Eric Upton

Live. Learn. Run.

How The Death Of A Dream Gave Me Life

Let me tell you a story about the dream of a 22 year old restauranteur.

The Story

In the early 90’s, I partnered with a few people and bought an Italian restaurant.

Pretty impressive for a 22 year-old to be a small business owner, right?

The glamour and glitz was spectacularAt first.

Needless to say it went really well. At first.

Then it all went down the toilet.

There were many factors that caused the Italian restaurant’s demise.

Let’s just say that it all came down to “people and processes”. (Thanks to DR for simplifying this one for me)

Many small things led to one big demise.

When we closed the restaurant, I paid all of the employees in cash (since the checking account was defunct).

After the last employee was paid, all that was left was a $5 bill in the cash drawer.


That’s it!

That paper Abraham Lincoln was I had left.

I just sat there for what seemed an eternity with my head in my hands, completely consumed with tears of failure.

  • How could I have come so far and just lost it all?
  • How could I have lost the trust of my family and children?
  • How could I have betrayed the families that depended on the success of my business for their incomes?

My dream of being a restauranteur went up in flames…

I failed.

I had to move back home, recently divorced and was hated by many.

Only a small number of friends and family took me in and propped me up.

Swallowing one’s pride ain’t easy.

It was a very difficult and scary time.

Money was gone and my ego was bruised.

The Turn

I had to stop wallowing in my own “self-pity”.

I stopped at the gas station, put $3.00 worth of fuel in my F-150 and spent the other $2.00 on a pack of Winston 100’s.

(Yeah, I was an addict – See this article about how I quit smoking)

I lived from donation to donation, looking for money and a job.

I finally found a gig waiting tables at a steakhouse. I didn’t pay much, but it got me back on my feet.

While working at the steakhouse, I met a service manager from a local dealership who asked me the question, “Have you ever considered the automotive industry?“.

Seventeen years later, here I am.

The Take-Away

Looking back, it was one of the worst times of my life.

It was also one of the best life lessons that I still carry with me.

I am a better business person because of the experience. I am sharper with personal finances.

I learned a discipline that a book would never teach.

Did I see it at the time?

No. I thought it was the end of his world.

Perception is reality.

At least that’s what all of the self-help guru’s out there say.

My question is this: How do you control your perception?

Everyone has a different “filter” through which they see life.

You might look at a negative experience and see it differently than I.

  • Some might look at losing a job as if it were the end of the world, while others may see an opportunity to grow or change paths.
  • Some might look at the death of a loved one as a loss, yet someone sees the opportunity to celebrate a life.
  • Some might view a downturn in the economy as a scary deal while others see at it as a way to learn to become more creative financially.

It’s the whole “Positive vs. Negative” or “Good vs. Bad” thing, right?

Our “filters” are colored by our past experiences and choices.

I decided to change the way I thought and attack the situation.

Was it an overnight success? No.

But with the correct filter in place, I was able to change my perspective.

Which, in turn, changed my reality.

Eric • 12/17/2012

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