Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1: Facing Your Fears
I was a computer idiot, a technological illiterate, a complete rank amateur.
I wasn't merely inept when I sat down before the unblinking eye of a computer screen.
I was afraid.
And that fear grew into hatred.
I hated the computer culture, the cyberspeak, the bits and bytes, the jargon of a world obsessed with itself. Armies of computer nerds, the dudes with the thick black glasses and calculators on their belts, invaded my dreams and disrupted my sleep. Walking into a computer store was an invitation to a panic attack. And the mere thought of deciphering a computer software program kick-started my brain into instant scream mode.
This fear haunted my life, because computers were my livelihood, my career. As an advertising salesman for The Wall Street Journal, my territory was the high-tech industry. Based in Silicon Valley, California, ground zero of the personal computer revolution, my customer base consisted exclusively of high-technology accounts: Compaq, IBM, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, and many more.
And I had a secret, a deep, dark, nasty secret.
Here I was, a twenty-eight-year-old, $100,000-a-year ad salesman, sitting in strategy meetings with executives in the highest echelons of the computer industry, discussing multimillion-dollar marketing advertising campaigns...and everyone assumed I was a computer expert! Yes, I learned the lingo. Yes, I could speak with you in detail about the transistor count on the 386 processor. But it was all a sham. I was merely an actor reciting a part. Personally I had never even touched a computer keyboard. Hell, I couldn't even figure out how to work a VCR, much less acomputer. But here I was in Silicon Valley in its heyday, nodding my head at meetings where everyone is speaking cyberspeak, ever-intense and exclaiming, "Yes! Excellent! I understand!"
If you think it's humiliating being at work where everyone knows how to use a computer except you, if you think it's humiliating being the digitally deficient father of computer-literate children, try being in the heart of Silicon Valley calling on the biggest names in the business, executives who live and breathe technology ten hours a day, when you've never even touched a keyboard!
Do you blame me for hating computers? Hating them with a passion? I was the quintessential sales guy. You know the type. "Computers? That's for the backroom boys. I'm too busy out doin' business!"
How did computers set me free? How did I go from computer illiterate to running my own $20 million computer television company within the short span of thirty-six months? How did I move from sharing a ratty apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with my business partnerliving hand-to-mouth, unable to support my wife, much less an empowering lifestyleto my present home, a 13,000-square-foot Dallas mansion? How did I conquer the fear of touching a keyboard and go on to mn every aspect of my life with one? How did I go from computer shame to appearing on my nationally syndicated television programs, which are essentially tools to show people how easy it is to plug in to the computer revolution?
When people ask me these questions, I point to the blinking computer screen that resides in 36 percent of America's households. I point to that screen and say, honestly and without one ounce of exaggeration, "The answer is in that box."
Like many people caught in the crossfire of the technological revolution, I was driven out of one job by computers, only to be delivered salvation in another. Disillusioned with my advertising career, I was soon asking myself the age-old question: "What am I supposed to do with my life?"
Then, one day, I just hit the brakes. I quit my job. I bade good-bye to Silicon Valley with a celebratory helicopter lunch over the region with one of my best customers. Then I grabbed a backpack and split for South America. For three months I hung out with my best buddy and did some real soul-searching.
When I returned to my adopted hometown of Houston, a stockbroker friend of mine sat down with me and said, "You know, Mark, it's absolutely absurd that you've made your living in the computer business for all these years and you don't even know how to turn one on: It's really a terrible waste. You gotta get on-line. Let me show you this new computer on-line service called Prodigy."
Prodigy was perfect. Here was this nice, fun, easy-to-use program, a simple way to communicate with the everyday, grass-roots computer world. It wasn't a word processor or a spreadsheet or something boring. It was a totally exciting, graphics-driven communications program.
When I say easy, I mean elementary school easy. Because I didn't even know how to type! I had to hunt and peck out the keys, one finger at a time. Still, before I knew it, the screen lit up with colorful graphics and I was on-line. I was chatting with other users around the world. I was accessing my local supermarket and walking down virtual shopping aisles, picking out the items I wanted, and the grocery store would actually deliver the groceries to my home. I was accessing the weather and playing games. It wasn't scary. It wasn't something only a programmer who spoke the foreign language of cyberspeak could do. It was something anyone could comprehend.
