Now Is the Perfect Time To Start Your Life Transformation:
Life Lesson: The year your best friend gets killed, you get kicked out college and you get married is the perfect time to start a new business.
**This article was written by the U.S. SBA Entrepreneur of the Year, Dallas Motivational Speaker and Author, Clay Clark. For more information about scheduling Clay Clark to speak at your next event contact 918-851-6920 today.
As the summer was winding down, my plan was going well. I had saved up almost $13,000, and I knew how I was going to spend every last dime of it. I don’t remember the exact totals of what everything cost, but I do remember writing them all down in a red spiral notebook. I wrote something to the effect of:
American DJ Mixer = $300.00
American DJ Light Trussing = $75.00
Amp = $600.00
Denon CD player = $450.00
Light Bin = $10.00
After spending a summer working for Lund Poured Walls, I now had almost all the money I needed to buy my first DJ system and all the courage I needed to ask my beautiful girlfriend Vanessa to marry me. Financially speaking, once I added up all the items I needed, it appeared as though I would need a little over $10,000 to transform my DJ Connection dream in to a reality. I was getting so close to creating my dream job that I could taste it. I could see myself in possession of all the equipment. I could visualize Vanessa saying yes, and there was nothing that was going to stop me.
I arranged for Vanessa to fly into Minneapolis’s airport so that she could meet up with my family, and so that she and I could drive back to ORU together in my new incredibly gorgeous maroon MPV minivan. My dad had secured a call-forwarding service through a company called AnswerPhonetm (these guys are great) to serve as the voicemail for my new DJ service (since I was going to be in class when 80 percent of the calls were coming in), and the number they gave me was (918) 481-2010.
I was pumped! I had a number. I was in the phonebook. I was somebody! (Sorry, Steve Martin, for shamelessly stealing your movie lines). And so I did the most sensible thing that any young entrepreneur without money to advertise would do. I painted this new number all over the exterior of my maroon MPV.
Yes, that is right, my friend; I hand painted the words DJ Connection and its phone number right on the side of my minivan in big bright letters and numbers. Oh, it was sweet. Plus, because I earned a little more money than I had expected from working as a home health aid/bingo-caller/bellboy for a retirement community on Saturdays and Sundays—the two days that I wasn’t working construction—I treated myself to the purchase of a new stereo system for my van. I had an amplifier and a subwoofer installed, and they sounded great. When Vanessa flew in to Minneapolis, I felt like a million bucks.
Over the years, I have discovered that there is a certain emotional high that follows the completion and successful achievement of audacious goals. It seems as though achieving small goals builds your faith in your ability to achieve larger goals. Thus, a positive cycle of achievement was being created quickly because I was really getting after it. I was experiencing a near-euphoric emotional high, and I could not wait to propose to Vanessa. BECA– USE I HAD THE CONFIDENCE FROM THAT POSITIVE ACHIEVEMENT, I HAD NO DOUBT THAT SHE WOULD SAY YES.
After her plane arrived, it taxied into position, and I remember having to really focus on not drooling in anticipation of being with her again. As I gazed out the large airport terminal windows looking intently to catch a glimpse of my dream woman, my heart (I think it was my heart) pounded hard with anxiety/love/pre-proposal jitters. My dad and brother were waiting with me when I first caught a glimpse of her exiting the plane (pre-9/11-aviation-rule allowed us to wait for her in the actual terminal).
As she walked down the walkway exiting the plane, she looked so tan, so exotic, so beautiful, so happy, and so incredible in her blue denim skirt and red top. She wore silver earrings and a silver bracelet that the family she had been a nanny for over the summer had given her. I wanted to just find a judge and marry her right there, but I had some patience, but not enough to propose to her in the way I had planned.
After we picked up Vanessa, my dad (Thom) took my brother (Carson), Vanessa, and I all out to eat at the Olive Gardentm. The whole time we sat there, I kept wanting to propose, and if I had had the ring with me, I would have. Then that night when my mom and Vanessa were talking in the kitchen, I again wanted to propose. I had an elaborate engagement proposal plan, like most guys do, but I determined that this plan had to go the wayside. I was in to the results-approach. So that night as Vanessa got ready for bed, I knocked on the door of the guest room (my brother’s room), and I proposed to her. She took forever to answer, and I almost wet myself in anticipation, but eventually she said yes. Each second I waited seemed like an eternity.
That particular series of events, might have been the most exciting time of my life up to that point—just knowing that we were literally driving into the future together, and that I was about to make my dreams a reality with the purchase of the DJ gear. When Vanessa and I finally arrived at Guitar Center, my excitement could almost not be contained. I walked into that store with confidence, knowing that I was going to walk out with nearly $8,000.00 of pre-negotiated DJ gear, and that a business would be born that day. Long story short . . . we spent several hours having the Guitar Center folks round up all the gear as I conversed with Joey “Shake” our sales representative.
When it was finally time to load the van with all the new gear, it occurred to me that we were definitely not going to have enough room. After much Tetristm-esc repositioning of the gear, Vanessa finally had to scrunch up in a ball to fit into the van because the gig rig that housed all of the rack-mounted gear was taking up the passenger-seat area. That was one of the first times that I had ever asked Vanessa to do something crazy on behalf of the DJ business, but it would not be the last. I could barely change gears because of all the protruding gear surrounding us. It was man law, and it was awesome. Imagine being surrounded by Christmas presents and the significant other of your dreams all at the same time—this is what I felt like.
Down the road we went. We drove and drove and drove and drove some more for good measure. Finally after completing the thirteen-hour job from Oklahoma to Minnesota, we arrived at the mini-storage that would be the home of DJ Connection for some time. From this storage unit, we would load and unload disk jockeys every weekend for a four-year period. Terry, the lady running the storage facility, met us that day. She kindly escorted us to storage number 708. This unit was as small as an average bedroom closet, and so was my budget, so it was a good fit. After unloading, we were off to the dorm rooms to unload our domestic supplies. Because I always had lots of stuff, this was never a pleasant process. I was always acquiring new DJ apparatuses and various pieces of gear, so I had the most technologically geeked-out room on the ORU campus. If my resident advisers had allowed it, I would have also started side-businesses enriching uranium, activating carbon, or exploring for gas within my dorm room as well.
I might be mixing up the sequence of events here, but I believe at this time I was assigned a new roommate by the name of Clinton Clark because Mark D. was taking a semester off. Clinton and I did not hit it off right away. It’s not that I did not like him. We were basically just a match not made in heaven. I think he did not enjoy my company, and I, in turn, did not enjoy his company either. And despite the oddness of sharing similar names (Clayton Clark and Clinton Clark) we lasted as roommates for a period of a few days because of my odd habit of taking up 90 percent of the usable space with turntables, speakers, condenser mics, gig rigs, lights needing repairs, and forty professional sports team jerseys. I think that this might have been tolerable, but I am pretty sure that the 3:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. recording sessions got to him after a while. Or maybe it was the oddness of my work-twelve-hours/sleep-four-hours philosophy. Anyway, Clinton, if you get around to reading this, I am sorry that I frustrated you, but I would not change it if I could.
When it was all said and done, Clinton moved out and into a room with Dave McGlohon across the hall, and since Mark did not enroll that semester, I ended up having my own room to myself. And with a room to myself, I got to work. I honestly would work eighteen hours per day when not in class, and ten hours per day if I was in class. I made banners, signs, flyers, t-shirts, wing-videos, recordings . . . and anything else that could turn in to a profit. It was during this time that I developed some of the very concepts and phrases that we still use today at DJ Connection. The concept for the logo was designed during this time, my ability to record and produce music was refined, and my belief in working with an intense sense of haste was developed. Every day was like a sprint for me during this time. I would wake up at 6:00 a.m. to meet Eugene to lift weights. I would start classes at 7:50 a.m., and then I would have class straight until 2:00 p.m. At 3:30 p.m. I would head to work at the call center where I worked. During my shift, I would check my voicemail every few hours to make sure that no customers had called from my Yellow Pagestm ad.
My room became known as, “The room where that DJ guy can record you.” Everyone knew I was the “DJ connection.” Everyone knew what room I was in, and everyone wanted to see it. RA’s warned me about theft and risk. Over the years, if I had a dollar for every time someone tried to warn me about my liability, fire hazard, and theft risks during my DJ career, then I should have certainly had enough money to buy all of the capital-sucking insurance that was recommended by the fear-mongering-negative-Nancy types.
I loved the atmosphere of my dorm room. I loved the chi of the room, and the overall aura that it had. I loved that my walls were covered in posters and motivational sayings; I loved the artwork I cut out of magazines; I loved that room. And I have actually re-created that creative environment in every office in which I have worked since. Praise be to God for this. I cannot think in a vacuum . . . at least what I create in a vacuum is usually very non-creative.
