“The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.” 

– Thomas Paine

To this very day, I can clearly remember the reception on the opening day of an industry conference that I was attending after only having been in the industry for a little more than one year. By sheer luck and the blatant ignorance that comes with being a greenhorn that had absolutely no sense of conference etiquette, and too dumb to see the big sign on the table that read RESEVRED TABLE, I waltzed over to and seated myself with the industry legends and giants.

By the time I was seated, the program had just begun; it was too late to get up. As I sat there at the time, I recalled the sudden fear that overcame me with the thought of “Oh my, what am I to do if one of these legends ask me a question about myself or my business?”

These were men who were running multimillion-dollar operations, and some had multiple locations. One Disaster Restorer and his company had the entire eastern seaboard covered specializing in hurricanes, not to mention a couple of pioneer inventors of widely used restoration equipment. I sat there in awe like a sixteen-year-old high school girl would do while seated with Bon Jovi. I had not even broken six figures in gross revenues yet.

I went into panic mode in fear that the question was coming and remembered one of my favorite Zig Ziglar quotes —“The major difference between the big shot and the little shot is the big shot is just a little shot who kept on shooting.” It happened. The table went silent, all eyes turned to me and, just as expected, one of the men introduced himself and said, “Tell us about yourself?”

Nervously, I pointed to the lanyard dangling from my neck with my company and personal name clearly visible and replied, “Oh, ah, um, I am Ivan Turner from Jefferson City, Missouri, and ah, um, oh, I’m just a little shot.”

In my mind I was thinking, “Now is the time when they tell me to scram, you know – go over and sit at the little people’s table.” That thought alone induced ghastly memories from childhood at Grandma’s during Thanksgiving dinner when I had to sit at the little people’s table with the other kids, even though I did not want to be a little kid.

To my delight, he too was a raving fan of Zig Ziglar and no sooner had I declared I was a little shot, he replied, “Well, keep on shooting little shot, we all started out as little shots,” followed with, “There are a mix of over three hundred big shots and little shots assembled in this conference hall this week from around the country for the purpose of learning how to fulfill the same mission in life – to help others recover from disasters.”

That was a profound statement for a young man like me who knew what he wanted to do in life, but just had not yet figured out how to do it. Each man at the table introduced themselves and gave me the backgrounds about how they had started out, the challenges they overcame and sometimes at great cost and sacrifice. I learned that very day just how generous and caring the members of this industry really are.

For the rest of the three-day conference, these men took me under their wings, personally introducing me to industry high performers not as “Robert, I’d like you to meet Ivan Turner,” it was, “Robert, I’d like to meet a rising star – my good friend Ivan Turner.” The gentleman who was the raving Zig Ziglar fan would use this type of introduction, but the words were altered: “Joan, I’d like to introduce you to my good friend and soon-to-be big shot Ivan Turner.”

This was repeated throughout the conference and collectively sharing insights and wisdom with me that would have taken a lifetime to learn on my own. On my four-hour flight home, I had time for reflection on the previous three days and knew that these kind and generous men saw something in me that I had not seen in myself. To this day, I am uncertain what it was that they saw; nonetheless, it has had a lasting impact on my life, both in business and my personal life. They gave me hope at a time when I needed it most.

After having just read the previous paragraph, I want you to understand that though we may have never met, I do see something in you that you may not see in yourself. I want you to succeed beyond your wildest dreams and, yes, your dream can come true, just as mine had. You must continue forward, with persistence, a clear vision, well-defined set of goals and always think of success and wealth as if you already have it. I must follow with a word of caution: If you have dream saboteurs and psychopaths in your inner circle, including family members and friends, drop them like a bad habit. While they may cajole you and pat you on your back in your small early wins, they secretly harbor a hatred for you because you are on a trajectory of success that they will never know. Misery loves company.

I love this wonderful industry and being in the service of others with every fiber of my being and will always painstakingly guard it and its members, as a soldier hunkered down in the trenches on the front line guards a brother in the trenches. I consider it of the highest honor to serve as a professional restorer. The professional restorer is the vanguard in helping restore the lives of people and property, an event that is played out thousands of times every day, from Syracuse New York to San Diego California and all points in between.

Even with all of its shortcomings, there are also positive changes being made and there is always hope that tomorrow will be a better day. I cannot help but reminisce in the poetic prose of a George Bernard Shaw poem – “There are those that look at things the way they are and ask, ‘why?’ I dream of things that never were and ask, ‘why not?’”