The Very Bad Things That Happened to Me One Year (And what choice I made at the lowest point of my life)


I have rarely told this story in a non-fictional format.

I’ve certainly told this tale through the life of the fictional character, Tony DiBona, in my 2015 novel Drawing Circles. In that novel I painted a fairly dark picture of what happened to Tony in 1978, but the truth is, what really happened to me (in real life) was much worse that what I depicted in that book.

The reason the story I’m about to tell is on my mind is because I’m seeing a lot of posts, and I’m receiving a lot of messages, along the theme of, “I’m glad this year is over,” or, “I sure want to make next year better than this one has turned out to be.”

I get it. Some years are better than others and this is that time of year that we get all reflective and think about how we blew it in some small or larger way. We meditate on how we should have done this or that, and we second-guess everything! And then we blurt out, “Next year is going to be better…just wait and see,” and you believe it. And you hope it is.

But hope is a crappy strategy.

So, I’m thinking about my worst year ever, and also thinking about the series of decisions I made leading up to that twelve – eighteen month period of time, the unforeseen events that hit me and…

…the one really big choice I made at the end of the debacle.

If you were alive, and old enough to recall the 80s (or sober enough to remember that decade) you will recollect that is was kind of a screwed up, plastic time, a time when simply making as much money as you could, or conspicuously consuming everything you could, was the primary focus for a lot of people. It was not a very spiritual or balanced time for people in an entrepreneurial gig. It was just a big game of, look at me…look at how well I’m doing…look at all of my stuff.”

I don’t know if you have ever felt like you had completely and totally arrived—like you were really hot sh_t—like you were Teflon. I’m not sure if you’ve ever experienced having the beautiful, big home in an expensive neighborhood, the exotic spots cars, Jaguars, etc., in the driveway, and a beautiful spouse. You may have never had all of this while also having relative time freedom to vacation as often as you’d like, wherever you’d like, and not have to worry about when to get back to your job, because there was no job. You were your own boss.

I’m not certain how many of us experienced this “on top of the world” feeling, while also loving their work, which mainly consisted of flying to a city, being picked up by a “host” and walking on stage to the thundering applause of hundreds, and sometimes thousands of adoring people.

That’s exactly where I was in January of 1987. And I was only twenty-six years old. I’m not going to lie to you. It was awesome!

If you would have asked me on New Year’s Eve, 1986, what I thought my prospects for the new year and beyond would be, I would have told you that world domination wasn’t out of the question. 1987 was simply going to be my best year ever for my new bride and me.

I won’t bore you will all of the details of HOW it was actually all lost, but to help make my point, here’s a short list of some of the bad stuff that happened over the next twelve – eighteen months:

My family and I lost $470,000 in a real estate investment that turned out to be a Ponzi scheme

  • I lost my MLM business and all of the income derived from it
  • I went through all of my personal savings
  • I declared personal bankruptcy and lost all credit standing
  • All of my cars were repossessed
  • We pawned all of our jewelry
  • I sold most of our furniture
  • My home went into foreclosure proceedings
  • Virtually all of my (so called) friends turned their back on me
  • My closest friend (at the time) was the one that perpetrated the Ponzi scheme. (He plead guilty and wound up in Club Fed)
  • I was (initially) being investigated by federal authorities as a possible “accomplice” to the Ponzi scheme (I was quickly cleared)
  • My father passed away from cancer
  • My wife left me
  • I tried to burn down my house (life) in a drunken stupor

By New Year’s Eve, 1987, the applause has stopped and I was hanging onto a few of the last bits and pieces of my shattered life. By the last quarter of 1988 I was literally sifting through the ashes of what I’d burnt down around me.

If you would have asked me on New Year’s Eve, 1987, what I thought my prospects for the new year and beyond would be, I would have told you that it didn’t look that rosy. If you asked me that again on New Year’s Eve, 1988, I’d have just asked you to pour me another drink.

World domination wasn’t on my mind any longer. Simply surviving the next month was all I was concerned about.

