Episode 12- An Old Wallet And Ratty Shoes

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It is hard to find somebody who does not like a rags to riches story, a story where a person or a group of people take something where nobody expected them or had any faith that they could actually make a success out of something and against all odds, against all struggles goes and turns that into something successful. Turn that into a winner, turns into something that achieved all expectations and beyond something that inspires other people. At the same time, it’s hard not to be disappointed with those same people. They often forget what it was like in the beginning. They forget the humility and the struggle and the pain that came with the beginning with the challenge, with the odds that they had to overcome with the fact that they didn’t know what they were doing, that they needed help, that they needed to really work and grind and fight for it to get it. 


So we see it a lot. We see people that have actually done something, they, they, they overcome the odds. They do it, they succeed. They forget to be humble and remember what it was like when they were first starting out and how attractive it is when you have humility, when you are humble, when you’re not entitled and when you don’t expect it and you don’t think you deserve everything that came with it. John Wooden, one of the greatest coaches of all time had a great quote about this. He said, talent is god given. Be humble. Fame is man given. Be grateful. Conceit is self given. Be careful. So to be honest, this is something that has always concerned me about success. I think it’s held me back from striving for more, for striving for higher cause. I’ve been around a lot of successful people. When you see the right way to do things a lot of times and you see the wrong way to do things, a lot of times you see the people who no matter how good it gets, remain more and more humble. 

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I heard Bono from U2 talk about this one time when they asked them about all the success, like how hard it is to control that. How hard, like with his ego getting so big, does it get bigger and bigger? And he said, no, it’s actually the opposite. He said for him, the more success he gets, the more humble he gets, the more grateful he is for everything that comes with it. And when you see that in successful people, it really is inspiring to go. They can get all these material things that people strive for, but it doesn’t affect who they are in their character. Unfortunately, a lot of cases you see the exact opposite. It brings out more of who they are. The success goes to their head, the power that comes with it. It’s something that they’ve been striving for and they use it to their advantage. 


They use it selfishly. So personally, the idea of being inauthentic, the idea of being entitled, the idea of losing humility has always frightened me. It’s the biggest fear that I have, that as success grows, that I lose who I am for what I’ve gotten. So that’s why, to me, material stuff has never been that important. The houses and the cars and it’s never been something that I’ve strived for personally. It’s not the reason for doing any of this stuff and when I think about it, I always think back to certain days when things were really, really hard. I think back to the days when we could not pay our bills. I think back to the days when we were deep in debt. I think back to December 31st, 2003 it was the day that I went to Home Depot. We were having a party at our house, and I went and debt one last time I used the credit card one last time to go deeper into debt for this New Year’s Eve party we were having, and it was a day that I said to myself, never again, I’m not going into debt any longer. 


That’s the end of it right there. December 31st, 2003 I was with my brother and I said, this is the last time I’m doing this. And I cut up the credit card that day and the next day Elizabeth and I set on the path of getting towards debt freedom, which took three and a half years. We had two kids in between there. We started a new business, which was the catalyst for earning the income for getting there, but that day, and I never told the story before and after that day, and I didn’t even tell the story in the book about this is that day when I pulled the credit card out of my wallet and I cut and I cut it up. That evening, that slot in the wallet with a credit card went back into it was never replaced with anything. And on top of that, that wallet had a lot of significance for me. 


That previous Christmas, my mother-in-law had given me that wallet as a gift. Now, there was never very much cash in that while we were broke, but we use our credit cards. We went deeper in debt with that wallet and we hit rock bottom while I had that wallet. So when I took that credit card out and I cut it up and I put that wallet back into my pocket with no credit card and we started from the following day through those months to those years of paying down debt, of building up our income of playing defense and then playing offense. That while it stayed with me for three and a half years later, we went into the bank and we paid off our mortgage in full and Elizabeth and I went out to lunch to a Hibachi restaurant. At lunch. I pulled cash out of that wallet to pay for that lunch. Now we were no longer broke at that point. 


We were debt free, completely debt free and at that point we had started building towards the amassing wealth. Now we’re in the wealth creation mode. We were completely out of debt as years and years went on. That wallet started kinda getting torn, started getting ripped apart a little bit, started getting older, started getting more fragile, but I couldn’t part with the wallet. I couldn’t throw it away and I never really thought about it, but I just knew I had to hold onto it. And it wasn’t until over the last couple of years I started pulling that wallet out, and if I meet friends for coffee and I pull up my wallet to pay for pay for coffee or pay for lunch somewhere, I always got a strange look when I pulled the wallet out and never knew why. But it was always a hint of a leftward glance looking at it. 


They’re looking at me a little bit and then nothing more to it. Then finally, last year in Indianapolis, we did a one day mastermind and we went to get lunch and I went to pull up my wallet to pay for lunch. And Brad Ritter, who’s in the mastermind and his wife Leslie were there and he looked at me and he hadn’t, and he was the first person to say to me, he goes, what’s up with your wallet? And I didn’t know how to answer. I said, what do you mean? And he goes, ” What’s the story with that?” Because literally the leather is ripping off of it and it’s torn like from the inside out. And it’s the wallet I still use, and I hadn’t told that story before and I said, I keep this wallet for humility. I keep this wallet because every time I pull it out I think about when we had no money, I think about how broke we were. 


I think about the hard work that went into building what we’ve built since then. And I don’t ever want to lose that. And every time I pull out that wallet, I remember what it was like. I remember the struggle that we went through. I remember the fact that nobody was on our side. I remember that we didn’t have fans or followers or true support in terms of what we were trying to do. It truly felt like us against the world. And I think back in that, and I realize that like John Wooden said, talent is God given to be humble. That fame is man given to be grateful and conceit is self given so be careful. We can believe our own press clippings. Sometimes when things start going well, we can really think we figured it all out and we’re the reason why. But that wallet tells me that that’s not true, that while it tells me that it requires consistent effort, consistent hard work, it requires humility. 


It requires all the people that were there to help all the connections that were built, all the friendships that were built, that propped us up, that got us to where we’re at today. And if I lose sight of that, it will be a giant mistake. And not long after I saw an interview with Mr.T and some of you might remember Mr. T from Rocky III, he was clubber Lang and from various 80’s movies and all over the place back in the 80s and sometimes in the 90s and I saw an interview with him and the, and the reporter was saying, look at you, you’ve got all this gold or this jewelry. You’ve got millions of dollars worth of stuff all over your body. And then I’m looking at your shoes and there’s these ratty embarrassing shoes that you’re wearing. And he said, these shoes keep me humble. 


These shoes were handed down through his family. He said his family members wore them, his brothers wore them. He’s got brothers back in Chicago that are struggling and he’s in Hollywood now and he’s seeing all this money and all this fame and all the success. So at that point, when he’s doing all the special stuff, he’s with these celebrities and these politicians, all these other things that are going on and it can get really wild. And he looks down at his shoes and he says to himself, Hey, don’t get carried away here. And he says to himself, keep your feet on the ground and you’re headed towards heaven. So for you, as you build your success, as you go from where you started to where you’re going to, what are you going to do to not get too ahead of yourself, to keep your feet on the ground and to stay humble. And as Ryan Holiday said, one of my favorite authors. “You’re not as good as you think. You don’t have it all figured out. Stay focused and do better.”

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