Forward to Paul Streitzs book Blue-Collar Buddha by Tom Gegax

Had you met me back in 1989 when I was forty-two, you would’ve seen the facade of the classic American success story. I had the handsome family, the beautiful home. Every week I had time for church and shooting hoops with pals. I had a growing company and prominence in the community. I would’ve told you with an ear-to-ear grin and a firm handshake that life was good. Real good.

That’s when life went all Humpty-Dumpty on me. Without warning, a triple trauma of divorce, cancer, and a company cash-flow crisis had me flattened on the pavement, surrounded by the shattered pieces of my life. My nerves were twitchy, downed power lines, forcing people to walk on eggshells around me as I tried to glue things back together. I lashed out at anyone who dared suggest I look in the mirror. I remember snapping at a friend not long after my divorce: “Show me anywhere in writing where it says it’s healthy to feel my feelings!” One by one, my defenses were splintered by the wicked storm brewing inside me. I pummeled myself for six months: You really screwed up. You hurt your family. You ruined your business. There’s no way out of this one. I was a dead man walking. Nothing in my life was going right, and it seemed like nothing would ever be right again.

I thought I had been Mr. Got-It-Covered. Instead, after many months of hard work, intense self-reflection, and even more intensive self-honesty, I realized how clueless I had been. The scary part was that I didn’t have a clue that I didn’t have a clue. Eventually, I returned to work and life a changed man. For the first time in my life, I was balanced, peaceful, and truly happy, both personally and professionally. In 2000, I sold Tires Plus, the retail tire store chain I had founded, for tens of millions of dollars. My journey back to wholeness, happiness, and abundance is chronicled in my two books: Winning in the Game of Life: Self-Coaching Secrets for Success and The Big Book of Small Business: You Don’t Have to Run Your Business by the Seat of Your Pants.

Today, I find it enormously satisfying and rewarding to guide and mentor smart, savvy entrepreneurs who can benefit from the hard-earned wisdom I accumulated through my own struggles and successes. One of my prize pupils is Paul Streitz. Sensing he was at an important crossroads in life, Paul called me in 2004. He was forty-two, the same age I had been when the ground shifted under my feet. From our first meeting, I could tell there was something special about Paul. He was bright, funny, and an excellent businessman, but his seat-of-the-pants management style and lack of self-confidence were blocking him from greatness.

What especially impressed me about Paul was the ethical and transparent way that he ran his business and his life. His talent for both left-brain (logical and linear) and right-brain (intuitive and creative) thinking was rare among business leaders, as was his natural ability to be simultaneously extroverted and introspective. Perhaps most importantly, he genuinely cared for his employee family.

From the start, I was startled by how self-aware, honest, and non-defensive Paul was about his own flaws and insecurities. He was a good listener, a fast learner, and remarkably receptive and responsive to coaching. He wasn’t satisfied with being really good at what he did; he wanted to be great. It was a pleasure to work with him, get to know him, and watch him blossom. Today, Paul is a trusted and valued business partner, and I look forward to many more years of mutual success and friendship.

The stories that Paul shares in this book are filled with uncommon wisdom and valuable pointers that can help anyone be happier and more successful while leading a balanced life. His experiences and insights are especially valuable for aspiring entrepreneurs, given that he founded and grew a vertically integrated company in a highly competitive industry. With visionary leadership, he guided his business through all the growth stages that a healthy, profitable enterprise demands, ultimately selling it for a handsome sum. In all aspects, Paul is a winner in the game of life, and I’m confident that he can help you become a big winner too.