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Sucked into the dream.

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Walking-meditation

December finally came and with it came the month that Andy had to vacate the office building and begin the next chapter of his business life.

Andy planned on running his business out of his home office and within a week sold all of the office furniture and remnants of his company from the last 20 years to start over and full commit himself to his Pink Town Foundation and charitable event.

I wavered on my commitment to Andy and started looking for a new job with another website company, this scared Andy when he realized that I wasn’t committed to his business dreams anymore and he tried anything he could to lure me back into the business.

After being out of communication with Andy for two weeks Andy called me one day with a desperate computer problem and asked me to come over to his house and help him out. I drove over to his house with the desire to help him with his computer problem, ask him for my last paycheck and go home.

“How are you Jeremy? I haven’t seen you in a while, come in,” Andy said to me when I arrived at his house. It was 5 p.m. and Andy was drinking a beer and asked me if I wanted one, I accepted and kicked back in his house until he was ready for me to look at his computer.

“I didn’t really call you over here for a computer problem,” Andy said.

“I figured you didn’t, what do you want?” I asked.

“I need you to help me launch the Pink Town Foundation,” Andy said.

“What about Mike and Steve?” I asked.

“Mike started his own business venture and I have no idea what Steve is doing,” Andy said.


 

I wasn’t excited about continuing to work for Andy because he hadn’t paid me in weeks and over the last few months had bounced three of my paychecks.

“I don’t know Andy, I’m tired, I just want a regular job where I can earn a regular paycheck,” I said.

“What about your dream to become an artist? What are you doing with that?” Andy asked.

“Hopefully when I get a regular job I can have the energy to get back to that,” I said.

“Jeremy, artists need to make lots of money so they can work on their artwork full time, where are you going to be able to find a job where you can make the money that you deserve?” Andy asked.

“Where had I heard that before?” I thought.

“I have a proposition for you. Would you be interested in owning your own website business?” Andy asked.

“Where would I get the money to invest in my own website business?” I asked.

“It’s easy, you don’t need a lot of money to start your own business, you can start reselling websites on our server under your own company name, you will have your own website builder like do but won’t have the hassle and responsibility of maintaining your own server,” Andy said.

“I don’t know, it seems like I would have to invest a lot of money for that,” I said.

“What would you say if I can make you a website re-seller for only, $500.000?” Andy asked, and then reclined in his office chair for dramatic effect.

$500.00 was money I could easily spend but would I be committed to the business to spending thousands on advertising, marketing and other business related expenses off the ground?

“I’ll have to think about it,” I said.

“What’s to think about? It’s a great opportunity. You can take all of your old leads that you had when you worked for me and sell those companies websites under your own business! You can start making thousands of dollars in sales next week!” Andy exclaimed.

I started dreaming of what it would be like to be making thousands of dollars in my own business and started to smile when I thought about the possibilities.

I could make it happen; I knew how to sell websites and could see myself making money in my own business. It would be a smart decision and I was going to go for it because I thought that if I was in business for myself I’d have the time to work on my art fulltime and develop my art into a full fledged career.

“What do you say?” Andy asked.

“I’ll do it!” I said.

“Great! I already have the contract ready for you to sign,” Andy said.

“What about the $500.00 payment? It’s going to take me a while to get you that money,” I said.

“I owe you $500.00 for your last paycheck don’t I? Well, that can be your payment to me and you can sign the paperwork today,” Andy said.

Andy always seemed to think two steps ahead whenever he owed anyone money. For instance, when he owed the IRS money, he sold his office building, when he couldn’t pay his credit cards, he sold his cars and now when he owed me money, he convinced me to invest in his business venture.

Investing in the website business seemed like a logical step because I knew the business, inside and out and realized that with my sales leads I could be making sales for my business within the next week.

“Where do I sign?” I asked.

Andy pulled out a contract he had written on Microsoft Word and handed it over to me. I signed the contract, he shook my hand, and I was in business.

The next day I went to the county recorders office and registered my business name and opened up a bank account for my new business. The future seemed bright and all I could do was see streets paved with gold in front of me.

A few nights later I went back to Andy’s to help him fix problems with his network and website, after I finished my work a group of Andy’s friends arrived with alcohol and party supplies.

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“It looks like you’re planning a party, I better go,” I said.

“You’re staying, we’re celebrating the launch of the Pink Town Foundation and since you’re a part of it, you’re going to party with us!” Andy said.

I stayed at Andy’s party until late that night and went home with a beer buzz, happy and optimistic about the future and decided to call Mike to tell him the good news about my new business and continued working relationship with Andy.

“You did what?” Mike asked.

“I invested in Andy’s website product and now I have my own business!” I said, excited.

Mike sighed, “Jeremy, you know that anything Andy does in business will fail. How many businesses did he start and give up during the time we worked for him?” Mike asked.

“It’s different now, my business will work,” I said.

“I have faith in your business but since you’re still working for Andy he’s going to keep using you like he used to and where are you going to find the time to make your business work?” Mike asked.

“Don’t worry Mike, my plan will work,” I said.

“Any website you sell is going to be on Andy’s server so what happens when he forgets to pay the bill to his data center and his server gets turned off? All of your websites will get turned off and you’ll have a lot of angry customers,” Mike said.

“I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen,” I said, optimistically.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Mike said.

“I heard you started your own business?” I asked.

“Yeah, it’s great, I’m selling ‘how to’ books from home and I’m making a fortune from it. You should consider selling your own ‘how to’ book,” Mike said.

“Maybe I’ll consider it,” I said.

“Have you heard from Steve lately?” Mike asked.

“Nope, I haven’t seen him or heard from him in weeks,” I said.

“That guy was such a loser, I have no idea how he can afford to live the lifestyle he’s living without making any money,” Mike said.

“Maybe he’s a gigolo?” I joked.

“I wouldn’t be surprised.” Mike said.

Mike and I talked about business and old times back at the company and we said our goodbyes and promised to go to lunch in the future.

I went to be that night dreaming of a bright future and looked forward to getting started with my own business.


I spent the next six months working hard on developing my website business but didn’t get far with it because like Mike predicted, I was busier than ever working for Andy, every day, helping him launch his Pink Town Foundation and keep his other business ventures alive.

Mike continued selling “how to” books from his home and made a few hundred thousands dollars in a year and was able to customize his Corvette and buy a new condo in La Jolla, California.

And Steve eventually contacted Andy again, asking for money and Andy hired him to market his Pink Town Foundation but now that Andy was short on money to pay Steve he quickly became irritated when he saw that Steve never actually did any work and he fired him immediately.

