Blowout On The Interstate of Life: My “Ann Rutledge Moment”!

When I was 30 years old, I lost the “Love of my Life”. I was despondent, almost to the point of suicide. Much like Abraham Lincoln when his sweetheart, Ann Rutledge, died of the fever, I lost interest in everything. Although my sweetheart did not die, nonetheless I knew that I would never see her again, and I did not think I could live without her. I was definitely in a ‘Blue Funk’ depression.

The reason I never considered the ‘final’ option was because of my Marine training. I reasoned that, “Hey, if I was able make it through THAT, I could make it through ANYTHING.” But just the fact that I even thought about it for a split second, scared the Hell out of me.

And so, I never gave the subject of suicide another thought. Of course, most people don’t have that kind of experience in their past to carry them through the really hard times. One of my reasons for sharing my story is, if I can prevent even one person from ending their life, it will be worth it, in spades.

While I was in my “Blue Funk”, I got a call one day from my stock broker buddy, who recommended I talk with the Representative of a company called Success Motivation Institute. In my state of mind, that sounded pretty good to me. When I met with him it was as if the hand of Providence had brought me “Success Training On Steroids”. Even the name of the company that produced the program sounded like an Oasis in the Desert must have looked to a lost Caravan.

SMI (now known as LMI, Leadership Management International,Inc. (SMI/LMI; is still in business today, and I eventually bought a franchise.In 2004, Entrepreneur Magazine named the company Management Consulting Franchise of the Year.

Now that I had found the program which I hoped would help me reverse the downward spiral I was on, it was still up to me to make a decision. The program cost a lot of money, $600. Back then (1870)that was a lot of money to me. Money was tight so I would have to finance it if I bought it.

But how could I be sure they really knew what they were talking about. Would the program work for me? How could I be sure? After all I had already invested over $10,000 in a college degree. The US Marine Corps had spent several hundred thousand dollars training me. The Travelers Insurance Company had put me through a one-year training program in Corporate Sales. So what was this $600 Program going to do for me that these other programs had not?

The company Representative explained that the training and development self-study program was based on two things: 1) A personality profile (data base) of the spectacularly successful individual and, 2) An electronic delivery system base on Spaced Repetition.

1)The Success Profile was accessed from the writings of Napoleon Hill, the author of “Think and Grow Rich”, currently the fourth leading all-time best selling book in history. Hill spent 25 years studying success and failure. Mentored by Andrew Carnegie, the Steel Tycoon, Hill closely studied 500 of Western Civilization’s most successful people. He also studied 25,000 failures, in order to learn the leading causes of failure, as well as, the leading causes of success.

2)The electronic delivery system (cassette tape player, the MP3 of yesteryear) allowed the listener to take advantage of the convenience of spaced repetition as a learning technique. Suddenly the classroom was portable. We listened in the car, at home,at meals, relaxing around the pool, even in the shower, (sleep learning has been pretty well discounted, however, it surely can’t hurt anything).

Spaced Repetition is the same thing that the Advertising Industry is based upon. What do you think of when I say, “Tide”, seashore or detergent? “Apple”, computer or fruit? Things go better with______? LSMFT?(You have to be really old like me to remember the last one. It hasn’t been on the radio for 50 years: “Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco”.) If you remember LSMFT after all those years, it shows how well the conditioning works.

Spaced Repetition is the way we learn the words to a song on the radio (without even trying); it’s the way we learned to talk; the same way we learned the alphabet, and the multiplication tables (of course, the kids today don’t have to learn them. Big Mistake!)

When the SMI Representative was explaining the concept of Spaced Repetition to me, I reflected on a previous experience which helped me to make the right decision:
After my military service, I was teaching high school general math. I was required to take the Graduate Record Exam. I scored significantly higher on the math portion than I had on previous exams, although those previous scores had been good enough to be accepted to the Duke University School of Engineering. The teaching experience had obviously sharpened my math skills. I was able to do rapid calculations in my head from REPETITIOUSLY working problems while standing in front of a class. I even remembered a specific problem which I would only be able to solve by knowing the formula for the volume of a cone. I knew the formula…because I had been teaching it REPETITIOUSLY three or four times a day for an entire week. BINGO! My decision was made! I knew… that they knew…what they were talking about. I bought the program and it was the best decision I ever made in my life.

