December 31, 2008



Ted Burnett

“Our business in life is not to get ahead of other people, but to get ahead of ourselves.”
– Maltbie D. Babcock, an American clergyman and 19th century writer

As a child of an alcoholic father, I learned early on the importance of success or at least its appearance. My father, a former U.S. marine and a troubled Vietnam Veteran ‘68, was completely at a loss over his career and his life after returning home from the war. Haunted, he often spent many evenings and almost all of his paycheck at a neighborhood bar called The Quarter Note. He brought home only headaches to our small family. My mother, reared in privilege, reluctantly stepped up to serve as the family’s breadwinner, in addition, to her role as homemaker. She struggled to make enough money each month just to cover our basic expenses and his reckless spending on her meager commissions as a real estate agent during the 1970’s. While she was college educated and having already tried several careers including banking, she found success to be just as elusive as he did.

Nevertheless, it wouldn’t have mattered one bit had she burned up the business; a mother and wife is no family icon or a suitable replacement for a boy’s father. A boy needs a sound example of what he will one day become. The family wears the paternal name and not the maternal, as some badge of honor. Thus, the stakes are high and the pressure is on for “the man of the house” to provide for his family. Society, the neighborhood, the congregation, even the extended family including the in-laws and friends measure or pass judgment on a family’s worthiness based on the husband and father’s performance. In his choice of a profession, job title, income, the size of his home and its address, the age and make of his automobiles, the collection of other material goods – “his toys”, the number of memberships in the right clubs and in prominent civic organizations, his social circle and the all privileges that go along with it.

Somehow, early on, a boy picks up on this all-important social cue maybe when first touring the neighbor’s much larger two-story house, walking passed what’s parked in their carport or seeing a clear-blue swimming pool over the fence. Maybe it’s listening to a classmate boast of spending another great weekend at the island on his father’s yacht among friends or watching once more as another student arrives at school in his father’s shiny red Porsche. Our family had none of that and I came to know it all to well. It made me miserable. I had no power or control over my home life.

As a student, I found an interest in topics like self-government, democracy and ideas of freedom. I was never more than a “C” student, at best, in these matters, but I loved learning about them in an almost romantic, idealistic way while sitting in class or at home watching the evening news with my father followed sometimes by a discussion. Maybe it was a natural interest; I certainly took these sacred American principles to heart. For me, this wasn’t just another subject to be studied, to be tested on and quickly forgotten. I filed somewhere in the back of my mind these famous names, dates and places for retrieval at some future date. I formed hallowed beliefs by which our country and this government were founded on and were continuing to still operate some two hundred years later. It would take many years, well into my thirties, before these ideals were challenged and slowly dismantled. I was forced to finally reconcile the reality of a corrupt Washington DC with the cherished ideals of democracy and freedom instilled in me, as a child. Was I the only American fooled?

When discussing in class American history or civics lessons images of General Washington’s frozen army at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania (PA) during the American Revolution or the founding fathers debating in Philadelphia, PA danced in my head. From studying the famous renderings captured on the pages of my textbooks I could vividly picture in motion as Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, an embolden John Hancock signing it for King George to easily see or the statesman and inventor Ben Franklin standing in a thunderstorm while flying his kite. With a real leadership void in our house and the pain it was generating in me, it may have planted an aspiration of relief in the form and in the capacity as a U.S. president, in all its glory. It seemed honorable and noble, but more importantly it would bring long overdue pride to our spiritually and emotionally wounded family.

I have no doubts that my father’s struggle was the spark of my own ambition to change my family’s reputation or standing in the eyes of our community. It struck at the deepest levels of my being, my marrow. I have written on at least one other occasion of my desire to enter politics, but I don’t quite know how or if that will ever happen. I no longer believe in either major political party, the Democrats or the Republicans. Having written on a number of controversial topics, like, abortion, crime, gay rights, freedom and slavery, society’s insanity and Christianity, I am not so sure that my native state of Alabama would find me acceptable for dogcatcher much less as a congressman or as Governor.

Getting vetted for a White House job in the incoming administration with my diagnosis of mental illness, a history of jail time and weeks spent in psychiatric hospitals would definitely make great political hay for today’s news media. Maybe I would fit right in. How did a once melancholy Abraham Lincoln, considered by many historians to be the last great American President, overcome this same obstacle? How did the U.K.’s Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, a notorious alcoholic with bipolar disorder, get into a position to lead his country into war against Hitler? Upon Churchill’s death, Clement Attlee, a lifelong socialist with differing political views, said that he was the greatest Englishman of our time and perhaps, the greatest citizen of the world of our time. Would either “crazy” man be electable, today?

