I had to pry the story out of him and he only agreed to allow me to tell his story on condition that I do not identify him.
He does not see himself as a role model or as a shining example of determination and human endurance. He sees himself as “just an ordinary guy” who got lucky.
I see an example of the indomitability of the human spirit and his story will, I’m sure, serve as an inspiration to many.
Let’s call him David.
David dropped out of school at 16 to help his mother. His father had died a few months earlier, leaving his mother, who had left the workplace 18 years earlier, as the sole breadwinner, and person responsible for raising and caring for David and his two younger siblings.
He had gotten a job as a store-room clerk in one of the branches of a national chain of department stores.
It was not long before his determination and enthusiasm were noticed by his superiors and within three years he had progressed to becoming the floor manager in the menswear department.
David loved his job, worked extremely hard, and gave 110% every single day. He was therefore taken completely by surprise on the day “it” happened.
It was announced that the president of the company would be paying a visit to the store and that all employees were requested to go above and beyond in the execution of their duties.
On the day in question David was helping a customer when he became aware of the store manager, accompanied by another man who he assumed to be the president, approaching him.
Unbeknownst to David a recent customer in the store, who happened to have a personal relationship with the president, had called him to complain about slow service in David’s department.
The store manager walked right up to David, ignoring the customer, and told him that the president wish to speak to him NOW. David started to explain that he was busy with a customer when the president approached and told him about the complaint he had received, all the while raising his voice and attracting the attention of everyone in the store. He ended his rant by letting David know that if he didn’t “pull up your socks” he would be fired. He then turned and walked away hastily with the store manager in tow.
David was devastated. He felt he had been ambushed and humiliated and was quite disgusted that the president of the company would see fit to reprimand him publicly in the presence of staff and customers.
That night David went home and made a promise to himself. He vowed that never again would he be in a position where anybody would have authority over him and be able to speak to him in that manner.
In the moment David made that decision, an entrepreneur was born. He began focusing on what it would take to become self-employed. He had several ideas for starting a business but, of course, as a 19-year-old just starting out in life he had no financial means of doing so.
David decided to try his hand in the sales business. It took him six months to obtain a real estate license and he spent four years developing a client base all the while slowly and systematically building his business.
And then it all fell apart. Just as David was celebrating his 24th birthday his doctor told him that the blinding headaches he had been experiencing for several months were being caused by a tumor on his brain. He underwent surgery, experienced postsurgical surgery complications and, in total, his recovery took more than 14 months.
By the time David was well enough to go back to work he had exhausted his savings, his client base had, for the most part moved on, the economy was in recession, and selling real estate had become a far greater challenge.
He was tempted to seek employment but remembered the pledge he had made to himself. Never again.
He went back to work in earnest and for the next five years spent every waking moment showing properties, obtaining listings, and developing a system for providing exceptional quality service to its clients.
He was at the point where more and more of his business was coming to him by way of referral when one night, while walking back to his car after having dinner in a restaurant with the client, a drunk driver saw fit to drive up onto the curve and sent David through the plate glass window of a store.
This time his recovery was a lot longer. He spent almost eight months in hospital before beginning extensive physiotherapy in an effort to have his legs working as they once did. He had trouble speaking and remembering words and most of his days were spent practicing his speech and focusing on his language skills. Thirty months passed by before David was ready once again to pursue his career. His mother suggested he try and find a job and, again, David reminded himself of the promise he had made so many years earlier.
He went back to his career and spent seven years rebuilding it again. He was close to being one of the top salespeople nationally in his company, and was just trying to feel confident in his future when the unthinkable happened.
Barely 40, David had a heart attack. Back to hospital for a short while, back home recuperating David pondered whether his lifestyle was adversely affecting his health but each time he thought of getting a job that would make his life easier he remembered his pledge to never give up.
He stayed home for almost a year before he felt able and confident enough to go back to work and start again for the fourth time in his young life.
This time he was able to build his business for 10 straight years before a skiing accident put him back in the hospital with a broken back. He told me that he remembers jokingly asking the nurses whether they had a customer loyalty program because he felt his many visits to the hospital should have earned him a few free nights.
It takes more than a few nights for a broken back to heal and this time David was home for more than a year. He frequently wondered about his future and kept asking himself whether this was not the time to go get a job with a secure income so as to ensure that his family would not have to continuously suffer financially.
Yet each time he had that thought it was followed by reminding himself of his promise and so this time he decided to go back to work a little differently. He went and got his broker’s license and set up his own brokerage so that his income, and his family’s security, would not be dependent solely on his ability to sell real-estate but would be secured by income from realtors working in his brokerage.
That was 12 years ago. David’s business is both huge and successful. His future and that of his family is secure and he jokingly told me that having gone 12 years without a hospital stay was a “personal best” for him.
If ever there was a person who exemplifies the Habit of Persistence it is my friend David. We’ve never met me, we’ve only spoken on the phone, but it is my intention in the next few months to get on a plane and go and meet this remarkable man in person.
What I’m hoping for is that by being in his presence his incredible commitment to the Habit of Persistence will rub off on to me.
David told me something interesting. His hero is Winston Churchill and his favorite quote is to repeat a line from a famous speech Churchill gave to Harrow School in 1941: Never give in -never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
The Habit of Persistence. Churchill had it. David has it. I want it.
Winston Churchill’s birthday is November 30.
David’s birthday is November 30.
My birthday is November 30. Surely, with so much in common, I am entitled to absorb some of the greatness from these two truly inspiring men.
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.
P.S. My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours now has its very own website. Please visit us at www.lifesinksorsoars.com and let me know what you think.
P.S. My company, Strategic Pathways, recently introduced our newest Personal Coaching experience called Boot Camp for Your Brain. Please click here and take a peek at our Ebrochure
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– Robert French – an accomplished author – recently posted a flattering review of my book, Life Sinks or Soars, the Choice is Yours. Please click here and take a moment to read it.
– Here is another review of my book by Actionable Books.