After only three weeks into the program, I had what could only be described as… an epiphany. Computers are man’s feeble attempt to duplicate the human brain and there are many similarities. Re-conditioning the brain is similar to how one would defrag a computer which could most easily be done with a strong magnet. But, instead of passing a magnet over the hard disc to destroy the memory, a person must deal with the baggage they are carrying around.

Based on this tried-and-true information that I could rely on about success and failure, my brain worked through all the mistakes, failures and problems of my previous life. I soon realized (three weeks) without a doubt, that I was “O.K.”, after all. I had been starting to think that I might be “Born To Lose”, having screwed up nearly everything in my life, up to that point.

The program made me a total believer. I knew without a doubt that:
1)I had unlimited potential (for real);
2)mistakes are O.K., as long as you learn a lesson from each one and don’t make the same one twice; and,
3)that I could really do anything I chose to do in this life. I can still vividly remember driving down the Interstate, listening to tapes, and singing at the top of my lungs because I was so happy to be “O.K.” again.

Going forward, as a newly-born ‘information sponge’ with an insatiable appetite for knowledge and 100 goals on my Dream List (an early version of a Bucket List), I was becoming quite upset with the way the Viet Nam War was dragging on, much like today. I was getting reports about my buddies from OCS and Basic School, half of which, came home in body bags; and then Nixon getting elected on a promise to end the war; and then dragging it on for years more. I was pissed. Fortunately, the Founding Fathers gave us a Peaceful Revolution every four years so that we would not need to have a real one.

The upshot is that I ran for the US Senate in Georgia. The year was 1972.I was only 29 years old but I would have turned 30 in time to take office, which was the requirement. That was the same year Joe Biden won his first election, as the youngest Senator ever elected. Had I won, I would have been younger than Joe. But I lost…badly. However, I met Jimmy Carter, Andrew Young, Hosea Williams and a host of other wonderful folks.

Plus, I had one very encouraging thing happen: while I finished 13th out of 15 Candidates in the Democratic Primary statewide, I finished 3rd in one County. I only visited once and was only interviewed on television. I was mad about being denied a tour of the State Prison and I blasted them in my best Marine Corps leadership style, and I apparently connected with the electorate. I learned from that experience that the voters simply want someone who will stand up and get mad for them. Once the war ended, I lost my motivation for politics and I settled back into my Bucket List.

For the last 40 years I have been working on my Goals, many of which are still works-in-progress. Hopefully my story will inspire people to set Goals and spend a lifetime working on them. There are all kinds of Goals: Goals of having; Goals of being; Goals of becoming; Mental and Educational goals; Physical and Health Goals; Spiritual and Ethical Goals; Social and Cultural Goals; Financial and Career Goals; and Goals for Family and Home.

Each of these areas of life is like a spoke on the “Wheel of Life”.Everyone should strive to become an ever-expanding, perfectly balanced wheel, with YOU at the Center. If a person is not working on at least 100 goals in their life, they face the risk of grossly under-achieving!

Going through the program, I discovered during the initial self-evaluation phase, that one of my spokes was over-extended, and two were essentially missing. This helped explain why I had had my “Blowout on the Interstate of Life”. The program gave me the tools and strategies to effect effortless change in my life.

First you make your habits, and then your habits make you…or BREAK you. Mine were KILLING me. Alcohol was my Achilles heel,but thanks to the training, I eventually got that monkey off my back. I quickly eliminated cigarettes and lost the thirty extra pounds I had gained in my 3 years out of the military. (No wonder she left!).

I have spent the last 40 years living a life of freedom, adventure and personal achievement. Currently my brand is the Leadership Guru Guy on Linkedin:

What excites me most is the possibility of someday publishing a best seller; to be able to reach the masses with the message that they all have unlimited potential and have but to tap into it. It is like having a safe with millions of dollars inside but not having the combination. Well, I HAVE the combination and would love to share it with the world!

Today, the Top Ten items on my Bucket List are:
1)Build a Super Business Incubator/Accelerator
2) Play in a Million Dollar Chess Tournament
3)Compete in the Champions Tour Qualifying Golf Tournament.
4)Buy An Island in Belize
5)Publish A Best Selling Book
6)Build The American History Museum
7) Sail Around The World
8)Produce a Feature Film
9)Buy a 65′ Catamaran
10) Produce Reality TV Show

What’s on YOUR Bucket List? Contact me for a review of YOUR “Wheel of Life):


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