Chapter One The End
That was the night I first met the Greatest Networker in the World. It was also (as I’ve heard a number of very successful Network Marketers say since) the night my life changed for the better – forever!
First, I suppose I should tell you what my life was like at that point.
I’d been involved with this one particular Network Marketing company for a little over four months and it wasn’t going very well. In fact, it was looking a lot like a bad joke.
The products were great – everybody I shared them with agreed with that. But for the life of me, I couldn’t get anyone interested in my business opportunity. I was working 30 hours a week part-time – all my evenings and most of my weekends – and what I had to show for it was a retail profit of $150 to $200 a month!
Like I said, “Ha ha.”
I’d figured it out once: my home-based “wave of the future” business was earning me a handsome $1.56 an hour – gross! My kids were strangers. My wife was disenchanted and so distant she might as well have lived in Alaska! Clearly, this Networking business was not for me, nor was I for it.
I’d made up my mind. This was my last opportunity meeting.
The hotel room was packed, as usual. When I walked in, I noticed a particularly large swarm of people gathered around someone in the front of the room. I took aside a distributor I’d met before, pointed to the group and asked, “Who’s that over there with all those people around him?”
“Oh,” she said, “that’s the Greatest Networker in the World . . . would you like to meet him?”
“Sure,” I said. She took me over.
The man in the middle was strikingly handsome – well-groomed, looked to be in his early forties, elegantly dressed, yet not at all showy. He was clearly successful and wore it well.
I’ll never forget that evening.
His clothes were expensive: British suit with real buttonholes, great floral tie and a breast pocket scarf quietly but noticeably picking up the burgundy reds of the tie . . . and, yes, there was the gold Rolex Oyster I expected, peeking out from beneath his cuff-linked shirt.
I noticed that his shirt was monogrammed on the cuff, but the stitches of the initials were the exact same color thread as the shirt. Subtle, classy touch, I told myself.
Just then there was a brief opening in the crowd around the man and my friend pulled me into the “inner circle.”
The Greatest Networker was listening intently to what a woman standing directly in front of me was saying, when his eye caught mine. He put a hand on the woman’s shoulder and asked her to excuse him for just a moment. Then he looked me straight in the face, extended his hand to me, and said, with a warmth that actually shocked me with its intensity:
“Hello. It’s really good to see you.” He told me his name and asked me mine.
Now, normally I’m able to say who I am with ease. Not this time. I stammered – actually, I stuttered, something I hadn’t done in 25 years. His grip on my hand became a bit firmer and he asked, “How are you doing?”
I said something conventional – I can’t remember exactly what. Something like, “Fine, thanks.” And he replied, “Really, is that true?”
Before I had time to stop myself with a polite avoidance of his question, I found myself telling him how I was really doing. He listened to me in a way I’ve never experienced before. I actually felt him listening to me. It was, well, physical.
I told him how my business – and my life – were going. There it was, all out in the open and on the table. And I told him this was my last opportunity meeting, that I wasn’t cut out for Network Marketing. I think I told him, “It just isn’t my thing.”
He smiled. I suddenly realized that throughout our brief conversation, he still had hold of my hand. He squeezed it again, just then, and asked, “Would you have some time after the meeting to spend with me?”
Before I could get my defensive “No” plus an excuse out of my mouth, I heard myself say, “Gosh, that would be great.”
“Gosh . . . ” – I sounded like a teenager.
He smiled again. Thanked me. Said he’d see me after the meeting, turned back to the woman with whom he’d been speaking and walked and talked with her, taking a seat in the front section close to the right of the stage.
I sat in the far back of the room in what had become “my” seat. It was, I’d come to learn, a seat in my “comfort zone.” It was a place to hide, and I knew that.
After the formal part of the meeting was over and the groups of new distributors and their sponsors were leaving together, he came up to me where I was standing by the coat rack. He smiled at me with that same noticeable warmth as before, and I pointed to his smiling face and said, “You know, if I could find a way to package that smile of yours, I’d have the perfect product. I’d be rich in a couple of weeks!”
His laughter came so quickly and boomed so loudly all around the room, everybody who was left turned to look at us. I was very self-conscious.
“That’s great!” he exclaimed. “Thanks! It is a good smile, isn’t it? Well, I’ll tell you, I built this smile myself – tooth by tooth. My smile wasn’t always like this.
“Yes,” he continued, “I am proud of this smile,” and he flashed the grin even bigger than before. “It feels wonderful, too!
“Come on,” he said, taking me by the arm and moving off through the door. “Let’s get some coffee and something to eat. Have you had dinner?”
I said I’d grabbed a quick bag of nuts before the meeting.
“Trail mix?” he asked.
“Something like that,” I said. “Got it from the gift shop downstairs.”
“I’ve had dinner there myself,” he said. “The food and service aren’t very good. The selection is limited. It’s pretty pricy, too. You know,” he laughed, “that gift shop is a truly disappointing restaurant!”
I agreed – laughing right along with him. It felt good to be with him. He’d certainly changed the way I was feeling in a remarkably short time.
“So, what do you like to eat most?” he asked.