As the school year progressed and my income began to soar like an eagle due to all of the recording time I was logging at $35.00 per hour, the harder it became for me to take college seriously anymore. I got in to heated debates with Dr. Swails (history professor), as well as my Old Testament professors and teacher’s assistants out of frustration and impatience with the lack of practicality in 90 percent of the subject matter I was learning. But I also was amazed by other professors like Mr. Westcott (who went on to become a city counselor) who devoted their class time to only teaching practical knowledge. I began questioning the whole concept of college and the concept of studying things that have no practical application in my life. I started realizing that education, motivation, and reputation are determined by the level of compensation, not general inapplicable knowledge.
I read The New Imperialists and quickly discovered that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and other top-level business people relentlessly pursued continual learning and skill training. However, I also learned that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Russell Simmons, and many of the other business leaders (whom I admired) never earned a college degree. I started openly debating, questioning, and wondering why we had to become Microsofttm-certified if the man who invented Microsofttm was not Microsofttm certified.
In between my debates about the validity of college and studying, I also spent much time recording, hanging out with Vanessa, marketing my personal DJ services, commissioning myself to produce the Covenant wing year-in-review video, working out each morning with my partner Eugene Willis, eating yogurt, eating frozen Budget Gourmettm-brand 96-cent chicken panini dinners, going to Walmarttm, eating ungodly amounts of chicken at the ORU cafeteria, reading Newsweek magazine, crudely soundproofing my room using the mattresses found in my dorm room, recording my own rap parodies, recording other rappers, drawing, attending chapel at ORU, and debating with anyone who would listen about the fraudulent messages of Eastman Curtis and Richard Roberts and the insincerity of many televangelists, and then . . . I had the opportunity to meet ADAM BAGWELL.
Recording Adam Bagwell . . . oh yes . . . recording Adam Bagwell . . . nothing was more fun to me at the time than recording Adam Bagwell. Now that I am married, nothing is more fun than attempting to create babies, but at the time, this was where it was. Adam Bagwell was this extremely skinny white kid from Golden, Colorado, who could rap like he was born doing it. Up until then, I had heard people rap and always thought, I could do that better; that was okay; or that requires no talent. But with Adam, I did not have those thoughts. He was great. He could change the emphasis on nearly any word or phrase to make it rhyme—when he rapped, he had a synonym for nearly every word readily available to make the rhyme phrase work without compromising the meaning.
I will never forget the first time I met Adam. Since everybody at school knew I rapped, recorded, and DJ-ed; and everyone on Kingsmen’s dorm floor knew Adam’s rapping skills were incredible, it was just a matter of time before Adam and I found each other. I kept hearing people say, “When are you and Adam going to hook up and record something?” I did not know who he was, but I was kind of beginning to look forward to meeting him. And with a knock, knock on my room 2416 metal door, the funkiest white kid I had ever met, Adam Bagwell, entered my life.
As both of us went through school at Oral Roberts University, we found an oasis of creativity behind the microphone and in recording. It was almost as though the microphone represented a secret pathway into the “Narnia” of recording. Adam and I recorded jams for the ORU Battle of the Bands and for others just because. We found that we worked well together and that we never creatively limited each other. I recorded the “Ford Escort Song” (available for download on the “http://www.djconnectiontulas.com/” a sexual tribute to my late 1989 Ford Escort and my first DJ ride. Adam recorded Christian and positive-minded rap songs. I recorded off-the-wall love songs for my fiancé. And then late one night (all night) we recorded it; we recorded “ORU SLIM SHADY.”
This parody was and still is the ultimate ORU campus song. This song brought excessive amounts of heat upon us because it brought the broadly (but quietly) held beliefs that Lindsay and Richard Roberts were allegedly corrupt into campus conversations among the students. To be fair, the song was caustic, and to be fair, it was funny; but it did get me in a lot of trouble.
Because people liked the song, and because we were attending college during the year 2000, the song spread quickly via the “http://www.napster.com/” file-sharing program. And thus this song began to grow at a viral pace after a few of our friends “borrowed it” and put it online. I will probably never know who put the song on Napstertm or who put the song on every student’s campus voicemail, but I do know that this song made me instantaneously infamous at ORU and made me forever synonymous with the “ORU SLIM SHADY.”
Before this audio sensation made its way across campus via CD, the school’s voicemail system, and e-mail, Adam was long gone. When he transferred to Colorado Christian University, the song’s popularity reached its peak. Around the time of the song’s 10,000th download off of Napstertm, I was the only one left at ORU to answer for the song’s content . . . which I actually enjoyed doing. For whatever reason, I actually get a big thrill out of having confrontations with people when I know that I am right. The only part of the song that I did not agree with was the comment about Danny Daniels. Danny was a person that Adam had some disagreements with (thus he voiced them on the song. **Note: Danny, if you’re reading this, we love you, man.)
At the end of the day, this little audio gem worked tirelessly spreading its way around campus until eventually I would be asked to leave the school by the dean of men, Dean B.
Sometime before the song reached its absolute pinnacle in popularity, my life changed. It was late in the evening, maybe around midnight. It might have been later, but I remember it being after one of my DJ shows. And just like any other night when returning to ORU past curfew, I signed in at the front desk with Dan the bulky night security guy). I again risked my life by hopping on the old-school elevator located within our dormitory. I hit the 4 button to take me up to Covenant. As I rode up, nothing felt different, and I looked forward to a night of good sleep since I was exhausted. When the elevator doors opened, I stepped out of the old-school, linoleum-style “retro-vator,” and I turned right to round the corner on the way down to my dorm room. As I rounded the corner, I finally felt something different in the air, and I noticed that nearly every man on our wing was sitting in the hall. Some guys were crying, some guys were silent, others tried to encourage each other. I figured at this point that possibly the wing had been disbanded, which it seemed was always a constant threat from the deans who did not appreciate our attention to detail when planning wing-initiation ceremonies, nude dorm marches, or rival ____ mascot stealing nights. As I walked passed twenty-five of the greatest guys on earth and went to room 2416, my lifelong buddy and the Spartan-looking Adam Guthmann grabbed my shoulder in a fatherly manner and asked if he could come into my room.
He said, “I don’t know how to tell you this, so I am just going to tell you. Mark is dead. He was killed in a car accident. We didn’t know how to reach you so . . . .”
At that point I quit listening. I am pretty sure that somebody suggested that we ought to pray. I’m not positive, but I think someone did. I do recall not wanting to pray. I was never really one who wanted to pray about anything good or bad. I don’t know why that was. I guess I just believed that God ultimately did what He wanted to do, and we really didn’t have much say in His ultimate game plan. Thus I figured that I should just do the best I could do, and if He stopped or helped me along the way, that’s just fine. Even if it weren’t fine, there wouldn’t be much of a point arguing with God.
The more Adam talked, the more I lost touch with reality. My mind frantically bounced around with a mixture of memories, sorrow, thoughts, doubts, ideas, memories, hope, and could-have’s. All of the negative thoughts soon vanished, and my short-term mission occurred to me. I felt a need to do something, so without hesitation, I grabbed my keys and hopped into the hand-painted maroon MPV and headed over to Mark’s parents’ house. I never stopped to think that it was after midnight and that Mark would not be there regardless of how fast I drove to his parents’ house.
When I pulled in the driveway of Rich and Pam DePetris’s house in Sand Springs, my emotions finally got the best of me. I burst into tears, losing complete control to the point that I could not drive. I just sat there in the driveway, hitting my steering wheel, and crying. There I sat mourning and hoping that God would somehow do a New-Testament-style miracle and bring my best friend back to life.
It’s funny how even now years later, I still oftentimes pray for that same miracle. I always pray that God would restore him like in the story of Lazarus. I am sure that if He did, someone would call Him a demon, but I now know that God has that kind of power. After all, He created the Earth. For some odd reason, God has not answered this prayer. I think it’s probably because of some sin in my life. Actually I don’t think of any of that. Spiritually, I just no longer think about it because thinking of Mark’s death is too painful. I just trust that Mark is where he is supposed to be for a reason.
I don’t remember when I told Vanessa (my fiancé at the time) about Mark’s death. I don’t remember how she reacted to it. But I do know that I felt tremendous emptiness in my heart, and that Mark, my friend who had encouraged me to get married so young and the man who was going to be the best man in our wedding, was gone. (Just to clarify, Joe Casey made a fine best man, and he would have been the best man had it not been for Mark’s relationship with me.) Had I had listened to other people, I would not have been getting married at all. Mark was my encourager; Mark was one of the sparks that lit the DJ Connection passion flame.
