"2 Secrets that Changed My Life Forever"
My Story—From the Trunk of My Car to Living the “American Dream” I’m originally from L.A. (Lower Alabama!). I grew up on welfare in Mobile, Alabama, where there were seven kids crammed into a little 600-square-foot shack. The roof on that house was so bad that every time it rained, we had to get out all the pots and pans to catch the leaks.
My mama somehow fed us on $100 a month from the welfare department. I still remember getting Christmas presents from the social workers. When you grow up like that, how are you likely to turn out? For me, I was an 18-year-old rebellious teenager with hair down to my shoulders. I got in a fight with my stepdad and he kicked me out! My friend and I scraped up enough money for me to get a Greyhound bus ticket to Houston, Texas.
This is where my real dad lived—he left when I was a year old and I had only met him twice in my entire life. My sister was there with him, and I figured I needed a change. When I stepped off that Greyhound bus, I actually had only 25 cents in my pocket. And that was all the money I had to my name! I wasn’t even sure my dad would be there for me—but he was, and I lived with him and his wife for about a year. After a few odd jobs, I became a professional waiter and worked in high-end restaurants where I presented flaming tableside cooking, wearing a tuxedo.
I learned how to make a lot of great dishes at the table—Steak Diane, Pepper Steak, Caesar Salad Dressing from scratch, Hot Spinach Salad, Bananas Foster, Cherries Jubilee, and many more. Setting stuff on fire inside was very cool indeed! During my years as a waiter, I learned a great deal about the customer service experience. I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. As a kid, I cut grass, picked up pine cones, sold stuff door to door, and did anything I could to make money. As a waiter, I made just enough to pay the rent.
Then I met my wife—Denise Concetta Antoinette Pennella. Now, that’s Italian! I went to New Jersey to marry Denise, and when you marry into an Italian family, you don’t get wedding presents like dishes, toasters, and blend- ers. Instead, what do you get? You get CASH! We received $3,000 in wedding money! While we were in New Jersey, a friend of the family who was my age (23 at the time), was tooling around in a little red Mercedes convertible. I said to myself, I want to know what THAT guy does, and I want to know if it’s LEGAL! Turned out he owned a business. So as soon as we returned to Houston, I spent all of our wedding money to start my first business—out of the trunk of my car. My wife was really thrilled about that, let me tell you!
After being in business for 13 years, I felt like a slave to my business. I loved to travel, but when I did, much of the "vacation" was consumed talking to customers and employees back home. Do you know what I’m talking about? Do you have to take your appointment book and cell phone with you wherever you go?
Two Secrets that Changed My Life Forever
After spending 13 long years becoming a slave to my business, I learned two big secrets that changed my life forever. My mentor would come to my office once a week to talk and pray with me. He noticed how involved I was in every little detail of the business and how dependent it was on me; he recommended I read The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber. That book changed my business and my life forever. After reading The E-Myth, I took a week off and traveled to my favorite place in the world, Destin, Florida, and sat on the beach and re-created my future. The first secret I learned was that you’ve got to have systems set up in your business if you don’t want to be a slave to it. I learned how to work on the business instead of just in it as The E-Myth says.
The second secret I learned (also from The E-Myth) is that the only reason your business exists is to be a vehicle to help you achieve your LIFE GOALS. You went into business for yourself because you had a dream of having more time for your family—a dream of doing what you want when you want. Instead, you sometimes feel like a slave to the business.
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