"And what else?" Alan asked.
I unleashed another volley of complaints, and then I asked him, "What should I do?"
"Take charge," Alan finally said.
"Take charge," he repeated.
"Yes, take charge. You're too smart, too insightful and too driven not to know what's gone wrong. So take charge."
"Such as?" I asked, wanting more specific advice.
Alan wouldn't budge. He simply said again, "Take charge."
So I thought and thought about what he said. I got rid of an indifferent employee, who had deserved termination for a long time. I adjusted my prices. I told my landlord about my situation and negotiated a lower rent. I changed my employees' compensation packages, adjusting the combination of base and commission. I long considered these steps, but procrastinated and lacked the guts to carry them out.
Business turned around. And it didn't take long.
Alan called and asked to meet for lunch.
"I knew it," Alan said when I told him of my company's improvement. "I knew that you knew what to do. You just needed a little push. Remember: character, confidence, consistency, commitment -- and don't forget the courage part."
I ran the business for some 15 years, but always with the intention of making enough money to again change courses and go into political and social commentary. While working at my company, I wrote op-ed pieces. Soon local newspapers began publishing them. This, in turn, led to an invitation as a guest on talk radio, and then to an invitation by the station owner to fill in for the host for a week. Long story short, I knocked on doors, made calls, made contacts, and -- with a little luck -- ended up getting an audition at the country's first 24/7 all-talk radio station, located in Los Angeles, my hometown. I've been there ever since.
Alan takes pride and pleasure in my success as a businessman, a commentator and, more importantly, as a human being. Until I reminded him, he had forgotten the "take charge" story.
How does the adage go? When the student is ready, the teacher will come. Well, I guess I was ready. And I know that Alan came.