“I just can’t take it anymore,” Phoenix Upman murmured into his half-empty pint glass. He ran his
short, plump fingers through what little hair was left on his head as his cigarette burned out in the
ashtray beside him.
Bad day?” the bartender asked nonchalantly as he leaned over the bar, perusing the sports section.
He didn’t seem particularly interested, but pretended to be for his customer’s sake.
Phoenix managed a sort of angry snort that gave way to forced, hollow laughter. “ More like bad
life.” He drained the rest of his beer and slid the empty mug forward for a refill. “Last night I had to
tell my son that we could not afford to send him to college. we just don’t have the money. We can’t
even swing tuition at Brookline.”
Brookline, the local community college, gave discounted rates to county residents – practically
giving away an education. The bartender sensed immediately how pathetic Phoenix’s financial
situation must be if he couldn’t even afford Brookline. The bartender had managed to get himself
through two years there with what little davings he had, supplemented by the tips from this place.
“Not even Brookline, huh?”
“No,” Phoenix said. He lit up another cigarette and took a long, slow drag, letting his eyelids
close as he held in his breath.
“This one is on me.” The bartender set a fresh pint down in front of Phoenix and contemplated the
troubled man. Although younger than the bartender, that was not obvious by looking at Phoenix. His
receding hairline and expanding waistline made him look older, as did the deep crease between his
eyes and the wrinkles snaked across his forehead. Nothing about him was particularly distinct. His
shirtsleeves, rolled up to mid-forearm, had blotchy blue ink stains. “What do you do for a living?”
“I sell insurance,” he said, too quickly perhaps. “What I mean is I try. What I make is barely
enough to live on, let alone put away for something like college.” Phoenix rolled a peanut between
his thumb and forefinger, his gaze fixed somewhere across the bar. He sat for a long while, quiet,
slowly rolling the peanut, unblinking. “How’d I get to be such a failure?” he murmured to himself.
The bartender returned to the article he was reading. Phoenix set the peanut down on the bar and
wrapped his hand back around the cold glass, lifting the mug to his lips once again, draining his latest
pint. “You know, even if I died there’s not much. I don’t even have enough insurance to make that
worthwhile.” He slid the glass forward, signaling another refill. “Some salesman I am,” he muttered
under his breath. He pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes tight, scrunching up his face.
“You driving, man?” the bartender asked.
“I’m not far from here, just a few blocks. I’ll be fine.”
“I don’t know; you’ve been here a while.”
Phoenix glanced at the bartender, a pleading look in his eyes. He knew he had worn out his
welcome, but how could he go home and face his son after last night? It was clear the bartender was
going to cut him off. Sensing this, Phoenix laid out some cash and pushed back from the bar. Without
saying a word, he shrugged into his coat and cap, pulling his cap down tight on his head before
making his way down the length of the bar toward the exit.
Outside was dark and Phoenix could see his breath hanging in the air before him. There were no
stars; they were lost somewhere behind opaque December clouds. He made his way over to his black
subcompact and fumbled in his pockets for the keys. Inside the car was not much better; he could feel
his fingers going numb from the cold. Phoenix lit one last cigarette and sat back, waiting for the
engine to warm up.
He let his head roll back and sighed to himself something about bad luck. His eyelids fell shut as
he took a long drag off the cigarette. The smoke swirled up and around his head in wispy grey
ribbons before pooling in a thin cloud near the ceiling of the car. Phoenix opened his eyes and
watched the trail of smoke dance away from the butt. He shook his head slowly. He thought about what
he might say to his son, if the boy would even talk to him. A sudden knock on the driver-side window
“Jesus,” he muttered, fumbling around on the floor for the still-burning cigarette that fell from his
hand with the knock on the window. He found the cigarette and snubbed what was left in the
overflowing ashtray before rolling down his window. “Can I help you?” he asked gruffly, staring up
at the stranger who had interrupted his thoughts.
“I was just about to ask you the same thing.”
“Excuse me?” Phoenix looked up at the stranger standing just outside the car. “Do I know you?”
“My name is Champ Dailey,” the stranger said, sticking out a gloved hand. Phoenix reluctantly
obliged, loosely gripping the soft, black leather, and quickly recoiled.
And your name is?” the stranger asked.
