Tears flowed down his cheeks as he dropped a red rose on to the casket below. His was the last rose.
With that final act, the crowd of mourners began to disburse and the accountant was now alone with
his three young children, standing over Denise’s casket, staring mindlessly into the open grave and
“It’s called cervical intraepithelial neoplasia,” Denise had said. She had sat down at the kitchen
table and poured him a fresh cup of coffee. The coffee sat steaming between them, untouched. “The
doctor recommended surgery to correct the disorder.”
“Surgery?” He stared nervously at her. The sun fell across the table in wide slats, angled through
the blinds. Beyond the glass he could see a cloudless blue sky stretching across the backyard.
Suddenly he felt like he was falling from that sky, endlessly falling. Denise looked calm, as though
she was going over a grocery list with him. Denise never fumbled. Even though this was a very
serious matter, she had a way of dealing with the illness in a relaxed, calm manner. Denise had always
been the pragmatic, rational one, in control in the relationship. She hardly ever got worked up the
way he did.
“I asked if the surgery was absolutely necessary and he seemed to waver.” Denise threw her left
hand in the air in a dismissive fashion. “He said I didn’t need to have the surgery done right away, but
there were certain risks if the problem were to remain uncorrected indefinitely.” Denise rested her
chin casually in her hand, as though she were recalling memories of a recent holiday, or chatting
about a neighbor’s new kitchen. Her poise amazed him.
“Get the surgery, Denise, please.”
“Oh, ‘please’ yourself; you know we can’t afford the surgery. Our insurance is ridiculous; the
deductible is way too high.”
“If you need the surgery, you need the surgery,” he pleaded with her. He brought his hand to his
mouth and shook his head, trying to clear his mind of the image of a sick Denise. He forced himself
to focus on her as she was here and now. She looked like his Denise, the same woman he had wed
nearly twenty years ago, although now, slightly plump, with the hint of a smile always dancing behind
her eyes, vibrant and alive. She couldn’t be sick, not Denise.
“We can’t afford the surgery just now and we certainly can’t afford for me to be incapacitated,”
Denise demanded. “We just don’t have the five-thousand dollars right now. The surgery will just have
He dropped his hand to the table and let out an audible, exhausted groan. Her fingers crept over
the tabletop and came to rest atop his hand, warm, soft and comforting. She squeezed tightly in an
effort to reassure him. “It can wait until after tax season. We’ll have money then.” She smiled at him.
About three months later, while the accountant was in the heart of tax season, an unfortunate ritual
that was the nature of his profession, Denise’s condition worsened. Her spotting became more
frequent but she chose not to concern her husband, who was working sixteen-hour days and
weekends. She knew he had hundreds of clients with hundreds of tax returns that needed to be filed
within the next six weeks. Denise decided not to bother him until after tax season, when they would
have some additional cash and could afford the operation to fix her problem. That operation never
did happen. Denise’s illness turned to cancer and it spread like wildfire. She lasted through the
summer, and passed away in a hospital bed, leaving behind a shattered husband and their three
children. Denise, a kind, devoted wife and mother, was no more.
The accountant staggered through his work and his new job as a single parent. It was nearly a year
before the fog began to lift and he regained some level of clear-headedness. Denise’s sudden death
left him angry and confused. He blamed himself for that and for their financial plight. These self-
recriminations continued until one morning after a vivid dream in which Denise spoke to him,
saying, “All you need to do is ask the right questions.” The words burned in the accountant’s ears
through most of that day and stayed with him that night until he fell asleep.
A newness of thought woke with him that next morning. “Why am I doing badly while so many of
my clients, the clients who ask me for financial advice, are doing so well?” he asked himself as he
rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “It can’t be a matter of knowledge. I know far more in terms of tax
and finances than any of my clients. There must be something I am doing wrong that they are doing
The accountant determined then and there to uncover their secrets. One of the first things he did
was to create a list of questions to ask his successful clients in an effort to find out what they did that
he didn’t. His list evolved and changed over time into twenty questions. He awoke one night with the
thought that he should also take this list of questions to his unsuccessful clients to see if there were
differences between their answers and those of his wealthy clients. The U.S. Patent Office refers to
such extraordinary human thoughts and ideas as “flashes of genius.” Until that night, it had never
occurred to the accountant that the answers he obtained from his successful clients only had relevance
if they could be compared to the answers of his unsuccessful clients.
What was initially a relatively simple, short-term project became a five-year obsession with
analysis and discovery in studying the data he gathered from the two diverse groups. The conclusion
was astounding. There was a difference the size of the Grand Canyon between the answers he received
from his successful clients and the answers he received from his unsuccessful clients.
As an example, when he asked the question, “What do you do when you leave your office?” the
answers given by his successful clients reflected that, as a group, they were engaged in numerous
social or business activities. Some served on different boards, others were involved in speaking
engagements; some taught; some were involved with their church; some were seeking advanced
degrees related to their professions; some continued working in their home offices; some ran little
league clubs, and some were involved in volunteer work for non-profit organizations. When this
question was asked of the unsuccessful group of clients, their answers were strikingly uniform. They
ate dinner, watched television or engaged in some recreational activity, went to bed, and repeated the
same routine the next day. The accountant’s epiphany was that he had uncovered the secret to financial
success, which he could see was embodied in the daily habits of successful people.
Excited by his discovery, he categorized his findings, which he eventually narrowed down into
easy to understand principles that came to be known as “Rich Habits.”
The accountant incorporated these habits into his daily life. For thirty days he diligently followed
his Rich Habits list. Each and every day, in the morning, at noon, and just before bed, he went over his
list. Opportunities began to manifest seemingly out of thin air. His revenue began to increase. New
clients came through his office doors. He had to hire new employees to meet the demands of his new
clients. The accountant was roused to such heights of excitement that he could hardly contain himself.
He felt as if he had just imbibed some magical elixir that was transforming his life.
Shortly after incorporating the Rich Habits into his daily life, an old client called who had been
struggling with serious cash flow problems.
“I need you to help me secure another line with a bank,” the client asked over the phone. “I
desperately need another fifty-thousand dollars. If I don’t get this money, I’m finished. I won’t be able
to make payroll next month or pay my vendors.”
It seemed to the accountant that, since he first met his client, the man was always struggling with
cash flow. A thought flashed through his mind. “I’ll tell you what,” the accountant offered, “I’ll help
you secure the additional financing for free but I want something from you. Come in next week and
I’ll explain further.” The accountant hung up the phone and during the next week set out to develop a
workable program based upon his Rich Habits, so that he could share them with his unfortunate client.
The following week the two met in his office. “What’s this?” The client was puzzling over the
papers that lay before him.
“This is an agreement,” the accountant replied.
“For what?” the client asked, as he began to study the lead document, which read as follows:
“I herein agree to diligently follow the attached Program for thirty days. In exchange, all fees
associated with securing additional financing will be waived.”
The client considered the document for a few moments and browsed through the program the
accountant created just for him.
“That’s all I have to do? Follow this program for thirty days?”
A slight smile spread across the accountant’s face. “Thirty days.”
“Seems simple enough.” The client signed the document.
“Are you ready to begin?” the accountant asked enthusiastically.
“Now? I… I… I guess so,” the client stammered.
With that, J.C. Jobs pulled a copy of the Rich Habits Training Program toward his client and
opened to the first page.
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