My story of alcoholism and politics is not a new one. In modern times, sons of alcoholics seem to be all the rage in Washington and they keep coming out of the woodwork running for the White House. Only recently did I first learn that President Ronald Reagan’s father was an alcoholic, I knew about Bill Clinton’s stepfather. Now word has it that President-elect Barack Obama’s father, a Kenyan, died an alcoholic death in a car wreck, over twenty-five years ago. [16][17]

Others touched by alcoholism include Jimmy Carter whose brother, Billy, even had his own brand of beer – Billy Beer. Non-alcoholics don’t proudly pursue these types of achievements. [4] Roger Clinton, Jr. is an alcoholic and drug addict, like his father, found himself in the media’s spotlight more than once while his older brother, Bill, was occupying the Oval Office. Roger even received a last-minute presidential pardon for an earlier drug-trafficking conviction. Gerald Ford’s wife Betty is synonymous with the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction.

Her heavy use of prescription drugs during her years as First Lady and her life soon after the White House led to a family intervention and a trip to rehab. In 1982, the treatment center bearing her name opened on the campus of the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California. President Ford biological father, “Leslie Lynch King, Sr.”, was first violent with his young wife before Gerald was even born. She left her husband shortly after her son’s birth and later remarried. President Ford only became aware of his real father at the age of the seventeen. What impact did his father’s absence or “abandonment” have on this president’s life? [8][9]

George W. Bush has a well-known reputation with alcohol and drugs during his college days at Yale and in the ensuing years. Only after a 1985 meeting with Reverend Billy Graham did George finally quit. [2] I know some who recently questioned whether he hadn’t returned to the bottle during his second term. John F. Kennedy’s father, Joe, was a suspected bootlegger and John’s grandfather, P.J. Kennedy, owned several saloons in Boston, Massachusetts before starting P.J. Kennedy and Company, a leading whiskey importing business.

This Irish-Catholic family has been greatly impacted by alcoholism and drug addiction leading to accidental deaths, suicides and rehab. [8][9] How many of these U.S. presidents playing their assigned role as “family heroes” were unconsciously trying to expel the demons back home by feverishly climbing up America’s political ladder of the left or right in another dysfunctional (phony) system? Children of alcoholics know all about playing the role of actor and stage director. They can give an Oscar-winning performance over a lifetime while keeping their family secrets safe.

As president, they are always saying one thing while secretly behaving to the contrary. From slipping out of the White House and leaving behind their bride for a late-night tryst at a nearby hotel, engaged in secret wars in Cuba, Vietnam and in Central America. One publicly stated that the United States would never negotiate with ‘terrorists’ while arms were quietly traded for American hostages. Another one enjoyed the pleasure of, both, cigars and a female intern in the Oval Office while the present occupant campaigned as a “compassionate Conservative” only to later bomb the God out of the Arabs. The “abandoned child” had the burden of giving a presidential pardon to a real crook rather than allowing him to face American-style justice for his role in a botched Washington burglary. Our society and this federal government continue to pay a high price for enabling, covering up this sin. We are rotting from within.

How many of these American presidents’ personal secrets and they’re own denial colored, both, their domestic and foreign policies leading to more scandals, national secrets and arrogance felt by the rest of the world? “We are only as sick as our secrets.” How did their need for a legacy hijack the organic process of getting the people’s work accomplished? Might this explain why the government and our society are in such a sorry state?

So, did these patriotic men run for the highest office to change America or simply to change their past? For many, their poor performance as president resulted in them later having to serve as a prominent activist citizen in order to rehabilitate their presidential legacy. The past fifty years speaks volumes. Why did President-elect Barack Obama, this so-called man of “Change”, really run? As a candidate, he never seemed to spell out his agenda for fixing America. I followed him for several months during the spring of 2008 before losing all hope and interest. If I am willing to shoot straight with this educated audience at the risk of losing some or all of you, is it asking too much to have these candidates seeking to preside over our nation of some three hundred million citizens to do likewise? So, why did this one-term U.S. Senator whose part African-American with a Harvard Law degree run for president in the first place? Maybe, it’s purely personal. This wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened.