In the following days leading up to and after Mark’s funeral, I changed. Mark’s parents changed. Many people’s worlds changed. Mark’s funeral bore witness to his character and his life’s impact as over 500 people who he had somehow touched attended his funeral. It was incredible to see the outpouring of love displayed. It’s sad to me that Mark never got a chance to see this overwhelming impact and love until after he died (he saw it from an aerial perspective). The entire wing of Covenant came to support the DePetris family. And for that, I will always be grateful. As I gave the eulogy for my best friend before Mark’s peers and family, the men of Covenant seemed to nudge me along with their prayers and presence. It is amazing how at this time, for the first time, I was completely unafraid of the audience whom I was speaking to while in a public-speaking situation. I was unafraid of their reactions because I knew what I was saying was divinely inspired glimpses into the life of a great man . . . Mark DePetris. I remember almost losing it once because I simply could not hold back my tears any longer. I had tried to make his eulogy uplifting and humorous, but I just could not fight back the tears. At that point, I looked up to the back of that Baptist church in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, and there I caught a glimpse of my friend and wing mate Adam Guthmann. He made eye contact with me in way that said so much. With his eyes he said, “You can do it, Clayton.” With his eyes he said, “I love you as a brother. And you can do this. You will do this. Now, quit crying and do it!” I will always remember Adam being there and looking me in the eye to guide me through the closing remarks of the hardest public-speaking gig that I have ever had.
From that point on, I never battled uncontrollable stage fright again. Growing up, I used to severely struggle with stuttering. Every time I would misspeak or get stuck on a word, this overwhelming feeling of anxiety would take over. Thus, whenever I was asked to speak as part of a church play or any public event, those overwhelming feelings of anxiety would return; and then I would simply refuse to speak publicly even if it meant getting in to trouble with my teachers. However, after giving Mark’s eulogy, I have no longer been overtaken with those feelings of anxiety when speaking publically. Like everyone else, I do get nervous with anticipation. The adrenaline still gets pumping, but I no longer fear with the life and death intensity that I once did speaking in front of an audience. I do sincerely value the opinions of people who have experience in the particular areas that I work in, and I do value the opinions of those people whom I consider to be authorities on their areas of experience. But the random opinions of most people no longer affect me anymore; they have no traction with my mind or soul. Albert Einstein said it best when he said, “Great minds have often encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”
I have never been one to value the mindless opinions of most people to begin with, but after Mark’s death, I no longer spend any of my time trying to please anyone who I do not sincerely care for or whose favor I do not seek. It was through Mark’s death that I was taught how to live life. Thank you, Mark. Without Mark, I know that I would have been successful, but I would not have begun to scratch the surface of my potential at a young age, and I would not seize each day with the same level of passion for life that I currently now do. I now view life as gift and each day that I get access to as a true blessing.
After Mark passed, I awoke each day even more impatient for what life had in store for me, for I knew that I was definitely not guaranteed anything. Thus, it was with this new attitude that I really started to pursue my passions, my goals, and my plans to achieve them. And off to class at ORU I went. Each day as I sat in Humanities, Government, and Quantitative Literacy listening to my professors, I became more and more sure that I and most of the students in these classes were wasting our time studying and memorizing general pieces of knowledge when what we really needed to get was practical and applicable knowledge.
During one particular class (Humanities), the class lecture grew so theoretical that I remember jotting down notes resembling the following thought process: If I sit here for 4 years of my life, and I will probably only live to be 82 or so, I have just spent 4.8% of my life here doing nothing. Whereas if I spent even 3 months studying and marketing myself as a DJ, I could become successful using only about .05% of my life. And if I were to spend my time studying only things that I cared about, I would be much more interested in them, and then I would not be listening to professors talk about the Justinian empire and how to plot a sloping line (no offense to the Justinian empire or those who enjoy graphing a sloping line).
And it was thoughts like these that made it harder and harder to endure lectures about business from professors who had never owned a business. I wanted to hear lectures, but I wanted to hear them from business owners. Armed with thoughts like these, I mowed through tests, aced Government and other courses that mattered, while theoretical classes that involved truth tables started to become unbearable to the point that I started to feel the need to debate the validity of these classes with my professors. They always responded in upset irritate tones as they attempted to defend their reasons for doing a job in which they were not passionate. I grew more and more anxious to get on with my life. I became so frustrated with the slow pace of college that I debated simply dropping out of college altogether.
I was ready to leave the college yesterday when the deans called me into their dark-wood-paneled offices of discipline and reprimand to answer for the “ORU SLIM SHADY” content. As the deans asked me questions, I did everything that I could to verbally and physically communicate that I was thoroughly unapologetic about the song’s content, and I was defiant to the end.
What made the situation extra fun was that they knew the songs lyrics, untactful but accurate, spoke about the feelings many students had toward the administration. The school was operating with a blatant double standard. Athletes and students of privilege were not forced to adhere to the Honor Code (the Honor Code was ORU’s agreement that every student had to sign stating the rules of the school and the moral conduct that is expected of all students choosing to enroll in the college) while other students were forced to follow it. Richard Roberts had his own jet and lived a lavish lifestyle financed by university debt, while average families and students were expected to give everything they could to the ministry for the “good of the kingdom.”
The deans talked about how they valued this Honor Code so much, but it was apparent to me that these men honored that code the way that rednecks that honor the Confederate flag honor their country. They did not really “honor” the code; they just referenced the code when it was convenient to support their way of thinking and their various inconsistent rulings on student-life issues. However, when the code was not convenient, they simply chose not to reference it (for the record, if you have a Confederate flag flying on your flagpole, we need to talk).
In my opinion, the deans were apologists for the Lindsay and Richard Roberts personal expense foundation (as witnessed in the 2008 lawsuit launched by former ORU professors against Lindsay and Richard). The deans definitely did not like that this song exposed their bosses for being the “alleged” fraudulent lying plunderers of the ministry that they were. Later, all of America witnessed the fraud of Richard before “God told Richard to resign” (which is Richard’s code language for: my lawyers have pointed out to me that there is no way in hell that I have even the smallest chance of beating these lawsuits. Holy crap, I am definitely seeing my misdeeds hitting the fan. I think I will resign if the school promises to drop all charges).
The 2008 lawsuits ultimately lead to Richard’s resignation (“Ding dong, the witch is dead” – Wizard of Oz). During my 2000 fallout with the administration, these deans never seemed to have any problem with Lindsay and Richard’s “alleged” strong-arming of the university to give scholarships to students whom they liked who had only scored a twelve on their ACTs. They did not seem to have any issues with Richard using his students’ required chapel time as his chance to fleece the entire student body for yet another monetary “seed faith gift” to their ministry, so they could “allegedly” fire up their personal jet one more time en route to the Atlantis resorts in the Bahamas.
These deans never seemed too concerned that Lindsay would title her sermons with such catchy phrases as, “Get the Hell Out of Your Life.” These deans never seemed to notice they were promoting hypocrisy by endorsing Lindsay and Richard Roberts and by standing behind them no matter how out of control they allegedly got.
**Note-To-Self: Do not write truth-exposing parodies about corrupt people if you are trying to befriend them.
**HUGE Disclaimer: I have HUGE AMOUNTS OF RESPECT for most of the faculty and teachers at ORU. I am now super happy with the direction that the school is headed since the resignation of Richard and the takeover by the Hobby Lobby team. Now that King Richard is gone, we can all feel good about sending our kids there.
Anyway . . . long story short . . . they kicked me out of ORU for “selling and distributing a song” on campus. I actually recorded my exit interview with the deans without them knowing, and I sometimes will listen to it when I need some extra motivation (as if being taunted for stuttering and losing my best friend were not motivation enough). Being kicked out of college forced me to mature really quickly. And I did. With my back against the wall, I moved into the Fountain Crest apartments with help from my mom and dad who had to co-sign for me. I cannot thank my parents enough for helping me out and believing in me. It would have killed my spirit to move back “up north” to Minne-snow-ta to live in a land where the mosquito is the state bird, where the winter is dangerously cold, and where basketball, baseball, and football come in third, fourth, fifth, and sixth in popularity behind hunting, fishing, and casino gaming.
And with the help of my fiancé, Vanessa, I sustained myself by eating bagels from the ORU cafeteria. Vanessa and I got married later that spring on a Sunday in May (so that many of our college friends and family would still be able to attend before they flew back home to their respective places of origin for the summer). Our wedding was beautiful, and our future was bright.
“Knowledge without application is meaningless.”