And before I could say something polite – and not the truth – he added, “It’s a sincere question. What would you most like to eat – right now?”
I took a deep breath and said, “Italian.”
“Great!” he said. “Me too. Can I take you to a place I just love? It’s only ten minutes away.”
“Your car or mine?” I asked.
“Let’s take mine,” he said. “It’s right out front.”
I don’t know what I expected the Greatest Networker in the World to drive. Something exotic . . . certainly very expensive, so I was quite shocked when the doorman greeted us and walked us over to open the passenger- side door of what I guessed to be a mid-’70s Ford pickup truck. Painted simply in gray primer, no less!
I guess he saw the disappointment or whatever the look was on my face. He laughed and asked, “You look like you were expecting something else?”
“Yes, I was.”
“What did you expect?”
“I don’t know – a Mercedes . . . a Porsche . . . maybe a Rolls Royce or something.”
His laughter boomed around the enclosed hotel entrance. This guy seemed to laugh from his toes, not his mouth. The doorman was smiling, as well.
“Yes,” he said, “I have those, but I like my truck best. You know, Sam Walton is the richest man in America, worth about $22 billion all told – and he drives a pickup. If it’s good enough for Uncle Sam . . . .” And he let the rest of the sentence hang in the air.
He handed the doorman a $10 bill. Thanked him and said he hoped to see him soon. Then he stopped, as if remembering something, and asked the young man, “How’s your business, Chris?”
The young doorman – a college-kid type – replied, “It’s just great, sir. I made Supervisor last month. And thanks for introducing me to Barbara. She’s the greatest!”
“Good,” said the Greatest Networker. “You work hard, Chris, and you’re smart. You deserve your success. What’s up next for you?”
“Well,” the young man answered thoughtfully, “I’ll stay here at the hotel for another month or three. You were right about this place,” the young man said looking up at the hotel. “I’ve met some of my best people here. I’ve got some traveling I want to do. I’ve got a great group going in San Antonio
and I think I’ll go down there for a few months. After that – who knows? Germany . . . Japan, maybe?”
“Let me know your plans. I know some people in Japan you might enjoy meeting,” said my new friend.
“Thanks, I will,” replied the young man earnestly, and I could tell by his tone that he would indeed do that.
“Have a great evening, Chris,” the Greatest Networker called out as we drove off.
As we traveled to the restaurant, we made small talk. Actually, I made small talk. He just kept asking me questions.
He asked me where I lived . . . what part of town . . . how I liked it . . . what my neighbors were like . . . what my house was like . . . how my kids liked it and what their schools were like. I don’t mean to make it sound like an interrogation. It wasn’t that at all. He just seemed so curious, so interested in me – and so easy to talk to. I probably told him more about my life in those ten short minutes than I’d ever told anyone before.
When we got to the restaurant, a uniformed man came out and greeted us warmly, opened my door and asked me, was this my first time at his restaurant?
I told him it was, and he said how it was nice to see me and how he hoped I’d enjoy my dinner, and he suggested that if I truly liked great fresh fish, there was an absolutely terrific snapper cacciatore on the menu that he highly recommended.
I thanked him, feeling a little clumsy. I wasn’t used to such treatment from anyone, let alone from the doorman at what looked to be a first-class establishment.
We entered the restaurant with the maître d’ and the Greatest Networker appearing to be the very best of friends; and I noticed smiling exchanges passing constantly between my host and an assortment of waiters and customers. As we took our seats, I noted, “You certainly live in a different world than I do.”
“How’s that?” he asked.
“Well, everybody is all smiles and warmth and friendship . . . you seem to know everybody, and they all know you and like you. Do you own this place or something?”
Another booming laugh. I was becoming a little less self-conscious about that.
“Tell me,” he asked, “what’s present for you when all of this ‘smiling and friendshipping,’ as you call it, is going on?”
What a question. “’‘Present’?” I asked, “what do you mean?”
“What’s here, like in the air around us – what do you notice is present for you?”
I took a deep breath – I was getting used to his unique kind of questions, too. So I answered thoughtfully. “I feel envious,” I told him, “and curious, too. I want to know how I can have my life be like this.”
“Tell me,” he asked, leaning closer and looking very directly, yet not at all threateningly, into my face, “what do you really want your life to be like?”
And so began a two-hour-plus dinner – the best I’ve ever eaten and spoken. All he did was ask me questions, followed by, “ . . . Tell me more about that . . . ” or, “ . . . Can you say more about that?” And all I did was to tell him things I hadn’t ever shared with anyone, not even with my wife!
A number of times during our dinner conversation, he asked questions to make sure he understood what I was saying. But there was something odd about them to me, because he’d ask me if such and such were true, even though I’d never actually said that particular “such and such.”
I know, that’s not very clear – is it? Let me give you an example.
I was talking about a job I’d had early on with a computer company back in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Calling it a “company” was a bit of a stretch. It was really just a bunch of guys – “hackers,” we were called – who were messing around in the early days of computers. It was an exciting time for me. The work was fun, the people were wild – very smart and very stimulating. I’d had a good time back then.