The author Graham Greene wrote that in every life there is a moment when a window opens and the future rushes in. This was my moment. Something extraordinary "clicked" within me. When I looked up from that screen, I felt absolute exhilaration. It was like jumping out of an airplane and realizing that the chute actually opens and you're going to be safe on the ground. I felt this incredible rush of relief.
"I can do this!" I practically shrieked.
It was the coolest experience of my life, a major turning point, a personal revolutionso much of a revolution, in fact, that I quit my job search and threw myself into the computer full-time. I had taken my first step through the window, the first step of a journey from which I would never return.
I was hooked.
For weeks I raced back and forth to my stockbroker friend's office to spend the day playing with his computer. Finally I spent $2,000 on my own system, a no-name PC clone, and the computer consumed my life. I was unemployed. My wife was making $2,000 a month working as a special education teacher. But for the next eight or nine months I did nothing but sit, unbathed and unshaven in shorts and T-shirt, in a tiny loft of our cramped town house and jam on my computer all day long and deep into the night.
I was totally obsessed! My mission in life had been distilled into one simple statement: "I gotta learn this thing. I gotta crack the code!"
My computer proficiency multiplied with the time I invested. Soon I was loading software, taking the box apart and putting it back together again, teaching myself everything about my wondrous new window on the world.
Did it take a toll on my personal life? You bet it did! I went from being a rather gregarious social person who worked out five days a week to being an unshaven, pale-faced recluse comfortable only in the blue light of the computer screen.
I had become my worst nightmare. I had become a backroom computer nerd!
I was so consumed with the infinite possibilities at my fingertipsthe cutting edge of a dramatic revolutionthat I decided to make computers my life's work, my personal mission. I longed to help other people get started, just as my stockbroker friend had helped me.
"There's a business in this!" I was soon proclaiming.
Even my best friends thought I had lost my mind. My former associates at The Wall Street Journal urged me to visit a shrinkquick! "You quit a $100,000-a-year job to disappear into a bedroom with a computer?" they'd exclaim. "You've gone crazy!" What else could they think? My former boss called and said, "I hear you've hit the skids, so if you want to come back..."
But for the first time in my life, I had become obsessed with learning. This was all the more thrilling in light of my past educational accomplishments. Academically I had always been a marginal success at best. Out of 554 people in my high school graduating class, I was 538th, the bottom of the bottom 2 percent. I barely squeaked by in college, where I took a really monster curriculum in...advertising, which definitely isn't rocket science.
When I lost myself in that computer, I experienced the sheer joy of learning. For the first time I felt a sense of intellectual self-esteem. When I emerged from that bedroom, I was absolutely evangelical about the new frontier of personal technology and the profound effect it could have in-every facet of every person's life. I had become connected with the paradigm shift, to borrow Dr. Stephen Covey's phrase, the irreversible sea change that was rocking the world in the era of the information society.
I didn't merely want to go out and spread the gospel. I wanted to scream, "Folks, you gotta wake up here!"
The call was so strong, I bought a flight attendant's rolling luggage cart, used bungee cords to strap a personal computer system and a box full of software onto its back, and rolled the load onto the streets of Houston.
Now, even my family thought I was ready for the straitjacket.
I created the world's first door-to-door computer sales company. My sales technique? The polar opposite of the Silicon Valley blind-'em-with-technology approach. I called my new business the Computer Howse Company. I wanted to show customers howtherefore the H-O-W-s-eto plug in, turn on, and actually use a computer, enabling everyday people to climb aboard the computer revolution.
Every night I'd push my rack through the middle-class neighborhoods of southwest Houston and literally start knocking on doors. The door would creak open and there would be some hapless suburbanite staring through the screen, struggling to discern exactly which salesman or scoundrel had the gall to interrupt his or her dinnertime.
If they didn't slam the door in my face, they'd bark or groan, "Yes? Can I help you?"
I couldn't be dissuaded.
