After returning from Vietnam in 1970 and before being discharged from the Marine Corps, I briefly and fortuitously became involved with multi-level marketing. (A friend invites you to see a "business opportunity." You in turn contact five of your friends, and so on.)
I used the word fortuitous because the individual who sponsored me introduced me to the efficacy of positive thinking. Reflecting back, I probably spent as much time with my sponsor incorporating ideas from various self-help books as I did trying to build the business.
I can see the covers of those books today: "The Magic of Thinking Big," "Think and Grow Rich," "How to Win Friends and Influence People," and the "Lead the Field" messages by Earl Nightingale.
Self-help books aren't everyone's cup of tea. Nevertheless, and without realizing it at the time, applying the principles contained in those books provided the foundation I needed for the job market I was to enter 11 months later.
Each author's message was presented differently, but each book was underpinned by the belief we lived in a country where anything was possible, and more importantly, that we were masters of our own destiny.
I was 25 when I was discharged from the Corps. My bank account had just under $2,000. I had a new wife and no clue as to what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Nonetheless, I never doubted I would be successful.
My first job didn't pay much in salary. However, I doubled it with sales commissions in my first year as I continually applied the lessons learned from those books.
Three years later, I was receiving job offers. I accepted one from an international insurance brokerage that asked me to open an office in Denver, which I did.
There were rough spots in the early days. I mean when our entire staff consisted of an assistant and me, and we were competing with established firms with numerous specialists. Success wasn't guaranteed. Nonetheless, we grew and prospered, never doubting the end result.
When I retired in 1999, our office employed 65 people and was considered one of the premier insurance brokerage houses in Denver.
So why did I use almost half this commentary writing a mini-biography? I wanted to illustrate that never once during my career did I ever worry about my future. I never doubted that living in America, if I applied basic principles and took responsibility for my actions, opportunity would always be there.
Recently, I was watching a political talk show with my 92-year-old father-in-law, who unexpectedly reproved, "Who cares who wins this election? It's not going to make any difference anyway."
I was speechless. After collecting my thoughts, I asked Mort how long he had felt this way. He replied that during the past few years the situation in this country has gotten so bad he didn't believe anyone could turn it around.
My father-in-law's words weren't just sad, they were tragic. He had lost hope. I've heard similar comments from young people, as well, and that's even more depressing. What happened to the America where people believed in a better tomorrow?
The words "it's not going to make an difference anyway" epitomize the true malfeasance of this administration. Its ideology and attendant policies have sucked the very spirit from millions of Americans. Never in my lifetime have I experienced such pessimism about the future from so many diverse sources.
Many foresaw this state of affairs when, in one of his first statements as president, Barack Obama dismissed the notion of American exceptionalism, a notion that emphasizes that with hard work, perseverance and taking personal responsibility anyone could realize their dreams.
Condi Rice, Sonia Sotomayor and Steve Jobs weren't born with silver spoons in their mouths. Yet each has been enormously successful and did so by earning their success themselves. Their respective accomplishments included being held accountable for the consequences of their actions, a concept that appears to have lost currency under this administration.
At some point the president must take personal responsibility for what has occurred on his watch. This blame your predecessor drivel has not only gotten old, it also demeans the office. The president seems not to understand the Founders envisioned a nation of equal opportunity, not equal outcomes.
For more than 200 years, America has been the economic model for the world, but that's changed during the last three and a half years.
My greatest apprehension is for our grandkids, because unless we change course now, I fear Mr. Obama will finish transforming us from the land of opportunity where upward mobility has been a way of life for 230 years into a European-style socialized democracy with diminished economic opportunities and where government, not the individual, is pre-eminent.
Quote of the day: "Since this is an era when many people are concerned about 'fairness' and 'social justice,' exactly what is your 'fair share' of what someone else has worked for?" -- Thomas Sowell
Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes regularly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.