From Rich to Poor and Back Again

Bob Cox is the creator of Early to Rise’s Epiphany Alliance program, and a success coach for thousands of ETR readers. He’s a self-made millionaire, in-demand business consultant, co-founder of the original home shopping channel, and he personally mentored four men who went on to become billionaires.

Bob worked hard for his success. But, as you’ll learn from the following interview Michael Masterson and I did with him, he could have had millions handed to him on a silver platter. Except for a decision he made at 18…

Michael: Jason has been doing some research on you, Bob. He says that you are really into money.

Bob: I love money more than anything in the world.

Michael: I like a man who doesn’t mince words. But what about the wife and kiddies?

Bob: And what about Leila, my adorable dog?

Michael: Yeah, what about them?

Bob: Obviously, I love them. But my top priority is making money. I say I love money because it shocks people into understanding something true. Money is important.

Michael: Yes, it is.

Bob: I love money because it allows me to have the relationships and things I love in life. Money is a tool to give me what I want and take care of what I love. What’s wrong with that?

Jason: But what about wanting too much money?

Bob: Too much money? Let me you ask you something, Jason. Be honest with me. Have you ever been in a situation where having too much money was a problem?

Jason: Well, no. But…

Bob: Money is not an end in itself, it is just a vehicle. It creates freedom and options in your life.

Jason: But how does that actually work? If you’re always thinking about money and going after money, aren’t you going to neglect your family?

Bob: Having more money means having more power. And more freedom. If I have more power and freedom, I can do more for my family. I can send my kids to the best schools. I can buy my wife her favorite car. I can take my family on trips around the world.

Jason: When did money become so important in your life?

Bob: That’s an interesting question. It wasn’t important when I was young, because I had a lot of money. I was raised by my grandfather, a Methodist minister who went into business. He became very wealthy. He and my grandmother — I call them Dad and Mom — gave me everything. Having unlimited access to money, I never thought about it.

Michael: I didn’t know your family was wealthy. I had the impression that you were a self-made man.

Bob: I am. First I was rich but dependent. Then I was independent but poor. Then I got smart and got rich again, but I stayed independent.

Michael: That’s interesting. Explain.

Bob: I had a great childhood. “Dad” (my grandfather) was so successful that he and his sons (my uncles) had big houses, luxury cars, several planes, and a jet. I remember going to Cincinnati Reds games by private plane. And back in the 1950s, that was a big deal. I would wake up in the morning and Dad would say, “Don has tickets to the game.” We would fly up from Clearwater, Florida, go to the park, have hot dogs and Cokes, watch the game, and fly home that night.

Jason: Did you see your real mom growing up?

Bob: About every five years. She was a very beautiful woman, looked like Ava Gardner. She ended up being married 11 times. She lived what she believed was an independent life, but she was always supported by my grandfather.

Michael: I see a theme here. Independence.

Bob: Very true. Growing up the way I did — being abandoned by my natural parents and seeing how they lived their lives — it made me appreciate the difference between having money and being independently wealthy. There’s a big difference.

Jason: You said you were rich, then poor, then rich again. How did you get poor?

Bob: I had a disagreement with Dad.

Michael: Do tell.

Bob: I was living the good life, going to the beach with my friends. I was a surfer, a pretty darn good one, too. Not a bad kid, but obsessed with the girls, the waves, the sunny days. Everything was groovy, as we used to say, until Dad insisted that I go to college where my older brother had gone, a private school in Illinois.

My brother warned me. It was a very puritanical school. You couldn’t talk to girls. You couldn’t party. And it was cold. Miserably cold.

Jason: And?

Bob: And so I refused to go.

Jason: And?

Bob: Dad didn’t take it well. He was strict. Very strict.

Jason: What did he do?

Bob: He kicked me out of the house and disowned me.

Jason: Really?

Bob: I kid you not.

Jason: That’s harsh.

Bob: I don’t see it that way. Dad was generous and kind, but he was old school. His word was absolute. He told me, “If you don’t go, you’ll have to pay your own way. And you won’t be welcome to live in this house anymore.”

Jason: How did that make you feel?

Bob: Alone. Very alone. At first, I stayed at a series of friends’ houses until their moms kicked me out. Then I went in on a small apartment at the beach with four or five guys.

Jason: How did you survive?

Bob: One of my first jobs was as a waiter, because I could start work after 4:00 in the afternoon — after surfing all day — and I could get free food. That worked for a while. But then I went into construction, because that paid more money. I would work a semester, go to school a semester. So it took me six years to get through college.