"Hi, I'm Mark Bunting, and I'm with the Computer Howse Company, and I don't know if you folks have a home computer or not, but if you don't, I'd be delighted to come in and plug this one in, give you a free in-home demonstration, and show you just how easy it is to get started in this computer revolution."
One of two things would happen: either the door would close immediately or it would open a crack farther, followed by something like "Honey, there's some, uh...guy out here who wants to know if we want to buy a computer."
It was the most uncomfortable thing I'd ever done in my life. I was accustomed to doing million-dollar deals for The Wall Street Journal, and here I was going door-to-door? But when those doors opened, I learned the most valuable lesson of my career: People are absolutely hungry to learn about new technology! Just like me, they had heard the endlessly confusing cyberspeak about the computer revolution, and just like me, they had no idea about how to get on board. And here was somebody literally at their doorstep, eager to explain in everyday terms about the force that could change their lives forever.
So when the doors swung open and my demo computer was unleashed from its bungee cords and plugged into the prospective customer's electrical and telephone outlets, and the Prodigy program flickered across the screenand the customer could see the possibilities firsthand...well, I witnessed a thousand miracles. Over countless lasagna dinners in countless homes, I'd heard the agonized cry of a world literally crying out to plug into the computer revolution: "Oh, yeah, we've been thinking about getting one, but we had no idea how to get started."
What drove me out of Silicon Valley was exactly what was driving these people away from technology: the cyberspeak, the bespectacled nerds speaking technoese. Going door-to-door, I took the exact opposite approach.
"Look, forget about the numbers," I'd say. "A 386, 486 processor? All the numbers don't matter. Let me put it in simple terms: The computer processor is the engine, okay? And you need a good engine. You wanna get a six-cylinder instead of a four-cylinder. And you want to use the engine to get you somewhere."
People related to that. I sold a lot of computers, then, almost overnight, a phenomenal amount of computers. I hired a salesman and then another salesman, then another. And when I looked up at the end of our first year, the Computer Howse Company had grossed $1 million in door-to-door sales.
Today, on television, I'm still going door-to-door, preaching the same message:
If I can do it, you can, too.
That's my mission with this book. I want to instill in you that same excitement, that same evangelical fever, that I experienced in those endless hours with my computer in that apartment loft. I want to knock on your door, interrupt your dinner, and take you by the hand for a walk through this Brave New World. I want to show you how computers can change your life forever.
Once again, I can already hear doors slamming by the skeptics among you.
"Oh, no, Brave New World," you're probably saying. "I've heard all that before."
Sure, it's an overused term, but it really tells the story better than anything else. It really is a Brave New World when you start looking at the ways in which technology is changing our lives. It's already altered the fundamental way in which we work, turning the entire structure of our economy upside-down, creating a downsized employment culture where behind every automatic teller machine are the bones of three laid-off tellers and behind every computerized corporation is a breadline of pink slips and shattered dreams.
We are under siege, my friends, with news of the job market moving from the classifieds to the front pages of newspapers like The New York Times, where the statistics read like obituaries: forty-three million U.S. jobs eradicated since 1979, the majority of them white-collar careers, with more jobs dying daily; three-quarters of all American families experiencing layoffs firsthand since 1980; roughly 50 percent more Americans being the victims of layoffs than those suffering violent crime, with no police force or antidote in sight.
The job security apocalypse has arrived in America, creating "the most acute job security crisis since the Depression," wrote the Times. "The job apprehension has intruded everywhere: diluting self-worth, splintering families, fragmenting communities, altering the chemistry of workplaces, roiling political agendas and rubbing salt on the very soul of the country."
But there is another statistic, one that offers some salvation: literally millions of new jobs have been created in America since 1979, enough jobs to absorb some of the laid-off workers plus accommodate new arrivals to the job market. Getting to these jobs usually requires a radical reshuffling of both job skills and, most important, personal mind-set. I've discovered that the best way to enter the new economic millennium is to fight fire with fire: we must unleash the technology that is displacing us to launch ourselves into the Brave New World.
This book is going to show you how.