– Thomas Edison
Don’t let this chapter have less lasting meaning to the overall outcome of your life as those super-intense people who scream at you as they pass your car while they drive by yelling and pleading for you to close your gas tank (because you accidentally left it open). Thus, fill out the following form before moving on to the next chapter. You just might learn something:
Write down and describe the biggest setbacks that you have dealt with in your life up to this point (examples: death of a loved one, stuttering, getting kicked out of college, being unable to find matching socks, etc.)
What life lesson did you learn from this setback?
Have you used these setbacks to spur you on towards thriving or have you used them as justification for just merely surviving?
Chapter 5: You Must Find Your Magnificent Obsession.
Life Lesson:”Put all of your eggs in one basket,and watch that basket.” –Andrew Carnegie
The dust finally settled, and after spending two frantic, non-stop days moving all of my belongings out of my dorm room, the reality finally occurred to me: I WAS NO LONGER IN COLLEGE. I WAS NO LONGER REALLY EMPLOYED BY ANYBODY (other than my internship with an accounting software company), I HAD NO STRUCTURE. I HAD NO COMMITMENTS. I HAD NO CUSTOMERS. I HAD NO MONEY. Oh yes, it finally hit me. And if you are reading this book, and you are ever ambitious and crazy enough to start a business from scratch, this feeling will hit you at some point as well. Being your own boss is great. You get to choose whatever eighty hours per week to work that you want. And when the going gets rough, you get to lay yourself off.
And so, alone (with help from Vanessa’s daily visits) my “magnificent obsession,” as Napoleon Hill calls it, began. Basically, everything I did during this time revolved around DJ Connection. I stayed up late at night creating invoices and customer lead sheets using the incredibly sophisticated Microsoft Windowstm accessory program known as Paint. Yep, I used Paint to database my customers. I went to Kinkostm to have my very own business cards made, and I carried them around in the backpack that I wore in college so that I could always be ready to pass out my cards to anyone who came within a foot or more of me. For the record, I still pass out a card to every person I meet.
Because I was only getting 3 to 5 calls per month from my Yellow Pagestm advertisement, I was really hustling. I don’t know if I am quite conveying with words the amount of hustling that I was doing, so I will give you an analogy. Every day a gazelle wakes up in Africa knowing that if it does not outrun and escape the hunting attempts of the lion, it will die and be eaten in a painful death. Every day in Africa, the lion wakes up and knows that if it does not catch the gazelle, it will starve to death. Every day I woke up in my one-bedroom Fountain Crest apartment knowing that if I didn’t get a booking, I could not afford to make my Yellow Pagestm payment, my storage payment, or my rent payment. So, my friends, when I say that I was hustling, I was HUSTLING!
Because I was hustling with previously unseen speed, passion, and hidden-desperation, I was meeting all types of people and working all types of jobs to pay the bills. I worked at Targettm in the electronics section where I was reprimanded daily by my rather large boss who was always on me about working at an “unrealistically fast pace.” I will never forget being laid off from the Targettm at 71st Street and Memorial in Tulsa after being a seasonal worker. (For anyone planning a vacation to visit this tourist attraction, that Target has moved and is now occupied by some other large retailer . . . sorry to disappoint you). I was actually pumped up that I got laid off. It set me free. But, I did not get laid off before I ran in to a guy by the name of Todd Starke.
Todd came into Targettm to buy a video camera for his wife (I believe her name is Allison). When he came up to the counter, he had this look on his face as though he was overwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, Todd is a wonderful guy, but he did not look very excited about being at Targettm; thus I made my move. I said, “Hello, sir, how are you doing? Is there anything that I can help YOU WITH?”
Todd replied, almost shocked that a employee in the electronics section actually greeted a bewildered customer with enthusiasm, “Yeah, um . . . I am looking for a video camera for my wife. Do you know anything about these things?”
That was just the kind of open-ended question that I was waiting for. I proceeded to build rapport with Todd by asking him what he was looking for in a camera, what features he needed, and what he was not looking for. After talking with Todd, I determined that he needed a high-quality camera that was about 30 percent less than the one he was originally planning on buying to meet his needs. Todd was sincerely appreciative that I had saved him some money, and so he asked, “So, Clay, what do you do here?” (my name was on my nametag).
I responded with even more passion, “Basically, I work here in the electronics section; however, it is my job to make sure that all the ladies’ underwear, deodorant, batteries, car accessories, and assorted whatnots don’t migrate into the electronics section. And I go to ORU (I hadn’t been officially de-enrolled yet). What do you do?”
Todd went on to explain to me how he worked at a place called T.A.S.C. that specialized in selling and servicing tax and accounting software (oddly enough) for accountants and professional bookkeepers throughout the country. He told me that the guy who started T.A.S.C. was an ORU graduate, and that they were currently hiring interns. If my schedule would allow for it, he said that I should come on by for an interview. So, I asked for his card. I put his card in my wallet and was overwhelmed with joy to know that I would be getting the heck out of Targettm as soon as my interview with T.A.S.C. was done. I knew that I was going to get the job if I could just get an interview.
I did get an interview, and I rolled up to T.A.S.C. looking and smelling like a million bucks in my nineteen-year-old way. I drove my Mazdatm DJ van (although no ladies have ever told me that they found this old van attractive, I choose to believe they ALL DID) up to the CitiPlex towers located at 81st and Lewis in Tulsa, and I thought to myself, I am going to get this job. I don’t know what I am going to do, but I am going to get this job.
I wore tan corduroy dress pants, a blue shirt, and a yellow tie. I was feeling good about life when they finally called me from the lobby to the interview room. I was interviewed by Steve Heck (a former professional baseball player and San Francisco Giant) and another lady with dark hair and beautiful, yet untrusting and interrogative, eyes. Her job was to break me down (I think she would have used water boarding if it was available) and ask me the tough character-revealing questions.
The interview started out well. They threw me some soft questions like, “Tell us about yourself,” and “So, what was the most difficult situation that you have been in, and how did you overcome this situation to get the job done.” I could answer questions like those all day.
Then they started asking the tough questions, “So, Clay, how long have you been attending ORU?” and “When do you plan on graduating?”
They kept going asking me stuff like, “So, what made you interested in ORU’s accounting internship program?” And I knew that I had to totally b.s. each and every answer or I was going to be screwed with a passion, like your average screw would be by Bob Villa after he has just got himself some new Searstm power tools. Oh man, I was screwed! So I went for it.
I said something to the effect of, “You know, actually I met Todd Starke when he was shopping at Targettm, where I head up the electronics department. And honestly, I don’t really see myself wanting to work with Target for the rest of my life. The more that I talked with Todd, the more your company sounded like a great place to work for after college. I am just really looking for a company that will appreciate an employee who is an ultra-hard worker and who is ultra passionate about getting things done. I have a small mobile entertainment business that I have been using to pay my way through college, and I think that this internship opportunity would look better on my resume than having to say that that I interned for myself. Ha, Ha.”
I had hit a homerun, but I kept going when I said, “So, Steve, I understand that you played for the San Francisco Giants. Did you ever play with Will Clark or Matt Williams? That must have been great!”
Steve responded with a few baseball stories, and I just had to keep playing that card hard, “Man, that is awesome! So what brought you to T.A.S.C.? What do you most like about it here?”
Oh, it was going awesome. My strategy of interviewing the interviewer was working. As the interview was winding down, I gave them my resume (knowing that if they called ORU to verify that I was “actively” enrolled there as a student I was screwed), but I just gave it to them with confidence knowing that they were hiring many interns and that most people do not call references. When you dress up nice, I have found that most businesses do not call references. And if you are referred by someone else who will personally vouch for you, they will like you. And Todd did vouch for me. Thank you, Todd!
And so, getting laid off from Targettm was incredible, and I was honestly happy to get the news when Tara (the big boss and manager) “had to let me go.”
After I worked at T.A.S.C. for a while, rumors started flying that T.A.S.C.. was going to be purchased by INTUITtm. Being that I did not know why that mattered, I did not see this as a bad thing. I was just fired up to be making $10 per hour. I was fired up that they served Subwaytm sandwiches. I was fired up to be working in an office, and I loved that Scancardtm keychain thing that they gave us all to get into the building. Life was sweet.
Then unexpectedly one day I got called into the office by a guy named Randy who said that we “needed to talk.” And I don’t care if your mom says it, your wife says it, your principal says it, or anyone says it; the phrase “we need to talk” is never good. So I got nervous, but I knew that I was working hard and doing a good job on the phones, so I knew that it could not have been work-related. And I knew that I couldn’t really get fired for personal-related stuff outside of work, and thus I felt nervous but good.
