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March 20th, 2015

Finding True Wealth the Hard Way: An Ambassador’s Story

By Ron Nakamoto

I am pleased to share this “True Wealth” story about the recent experiences of one our Ambassadors Dennis Niven.

Dennis is based in Dennis NivenScottsdale, AZ.  He is a partner in a firm that serves small to mid-sized businesses as their outside financial/management advisor.  He has special expertise and experience in mergers and acquisitions, as well as exit transactions.  It is in this latter area where this story begins.

Part 1:  The Professional Crisis

In a recent interview, Dennis described to me a series of events that led to a rift between him and his firm.  The company had for several years offered a training class on “exit planning” for business owners.  This class was offered in conjunction with a third party vendor with expertise and experience in the field.  Through a series of events, Dennis had become the replacement instructor for this course.  He enjoyed mastering the material and then teaching the curriculum to his partners.

But when the firm decided to publish a book on exit transitions and make a major move to serve exiting Baby Boomers, Dennis got “caught in the crossfire” between the third party vendor and the firm.  Although the firm’s new book would prove to be complementary to the vendor’s material, a number of accusations and threats of lawsuits led eventually to a lengthy arbitration which determined that all parties would share fault, pay their own attorney’s fees, and split the cost of arbitration.

The firm had previously agreed to pay attorney fees for the firm and Dennis but changed its stance and asked Dennis to pay a material share.  Dennis objected as a matter of principle but added that he would pay whatever the senior leadership felt was fair.  In the ensuing dialogue, Dennis was relieved of his duties as the instructor for the company training course that he, in part, authored.

The arbitrator did say that Dennis might have cause for action against his firm because the firm had pressured Dennis into certain behaviors that the arbitrator deemed to be “tortious interference.”  As a long-time partner in the firm, Dennis would probably never think of pursuing any action against his firm. However, because of the arbitrator’s analysis, Dennis now wonders whether he may have been identified by the firm as a potential litigation threat.

Here’s Dennis’ reaction:  “So now the firm is not comfortable with me being the instructor in those classes and they would find another instructor.  That was…my ideal…teaching those classes, the material that I love, to the partners in my firm whom I love.  I realize that I serve at the discretion of the management of this firm, but it really set me back.  And, frankly, it put me into a bit of a depression.”  With the hope that things with the firm would return to some semblance of the past, Dennis decided for the time being to focus on working with his clients.

Part 2:  The Personal Crisis

As Dennis was dealing with his professional crises, he “was having health issues that at first my doctor couldn’t figure out; then an allergist couldn’t figure out; and finally a rheumatologist couldn’t figure out.”  Dennis thought that it might have something to do with his liver since, “It kind of runs in the family.”  After a series of blood tests and ultrasound screenings, he was told that his liver had essentially stopped functioning and that he should put his name on the list to receive a liver transplant.  But after an MRI, he discovered that he had been born with only half of his liver, and that half of a liver wasn’t functioning properly because of fatty deposits.  According to Dennis, “The rheumatologist said that with the enzymes my liver was putting into my blood, I shouldn’t be alive.”

Part 3:  Choosing his “Hard”

Dennis was told by his rheumatologist to lose 60 pounds in 4 ½ months.  But he wasn’t given specific advice on how to do this.  Here’s a great part about this story:  he figured it out by himself.

Actually, it was his wife who stumbled upon part of the solution.  She came across a program that focuses on strength training and suggested it to Dennis.  They embarked upon the program together.  It was intense, exhausting.  They discovered that the program had a diet component as well that was high in fat and absent carbohydrates.  Dennis had been a believer in the “Atkins revolution” in the 70s, and he embraced it completely.  For Dennis and his wife, it worked.

Dennis lost the 60 pounds (and more since) while increasing his muscle strength by over 50%.  And his wife lost a substantial amount of weight and gained muscle as well.  Remarkably, all of Dennis’ liver enzymes and blood tests had returned to normal, even to a “very healthy” limits.  He felt healthy and energetic again.

Part 4:  Gratitude and Contribution from the “Core”

Radically improving his health and doing so with his wife has transformed Dennis’ personal life.  Here’s how Dennis describes it:

“She would go eat something and I would say, ‘You shouldn’t eat that.’  So then she would eat twice as much because I told her she shouldn’t do that.  But what we’re doing now with the exercise and the diet, this allows us to be congruent and support one another in a way that we hadn’t really been used to.  Now we’re supporting each other.”

Because Dennis lives in Arizona, his home is a winter destination for family members from the North and Midwest. As he was transforming his health and fitness, he was visited by several family members with serious health issues. In each instance, the healthy, energetic person that Dennis has become became a positive influence.

Here’s Dennis:

“My brother-in-law had several strokes while he was here.  He’s basically followed my path and gone on a no-carb diet.  He’s lost 30 pounds in 6 weeks and he’s feeling much better.  His eyesight is recovering and his brain circuitry seems to be rewiring itself.

His wife had a heart attack while she was here and was in a hospital for a while.  She’s now recovering and on a modified “Dennis” diet.  She’s afraid of eating a whole lot of fat because of the cholesterol but her way of reducing carbs has been to stop eating sugar.  That’s helped out.

My sister was here as well.  She’s a diabetic, giving herself five shots a day.  We restricted her diet and her blood sugar dropped from as a high as the low 300’s to 74 to 120 in the night and morning.  I think our diet has had a positive impact on her.

Of course, my wife Becky is going to the exercise coach twice a week, right along with me.

So I think that my lifestyle change has had either a direct or indirect affect on my family.”

For Dennis, clearly the positive changes he’s realized in his health and the positive impact this has had within his family are two significant increases in his “Core” wealth.

Part 5:  A Bigger Vision of the Future

Here’s Dennis again:

“When I was sitting there last year  in Salt Lake City at the Ambassador training, writing my vision of what I want to happen in my life and then sharing that vision with another Ambassador, my number one thing was to improve the relationship with my wife.  I’ve seen how older people have an interdependent relationship with their spouses and I needed to change some things so I could get to have that type of relationship.

Now, I feel grateful for the “Empowered Wealth Mindset.”  It’s a change in direction and it’s 99 percent all good.  I’ll probably look back and not regret not teaching one more class.  But I would regret not having a relationship with my family.  So, yes, I’m grateful.”

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