I was 25 when I met a man called Earl Shoaff. I didn’t realise it at the time but this chance encounter would change my life forever.

Until then my life had been embarrassingly typical of those people who lead mediocre lives with not much achieve­ment and even less happiness.

When I left my parents’ home I had ambition. I wanted to achieve great things. However, life did not turn out as I’d expected. I was impatient to find work earning big money. Back then I didn’t have any trouble getting a job. (I was yet to understand the differ­ence between making a living and making a life.). Shortly afterwards, I got married. I made lots of promises to my wife about our wonderful future. After all, I was ambitious. I was sincere. I really wanted to succeed. And I worked hard. I thought our success was assured!

When I turned 25 I’d been working for six years. I decided to take stock of my life. Actually, things weren’t going well. Back then my weekly pay amounted to $57. I was behind in my promises and even further behind with the pile of bills on our rickety kitchen table. I was a father with responsibilities to my wife and expanding family.

Saddest of all was when I realised I had gradually settled into quietly accepting my life of being poor and miserable.

In a moment of honesty I saw that rather than making progress, actually I was falling further behind financially with each passing day. Something clearly had to change . . . but what? Maybe hard work alone doesn’t do it? For me, this was a shocking realisation.

I had been raised to believe that the good life comes to those who earn their living by the sweat of their brow. But it was plain as day that, although I was sweatin’ plenty, I was on my way to being broke, in debt, and in need of government assistance. I would be just like all the people around me. But I was only 25, for goodness sake!

This terrified me. I couldn’t face that kind of future. Not a lifetime of it. Not while I’m living in the richest country in the world!

What should I do? How could I change the direction of my life? I had more questions than answers.

I thought about going to night school. Having only one year of college doesn’t look good on a job application. But with a family to look after, going back to school seemed impractical. Then I thought about starting a business. Now that got me excited. But I didn’t have any capital. After all, money was one of my big problems. I always had too much month left at the end of the money. (Have you ever been in that position?)

One day, I lost ten dollars. It upset me so much that I felt physically sick. Sick over losing ten dollars! One of my friends tried to cheer me up. “Jim,” he said, “maybe some poor soul found it who needed it more than you.”

Believe me, that did not cheer me up. As far as I was concerned I was the person who needed to find ten dollars, not lose it.  

So that’s where I was at age 25 – behind on my dreams and without a clue about how to change my life for the better.

Then one day good fortune came my way. Why do good things happen when they do? I really don’t know. Maybe good luck or meeting the right person at the right time is part of the mystery of life.

Anyway, my good fortune came when I met a very special man called Earl Shoaff. He was conducting a training session I attended. I can’t tell you what he said that evening but he captivated me. I remember thinking to myself “I would give anything to be like him.”

At the end of his talk it took all the courage I could muster just to walk up to him and introduce myself. In spite of my stutter, he must have seen in my eyes my burning desire to succeed. He was kind and generous with his time – and he took a liking to me.

A few months later he hired me to work with him. Over the next five years I learned many of life’s most important lessons from Mr Shoaff. He treated me like a son, spending hours teaching me his personal philosophy. Then one day, at age 49, without any warning, Mr Shoaff died.

After mourning the loss of my mentor, I took time to assess the impact he’d had on my life. I realised that the best thing I’d got from him was not a job. It was what I’d become as a man. I was living an exciting life based on his philosophy and his fundamentals for successful living. I’d learned how to be healthy, wealthy and – some people say – wise.

During the next few years I put all his ideas into practice in my life and I prospered. But the most gratifying experience was sharing Mr Shoaff’s ideas with my family, friends and employees. His ideas made a huge difference in how my life turned out. I took up the challenge of communicating Mr Shoaff’s wisdom to others.

Mr Shoaff had told me “Whatever you do in life, study that subject thorough-ly. Read books about it. Get some extra training. Become an expert at it. Enjoy your involvement.”  

 By Jim Rohn. Reproduced for Educational Purposes.