Life-changing decisions often seem small on the day we make them.
1978 – Everyone had gone home. I was in the warehouse alone, waiting for Pennie to come and pick me up. I had been installing guttering on houses all day. The job paid $5 an hour.
We had just one car.
Bored, I looked in the phone book to see if Tulsa had one of those pre-recorded “dial-a-prayer” lines I might call to pass the time.
There were three of them.
I was appalled.
Later that night I saw my friend, “Cheerful Charlie” Myers, and told him how devastatingly bad those messages had been. My secret hope was that Charlie would volunteer to create a more interesting daily message. I said, “Someone ought to…”
Before I could finish that sentence, Charlie reached into his pocket, grabbed my wrist, turned my palm upward, slapped a 10-dollar bill into it, looked into my eyes and said, “And you’re just the man to do it. Here’s ten bucks. Let me know what number to call after the equipment is installed.”
I had allowed my alligator mouth to overload my mockingbird butt, and Charlie called me on it.
That ten dollars would be the only money I would ever collect from “Daybreak,” my daily recorded message, because I never told anyone how they could get in touch with me. The daily call count got so high that Pennie and I had to install rollover lines and lease additional equipment because too many callers were getting a busy signal.
I was spending about 3 hours of writing time each day and 25% of our household income each month to fund an enterprise from which there was never a plan for return-on-investment.
But it was the ultimate Masters Class on Ad Writing.
If you envision and write a new message – 7 days a week – that is interesting enough to cause complete strangers to voluntarily dial a phone number each day to hear that message, your friends are going to ask you to start writing ads for them.
But ad writing takes a lot of time. So much time, in fact, that “Daybreak,” my daily telephone message, became a weekly 1-page fax called The Monday Morning Memo. The fax later became an email and a podcast.
1998 – exactly 20 years after Cheerful Charlie Myers slapped that 10-dollar bill into my hand, Bard Press collected 100 of those memos and The Wizard of Ads became Business Book of the Year. Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads (1999) and Magical Worlds of the Wizard of Ads (2001) became New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers.
Then Pennie found a 21-acre plateau that overlooked Austin from 900 feet above the city and suggested that we build a campus for artists and entrepreneurs.
2018 – exactly 20 years after The Wizard of Ads was published – I’m preparing to turn Wizard Academy over to the next generation of leadership and begin the next 20 years.
But that’s enough about me.
2018 – Let’s talk about you. Have you mapped the journey that brought you to where you are? I just showed you how to do it.
- Find a moment that, in hindsight, looks to be auspicious.
- Begin your map at that point in time.
- Look back at other positive, pivotal moments.
- Connect the dots.
The fun of this exercise is that it:
- reminds you of who you are.
- focuses your attention on good, not bad, memories.
- give you a glimpse at what might – just maybe – be around the corner.
Here is a Traveler’s Blessing for you that I condensed from the Tefilat Haderekh, the traditional Hebrew traveler’s prayer:
May God guide your footsteps toward peace, and cause you to reach a happy destination. May he rescue you from the hand of every foe, and every ambush along the way. And may you have a wonderful time.
Roy H. Williams