chart your path

January 28, 2019

I came up through the school of hard knocks. Literally.

While I was going to college, I sold books door to door for Southwestern, a producer of educational books. I knocked on so many doors I thought my knuckles would break, and had many of those doors slammed in
my face.

After eleven years as a sales manager for Southwestern, I started my own bookselling business, which I eventually sold to Thomas Nelson, the largest producer of Bibles in the United States. The same attitude that enabled me to persist in the face of rejection when selling books stood me in good stead later in my career, when I became a top-producing commodities broker.

01 every time a door closes in your life, another one opens

We are all born with unique attributes and talents. Unfortunately, most people never experience the exhilaration of discovering and using them to the fullest. As a result, they end up stuck in dead-end jobs, which they justify by telling themselves they have to do it to make ends meet. I have coined a term to describe this situation—domestic entrapment.

My dad was an intelligent, hard-working man, but he went into a profession—engineering—that he hated. When I asked him why he stayed, he said he had a family to support and bills to pay. I was determined to follow a different path for myself.

My first job required focus and commitment and overcoming limitations. It also introduced me to rejection. I learned how to work and deal with people, which is the most important attribute in anybody’s success story.

After I sold my book business, I started buying and selling real estate. But when the real estate bubble burst in the 1980s, I found myself stuck with worthless properties and had to file for bankruptcy. But as the legendary motivational speaker Zig Ziglar says, “Failure is a detour, not a dead-end street.”

02 if you merge two interests that you know a lot about, you are moving in the right direction

After failing in real estate, I took stock of where I had been and where I wanted to go. My dad had developed an interest in charting prices of commodities like corn and soybeans, and taught me how to do this when I was a kid, and I enjoyed it. I asked myself: What field could I enter that would utilize both the experience from the book selling business and my love of charting commodities prices?

That led me to become a commodities broker in 1988 for Merrill Lynch for two years, and then with Shearson Lehman Brothers, where I was the number two producer out of 12,200 brokers worldwide. After two years, I left to join Prudential, where I was equally successful. I left Prudential in 1997 to start my own company, which I sold to a hedge fund in 2013.

Had I not failed in real estate, I would not have been given the time or freedom to go into the commodities business. And that misfortune became a very fortunate thing.

03 regardless of the job or business, if it is your passion, you will create ways to become successful and develop concepts that have never been thought of before

One of my mentors, Mort Utley, once said to me, “If you ever find a job or a career that you love so much that you’d do it for nothing, but that you do it so well that people want to pay you to do it, you’ve found your niche in life.” And very few people find their niche in life. If you pursue your passion, then you will love it so much that you will create and come up with insights that have never been done before.

While I was a commodities broker, I developed a new way for people to invest in commodities. Rather than use cash as collateral, they could use stocks they already owned. This enabled them to enjoy the returns from both the stock and the commodities at the same time.

I did well in commissions because I figured out the concept of putting up stock instead of cash. I could not have made that much as a broker if I just had clients putting up cash.

I never signed up thinking I would do collateral of stocks in this way. This is something I came up with because I was in a business that I loved so much I would do it for nothing. That is the key. You have to find your passion and that exhilarating feeling.

04 you will have everything in life you want if you just help enough other people get what they want

How do you know when you have found your passion? You will know it when you find something that is not only satisfying to you, but that helps enrich the lives
of others.

What you want to do and what you accomplish are central to your well-being. However, there is another aspect of success, an additional secret that you should never forget. My enthusiasm for investing coupled with my ability to connect with people’s needs persuaded people to trust me with their money, which enabled me to build my portfolio and reap the monetary rewards.

Doctors might study medicine because they want to find a cure for a certain illness. Their commitment not only increases quality of life but also may lead to other discoveries. This will lead to more funding for research and a more rewarding career.

Cavett Robert, a noted motivational speaker, has said that everyone has an invisible sign on his or her back that says, “Make me feel important.” This means that attention must be paid to what people need, whether they are standing in front of you, speaking to you on the phone, or communicating via computer. The message, not the delivery system, is the part on which you need to concentrate.

05 do not let the challenge overtake you. Instead, overtake the challenge

When you look in the mirror, you need to like what you see. What you should see is a person who is capable of achieving. All of us are capable of achieving more.

Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” It is human nature to underestimate our own abilities. If you think of yourself as a winner, then that is what you will become.

But you first have to rid yourself of all the negative thinking that gets transferred to us from an early age in the form of criticism by well-meaning but misguided parents and teachers. These messages instill feelings of negative self-worth by comparing us to others, when what they should be doing is trying to bring out our best qualities.

There is a famous saying: “The only chains are those we forge ourselves in the fires of doubt and hammer on the anvils of lack of belief.”

A positive self-image allows you to create a plan for your life, secure in the knowledge that even if the plan goes awry, your internal compass will always be there to get you back on track.

You should be telling yourself, “I am a unique individual, with unique talents and abilities.” Do not judge success by what others accomplish, but by your own accomplishments, however insignificant they may seem. The outward signs of success—money, prestige, fame—may or may not come your way, but if you find and stick to your goals, you will have a better chance of achieving success.