I was an "only child" with five siblings. My two brothers and three sisters ranged from seven to twenty-one years old. Even though we are a very close family, I grew up during my teenage years almost as an only child.
I was never lonely because I had two wonderful parents. They spent their entire lives making sure we had everything we needed. My parents had the things that riches cannot buy -- a loving family, friends, good health for most of their lives, and they became wonderful grandparents.
However, my parents did not have many things that money could buy.
When the three of us sat for dinner, I would listen closely to what they said about money. I heard the stress in their voices, and knew that like most people money affected their many dreams. They wanted to rent a motor home and travel across the country. I said, "Why rent it for two weeks? Buy one and have it whenever you want to get away." I was a smart kid, but so na´ve about how tight the household money was.
My father worked odd jobs to bring in extra money. One of these jobs was wall paper hanging. One day, when he did not know I was watching, I saw him in tears as he was lifting a ladder off the top of his car. He later explained, as he lay on the couch with a bag of ice on his left shoulder, that the paper hanging inflamed his muscles. My dad did not want to work extra jobs in addition to his full time position as a foreman, but he had to. Moreover, he was right back at it after church on Sunday -- providing for his family despite his shoulder pain.
The clues, hints and outright signs that money was a concern added up in my head like adding the final piece to a puzzle to make the picture complete. We were not poor, but my parents' became limited and often put aside by the consistent worry over money.
Two things happened that weekend as I watched my father. In a flash, I understood how great my parents are what sacrifices they have made to have six happy children. But more importantly, I swore I would never let money be a barrier to my dreams.
As a college freshman at Camden County College, I made a commitment for success armed with the two gifts that my parents ingrained in my head -- respect for all who work hard to provide for others (Dad) and the statement "You can achieve anything" (Mom).
Now, my daily ritual is to recite my goals and how I will achieve them. I always start with the words "You Can" just as my mom's statement did.
"You Can, get good enough grades at community college to transfer to a business school." -- I graduated from the Wharton School of Business three years later.
"You Can, start a business even though you have little money." -- I started a company in a spare bedroom with less than $200 that within ten years made the Inc. 500 three years in a row as one of the fastest growing companies in the USA.
"You Can, take your Company public." -- The company I started in my home went public on NASDAQ in 1999.
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