In 1999 I was 26 and I lived in my car for about a month. It’s not part of the story I talk about much because I don’t really see it as that huge of a deal. It was a really really really low financial point for me in my life but nothing I couldn’t recover from.
Back story – Oct 1998 I moved to Seattle to market memory seminars. My first month up there I did $20,000 in sales for my business and I had no employees and no office expenses. I had never made $25,000 in a YEAR and here I was making $20,000 in 4 weeks. I thought I was Donald Trump to be making $5,000 a week. One night playing pool I met a man named Thomas Jurewicz. We talked for about a week and I shared with him my business and how excited I was about it. Well, Thomas turned out to be a professional con man http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/police-well-traveled-con-man-takes-tampa-woman-for-115000-in-super-bowl/1017231
He took money from me and definitely distracted my business but in reality I can’t blame him for my financial troubles. First of all, I was the one who gave him control of my bank accounts (crazy but true) and also I am the one who didn’t continue marketing my business after I making some really good money. One night at 2am Thomas called me and said, ‘The IRS has drained your bank account. You made too much money too fast.’ I believed him and the next morning when my money was gone I believed him more. Well, it wasn’t the IRS who drained it as you might guess.
The con fell through when the condo he moved me in to evicted me. I had $200 left to my name and I used it to send my cousin back to Texas with an airplane ticket. I told him, ‘Get a good look at my face. Because you aren’t going to see it again in Texas until I have turned things around.’
I physically confronted Thomas, threw him around a little and the next thing you know he was out of town. There I was in Seattle 2500 miles from Texas, no friends, no family and 100% broke. I could have called family and asked money to be wired to me but that isn’t my style. I pay my own way. Period.
No one back in Texas knew I was living in my car. I would talk to them and tell them I was doing fine and things were great. There was no need for them to worry and I knew I could build my business back up.
I took a job as a waiter at The Red Robin (Pier 55 for your Seattle folks) and worked there at night and did my memory business in the day. That was tough though because I didn’t have a phone. At the Red Robin my coworkers would ask me to cover their shifts and I would always say, ‘Sure!’ They loved me for that but little did they know….I had nowhere to go!! (except my car)
Working at the Red Robin one day, a man who had paid me to speak for his mortage company saw me. I pulled the old lame line, ‘Oh, I am not here for the money I am just helping my friend out who is the manager. Yeah….right….’ It was embarrassing to be the businessman in the day and waiter at night when my business contacts would come in and I was their waiter….uggghhh
I paid $30 a month to shave and shower at a gym. The front desk guy at the gym would see me walk in and 15 minutes later leave and you could see the look on his face, ‘That guy has the lamest workouts!’
I remember one night in my car, I had put my white sheet up around my windows so people couldn’t see in as I prepared to sleep. I was eating a banana and crackers I had taken from the Red Robin and I thought to myself, ‘I should be really depressed right now. I am HOMELESS and last year was making REALLY good money.’ But I thought to myself, ‘ I am not homeless in my mind. In my mind I am the president of an international training company!’
Within 6 years of that I was speaking in Malaysia, Singapore and Europe. I remember boxing up my CDs to mail to Sweeden and Australia just 3 years later and I remembered what I had said to myself when I was living in my car, ‘I am not homeless, I am the president of an international training company just going through a rough spot.’ It wasn’t B.S.. I believed it and looking back, it turns out it was true.
I do give money to homeless people when I see them still today. Because I know better than most how quickly homelessness can come up on you if you are not wise or even if you are and just encounter unfortunate circumstances.
I eventually got $250 cash and that was enough to move into an extended stay hotel for a week and I did that for the next year. I lived in a small 1 bedroom extended stay hotel ‘Crossland Economy Studios’ for a YEAR!! I continued to work the memory business in the day and work at Red Robin at night and eventually I had my business going again and with $3,000 in my pocket moved back to Texas.
Yes, I was homeless. Yes, I lived in my car. But not in my mind. I was the president of an international training company