My Awakening

Many have asked me why I do what I do. This post is my response…….

I grew up in a modest, but neat home the youngest of nine children. (All of them were girls except seven of us.) Dad worked incredibly hard to provide the necessities of life. He had his own business, was a county commissioner and held several demanding and high profile jobs at our church. Mom worked probably harder at home cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, being a PTA mom as well as serving in various capacities at our church. Both of them were truly amazing people who knew how to make a dollar stretch as far as possible.

You see, both Mom and Dad were teenagers during the great depression. On Halloween day 1933, when my Dad was 15, he climbed into the back of the truck with the family cow to move from the small city of Arimo, Idaho to Pocatello so that Grandpa could look for work. Grandpa and Grandma had homesteaded two 160 acre plots. Their house was on skids so they could pull the house from one homestead to the other allowing them to live the required 6 month minimum to maintain both pieces of land. Grandpa had also started the small town store and had a grain elevator which he used to engage in buying grain from local farmers and then loading a train car to sell it to buyers in the East.

Sometime during the summer of 1933, Grandpa and Grandma went into Logan, Utah and withdrew a substantial amount money in cash. They quietly returned to Arimo, promptly went down to the dirt basement and buried the money. For the next few days Grandma lived in fear. She had nightmares of someone breaking into the house, harming the children and stealing the money. Finally at her insistence, the two of them retrieved the money and took the long ride to Pocatello, Idaho. There they interviewed a number of different bank presidents/managers. One particular president prevailed in convincing them his bank was sound and in no danger of going out of business as so many did that year. They deposited the money and returned home feeling confident, especially Grandma.

I am sure you know what happens next in my story. Yup, not long, supposedly two weeks later, the bank went bust and Grandma and Grandpa lost all that money which led to them losing essentially everything; their store, their land, their grain elevator – all lost.

I grew up with this story of Grandma and Grandpa being told and retold. I guess the main point I take from the lesson is: being self-reliant and in control of your money is best. My Dad, on the other hand seems to have taken from his experience the idea that paying cash was the best way to go. If you have no debt on something, no one or no bank can foreclose and take it away from you. Dad did not distrust banks, but then again he did not trust them all that much either. I was taught to do without material things and save up until you could pay for something with cash. Oh, the many fun luxuries I saw friends have that I did not. Often though, but the time I had saved enough to get whatever it was, my tastes had changes and I no longer wanted it.

Another key lesson I gleaned growing up was: the banks make the most money. My Dad is a veteran of World War II. When he came home to his three year old son and wife, Grandpa wanted the 5 brothers who had all served in the military to stay together and work together. (A story for another day.) As time passed however, the brothers all started doing their own thing, except my Dad and his identical twin who started a lumber company. They were inseparable. At one point several years later, my Dad was on the roof of one of his three 6-plexes they were building when my Mom came to visit. She was 9 months pregnant. She called up to Dad and asked; “Are you coming to the hospital? This baby (yours truly) is coming and I cannot wait any longer.” When I was about 4 those three apartment buildings were sold. Dad and his brother carried the paper; in other words they financed the purchase, acting as the banker. For the next 30+ years, Dad received a check each month. The total payments were a lot more than the purchase price of the apartments; he made quite a bit of money on interest as well. For decades we siblings always wanted to know how to make money like Dad.

The third lesson is best describe by Mark Twain: “Don’t let your schooling get in the way of your education.” In other words, you can never stop learning. I got a little lost from this for a while. You see, my Dad regretted that he did not take full advantage of the GI Bill upon returning from war. He had a 3 year old after all and needed to get to work. He wished he would have gone to college, so Dad really encouraged us kids to do well in school and to get a university eduction. Why? So we could get a good job and be successful. Most of us graduated from college. I took it to the extreme and got a Ph.D. in Chemistry. My major professor often asked me a question that has stuck with me ever since: “If we are so smart, why aren’t we rich.” I decided to do post-doctoral work at the California Institute of Technology – Caltech to the those “in the know.” When I finished there I was ready to conquer the world and be on my way to fame and fortune.

My first job was in the San Francisco Bay area with a venture capital funded start-up company. Remember “bio-tech bay?” I was in the middle of it. We (my wife and two sons by then) purchased a modest house and entered what I call indentured servitude. My mortgage payment seemed huge. As time went on, another son was born, and I started to realize that even though I was making a good salary, things were not as good financially as I wanted. Nor were they close to what I had envisioned for myself. It wasn’t for lack of effort either, I was the most aggressive of anyone at my work in the percentage of my salary that I was putting aside into the 401(k). I had a co-worker, who had also been at Caltech, with whom I used to talk about things. He knew of my impatience in wealth building and suggested I read the book “Rich Dad Poor Dad.”

