If At First You Don't Succeed, Listen To Your Wife.
from Nashville, Tennessee
If At First You Don’t Succeed, Listen To Your Wife
God Bless My Wife. I mean it. Because she watches “Oprah”, our life together has literally transformed from a frustrating struggle to an exciting journey full of hope and promise for the future. (Forgive the flower-ey gushyness of the preceding statement, but it’s the absolute truth.)
I’ll start off by admitting that I’m a lawyer. And no, that doesn’t mean that I already had it made, financially or otherwise. I spent twenty years in Cleveland, Ohio representing people in unfortunate financial circumstances who had to file for bankruptcy. Day in and day out, I was submerged in other peoples’ financial woes. Small surprise, I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into the very same financial problems that plagued my clients. One day I literally found myself preparing a bankruptcy filing for a client and I was suddenly struck - with all the subtlety of a falling tree branch - with the realization that this person was in better financial shape than I was! I couldn’t figure it out. The harder I worked, the worse my financial life deteriorated. I was stuck in a vicious cycle.
I used to joke that no lawyer ever got rich representing clients who were, by definition, broke. I was right. But I could not have imagined how correct I was, and for what reasons.
Then came October 17, 2005, a date that sends shivers down the spines of every bankruptcy lawyer. On this day, a law enacted by the United States Congress went into effect that made it much harder, more expensive, and complicated to file for bankruptcy. For months before this date, the news media hysterically made it sound as if bankruptcy was to be abolished altogether. This wasn’t true, but the public believed it. Then the panic began.
For a solid month before the deadline, I found myself working twelve hours per day, seven days per week drafting last minute bankruptcy petitions. I literally got to the point where I could accept no more cases and I had desperate debtors calling and tearfully begging me to take their cases. I made money. Lots and lots of it in fact. But I knew this wasn’t going to last. And it didn’t. The deadline passed and my telephone fell silent. It stayed that way. I lost 70% of my practice volume from that point forward, and all of the nice money that rolled in during the last minute panic was gone after a few months of ordinary business and living expenses.
Suddenly I was at a loss. I was effectively unemployed. It became harder and harder to meet our mortgage payments. I fell behind on my office rent. I became obsessed with the specter of failure and the irony that under the new law, I wouldn’t even be able to file my own bankruptcy. Then my wife told me about something she saw on “Oprah”...
She bought us a copy of “The Secret” movie and later the book. We watched it, intrigued. I had devoured many self-help texts in my younger years, but I always remembered that there seemed to be some element missing from them, an element of How To. Somehow the advice in these volumes never seemed to work for me the way the authors claimed it would. But here was something new, an idea that I had never considered. Instead of trying to will success into existence, we were being told to believe it already existed and to be grateful for having it. Hah! It couldn’t be that simple. Could it?
By this time, we were coming to terms with the fact that we could no longer afford our mortgage payments and consequently we would eventually default and lose our home. It was hard to feel grateful under these circumstances. We placed our home on the market and hired a realtor.
Then the United States housing market began a long steep slide into a state of stagnation. Months dragged on without any showings of our home, let alone an offer. When the realtor failed to sell our home by the end of our contract, we fired him and went back to trying to sell it ourselves. We began to visualize a buyer, a successful completed sale, and enough money to pay off our debts and bootstrap ourselves out of financial disaster. We couldn’t see how we could possibly achieve this, but we somehow found the faith to believe that we would. I’ll admit, at times I wondered if I was being incredibly stupid. I put those thoughts aside.
Then I was struck by an idea. I don’t know where it came from, but when it occurred to me it was a distinct experience, like finding a twenty dollar bill on the sidewalk or scratching off a winning lottery ticket. I took our little video camera and made a video tour of our home. Then I edited it with flashy special effects and titles on my computer. I posted it on YouTube and linked it to classified ads on Craig’s List and other similar sites. All of this cost me nothing but some time, creativity, and effort.
We held open houses every Sunday. Suddenly, instead of one or two sour faced hobby shoppers (“Oh, you mean you don’t have a *formal* dining room?”) We had people showing up early, before the start time of the open house asking if they could see this house that they had already toured on the internet.
A few weeks into this, I was showing a fellow the upstairs bedrooms and I casually asked him, “Can you see your family living in this house?” To my utter shock, he replied, “Yes I can.” Then we began to talk about things like price. One month later we had an offer, a loan approval, an escrow, and a sale. We paid our debts with money left over.
Two of my friends were also trying to sell their houses with no luck. I recommended The Secret to them. They skeptically watched the movie with us, but decided to give it a try. They both sold their houses too. Coincidence? That’s three-for-three, in the midst of a disastrous housing market, folks.
We found a little apartment to live in until we could sort out our other problems. I was still without a viable income. We took stock of our situation. Cleveland was essentially bankrupt itself. There was no more opportunity for me as a self-employed lawyer, and I couldn’t see where I could find a job there. We began to talk about relocating. Most of my wife’s extended family lived in Middle Tennessee. Better economic opportunity, better weather, family; it seemed to make sense. In addition, my hobby is songwriting, so I saw an advantage to living in the Nashville, Tennessee area, one of the major concentrations of music industry in the United States.
I applied for and got my Tennessee law license. Then I began to apply for jobs. For months I got no response. Time to start visualizing again. I began to see myself in a job, not just a paycheck-maker, but a great job that I would love and which would use my skills and experience. I felt grateful for this wonderful job that I would find fulfilling and joyful.
Yep, nothing happened. At first, anyway.
Then I began to get inquiries. Then I had offers for interviews. Time and time again I drove the 500 miles from Ohio to Tennessee to interview for jobs. Again and again I got turned down. Instead of getting depressed and feeling rejected, I resolved to believe and FEEL that I wasn’t being rejected, I was merely being told that I hadn’t found the right job yet and these rejections were merely the universe telling me that I was just being kept available for the right job, the job that I had asked for. I felt grateful for being turned down for these incorrect jobs so that I would be available when the right job came along.
Then one day I got a phone call inviting me to begin training in that job.
Today, instead of being a failing bankruptcy lawyer in Cleveland, Ohio, I’m in a responsible legal position in Nashville, Tennessee. Every day I wake up happy and grateful that I get to go to work in a great office with great people and do an exciting and interesting job.
And I’m making progress as a songwriter in perhaps the best place on Earth to *be* a songwriter.
(I was actually at a writer’s night at a club here in town and heard one writer sing a song about his “gratitude rock”. Afterwards, as he walked by me, I pointed at him and did my best Oprah impression, “SEEECREEEEEEET!” By the way he grinned at me, he knew he’d been pegged.)
My wife and I love it here. The entire outlook and quality of our lives have changed from a feeling of impending doom to real hope for the future.
Thanks, Rhonda, put another feather in your cap. (One with distinct markings, of course.)
About Malachi from Nashville, Tennessee:
Malachi went from being a failing bankruptcy lawyer in Cleveland, Ohio, to being a succesful lawyer and a songwriter in Nashville, Tennessee. Yes, he did this by using the Secret. He's pretty darn grateful, too.