Andy’s Pink Town Foundation never amounted to more than a business name and a logo because, left to market the event himself Andy floundered in a sea of paperwork and was unable to turn his idea into a profitable business. By May of 2003 I finally had enough of working for Andy and cut my ties with him and stopped working for him for good.

Since my Dad was re-hired at Rohr / Goodrich Aerospace my Mom was able to retire from her job that she worked at for over 10 years to help support the family and as my Dad got closer to retirement they enjoyed life even more and began dropping hints, wondering when I was going to get married, and hoping that they would have more grandchildren running around in their golden years.

My sister, Becky, was able to turn her life after her marriage to Joe finally ended and got her own apartment and went to college to get her degree while supporting her son Caleb who brought energy, joy and excitement to our family.

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As I got closer to turning 30 years old I started to review my life and asked myself, “What was most important to me?” Was money, security, success, family or wealth the things that motivated me in my life? It had now been almost ten years since I graduated from high school and I hadn’t accomplished much of anything other than learning some important life lessons and gaining a good education in sales and business that I could take with me wherever I went but, was that enough? Was I happy with where I was at in life or was there something missing?

One day, I went out into my garage studio, at the duplex I shared with my cousin Brian, and realized that due to my job, working for Andy for almost two years I had neglected working on my art and had left my paintings and art supplies in the garage to collect dust. I also realized, once again that my goal to be in business for myself, “So that I could have more time to work on my art”, actually took me away from my art more than ever and that if I continued on the road I was on, I would never realize my artistic dreams.

I decided to be honest with myself and realized that if I ever wanted to do anything with my art I had to sacrifice one of my goals for another if I truly wanted to be happy, and so I gave up on my business aspirations, to focus on my art, full time, in the evenings while I worked a regular job during the day.

“That decision was a long time coming,” My dad said one day.

Dad was right; it finally sank in that, the path to my happiness was in front of me all along and that all I ever had to do was be honest with myself and admit what I really wanted.

THE END.

Burning man festival

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By September of 2002 Andy’s pyramid scheme of companies was nearing financial collapse and bankruptcy because his debts were finally catching up with him and he didn’t have any money left to pay them.

I continued working ten hour days, splitting up my time between website sales, website design, customer service, computer repair and errand boy for all of Andy’s needs. One night as I was locking up the building Andy was in his office later than usual and I went to see what he was up to. When I walked into his office I saw 2 suitcases next to his desk.

“Going on a trip?” I asked.

“Yeah, I’m tired Jeremy, I got to get away from this place,” Andy said.

 “Where are you going to?” I asked.

“I going to go up to the Burning Man Festival next week for some fun in the sun,” Andy said.

The Burning Man Festival was a week long celebration for artists, musicians, hippies and everyone from the counter culture movement to get together, get naked and enjoy plenty of illegal behavior.

“Well have a good time,” I said, grinning.

“Don’t you worry I have the next payroll covered so everything is cool. I just need to get away to clear my head for a while and I guarantee that when I get back I’ll have more energy to run the company,” Andy said.

I said goodbye to Andy and went home to watch Wrestling with Brian, eat leftover pizza, drink Coke and forget about work.

In the back of my head a little voice kept telling me to find another job because working for Andy was burning me out and I needed a well deserved break but with a regular paycheck coming in every two weeks I didn’t listen to myself and kept up the crazy routine.

Over the next week Andy seemingly dropped off the face of the earth and we didn’t hear a word from him, I was happy to be free of his hectic energy so that I could actually finish one project that he gave me to do without him coming back ten minutes later to make me do something else.

Andy returned from his vacation at the Burning Man festival with a new tan, another new girlfriend and once again, a new business idea.

He asked Mike, Steve and I to met him in the conference room where he once again had the whiteboard out with indecipherable notes, diagrams and drawings written all over it and assisting him was his new girlfriend, Jenny, a “well built”, petite woman with long blond hair that he met through a swingers party at the Burning Man Festival.

Mike and I exchanged scowls because we knew what the meeting was about while all Steve did was stare at Jenny and tried to get her phone number.

“You guys won’t believe what happened to me last week!” Andy said.

“You became a Christian?” Mike asked, sarcastically.

“I had an epiphany at the Burning Man Festival!” Andy declared.

Mike sighed, “Alright, what was your epiphany?” He asked.

“When I was at the Burning Man Festival one thing that struck me was that nobody was making any money! Everywhere I walked I saw people entering different tents for things like food, restrooms, recreational drugs and sex and I thought what if we put our own event together and sell tickets! We could be rich!” Andy exclaimed.

“I’m out of here!” Mike said and got up to leave but Andy stopped him.

“Come on Mike, hear me out ok?” Andy said.

“It sounds like another bull shit money making scheme,” Mike said.

“Think about it Mike, if we had our own festival like Burning Man and we sold tickets for the week or weekend we could be rich in a very short time!” Andy said.

“Where would the event take place?” I asked.

“Good question, why not at the same spot as the Burning Man Festival?” Andy asked.

“Andy it will take at least one year to build this event before we can actually start selling tickets,” Mike said.

“That’s crazy talk Mike, we can have this event running and have tickets sold in six months. Come on guys, think about it. In less than one year this company will be flush with cash again but this time you guys will be able to kick back and plan the event every year instead of constantly chasing your tales to bring in a few bucks every month,” Andy said.

“Yeah that’s right!” Steve said, suddenly sounding like he’d been doing his job for the last six months.

I looked at Andy and was prepared to quit my job right there but the look in his eyes told me that he was desperate and needed to have us involved with his plans to support him as much as I needed the paycheck that he paid me every two weeks.

“What do you want me to do?” I asked.

“That’s awesome Jeremy! Your job will be to design a website for the event and start promoting the site with the search engines,” Andy said.

Andy spent the rest of the day motivating us on how great Pink Town was going to be and how it was going to change our lives and when the day was over we once again had visions of hundred dollar bills dancing in our heads and we dreamed about what it would be like to have one of Andy’s plans actually work.

I went home that night unsure of how far I was willing to go with Andy on this because I couldn’t see myself violating my own morals and values just to make a buck. Andy on the other hand was at a stage in his life where he would do anything to make money so that he could keep his pyramid scheme of businesses alive for another month.

Mike didn’t care what business opportunity Andy became involved in, as long as the new business opportunity brought in money, because at that point Andy owed Mike a lot of back pay and money that he borrowed to keep the company a float and Mike wasn’t going to go anywhere until Andy was able to pay him back in full.

And Steve still continued to hang around the office every day pretending like he was working and contributing to the company when in reality all he was doing was talking to his girl friends, arrange dates and somehow con Andy into paying him the occasional paycheck.

