Creating My Future
I was excited to be learning the family business. Ieagerly began studying great motivational experts to learn their secrets andsharpen my skills to become the best leader I could be. I read every book Icould get my hands on by authors including Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, WayneDyer, Brian Tracy, and Kenrick Cleveland. When I was growing up, many of theseicons spent time at my dad's house or they shared the same stage. Of course, Ihad no idea who they were back then. But once I went to work for MF, Irecognized the rare opportunity I had been given to be exposed to thesebrilliant minds at such a young age.
I began attending seminars so I could get some face-to-facetime with these respected authorities. A couple of years after I startedworking for MF, I attended a Brian Tracy seminar in Del Mar, California, thatchanged the course of my life. I was twenty years old. At the time I was makinga little over a hundred thousand dollars a year selling my dad'sseminars-pretty good for a former drug addict who barely graduated high school.By this time, I was one of Brian's protégées. I had many positive experienceslistening to his material and applying his ideas to my daily life. I rememberthat Brian asked me to stand up in front of the audience that particular day,although I didn't know why.
He introduced me and said, "Here's a kid who istwenty years old, making a pretty good living, and he's one of my beststudents. He's doing all the right things, except there's one thing missing forTom to take himself to the next level."
I was stunned. I felt pretty good about where I was andthe path I was on. I had no idea what Brian was talking about. I held my breathas he continued.
"Tom needs to get married," Brian announced tothe entire room.
I stood there thinking, I'm not even twenty-one yet! I'dhad a fake ID in my wallet since I was seventeen years old. I felt I was justcoming into my own. I wasn't looking to get married anytime soon, but I wascurious. Since I already had Brian's attention, I began firing off questions asfast as I could think them up.
"How do I find the perfect wife?" I asked.
"Go back to your hotel room and write out everythingyou're looking for in the perfect spouse. Put today's date at the top of thatlist. I promise you, she'll show up before you can say the word 'Wedding.'"
I had studied with Brian long enough to know that if hetells me to do something, it will have the desired result. With my thengirlfriend in tow, and as awkward as it seemed, I went back to my hotel roomand did exactly as he asked. I wrote the date, July 17, 1991, at the top of thepage and began listing my dream girl qualifications. When I was finished, Ifolded the page and slipped it into my wallet.
Although I couldn't know it at the time, I'd meet Kathy,my future wife, just thirty days later. Our company was in the middle ofmarketing a big event that was coming up. One afternoon my phone rang and anenthusiastic woman asked if there was still room for her and five of herfriends to attend. I was a young, aggressive, straight-commission salesperson,so this was music to my ears. After we chatted for a few minutes, she saidshe'd rally her friends and get back to me in a couple of days. I spent thenext several weeks attempting to follow up with her, but never spoke to heragain. I actually typed the word "flake" next to her name in mycomputer.
On the day of the event, unbeknownst to me, she showed upwith her posse but paid at the door, which meant there would be no commissionfor me. I was at a private cocktail party for our best clients when I noticed abeautiful woman walk into the room with one of these clients. I was immediatelydrawn to her. I thought she was stunning. Since we had never met, I walked overand introduced myself. When I looked at her name badge, I went from a would-beCasanova to a hurt schoolboy.
"You're a flake! You never called me, and now you'rehere?" I asked half serious and half joking.
Kathy and I spoke for a few minutes before I took achance and asked her out for a drink. Thankfully, she said yes. We spent therest of the evening talking, connecting, and getting to know each other. Therewas an instant and electric bond unlike anything I had ever experienced with awoman.
At the seminar the next day, MF acknowledged me from thestage, thanking me for the number of people I helped get to the event anddoling out accolades for all of my hard work. I was sitting in the back of theroom with Kathy when he said, "...all of this the day before his twenty-firstbirthday!"
I cringed because I knew that Kathy had no idea I was soyoung. Truth be told, I wasn't your average twenty-year-old kid. I was mature,successful, settled, and experienced. Besides, I didn't like the girls my age.They were too immature for where I was in my life. I wanted to be with a womanwho matched or surpassed me emotionally and intellectually. Like my dad, I hadtremendous drive and ambition, but I also wanted to build a family.
After Kathy heard how young I was, it took a lot ofconvincing to get her to go out with me again, but eventually she gave in. Iknew I had to make that date count, so I took her to a swanky restaurant inNewport Beach. Once again, the time we spent together was fantastic. When wegot into the car after dinner, I could tell that something was on her mind, butshe wouldn't tell me what she was thinking. I decided it was best not to pushher.
Even though we continued to date, I noticed when we weretogether that Kathy would introduce me to many of her girlfriends. I was tryingto court Kathy, and she was doing everything she could to pass me off. We'dmake plans that I thought were dates, and then Kathy would have two or three ofher friends meet us. It took me a while to figure out what she was doing, butwhen I finally did, I told Kathy that I wasn't interested in any of thosegirls-I was interested only in her.
"Give me a call when you're serious about me becauseI already know that you're the one I want to marry," I said.
And she was. Kathy epitomized the girl I described onthat piece of paper in the hotel room. She had every trait I was looking forand some I hadn't thought of when making my list.
It was close to a year before we met up with each otheragain. It took that long for Kathy to figure out what she wanted.
One night Kathy and I had an argument over somethingsilly. I can't even recall what it was. What I do remember, however, isbringing her the note I wrote to myself on July 17, 1991, that described, ingreat detail, the woman who would someday become my wife.