What an eye opener that book was for me! Here I was, Dr. Henderson in professional circles, all highly educated and such, but I had let my schooling get in the way of my education. According to the book, I was Poor Dad. To make things seem worse for me, my Dad was Rich Dad and I had failed to learn his lessons about life and wealth. He had done it right, by design or default, it doesn’t matter. Here I had spent all this time in school getting degrees and publishing papers, presenting my work on multiple continents and even having patents issued on my work. Was it all a waste of time? I don’t think so, as the experience was valuable, but as far as building wealth goes, the fact remained I was Poor Dad. I was guilty of doing what Mark Twain warned against.

That book was only the beginning. I became a voracious reader of financial books. I consider a Ph.D. degree nothing more than a certification that I know how to learn, and I was confident that I could learn the best way to build wealth. I was determined to prove my professor wrong – I was smart and I was going to be rich.

In the middle of all this reading I learned another lesson: it is better to have your capital returned than a return on your capital. Living near the epicenter of the dot com craze in 2000 I watched the beginning of the bubble burst. Don’t misunderstand, I knew my share of several 20 something employees of dot com companies that sold their stock options when their company went public, took the cash and promptly walked into the nearest Porsche dealership and wrote out a personal check for a new car. For me, the recession and stock market crash in late 1999 and early 2000 was an eye opener. I saw some hard earned and harder saved money just disappear into thin air. Luckily, I found a different job, and moved out of the area, allowing us to be able to sell our house for a handsome profit before real estate took a hit in the Bay area.

My new job was a good job and I excelled at what I did. I helped build the company and brought in millions of dollars in sales as a result of creativity, management skills and work ethic. For a while though, I allowed myself to be strong armed by the company owners. Conditions at the company were unsafe and unhealthy. If OSHA had shown up at our facility, we would have been shut down for safety violations, but pleas from employees were ignored. Two good people were even physically hurt rather seriously and still not much changed. Several others left so emotionally drained and robbed of life it was tragic. Despite the great work happening in the department I oversaw, there were decisions made by the owner management that were unethical and dishonest. This conflict haunted me, as did the fact that I was still Poor Dad, just at another high paying job making someone else wealthy.

Looking back, part of the pain came from my ignoring the lesson of Grandpa and Grandma – I was not self reliant, I was not in control. The pain of the conflict grew to a point that I actually had a doctor tell me I was going to die unless I changed things in my life to relieve some of the stress.

I need to back up here and tell you what was going on while I was at this company. Because I had forgotten the lesson of Grandpa and Grandma I went through a period of time where I was discouraged. I began to believe the American Dream was dead. Yes, I thought there was no way I could provide for my children at the level my Dad had provided for me. And then, my world all changed when I saw an advertisement about how to become your own banker. Memories of what my Dad had done as a banker with his apartments flooded in.

As I learned about several financial concepts, I was challenged to rethink my ideas about how money works. Because I am a good learner and was motivated to find a better way, I was able to unlearn some downright crazy financial myths and relearn sound and lasting truths.

One of those myths was that paying cash is the best way to acquire things I wanted and needed. Given what I grew up with, this was an extremely difficult concept to unlearn. But my upbringing also planted the seed of learning a better way. Remember the apartment complexes Dad built and sold? He owned the debt on the properties – he acted like the banker. I have since learned the best way to acquire the things of life is to finance them with your own resources, using debt as a tool to create wealth, not as a shackle of servitude. The difference between the two is who owns the debt. As I (painfully) relearned a better way, my optimism grew and my faith in the American Dream returned.

Because of this new knowledge I started to be happier and more excited about life. My whole outlook changed from a perspective of scarcity to a perspective of abundance. I wanted everyone I knew and cared about to know what I had learned. I started right away to help people part time.

Ok, back to the doctor telling me to change things. Despite all the positive things happening for me on the financial side of life, my work situation was still so poor it was literally killing me. Well, I took the doctor’s advice and made a change. I decided the best way to help the world was to share with them the message of hope I had found. When people look at the world through a lens of abundance, they are able to be better people – better citizens, neighbors, church members, family members, and friends.

And so it goes; my story continues from that point. I love helping people help themselves. I love teaching people how they can be financially self sufficient. I help them to make money like banks do. In addition, they are confident that they will have all they want and need it life.

A huge bonus to all this is the ever-growing circle of friends I have. When someone goes through “an awakening” from things I share with them I become a trusted family friend. They want to introduce me to their family and their close friends. I really like being a benefit to others. I like being someone who others come to for advice. I am making the world a better place by what I do – one person at a time. What a blessed life.

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