My Catholic high school, McGill-Toolen, located in Mobile, Alabama, has produced a number of notables of local, regional and even national fame. Among this distinguished group are three members of Congress – retired U.S. Senator (Alabama), Vietnam POW and U.S. Navy Admiral Jeremiah Denton Jr., retired – U.S. House of Representative H.L. “Sonny” Callahan (1st District of Alabama) and active – U.S. House of Representative Jim Marshall (3rd District of Georgia), the University of Georgia Head Coach (1964-88 seasons) and Athletic Director Vince Dooley, but there’s one alumnus whose talent has eclipsed all of the above. I first discovered his music “late in life” as a student in high school while drinking lots of cold beer at weekend and summer parties on wooden piers owned by the parents of my classmates that stretch out over the shallow waters of Mobile Bay. [3][6][7][15]

A 1964 graduate, he began playing the guitar and singing to his classmates at their high school parties. The rap on him, at the time, as my mother recalls was that he couldn’t sing and that may well have been true, but it didn’t stop him. As his lyrics would later describe himself as being “bucktoothed and skinny” and “a son of a son of a sailor.” Not a particularly good student, he has gone on to find fortune and fame as a singer, songwriter, three-time #1 New York Times best-selling author, both, in fiction and nonfiction, businessman and a recent movie producer. His “island escapism” lifestyle has produced hits, like, “Margaritaville” and “Come Monday.” Today, we all know him as Jimmy Buffett.

His legion of loyal fans, known as Parrotheads, repeatedly sellout his concerts within minutes of when the tickets go on sale making him one of the top concert draws, in the U.S., for the past two decades. He owns or licenses two restaurant chains – Margaritaville and Cheeseburger in Paradise. In a partnership with Harrah’s Casino, Buffett has one Margaritaville Casino under construction on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and another opening in Atlantic City, New Jersey. His reported annual earnings are now estimated at $100 million. This same character who thought differently, chased a dream, but couldn’t get his initial songs played on radio stations by the disc jockeys in our hometown. For many years, “Mobile” as a topic of conversation left a bitter taste in his mouth.

Only recently, in newspaper interviews, has Jimmy now admitted that their early resistance to his music only made him work that much harder. Anyone that graduated from school within five years of when he did always claims of knowing him back when and having a story to tell. Whether any of these tales are true is anyone’s guess. While his parents, James Delaney “J.D.” Buffett, Jr. and Mary Lorraine “Peets” Buffett, were still living on the Eastern Shore, during the 1990’s and early into this decade, there were periodic sightings of “his” seaplane flying high over the shoreline.

When in town he’s been known to show up unannounced at the local bars and honky-tonks to drink a beer or two, strum a few cords and to sing to his surprised fans in attendance. Confirmed rumors of him being “home” always lights up cell phones across this coastal county. His lone biological connection to the area is his youngest sister, Lucy, who returned to the bay after a life on the West Coast, as a chef. She now owns a popular restaurant, Lulu’s, in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Jimmy has been known to turn-up there, as well. [1]

When I finished McGill-Toolen with my proud “C” average and having a full-knowledge of the struggle that came with it, somehow my inner voice quietly proclaimed that I would be my school’s next Jimmy Buffett (the next notable alumnus). It was a rather brazen statement considering my academic history, maybe outright silly and a bit naive. I don’t believe that I have ever told another soul until now, but I have continued to nurse this notion, in the ensuing years, during good times and in bad. I doubt anyone else in my graduating class of 1990 or those coming before or after me have given the first thought to chasing such a ridiculous and lofty goal. I have always felt a kindred spirit with him and his “wasting away” songs. I pondered that if Jimmy could overcome the same challenges of school and later succeed in life then, why couldn’t I?

Due to dyslexia, the pressures to read and write as a requirement for passing many of my classes, such as, English, English literature, reading and writing anything always left me feeling dumb and deeply ashamed, stripped of all confidence, always finding myself at the back of the pack and never knowing life at the top of my class. As a result, I never liked to sit down and “curl up” with a good book when I could easily watch reruns on TV for the one-hundredth time or roam the streets in total boredom with the neighborhood kids. The works of Mark Twain, Harper Lee, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Shakespeare, Beowulf, Homer and other “classics”, which were required reading are still Greek to me. With a rather limited vocabulary, I suspect that I must be one of the most illiterate writers alive. Without a word processor writing this essay would be all, but impossible.

Today, I find myself living in community full of artists and writers – some are well established. #1 New York Times bestselling author and Alabama (AL) native Rick Bragg who wrote All Over, but the Shoutin’ owns a house here, author Winston Groom of Forrest Gump grew up here. Groom now spends time at his Point Clear, AL home and in the mountains of North Carolina. Birmingham, AL native Fannie Flagg (born Patricia Neal), an actress and the author of Green Fried Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café splits time between Fairhope, AL and California. Alabama native and an international renowned artist “Nall” divides his time here and at his studio located inside the forests in the south of France. Others taking up seasonal residency include military and detective fiction writer W.E.B. Griffin and Mississippi native and mystery writer Carolyn Haines.

