LEARNING TO WORK

I had become a “Christian”. I had come to believe that Christ had died for my sins and lived a life of perfect righteousness that made it possible for me to “know God”. I was learning to pray to God and to hear His voice – especially through the words of the Bible. But I didn’t always like what God was saying!

One of the first things God said to me as a baby Christian (at the age of 27) was that I was to accept personal responsibility for debts that my corporations had incurred before they were all closed down.

When I agreed with God to pay the debts, I nievely thought that my good intentions would mean that He would somehow miraculously provide the money out of “cloud nine”.

I also had a backup plan in case God did not come through. I would go out and get some high-paying executive position and pay off the debts in a few months – and become a “big deal for God” in the process

Well, I waited for several weeks after agreeing to pay the debts. I didn’t even see cloud two.

SO, I decided it was time for my backup plan.

Fiirst, I made a list of a half dozen key contacts I had. These were all men in top executive positions (men who I had not solicited to invest in my companies that went under). And these were all Men who I thought were impressed with me. And they were all in a position to give me the kind of job – (that is income) that I needed to pay off the debts.

SO, I began calling these men and scheduling appointments to meet with them. The first man I met with was quite polite, he simply said they did not have any openings.

BUT each meeting got progressively worse –until toward the end of the week I had the fifth meeting. When this man found out what I wanted; he slammed his fist on his desk and screamed ” I WOULD NEVER HIRE YOU; AND I’LL MAKE SURE NOBODY I KNOW WILL EITHER.”

Remember!  These are the men who were impressed with me – I thought. These “interviews” were a sober reminder of how deceived I had been about myself.

But, I still had hope – I had saved the best for the last. It was Sven, the real estate salesman who had led me to the Lord. I thought he would have to give me a job; after all, he helped get me into this. Sven, it turned out, was Vice President of Van Schaack – the largest privately owned Real Estate firm in Denver at that time.

So I called him and we met at ABE’s restaurant in downtown Littleton, Colorado. I explained proudly how I was going to obey God and pay off these debts even though I didn’t have to! I pointed out that I would need to earn a lot of money to be able to pay off the debts – and how real estate might be a place I could do that.

Sven held up his hand to stop me from talking and he leaned forward and whispered  “You don’t need a job  – you need work”.

I said “what?”

He repeated, (this time shouting) “You don’t need a job  – you need WORK”!

Then he went on to say “I’ll tell you what I’ll do, I’ll provide the funds to set you up in a new business”.

Well, I thought to myself, “This is more like it.”

Sven then paid for breakfast and asked me to come with him. We got in his car and drove to a nearby grocery store where we went in and he purchased a large bottle of ammonia, a box of stainless steel sponges, and a package of paper towels. (I didn’t realize this represented the funds he was providing to set me up in a new business.)

Then, we got back in the car and drove to residential area west of Denver. He parked the car on a side street and announced “here we are.”

I asked: “Where are we?”

He said “This is the location of your new business.”

Bewildered, I said; “Really, what’s my new business?”

He said “Cleaning ovens, door to door.”  And then he went on to explain in detail what he expected me to do.

I was quite offended. I reminded him I was an accountant, a corporate executive, I told him I‘d never cleaned an oven in my life!

He said “that’s good, you won’t have any bad habits.” Then he reminded me of all the business accomplishments that I had been bragging about over breakfast. He said, “This ought to be easy for you. Surely, if you can sell a business executive on investing thousands of dollars, certainly you can sell a homeowner a $10 service.”

Well, quite reluctantly,I got out of the car with the bag of ammonia, steel sponges, and paper towels. Sven then shouted out the window that he would be back in 6 hours at the same corner to pick me up. And he handed me a piece of paper with a Bible verse he had written on it. It  said “If anyone is not willing to work, neither does he deserve to eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10. I stood there on the street staring at this as my Sven drove off.

It was cold – about 5 degrees out with a foot of snow on the ground. I thought about what Sven had said – about how this should be easy for me. So, I turned into the cold blowing wind to start up the street.

I stopped and outlined a quick “sales pitch” which I thought was quite powerful and persuasive.

Then, I began knocking on doors. For two hours I went up and down several streets knocking on doors. I usually didn’t get to use my persuasive sales pitch. And when I did it was always rejected.

By this time I ws so cold I could hardly move my hands. I noticed a restaurant a couple of blocks away and headed for it. I only had enough money for a cup of coffee and an order of toast.

As I sipped the coffee I pulled out a new testament I had in my pocket.

First, I looked up 2 Thessalonians 3:10 to make sure it really was in the Bible. It was!

Then, I began reading Matthew 20 where Jesus disciples were seeking how to be “great” in the kingdom of God.. What Jesus said to his disciples hit me like a lightening bolt. He said: “Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.”

“BE A SERVANT!” These were the words that hit me.

I finished my coffee and headed back to the street. I stopped on a street corner and prayed, “Oh God, please show me how to be a servant”.

Then, with a completely different focus, I again began knocking in doors. Instead of attacking people with my sales pitch, I found myself asking questions and showing a genuine interest in the people and (believe it or not) in the condition of their ovens.

I usually started by asking if they had a “self-cleaning” oven (in those days, most did not). If they DID NOT have a self-cleaning oven, I would ASK them when was the last time their oven had been cleaned. Then, often, these ladies (once in a while, a man) would begin telling about how filthy their oven was and how much they hated cleaning it. If they said this, I would say “those are the kind I like!”

In the next three hours, I cleaned 4 ovens and made $50 including a couple of tips. All because I began to focus on how I could genuinely be of service – instead of trying to persuade people to buy.

 I cleaned ovens for about 3 months. During this time, I found myself counseling some friends who were struggling with their businesses. I found that my failures uniquely equipped me to help others to avoid many of the mistakes I had made. This was the beginning of my consulting business – which I’ve now been doing for over 40 years.