But first let's examine this Brave New World, a place where the computer is changing every facet of our lives. If you want to talk about a Brave New World, just wait until the year 2000. Or wait until the country is wired with optical fiber, the fastest link for two-way communications, and a hair-size fiber can deliver every issue ever printed of The Wall Street Journal in less than a second, making every American home an information kingdom. The idea of employees burning gas to gather in high-rent offices will be as antiquated as cave dwellings. Wait until you have speech recognition in computers, when technology is voice-activated. Wait until that same microprocessor technology that organizes your office finds its way into consumer electronic items. You're going to be telling your appliances how brown to toast your bread; how hot to heat your water; how far to fax your résumé.
This is not the The Jetsons or Star Trek. This is real-life, everyday technology that will be here tomorrow.
Still, I know what you're thinking: Talking to my toaster is a nice concept...but what's this Brave New World going to do for me?
What if I told you this computer, this plastic box of bits and chips, can help you become more physically fit? What if I told you this box can help you find financial self-sufficiency? That it can free you from the shackles of that nine-to-five job you hate and enable you to earn your same salaryor even more moneyby working at home, with the added dividend of more time for yourself and your family? What if I told you that this box could help you find your spiritual self?
You're thinking I'm a little bit wacky, aren't you? I hear you:
"You're telling me, Mark, that this computer is going to help me find fitness and spirituality? It's going to help me find personal wealth, or at least financial self-sufficiency? C'mon!"
But I am promising all this and more. Allow me to take it one step further. What if I told you this box can dramatically improve your relationship with your spouse or your significant other?
"How the hell is it going to do that? It's a *@#! computer!"
But this computer can set you free in one crucial way: it can buy you a tremendous amount of life's most precious resource: time. You can accomplish things with this box that in days past took hours, if not days, to accomplish. What I'm saying is that computers can bring you happiness.
"What?" Maria Shriver asked me recently on an NBC television special devoted to America's search for happiness. "You're telling me that a computer can bring you happiness? C'mon!"
Yes, I told her, computers can bring you happiness. Not by themselves, of course. There's not a magical force inside this box that's going to tap-dance out and improve your life with a simple keystroke. But I can show you how to use a computer to download happiness. Because everything that brings us happinesswhether it's in our personal, professional, or spiritual livesis a function and an element of time.
Wait...there's more. The computer can allow you to reshuffle time, to trade the nine-to-five and the twice-daily commute for an empowering new life that focuses on people instead of the conventional process of employment. Technology has afforded us not only the power to accomplish ordinarily complex tasks in a fraction of the time it took before, but equal opportunity access to resources that allow usdownsized, pink-slipped, or firedto rise from the scorched earth of unemployment and reinvent ourselves as independent entrepreneurs with our own computer-driven home-based business.
That's how a computer can help you find happiness.
The ancient dream of civilized workers had been to escape the pit of toil. The Industrial Revolution answered that dream with machines that made human strength obsolete. The modern dream is to escape the office where workers have been trapped by those machinesto reclaim their days and make time their own. The information revolution is starting to make that happen.
Men's Journal magazine
How do you join the revolution to reclaim your days? By following the steps that others have taken in their own Journeys of computer empowerment. Through a series of real-life testimonials, I am going to take you from the rank amateur who overcomes the initial fear of purchasing and plugging in that first computer to the breakthroughs of individuals who have completely reshuffled and radically redesigned their lives. We are going to hear the stories of everyone from the single mother starting her own home-based business to the multitudes of business executives who left the daily grind to create thriving entrepreneurial concerns in living rooms across America and how the computer was the integral tool that propelled each of their dreams into realities. In their stories we can glimpse the heart and soul of the computer revolution, centered around a powerful tool that, properly deployed, can absolutely set you free.
The subjects of these disparate testimonials cut across all lines of class, career, and income level. What they had in common is the recognition of what I call the four fundamental keys to unlock the doors of the technological revolution:
1. They Awakened to the Future!
Imagine the year 2025.