Michael: I worked my way through college too. It took me five years.

Bob: I don’t have great memories of college. When you don’t have money, you don’t have as many friends, and you don’t have as many girlfriends. At least that’s what I told myself.

Jason: What happened next?

Bob: I smartened up. I realized that I could never get ahead of the financial curve working by the hour, even if I was making a good hourly wage. While researching possible careers, I came across a newspaper article that said 60 percent of the people making more than $25,000 a year — which was a lot in 1968 — were in sales.

Sales. A light bulb went off in my head.

And then I read (I can’t remember where) that it’s as hard to sell a pair of shoes as it is to sell something more expensive. The work is the same, but the sales commission is much greater.

Another light bulb went off in my head.

And I realized that I should sell something that’s not only expensive but that people need to buy. People don’t have to buy water softeners. But they have to buy insurance: worker’s comp, homeowner’s insurance, health, life, general liability… So when I finished college, I became an insurance agent.

Jason: How did that work out?

Bob: Very well. At that time, there were lots of opportunities to sell insurance that offered a small salary to start. But there was no big payoff at the end. So I decided to go with commission sales, which kept me in poverty an additional two years.

Jason: And?

Bob: And by age 27, I had my first $250K year.

Michael: That was serious money back then.

Bob: It was. And it changed me. For the first time in my life, I was both wealthy and independent. It was a good feeling.

Michael: I hear you.

Bob: When you are responsible for your own success, you have a confidence that can’t be taken away from you.

Michael: I’m seeing a pattern here. Independence leads to confidence. Confidence leads to success. And success leads to responsibility. How did you apply that to the Epiphany Alliance program you created for ETR?

Bob: One of the keys to my program is responsibility. To be successful, you need a plan. You also need self-discipline. Thinking back now, I realize that was what Dad was teaching me when he kicked me out of the house. So now, when I help other people achieve their goals, I try to instill that self-discipline and responsibility in them. I know that they will never be able to succeed in the long run unless they learn to do it on their own. That’s how my program is works — by giving people a step-by-step plan for achieving their goals responsibly.

Jason: So being successful is not just about having an Aha! moment.

Bob: Right. You have that Aha! moment when you say, “I need to lose weight… I need to make more money… I need to become a better person… or whatever.” But you have to schedule time in your life to make it happen — either time you’re not using properly or time that you have to take away from something else you’re doing.

Michael: So that’s part of the program? It’s really geared toward getting people to understand that success is a process — the repetition of progressive habits, steps.

Bob: Yes. And the process begins by understanding the value of your time. If you eventually want to earn a hundred or a thousand dollars an hour, you can’t waste your time doing what other people want you to do.

When people ask you to do things that won’t help you achieve your goals, you have to say, “Yeah, I can help you with that next Thursday. But I have plans for this week. I have a schedule.”

Michael: That’s a good thought. If you allow the outside world to control your time, you end up doing all these things that are really about other people’s priorities.

Bob: Because you don’t understand the value of your own time and your own goals. You don’t value yourself enough. Time is an irreplaceable commodity. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. So you must have something to show for your time every day.

One of the things I tell people is, “Imagine what you love most in the world, whether it’s a place, a thing, or a person. If you knew that person, place, or thing was going to disappear forever in 24 hours, what value would you place on the time you have left?”

Michael: I like that idea, a 24-hour perspective. Identify something you love, and imagine that you have only 24 hours to enjoy it. What would you do in that time? And why aren’t you doing that now?

Bob: Exactly. That’s why success techniques about time are such a big part of my program. It all comes down to understanding time and assigning value to time.

Jason: For ETR readers who don’t know much about your program, can you briefly spell out the main benefits?

Bob: Sure. With my program, you’ll learn how to:

  • Fit more productive, money-making activities into each hour and exponentially increase your earning potential.
  • Achieve complete intellectual clarity so you can make better decisions more easily.
  • Analyze complicated documents in a matter of minutes.
  • Cut back on the number of hours you spend “working,” and increase the time you have to spend doing the things you love with people you enjoy.
  • Become so confident and knowledgeable when interacting with others that you earn immediate respect.
  • Spot the superstar partners and employees who will help you boost your income.
  • Enjoy your life, secure in the knowledge that you will accomplish all of your dreams.

And that’s just part of it.

Michael: Sounds good to me. Where can I sign up?

Bob: Talk to me later. I can cut you a deal.