From then on things started going downhill. I had more jobs and I tried to start more businesses than I care to count. Everything failed. Texas was in a recession, and I was getting further and further behind little by little. I sold cars. I sold knives. I sold advertising. I sold mobile homes. I played in a band. I tried the lawn mowing business, the health club business, telemarketing, a roofing business. I was an apartment manager, worked in shipping and receiving, copier sales, the window tinting business, and onsite real estate sales. You name it, I tried it. I either recognized that the job was going nowhere or I flat out failed, but either way I was perpetually moving on. Looking back, I’m sure it didn’t help that in my early twenties I looked like I was sixteen. Who wants to buy a car or a home from a guy who looks like he’s sixteen years old?
Fast Forward: Somewhere my Momma has a stack of business cards about three inches thick. She brought them out and showed them to me once when I was talking about how lucky I was to have so much in life. She said that being grateful was a wonderful trait but that she was not sure at all about how “lucky” I’d been. I was about to protest when she handed me that stack of business cards tightly wrapped with a rubber band. I released the rubber band and began to flip through all the different cards. I got quiet as I revisited every failure one at a time. There were so many failures, and many I’d forgotten about. Once I saw them I remembered every single job or venture, and the disappointment wrapped up in them. Mom broke the long silence, “I know you and I’ve saved these cards for this day. You’ve been busting your little tail end ever since I can remember. Be grateful for your health or your parents or your God-given abilities but don’t give luck too much due…You’ve fought for every inch of your success.”
As I travel through this life I find myself saying this more and more, “God Bless Mommas.”
I just couldn’t find myself. I couldn’t find what I was supposed to do to make a living. Every time I’d start out excited in my new career, reality would set in, and it was over. The cycle was making me doubt myself. I’d been so successful in high school and now so many failures coming one after another.
During the lows, I always managed to make ends meet. I don’t know how but I also always managed to keep my good credit. I never asked my parents for any money, but Dad would slip me a $100 every now and then, figuring I could use it. He wasn’t wrong. More importantly, both my parents were supportive. Their emotional support ran deep and wide. I don’t ever recall them laughing at any of my crazy business ideas. I don’t ever remember them saying, “That won’t work,” or even, “Are you sure about this?” They always said something to the affect of, “Great, it sounds exciting! Let us know how it’s going…let us know if we can help.” My parents were always enthusiastic and always encouraged me. I can only imagine how they must have worried about me. I was falling down so often.
Somewhere in my failures, I began to see how easy it would be to be homeless. I completely realized how often I was just one paycheck away from being in the street. It seems like that should’ve tamed my capacity for risk but really it emboldened me. You see, I had a net and I knew it. I always knew I could go home if things really got bad. On the day I moved out, Momma was standing in the driveway waving goodbye in tears as I left, and I never moved back in. I knew I could have moved back if I’d needed to. I knew that. That one thing alone could well be the reason for the way things turned out in my life. It would be a bold face lie to say that having such a net didn’t immensely change the way I looked at risk. I might have been young, dumb, and failing, but I was smart enough to know that now was the time to try and fail. I knew that I would never go hungry or have to sleep in the rain as long as I had my wonderful mother and father and I could make my way to them. To this day, I am grateful for that net. Change that little ingredient and my life might taste very different today. I am very grateful for the parents God gave me. And as sure as age comes to all of us, I can assure you that neither my mother, nor my father, will ever go hungry or sleep in the rain, not if I am alive and can function. I pray they will never need me, and they probably won’t, but that is my promise to them. That is their net.