He asked me, “So, you’re a pioneer?”
See what I mean?
“Pioneer?” I said back to him. “No, I’m no pioneer. I was just having fun – it was in the early days of computers and we just played with stuff, that’s all.”
“Had anyone ever done that before?” he asked me. I guessed not, I thought, and told him so.
And again he said, “So, you’re a pioneer?”
I must have looked at him strangely, for he leaned back on his chair and gave a medium version of his booming laugh. I was no longer embarrassed by these mini-volcanos of mirth – and the folks in the restaurant, which had thinned out considerably by now, seemed more comfortable with them, too. They just turned to him and smiled, and then went back to their conversations.
“Ah . . . man,” I stammered, “you’ve sure got a way of disarming me. Well, I suppose I was a pioneer . . . in a way . . . back then.”
He looked surprised, and asked, “ . . . back then? – Not now?”
Was he unreasonable or what? “Okay,” I said – and I let my irritation show a little, “I’m a pioneer. But I seem to have lost my covered wagon . . .” And the moment I said it, I could literally feel what he was going to say next. Something about a “vehicle.” I was certain of it.
But he didn’t say a thing.
I was very uncomfortable.
At last, he asked, “What were you thinking just now?”
“When?” I asked him back – a little too quickly. Then I held up my hand and shook my head saying, “No, wait. I know when. It’s just . . . well, I . . . Oh, I don’t know.
“Look, where’s all of this going?” I asked him. “I mean, you’re asking me questions and saying things to me that nobody’s ever said to me before. Things that stop me cold and I don’t know what to say to you . . . or even what to think.”
He didn’t say a word – just leaned forward, ever so slightly, and turned his head to the right and toward me just a bit, as if he wanted to make sure to catch every syllable I uttered. It was an intriguing expression – expectant, as if he were waiting to hear what I’d say next, and empathetic, as if he’d already completely accepted what I said, even though he didn’t know what it was yet. It was comforting – and disarming at the same time.
I felt the air go out of me – and feelings well up inside me. Big feelings. Important ones. I felt suddenly very sad.
“I just want to be a success,” I told him, emotion troubling my words a little. “I’m so sick and tired of the sameness . . . of not having the money to
do what I want . . . to give my wife and kids the things they deserve. Disney World,” I said, “I want to take the kids to Disney World – and the Grand Canyon. I want to be free. I want time . . . creativity . . . control . . . . And yes, I do want to be a pioneer – again. I loved doing that . . ..”
“But . . .?” he asked quietly.
“But, I don’t know how,” I answered, and I was certain I sounded close to crying. “I’ve heard all that positive mental attitude stuff, a hundred times – a thousand times. It doesn’t work for me. Network Marketing doesn’t work for me. Or, I guess, I don’t work for it. Something like that.
“I see other people doing it. Lots of them. So I know it can be done. And I know they’re not any smarter or better than me, or work any harder. It’s just that – I can’t seem to get it to work for me. I try. I really do. I make the calls . . . run my names list. It just doesn’t work.”
I looked over at him and asked, “What’s wrong with me?”
He let his head fall back and looked up at the ceiling. He scrunched his shoulders up and down, took a big, long, deep breath and leveled his eyes on me.
“Look, how would you like me to show you how to do this business?”
“Are you kidding?” I asked, in a voice that had everybody in the restaurant turn and look over at us. “You bet!” I exclaimed, holding my excitement down to the dullest possible roar.
“Good,” he said, matter-of-factly. “We’ll start tomorrow. Here’s what I want you to do . . .”
He handed me a piece of paper on which he had written an address. He told me that was where he lived and to come to his office the next afternoon after I got off work. It looked to be about 90 minutes out of town, so said I could be there by 6:30, and he said that was perfect.
He reached into his briefcase and took out a package, wrapped in a glossy forest green paper. From its size and shape, I guessed it was a book.
“Here,” he said, “this is your homework. I want you to read this before we meet tomorrow – okay?”
“The whole thing?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, pretending to be stern, but then he smiled and added, “Don’t worry. It’s a very quick read.”
He paid for dinner. I thanked him. He thanked everybody in the restaurant.
He drove me back to the hotel where the meeting had been and where my car was parked. This time, I turned the tables on him and asked all about where he lived, his house, his neighbors . . . After four or five of my questions, he turned to me and smiled. “Bright boy. You learn quickly,” he said.
That felt pretty good.
He left me next to my car, said goodbye and drove off in his truck.
I watched him go – watched him long after he’d gone from my sight. Then I unlocked my car, got in, turned the key, and sat there letting it warm up, staring blankly in front of me.
The book! I thought, and hurriedly pulled it out from my jacket pocket. I tore off the slick paper wrapping and turned it right-side up to read the title. Even in the dim light of the street lamp, the bold gold foil letters jumped off the deep green, glossy cover. They said:
What You Don’t Know That You Don’t Know
I opened the book with tremendous excitement, flipping quickly past the beginning pages. After 10 or 12 pages, I stopped cold. There was not a word in it.
Every page in the book was totally blank!