“Hi, Mr. Upman. I couldn’t help but overhear you back in the bar. I’m truly sorry for your
Phoenix wasn’t quite sure what to make of this. When the bartender was pretending not to ignore
Phoenix all he’d wanted was a little bit of sympathy, but now, coming from this stranger, well, it just
made him feel more pathetic. Phoenix waved off the comment, shaking his head, and fixed his gaze
“I’d like you to come by my office on Monday,” Champ continued. “I can help you.” Champ
pulled a business card from his pocket and extended the card. Phoenix took the card and studied it
“Help me? You don’t even know me.”
“You’d be surprised,” Champ replied, a warm grin spreading across his face.
“What are you like a loan shark or something? I’m not getting involved in that, I got enough
problems as it is,” Phoenix said.
“No, Mr. Upman,” Champ loosed a slow rolling laugh and continued, “just a man looking in a
very old mirror.” With that he turned to walk across the parking lot, calling over his shoulder,
“Monday, twelve o’clock.”
Phoenix’s eyes followed Champ in the rearview mirror, watching as he got into his car and pulled
out of the lot. After Champ had gone, Phoenix found himself staring at his own reflection. “Old
mirror?” he repeated to himself as he studied his own face. He glanced down at the business card still
in his hands. “Nothing to lose at this point, I suppose.” He tucked the business card in his wallet and
set off for home.
Phoenix was restless as he showered and dressed for work on Monday morning. He could think
only of the strange encounter and his upcoming meeting with this Champ Dailey fellow. Phoenix had
lost hope long ago, but on his lunch hour that day, as he walked up Broad Street towards the address
on the card, his curiosity compelled him forward. As the numbers climbed, the buildings became
much nicer, taller, and more ornate. Finally, at the corner of Broad and First, he came to a stop in
front of the grandest building on the street. He grew dizzy as he looked straight up, taking in the
façade of the building. Phoenix double-checked the address on the card to make sure he had the right
place: 700 Broad Street. He sighed, futilely trying to count the number of floors from the street.
“May I help you?” the doorman said, interrupting his tally.
“I have a meeting with Champ Dailey.”
“Yes, sir,” the doorman replied, swinging open the tall glass door and welcoming Phoenix inside.
“Take the left bank of elevators, the ones marked twenty to thirty-five. Mr. Dailey’s office is on the
twenty-first floor. Exit the elevator to your right.”
Phoenix nodded, distracted by the lobby buzzing with energy. He found the right elevator and got
in, his finger dancing over the button. He couldn’t help but wonder what he was getting himself into.
The doors opened to an expansive reception area. Phoenix was immediately overwhelmed. The
room was larger than the entire sales department back at his office. He hesitated before exiting the
elevators, checking the floor number again just to make sure he was in the right place.
As he walked out of the elevator, Champ Dailey greeted him. “Mr. Upman, I’m so glad you came.
Did you have much trouble finding the building?”
“Um…uh, no,” Phoenix replied. “I hope, uh, this isn’t a bad time or anything. I can come back later
if you’re busy. The place seems busy.”
“No, I was expecting you, Mr. Upman. Please, follow me,” Champ instructed, leading him past the
reception area and through a short hallway. Phoenix was stunned when Champ swung the door open
to reveal an opulent office. The wood floors and oak-lined walls warmed the cavernous room, and
numerous paintings provided splashes of color. Phoenix took in the expansive room and conceded
that this was the most impressive office he had ever been in.
Phoenix took a better look at Champ. He seemed taller then Phoenix remembered, and lean with a
full head of silver-grey hair. His soft, blue eyes radiated a kind of welcoming warmth, which put
Phoenix at ease, at least a little. The man had a kind of good-natured air about him, and he seemed
casual and relaxed.
“I’m so glad you came,” Champ said. He directed Phoenix to an empty chair in front of his desk.
“I’m sorry about the other night. I guess…I, um, I was just, you know…”
“No need to apologize,” Champ broke in, nodding sympathetically. Champ sat, considering the
man across from him for a moment. Phoenix shifted nervously in his chair as the silence settled
between them. He couldn’t help being distracted by his surroundings, peering around at the paintings
and luxurious décor.
“I’ve been where you are, you know.” Champ finally spoke, leaning in ever so slightly. “I’ve been
in the pits of darkness and despair.”
Phoenix looked confused as his eyes settled back on the man seated across the desk. “Despair?
From the looks of things I’d say you are a continent from despair.”
Champ paused, smirking just a bit. “I am, now; but not too long ago things were a mess. No hope,
no direction, everything in life seemed to pass me by. I almost lost my family over my circumstances.
