10 years ago to this month, June 2010, I experienced something that I had never felt before and now I'm finally able to talk about it.
For almost 2 years I was completely devoted to what some people would call a "pyramid scheme". I talked to everyone about what I was doing. I shared my dreams and outrageous goals with everyone I knew. I drank the kool- aid as one would say, and I truly believed that I was going to become successful. After 18 months without getting the results I wanted to see, I gave up. When I decided to quit I felt defeated, depressed, and embarrassed. I felt like a loser. I felt like everything I believed in was a lie. I thought I had wasted almost 2 years of my life. I experienced shame and total failure.
In 2008 the stock market crashed, and I remember watching the news with my dad and him saying we were heading into a recession. At that time I had no idea what a recession meant.
On December 30th, 2008 the housing market crashed and so did my business. People lost their homes, banks stopped loaning money, new construction stopped and lots of people were out of work. A lot of my clients were hurting financially during that time so that meant hair became less important and that for me meant less money from hair appointments.
Shortly after the recession started, I racked up thousands of dollars in credit card debt with increasing interest rates. Because of the decline in my business I only had enough money to make the minimum payments. I learned real quickly why my dad was concerned about a recession.
In the beginning of 2008, I was 22 years old and I was doing great financially! I had just opened my very own hair salon (my childhood dream), I had tons of clients and I was my own boss! I lived alone in my own place, my car was paid for, I was debt free, and I had $15,000 in my savings account. I was independent, and not living off of my parents, nor was I living paycheck to paycheck like a lot of other people my age. Financially I was off to a great start!
The day after Thanksgiving, my husband (boyfriend at the time) and I went to Maui for vacation. While we were there, I got caught up in the joy of island life and my success of being a business owner, and I spent $15,000 on a timeshare at the Kaanapali Beach Club! A month later I got an annual maintenance fee from the timeshare company of $900. After spending $4,000 on my trip to Maui and all of my savings on the timeshare (I paid the full amount in cash), I didn't have $900; so I had to charge it on a credit card. Shortly after that, I started having car issues. The fuel pump in my Chevy Blazer needed to be replaced, and then the transmission, then the entire rear axle. I had no money for these repairs or money to buy a new car, so I had no choice but to charge it on my credit card. Within a couple of months I went from being debt free with money in the bank, to broke and thousands of dollars in credit card debt. I went from being in the 30% of Americans who are debt free, to the 70% that are drowning in credit card debt.
Broke and full of buyer’s remorse that I spent all of my savings on the timeshare, I was determined to make extra money to build up my savings before my dad found out what I had done. My desperation drove me to joining a MLM company called ACN.
ACN stands for American Communications Network. It is a multi-level marketing company that sells communications services. As an ACN independent representative I sold services for companies like AT&T, Verizon, Direct TV, Dish Network, and ADT Home Security. I was essentially the middle man for those companies. I brought customers to them, and they paid me a very small percentage of the customers bills every time they paid them. ACN also paid me to build a team. I got bonus money whenever I was able to get someone else to join my team and I got paid a small percentage of their customer's bills too. ACN also had a cool video phone I could sell. (This was before the I phone!)
I joined ACN with the impression I could make an easy $3,000 a month. After a couple of months of joining, I started to believe I could make millions of dollars doing it. I thought ACN was the solution to the financial crisis going on. I believed in ACN so much I dedicated 18 months of my life to it. I traveled all over the country to attend business seminars; I even got in a car with strangers and drove 40 hours straight to attend a business conference in Detroit. I was on every conference call religiously and attended every business meeting in my state. I talked to everyone about the opportunity to join ACN. I even stopped to talk to a man on the side of the road holding a sign that said "Need Work". At one time I had a team of 12 people and 20+ customers. I was doing really good on the ACN platform. I felt so good and so motivated when I was with ACN!
My ACN mentors coached me on personal development. I was introduced to many amazing speakers/authors such as Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie, John Maxwell, Jim Rohn, and Darren Hardy. I learned how to set goals and dream big. I learned how to have confidence in myself and not to let adversity hold me back. ACN got me going on my journey of personal development.
Unfortunately the dreams of making millions of dollars with ACN never happened for me. I was broke when I joined ACN, but I didn't let that stop me from traveling to every business event. After a year of dedication to ACN my credit card debt had doubled. When tax time came, I had my annual meeting with my accountant and financial adviser Terry Terry. Terry is a very smart woman and she brought to my attention how much money was going out for ACN expenses versus how much money I was actually making with it. Then she showed me the numbers for my salon business and helped me realize that was where I needed to focus my time. Financially it didn't make sense for my to continue chasing my pipe dream anymore.
The first time I ever felt shame and failure was when I made the choice not to do ACN anymore. I talked to everyone I knew about ACN. My family, my friends and their families, strangers, and even homeless people! I was so determined to become rich that I completely put myself out there and did what ever I could possibly do to make it. Most people I knew doubted me and my outrageous goals. But I didn't care, and that pushed me to keep going when I wanted to quit. When I finally did quit I had a really hard time looking at some of those people in the eyes that doubted me. I was embarrassed and felt like a fraud.
It's been 10 years this month that I quit ACN, and the shame I've felt is finally gone. It's gone because I can finally see all of the good that I got out of joining ACN and buying that timeshare! If I hadn't bought that timeshare, I probably wouldn't have joined ACN, and if I wouldn't have joined ACN, I wouldn't have been coached to set goals, and to dream big. I also wouldn't have read all of the great books that helped create most of the success I have in my life right now.
I didn't make millions of dollars with ACN, but I did get priceless amounts of experience, lots of education, much needed personal growth, and most importantly a story.
Now, 10 years later I see my failure as a success. I hope my story will inspire you to find the good in your not so good experiences.
"Be thankful for the hard times, for they have made you."