104) Our Life Between Refill Dates

After coming home to find my son Stevie still alive but lying face-up on the kitchen floor clutching a vodka glass in one hand and a folding knife in the other, I called Nadine and we brought him over the ER at Poudre Valley Hospital.

We had made plenty of other trips with Stevie to the hospitals in Fort Collins since 1996. In fact, we had made dozens of runs to Poudre Valley Hospital, then later, after construction was completed, The Medical Center of The Rockies (MCR). Our visits had become routine.

As far as Nadine and I were concerned, we were taking Stevie to the ER to deal with his stomach pain.

Here is what we didn’t know: Stevie was profoundly addicted to pain medication, and had been for years.

As his addiction grew worse – from the year of 1995 to about 2010 – he needed more and more product to get and stay loaded.

Of course as any parent whose son or daughter has been in addiction can tell you, there are two times during addiction that are seminal; discovering your child is a liar and a thief and understanding that no parent has ever beaten the drug.

This is how it was with Nadine and I, eventually, when years later, we made these two discoveries.

But years before, here in 2006, we lived in two states of mind: one when Stevie had enough product, and the other when he had run out before the refill dates on the bottles or his Oxycontin, Demerol or  Dilaudid –  depending on which he was taking.   We lived between the refill dates, so to speak, not wanting to think about running short, then where and how much to pay to get more.

This trip to the ER was different.

“Dad, just let me go,” Stevie moaned, as our car speeded up Lemay Avenue.

“Don’t say that son,” we kept saying, “life can be good,” knowing full well how hollow this  must have sounded to Stevie.

“Just let me die,” he said, several times.

We didn’t have the luxury of shoving Stevie across the worn carpet in the ER that day in a wheel chair. Instead,he went on a gurney.  Nadine and I were plenty scared. Not if Stevie would pull through that day, but because of what our lives had become.

I considered our circumstances.

When would it end?

103) Incident with Stevie

In the year of my supreme confidence, the year I had put his drug addiction nearly out of my mind, I came home to our new house in Loveland, Colorado and found my son Stevie lying face-up on the kitchen floor. Beside him, a bottle of Grey Goose Vodka and in his hand, a cheap, folding knife.

“Stevie, wake up,” I shouted.

The room stank of sweat and orange peels from the trash basket in the pantry.

My sense of things, based on the vibe in the room, was that he had killed himself.

But there was no blood around his body.

After bumping and shaking him, he started to stir, so I concluded he was just stinkin’ drunk.

Moaning at first, then uttering what sounded like “What?” he began to release himself from a profound stupor. Unless I stopped hollering and shaking him; then he would drift off again into a murky silence.

The more I shook Steve, the more words he began to  string  together.

After saying “What?” several more times in a tone of voice that begged me to  leave him alone, he uttered his first sentence: “I ran out of meds and the pain got be so much that I didn’t know  what to do so I drank some of  this,” he said pointing to the empty bottle.

“How much did you drink?” I asked. “I don’t know,” he said. I knew he had consumed an entire bottle of the vodka.

102) Bottle of Vodka and a Knife

“Hey Stevie, what’s up?” I said as I entered the enormous kitchen of our new house in Loveland, Colorado.

But Stevie wasn’t answering because something was very wrong. As wrong as things can be between a father and his son.

In an instant, my sense of dread was electric. The kind that makes every pour on your body quiver.

Why was I even calling Stevie’s name?

I knew he had killed himself right there in the kitchen as I walked across the foyer and saw him lying face-up on the floor.

“Dude, what happened?” I asked, not wanting to give in to my fear, but yet caught up in the perverse excitement of what I might be witnessing, right in our own house.

Next to his lanky, sweat-soaked, ashen-colored, six-foot frame were two objects. I shall not forget them as long as I live; a bottle of vodka and a knife.

Next – The Darkness of Shock and Indecision

 

101) The Strangest Yet Most Interesting Assignment of my Career

Welcome to my autobiography.

I am so glad you are here!

In the previous post, I shared some experiences from my first home business (a disaster)  we operated in Fort Collins, Colorado in 2004. In this post you will read what goes through the mind of someone who was not satisfied with just failing in a home business, but continues to raise the stakes. You will see how I raised the stakes by laying the groundwork for two more very big bets with our money – a large, custom-built home and another home business – both based on temporary contracting assignments!

Locking Down Another Lucrative Contract

“Hi, I’m Oliver,” I said, as I walked through the secured entrance to another IBM design center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“This is it,” Kenneth said, leading me into a medium-sized office on the 12th floor of The Wells Fargo Tower, the tallest building in “The Springs,” as the locals called it.

