Robert L. Ryker

About the Author

A Five-Dollar Miracle

I was born in New Jersey in the waning days of 1945 – just a few weeks ahead of the baby boomers andgrew up in the wonderful town of Chatham, NJ. In 1959, my dad was transferred to Montreal and at age 13, I fund myself in the tiny hamlet of Baie d’Urfe, Quebec, Canada. I spent my formative teen years around Montreal and, after an unsuccessful stab at university, I found myself “on the street” at 19 years of age. I went to work in a low-paying factory job for $1.35 per hour and then as a construction laborer in a paper mill in Fort William, Ontario, living by myself in a dreadful cubby-hole apartment a thousand miles from “home”.
I didn’t know what I was good at and was depressed and unfocused. Laboring in a dirty paper mill was not glamorous or enjoyable – at all. I was lonely, disillusioned and mad at myself. Surprisingly, it only took a five-dollar bill to change it all.
While working high up in the paper mill’s new addition, I watched student pilots practicing their landings at the airport that was about a mile away. So, on one clear, crisp Saturday morning, I drove over to the airport and took a “Discovery Flight” in a small four-seater airplane, a Cessna 172.
Thirty minutes was all it took to instantly rekindle my interests, ignite my passions, focus my attention and lift my battered self-confidence.
Within two months I had earned a private pilot’s license. Several months later, I quit my paper mill job, returned to Montreal and completed my commercial license and instrument rating and went to work as a co-pilot for an executive charter firm, with an apartment in Montreal and corporate accommodations in New York City, right across from the Park Plaza Hotel.
It was less than two years from that initial five-dollar discovery flight and that hole-in-the-wall apartment in Fort William, Ontario. Instead of dirty overalls, I wore a crisp, tailored suit. Instead of steel-toe work boots, I could look down on a pair of fine leather shoes. Instead of beer with the boys at the tavern, it was dinner at the Park Plaza by Central Park. What a transformation. Two years.
I had proved to myself and to my doubting family that I could achieve. I could harness passion and learn new, complex skills quickly and competently. Most of all, I proved to myself that I was not a flunky, even though for a brief season, I wore the label of a dope, convinced that others thought that way about me too. But it was just for a season, as most things in life are.
Interestingly, I came to the conclusion several years later that I didn’t enjoy flying at all, even though I was very skillful. But the experience taught me that tiny things sometimes have an incredible impact. In this case a single, blue Canadian $5 bill.
Life moved on, I returned to college and studied computer science. After graduating (magna cum laude, I might add: so much for the “flunky” label), I found myself leaning more and more towards being an entrepreneur. I learned to trust in my strengths as a visionary and over the years have been engaged in many new business start-ups and developments. I learned to write and have produced over fifty major sales and customer service-training programs and several books as a result. I became a pretty good motivational speaker and technical trainer. I never saw this in high school, not in college and not as a pilot.
As a professional workshop facilitator, I have had the incredible joy of training thousands of people how to sell and service clients in many different industries across North America. However, I have also visited the dark, lonely side of depression and self-doubt when ventures sputtered or finances vanished or investors turned on you. This too, is the life inherent of an entrepreneur and pulling oneself out of the abyss of deep depression is probably the hardest challenge of all.
I discovered over the years that I also had a significant technical side to me and this led me to work extensively in two areas that drew upon my training talent – the one talent that I am sure was God-given – to make the complex simple to understand – and to sell. As a result, I was fortunate to be profiled in Canadian Business magazine as one of Canada’s “High Tech Entrepreneurs” for my unusually effective immersion sales training programs for the computer industry when it was exploding across the country in the mid 1980’s.
Then, in a total departure from training and computers, I entered a new field and became known internationally for my work in creating forensic chemical marking technologies for use in major industrial loss prevention programs and in specific anti-counterfeiting and brand protection applications. The process saved corporations billions in losses over the years.
I co-founded a little start-up software publishing firm, Formgen Corporation, with friend Randy MacLean in 1987. Years later, Formgen grew to be the largest distributor of PC-based gaming software in North America.
Over the years, I have been a salesperson for everything from industrial soap to Boeing 747’s and was the monthly columnist on sales training and feature article contributor for Sales and Marketing Management in Canada magazine.
My personal passion, however, is for training people. I have been described as an engaging workshop facilitator and an entertaining speaker, and have had the unbelievable good fortune to work alongside Earl Nightingale, Norman Vincent Peale, Art Linkletter, Don Hutson, Dottie Walters, Fred Herman and even baseball legend Mickey Mantle. I have been utterly humbled by the sincerity and deep conviction of wise preachers such as David Wilkerson and Billy Graham.
I am deeply grateful for the help of my close friend Cindy Anthony who helped me re-write the original manuscript for the Christian reader. She is a woman of deep spiritual depth and insight, and her task was to ensure that I stayed on the right side of the fence. My weekly breakfast buddy, Norm Sawyer – a devoted man of God – also helped me by reviewing the doctrinal areas in this book. And of course, I am thankful for my wife of 37 years, Suzanne, who stood by my crazy ventures, having to ride the wave along with me.
Selling is a tough job for most, rewarding for many but very difficult for others. My heart goes out to you, successful or not, for I know the highs and lows you experience, the times of frustration and the times of elation. I know the instability that can come from this work and I know the unbelievable rush that the big sale and the hard sale brings. It’s one of the few professions that pays pennies and millions for the same effort.
I hope that something in this book makes a difference in your future. I pray that your family members gain understanding and insight into your private and unspoken world that’s occupied by the obligation of having to constantly achieve.
Hypocrite? Unfortunately, Yes.
This book was shelved many times. Each time I began to explore ethics and personal behavior, I kept seeing myself in the reflection of my work. Not as a model of integrity, but as a person beset over his lifetime with moral failures, fleshly desires and ethical compromises. I kept feeling that I was just not worthy to write on this topic. It stalled the manuscript for years, multiple times. My heart kept saying, “hypocrite,” yet for some reason, I was compelled to carry on, to add a paragraph at a time – to struggle over each phrase, over each critical word. My concerns finally were resolved when I realized that there is only one person who could write a manuscript based on a flawless life and that was Christ. “No one is righteous, not even one” declares the Bible in Romans 3:10. Pretty sobering. So even though I am flawed – and you are flawed – that does not excuse any of us from raising the bar concerning our own personal ethics and to strive for a cleaner life filled with good decisions and honorable behavior.

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