1985: The Year From Hell image

1985: The Year From Hell

How Financial Freedom Set Us Free

In December 1984, Robert and I sold all we had and left Honolulu to begin building our business in Southern California. It didn’t take long—two months to be exact—before we had gone through the money we had. We were broke and without jobs or work. We had a long way to go before we were ready to launch our business. At times we were even homeless, sleeping in a beat-up Toyota Celica. I can honestly say 1985 was the worst year of our lives.

Rock bottom

When Robert and I had nothing, we argued with each other and blamed one another. Resentment built up. We were definitely not at our best. We were stressed beyond belief.

The worst part of it all for me was that my self-esteem hit rock bottom. Before 1985, I was always a very optimistic, happy, decisive, and confident woman. But when we went through this taxing period, I began to question and doubt everything I knew and believed in, including my ability to accomplish anything. I’d ask myself, “Do I know anything at all?” What started as a few self-doubts quickly spiraled into what at the time seemed like a huge, dark hole that was impossible to climb out of.

A night of refuge

When things were at their worst, Robert and I would actually knock on doors of people we sort of knew and ask if we could stay at their house for the night. There was one night during this period of time the two of us will never forget.

Our credit cards were completely maxed out. In those days not everyone had the automatic credit card machines to check on the status of the credit card being used. One afternoon I walked into the lobby of a cheap motel and put my credit card down on the counter, keeping my fingers crossed that the man behind the desk wouldn’t check my card. He manually took an imprint of my card and handed me a room key. I stopped myself from jumping up and down right there in the lobby. I was almost running as I went out the door toward the car. “We got a room! We got a room!” I said as loud as I could without being overheard by the hotel clerk.

What Are You Working For?

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To many this was just a cheap motel. To us, that night, it was heaven. We walked across the street to Kentucky Fried Chicken and bought a bucket of chicken and then headed next door to the grocery store and got a six-pack of beer. We went back to our room, finally, just the two of us. For that moment everything was all right. We had some shelter from the storm. That night we just held each other, not knowing what tomorrow would bring, but at least for that one night we were OK.

I’m certain neither Robert nor I would have come through that year as we did, had we not had each other. All along we both had friends and family saying to us, “Why don’t you get a job? Take the paycheck for a while until your business is up and running.”

We knew that getting jobs would be a step backward. We had come so far and couldn’t quit at that moment. We also knew that, if we went for the comfort of the paycheck, then we might never build our business. Looking back it was actually being in this horrible situation that was our driving force. It drove us to find a way out of the mess we were in. The way out wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t through getting a job. We were determined to build our business.

Finally taking control

We finally came to the point where we simply had had enough of this chaos that we created. Robert came to the conclusion that no one was going to make his life better except him and that it was time for bold measures. I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself. I stopped blaming everyone else for my circumstances. And the two of us simply made the decision to take control of our future and to get to work. So we did.

Through it all, we built an education company focused on entrepreneurship. While Robert built several businesses in Honolulu before our move to California, he was studying for years how people learn, and new and innovative methods for teaching. Our business grew to eleven offices in seven countries throughout the world. We were constantly on the road, mostly overseas.

In 1994, after nine years of running the company, we sold it and retired. I was 37 years old. Robert was 47. The best part about it was that we were free—financially free. We no longer had to work for money. It was a great feeling.

What are you working for?

The thing that ultimately kept Robert and I going was that we knew what we were working for—financial freedom. We knew this wouldn’t come from getting a good job and relying on a paycheck. We had to know how money worked and how to make it work for us. We had to build a business that would support us and invest in assets that would provide passive cash flow.

Today, when I talk with people who want to give up on their dreams, I simply ask, “What are you working for?” As they describe their dreams, they light up. Their energy levels spike. I remind them that they must always hold onto their dreams, even when the world wants to push them down. It’s the only way to keep going. And when you get to the end, all the hard work and heartache is so worth it.

So, today, ask yourself, “What am I working for?” Hold onto that answer and keep going.

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