“Yes, I’m pretty confident I can help you guys out,” I said, ending my interview.

I had absolutely blown  them away, I believed, during the interview for the contract.

Luckily for me, my recent experience with Intel and IBM in Rochester, Minnesota won me the job, and I began work within two weeks.

Although most unusual in the world of semiconductor hardware design, a technology complex located in a downtown setting offered a very interesting venue for a mask design contract. While others wore suits and drove into work from the suburbs of Colorado Springs, I took an inexpensive room in a nearby hotel and arrived to work wearing t-shirts and shorts. Riding up the elevator to IBM technology center – we shared the office with an IBM enterprise software support group – I was again the outsider, getting an eyeful of the inner circle of a relatively large number of financial service workers who worked, lunched and moved about in the granite-floored, brass-ornamented skyscraper.

If designing computer chips in a tall financial services building wasn’t strange enough, the designers sat next to each other – each row facing the other – in two long rows of tables, with a just a small, low privacy wall separating each work station. The standard office for work like this is a 8 x 8 cube,  or sometimes larger. So this arrangement would have been totally unacceptable for any other senior designers on the planet, except for our small team on the 12th floor overlooking the sparkling clean horizons of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Our quarters were cramped, but each of us considered ourselves the luckiest workers at IBM.

Still in the Zone of Supreme Confidence

I felt a remarkable sense of confidence during the next few weeks of the contract. Now about 22 years into my career, I had mastered the craft of integrated circuit layout, was very comfortable with my small group and was given the responsibility to conduct some training for a less experienced designer in the office. The others on my team were IBM employees, so except for one other, I was the lone contractor. I was working on an interesting project, having lunch at the local Vietnamese restaurant and driving home to Fort Collins on most week-ends to be with Nadine, Jenna and Stevie.

The Set Up

I wish I was able to say – earning my contracting rate of between $55 and $70 per hour – we were able to save money, but we weren’t, since my living expenses were not outlandish but significant. Yet, we were about to sell our house and buy a much bigger one and invest in another home based business.

All of these risks came very naturally to me. I guess I was so confident in my ability to find and secure a contract, that I was blind to risks that others worked at jobs they hated their whole life, just to avoid the kind of personal financial risks that we were about to plunge into.

As I recall telling Nadine, “Whatever I learned about financial literacy, I had to learn reading books and attending seminars (a lot of them). There are no courses in high school or college that prepare a person to make good financial decision.”

“Let’s buy the biggest house we can afford,” I told Nadine.

So in 2005, with the economy rolling along, Nadine and I put our little house in Fort Collins up for sale. We intended to go big, and that is what we did. During the next few month we waited anxiously for our house to be built. It was the biggest house Nadine or I had ever lived in.

My rationale for this was that at the end of 5 years, a more expensive house would appreciate more (holding the rate of real estate appreciation constant) than a cheaper one.

After the construction was completed we moved to our new lakeside home development in Loveland, Colorado.

We couldn’t have been happier!

Next – Stevie’s Chronic Pancreatitis and Pain Med Addiction Roars Out of Control

100) Vital Questions You Must Ask Yourself Before You Decide to Work at Home

Welcome new reader!

I am glad you are here.

In the previous post you read about our first work at home opportunity. In this post I would like to share a few more thoughts on working at home.

It is debatable whether someone learns more by operating a profitable business than by owing some that have failed. If you give me the benefit of your doubt I will make a few points about working at home that may save you from a mistake or two that I have made.

Although the dates have been modified slightly to better fit my story, Nadine and I had operated a nutritional supplement home business from our home in Fort Collins, Colorado in 2004, which we quit when we realized the direction of the company had changed from one of leading edge nutritional supplements to personal technology.

Here are a few questions which I believe will help you measure whether or not you may have what it takes to start and run a home business:

On Confidence
  1. Are you a confident person?
  2. Do you have enough self-confidence to get back up again after things have gone wrong?
  3. Do you look to others for approval?
  4. And are you very concerned about what others think?
  5. Do you often go your own way when others seem not to consider alternatives?
On Accountability
  1. Do you admit your own mistakes, even when not to would go unnoticed?
  2. Do you say to yourself and others “I can do better”?
  3. Can you give yourself credit when things go right?
  4. Do you see failure of events, or declining circumstances that lead to bad results as a personal failure?
  5. Where it is clear you have personally failed in a task, do you see this as a permanent personal flaw or something temporary that can be corrected?
On Self-Discipline
  1. Do you have the self-discipline to finish most things that you start?
  2. Do you eat and exercise in moderation (that is to ask, is your eating and exercise under control?)?
On Time Management
  1. How do you measure your work output?
    • do you begin your day with goals or a list?
    • do you set out to work exactly 8 hours every day?
    • do you look at the clock frequently?
    • or do you work until you believe you have accomplished your goals?
    • do you believe it is possible to work a full day without knowing exactly what time you quit for the day?
    • do you see taking short breaks in your work as wasted time?
    • and do you see working more than 8 hours as going “above and beyond” 100% of the time?
    • DO YOU ENJOY GETTING THINGS DONE?
On Learning
  1. Is it possible to learn stuff at any age? Do you enjoy learning new things?
  2. Or, do you believe you are too old to learn?
  3. Are there concepts you believe you just cannot learn, no matter how hard you try?
  4. Are you teachable?
  5. How do you like to learn things (books, through experts who have done what you wish to do, videos, CD’s, in the classroom)?
  6. Do you believe the internet can be a credible learning channel?
  7. Or is the internet not to be trusted, especially for learning new things?
Skills
  1. Are you comfortable with a computer, conducting internet searches, creating, modifying and sending emails and using some basic application programs?
  2. Can you follow directions, try things sometimes several times until you get them right and contact customer support when problems arise?
  3. Can you call someone you don’t know on the phone to introduce yourself and get or give information?
  4. Can you use (or learn to use with videos) Quickbooks?
  5. Can you post to Craigslist or learn to conduct other more advanced marketing strategies if someone were to work closely with you and show you how?
Mindset
  1. Do you see yourself as someone who will fulfill your destiny?
  2. Have you thought about what that destiny might be?
  3. Or do you know exactly what you want from your life?
  4. Do you write out your goals and things you wish to have, be and do?
  5. Are you willing to pay the price (time, sacrifice, etc.) to achieve the goals you have set for yourself?
  6. And do you know that you alone can do what you do and you deserve whatever  you get (either success or failure) from life?
  7. Have you heard of the law of attraction?
  8. Have you ever seen the movie “The Secret”?
  9. Do you know that you will become the picture of yourself you hold in your mind?

The technology that enables and improves our ability to use the internet to work from home changes constantly. However, as in life, the business principles and personal characteristics that lead to high achievement are universal and changeless.

Know and use the principles.

Yes, passion is important when choosing a business. But as I found out, doing ones homework is even more important.

 

99) Failing Miserably – 2Xtremeperformance Inc.

“I do what others won’t, so I can have what others don’t,” Zig Ziglar once said.

Greetings new reader.

Welcome to my life story.

I am glad you are here!

Previously,  I shared my penchant for going my own way in my life and in my work. My career as a contract mask designer provided many wonderful benefits but by the year of 2005, I felt I couldn’t continue to live away from home on contract assignments, even though not doing so might mean losing everything, including our house, cars and credit. In this post, you will witness my earlier experiences with working at home.

For an individual like myself, who possessed a very strong entrepreneurial orientation, it was never a question of IF I would attempt to start a business.  Only how much time was needed to save enough money. And in the late 1990’s, with the evolution of the internet, advancing in computing and the emergence of work at home opportunities, it became increasingly easy to get started for a few hundred dollars.

How I Chose a Work at Home Business and a Business Model

“Find Your Passion,” said the self-help gurus. “Do what you love and the money will follow,” others said. “Be the change,” more recent luminaries have added.

These things all made sense to me from my earlier studies of trying to find out what you are naturally good at and like to do. I call this “vocational assessment”.

If this works in choosing a career, surely it works for choosing a business, right?

One of Our First Businesses

Since Nadine and I both liked the healthful life style which included fitness and eating healthy foods, we decided to participate in a network marketing opportunity that offered nutritional supplements. The company was known as 2Xtremeperformance. The company’s CEO was John Polk and was headquartered in Dallas, Texas. We called our venture RNB Nutrition.

Here is a definition of network marketing as defined in businessdictionary.com –

Direct selling method in which independent-agents serve as distributors of goods and services, and are encouraged to build and manage their own sales force by recruiting and training other independent agents. In this method, commission is earned on the agent’s own sales revenue, as well as on the sales revenue of the sales-force recruited by the agent and his or her recruits (called downline). Also called multilevel marketing (MLM), cellular marketing, or by other such names, it is a multi-billion dollar worldwide industry that distributes practically any portable item, although restricted or banned in several countries due to its history as a vehicle for consumer fraud.

Source: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/network-marketing.html#ixzz2d0Ha115Z

At first, even while Nadine and I were working full-time jobs, our excitement carried us through some rough spots in learning the business. We read books, attended calls from our leaders and tried to apply every principle successful network marketers had used in the past. After a few weeks we were shipping energy drinks and signing up new members to our team.  Nadine turned out to be a natural at networking and better than I was at explaining the multi-level compensation plan.