We worked hard to help Andy launch his Pink Town event while we also dealt with the day to day responsibilities of Andy’s other business ventures that he neglected since he became consumed with his dream of launching the Pink Town event.

I think Andy loved the actual process of starting a new business and getting it off the ground but once he saw the day to day work and sacrifice required to keep his new business running he quickly lost interest in it because it didn’t produce financial rewards for him fast enough and didn’t conform to his get rich quick dreams.

After a few weeks of meetings, teleconferences and business trips to potential event locations Andy came back to the office one day with the crazy look on his face that he got when he had a new idea and he called us into the conference room for another meeting.

“Guys, I’ve been working my ass off over the last few weeks trying to launch our event but I keep getting hit by financial road blocks and legal ramifications to getting our event off the ground,” Andy said.

“So it’s not going to work? I knew it was a stupid idea! Andy you keep spreading yourself too thin! When are any of your business ventures going to make any actual money?” Mike asked.

“Why don’t you lighten up Mike? Can’t you see that he’s trying hard?” Steve asked.

“Shut up Steve,” Mike said.

“Guys, I know now that the Pink Town event won’t work in it’s current form but, I have an even better idea on how we can make it work!” Andy said.

“Oh, God, not again,” Mike said, in frustration.

“We’re going to turn out Pink Town event into a charitable event for cancer!” Andy exclaimed.

“I’m out of here! I’ve had enough of this crap!” Mike yelled.

“Sit down Mike and hear me out! Come on just sit down and give me five minutes of your time ok?” Andy asked.

Mike sat back down at the table and pulled out a pack of cigarettes that he anxiously awaited to smoke.

“You have five minutes and then I’m gone!” Mike grunted.

“Alright, here’s my new plan, we’re going to turn Pink Town into a three day charity walk for cancer! We will hold it at the Del Mar Race Track and people will have to purchase tickets for the event!” Andy said.

“Why would anyone want to purchase tickets for a cancer walk?” I asked.

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“Think about it, there’s event’s like what I have in mind, every year where people pay to sponsor someone to walk or jog for some disease like Cancer, and these charities are making millions from these events!” Andy said.

“I don’t know, Andy, this idea sounds like it will fall flat like all of your other business ideas,” Mike said.

“You guys need to have more faith in me! I’ve already got the paperwork filed and have turned Pink Town into the Pink Town Foundation! Our charity is going to be for breast cancer and cancer research,” Andy said.

“You’re not serious? You actually turned Pink Town into a charitable foundation?” Mike asked.

Andy pulled out a big binder filled with legal paperwork and slid it across the table to Mike.

“I got all of the required paperwork filed last week by my lawyer, I still have to pay the lawyer for his services but hopefully we can soon start selling tickets and luring sponsors for our event,” Andy said.

As Andy talked I suddenly remembered that Andy’s lease on the building was going to be up in one month and we would have to move out of the building soon.

“Andy, I thought our lease on the building was set to expire? Don’t we have to move out next month? Where is the new office going to be?” I asked.

“That’s a great question. I’ve been thinking on this for a while and have decided that I want all of us to work remotely from out homes. Why do we need an actual physical office when we can work out of our homes? Think about it, we won’t have to commute to this office anymore and can communicate with each other by phone or e-mail if we need to,” Andy said.

“But that means that we will have to set up or own home offices and have expenses associated with that,’ I said.

“Don’t worry. I’ll compensate you guys for your office expenses. I can’t keep paying rent on a building we’re barely using and if I’m going to be able to get the event off the ground I need to save money any way I can,” Andy said.

“You still owe me a lot of money Andy,” Mike said.

“Me too, you haven’t paid me a salary in month,” Steve said.

“Don’t worry guys, I’ll cover any money that I owe you after we start selling sponsorships and tickets for our event,” Andy said.

“You sound like you already have a date set and everything,” I said.

“I do, the date is April 18-20 2003 at the Del Mar Race Track,” Andy said.

“How did you reserve the date so fast?” Don’t you have to pay money to reserve that date and also get the required permits with the city?” I asked.

“Don’t worry guys, we don’t have to pay to reserve the track right now, we can worry about that once we start selling sponsorships and tickets for the event,” Andy said.

This sounded like a typical Andy business plan. He was always looking ahead to the money that the new business venture was going to bring in before the business was actually set up and running.

Mike and I gave Andy a thin commitment that we would continue working for him and help him launch his charitable event and Steve promised to continue working for Andy even though Andy wasn’t paying him and had no idea what work Steve actually did for him. After the meeting was over I went out to lunch at Black Angus with Mike and we discussed the future over a big lunch.

“Andy’s lost it and I’ve had enough, I can’t continue working for him when I could be making real money, working in a management position elsewhere,” Mike said.

“I agree, I think that working from our homes will only give Andy more of an excuse not to pay us every month,” I said.

“You’re right, you need to earn a paycheck more than I do so you better start looking for a new job soon,” Mike said.

I sighed, and knew that Mike was right, I had been working for Andy and his pyramid scheme of companies for over one year and had gained a lot of one the job business experience and had seen my work responsibilities increase without getting a raise in pay.

Finding another job would be a tough decision but I knew that I had to start thinking about it unless I was going to continue getting sucked along in the whirlwind that was Andy’s life….

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A few months later and another business..

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After the new company had been off the ground for several weeks, I began selling websites and was soon able to cover my own salary and expenses in the sales department.

This excited Andy, and gave him hope for the future but since Mike and Steve weren’t making sales of their own the company was still losing money and Andy started looking for another business venture to “bail out” the website business.

Andy disappeared for a few weeks and only stayed in contact with Tina, his assistant. We didn’t think anything of this because he had been gone before for long periods of time. When he finally returned three weeks later he had a new girlfriend and a new business.

“What do you guys know about microdermabrasion?” Andy asked one morning as Mike, Steve and I sat in his office.

“That’s when they scrape the dead skin off your face isn’t it?” I asked.

“That’s right, it is! I’ve been in Dallas for the last few weeks, I’ve invested in a microdermabrasion business, became certified in the process and we are going to start selling it!” Andy said with excitement.

“Andy, where did you get the money to invest in another business?” Mike asked.

“I sold the office building!” Andy said.

“You sold the freaking office building?” Where are we going to have the company headquarters at?” Steve asked, suddenly sounding very businessman like. Mike and I wondered if Steve was a male gigolo because even though he was earning a small salary he wore the best clothes, jewelry and always had women in his office.

“We have 6 months left in this building and afterwards we’re going to consolidate and move to a smaller location,” Andy said.

“What does microdermabrasion have to do with websites?” Mike asked.

“It’s simple; we can use the website product to promote the microdermabrasion product!