When I sat down in Randy’s office, the dark-haired lady from my initial interview who had distrusting, interrogating eyes was there too. Oh crap, I knew it. She called ORU didn’t she? That rat! How could she? They proceeded to tell me in serious talk that they heard I was being kicked out of ORU for recording the infamous, “ORU SLIM SHADY.” They were both ORU alumni, and they wanted to know what was going on and if it was, in fact, 100 percent true that I recorded the song.
I told them the story with conviction and passion. I explained to them how Adam and I spent twelve hours recording it to vent our personal frustrations with the school’s hypocrisy. I explained how our friends had put it online without our permission. I explained to them how I got kicked out, etc. . . . and then they cracked a smile. They could not believe it. They had to know more.
When I left that meeting, something had changed. The dynamic that I shared with them and the rest of my coworkers was now different. Everyone loved me. Belinda (this Hispanic lady) started talking to me. Todd started saying, “What’s up, DJ?” in the hall. Other employees started telling their personal ORU stories. A former ORU basketball player told me how ORU paid for his SUV to get him to attend college there. Everyone at work started telling me more and more dirt on ORU. I felt like I had enough info and inside scoop on the squirrelly Richard Roberts to write ten songs, but I did not.
I kept working at T.A.S.C.tm until the INTUITtm rumors came true, and they started laying people off—one-by-one, cubical-by–cubical, until they got to me. However, at the time that they laid me off, I had saved up some considerable coinage (as I lived off of the DJ income), and my meals only cost me 96 cents for those incredible chicken panini dinners. So I was on top of the world!
I do not quite remember the exact series of events, but I ended up going to work for Applebee’stm. Plus, Todd gave me the number for an evangelistic outreach with ORU connections that he had heard was hiring. I lasted about two weeks working at that Applebee’stm and its homosexually overcharged environment. I have always been of the belief that whether you are gay or straight, I do not want to know about it. But these coworkers were all gay or bisexual, and they insisted that everyone should know about it. They wore their promiscuity like a military person would wear a badge of honor. My manager there was gay, one Native American waiter guy was a cross-dressing bisexual, and the rest of the staff was comprised of skanks. I think I remember one non-skanky and non-promiscuous person working there, but he quit during my first two weeks, which also were my last two weeks.
I also landed a job working at West Telecommunications to pay the bills. Working in a traditional call center was brutal, but my manager, Lex, was cool, and my weight-lifting buddy, Eugene Willis, had gotten a job there as well. Eugene and I turned every day we worked there into a personal competition to see who could get the most sales and who would be able to push the most subscriptions to Newport News. Once someone had subscribed to Newport News, they received $100 OF INCREDIBLE GAS REBATES. I still didn’t even know what the heck Newport News is, and I do know for a fact that those gas rebates were redeemable upon the arrival of the next cold day in hell. To redeem them, you had to first buy the gas. Second, you had to keep your proof of purchase and mail that to the redemption center where your purchase would be verified. And then after you had submitted this funk and after you had spent over $100 in the catalog, you would get your gas rebates. It was bogus. However, after a few months spent on the phone “dialing and smiling,” I felt as though I had reached the pinnacle of my game as a telemarketer. And in all sincerity, I did learn a ton about telephone sales at this job. I learned the importance of documenting all customer service interactions made over the phone, and the power of the phone as an inexpensive marketing tool. It was amazing to me that millions of dollars could be made just by “dialing and smiling.” When I retired from West Telecommunications, I was ready to leave, but I had learned a lot.
And so with my retirement from West behind me, I pressed on in the pursuit of fueling my magnificent DJ Connection obsession. My pursuit of additional fuel (cash) for my passion rocket (DJ Connection) led me to Impact Ministries and Productions/Faith Highway–the business that Todd Starke had mentioned to me while I was getting laid off from T.A.S.C.
Before inquiring about the position available at Impact Ministries and Productions/Faith Highway (henceforth, I am going to refer to Impact Ministries and Productions/Faith Highway as Impact), I did a moderate amount of pre-interview interrogations of people who knew people who had allegedly worked there so I could get a vibe for the company. Through doing this, I learned that Impact was actually a ministry and not actually a company built to produce profits. The owners of Impact sincerely believed that they were still an outreach to the “lost”; however, they were striving to make a profit while doing so. This dynamic made it, from my perspective, interesting to say the least.
Before I applied at Impact, I discovered that the ministry was a result of the financial windfall that followed the production and performance of Tom Newman’s A Toymaker’s Dream. Toymaker was a traveling evangelism production that successfully helped win an estimated 10,000-plus people to Christ. As A Toymaker’s Dream performances started winding down, the idea was tossed out to turn Impact’s infrastructure into a multimedia-marketing machine for churches. Essentially Impact was established to offer churches a professional way to market their church and to promote the message of the Gospel through television. The average church that Impact was marketing to could not have afforded to create a professional-looking commercial, but Impact could. Thus, they created some really incredible and emotionally moving thirty-second commercials designed to provoke the thoughts of an unbeliever in a compelling and unique way. At the end of each commercial spot, the final few seconds were used to custom tag the commercial with a message from the purchasing church reading something to the effect of:
Come out and see us this Sunday at Flux Capacitor Baptist Church.
Services start at 10:00 a.m.
Call (972) 408-6580 for more information.
The commercials were produced on high quality, 35mm film; and pastors, churches, and viewers loved them. At one point, they even won the prestigious ADDYtm award for their quality work and creativity. What we at Impact sold all day was the exclusive rights for one local church to show the Got Jesus? commercial or the What If It Were True? commercial series in their designated market area. The church that purchased the commercials could then show the commercial as often as they desired in their local market area over the next two years. If the church wished to renew their rights to show the commercials, they could; and once they had reserved the rights for the commercials, no other church in their designated market area (DMA) could run them. This provided us a time-pressure variable when selling to churches. Since that time, I have discovered that selling products over the phone, via cold calling, generally only produces results when there is a time-pressure variable.
This company really was an anomaly, and the only thing like it in the nation (not to say that Saudi Arabia didn’t have an amazing televangelist commercial campaign company; I just might not have known about it). Through the creative vision of Shane Harwell, our super-intense and highly motivational sales manager; our visionary and founder, Tom Newman; and the sales guru/marketing-mogul, Kyle Thompson; Impact successfully sold the crap out of those commercials in nearly every DMA in the United States. Eventually the company sold such a high volume of commercials that we had to create our own media buying department to help assist pastors with purchasing their media/TV airtime. Essentially, and just like anything, the more you buy, the better deal you could negotiate. We were selling commercials to individual small churches, yet we were selling to thousands of them; so we were able to negotiate sweet deals and lower prices for the average local church. And, if we negotiated a really good deal, we could earn some extra revenue based on the “savings” that the pastors were receiving. At the peak of the company’s success, Impact was producing and selling commercials, buying and selling media, pre-selling movie tickets for faith-based movies such as The Passion of the Christ, producing a children’s television series, and designing quality websites for churches.
When I called Impact to see if I could get the job, I remember walking in and seeing this creative wonderland and thinking that I had arrived in heaven. I remember thinking that I was finally going to hook up with a company with a vision, a company with creativity, a company that could handle the “Clay Funk” that I was capable of bringing. I really did think that I would be able to contribute creatively to this company.
As I sat impatiently in the lobby of this super-creative, quasi-ministry/business, I kept thinking that this was going to be my first real job. This was going to be it. As I looked around the room at the ultra-modern décor, the futuristic glass desks, the secretary rocking a headset apparatus, the chrome finish everywhere, and the pastel colors that adorned this trendy production company/ministry to the people, I was excited.
So when Mary, (the gray-haired, everybody’s grandma, secretary, and a legend of consistency) handed me the application, I filled it out with all of my might. Today, I will not touch applications or forms of any kind, including at the doctor’s office: Vanessa does that to cover for my disorder. Seriously, I do not know what the problem is, but I get panic attacks whenever I have to fill out tedious forms with elaborate government-looking instructions. This might have to do with the problems that I experienced in algebra and on my ACT, but the point is, it is a problem. Thankfully, now my wife gets me through it every time (she’s an angel). On this application, I wrote why I was the man for the job; I wrote about my creative vision; and then I mentally spiked it like Deion Sanders would do after he scored one of his patented interception-turned-touchdown-end-zone-dances. I handed the application to Mary with authority, and then I left because she told me that they would call me.
Waiting for that call seemed like forever, and it was not cool. When I got back to my apartment, I quickly checked the DJ Connection voicemail like I always did upon returning to the “Shire of Inspire” (the name I gave my one-bedroom apartment decorated with only a coffee table, crazy amounts of DJ gear, a futon, and a mattress laid on the floor that I slept on). On the voicemail I found a beautiful voice message that I would have framed if audio were mountable. The voicemail was from Jennifer Harbour of Impact instructing me to call them back to setup a follow-up interview. I was pumped like a steroid-enhanced Russian male gymnast! I just knew this was job was going to be mine, and that it was custom-tailored for my creativity and me.
