“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned,” Joseph
Campbell wrote, “so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

Are you just a little surprised by the kind of work you’re doing these days, where you live, how much money you’re making — in other words, how your life has turned out? Is it the life you dreamed and hoped for when you reached your present age or, wanting to work and make money only from what made sense to your interior, nowhere in sight?

“If what you are following, however, is your own true adventure,” Campbell said, “If it is something appropriate to your deep spiritual need of readiness, then magical guides will appear to help you….It’s the call to adventure, which means there is no security, no rules.”

I don’t think I consciously planned it this way, but Campbell’s quote has been the story of my life — and thank goodness something inside me, during the hard times, kept prompting me and saying, “This is an adventure. Enjoy it.”

“Will this adventure pay my bills?” I’d ask. “Will I secure my financial future by worrying even more than I am right now? Maybe replacing some of my optimistic forward drive with some good old-fashioned worry — wouldn’t that help me get ahead?” Then a friend pointed out that “Waiting for money to show up and doing nothing to make it happen is like sitting in your car and waiting for it to drive itself.”

Heavy sigh. Squirting all that adrenalin worrying day after day was counter-productive, I could see that, but “what could I possibly do to better my life if I stopped worrying about it?”

“Beats me,” I my younger self thought.

Looking back now on “those thrilling days of yesteryear,” I can see, despite my best efforts (and all my early failures) things were working out better than I thought even though it didn’t seem like it at the time.

Ah, the magic power of serendipity. If only my younger self had known about serendipity during those early, difficult years, how much easier life would have been because I’d have had a lot more faith and confidence that my future would be OK and gone on merrily about my business of failing forward.

“Like many of the finest things in life, like happiness and tranquility and fame,” Judge Benjamin Cardozo wrote, “the gain that is most precious is not the thing sought, but the one that comes of itself in the search for something else.”

That’s serendipity at its best. So, I suspect at this point either I tell a story about how serendipity works or I lose you as a reader and so — the story!

Everybody has a story. This is mine.

The year was 1956 and I was ten years old and living in Alger, Ohio. I wanted a job and wrote a letter to TV GUIDE. “I’m ten years old and a very good salesman.” My letter failed to mention that I had no experience. What I had was the optimism of being young and excited about the prospect of selling TV GUIDE.

A few weeks later I got a response. Somebody at TV GUIDE headquarters had decided I was just the person to serve the needs of my rural and agricultural hometown of 900 people. “Now we’re talking,” I thought.

Each week I pulled my red wagon (accompanied by my cocker spaniel mix, Brownie — her tail wagging as she rode along on the bumpy sidewalks of Alger) to the post office.

Benny Mulholland, our postmaster, would hand me a stack of 100 TV GUIDES every week and off I’d go, covering my territory.

TV GUIDE sold for fifteen cents in 1956. For each issue I sold I made four cents. When I sold all 100 my reward for the week was a handsome profit of four dollars.

In 1956, in Northwest Ohio, TV stations were off the air for several hours each day but the TV boom was on. TV aerials were going up everywhere.

I remember wonderful mornings before school watching THE TODAY SHOW with Dave Garroway. “This is amazing,” I thought. “All those clocks in the background that showed the time in various places around the world!”

After TODAY, our local station would become a snow pattern, return several hours later, then go to snow pattern until later in the afternoon when TWO GUN PLAYHOUSE came on (old western movies).

We viewers needed TV GUIDE to tell us when our favorite shows would be on.

After school I’d rush home to watch two of my favorites: HOWDY DOODY and THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN starring George Reeves.

I’d plop myself in Dad’s big armchair, open TV GUIDE and read every page of summaries about the shows on that night. I’d carefully mark the shows with notes in the margins: “Not to miss,” “Looks interesting,” “Possibly.”

Now let me take you back to the time just before I began my career as a TV GUIDE door-to-door salesman.

It’s January 16, 1956. Mom is preparing dinner. I’m thumbing through TV GUIDE and I find the listing for I LOVE LUCY. It says, “When the Ricardos and the Mertzes board the ship for their trip to Europe, Lucy insists on bidding farewell to Ricky, Jr. once more. Lucy really has a problem when the liner pulls away from the dock without him.”

“Why, why, why is 9 p.m. such a long time away?” I asked myself. “Four whole hours to fill before I LOVE LUCY comes on.” I could hardly stand the wait. Remember, TV was a fairly new phenomena in those days and watching my favorite shows was a big deal.

Tuesday, February 14, 1956, I marked the $64,000 Question. TV GUIDE said: “As of the 35th show, contestants have won $448,608 and six luxury automobiles.” I imagined that some day I’d be a contestant on the $64,000 Question. I wondered if $64,000 even existed in the whole world. I watched the show that night not knowing that parts of the show were rigged. The TV quiz show scandals would disclose that numerous quiz shows were rigged to get higher ratings.

Since I was finding TV GUIDE indispensable, I figured everybody else in our town who owned a television similarly shared my passion for wanting to know when their favorite shows were aired.

That’s when I decided to sell TV GUIDE. You’ve heard this before, I’m sure. Find something you love to do, do it with enthusiasm, and you’re likely to succeed. I had no doubts, as I started my sales career, that I was meant to sell TV GUIDE.

Brownie would accompany me as I’d pull my stacked wagon to Mr. Freshcorn’s house (my school principal), march confidently to his front door, ring the doorbell, and when he answered give my sales pitch that almost always got me a sale: “Mr. Freshcorn, would you like to buy a TV GUIDE? It’s only fifteen cents. If you buy it — you’ll like it — I’ll only make four cents profit.”

I got to know nearly everyone in our town and eventually most because my satisfied TV GUIDE customers (“Send me 200 next week,” I wrote. “Sales are going great.”). The money they gave me went into a special cigar box Dad gave me and which, at the end of the week, I mailed (minus my profits) to TV GUIDE headquarters.

TV GUIDE, I now realize, funded my larger life plan — to reach out beyond Alger, Ohio, and tap into a world that extended beyond Alger. I invested my profits in stacks of three cent postcards. I sent away for all the free information and free offers I could find: brochures on becoming a detective, instructions for magic tricks, seed catalogs, product samples, and I even received the monthly financial statements from the Bank of Nova Scotia for seven years.

My daily mail haul filled my red wagon. Benny Mulholland, our postmaster, told me he’d had to hire a part-timer just to process MY mail! Years before the Internet, I was joyfully linked to the world!

So where did this childhood enterprise lead? To television!

I spent three years as a morning anchor and talk show host at a network affiliate in Austin, Texas, — and later nine years at a CBS-TV Texas affiliate as a feature reporter, traveling Texas looking for stories about interesting people and unique off-the-beaten-path places for our daily LIVE AT FIVE show.

At age ten, selling TV GUIDE, I had no idea I would eventually work “inside the box” of television. That little 15 cent book became one of the best investments of my life.

So, if you’re crashing from dream deprivation, I leave you with the words of Max Gunther, these from his book The Luck Factor:

“You cannot know what thunderbolt of good fortune is being prepared for you by some distant engine of fate.”

Author's Bio: 

James spent many years in Texas as a TV news anchor, talk show host, and feature story reporter. He is currently involved in a global TV project and is also available for phone consultations. More about James at www.jamesclaytonnapier.com
or his friend Cait Benten's website www.astro-earth-relocation.com
You may also e-mail James about this article at ithreads@aol.com