I’m going to an adult entertainment convention in Las Vegas next month to promote the microdermbrasion product and also see if we can design websites for actors in the porn industry. Hell, you guys should be selling websites to porn actors already! Think how huge that could be!” Andy said.

“Andy, why didn’t you invest the money you got from the building into the website business?” Mike asked.

“Mike, the microdermabrasion business is hot! This business has potential to make huge profits! I want you and Steve to market it!” Andy said.

“What about me? Where do I fit in?” I asked.

“You will be fully in charge of the website business and can also use our website product to design a website for me to use in the microdermabrasion business!” Andy replied.

Andy’s excitement was infectious and once again we saw ourselves making lots of money when the company was flush with cash once again.

“Don’t worry about Andy, he will take care of all of us financially when the company gets on it’s feet,” Mike said one day after I asked him if there would ever be financial bonuses in our future.

After the meeting was over I went back to work selling websites while Mike and Steve went to work marketing the microdermabrasion product. Andy set up a microdermabrasion “clinic” in an old office in our building with the hopes that once a client had the treatment done they would be coming back for regular microdermabrasion treatments.

Andy’s new girlfriend volunteered to be his model and they took off for the adult entertainment convention with high hopes for sales and profits. Andy returned from the convention a week later with a stack of business cards but no microdermabrasion or website sales.

“This microdermabrasion product is harder to sell than I thought,” Andy said.

“Every business takes time to get off the ground Andy, look at the website business, it took a few months to get off the ground and now I’m able to cover my own salary and expenses,” I said.

“Yeah, but overall my companies are losing more money than we have coming in every month and I have a major IRS bill that due and I have no idea how I’m going to pay it,” Andy said.

This wasn’t news I wanted to hear, because after working over ten hours a day for months to get the website business off the ground the company was still on the brink of collapse financially and all my hard work would be for naught.

“Just give it time Andy, stick to your business plan and the microdermabrasion business will turn around,” I said.

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“What business plan? I’ve never written a business plan in my 20 years of business and I’ve made over 20 million in profits,” Andy said.

“Yeah, but look where you are today,” I thought.

“Maybe I should hire a person to sell the microdermabrasion product? Yeah, I think that’s what I will do.” Andy said.

Andy got a wild look in his eye and ran out of the sales office with the same excitement that he had for his full body massage appointments. I went back to work and continued focusing on my job and tried to not think about the impending financial doom of the company and the possible loss of another job.

One week later Mike, Steve and I had another meeting with Andy and he introduced us to his new outside sales rep, Katrina, who would be responsible for selling the microdermabrasion equipment, supplies and treatments to beauty salons countywide.

Katrina was in her early 20’s, had long blond hair, well built body and would be an asset to Andy and help him sell the microdermabrasion product to clientele where youth and beauty mattered.

The only thing about Katrina was that behind those good looks, she was totally clueless and had no idea what he job in the company was other than to sit around and look pretty in her office all day.

“Guys, this is Katrina, she’s going to be our new head of sales for the microdermabrasion product. She’s also a Scorpio, likes red wine, and has a funny giggle if you tickle here….”

“Oh, Andy, stop..” Katrina giggled.

“Anyway, guys, she’s going to help us sell the new microdermabrasion product and I want you guys to show her the ropes,” Andy said.

Andy left the conference room for conference call he had in his office and Mike and I went back to the sales office while Steve stayed in the conference room chatting with Katrina.

“So, do you like sushi? I know a place downtown that we can hit after work,” Steve said.

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“I like totally love sushi! My girlfriends and I go out for sushi at least once a week!” Katrina said.

“You have girlfriends? Maybe they can come along?” Steve replied.

Once Mike and I were back in the sales office he launched into another one of his tirades about Andy and his stupid decisions.

“I knew it! He only hired that girl because they are sleeping together! That’s just great, now we have two idiots that are supposed to be doing outside sales for this company!

We’re going to be out of a job thanks to them! I don’t know what possessed Andy to invest in that business in the first place, why didn’t he take the money and put it into the website business? What an idiot!” Mike said.

“Calm down Mike, I’m sure it will work out,” I said.

“It’s not going to work out, Andy wants me to market the microdermabrasion product, what do I know about microdermabrasion?” Mike asked.

Mike was right, what would an overweight, chain smoking sales manager know about microdermabrasion? How would he market the product when all he knew was the life of a sales manager and the world inside his little office.

Later that day Andy pulled me away from selling websites and made me work fulltime on designing a website for his microdermabrasion business. I used our new do it yourself website product and was able to have an e-commerce website online in a matter of days to sell the skin creams and other microdermabrasion products.

A few weeks later it quickly became clear to Andy that all Katrina was doing every day was flirt with Steve and talk on the phone to her girlfriends he fired her.

This put added pressure on Mike, Steve and I because since no microdermabrasion sales were coming in Andy became desperate and starting looking to cut costs, sell off excess office equipment and bring in money any way he could.

I focused harder than ever on selling websites and was able to keep selling when I could but I kept getting pulled away from selling by Andy when he needed to use me to help him on another project for one of his other businesses.

Andy eventually stopped paying Steve a salary and promised to pay him 80% commission if he sold something, which never happened and he became indebted to Mike when he had to borrow money from Mike to pay the electric and phone bills to keep the company afloat.

Every night I went home exhausted from work, too tired to work on my art or do anything creative because after working ten hour days, week after week I didn’t have the energy to do anything when I got home but lie on the couch and watch TV.

Andy tried to get more control over his company and actually sold the microdermabrasion products and websites himself for a time but any new revenue that he brought in quickly went out the door to pay bills, salaries and other expenses and with our final month in the office building fast approaching he became desperate for the “magic bullet” that would turn his company around and make him a rich man once again.

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Do it all businessmen

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The next morning Andy ushered me, Mike, Steve and Andy’s assistant, Tina into the conference room to outline his business strategy and plan for the next 6 months of the new company.

We sat down around the conference table and devoured coffee and doughnuts while listening to Andy’s plans for reorganizing his business ventures and keeping the company alive long enough for me, Mike and Steve to turn it around from the sales and profits we would get from the selling websites.

As the sole employees of the company we were expected to do everything ourselves from sales, marketing, advertising, customer service and even website design.

When we would ask Andy if he was going to hire someone for a much needed customer service position Andy’s response always was, “Sell more websites and then we will have the money to hire someone new.”

 The new website business would be called Amazing e Business, and we were going to sell an easy to use, template based, e-commerce website to business owners nationwide.

Andy had bought a license to sell the software from the developer a company in Orange County, California called WebCreators and assured us when he said: “Selling websites is going to be so easy, you guys should be able to sell 3-5 per week!”