As I walked in, I was confident that I was the most qualified person for the job. I was again greeted by the secretary Mary, a lady in her late 40s or early 50s and still rocking the headset phone that I had seen her wearing during my previous visit. Amidst the sea of calls that she was answering, she carved out ten seconds to tell me, “You can be seated, and Jeremy will be with you in just a second.”
A few moments later, Jeremy escorted me back into one of the glassed-in-ultra-futuristic-interrogation-looking conference rooms. At Impact everything was designed to look super clean, super modern, and super futuristic. Thus, surrounded by “the future,” I sat down to be interrogated about my past and why I wanted to work with this company. The interview was unique to say the least. Basically there were two people quizzing me simultaneously about my religious beliefs, my goals, my skills, and my passion for reaching “the lost.” Looking back on it, this was hysterical because I was not passionate about reaching “the lost.” I could have cared less about “the lost.” I was 100 percent focused on fueling my DJ business, but I could not tell them that. Oh no, that was going to be my little secret. Thus, when I referred to “the lost,” I just mentally agreed with myself to assume that they were referring to “the lost DJ that no one knows about” when they said “the lost.”
Hey, I had gone to college, so I learned how to justify things. The longer the interview went, the more I felt like I had to justify my very being, and that made me mad. When Jennifer kept pressing with religious questions and goal-orientated questions, I started feeling smaller and smaller by the minute. I honestly did not know why I felt a certain way about something, or what I believed was the number-one purpose of my life as a Christian. I had never thought about it, and I was a little angered that someone would ask me those questions to begin with. Thus, I walked out feeling VERY CONFIDENT that I was NOT going to get the job.
And then they called me back, and I sincerely could not believe it. Oh yeah, baby! I was back in business! Seriously, I had left the interview feeling like Barack Obama does every time people ask if he was aware that he had attended a radical church for twenty years; I felt odd. And now I had been redeemed. The people had voted for change. And on that first day of work at Impact, I realized that this job was not what I had signed up for. When I walked into the room at 6:45 a.m., I remember thinking how odd it was to have all of the employees at work at that time of day. I remember thinking how odd it was that we were doing “outreach,” yet we were working in small cubicles with scripts posted up everywhere that we were to memorize, internalize, and ultimately use to bring in revenue.
As Jennifer (my first manager at Impact) introduced me to my dream team of coworkers consisting of Garreth, Jeremy, Joe, and the phone; I felt very much in the wrong place. Garreth looked and acted just like a slightly younger Jack Black (a musical Chris Farley-esc, large, combustible, energetic, fun-loving comedian). Jeremy was very cerebral—very talented and a good resource to learn from but too spiritual for me and where I was at that time in my life. Joe was a larger balding guy with an extensive background running sound for churches. He seemed like, and we treated him like, he was everyone’s father. Joe was a good dude.
When Jennifer then instructed us to “go ahead and get started with your daily devotions,” I definitely knew that I was in the wrong place. Don’t get me wrong, I am not an atheist, but I had never seen the importance of God in business until my son Aubrey was healed of blindness “http://www.djconnectiontulsa.com/”
for more information about this incredible and true story of God’s healing power).
As awful as this may sound, I just looked down at the Bible and pretended to read it. I had mentally decided that I was not ever going to read the Bible at work. I thought the Bible was filled with out-of-date and irrelevant stories about dudes named Hezekiah, Jebediah, and Barabbas. I was definitely not going to fill my brain and my work day with Old Testament stories and religious whatnot. I came to work to get paid, and that was it. I was going to sleep; I was going to plan; or I was going to draw; but that “devotion time” was brutal for me.
Then magically at 8:00 a.m. (I am probably mixing up the times a little bit here, but the point is, before 9:00 a.m.) our team leader would talk to us in a real youth-camp kind of way. They would ask things such as, “How are you today? How was your weekend? What great things is God doing in your life? Who should we pray for? Have you read the new Prayer of Jabez book?” I seriously hated this time more than I can possibly articulate using my limited vocabulary. I felt like I was out of place, like I feel every year during the holidays when I go into Victoria’s Secrettm to buy my wife some quality undergarments. I know I need to be there, but it just feels odd. I have never been to a gay bar, but I have a feeling I would feel that same way there as I felt at Impact.
Moving on, around 8:30 a.m. the energy would begin to be created at the center of the room by the Zeus of the sales floor, “The Shane.” Right at 8:30 a.m. things would start happening. Within seconds, Shane (the room leader) would get us all moving and motivated using positivity, humor, intimidation, and every other motivational lighting bolt he had in his tool box to energize the room. Shane would have us all spin around in our chairs to face him. He was always located in the middle of room, and he would preach to us about the Gospel, the importance of reaching the lost, the dangers of designated market overlap, and various super-powerful sales techniques. At the time, I was not down with anything other than his sales techniques, but Shane really did know what he was talking about. He would start off each morning talking about what great things God was doing at Impact and how we were all destined for greatness. He would read testimonies from churches that were using our products. He would then proceed to encourage us to make a hundred calls per day. Then Shane would tell funny stories with unbelievable charisma and presence. Watching him every day was like attending a high-quality motivational speaking conference; it was epic. Shane’s passion was teaching, and it always came through in his trainings. After Shane made a few key people do a few role-playing sessions acting out the pastor and sales representative phone conversation, he would dismiss us to hit the coffeemaker and cappuccino machines.
And man did we hit the caffeine. In the life of a telemarketer, caffeine is a life force and fuel. We had to gear ourselves up mentally for incredible amounts of rejection. We all knew that we were going to get hung up on at least twenty times that day. We all knew that we were going to be called heathens by various pastors, and we all knew that if we could endure all that punishment, we had an opportunity to make some cash while we were at it. Thus, whenever possible, we would make this caffeine-binge in to a thirty-minute trip. Then about the time our team leader was starting to get angry at the amount of time it was taking to grab a “quick cup of coffee,” all twenty sales reps would begin making their way back into the salesroom in a way that was reminiscent of a bunch of penguins trying to walk quickly. Within minutes, all twenty of us would appear in the room smiling with some alibi about how long the line was (never mind that many of us went through the line three times).
But once we started working . . . BOOM! It was like a symphony of commerce. I loved the aura that the call center created. It was beautiful. Faxes, phones, laughter, anger, joy, high-fives, arguments, and sales were all going on simultaneously. Super-short-haired-and-cute-middle-aged Tamara was always near tears because of something “some mean pastor” had said to her. The room sometimes had the same amount of energy that you often find at college football games. The buzz of human interaction was incredible. I made notes in my “man book” (the book I carry around to write notes in) that I wanted to recreate this atmosphere at DJ Connection someday (minus the selling of evangelism commercials). I sincerely love the atmosphere and the magic of a buzzing all center.
On the sales floor and in the call center at any given time there were twenty-plus reps selling, pleading, and encouraging pastors to buy these “tools to reach the lost.” And it was here amidst the hysteria and frantic pace of this highly competitive sales room that I realized what it meant to really sell something versus just taking an order like I had always done at my previous jobs. Here we were breaking the sales process down to five scientific and choreographed steps. We would: 1) Establish and build rapport 2) Discover the needs 3) Provide benefits and solutions 4) Shamelessly name-drop 5) Call to action.
I learned about the “deal wheel,” the process of taking a “hard no” and turning it in to a “yes” by playing the “wounded-dog trick” and acting as though I was emotionally scarred before sheepishly asking what their main need was before I again pounced right back on the “benefits and solutions.” Then back on track to the next step—the shameless name-drop, and finally the call to action. I learned how to drop the “EOL” card—estimation of loss. Essentially, letting the buyer know that if they did not act today, the commercials might not be available tomorrow. I learned about matching expectations to the actual product, and the dangers of buyer’s remorse. I learned how “buying emotion” is the number-one reason people buy or do not buy. I learned the importance of not ever ruining a relationship with a customer over a small dollar amount so as not to crap on your own campground. In this office, I learned how benefits sell. I learned the importance of always finding the “hot button.” I learned the ancient art of the name-drop and how to bring passion to the phone. I learned that most purchases are motivated by emotion and not price—I learned how to sell and not just take orders.
