Early in the treacherous course of managing my fledgling business as a twenty-something CPA entrepreneur, the counsel of an older client friend cut short my whining as he said, “Kim, your problem is not that you were born poor. Your problem is that you were born with ambition. Many are born poor and stay that way. You want something else.”
About that same time, the message was being broadcast in stereo. Zig Ziglar pierced my consciousness with, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” It was the era of cassette tapes and I was enamored with his stories. They all contained this consistent theme of inherent goodness. Then, I discovered Zig had captured his encouragements into a book titled, See You At The Top.
Thirty years after reading that book, I can still picture the Stairway to Tomorrow in my mind. To give honor where credit is due, I just now purchased the Kindle 25th Anniversary Edition to properly reference one of the greatest motivational books of all time. Those six Steps on the staircase are defined as: Image of Self, Relationship with Others, Goals, Attitude, Work, and Desire.
In Zig’s words:
As you start on your stairway to the top, your first step will be the development of a healthy self-image. The second step is the recognition of the worth and ability of other people, as well as the necessity of effectively living and working with them. The third step is a strong goal orientation. You need a plan to build a house. To build a life, it is even more important to have a plan or goal. The fourth and fifth steps are that you must have the right mental attitude and be willing to work. The sixth step is that you must also have a burning desire to excel.
If possible to summarize a book into one sentence, the Mission and Value might be captured in this statement from Zig Ziglar, “The foundation stones of honesty, character, faith, integrity, love, and loyalty are necessary for a balanced success that includes health, wealth, and happiness.“
In other words, the Intangibles matter far more than the Tangibles. In fact, the latter flow from the former. Success is, simply, the abundant harvest enjoyed as a result of planting and nurturing little seeds of goodness, daily.
The day was August 1, 1981, when I stopped at the little Post Office at Lavina, Montana, and received the letter announcing that I had, finally, passed the CPA exam.
The day was August 1, 2011, when I was driving in the desert north of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and received a phone call from a new client, with an old problem.
The tumblers of a lock had not, yet, fallen into place to open the door in his mind to an understanding of what it takes to “Wow!” customers. Sitting there on a wide spot in the road, under an itty bitty shade tree, 5 Steps to Success poured from my heart into the microphone of the Motorola Droid to encourage my friend to Build Something, special.
After thirty years of preaching and practicing the individual Universal Principles, that was a first to capture them all in one place, at the same time, for the benefit of another person. Even more surprising was the realization that each and every Step is important. They must be done in order: Step 1 ~ Establish a Fair Price; Step 2 ~ Ask for Acceptance; Step 3 ~ Plan the Work; Step 4 ~ Deliver on the Promises; and, Step 5 ~ Enjoy the Celebration. All of them are necessary for a successful journey!
Last week, as I was enjoying a favorite salad at a favorite place for lunch, a Blast from the Past pushed into my life, once again.
He was a young Entrepreneur and I was the young CPA with the ambition problem. Regardless of the semantics, I was a young man on a mission, to serve. My intent was to help others get everything they wanted so I could get what was important to me. (Note to Everyone: many mistakes have been made and lessons learned!)
At one time, the young Entrepreneur and I held a similar worldview: Implement the Intangibles for the benefit of receiving the Tangibles of health, wealth, and happiness. In essence, we each understood the need to take all of the steps on Zig’s Stairway to Tomorrow. After a few years, the Entrepreneur arrived.
He won a national award from the Small Business Administration. Politicians wanted their picture taken with him. In fact, he became a media darling and the poster boy for minority businesses.
Through the years, I always celebrated each of his successes and felt honored to believe that I was an integral part of his team. At the pinnacle of his newly anointed recognition, this old accountant wasn’t good enough to associate with his new crowd of friends. He wanted a real CPA firm worthy of his eminence.
After a few years of that and upon hearing about the misfortune of my divorce, he approached with an idea: I could be his Chief Financial Officer. Because of my funky attitude at the time and (as Zig teases) “Stinkin’ Thinkin’, rumors were rampant that I was considering a departure from the service of Public accounting, for something else.
The “something else” idea and offer was interesting; so, we negotiated mutually beneficial terms for a hired-gun CFO position and I accepted. That lasted about a month and we both knew I needed to go, away. Our worldviews were different and, as a result, the paths of our journeys were diverging. Two can walk together, only, if they agree.
In the course of making pleasantries, the (now) older Entrepreneur sat down at his lunch table a few feet away from mine. Sincerely interested, I asked about him and his Company. He proudly announced the expanding influence of his business activities in Montana and the projects they were doing in multiple other States. Once again, I congratulated him and celebrated his largess.
To return the favor, I shared information about the new location of my office in the heart of the Wall Street of the Rockies. Since that bit of news was received without notice, or response, I went on to mention, “It’s true what they say. The view is better from the top!”
Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. This is what I heard in retort, “Well, watch out, because there will be someone trying to knock you off!”
The eyes are the window to the soul. Ours were speaking volumes to the other about the core of our beliefs. After a few moments of this silent conversation, I just smiled, bowed my head, and resumed the enjoyment of my salad.
My belief is that The Top is a spiritual level, physically unobtainable, encapsulated in the exhortation, “You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Great idea. Ain’t gonna happen in this life, folks!
Yet, the joy of Life is discovered within the journey, not the destination. When we actually arrive, friends and family will be digging a hole to plant our physical remains. The ripple from the wake of our deeds and how we touched others will be our legacy.
Some people are willing to scratch and claw their way to the top of the heap, using the dead and injured for their next step. It is true — once they arrive, there will be a bigger, meaner, and tougher gorilla coming along behind to use them as the next step in becoming the new king of the hill.
This difference in worldviews can be fully understood by imagining a finite and very small pointed space at the top of a pyramid and then comparing that to an infinite mountain of opportunity.
At the top of a pyramid is room for one. The rugged face of the mountain before us, which ascends into the clouds of heaven, provides many routes of accession. The Tops visible to us, as mere mortals, are really just plateaus for many to rest before beginning the next climb.
If we will climb with the intent to bring along others, we will find ourselves in the company of kindred spirits. We will enjoy lifting them past the seemingly insurmountable obstacles. When we slip and are dangling in the nothingness of our despair, our climbing friends will be there to shout words of encouragement and pull us back to the face of our Rock.
Indeed, I believe it is a worthy endeavor, for all of us, to enjoy the view from the top!