Rich Devos is the billionaire owner of the Orlando Magic basketball team, and co-founder of one of the world’s largest direct-selling companies.
In his autobiography, Simply Rich, he writes candidly about growing up during the Great Depression of the 1930s in America. Everyone had nothing. It was a hopeless time to be born and one that could shape a mindset of poverty in an individual, if they weren’t careful.
But how could one be careful? How could you possibly guard your mind from the impact of a harsh reality that was everywhere? How could you make sure that you created your own environment, different from what was around you – everybody’s lot – and one of hope for a future brighter than today?
He and his good friend, Jay Van Andel, got their hands into a lot of things, trying hard until they struck gold.
In a chapter he appropriately titled “Try or Cry”, he narrates how, at twenty, he sent Jay all of his savings and together they pooled the little they had to purchase an airplane, starting what would grow into a fulltime air service business. At the same time, they were also running a restaurant. Two activities they knew little about, but they were always driven to make things work. They were full of energy and ambition.
Even though they were running two full-time businesses from dawn to past dark, they were also looking for new opportunities. They rented canoes, bought an ice-cream vending business. They hired students during the summer to peddle the ice-cream, they arranged with charter boat owners to offer fishing excursions.
Neither of them had the outlook or inclination to be idle. On cloudy or rainy days, when their planes couldn’t fly, they found ways to be productive instead of using the weather as an excuse not to stay busy. They vowed that one day, they would start a business that did not depend on the weather, daylight, or when people ate dinner. That was their dream business, which would later materialize into the source of their lasting fame and fortune.
So, what kept them going in a time when despondency was a well-known companion, and it would probably have been very understandable to settle for whatever came your way – surviving instead of thriving?
Devos talks about “The Three A’s: Action, Attitude and Atmosphere.”
In his words, “too many people fail to act because they are frozen by fear and doubt. But nothing happens until we act. Our actions stem from a positive attitude. And a positive attitude is developed when we are in, or choose to put ourselves in, the right atmosphere.
My atmosphere was the love of my close-knit family and community, which, through strong faith and hard work, found happiness despite the Great Depression and held on tightly to hope for a better tomorrow.
I continue to emphasize the necessity of the right atmosphere. If you are surrounded by friends who are negative, leave and find positive friends. Stay away from places and situations with potential for negative behavior and incidents. If a negative atmosphere pervades where you live or work, go elsewhere. Seek out friends, business associates, and mentors with positive attitudes who share your goals and best interests.
A positive atmosphere nurtures a positive attitude, which is required to take positive action.”
It sounds to me like the people Rich Devos was surrounded by were the catalyst to all the positive actions he ended up taking; Actions that would change his family tree forever. It could have easily gone the opposite way, especially given the socio-economic conditions surrounding his childhood.
That’s a takeaway for us today. No matter the atmosphere pervading your general environment, choose to separate yourself from negativity and unto positivity by picking, carefully, those with whom you associate. Choose friends without drama. And when those around you decide to become actors in a meaningless stage play, you just pack your bags and move on along. It is for your own good.
Action, Attitude and Atmosphere. Without these three A’s correctly functional in our lives, we may turn out as inept, irritable bums full of cynicism about the future, despite the prevailing conditions of the day.