend doing what I like with those I love.

But I’ll also be thankful for the trials and troubles that helped make me the experienced, capable, highly-skilled and successful business coach and consultant that I am today, including flunking the Bar Exam, running my first major business success into the ground, getting evicted, being homeless and penniless, and too many more false starts and failures than I care to remember.

And if you’re still reading this, on the day before a major holiday, then I want to let you know that I don’t take your loyal readership for granted.

Thank you for helping me live the life of my dreams. In return, I’ll keep working to help you live yours.

Happy Thanksgiving!

4 Responses to An Attitude of Gratitude

  1. Claude Whitacre Reply

    November 23, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Steve; It was interesting to hear about your earlier crash in business. Like all real entrepreneurs, you dusted yourself off and proved yourself again. Speaking for you in Chicago was a real treat, and I saw a professional organization put on a heck of a show.
    Your wife Michele is a real treasure. Have a happy Thanksgiving.

  2. Rudy Espinosa Reply

    November 23, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Thanks Steve!

    Thanks for sharing your story and as others have stated here, thanks for reminding that we ALL have much to be thankful for.

    You lead by example and I hope to meet you soon!
    Have a great Thanksgiving with your family!


  3. Brian Daly Reply

    November 25, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Hi Steve,

    I’m encouraged to continue my season of gratitude with 28 more days giving thanks.
    Excited to see what I am able to create with being in thankfulness.

    A gift for your readers. I recently received an Zig interview (with the rights to share it) of his experience and testimony of his faith. If any of Steve’s readers would like me to send it to you please just email me at the address above.

    In thanks,

  4. Janet Green Reply

    November 27, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    You are right, Steve. This message still holds true today, just as it did when you wrote it two years ago. Great use of re-purposing too!

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