What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Stronger. NOT!
Believe it or not, I’ve been blogging for nearly a year. Why is that surprising? Because my output is pathetically limited; I’ve so few posts to show for it. I’ve come to believe that my work is measured not by words per minute. But rather hours per word. I think it was somewhere in A Moveable Feast that Hemingway described his efforts, at times, to be like “chiseling through granite with a toothpick.” I feel his pain.
Which, of course, brings us to the topic of self-help books. I’ve read my share in my time. Almost all of them in my Amway days back, in the early ’90’s. I got in, hook, line and sinker. My wife, in short order, jumped in the deep end with me. And, believe me, we read plenty of self-help books.
And listened to even more Amway tapes from “Diamond” producers. And drove to twice monthly in-town, “open” meetings to hotels around town (if you know what you’re looking for, you can see notices of these meetings if you happen to be at the right hotel on the right night).
And then driving to gigantic rallies, with thousands of distributors, from Orlando to Sacramento. And many cities in between. Four times a year. Leaving Denver Thursday after work and driving all night to make it in time for the Friday night start of a frenetic “Dream Weekend” that would run into the wee hours of Saturday morning. And do it again Saturday night. And then climbing back in the car on Sunday around noon, after a church service that was part of the weekend. And bookin’ it back to Denver, arriving in the wee hours of Monday morning. While trying to steer clear of the of the 2 a.m. hallucinations on I-70 in Kansas. Willing the glow of Denver to appear in the western sky. And then having just enough time to fall into bed for a few hours of sleep before staggering, bleary eyed, in to work.
It wasn’t uncommon to hear accounts on the tapes of distributors getting into car wrecks; it’s only surprising there weren’t more. One in particular stands out. He was a tough as old shoe leather dairy farmer who said he got in the business because he was “sick and tired of being sick and tired of his blue john” existence. When he woke up from the wreck, “the wheel was wrapped around the steering column.” And, his growl implied, if you’re not tough enough to do it yourself, you’re a sissy.
Over the course of those four or so years, we talked to hundreds of people about Amway. Very, very few joined us. And those that did, didn’t stick around for long. Far from making money, especially the much vaunted, residual income, we lost money. True, it wasn’t much. But at that point, with 3 little kids, we didn’t have much to spare.
But the worst thing about the business for me? It was like pouring gas on my bipolar disorder. Bipolar thrives on a variety of things, including inadequate sleep, stress, and financial worry. The rally induced highs of the business were stratospheric. The rejection induced lows of the business were Stygian. Of these, the business provided a great abundance.
In retrospect, I’m very grateful for one thing about our Amway experience: it didn’t kill us. Either in a car wreck. Or me with suicide; believe me, I thought about it more than once. The thought of missing out on seeing our kids, and now grandkids, grow into the wonderful people they’ve become, is . . .
Is it possible to strike it rich in Amway? Of course. It’s a multi-billion, international business. Someone’s got to be making money. It just wasn’t us.
The turning point for me came at a “Free Enterprise” super rally at the the 60,000 plus domed stadium in Indianapolis we had driven to one summer. Worked into a frenzy by speaker after speaker, the SRO crowd delighted in launching one raucous “wave” after another around the coliseum; I enthusiastically joined in.
But then it came time for the new “pins” to go across the stage-signifying couples that had reached a higher, more lucrative level in the business. There weren’t many. And of the high level pins, like Diamonds, you could count them on one hand. Out of a crowd of tens of thousands. I very clearly remember thinking, “We have a better chance of winning a gold medal in the Olympics than making it big in this business.”
So we quit. But it’s a funny business. Almost like malaria; very unpleasant, but once it’s in your blood it’s almost impossible to entirely shake. Over the years, I’ve occasionally googled some of my big “up line” diamonds; can’t seem to help myself. Like all of us, their stories are a mixed bag. Some doing fine. Some not. With others, it’s pretty ugly, their feet of clay in full view.
But did it make us stronger? Not sure. But I will give it this: it didn’t kill us.