A Column of personal opinion by John Rinaldi, Founder and Owner of Real Time Automation.
I have three amazing stories that I am absolutely compelled to tell. They’re stories of professional disgrace, bone chilling personal heartbreak, and utter and complete defeat followed by resurrection, redemption and ultimately, success and happiness.
We all know famous stories. Famous people doing famous things. There’s the story of Kurt Warner, former quarterback of the St. Louis Rams. Kurt was undrafted after college. Not a single NFL team wanted him. With no NFL prospects, he took a job bagging groceries for just $5.50 per hour. From there he won a spot on an Arena Team. That eventually led him to the NFL and two Super Bowls, both which he not only won but took home the MVP award.
And, of course, you can’t talk about failure and redemption without mentioning Ulysses S. Grant or Abraham Lincoln. After West Point, Grant suffered from a tremendous loneliness at his exceedingly secluded post in the new Oregon Territory. He left the army and then failed in a number of businesses before eventually rejoining the army and leading the North to Victory. And Lincoln? Lincoln utterly failed at two businesses, lost a bid for Congress, lost twice for Senate, and lost a vice-presidential bid. He should have given up. But he didn’t.
“Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.”
It’s fine to look at these famous figures from the past, but today I am going to tell you three stories of three ordinary men whose stories have that same kind of impact. Stories that illustrate exactly the kind of mindset you need to deal with tragedy, overcome impossible heartbreak and deal with personal and professional adversity.
The first story is of Tim, a guy with a pretty colorful story involving professional gambling, heavy drinking, guns, hookers, strippers, scams, and swindles before realizing he’d never see thirty with that lifestyle. For a time he owned a car dealership with up to three hundred cars on his lot - and a pretty big monthly bill for financing that inventory.
One day, his partner emptied their joint bank account and high tailed it to Mexico. He left Tim with misery, bankruptcy, and near divorce.
Tim lived with attorneys hounding him day and night. Every day he worked two full time jobs – one for income and one cleaning up the mess. And little by little he succeeded. One day with no letters from attorneys. A little later two days. Then a week. Now he’s not only restored his professional standing, his career, and his income, he has a patent on one of the most exciting new technologies I’ve ever encountered.
The second story, of my friend Kyle, is more of a personal nature. At just thirty three years old, Kyle found himself shaken to his core with not one but two divorces and two very messy splits with two successive business partners. The second divorce after just three months of marriage. Four failures; two business partners and two women. They shook his confidence and left him emotionally shattered and utterly devastated.
Though emotionally broken, he wouldn’t let that be his legacy. Instead, every day he went about his business of building friendships, expanding his business contacts, and improving both his personal and professional life. Today, he’s succeeded in business beyond anything he ever imagined, and has a wonderful woman and a great relationship.
The last story is the most tragic. I’m sitting across a breakfast table from Mark, a guy I barely knew. He lets go with both barrels, “John, I’ve lost my house. I’ve lost my wife. Can’t see or talk to my three kids. I’ve lost all the money I had in the world, and just spent the last three years in prison. I’m 36 years old and I am starting my life over. Will you help me?”
Of course I did. And over the years I’ve watched him resurrect his career, establish his finances, build a gorgeous house, and attract an incredible woman into his life. He is one of the most intelligent, nicest, most capable men I’ve ever met in my life. I am proud to know him and very honored to count him as a friend.
Each of these men had horrible disappointments, devastating experiences, and tragic failures. But none lost hope. None succumbed to alcohol, drugs or worse. None were paralyzed by fear. Tim went on to form a much more successful partnership with a more reliable partner. Kyle was able to love again despite that double disappointment. And Mark rebuilt his finances and his career.
What fortitude these guys had. What hope they had for the future. What focus they had not on today but on the future. A truly amazing group of men.
Each one is a friend of mine. I’m very lucky. I’ve had my share of disappointment and personal failure over the last year – I’ve hinted at that in these pages but thinking about these guys I can’t disappoint them by succumbing. I have to persevere. I have to have hope. I have to fix what’s wrong as best I can.
I hope that you’ll do the same with whatever challenges you have in your life.