I learned how to fail. I learned how to succeed. I learned what making a big deal felt like, and I learned the importance of allowing excessive celebrations of relief to all of those working in a phone sales environment. I learned how to speak using “power words.” I learned about the importance of mental toughness. I learned about financial and business goal setting. I learned about alacrity, vivaciousness, passion-trumping skill, how to create your own momentum. I learned all of this and more from Ron “Super-Intense” Hood, Heath “Mike Myers’s Twin Brother From Another Mother” Dean, Jennifer “The Intimidator and Winner of Lost Souls” Harbour, Jeremy “Mr. Talent” Thorn, Jeremy “I am Also a Ninja” McAstlen, Mike “The Former Marine,” Paul “The Aspiring Pastor and Avid Quoter of Scripture,” Garreth “Jack Black Impersonator” Krueger, Joe “The Impact Father Figure to All,” Stacy “Gets It Done” Thorn, Randee “I’m Single but Virtuous, But Single” Ferguson, Mary “Everyone’s Grandma,” Tom “The Visionary” Newman, Dennis “The President and the Guy Who We Are Unsure of What He Does” Dautel, Ms. C. “I’m Attractive, But Don’t Talk To Me,” The Pepins “The Spartan-Looking Warrior Guys,” Chris “Eagles Fan” Orth in accounting, and the sales guru himself, “THE SHANE.”
At Impact I learned that I was previously a sales wuss; however, I learned to become a sales Jedi. Before working there, I would have never had the tenacity to call through an entire bridal list of 200 names in one day. Before working there, I would never have been able to have handled the rejection that I now routinely encounter when I attempt to market to a new high-end venue or an aggressive customer. Now, I can honestly say that I do not give a crap who hangs up on me or what names people might call me for my persistent telemarketing. When they yell at me now, all I hear them say is, “Hey, I don’t quite understand what you do, and you didn’t quite connect with me on this call. Do a better job building rapport, finding my needs, explaining your benefits and solutions, name-dropping, and calling me to action next time; and I won’t be so mean.”
Looking back I honestly think that there could not have been a better training course on the subject of sales and customer service than my time spent at Impact. I used to think that crazy Shane was insane for demanding to we make 100 calls per day, but today I do the same thing. I used to think that it really did not matter how much energy, enthusiasm, and sincere joy I brought on the phone; but my time spent with Shane taught me that when all things are equal; energy, enthusiasm, and a sincere passion about your product really do make the difference that separates you from the competition.
My first day on the job was pretty much focused on learning how to leave a group message to broadcast your new sell to the entire team and how to operate a Plantronicstm headset. Much time was spent reviewing how to read a sales script without sounding like you were reading a sales script. They were trying to teach me how to read a script the way Martin Luther King Jr. read a speech. The wanted me to read with passion, conviction, enthusiasm, and energy. They wanted me to learn how to read a script like JFK and Barack Obama read their campaign speeches, and I just kept on reading them back like President George W. Bush read the teleprompters. I was pretty brutal at first, but I had so much enthusiasm, and Jennifer was such a good “closer” of my deals that from the beginning, I sold a huge volume of commercials.
With Jennifer as the team leader, I would work hard to drum up new leads by cold calling, and she would “phone feed” me to the close when I stumbled. Basically Jennifer would listen in to my calls and would tell me what to say to the pastor’s questions via the technique known as “phone feeding.” She told me what to say, and I repeated it. If this sounds very boiler room-esc to you, then you would be correct. Each day my sales just kept rolling in. I would sell commercials, and then I would leave a group message for the media outreach department just like I was supposed to. At Impact, whenever you sold something, you were supposed to bang on this old-school-looking lion’s head doorknocker that everyone called Shauma to signify to the room that you had collected money on a deal. You were allowed to knock the doorknocker once for each commercial you sold. This was done to encourage the rest of the room that a sale could in fact be made, and to allow you as a sales representative to have the emotional release that you needed after a day of rejection. This helped fire everyone up, and then you were supposed to go around the room high-fiving everyone telling them what “the Lord has done” to celebrate your recent booking. However, because Jesus was on our team, we were supposed to be humble while celebrating. As America’s most humble person, this did not work for me.
When I closed a deal, I would leave hilarious voicemails for the group praising myself and/or my team. I would leave voicemails like: “Attention media outreach: Team Harbour, and no other team, just closed on an eight-spot commercial deal in Boise, Idaho. It hurts me to say this, but we are awesome, and I am tremendous. DJ Clayvis out!”
These voicemails were not appreciated by the guy that Shane hired to be the enforcer in the call center—Larry McClardy. He made sure that stuff got done, and Larry really was the right guy for the job. His glasses seemed to be one-inch thick, he had black and quickly graying hair, and he loved to wear very masculine clothes and a sports jacket. It was not uncommon to hear Larry yell out in his masculine drill sergeant voice to everyone and no one in particular, “Get on the phones! I can hear us getting poor.”
Needless to say, Larry did not like my style. I don’t think he liked life, but that is just me. Larry would usually respond to my group voicemails with a comment like, “Clay, be serious. Get serious, brother! You have got to get focused. Praise the Lord.”
Occasionally he would say even more uplifting commentary like, “You sounded weak on that call, brother. Praise the Lord!” Oh, Larry loved to call everyone brother, but to this day I still call everyone I meet “Brother” because of him. And he loved to say, “Praise the Lord.” I think he used the phrase “Praise the Lord” like most people us a period at the end of a sentence.
As time went on, however, Larry and the daily devotions began to wear me out. I started growing tired of working in an environment that was so spiritually focused. I grew weary of hearing phrases like, “Hey, brother, how are you?” and then the canned reply,
“By Jesus’ name, I am too blessed to be stressed.”
Each week. I started getting exponentially worse at selling instead of exponentially better. Jennifer helped me (and herself) by using her Jedi-sales techniques; but the more she helped, the more I grew dependent on her and her phone feed. Jennifer always quoted Scripture with conviction like it was going out of style, and because of this, pastors listened. She was sincere in her belief that if pastors did not buy these commercials, some people may not have been reached with the Gospel.
I, however, did not really believe in the Gospel at the time; and I was growing tired of talking to pastors whose average church size was 100 people and whose churches never grew from year to year. It killed me to talk to these guys week after week. If you are a businessperson and your business is not growing each year, then you are going out of business; but these pastors were completely down with the concept of their churches just staying the same size year after year. I did not understand apathetic and non-growth-focused organizations then, and I do not understand them now.
Jennifer also had no moral problems with applying pressure to sell the products that she sincerely believed would “reach the lost.” I would call her a confrontational Christian. Jennifer believed that Christianity is right: therefore, all of those who believed in all other faiths were 100 percent wrong. Jennifer was a great woman, but she brought the fire. She would tell a pastor from a phone in Tulsa what he should be doing at his church 1,000 miles away on Sundays. Man, she had the power to influence. There were many times that I felt uncomfortable with what she said on the phone because I was not down with reaching the lost via media, but at the end of the day, Jennifer was getting paid, I was getting paid, and churches were mailing in testimonials stating how much growth they had experienced from the un-churched community as a result of airing those commercials.
Bottom line, over time I lost my zeal for selling these evangelism commercials because I felt like I was pressuring people to buy a product that I would not buy myself. And now I am a firm believer that every salesperson must be sincerely passionate about the product that he is selling if he is to generate sustainable success. Over time I also discovered how much I did not like working with pastors and their boards. I am a firm believer in former GEtm CEO Jack Welch’s philosophy that committees are not effective. I found it very hard to deal with the reality that most of these churches of 120 people or less could not make a simple decision in sixty days or less. Yes or no, they did not know, and they would always have to “pray about it.” Oh, it frustrated me. Plus, some of the pastors I talked to were living a quasi-luxurious lifestyle financed by their congregations, and this made me mad. I was always under the impression that pastors were supposed to reach the lost and not be concerned with how many rounds of golf they got to play. However, after working at Impact, I realized that this was not always the case.
Looking back on it, it was just frustrating knowing that someone working thirty hours or less per week could be complaining about how their church never grew. From my experience in business, I have since discovered that nothing good happens in the first forty hours of the week; it’s what happens after forty hours (and after your competition has gone to bed) that makes the difference. You have to outwork and out-plan the competition. In this regard, the competition for the church is the secular world (MTV, bars, clubs, etc.) and the devil. You can’t beat any competition if you are not willing to outwork them.
From my time working at the highway o’ faith, I also quickly discovered that the Church of Christ denomination believes as though they are God’s one TRUE denomination; thus, they believe that only they will go to heaven. I discovered that most Protestants believe strongly that the Catholics are going to hell. I learned that many denominations do not like other denominations, and that very few churches feel like the other churches in their community are on their team. It was amazing to me that many of these pastors were honestly upset with the other denominations in their towns for being too dogmatic, too postmodern, or too biblical and not relevant enough. Dealing with all of these new exposures was not easy for me, and when I finally did leave, I left spiritually confused.
