Despite a childhood shadowed by financial disaster and a father who struggled with alcoholism, Aaron Walker has created opportunities where there appeared to be none—pushing through barriers and monumental hurdles to build a string of successful businesses. In this inspirational memoir, he reveals how he confronted bitterness, pushed through pride, and was granted grace for a horrifying pedestrian fatality. View from the Top recounts Aaron’s own powerful story—and shares techniques and strategies that will allow you to flourish regardless of your current circumstances.
“There's an old saying I love: ‘Pray like everything depends on God, but work like everything depends on you.’ That could also be a great summary statement for View From The Top. Aaron Walker is a man who trusts God while putting a lot of sweat equity into everything he does. That balance of faith and diligence is something we all could learn from.” —Dave Ramsey, New York Times–bestselling author of The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness
“For anyone who prefers reality over ‘reality shows’ . . . Aaron Walker’s View from the Top is as real, honest, and believable as it gets.” —Ken Abraham, New York Times–bestselling author of When Your Parent Becomes Your Child: A Journey of Faith Through My Mother’s Dementia
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
CAN'T COULDN'T DO IT, AND COULD DID IT ALL
We live in a time that is unlike any other in history. With all the advances in technology and the accessibility to information, we've become a society that has been overwhelmed by the plague of instant gratification. It's easy today to get frustrated because we don't succeed fast enough or we don't see the results of our efforts quickly enough. People tend to get frustrated more easily and quit before they've really given themselves a chance to succeed.
Success is not for the faint of heart. It's not going to be handed to you; the universe will not simply bestow it upon you, and your ship is not going to come in without someone at the helm to pilot it safely to shore. To be successful, all of us must answer some very important questions: Is it possible? Can I do it? Do I have the wherewithal buried deep inside me to be a winner? I feel there is a champion inside of me, but fear lies just below the surface. Is it remotely possible to be successful in this life, even if you are starting from scratch? When there is no privileged background or even a hint of resources, is it worth the effort?
Many people go through life thinking that success is only available to those who are born into it. They get trapped in the mindset that because they grew up a certain way or because of things that happened in their past, success is just not in their future. I can tell you from my personal experience, that's just not true. It doesn't matter where you start, what is important is that you start. This book was written so I could share my journey to significance with you.
I've had my ups and downs and have been through good times, bad times, and times that land somewhere in the middle. I started from humble beginnings and now enjoy my view from the top, but it didn't happen overnight. It took a journey for me to get where I am today, and it will take a journey of your own to get you to the life you want to live.
I hope you will learn from my story and take these principles, which have allowed me to succeed, and create your own journey that leads you to your very own view from the top.
Hello, my name is Aaron Walker, and this is my story I grew up in a quaint suburb ten miles north of Nashville, called Madison, Tennessee. We lived in an area called Neely's Bend. It was a seven-mile stretch of land surrounded on three sides, sort of a peninsula, by the Cumberland River.
My dad, Johnny Walker, was a carpenter. His small home building company was appropriately named Walker Home Builders. This was a very small operation, focusing on single projects, and small ones at that.
My mom, Lucy, was a part-time church secretary and full-time mom, juggling multiple balls, trying to make ends meet. I'm privileged to have one older brother, Steven, an older sister, Julie, and a younger brother, Michael. I guess you figured it out; I am number three in the pecking order.
The 60s were difficult years, and it was particularly challenging at the Walker's. By the time I was six or seven years old, my dad fell on hard times. Needless to say, he didn't handle that well. Unfortunately, bad habits were lurking in the shadows — alcohol. I realize his stress levels at this time must have been unbearable, and I'm sorry to report, my dad gave in to the numbing effect that alcohol provides. It was a very uncomfortable and strange time in my life. I was young, and this state of confusion was new to my family. Whispering in the background, private, closed-door meetings, and a room full of tension had not been the norm. I remember times in the car when I was unsure of my dad's ability to drive. Normally, my dad's jovial personality was the center of attention, but strife and anger took its place.
Over the course of a lifetime, we experience trials and tribulations, but 1968 is a year to be forgotten, if at all possible. That was the year that our family suffered financial ruin. At the time, I was sheltered, as I should have been; my parents were very protective. I can only begin to imagine what my mom and dad were feeling. The Walkers are very prideful, right or wrong, but banks are very unforgiving, especially when you are not paying the mortgage. Our tiny house (today, that's in vogue) was soon to be a memory.
Our relatives, only a couple of miles away, invited us to move in while we looked for a new place. My mom was such an encourager to my dad and all the kids; she assured everyone that we would be okay. All the while, my parents' relationship was rocky at best. My dad was very independent and didn't spend much time seeking advice from others. He could have benefited greatly from a trusted friend with good advice, but he was very private and did not want others to know about his personal business — or the lack of it.
Even though I was not fully aware, and honestly didn't know to care at the time, I remember the sadness. Laughter was noticeably absent. I knew something was wrong; I just didn't know what it was.