Change of Direction

In a bizarre turn of events, the company decided to offer an expensive computing system which sold for – if memory serves – $6,000, and which we could not really afford to offer to our small team. During these few weeks Nadine and I sensed a shift in the philosophy of the company’s founder, John Polk, who in our opinion had changed the mission of the company from nutrition to personal computing technology. Difficult to remain excited about this new and expensive product orientation and disappointed that we were not capitalized to leverage possible advantages of it, we decided to terminate our association with 2Xtremeperformance.

Looking back at the failure of the business, I had made some rookie mistakes:

  1. Lack of research in looking beyond the exciting nutritional supplement “trend” in a home-based business.
  2. No business mentor or qualified upline sponsor.
  3. Not enough money for marketing
  4. No due diligence on 2Xtremeperformance.

The Federal Trade Commission later sued the officers of 2Xtremeperformance for deceptive trade practices and won an injunction against them.

We never suspected fraud. Things that were said to us made us feel that if our business failed, we had no one to blame but ourselves.

Ironically, even though our first meaningful home business turned out to be quite disappointing, for a few minutes one day, while signing up a prospect, I felt a little rush of excitement and saw just a glimmer of light. Inside this light was tiny sense of what it might be like to be truly FREE of a job. The feeling was over in an instant. But it was real.

Our first  business had failed miserably but had made sales and recruited team members. So our success was seeing that working at home WAS possible.

Next – What kind of person can work at home successfully?

98) An Unreasonable Desire for Independence

Hello new reader!

Welcome to my autobiography.

I am glad you are here!

One great thing about penning an autobiography is that I don’t have to be apologetic for being self-absorbed here on these pages.

In the previous post you read about why, for a person like me, a career never seemed to be enough. In this post you will read me describing the state of mind I possessed nearing the end of my career in computer chip design then finally admitting to myself I would never be truly happy working in a job. Rich or poor it was my destiny to continue to seek more control and independence in my work and life. 

I began to search for ways to work at home – the next logical step, I figured, after working since the year 1995 as an independent contractor doing computer chip design.

Foundation

As you read earlier in my story, I developed a great deal of self-confidence by participating in after school sports and later making a life long commitment to personal fitness.

Then, as a young man in San Francisco, before my professional career in computer chip design, I held many outside sales positions and refined the art of winning people’s trust and respect.

In my fifties I began to notice others who seemed trapped in a job – in many cases these individuals had lost all hope of ever making a change in their life.

No Loyalty?

For some reason, and I can’t tell you why, it would never occur to me to lose hope and get stuck in a job that created misery for myself and everyone around me. Although now at an older age I can understand that some job holders feel a strong sense of duty and loyalty.  They may even  feel responsibility to a family member.  But many more sincerely believe they are incapable of doing more. And they may have just given up.

I do not understand this thinking.  But I know we are not all alike and view the prospect of change in different ways.

As my brother Dean once pointed out, “We all see life through the different filters of our genetics, education and experience.”

Okay, you have read here about my mindset during the year of 2004, as I felt the pinch  of  an increasingly stressful career, the despair of a chronically sick son and the desire to reach out to others like me who felt stuck.

Was I Qualified to Help Others?

Since I wasn’t qualified to practice psychology or social work I decided that going into business – one that might help free people from jobs they hated or that no longer served them – might offer the control over my circumstances I seemed so desperate to find.

But how many of us have saved enough, or are so capitalized that we could afford to open a store or buy a franchise costing thousands of dollars?

In the early 2000’s the work-at-home trend began to gain momentum.

A business that would help folks quit their jobs, be their own boss, work at home, set their own hours and walk around all day in their pajamas, if they chose.

Next – A Powerful But Misunderstood Work at Home Business Model

97) The Gift

Greetings new reader!

Welcome to my autobiography. I am glad you are here.

In the previous post you read about how I compared being stuck in a career – even a highly compensated one – to being wedged deeply in a crevasse or crack between two glaciers. In this post I felt it important to acknowledge a gift. It is a gift that all who are born in this country have bestowed upon us, simply by coming into the world – the gift of freedom. Without it, you and I have very little incentive to start a business or even think about accumulating wealth. In many countries like North Korea, Burma, Equatorial Guinea. Libya and Somalia, state governments direct and control the activities of citizens, including posting a blog like this one.

So first we must acknowledge that only by being a citizen in the United States, or another country possessing similar personal freedoms, is a story like the one you are reading possible.

That does not mean that some people in those least free countries I mentioned above do not have thoughts and dreams of financial freedom. Only that those of us who live and work in this country (or others like it) have the best chance of achieving it.