By the time Andy formed Amazing e Business do it yourself website companies like homestead.com were going strong and dominating the market.

Andy didn’t anticipate this and neither did we, everyone in the room thought that the new product would be “gravy” to sell and we bought into Andy’s pitch hook, line and sinker.

Andy spent the next 2 hours training us on how the new website software worked and after we felt we were sufficiently trained he ended the meeting and told us all to go sell.

Mike and I walked back to the sales office discussing the good and bad aspects of the new product while Steve, the outside sales manager went back to his office to continue his usual routine of drinking coffee, listening to Howard Stern and talking to his girlfriends all day until he went home at 3 p.m. looking worn out and tired, like he had been working on business deals all day long.

I could never understand why Andy hired Steve or what he actually did for the company.

Once Mike and I were back in the sales office Mike told me how he really felt about Andy’s new business idea and the direction of the company.

“I can tell you right now, I’m not going to be on the phone trying to sell this thing,” Mike said pointing to my computer screen with one of our new websites on it.

“Why don’t you want to sell it? Andy made it sound like we can easily sell 3-5 of these websites per week,” I said.

“Telemarketing isn’t my job, I’m supposed to be running telemarketing rooms not be on the phone calling every day like everyone else,” Mike said.

“Well, so far the company only has one telemarketer, me, so I don’t think you have that many employees to manage unless you count Steve,” I said.

“Steve never does anything but sit in his office, talk to his girlfriends and drink coffee all day,” Mike said.

I sat down at my desk and shuffled paperwork while Mike continued to complain about Andy, Steve and anything else he was upset about that day until he finally ran out of hot air and went outside for his mid day cigarette break.

By 11 a.m. I decided to stop wasting time and picked up the phone and started making my first sales calls of the day and by 3 p.m. Andy walked into the sales office to see how I was doing.

“How’s it going? How many have you sold?” Andy asked.

I didn’t know if he was joking or really expected the sales process to be as easy as he thought.

“I’ve already sold five websites,” I said grinning.

“No, really, how many have you sold?” Andy asked.

“Andy, I’ve only been on the phone for a few hours, it’s going to take a lot longer than that for me to start making sales,” I said.

“I expect good things from you guys, don’t let me down okay? I’ve got a lot riding on this business.” Andy said.

“I know, Andy, but you’re going to have to give us at least a month to start bringing in sales and get this business off the ground.” I said.

“One month? We need money now, I don’t know how I can keep this company going if it’s going to take you guys that long to start bringing in sales,” Andy said.

“Andy, please just give us time to sell and you should start seeing sales come in very soon.” I said.

Andy looked depressed and then a wild look appeared in his eyes and he looked at his wristwatch.

“Oh, shit, I’m late again.” Andy said.

Andy had his briefcase with him and a big stack of unopened mail and paperwork.

“I have a full body massage from this hot Asian chick that a friend recommended to me. Have you ever tried a full body massage before? If you ask them to they will always do a little something extra for you, if you know what I’m saying,” Andy said with a wink.

That was a typical Andy moment. He could be worried about pending lawsuits against him, bankruptcy and financial doom one moment and the next he could be racing off to a party with friends, wild weekend with a new girlfriend or fun and games with his children.

Andy grabbed his briefcase and paperwork and raced out of the sales office for his massage appointment while I continued making sales calls, contacting prospective business owners and sending them information about our new website builder.

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Mike left after having his mid day cigarette break and I was lone employee there for the rest of the day and responsible for locking up the building at night.

Since Andy had laid off almost all of the employees in the company he had rented out all of the remaining offices in the 2 story office building and we now had tenants that paid rent for their office space every month.

I quickly became friends with the new tenants in our building because I always staid late and was the last employee to lock up the building at the end the day.

My favorite tenant was the owner of a small collections business, a middle aged, married, overweight, African American guy named Larry.

After my day ended I walked over to Larry’s office to see how he was doing and to get a dose of his “wisdom”. Even though Larry was a middle aged, married man he still loved women and never stopped talking about women and giving me advice on romancing them anytime I was around him.

“Are you dating anyone new?” Larry asked.

“Nope, I’ve been unlucky with the ladies for a while,” I said.

“Man, you have to get out there and start playing the field. When I was your age I dated a different woman every night and I loved every minute of it,” Larry said.

“I don’t know man, I think I want to wait until I get a better car before I start dating again,” I said.

“If you wait that long, it’s never going to happen! Don’t you have any women you admire now?” Larry asked.

“Yeah, a few,” I said. I didn’t really feel like dating or being socially active since my marriage to Becky but thought I’d play along with Larry.

“I once had a business where I was a ‘love doctor’ and I helped men and women get dates and here’s some sage advice for you. All you need to do to get women interested in you is compliment them, talk with them, listen to them and let them be your muse. Once they see that you listen to them then they will want to spend more time with you,” Larry said.

“I’ve already tried that before,” I said.

“Well didn’t it work?” Larry asked.

“I had a woman friend that I used to work with and I would talk with her at different times during the day. One morning she came to work and told me that she had a dream about me,” I said.

“She had a dream about you? That’s good. Was it a romantic dream?” Larry asked.

“No, she said that in her dream all we did was talk and it wasn’t romantic at all,” I replied.

“She probably only saw you as a friend, you have to stay out there and keep looking for women because there’s ‘plenty of fish in the sea’.” Larry said.

“Larry, aren’t you married?” I asked.

“Yeah, I’m married, but I tell you if I wasn’t I’d be out there showing you young bucks how it was done,” Larry said.

“I better get going, I’ll see you tomorrow.” I said.

“Yeah, my wife is expecting me home for dinner so I better get going too.” Larry said as he shut down his computer and closed down his office after another dismal business day in the collection business.

I locked up the building and drove home to work on my art and forget about work. When I finally got home Brian was out on the deck in front of our duplex with his friend Sal and his girlfriend Betsy, barbecuing steaks, drinking beer and anything else we had left over in the fridge.

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“Dude you’re right on time!” Brian said as he handed me a beer.

“What am I ‘on time’ for?” I asked.

“Sal bought the latest Tiger Woods game and we’re about to start playing,” Brian said.

Playing Tiger Woods golf had become a fun addiction for us and we played the game anytime we could during the week, sometimes staying up until the early morning hours when we still had to go to work.

Brian’s girlfriend Betsy tolerated our video game playing ways but would quickly become bored and would always fall asleep on the couch while we enjoyed our game.

Our other favorite ritual that we enjoyed during our time living there was watching wrestling every Monday night.

Life was good even though I had the stress from work I didn’t worry about work when I went home at night because I continued working on my art and enjoyed hanging out with my cousin Brian and our friends.

