I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again…

By Brian McMahon, @brianmcm

I don’t know where or how it all began, but the Chumbawamba song that this title refers to became the rallying anthem at The American Entrepreneur as our primary host and founder, Ron Morris, entered the last few months of his life.

And boy did he get knocked down.

He got knocked down when he declared both business and personal bankruptcy at the age of 33. But he got up again.

He got knocked down when he owed $1.5 million dollars to the IRS, his bookies, and to several casinos. But he got up again (and he paid back every single penny along the way).

He got knocked down and was living out of his car with his dog (both of which the IRS attempted to take). But he got up again.

He was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that affected his neuroendocrine cells. Over the 8 years that he battled this cancer, he got knocked down three separate times when he was told to “get his affairs in order” since he had less than 30 days to live.

Got knocked down. Got up again.

Got knocked down. Got up again.

Got knocked down. Got up again.

Ron and I first met at the time in his career that was defined by his “knowledge philanthropy.” His goal was to become the resource and mentor to entrepreneurs around the country that he had sought and had never found when he was first starting out.

And I was to become one of the major beneficiaries.

I was once told that “a smart man learns from his mistakes but a wise man learns from other people’s mistakes.” It was sage advice – and since I had a business partner who loved to talk and who had a lifetime of lessons to learn from – I kept my mouth shut and I listened.

Over the course of our 7 years together, I can’t even begin to count the number of late night walks and late night talks that we had. Business was the central fabric of our conversations, but most nights (and this tended to occur sometime after midnight), we’d switch gears and discuss life.

This is where my real education took place.

Ron taught me that “character is fate.” And, above all else, “to thy own self be true.” He taught me that there are no shortcuts and that experience can’t be microwaved.

Ron taught me that money makes people weak and that I should always run my business like I barely had enough money to make my next payroll. I learned that character is an accumulation of painful experiences and that I should always be on the lookout for scar tissue when hiring people.

He showed me the importance of empathy; and not just in the sales process, but in everyday life. And that not everyone sees the world the way that I do. He taught me to ‘cycle the moon’ and to think before I acted.

I learned about getting close to the heat source in a startup and how important it is to find a mentor. I learned to always measure results over effort.

Ron taught me to look for backwater, dirty niches where no one else would go. “Then,” he’d say, “you’ll have a chance to do well. And once you have that good thing going, lay low! Don’t tell nobody nuthin!”

But most importantly, Ron taught me about mental and physical toughness. He was a living example of what ‘not quitting’ looks like. And I know that no matter how many times I’ll inevitably get knocked down in my life, I’ll always have with me the strongest example of the “get back up again” that I’ve ever known.

Brain McMahon was CEO of The American Entrepreneur.

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