Yes, I am happy that I am a failure. I’ll tell you why, but first you need to know the highlights, the major failures that connect a long, series of minor failures that are the leitmotif of my 77 years of life.
It may be instructive to those who are confronting the crushing horrors of the current economy.
1945/6 – I repeated the 7th grade because I had missed too many weeks of school by running away from home and living on the streets of Manhattan.
1948 – fired from my job as a delivery boy for a dental lab. Caught stealing.
1950 – expelled at the end of my junior year from the best Jesuit College Prep High School in the country.The priest whose pedophile moves I rejected flunked me to get even and this was not a world where accusations by a student were credible.
1950 – (summer) fired from my job as a messenger on Wall Street. Suspected of stealing. There was no proof and I actually has stopped months before I was suspected of recent events because I had already been scared straight as explained in a earlier post (The Waste).
1951 – fired from the mail room from the phone company for refusing to join the union. Later on in life, after learning how wrong my attitude was, I spent 8 years as an elected, non-paid officer of a UAW Local.
1954 – fired from my position – while a PFC in the US Army – as an instructor in Track Vehicle Mechanics at The Armor School in Fort Knox, KY for punching out the front teeth of another instructor who was trying to stab me in a Louisville alley after I won all his pay in a shuffleboard game. Demoted and sent out of the country.
1957 – fired as Area Sales Manager for Northern NJ by a major food company. Hated the job and they knew it.
1960 – fired as Regional Sales Manager in Chicago for a major steel company. I hated the job and they knew it.
1963 – my wife, mother of three children got tired of my philandering and divorced me. I remarried shortly thereafter, ignoring the fact that the new wife was an alcoholic. Boy, was that a dumb move.
1964 – fired as Regional Sales Manager in Boston for a well-known industrial production equipment maker. My boss was an arrogant, over-bearing asshole. He knew it and I made sure he knew I knew it, too. I was not surprised when he fired me.
1966 – out of a job as Marketing Manager for a prominent industrial equipment company in New Jersey because the company went bankrupt.
1968 – quit as Regional Sales Manager over most of the states between the Appalachians and the Rockies for a major industrial fabric manufacturer to takea job back in Chicago, as Marketing Director for one my biggest customers. Sold my house for $36,500, a decent price at the time. But had I rented it out, I could have sold it for close to 2 million
1970 – When the promise of equity after two years in that new employer was broken, I objected, I was fired.
1971 – separated from the alcoholic
1972 – divorced her, keeping just the clothes on my back and a paid up 2 year-old Buick.
1973 – the business I created in 1970 as an independent manufacturers rep selling tennis clothing for major brand labels (Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, Adolfo, Danskin) failed due to too much smoking of marijuana and the debilitating depression it created.
1974 – the girlfriend with whom I was living evicted me. Said I was a lazy bum. She was right.
1976 – the sporting goods importing business I founded in 1975 had to be shut down when my major supplier in Europe went out of business, leaving me responsible for losses by my customers (Sears, K-Mart, etc.) – and the loss of credibility to sell them anything else.
1979 – the next importing business I founded (selling container loads of bicycles from Korea to chain stores across the country) failed after the initial sensational 8 months when my Korean partner stole all our inventory while I was in California signing up new customers for the following season.
1980 – I married again. I’ll list that as a failure from the start even though it took 7 years to come apart.
1981/82 – the racquetball club supply business I founded that had 150 outlets, failed when the Reagan Trickledown Economy put operating capital out of reach with a prime rate of 23%.
1987 – the antique pool table business I had built up during the previous 5/6 years from just one abandoned billiard table rolled over and died when the stock market crashed. Brokers and traders, needing a big-boy toy once they had the big house, the Beamer and the trophy wife, had been my major customers.
1987 – (December) – the woman I had been living with went away for three weeks during the Christmas / New Years holiday “to visit my mother” in Florida. She returned with a husband she had met at a cocktail party a few days after she got there.
1991 – in early June, after a three week hunger strike, I was released from the military prison atop Mt. Isabela, overlooking Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. I had been put there without trial or even arraignment in an attempt to get me killed for refusing to surrender documents that implicated a high military official in a million dollar swindle of German, Canadian and US investors. I fled the country the morning after I was informed by a reliable source that someone was on his way from Santo Domingo to finish the job.
1992 – the Dominican weekly newspaper in Manhattan where I had been hired as the only gringo on the editorial staff, went bankrupt.
1993 – (last week in December) the Madison Avenue Spanish-language magazine publishing company in which I was a junior partner was suddenly shut down when the other partner took all the company’s assets, including the $50,000 cash we had taken in for advertising but owed to the printers. He fled the country and I never saw him again.
Jan 04, 1994– one week after that failure, I started as a business consultant to two young men who had a new but struggling business of a kind not seen before, a shop that created and hosted something called Internet web sites.
They knew how to do that but knew nothing about how to find prospects or get them to sign the contract.
This was when a simple 5-page web site built with just HTML and a few computer graphics created in the early, crude version of PhotoShop, sold for $35,000 to $50,000. I was paid 15% of all clients I brought in – and for two years, they came.
1995 – I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Did my homework studying all the treatment options, chose surgery as a cure and it worked. Totally clean ever since. Viagra compensates for the minor nerve damage. First sign that my string of failures might be ending.
Then one day in late 1996 I discovered the two guys had gotten greedy. They were hiding billings and underpaying me.
I started my own business in competition the next morning, taking with me just enough of the clients that I was able to start off the first day with a positive cash flow and a modest net profit. That’s the way it has been ever since. No more failures.
I now have clients in 8 countries – from Australia to India, from the Grenadines Islands to a small country in Africa, from Modesto, California to Jackson, New Jersey – and many places in between.
UPDATE 20120 – as I promised long ago at start of this saga of failures, I will explain why I am glad. The most interesting, exciting and even dangerous events in my life have been total failures involving the loss of everything I owned.
But nothing, nothing, nothing can match the exhilaration of whatever I did to survive each previous disaster.
The wonderful exciting life I have enjoyed never would have been possible had I not had those failures, picked myself up and started all over again (Yes, I know the song – “Start All Over Again” – that Frank Sinatra recorded with those very words. I sing it all the time.)
The above is dedicated to those brave souls who know from their own failures and survivals what I am talking about.
This article is being published a few days before I turn 78 years old. I have a gorgeous wife, 23 years younger than I, who brings great uxorious skills to our marriage. Oh, BTW, she owns a 3-bedroom, beachfront condo on a glorious tropical island, an apartment building in a major city and a classic Mercedes sports car.
Yes, failure is a good thing.