Even though I tried to not let work seep into my personal life it would soon consume a big part of it as I took on more responsibility in the company and I became the company “go to guy” whenever Andy, Mike or Steve had computer problems, needed research done on the Internet or errands run I was the man to get the job done.

I didn’t mind being so busy with work because I felt like I was a part of something special and would have done anything I could to help the company.

The downside of this was that the more time I spent working on other projects the less time I could spend on making sales for the company and new revenue wasn’t coming in.

Mike stood by his word and never picked up the phone to sell websites and Steve continued being Steve which involved staying in his office every day, in his own world.

This upset Andy but he continued to keep Mike and Steve employed because he wanted to believe that they would bring in the one “big sale” that would turn the company around.

With little to no revenue coming in, paydays were always a hectic experience and I always had to rush to Andy’s bank to cash my paycheck before it bounced…

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Living on the edge

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During my first month at Cashwave I worked hard and was hopeful that my job at Cashwave would last for more than a year and slowly became optimistic that I would be able to get financially stable enough to have a social life and invest money into my art and start selling the artwork I had made over the previous years.

My job at Cashwave was very easy, all I was required to do every day was call businesses in the area where Cashwave ATM’s were located and sell them low cost advertising that appeared on the ATM screen when the customer transaction was being processed and on the ATM receipt after the customer finished their transaction. It was an easy sell and I quickly caught on and became very successful at it.

I enjoyed making easy money at Cashwave and looked forward to going to work every day when one day the easy money stopped and the company future didn’t look very bright. 

I arrived for work one morning to find all of the employees up in the conference room for an emergency meeting that Andy had called. Everyone was over anxious because Andy hadn’t heard from or seen Andy in weeks and we weren’t sure why he called the meeting and what his important news was going to be.

Andy arrived to the meeting looking tired and more worn out than usual and all of the employees became silent with dread as we sensed that he had bad news to tell us.

“How’s everyone doing?” Andy said casually.

“Doing a lot better than you, are you sick or something?” Mike asked.

“It’s nothing that a bottle of Scotch can’t cure,” Andy said with a wry grin.

Everyone in the room laughed.

“Anyway, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but I’m here to tell everyone today that Cashwave is going out of business,” Andy said.

The room fell deadly silent as the employees around the room began to contemplate Andy’s announcement and what it meant to their financial futures.

“As everyone knows after 911 Cashwave lost a lot of business due to several of our big customers going out of business and the domination of the ATM market by companies like E-Trade Financial. I’ve also lost millions in costly lawsuits and protracted litigation and my finances are severely drained.” Andy said.

“You’ve been living on the financial edge for to long now Andy. You can’t afford to keep it up much longer.” Howard, the accountant said.

“What are you saying Andy?” Mike asked.

“I’m saying that all employees of Cashwave are going to be laid off immediately until further notice,” Andy said.

“What about the ATMS that we still own? Who is going to service those machines?” Mike asked.

“I’m in the process of selling off those contracts to E-Trade so I can save what assets I have left like this office building.” Andy replied.

“What am I going to do? My husband is laid off and I can’t loose this job,” The secretary said.

“I’m so sorry. If I don’t reorganize my business now I won’t have any opportunity left to rise from the ashes in the future,” Andy said.

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Andy liked to think of himself as a mythical Phoenix that rose from the ashes after it burst into flames. This wasn’t the first time one of his business ventures had gone down in flames and it wouldn’t be the last.

The meeting continued for several more minutes as Andy answered questions from the employees until everyone was allowed to leave to clean out their desks and go home.

As I left the room Andy called Mike and Steve, the outside sales manager back into the conference room and he closed the door.

I didn’t think anything of their private meeting because I was depressed like everyone else at the prospect of losing another job and I walked back to the sales office to clean out my desk of one month and go home. I quickly cleaned out my desk and talked with Herb and Lupe about what they were going to do for work next when Mike walked back in the office looking grim and more stressed out than usual.

“Did Frank already go home?” Mike asked.

“Yeah he’s gone, it’s not like there’s anything for us to do here,” Lupe said.

“I’m sorry guys, I didn’t see this coming,” Mike said with sadness.

“What are you going to do now?” Herb asked.

“I don’t know, probably cash out all of my credit cards, sell my Corvette and spend the next 20 years on an island somewhere,” Mike said.

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“Sounds nice, can you take me with you?” Herb asked.

“I’ll send you a postcard,” Mike said.

“I can’t believe I have to find another stupid job again! I hoped that this job would at least last me for one year and it’s barely lasted me for a month,” I said.

“Well everyone, Andy asked me to close up the sales office so I got to lock things up,” Mike said.

“So you’re kicking us out too?” Lupe asked in mock surprise.

“No Lupe, it’s not like that. I love you guys.” Mike said.

“Come on guys, let’s get out of here and let Mike close up the office,” Lupe said.

As I prepared to leave the office with everyone Mike stopped me from leaving the office, closed the door and locked it.

“What’s going on Mike?” I asked, surprised.

“Jeremy, how do you feel about staying with the company for a little longer?” Mike asked.

“Doing what? We can’t sell ATM advertising anymore because Andy has sold all of the ATM’s,” I replied.

“The reason why Andy had that private meeting with Steve and I upstairs is because he’s going to start a website company and wants us to stay on and help him run it,” Mike said,

“What does that mean for me?” I asked.

“You have the most experience in the sales office with computers and the Internet, you pick up new concepts easily and I don’t think you will have any problem selling Andy’s website product,” Mike said.

“How much will the position pay?” I asked.

“Same as now except you will have the opportunity to earn more commission after the new company has been afloat for more than 90 days,” Mike said.

“Did Andy say he wanted me to be a part of the new company?” I asked.

“I’m the sales manager and can hire anyone I want.” Mike replied.

“What about Herb, Frank and Lupe? Don’t you want to keep one of them aboard because they’ve been with the company longer?” I asked.

“Jeremy, I want you because you have the youth and energy that they don’t have and most important of all you have the computer and Internet skills to help us launch the new company,” Mike said.

I sat down in my chair acting like I was seriously thinking about Mike’s offer when in reality I would jump at the chance to help start a new company.

“What do you say?” Mike inquired.

“I’ll do it if he gives me a raise to $13.00 per hour plus commission,” I said.

“You’ve only been with the company for over a month, you can’t ask for a raise already,” Mike said.

“It’s a new company and it’s going to require a lot of time and commitment,” I replied, smugly.

“Alright, alright I’ll talk to Andy and make sure he gives you a pay raise to $13.00 per hour plus commission,” Mike said.

I got up and shook Mike’s hand with a big smile on my face.