Workerless factories produce our nation's goods and farm out marking and distribution duties to small entrepreneurial firms. U.S. corporations, having reduced upward of two million jobs annually since 1995, have made conventional "labor" practically extinct. Computers, robots, and other technological contraptions have dehumanized the assembly line. Voice-activated computers have replaced the conventional secretary and middle manager. Electronic bar codes and touch-sensitive menu screens have made the restaurant "waitperson" obsolete. The electronic Home Shopping Network has cleared the malls of employment opportunities.
The scenario presented above is not some sci-fi fantasy, but a reality predicted by several authorities and publications to be only twenty-five years away. Imagine! In the time it took television to switch from Johnny Carson to Jay Leno and politics from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton, the computer will have invaded virtually every area of our lives.
"We are being swept into a technological revolution that will set off a great social transformation unlike any in history," wrote Jerry Rifkin in his book The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post Market Era. "It is time to prepare ourselves and our institutions for a world that will phase out mass employment."
Where will you stand? I am here to tell you that the key to whether you'll be standing in a breadline or dipping into a breadbasket is staring you in the face.
Infinite power is at your fingertips! When you stare into that computer screen, realize that it holds all of the tools for personal and professional fulfillment. If you can determine your skill sets, passions, and desires, you can harness an awesome amount of technological power to propel you toward your dreams. This book will show you how to harness that powerto unlock the seemingly nebulous world of cyberspaceand bring it into your living room.
All you have to do is determine your passion. Ask yourself, "What inspires me and motivates me? What do I absolutely love to do?" The answer to this question is your key to your home-based business future. The sky is truly the limit. Just like the revolution that brought down the walls of Eastern Europe, the technological revolution is bringing down the walls of convention around the world. It doesn't matter whether you are college or high school educated, whether you live in a major urban or rural area. Access to technology no longer depends on your geography or social status. With a touch of a keyboard you can communicate with people around the world, immediately access everything from the Library of congress to the Home Shopping Network, market your goods and services to millions of potential clients whom heretofore only corporate giants could afford to reach.
You can discover the keys to your own rebirth.
When Henry Ford invented the Model T in 1908, he explained that it would allow people "to get out of the shells in which they had been living." When Steven P. Jobs founded Apple Computer almost seventy years later, Jobs said, "As the bicycle extends muscle power, allowing human beings to go farther and faster, so the computer extends the mind, allowing us to learn more, know more."
It took Henry Ford a decade to sell one million Model T's. But in the next five years he sold ten million. "The home computer is right now where the automobile was in 1919," wrote the Los Angeles Times, "on the verge of a takeoff that will make it a familiar product in 80 percent of American homes within five years and a necessity of life within a decade."
Don't be the last to get on-line in the revolution.
2. They Conquered Cyberphobia!
Throughout history invention has always been met with common reactions: doubt, confusion, and fear. People called Oliver Evans "crazy" when he designed the steam engine and predicted that someday people would cross the country in steam-powered stagecoaches, called trains. The naysayers neighed when Henry Ford predicted that the automobile would someday replace the reliable horse. The Wright brothers were known as "the Loony Yankees" before they proved that steel could fly.
But no force has been as misunderstood, or as feared, as the computer.
Cyberphobia. Are you among the afflicted? Its symptoms are easy to spot. If the idea of buying a computer and plugging it in leaves you shaking, if the mere word "computer" lights a bonfire in your brain, if the thought of deciphering a computer program conjures up visions of an army of backroom computer nerds coming to drag you away, you're among the legions of would-be computer users plagued by cyberphobia.
You are not alone.
Consider the cyperphobic case presented in a daily newspaper concerning C. Potter, a sixty-six-year-old retired midwestern librarian applying for a part-time job last year, who was stumped by an interviewer who asked if she "knew DOS," the standard operating system for personal computers. When a befuddled Potter replied, "No," she was out the door in a heartbeat. "I felt that computers had humiliated a person who had always felt pretty intelligent," said Potter.
Things were worse at home. She could no longer speak to her children.