Experiencing these kinds of trials will certainly have an impact on the way you view life — many times negatively — but I honestly feel that this experience instilled grit deep into my being. I feel as though perseverance and determination were ingrained into the very fiber of my soul. Thank you, Lord, for uninvited bankruptcy.
Going through this and experiencing it with my family taught me how to fight. It showed me that I could survive and that knowledge instilled in me the tools to survive and later excel.
Patience is a virtue that few have. I'm confident that I would have been much less patient had I not gone through these trials as a child. My mom taught us early on that you can't have everything you want immediately. This has proven to be a treasured tool and life lesson. Born out of patience was creativity. Now, I have the ability to look at projects and opportunities in multidimensional phases. Sometimes, unexpected force causes great creativity. So even through great struggle, there can be significant benefit.
I knew the day of reckoning was near. I could feel the days were numbered, and my mom's tipping point was at hand. She finally gave my dad the ultimatum. She said, "You can stop drinking and do what's right, or you're going to lose your family." Thankfully, my dad elected to do the right thing; he quit drinking and got his head back in the game. Thank goodness he made the right choice. So many don't, and the negative impact is felt for generations. I don't know how my life would have changed if he had made a different choice, but I suspect it would have been much more challenging.
My dad passed away in 2006, and I have to say that he was, without question, my best friend. The character traits and work habits that he taught me are, to this day, invaluable. He said, "Son, if somebody is going to pay you to do a job, you have to be willing to give all you've got."
You have to set the standards by which you measure how well you do the things you do, but you should always be willing to give more than what's expected. The view from the top is reserved for those who do just a little bit more. It's never good to do just enough to squeak by; average people can do that. Always remember, you are far and above average. If you want to have more, you have to do more. I learned early on to give above the minimal requirements.
My dad taught me a lot of valuable lessons as a child; character was a big deal to Dad. If you gave your word, he would see to it that you followed through. Many times the truth would lead to punishment, but the severity of the discipline was much greater if it came about as the result of a lie. Respect was another trait that my dad demanded and modeled. Despite all the valuable attributes that my father was gifted with, there was one much-needed quality he did not have. My dad was a horrible businessman. He was risk averse, and his education was limited. He had male pride that was larger than life. He always wanted to be in charge, and he was. He felt it was shameful to ask for help; it showed a sign of weakness. This is where things went awry. Dad would do things the hard way just to show it could be done. For him, it was always brute strength and force where necessary. If a little is good, more must be better was his motto.
We used to tease around our house about hanging pictures or fixing anything. Dad would always use three times more supplies (whether it was nails, tape, glue, etc.) than what was needed to complete the task. We would say, "You Johnny Walkered that, didn't you?" As I was growing up, I often wondered, With such limited experience in business, why would Dad want to be self-employed? The truth is, he didn't wish to work for somebody else, but he wouldn't take the initiative to learn the business fundamentals and principles he needed to run a successful business himself.
He didn't want to ask anybody for help. He never wanted you to think he didn't know something. As I said earlier, he had a lot of great attributes, like character and integrity — he was honest to a fault — but he was very, very prideful, and that was a stumbling block for him. Through my dad's struggles, I saw early on the benefit of getting help. You just have to be willing to set your pride and ego aside for the greater benefits.
Asking for help doesn't make you any less of a person. It's much better to be transparent, let your veil down, and show people that you need help. It's not a sign of weakness; it's a sign of strength. I learned early on to ask a lot of questions, and even today, I still do. You don't know what you don't know. I don't mind asking about the things I don't understand. Asking questions does not show a lack of ability; it shows your willingness to let your pride go and not let it get in the way of your progress and ultimate success.
I will discuss this a little later, but for now, I will just say that you need trusted advisors who are unbiased. You need people in your corner, cheering you on. Many times we desire that voice of reason or that word of caution. During rough spots throughout our journey, we count on others we can reach out to and get that much-sought-after advice to move forward. When things get rough, and they will, close friends and meaningful relationships are crucial.
A valuable lesson I learned from my dad was what I didn't want to do in life. I did not want to work as hard, physically, as my dad did his entire career. I witnessed firsthand the abuse his body endured. I remember the days and weeks he spent at home in the bed as a result of an electrical shock; I remember his bruised and battered body from manhandling construction material. Being self-employed had its perks, along with its disadvantages. There is no question that the toll his body endured for fifty-plus years was devastating. Each season of the year brought new challenges: heat in the summer and frostbite in the winter. Watching Dad sweep snow off a roof so that he could repair it or hand dig a water line gave me two distinctly different opinions. First, I gained a whole new appreciation for my dad and his willingness to do whatever he needed to to provide for us. My dad was a man's man and loved his family. Second, it instilled deep in my inner self a desire to do life differently. I could tell that Dad stayed in a lot of physical pain the majority of his life, and for that, I will always feel a sense of indebtedness.