“If you use half the skills that you used to work me over for a pay raise you’re going to be very successful selling websites,” Mike said with a laugh.

“When do we get started?” I asked.

“Tomorrow morning, 8 a.m. We’re going to have a meeting in the conference room so don’t be late,” Mike said

“I won’t be late!” I said.

I put my things back in my desk and left the office unsure of what the next day would bring and was optimistic and excited at the thought of being a part of the new company and a bright future.

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On the job training

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Anytime I’ve looked for a job over the last few years I’ve had my best success using the good old local newspaper. Shortly after I was laid off in October of 2001, I sat at the kitchen table, in the duplex that I shared with my cousin, circling job ads from the “help wanted” section of the newspaper.

I was circling every interesting sales job and telemarketing job I could find when I came across an ad for a telemarketing position, with a company called Cashwave, selling ATM receipt advertising to businesses nationwide for a local ATM company in San Diego.

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The job sounded more interesting than calling homeowners to sell them long distance calling plans, cable TV, windows or vinyl siding so I decided to give the phone number on the advertisement a call.

The line rang for a few seconds and then a gruff voice answered the phone.

“Cashwave, this is Mike, how can I help you?” Mike said.

“Hello Mike, my name is Jeremy and I’m calling about the telemarketing position in the newspaper,” I said, trying to sound positive.

“What do you want to know?” Mike said.

“What would I be doing, where is the company located and how much does the job pay?” I asked.

“You will be selling ATM advertising service to business owners nationwide. Any business that has a product or service will want to advertise on our ATM receipts because as you know, after a persons ATM transaction is finished they receive a receipt and that receipt is usually blank but has the potential to hold one to two ads,” Mike said.

“That sounds great, what does the job pay?” I asked.

“$12.00 per hour plus commission and benefits after 90 days,” Mike said.

“Can I come in for an interview?” I asked.

“Do you have any sales experience?” Mike asked.

“I can sell ice boxes to Eskimos in the winter,” I said.

“Typical bullshit salesman answer, what are you doing at 1 p.m. today?” Mike asked.

“Interviewing with you?” I said, with hope.

“You have guts, I like that, I’ll see you at one p.m. today okay?” Mike said

Mike gave me the address and directions to Cashwave’s office in San Diego and I promised to be there for the 1 p.m. interview.

I hung up the phone and took a quick shower and then emptied out my closet, looking for my old suit coat and tie so I would look dressed up and professional for the interview.

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By 12 p.m. I got into my beat up 1987, Toyota Celica and drove to my interview hoping to get there early and make a good impression on Mike and be his pick for the new sales person in the company.

When I arrived at Cashwave’s office I was impressed, the company owned a large office building in the Mission Valley area of San Diego, over looking the 8 freeway.

I parked my car next to several trucks with the Cashwave logo on them, straightened my tie, looked in the mirror to make sure I didn’t have any boogers in my nose and I went inside for my interview.

Inside the building I walked to the receptionist’s desk and told the old woman working the desk that I was there for my 1 p.m. interview with Mike.

“Kinda early aren’t you?” She asked.

“It’s 12:45, It’s not that early,” I said.

“I hate it when people arrive early for appointments,” She said, as she paged Mike in the sales office.

I walked over to a chair by the elevator and waited quietly until Mike came downstairs in the elevator ten minutes later to show me to the sales office. Once inside the sales office Mike showed me to his desk and he began the interview, interrogation process.

“So, why do you want to work here?” Mike said lazily as he glanced at my resume.

“From our phone conversation and the ad in the paper, the job sounds like a good opportunity,” I said.

“You don’t have any experience,”

“I know that I haven’t worked in sales for years like a lot of the other people that you interview every day but, I’m a hard worker, fast learner and I’ll work my butt off to learn this job,” I said.

Mike put my resume down and looked me in the eye and said, “You’re hired, I wish I could find more salespeople like you that don’t think they know everything when they start working here because those people are always the one’s that end up causing the most trouble.”

“I breathed a sigh of relief and said, “When can I start?”

“How about tomorrow at 6:30 in the morning?” Mike asked.

“I’ll be here!” I said, excited to start a new job.

Mike showed me around the sale office and introduced me to Herb, a man in his late 50’s with a love of Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis, Lupe, a small Mexican woman in her mid 30’s with five children, and Frank, a man in his early 60’s, semi retired, with a love for nudist camps and the swinger lifestyle.

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Mike showed me to a desk with an old computer from the mid 90’s and a telephone that I would use to make my sales calls.

“Well, this is your new home, away from home. I would stay far away from Frank after lunchtime because he loves bean burritos and has a bad habit of stinking up your side of the office,” Mike said.

Mike showed me out of the sales office and left me with a warning, “Just make sure you show up tomorrow, I can’t tell you how many salespeople I’ve interviewed that said they were going to start working for me and end up flaking out on me.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow by 6:30 a.m.,” I said.

The next day would be my first day working for Cashwave and also my first experience with Andy, the owner of the company and the true incarnation of the term “crazy boss”.

Andy drove many employees of Cashwave away with his wild management style and pension for starting new companies to keep his existing companies out of bankruptcy.

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Nobody in the company knew what Andy was thinking from one minute to the next and wasn’t surprised if he was away from the office for weeks at a time, only to return with a new girlfriend, and a business idea that would keep the company afloat, and potentially make him another million.

Little did I know that Andy was planning to start another company, launch a new product and I was going to be there right in the middle of everything, like it or not….

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Artsy fartsy

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After my conversation with Glen and Andy I grabbed all of my recent artwork and crammed it into my old art portfolio case from high school, took a shower, threw on my Sunday best clothes, jumped in my car and raced for the business meeting.

As I drove over 80 miles an hour on 5 South I kept replaying my conversation with Andy and dreaming of what could be. “You remind me of myself when I was your age, I also loved the same things that you do and didn’t conform to any accepted style in art or truth that the teachers were teaching. You know I might be able to show your work to a friend of mine in L.A. that owns a gallery up there; if he likes your work he might be able to show your work”

Being able to be a full time, working artist was everything that I ever wanted and I was going to do my best to win over Andy Lakey and hopefully get any opportunity to show my artwork.

I arrived at the Hilton in Del Mar an hour early, parked my old car in the parking lot next to BMW’s, Mercedes and other vehicles that cost more than I would make in three years salary. As I left the parking lot and entered the Hilton I joined a group of over 150 people who were attending the same business opportunity meeting as I was.

I quickly realized that “the meeting,” wasn’t going to be any intimate opportunity to learn about a new business opportunity and talk art with Andy Lakey. The meeting was a “cattle call” and I was a part of the herd corralled into a room for the indoctrination.

