When I was a kid I used to watch a lot of TV. My parents parked me there because they both had to work, my two older sisters had no interest in me, and babysitters were expensive. Regardless of all that, they just didn’t have the money. The Internet had not yet been invented and games were played by two people in the same room at a table with a board, dice, and pieces you’d move around that board. Or, if I was really lucky, I’d find some kid outside with a ball and we’d throw it back and forth. So, for me, TV was my family and because my real family was so dysfunctional, I dreamed of having a family like the Cleavers (Leave it to Beaver), or a family lIke the Andersons (Father Knows Best), or of being related to Andy (The Andy Griffith Show), having friends like Kimberly, Arnold and Willis (Different Strokes), or a neighbor like Dr. Huxtable (The Bill Cosby Show).

The parents were depicted as caring, understanding people, who spent time with their kids and invested themselves in them. Each episode was always a life lesson on honesty, integrity, truthfulness, honor, caring, parental understanding, talking out a problem, helping others, or overcoming personal disappointment. The purpose of each episode ultimately boiled down to supporting their children to grow up as healthy adults and to demonstrate the way of healthy parenting.

What I didn’t really understand at the time was that these people were just actors. These were people who had assumed a role. They were pretending to be people that had a certain character and characteristics that they really didn’t have. Only later in life I discovered that these people, who I had placed on a pedestal, were not the gods that I had elevated them to be. They were arrested for criminal wrongdoing, drug use, DUI’s, illegal possession of drugs, alcoholism, appeared in porn, committed deviant sexual acts, participated in armed robbery and even murder. Don’t take my word for it, feel free to Google these characters’ real lives. And, in most cases, their lives were cut short and turned out really badly (with the exception of Andy Griffith, Hugh Beaumont, and Barbara Billingsly, who lived long and good lives).

I worked hard over the years to overcome the terrible adults and children that I grew up around. The bad examples, the lack of character and integrity, the dishonesty, the lies, the fear, the back-stabbing, the abandonment, the alcoholism and the drug abuse that surrounded me. It wasn’t easy. Then, somehow, miraculously I went to law school and began helping people. That’s when my life started to really change.

Then I met a wonderful girl who was successful in her own right and at the top of her profession. Shortly thereafter, we had two amazing children. I was determined to be the father that I wished I had while growing up. I wanted to be Andy Griffith and Ward Cleaver all rolled up into one. I decided to set an example. To display honesty, truthfulness, compassion and support. To help those less fortunate than myself. To try not to be judgmental. Work diligently, apply myself, ask for help when I need it, and to reach out and help others freely.

I didn’t come up with all this on my own. I had help. I “met” Zig Ziglar and attended “Automobile University.” Well, I didn’t actually meet him in person…

I just stumbled onto his tapes and started listening to them while driving in the car. I was drawn to his tapes by the titles… See You at The Top, The 5 Secrets to Sales Success, and so forth. I really thought that Zig was going to teach me to be a better salesman. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Zig Ziglar did not teach me to be a better salesman. He taught me to be a better man. That, in turn, allowed me to become a better salesman. It turned me into someone people wanted to do business with. Someone who was honest, ethical, truthful, and stood behind what he said. Just like when Zig sold pots and pans door to door.

I have to admit that Zig was my first positive male role model. He taught me that there are “real” people out there who don’t just act or pretend to have character, but are actually busy being those type of people that I dreamed to be…. and he (and now I) was one of them.

Ask my son… he’ll tell you that the mottos that I constantly preach are from Zig Ziglar. I never tire of saying, “You’ll never regret doing the right thing” and “The more you help other people get what they want the more you’ll get what you want”…. “If you wait ’til all the lights are green, you’ll never get to town.” I found out that these truisms would be the cornerstone of my adult life. Zig taught me to be true to myself so I could set the example of good character, honesty, integrity, and leadership for myself and for my kids. And today I am one of five of the leading defense attorneys in my area of practice. I am busy with speaking engagements and writing articles for magazines.

Now I’ll fast-forward and brag a little bit, as both my daughter and son are members of the National Honor Society. She graduated with a Master’s Degree Suma Cum Laude (top 3%) and is now in her third year of medical school, about to graduate. My son just received the Ambassador Award from his high school (the highest honor they bestow), is an Eagle Scout with three Palms, and about to enter one of the top five business schools in the U.S.

Do you think this happened by accident?

So ask yourself a question… DO YOU WANT YOUR LIFE TO CHANGE?

DO YOU WANT BETTER RELATIONSHIPS? Are you acting or being? Are you really the person you want to be? If not, start working on yourself right now. It’s like building a house… start with the first brick, one brick at a time. You’ll be surprised how fast you’ll build that house into a palace.

Jerry Novak
A close personal “friend” of Zig Ziglar and
A lifetime attendee of Automobile University