Dealing with the frustrating pastors, my supervisor Larry, excessive workplace spirituality, and my declining sales totals became nearly unbearable when my manager, Jennifer, and her husband, Scott, left Impact to become self-employed fulltime. Jennifer was the only reason that my sales totals remained high, and when she left, I felt emotionally sunk. And in sales, once your emotions sink, you might as well install the screen doors on the submarine because you are going to the bottom. And that is what I did. Then, once I hit the bottom, I stayed there without buoying for a long time. I was like the Impact carp bottom feeding on the sales floor.
Every day at work began to feel like I was strapped to a missile leading me to purgatory. My new team leader, Jeremy Thorn, and I connected on a personal level, and we teamed up to draw some great cartoons and to have some incredible laughs and great conversations; but, man, did our sales’ totals stink.
Jeremy was never high and he was never low, but he was consistent. And for the record, Jeremy is one of the most talented people that I have ever been around. The guy can play the piano like he was born playing one; he can play the guitar like it is an extension of his body; and he can draw cartoons like none other (which makes me mad because I have spent years drawing, and I still think his cartoons are better than mine). Jeremy was very personable, very analytical, and very encouraging; but at that time in my life I needed someone to kick my ass every once in awhile. I needed someone to come through the phone with a kung-fu grip and to show me how badly we were doing and then show me the way. I needed a Ra, Ra! coach, an intense Mike Ditka-esc coach/drill sergeant, and I was convinced that the coach I needed was Impact’s top sales guy. I knew that the short bald guy whose skin was constantly red with passion (or anger) was going be my mentor, and his name is Ron Hood.
In the Impact salesroom, a huge room filled with sales representatives surrounding the perimeter, Hood worked in the corner. We all just called him Hood, and he worked at a MOMENTUM-GENERATING-AND-PROCRASTINATION-KILLING-PACE all the time. He would pound out numbers on his phone, and he would do everything with a sense of urgency. He left voicemails with a passion, and he pretty much set the pace for how Impact salespeople should work. Because he was so good, he often intimidated people. And because he was 100-percent focused on his job, people often thought that he was not a nice guy. But the reality of the situation was that he came to work to do work, and that was his only reason for being there. He did not come to work to have in-depth discussions with all of his coworkers about the weather, the economy, or various collegiate sports teams.
RON ALWAYS FOC– USED ON WHAT HE COULD CONTROL, AND HE CREATED HIS OWN DAILY MOMENTUM. He was a sale institution in and of himself. He simply outworked everyone in the room. To him, cold calling was just a numbers game, and he knew that the more people he called, the more deals he would make—plain and simple. He did not care if that meant he would be hung up on more often. He was a cold-calling machine. He worked through breaks (at least I don’t recall him ever taking a break); so nowadays I don’t ever take lunch breaks at work, which is in large part from the habits I developed watching Hood. He was hungry for sales, and I think he was also literally hungry. Maybe there was no correlation between his physical hunger and his figurative hunger for deals, but it works for me. I operate the best when I am hungry.
Ron thrived on competition, and he was fueled by an ardor and drive to succeed. He brought the alacrity (cheerful readiness) to the phone. The conviction behind his words was incredible. At Impact, not many people knew too much about Hood because he never spoke with anyone other than pastors. Literally this guy would roll into work right on time, and he would immediately fire up the phone.
He was not affected by their responses. He knew we had an incredible product, and he just wanted to find out who the buyers were. If you weren’t a buyer, he wanted you off his phone; if you were a buyer, he wanted to find your hot button—something you were passionate about—so he could quickly find the right commercial package to communicate the church’s message to their community. Ron would bring the fire to every call, and he would adapt his presentation over time to accommodate the unique dialects, personalities, and conversational styles of each customer. Just listening to him speak fired me up. Just thinking about the passion behind his cold calls and the way he left compelling voicemails makes me want to go make some cold calls right now. Because of Ron, I now love cold calls. I sincerely do.
I remember when I first tried speaking to Ron. He always acted as though he did not know I was standing in his area, or as if he was unable to take any time away from the phone to talk to me. Actually, I don’t think he was acting. Finally, over time and almost out of desperation, I started being more assertive about trying to have a conversation with the samurai warrior of sales, yet he would quickly brush me to the side by saying, “I’m on the phone.” He was always on the phone. Finally after working on getting him to help me for several weeks, I gave up and another manager by the name of Heath Dean presented himself as a viable sales mentor option to me. Heath was our second-best salesperson. He looked just like a young Wayne’s-World-era Mike Myers, and since he was willing to help, I quickly accepted his offer.
Heath was a Louisiana boy who attended ORU (I believe) and had a great presence about him. He was charming, good-looking, and almost metro-sexual. He had the modern, late-1990s, praise-and-worship-leader look going for him. He was quasi-muscular, and he wore his hair all messed up and spiked up in front (courtesy of some fabulously trendy J. Crewtm sculpting balm). Whenever Heath got on the phone, he was a deal machine. He had this unique gift of being able to connect and build rapport with nearly every pastor on a personal level while still being professional and humorous within the first thirty seconds of a phone conversation. I could listen to that dude sell all day. The way he did it was almost romantic and poetic. Each sales call sounded like he was reading lines from a Hugh Grant-esc romantic comedy: it was very loving, very personable, very sincere, and very funny. I remember him saying stuff like, “You know, pastor, I just really believe these commercials will work for you. Now, I’m from a town in Louisiana that was so small that the people in our town put squirrel on most restaurant menus, and we felt okay with it. To us, this was a viable option. This was where we were at; however, now that the Lord has brought me to Impact, I’ve started to see God work in miraculous ways through the power of television. Did you know that last year alone, Pastor Rob Rotola (one of his favorite testimonies) said that he had over 200 new visitors to his church as a direct result of his television commercial outreach program? All Pastor Rob did was step out in faith to present the Gospel to the un-churched in a relevant way. Now let me ask you this, if you had these commercials out there running for you at First Baptist church, what do you see as being the main benefit of airing these commercials in your area?”
After working with Heath for a while, my numbers rebounded. I was in heaven; I was making a base pay of $1,200 per month plus an additional $800 to $1,000 of commission. Add to that my stellar DJ income of $500 per month and my wife’s wonderful $100 per week that she received from working at Office Depot, plus the occasional recording sessions I booked for $25 per hour, and the educational Pell Grant Vanessa received; I could actually oftentimes clear $800 to $1,500 per month of savings after expenses. And this, my friends, is what I used to fund to fund the cash-consuming beast—and my magnificent obsession now known as DJ Connection.
Our monthly budget looked something like this:
$500 per month for our apartment at the Fountain Crest apartments (a one-bedroom palace that we furnished with hand-painted shelves, a folding card table, old-school and garage-sale variety chairs, a ton of DJ gear, a futon provided by my aunt and uncle Hanscome) located at 71st and Lewis directly behind the Marriott hotel where so many of my legendary ORU parties took place. I imagine that I felt the same way about living behind this DJ shrine (the Marriott) as Chicago Cubs fans would feel about living behind Wrigley field.
$35 phone service
$40 DJ cell phone service (which allowed me to book deals during lunch breaks)
$200 food (Four-for-one-dollar yogurt specials can go a long way)
$10 entertainment (You can see a bunch of $1.00 movies at 71st and Memorial for $10.)
$125 DJ Connection Yellow Pagetm ad (The ad was small, the bill was intimidating, but it provided me with those first early customers to wow . . . Sally Lewis, thank you for selling me that ad.)
$100 car insurance (When you drive a car with 200,000-plus miles, you only need liability coverage.)
$0 for AC/heat (we never used it regardless of the climate . . . to save money.)
$30 business cards, flyers, etc . . . (I always had more propaganda on me than the marketing director for a Joseph Stalin pep rally.)
$??? DJ gear (Whatever we had leftover we used to buy DJ gear.)
$0 love and love making (It was free, so we did a lot of that.)
“Knowledge without application is meaningless.” – Thomas Edison
Don’t allow this chapter to become more meaningless than memorizing the entire scientific periodic table; instead, answer the following self-exploratory questions:
What is it that keeps you up late and what motivates you to wake you up early? What is your “magnificent obsession?”
How much capital (fuel) do you need to raise in order to get your passion rocket (business) off the ground?
How many hours per week are you willing to work to fuel your “magnificent obsession”?
What can you learn about your future job (occupation or business) from where you are now?
Write down the ten most likely reasons that you might not be able to pursue your “magnificent obsession.”
Determine today that you will not allow any of the ten reasons (written above) to develop in to your reason for not succeeding.