As we were corralled into a large ballroom I tried to spot Andy or Glen but was unable to find them because I was given a number and pushed into a seat.

Once everyone was inside the lights quickly dimmed and a video presentation for Do it all Travel came on the screen and we watched a video of interviews with various members of the company that had made a six figure income with the company, bought a new home, cars and taken many fabulous vacations.

I soon became bored and looked at my watch and wondered when the video was going to end. The video finally ended thirty minutes later, the lights came on over the stage and a balding man in his early 40’s, wearing an Hawaiian shirt ran to the stage.

“How you all doing, does everyone in this room want to make more money?” The man asked.

“Yes!” The crowd replied.

“Does everyone want a new car?” The man asked.

“Yes!” The crowd replied.

People sitting next to me actually started to cry with excitement and the atmosphere quickly started to resemble a tent revival meeting.

“Does everyone want a new home or the ability to take nice vacations?” The man asked.

“Yes!” the crowd screamed.

“Good, my name is Roger Smith and I’m going to show everyone in this room how they can do all that and more with Do it all Travel” He said.

For the next 45 minutes Roger Smith and a series of managers and successful people in the company came on stage to share their success stories and sales pitch on why attendees like me should invest in the business opportunity. By the time the meeting was over I was emotionally wiped out, physically exhausted and like a new convert ready to hand over my credit card to invest in the company.

I reached in my back pocket for my wallet and credit cards and realized that I forgot it in my rush to leave for the meeting and smiled because I knew that I just saved myself $300.00 by not purchasing the quick start business kit.

I waited around for Glen in the ballroom, for a few minutes after the presentation and when I was prepared to leave a short, bald guy walked up to me with an excited look on his face.

“Jeremy! Glad to see you, I didn’t think you made it! I’m Glen!” He stuck out his hand and I shook it.

“It’s great to meet you Glen.” I said.

“How did you like the meeting tonight?” Glen asked.

“It was great. I’m very interested in the business opportunity,” I said, trying to act excited….

“Are you ready to invest tonight? The company had marked the quick start business kit down to only $300.00! It’s a steal.” Glen said.

I thought of my rent due the following week, bills and an upcoming car repair and thought of the best excuse in the sales world.

“I’d like to think about it,” I said.

“No problem, just don’t wait to long to get involved with this opportunity because you can get in on the ground floor now but in a few weeks that opportunity will be gone.” He said.

“I know, I’d still like to think about it.” I said.

“No problem, I’ll just give you some tapes to listen to keep you motivated until we talk again in a few days,” He said.

“That would be great, thank you.” I said.

I could tell that Glen was quickly growing disinterested with me because I didn’t want to purchase the “quick start business kit,” and he wasn’t going to earn a commission on the sale tonight. Glen quickly grew depressed and was prepared to leave when Andy walked up to introduce himself to me.

“Glen, this must be Jeremy with you right?” Andy asked.

Glen perked up, “It sure is, I was just talking with Jeremy about the importance of investing in the company tonight,” Glen said.

“Oh, you don’t want to miss out on this opportunity, Jeremy, you won’t find a ‘ground floor’ opportunity like this again.” Andy said.

“I know, I can’t invest tonight, because I forgot my credit card.” I said.

“That’s ok, we can take a check,” Glen said with desperation.

 “I’d still like more time to think about it,” I said.

“I admire a man who knows what he wants,” Andy said.

“Me too,” Glen said as he acted depressed again.

“Jeremy, have you had dinner yet?” Andy asked.

“No, not yet,” I said.

“Good, I’m going out to dinner with a few people involved with the company and I’d like you and Glen to come along,” He said.

“I’d love to, where are we going to?” I asked.

“My favorite restaurant, Jonathan’s by the bay.” Andy said.

Jonathan’s by the bay was a high priced restaurant with nothing on the menu under $15.00 and with only $10.00 cash in my wallet I wasn’t sure if I could afford it but I also knew that the opportunity to show Andy my work might not come again so I decided to accept the invitation.

“I’d love to go to dinner with you guys,” I said.

“Great, you can follow me to the restaurant.” Andy said.

I followed Andy out to the parking lot and was about to get in my car when Andy invited me over to his Lexus SUV to show me his latest paintings.

“Come and see my new work,” Andy said.

Andy opened up the back door to his Lexus SUV and pulled out several different paintings that he had completed within the last week.

“What do you think?” Andy asked.

The paintings had all of the elements of color and shape that I loved about his work and I didn’t know what to say.

“Beautiful,” I said.

“I thought you would like them, did you bring your portfolio?” Andy asked.

“Yes sir,” I said.

“Good, you can show your work to me after we eat dinner, let’s go because I’m starving!” Andy said.

I got in my old 1987 Toyota Celica and followed Andy in his brand new Lexus SUV and several other BMW’s and a Mercedes to the restaurant. We arrived a few minutes later and I parked my car in the parking lot next to a Porsche, and I felt like I didn’t belong there.

“Don’t worry Jeremy; I don’t like eating here either. I only like coming here for celebrations.” Andy said.

“What are we celebrating?” I asked.

“It’s been a very good year for me in art and business and I want to celebrate.” Andy said.

I smiled at the thought of being able to dine in any restaurant in ease to just “celebrate” like Andy without a care in the world.

“Don’t worry about dinner Jeremy, I’m buying!” Andy enthused.

“Awesome! Thank you so much.” I gushed and followed him into the restaurant to enjoy a fine meal and good wine.

Glen and his wife and four other people from the conference also attended the dinner and Andy paid for everyone’s meals and after we had desert and coffee, by 10:30 p.m. and asked me to show him my art portfolio. I ran back to my car and brought it back to Andy, eager for him to examine it.

Andy looked through my artwork quickly and paused as he looked at a few of my best paintings. I waited with heavy anticipation for the verdict when he finally told me what I wanted to hear.

“I love all of it and I’m going to talk to my friend that owns the gallery up in L.A. and see if I can introduce you to him.” Andy said.

I was ecstatic and Andy saw it in my eyes.

 “Don’t get too excited yet Jeremy, it takes a lot of work to break into the L.A. art world but I’m going to do my best to get you a shot at it ok?” Andy said.

“Thank you!” Were the only words I could say as I felt like my dreams just came true, I gave Andy my phone number, address and e-mail address and he promised to call me with news from his gallery friend the following week.

Andy and I shook hands like old friends, said our goodbyes and I drove home on “cloud nine,” more excited than I had been in years, feeling like I was on the road to accomplishing my life’s ambition and nothing could stop me.

I felt happy and euphoric and was not prepared for how the world would change the following week.

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