The Day A One-Armed Man Turned Me Into An Entrepreneur

By Kevin on July 8, 2012 in Success

The one-armed man marched right up to me and my life changed forever.

Kevin Kruse, Age 12

Do you remember when and why you first decided to become an entrepreneur? These memories can be used as powerful motivators against the inevitable setbacks, naysayers, and hard work that are bound to come.

I remember the day I decided to become an entrepreneur very well. It was the day the one-armed man came looking for my father.

I was 12-years old. Hanging out on the front lawn with my friend Roy, enjoying a hot California day, tossing an orange Nerf football back and forth. It feels spongy…hoping for a spiral with every throw.

Our heads snap to the side. Whoa, look at that blue corvette. You sure don’t see cars like that in this neighborhood. Huh, it’s turning around and…and it’s parking right here, right at the curb.

A tall guy in a black suit gets out of the car. You don’t see men in suits in this neighborhood either.

The guy is huge…how’d he ever fit in that car to begin with? He starts walking up the lawn and he’s wearing those big mirrored glasses, like cops like to wear. And there’s something else. He’s missing an arm. His sleeve is pinned up high by the shoulder.

He comes right up and asks. “Do you live here?”

“Yes,” I meekly replied.

“Is your father home?”

“No, he’s not here.” What could he want with my Dad?

The man bends down real close. The reflection of my face is in his glasses. He smells like soap. Then he says really slowly, “Are you sure he’s not home?”

“I’m sure. I don’t know when he’ll be back.”

“Give him my card. Tell him to call me. He has to call me.”

Dad comes home after dinner and sits at the kitchen table. He looks at the card, grunts and tosses it aside. He’s staring down into his black coffee.

“You gonna call him, Dad?”

Motionless, “Nope.”

I was so curious. “Well, what does he want, Dad?”

“Money. I owe him money.”

“Are you scared?”

He offers another one-word answer, “No.”

“Why not?”

Finally, Dad looks up, “There’s nothing left for them to take.”

My father had used our house as collateral when he took out a loan to buy a business—a company that manufactured pool tables—and he had just shut the company down. Soon, we’d lose our home and move out of town.

After speaking with my Dad I went to my room and wrote in my journal, “I don’t care what it takes, but when I grow up, I’m going to have lots of money.”

Today, that statement sounds like a Gordon Gecko inspired desire for material goods. But at that time, at age twelve, it meant succeeding on behalf of my father and making sure the one-armed man never came back again.

(So, do tell. When did your dreams of entrepreneurship begin, and why? Leave a comment and let me know.)


Kevin Kruse is a NY Times bestselling author and keynote speaker. Get more success and tips from his newsletter at and check out keynote video clips. His new book, Employee Engagement 2.0, teaches managers how to turn apathetic groups into emotionally committed teams.

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