“How much courage does it take to fire up your tractor and plow under a crop you spent six or seven years growing?’ he asked himself. ‘How much courage to go on and do that after you’ve spent all that time finding out how to prepare the soil and when to plant and how much to water and when to reap? How much to just say, I have to quit these peas, peas are no good for me, I better try corn or beans.”
Stephen King, Insomnia
I wrote Part 4 about a month ago. I went back in to edit it just before posting, and I deleted it all. I am unclear as to why I am writing this. I know that may sound strange. The Road to Misery. What is that? What is it supposed to be about? In a way, what it’s about isn’t important, because the story will take me where it needs to go, and the end will happen naturally. There will be some sort of hidden message in it all.
In my first post, I wrote about a misconception that this was all an overnight success, when in fact I had been ‘failing’ for twenty years. And I don’t even know that I would call it a success until it gains some longevity. But, the stage was set in the shadow of those two decades. The story required context. But where did that leave me? Writing several posts about those times, and the experiences leading up to my decision to pursue a signed edition of Misery.
Essentially, what it meant was, talking about the struggles along the way. You run the risk of sounding like a victim when you do that. We all got problems, right? Do we really need to listen to some guy describe how he lost all his money, how his car was vandalized one night, how he got ripped off by a mortgage scammer, how he endured migraines for years, how he went to buy groceries and his card was declined. How he lost his dad, lost his sister, got divorced, and so on. I’d say, no we don’t.
No human being is entirely immune to the massacres in our lives. Some are more tragic than others. But maybe this is about focusing on the celebrations. The miracle of the day. The power of the human spirit when it is uncontaminated, and becomes reborn, reenergized, and rewired.
I don’t see any of this as being about me. It’s more about this guy named Paul, who had these life experiences, as we all do, and then went out and did this and that. And as a result, maybe there is something we can all learn from it; a seed of inspiration we can take on as our own and grow something worth celebrating. Our very own miracle of the day.
I suppose, if the story can do that, then I’m okay with it. And just maybe, I’m okay with telling you a little about the battles along the way. Because it’s not about me. It’s not a cathartic or therapeutic experiment at the expense of the reader. We share in our lives, don’t we? We read books, or go to seminars, or listen to advice, and we share stories. And maybe it’s all about the process of learning. Developing on a personal level. Becoming more than we thought we could ever be. If, in this sharing, you gain something from it, then I’m okay with that too.
From the moment Paul arrived in California on April 21, 1994, everything changed. At no point did he consider the enormity of the decision he made to leave the country of his birth. He left behind his mother, father, oldest sister and brother, and it would be years before they saw each other again.
Times were tough for the first few years. He was out of work, and money was tight. He eventually got a job, and remained there for 11 years. He made decent money, but was left feeling uninspired. He knew there was something more important that he should be doing.
He tried for years to find a way to quit. He worked nights and weekends on other ways to replace his income. Get-rick-quick schemes, get-rich-slow schemes, network marketing (which deserves a chapter all its own), real estate, etc. etc., but nothing worked and the years ticked by.
In those early years, he tried desperately to continue collecting Stephen King books, but money was always a problem. The last two limited edition books he bought around that time were the Ziesing release of Insomnia in 1994, and Desperation published by Donald M. Grant in 1996.
It’s strange, or maybe not so strange, how a book is like a song. When you listen to music you have not heard in years, all of the emotions you felt when you first heard it come flooding back, and you are returned to that time.
The same can happen with books, and whenever Paul happens to glance at those two books on the shelf, he is reminded of those early years in California.
In 2002 Paul’s dad passed away, and he went back to South Africa, first to see him for the last time, and then for the funeral. In many ways, everything that Paul does today is to make his dad proud, and his father’s presence is in everything he does.
So one day, an opportunity presented itself, and Paul decided to quit his job, so that he could begin his new life. He wrote a resignation letter and placed it in the top drawer of his desk where it sat for weeks as he built up the courage to give it to his boss. On October 1st, 2006 after 11 years, Paul walked free.
The new opportunity was sales related, and he set himself up with a safety net in case it didn’t pan out. He took out an equity loan on his condo for $75,000. “Hey, I’ll never need to use it,” he said, “but it’s there, in case.” And with that, he threw himself into the new business.
For the next three years, he worked long hours, weekends, to make it the success it would never become. He did make some good friends along the way and had a lot of fun. But it didn’t pay the bills, and after three years, Paul came to the realization that being a salesman was not in his blood.
By 2008, he was what you might call flat-busted-broke. And to rub salt in the wound, he had used up the entire $75,000 equity line. His savings were gone, and the money that he had saved for retirement was also gone. He was behind on his mortgage, and all of his credit cards were maxed out. He also had to stop paying on a rental property he had purchased some years before, with the idea that he would make enough money to quit his job. That went into foreclosure, and Paul came to the realization that being a real estate investor was also not in his blood.
Although it’s a fairly rare occurrence, at that time, Paul had a girlfriend, and would go with her to the grocery store to buy food for a barbecue. He would stand at the checkout, praying his card wouldn’t be declined. Sometimes it worked, and other times, it was declined.
He finally threw in the towel and walked away from what he thought would be his savior. It was a challenging time. He had no money and was close to losing his home. Then, to package things up quite nicely, a series of unfortunate events occurred, which at the time, seemed cruel, but later, when looking back on them, he realized they were blessings in disguise.
Paul was scammed by a guy who said he could save his home, but really all he did was take his money and disappear. He had broken up with his girlfriend, and one night, on his birthday he went out. To this day, he believes that someone put something in his drink, because the entire night was a blur. All he knows of that night is that his cell phone was stolen and his car was vandalized with a baseball bat.
When you reach rock bottom, that’s when change happens, and what happened next, changed Paul’s life.