A few years ago, a management and sales expert came up with what he considered a first-rate idea. With so many unhappy, lonely people in the world, he figured he could provide them with a little comfort and make money at the same time by offering them personalized, written advice on their problems.

Since so many people have problems that are similar, he figured he could train his employees to write a quick paragraph or two of personalization, then fill up the rest of the letter with appropriate boilerplate.

He placed trial ads in all the leading tabloids. The problems and the checks came pouring in.

He read four letters. And immediately killed the project.

"I realized I was dealing with living, breathing people," he says, "not a marketing opportunity. I realized the answers I'd provide would have an effect on their lives. They all had such heavy burdens compared to anything I'd ever gone through. Their problems went far beyond the scope of any boilerplate, beyond the scope of any quick, pat answers. And I was completely unqualified to tamper in their lives. I ended up returning their money, and absorbing the price of the ads."

But he did a little more than that. With each refund he sent along a personal, handwritten response. This is one of those letters.

Dear Lorie;

Thanks for writing. Sorry to hear of your situation. Sometimes we simply have to endure until we finally get the life we deserve. And you've endured. I'm returning your $9.95 because I want you to have the money. From your letter, it sounds like you need it more than I do, and I want the best for you. I also want you to want the best for you.

I know you feel small. I know you feel alone. But you're not alone. You're a human being which means that you're related to all of us--a relative--a part of us all.

Biologically--in your genes--all your ancestors going back to the beginning of time are a part of you. They struggled and slaved so that you, their descendant, would someday walk this planet. It's taken billions of years to create the universe of possibilities that's within you.

If you undervalue yourself--if you sell yourself short--you're undervaluing all of us, and all of those who came before you.

And even beyond that, Lorie, you are, as an individual human, a miraculous being, more alike than unlike the greatest men and women who ever lived. More alike than unlike Jesus and Einstein and Lincoln and Mozart and Mother Teresa and Vincent Van Gogh--with many of their greatest qualities lying somewhere inside you. With thoughts and feelings and desires. And--most miraculous of all--the divinity within you which we call free will. Which gives you the ability to control those feelings and desires, and therefore to control your own destiny, to actually control what you are today and what you will be tomorrow.

Your responsibility, as I see it, is to use that free will to make the most of every instant of the life which so many, including yourself, have participated in creating.

Always the Best,

Barry Maher

Copyright 2007, 2001, Barry Maher, Las Vegas, Nevada. Used by permission.

Author's Bio: 

Barry Maher writes and speaks on leadership, management, communications and sales. A motivational keynote speaker, seminar and workshop leader, Maher is the author of "Filling the Glass," honored by Today's Librarian as "[One of] The Seven Essential Popular Business Books." Other books include "No Lie: Truth Is the Ultimate Sales Tool" and "Getting the Most from Your Yellow Pages Advertising." Contact him and/or sign up for his monthly email newsletter at http://www.barrymaher.com.