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Amway Forever: The Amazing Story of a Global Business Phenomenon by Kathryn A. Jones

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Learning from Failure

Rich and Jay had been taking business classes on the GI Bill at Calvin College whenever they could. But the bill was about to run out, and once again the partners assessed their futures. Neither was ready to settle down. They were both single and still had adventure on their minds. The friends had vacationed in Mexico and Key West, but they wanted to take their time and explore the Caribbean and see South America. They thought the best way to do that was by sailboat, and, as usual, they didn’t let lack of experience stop them. In the coastal town of South Norwalk, Connecticut, they bought a 38-foot wooden schooner named Elizabeth. During the war the boat had languished in dry dock, which—unbeknownst to the two novice sailors—had caused the hull to dry out and leak. “We didn’t know the first thing about buying a boat,” Rich admitted years later, “and if I’d known then what I know now, we’d have run, not walked, away. . . .”6 The only thing worse than the boat was their sailing skills. “But we weren’t about to let inexperience get in our way,” Rich added.7 Jay later said that learning to sail a boat was a lot like starting a business. “We didn’t know any more about sailing than we did about flying airplanes when we launched the airplane business, but we jumped in anyway,” he said. “We made a lot of mistakes, but we kept plugging away, and every day we learned something new.”8

They set sail from North Carolina in January 1949 with ambitious, if sketchy, plans ...

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