At the top I had written, "This is the perfectgirlfriend who will walk into my life and we will be perfect together."
1. Brown hair
2. Blue-green eyes
3. Extremely understanding
4. Big personality
5. Loving but notoverpowering
6. Can make me laugh andloves to laugh
7. Great family values
8. Healthy body, healthymind
9. Intelligent and thedesire to continue to grow
10. Won't take me forgranted
11. Athletic andcompetitive
12. Has a good income andunderstands money
Kathy laughed and said, "That's me." But thenshe said she didn't believe I wrote this list before we actually met. She wasconvinced I had concocted it as some kind of prop
I pointed out the date of the note, which was a fullmonth prior to our meeting.
"I loved you when I wrote this list, I loved you theday we met, I loved you when you tried to fix me up with all of your friends,and I love you now and forever."
Kathy didn't buy a word I said. She broke up with me thenext day because she thought I was lying to her. She really believed there wasno way I could have written such a perfect description of her without firstknowing her.
It took a lot of effort to convince Kathy I hadn't madeup the story. Fourteen months after we met, Kathy finally agreed to become mywife. She was already my best friend. I wanted to spend the rest of my lifewith her, build our dream together, and live happily ever after.
Aristotle said the formula for happiness and success isto "First, have a definite, clear, practical idea, goal, or objective.Second, attain it by whatever means available, whether wisdom, money,materials, or methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end." BrianTracy put the idea into my head that I could achieve anything I wanted as longas I knew what I was looking for, whether my perfect spouse, the perfect job,weight loss, or any other goal I might have.
All success is predicated on finding what you arepassionate about and then relentlessly pursuing every possibility to achieveyour dreams. Finding the perfect mate and getting married perhaps were noexceptions.
I worked at my dad's company for fifteen years. I becamepresident nine years after he hired me. I learned the business by doing everyjob in the organization, from answering phones, sweeping floors, and working inaccounting and shipping and receiving, to booking seminars, sales, marketing,coaching, and speaking. My brother Matthew joined the company and together wehelped build it from an $8 million-a-year entity to a $36-million-a-year familybusiness.
The first year of my tenure as president was nothing morethan a change in the title on my business card. I had a strange and beautifulsensation of achieving something I wanted so much, yet I felt terribly emptyafter getting it. It was then that I realized that success is not about gettingwhat you want, but who you become along the way.
I didn't achieve my goal of running the company withinfive years of being hired because I wasn't ready to be an effective leader. I didn'tsee that as a failure so much as I did fine-tuning who I was in the process oftaking on that role.
With all of my entrepreneurial spirit, drive, anddetermination, I realized that I had become like MF. I spent all of my timeaway from home, away from my wife and our two sons. I had sworn I wouldn'trepeat the same mistakes my father made, and yet there I was walking proudly inhis shoes on the same path he had carved out. I gave so much of my life to helpbuild the business, but I wasn't happy.
This is when I began to take a good look at my life.
Was this what I really wanted?
Was I being fair to my family?
To be clear, I wasn't feeling stuck so much as restless.I had a good life. I was earning seven figures, owned two homes, and had abeautiful wife, two amazing kids, and everything I thought I ever wanted.
So why was I feeling so dissatisfied?
Why was I growing fidgety and questioning my identity?
If I took away all of the material things that definedwho I was, who would I really be?
For the first time since I was a teenager, I was reallyconfused. I didn't have the answer, and as uncomfortable as that was for me, Ihad to be okay with it.
I kept hearing about one of MF's mentors, Mike Vance, whohad worked with great leaders in business, from Steve Jobs to Jack Welch. Themore I learned about him, the more I respected him. I had seen him speak a fewtimes and fell in love with his message about creativity and thinking outsidethe box. I eventually connected with Mike and asked him if he would coach me inmy business. I needed some outside counsel to ask me the tough questions I hadbeen asking my clients and team members for years. I needed a coach. Mikeagreed to take me on and immediately got me thinking about my life's purposeand how I wanted to come across to others.
I began fantasizing about creating companies that helpedpeople take on the challenges of life and become responsible for their destiny.None of that had a thing to do with how much money I was making. It hadeverything to do with quality of life, something I was missing in my own.
I will never forget the five huge questions Mike posed tome when I was thinking of making a change.
Why are you here and what's your purpose?
How do you want to come across to others; what are your values?
What are your God-given talents?
Five years from now, how will the world experience you?
Who would you be if you were already there?
None of these questions was easy to answer, but they allgot me thinking-hard. It was as if a door had been opened that I never evenknew existed. I remember turning to Mike that day and asking him a sixthimportant question:
"What do I need to let go of so I can take the nextstep?" This question would become one of the most important tools indefining my future.
Working with Mike was the start of living a life that Iwould eventually coin "By Design." Mike and I spent weeks mapping outmy future, which required answering every one of his five questions in greatdetail. It took a lot of time, thought, and soul-searching to get to the coreof each question. I wanted to be as authentic and honest as I could becausethere was so much riding on my answers.
Looking back, that coaching session and the weeks thatfollowed pointed me toward wanting to leave my father's company. Therelationship with MF had become strained over the years. It was clear that,professionally speaking, we had come to the end of the road because I wasmoving in one direction while Dad continued to move in another. When I wasnamed president, MF essentially retired and was rarely seen at the office, buthe still wanted a hand in the day-to-day operations of the business.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Life! By Design by Tom Ferry, with Laura Morton. Copyright © 2010 by Tom Ferry. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.