Now, I don't mind working hard, and I believe grit, determination, and perseverance are cornerstones of success. You've got to be relentless; you have to put in your time. It's called the ten thousand-hour rule. To be proficient or to be considered great requires an inordinate amount of diligence. You have to be deliberate, intentional, and action-oriented. You've got to put in the hard work, and my dad was doing that, based on what he knew. He would have had much greater success had he been able to surround himself with qualified and competent professionals. These experts will never come to you offering assistance. You must be proactive in education and always take the initiative to learn more.
I used these lessons early on in my life. When I was ten years old, I got one of my first jobs at a little store called The Bread Box, across the street from my school. I used to go to work in the afternoon, stocking shelves, straightening up, and sweeping the floors. Whatever was needed in that little community store, I was willing to do.
I was not content with an afternoon job. Saturdays offered up a better opportunity to make money than any other day. Jessie Cole, our next-door neighbor, owned a home meat delivery service. I volunteered, for minimal hourly pay, to work alongside Mr. Cole. I would help him by stocking the cooler, getting the meat out, and delivering it. I started working young, but I just enjoyed the process — as well as the money. My mom and dad didn't have much disposable income, and neither of them believed in allowances. So, the rational thing to me was, if you want to buy things, you've got to have a job.
When I turned eleven years old, the entrepreneurial bug hit. The afternoon job at the local market and my Saturday meat business primed the financial pump. My mom worked as a secretary at our local church. I heard about an opportunity to cut the church lawn, and I quickly asked for permission to bid. I think my mom was the inside track that landed the contract. I got tired fast using a push mower; it was a huge yard, especially to someone eleven years old. I saved my money, went down to the local Western Auto, and bought a brand new, yellow Wizard riding lawnmower. I paid just over three hundred dollars, and that was like buying a house to me at the time. I'm not sure what that equates to now, but when you are eleven, it's a lot. I guess you could say this was my first lesson in investing in my business growth. The riding mower allowed me to cut grass faster and more easily, which meant I could cut more yards. I started to cut my next-door neighbor's yard. Then I started cutting his next-door neighbor's yard, and then I started cutting our yard, and eventually I had a route that I did each week. I ended up making pretty good money.
I had parents who taught, if you want something, then get busy figuring out a way to get it. They taught me how to do and think on my own. I knew that no one else was going to do the hard lifting for me, and if I wanted a better life, I had to do it myself. Although I always had the support and encouragement of my parents, they believed in that ancient proverb of teaching someone to fish rather than giving him the fish.
If you spend your life waiting for someone else to bring success to you, then you'll be waiting a long time. Entitlement at my house was as extinct as a prehistoric dinosaur. You are not entitled to success any more than you have a right to anything. You have the right to pursue success, and it's in the pursuit that you can find your meaning and purpose.
When I turned thirteen years old, my dad asked me if I wanted to help him remodel a health club and turn it into a pawnshop. I was all in if I could make some money. It took about three months to convert this health studio into a pawnshop. I'll never forget it. Herb Berry owned the store and was twenty-three years old at the time. His family had been in the pawn business in Nashville since 1941, and he had chosen Madison to open up a store of his own after he graduated college.
I seriously don't know why, but I had the courage to approach Herb and ask him for a job. I had only met him a couple of times, but I liked him. We were finishing up construction and leaving that August day in 1974 when it just happened to dawn on me that this could be an awesome opportunity. I told him that I would do whatever he needed every day, including cleaning and stock work if he would consider hiring me. He hired me on the spot. This was the shortest interview in history. He told me that anybody with this much initiative would have to be an exceptional employee, and he said, "Welcome aboard."
People were bringing jewelry, tools, and guns into the pawnshop daily; they were leaving the items, and we were giving them money. I had never seen a pawnshop before, so I didn't understand what was happening. After about two weeks, I asked Herb what these people were doing. I said, "They're bringing in all their stuff, and you're giving them money; are you buying it?" He told me we were loaning them money. They had three months to come back and get it, or we were going to sell it. That was very intriguing to me. I quickly fell in love with this business and started to enjoy the diversity of the people.
By the time I was fifteen years old, I knew that I wanted to own my own business. I enjoyed working; I enjoyed the relationships that I was building; I enjoyed making money. But, more importantly, I enjoyed the freedom and accomplishment I felt.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "View From The Top"
Copyright © 2017 Aaron Walker.
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Note to Reader,
CHAPTER 1 Can't Couldn't Do It, and Could Did It All,
CHAPTER 2 Immeasurable Rewards Are Headed Your Way,
CHAPTER 3 Finished at Twenty-Seven,
CHAPTER 4 Breaking Free,
CHAPTER 5 Setting Boundaries,
CHAPTER 6 Blindsided,
CHAPTER 7 The Eagles,
CHAPTER 8 Iron Sharpens Iron,
CHAPTER 9 Focus,
CHAPTER 10 Choose Wisely,
CHAPTER 11 Retire! What Is That?,
CHAPTER 12 Can You Handle the Truth?,
CHAPTER 13 Bitterness Is Its Own Prison,
CHAPTER 14 Put the Big Rocks in First,
CHAPTER 15 An Indescribable View,
Living the Transformed Life,
About the Author,