So, here’s the thing…

You may have had worst years than the one I described…maybe not…but when your year just didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to it’s easy to say stuff like, “Next year is going to better.” That’s a good positive thought and a good start, but it’s not enough. It wasn’t enough for me. I didn’t bounce off of the floor immediately and it took something more than just saying, “Next year will be better.”

First, it took me getting pissed. Then, It took me becoming conscious of what I really wanted to build and become in my life.

Then I made a choice.

I made the decision to start again.

That’s the beauty of New Year’s Eve. It’s a definite demarcation of time—a creation of a stop and start. You can start all over again, this time you can do it with more knowledge, experience and with the clear intention of what you wish to build and become.

On New Year’s Day, 1989, I had less than $200 to my name, but I had a definite plan and clear intention. I had more than hope.

And then there’s the rest of the story.

By New Year’s Day, 1999 I controlled a business that was producing over five million in sales annually and that business grew by double digits for the next decade. On New Year’s Day, 2009, I was a multi millionaire and had just retired from full-time service with Aflac.

The choice I made at the lowest point of my life after a really bad year, one that is hard to describe, even to this day, was a simple one.

I decided what it was that I wished to build and become in my life and aligned my clear intention and plans with that vision.

Then I did the work…I started over again.

Maybe you had a great year this year…I hope you did. But if your year wasn’t what you wanted it to be, just know that you can make a choice to start again.

Go get em this year!

Joe B.

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Joe Buzzello is a nationally recognized expert on the roles of direct selling, entrepreneurialism and leadership. He has built legacy sales teams and experienced unprecedented success in individual and business-to-business markets as well as the network marketing industry. Joe has held executive level positions for Fortune 500 companies, but he has never strayed far from the art and science of selling, which he loves. In early 2014, Joe began writing, speaking, and coaching through his platform, and The CAP Equation©.

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9 comments on “The Very Bad Things That Happened to Me One Year (And what choice I made at the lowest point of my life)”

  1. Tom Fairweather

    Happy New Year Joe! I’ve had a less-than-stellar 2016 and would love to start over. I read Drawing Circles and was fascinated by the similarities of our experiences. I have read some of the Cap Equation and will commit to finish it this week. I’ve been hugely depressed this past year, after starting and finding some success in my AFLAC business. I think the ‘cancer of inactivity’ has been my largest issue. I appreciate your sincerity and genuine sense of caring about your fellow brings, especially entrepreneurs and salesfolk. You’ll be hearing from me as I change my outlook and my financial environment this year. Thanks for the encouragement and the great insight on how to be successful at whatever endeavor a person decides to utilize. Be well. Have another great year!


      Tom, you are right about the “cancer of inactivity”…an idle mind is the Devil’s workshop! We have a really nice group coaching master class coming up. Hit me if you are interested in becoming part of it. Oh…and 2017 is going to GREAT! (Make that decision!)


      Much love to you, Sam and the fam, Carol!


    Thanks so much, Tom! Thanks so much for your support of my work. I’d like you to focus on what you really wish to BUILD and BECOME over the next 2 – 5 years. Spend some real focused time on that, and once you have clarity, then begin to make sure that the work that you are doing and how you are doing it is in ALIGNMENT with your stated objectives. And, of course, let me know how I can help you.

  3. Steve Stephens

    Yep … 2016 was not a perfect year, but my wife, daughter and I are health and alive so I can’t say it was a crap year either. After struggling with a new career in P&C insurance and was introduced to Aflac in the 3 quarter. Struggled, made some money and got a group. Toward the end my DSC, Walter Peccorini, suggested 2 books as a must read, The CAP Equation and You Can Too. In the last 2 weeks I doubled my income with Aflac and have 5 solid appointments for Janaury. Looking forward to the results of implementing the lessons from both books 10x. Thanks for writing you book.


      Steve, thanks so much for the shout-out…I LOVED hearing this! We have a great master class coming up that you may want to join. Thanks so much for your support of this work! Let’s kill it in 2017!

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