Beyond the gift of personal freedom, I believe, the gift of good health is the other fundamental factor necessary for personal achievement, including financial freedom.

Personal freedom and good health (both physical and mental); without these two gifts, our chances for financial freedom and independence are nearly non-existent.

So I am grateful for these two gifts.

And if we are lucky enough to possess and appreciate these gifts, we can go as far as our talents and drive carry us. I have created and put in writing a more formal framework for personal achievement (although I have not yet achieved a personal fortune using the framework,) which you read about in an earlier post.  I call it my Little Unshakeable Foundation for Achievement.

Born in America, of robust health, written document for personal achievement, and every chance to succeed.

Have I achieved financial freedom?

Next – How I Did Exactly What I Set Out To Do and the Difficulty in Deciding What You Want

96) Crevasse

“A crevasse is a deep crack in an ice sheet or glacier.” Source – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crevasse

In 1994,  about 9 years into my career in integrated circuit layout ( which, for simplicity, I have called chip design throughout this essay) I decided it very important to me to earn $100K per year.

I had beaten a rotten childhood in North Minneapolis, moved to California, dumped a speed addicted girlfriend, escaped the  U.S. Air Force and married a wonderful woman. But earning six-figures would demonstrate attainment of a goal that someone who grew up in my circumstances wasn’t supposed to think was possible – career mastery.

$100K came rather easily in 1997, then a few more times during the next few years while working as a mask design contractor.

Authors note – As you are no doubt aware, $100K does not go as far as it used to. As for me, in 1997, this compensation was a significant achievement.

But far from becoming masterful in the craft of my career, I had instead become very good at promoting my services, saying yes to technical challenges (sometimes without regard for how I would resolve them), to work until exhaustion and excelling as a road warrior in the  states of Colorado, Arizona, California, Idaho and Minnesota for months at a time.

I had become masterful in adapting to various contracting situations; masterful at the art of diplomacy, masterful at accepting every challenge, masterful at learning design software, at setting up temporary housing, at finding the local gym, bookstore, coffee shop and week-end get away.

Most of all, I used quiet time in my cool, sunlit living spaces to obsess about how I could find meaning in my work again. Or the joy of releasing the unrelenting pressure to perform a contract.

Still very grateful for the opportunities entrusted to me by the firms that hired me to draw computer chips, I wanted more control over my work, how I spent my time, how I helped and encouraged people. And I wanted to be around people who thought like me, who felt empowered, purposeful, unafraid and lived their lives without seeing limits.

But I was wedged very deeply in a crevasse whose sides were steep and slippery.

Next – The Beginning of My Quest for True Financial Independence

95) Know Thyself

Hello new reader and welcome to my autobiography!

I am  glad  you are here.

In my last post I shared with you my experiences while observing a young Mom grieving for her son in chronic pain in 2004 at Denver Children’s Hospital and some insights I gained from that day. Today, on a lighter note, I will let you know what drives free-spirits like myself to find passion in their life’s work – even at the cost of losing everything – time and again.

Like most highly active and energetic folks (maybe like you) I never pictured  myself sitting at a desk all day in a large room filled with grey-walled cubes. I love meeting new people, seeing new things and seem to think more clearly  when I am in motion – either walking, biking or in a car. Maybe I just crave the variety of sights, sounds and smells that come with different locations and sources of sensory inputs.

And like my Mom, the thing I value above everything else is my independence and sense of freedom.

Drawing tiny circuits for over 25 years has provided many engaging and satisfying hours of independence and creative problem solving.  Once I receive engineering specifications from key members of the design team, I then have the freedom to create the circuit components, arrange, connect and verify them according to those specifications. HOW I choose to create this “artwork” is largely up to me – the mask designer.

So within the scope of the responsibilities that have been entrusted to me – drawing circuits whose arrangement can comprise an entire semiconductor chip – I have a great deal of freedom.

Like stock analysis, mask design offers highly creative and analytical folks like myself a chance to get lost in our work. It is ironic that both sets of tasks require long periods of sitting – mostly in front of a computer display screen. The irony being that putting my physical body in motion (rather than sitting in a room) and experiencing the variety of sensory inputs – freedom of movement, if you will – is the most satisfying. But it does not produce an income proportional to the pleasure it provides.

Well  of  course,  people start businesses with the idea of gaining MORE independence and freedom.

But what sort of  freedom and independence does a business start-up REALLY give to the entrepreneur?

  • time freedom?
  • money freedom?

In theory, yes.

Next – Why Earning Six-Figures in a Traditional Career Continues  to  Send the Author Running Scared