"They'd talk about RAM and ROM, megabytes, CPUsit meant nothing to me," she remembered. "I couldn't follow their conversation,"
Sound familiar? It sure does to me. Bits and bytes, RAM and ROM, gigabytes and megahertz, pixels and pointing devices. Is it any wonder that 55 percent of all U.S. consumers profess a fear of computers, that 49 percent of U.S. executives resist new technology, that a recent MCI-Gallup survey of three hundred entrepreneurs discovered that 46 percent claimed to be cyberphobic? Is it any wonder that the titles of the most popular computer books on the market include the words "dummies" and "idiots"?
You are not an idiot! It's the other way around. It's the computer revolution that has failed miserably in taking its message to the masses.
So how do you get through the maze of misinformation? As they say in the Nike ads, Just do it! Touch the keys, play with the machine, get started on any program that's available. The computer doesn't bite, and you're not going to break it. Just...get...going! Choose the simplest program you can finda simple interface like America online, or a game, a simple piece of cooking softwareand get comfortable. Just get accustomed to interfacing with the equipment. Because computer literacy simply means being able to accomplish what you need to do. The old defensive posture"This is just one more thing to complicate my life, who needs it?"no longer works.
I am going to show you how to join the revolution at its street-level depot: those giant, grocery-style computer super stores that have popped up like beige bunkers all across America. At the front there will invariably be a row of shopping carts, in which you can pile boxes of computer components as simply as stacking a sack of potatoes. The aisles are as easy to navigate as a grocery: systems here, software there, and, if you get stuck, service agents everywhere.
Walk proudly down these aisles. Demand assistance! And if you get some techno-weenie, speaking in the cyberspeak of bits and bytes, ask him or her to stop, take a deep breath, and talk like a human being instead of an android. This is your gateway to the Brave New World. The days of backroom computer nerd dominance of the computer industry are over! Research, discover, and, above all, purchase.
How can you conquer cyberphobia? First of all, realize that it's a myth. The computer screen is like looking in a mirror. Act cool and it'll welcome you with open arms. Be afraid and it will serve as your house of horrors.
This book is going to help you break the bond of cyberphobia forever by taking you step by step through the process of becoming computer literate, from the moment you open the box to accessing the incredible power at your fingertips.
3. They Acknowledged Virtual Power!
Karen is a $20,000-a-year legal secretary with two young children. Her husband is an accountant with an annual salary of $40,000. Karen's daily routine is exhaustingeven before she gets to work. Mornings are absolutely manic. Awaken at five, dress quickly, prepare breakfast, outfit the children for their eight hours at day care center, drop off the kids, and begin the forty-five-minute commute to work. At five P.M. the routine begins anew, this time backward: freeway, day care, more freeway, prepare dinner, eat dinner, collapse in bed, then jolt awake with the blast of the five A.M. bell to start the cycle anew. Sadly, Karen is not the exception; she's the norm. There are millions of men and women just like her in our increasingly hectic world.
The years rush by like a film on fast-forward. What happened to the so-called juice of life? The magic, of love? The joy of family? The necessity of exercise? The experience of art and culture? The ingredients of a fruitful, satisfying life always take a backseat to routine when you're a slave to the nine-to-five.
When the smoke clears at the end of the month, what Karen spends on her children's day care, on her nice, professional working wardrobe, on her gasoline and quick lunchesnot to mention the emotional toll of leaving the kids at a day care center and working for some troll of a boss in the middle of a crime-riddled downtownwhittles away more than half of her $20,000 salary. Side benefits include emotional and physical exhaustion.
Would she prefer to work from home? Would she like to win the lottery? Who wouldn't? But while the lottery's a crapshoot, working at home is a reality. It doesn't take much math to figure out that if she stayed at home and kept her own kidswhich is where her heart is, anywayKaren would save probably fifty cents on the dollar. But the benefits far exceed that.
Imagine a life where the car is used only for neighborhood jaunts, where the children are raised at home by their parents, where life is centered in the living room and the community, instead of in cold skyscrapers full of strangers. If Karen could exorcise the devil commute from her life, what might she be able to accomplish with that time? Could she spend more time exercising? Discovering her spiritual self? Could she focus on her relationship with her husband and children? In each of these diverse areas, fulfillment is merely a function of time. Time invested is in direct proportion to benefits reached.
The day of deliverance has arrived, my friend. For the computer can become your partner in creating a business