I guess you could say I’ve come a long way.” Champ closed his eyes and the smile faded from his
face. “When I heard you the other night at the bar, it brought back a lot of painful memories.”
Phoenix shifted again in his chair. He felt as though he were intruding on a private moment.
Champ didn’t seem to notice Phoenix. Phoenix cleared his throat, twice.
“Funny thing that I was in that bar that night. I’d never been to that bar before. After I left, I kept
wondering why our paths had crossed that night. What put me in that particular bar on that particular
night?” Champ seemed to drift again. “The only conclusion I could reach was that something intended
I be there, meant me to be there, to meet you.”
Phoenix stared at Champ, considering his words carefully. “Like what? Like fate, or something?”
“Why? What’s so important about me that fate would have us meet? Why me?”
A smile broke on Champ’s face and he sat up straight, his eyes wide as if he had a long-kept secret
he was ready to share. “I believe it was intended that I pull you out of this hole you’re in. I am sure
now that you are the very opportunity I was told about. Yes, I am certain that you represent my
opportunity to return the favor that I received a lifetime ago when I was an altogether different man.”
“I don’t understand,” Phoenix replied.
“You see, some years ago I was told that I might be called upon to help another in need. I was told
I would know him when I saw him because I would see the mirror image of my old self. I didn’t
understand the meaning of this at the time, but then you came along and finally it all made sense.
Listening to you the other night, I recognized immediately that you were the person I was meant to
“How did you know all this? How did you know to look for me?”
“Because he told me to,” Champ said.
“My mentor, my advisor. In a lot of ways, the man who saved my life.”
“Who?” Phoenix asked again.
Champ went on to explain how J.C. Jobs was responsible for Champ’s turn-around, and many
others just like him.
“He enabled us to reach levels of success we had never dreamed possible.” Phoenix listened
intently, absorbing every word.
“I was given ten laws by J.C. Jobs. He called them the ‘Rich Habits.’ I was told to live these ten
principles for thirty days and meet back with him. He promised me that if I followed these ten rules,
my situation would improve. At that point, I had nothing to lose; so I did exactly as he instructed and
met back up with him after the thirty days had passed.” Champ paused and drew his shoulders back.
“And…?” Phoenix prompted.
“And the rest is history. What you see all around you here is the byproduct of living the Rich
Habits every day. The Rich Habits completely transformed my life.”
“And now you’re going to share these principles with me?” Phoenix asked, a trace of excitement
on his face and in his voice.
“No,” Champ replied. He leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs, eyes focused squarely on
“What? Then why am I here?” Phoenix furrowed his brow and his eyes became narrow. A
creeping suspicion that Champ had been wasting his time now took root, and Phoenix contemplated
getting up right then and there and marching out of the cavernous office without so much as a glance
back. Still something kept him anchored to his seat.
“The principles are just an overview of a more comprehensive process. J.C. has created a
program he calls the Rich Habits Training Program. He and his team train individuals, such as you, in
following the Rich Habits. My responsibility ends when I come across a candidate who meets J.C.’s
mirror test.” Champ reached across his expansive desk for a pen and scrawled a phone number on a
sheet of paper.
“Here is the number where you can reach J.C.’s office. Call this number first thing tomorrow
“And what do I say? How much does this training program cost?” Phoenix asked.
“There is no cost when you are sponsored, Mr. Upman. Just let J.C.’s office know that Champ
Dailey sponsored you. They can help you, Mr. Upman. Of that, I am certain.”
With that, Champ stood, smoothing his jacket and directed Phoenix to the door. Phoenix was slow
to get up, reluctant to leave, as he clung to the piece of paper with
J.C.’s phone number. He couldn’t help but think that the most valuable thing in the whole building
was this simple scrap of paper now in his possession.
The next morning Phoenix did as Champ instructed. As soon as he got to work he called the
number. A woman answered.
“Hello, my name is Phoenix Upman and I’m trying to reach J.C. Jobs. Champ Dailey told me to
give him a call.”
“What may I tell Mr. Jobs this is in reference to?” the woman asked. “Champ Dailey told me to say
that I was sponsored by him.”
“Certainly, Mr. Upman,” the woman replied. She took down Phoenix’s contact information and
said she would relay the message to Mr. Jobs. Then she hung up the phone. Within a few minutes the
same woman called Phoenix back with an appointment for the next Rich Habits training session.