The breathtaking scenery along Mobile Bay and the great community vibe lends itself well to foster new ideas, great writing, beautiful canvas paintings and life-size sculptures that adorn the area’s many green spaces. Fairhope with its high cliffs often reminds visitors of Carmel and Monterrey, California. The Eastern Shore is the highest point running along the water’s edge stretching from Texas to Maine.

The public library is always hosting writers’ events and workshops with speakers. There are several writers’ groups that critique one another’s evolving work. Many writers are also avid readers, which helps them to develop their language skills. Due to my learning disability, I have a complete lack of knowledge of the great authors and their works. I principally draw from the spoken word, listening to how others use it.

Beginning in college, I found a renewed interest in reading autobiographies that were unrelated to my schoolwork. I believe the first book that I picked up was titled Iacocca: An Autobiography as in Lee Iacocca, the former top executive at Chrysler Automotive. Iacocca was first hired on as an engineer at Ford before asking to be transferred into sales and marketing. He quickly made a name for himself with a successful district sales campaign that went nationwide, which led to him getting called up to Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.

He was involved with the design of several successful automobiles particularly the launch of the Ford Mustang, the Lincoln Continental Mark III, the Ford Fiesta while reviving the Mercury brand. Iacocca was named President of the Ford Division on his 40th birthday and he eventually rose to President of Ford Motor Company before getting fired by Henry Ford, II. In 1978, Iacocca joined a nearly bankrupted Chrysler Corporation.

As Chairman and CEO of Chrysler, he introduced new lines of automobiles including the K-Car line, Dodge Aires and Plymouth Reliant, the incredibly successful Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager lead to the company’s quick return to profitably. I had hoped to parlay the insight and wisdom from his story and that of others to help steer my career. While other books followed, I can’t say reading the first one or the combined knowledge gained from all of them has ever put the first dollar in my back pocket. Nonetheless, many of their stories were indeed interesting and worthy of my time. [12]

Some of the other bestsellers that I have enjoyed include Mark McCormick’s What They Don’t Teach You at the Harvard Business School, Dave’s Way by Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers founder and CEO Dave Thomas, John Mackey’s How to Swim the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, Bernard Marcus and Arthur Blank’s Built from Scratch: How a Couple of Regular Guys Grew the Home Depot from Nothing to $30 Billion Home Depot, Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time by Chairman & CEO Howard Schultz, Copy This! by Paul “Kinko’s” Orfalea, Dr. John C. Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You and Talent Is Never Enough and just released Call me Ted by media proprietor and philanthropist R.E. “Ted” Turner, III.

After nine years in the workforce, I too found “success” to be just as evasive as my parents had. I worked for seven different companies all in a sales capacity with, both, large and small firms while living first in Atlanta, Georgia, for two years, before returning home. Four of these companies asked me to leave. Hoping to capitalize on social connections back home to make up for my lack of salesmanship I immediately joined a prominent men’s social and athletic club, founded in 1873, which is located in the heart of the city’s downtown. Its members were made up of mostly attorneys, bankers, and businessmen, both, young and old whose offices were situated in my new sales territory. I also landed a seat on the board of directors for a non-profit drug and alcohol treatment center a cause that was and still is close to my heart. At the suggestion of my banker, I sought membership in the city’s most well-known and oldest Rotary chapter.

My less than stellar application detailing my sad work history resulted in my nomination getting dropped without even receiving a courtesy call from my bank’s trust officer that sponsored me. I was victorious in two of my pursuits, but as it turns out none of this improved my overall performance or significantly increased the size of my paycheck. This flawed line of thinking had gotten me nowhere and thus it had to be abandoned. I have since learned that my maternal great-grandfather, an immigrant from Christchurch, New Zealand and a business and civic leader, was also a member of this same chapter. With this knowledge of family ties to the organization, in this small southern town, the outcome may have turned out differently. In the end, it worked out for the best.

Growing up, I always pictured living out a planned life in my hometown and playing with my same ol’ playmates from years past engaged in the same old yearly activities of watching college football in fall, hunting whatever that moves in the winter, enjoying the Mardi Gras season in the spring and saltwater fishing in the summer. Life threw a big wrench into that plan when I had a nervous breakdown in the days and hours leading up to my wedding. My new diagnosis landed me in jail on two separate occasions followed by trips across town to psychiatric hospitals (four in all) in the first thirteen months after “walking down the aisle.”

This was not my idea of success clearly this was failure by anyone’s measure and the reaction of others only confirmed it. I became a stigma to my extended family, friends, acquaintances and neighbors. Few broached my illness as a subject of conversation. Some stood by, but many didn’t. Everyone knew and the telephone went silent. A year of untreated mania was followed by two and half years of major depression with suicidal ideation, off and on, for much of that time.

At the end of 2004, after getting fired for the fourth and last time, I came home and told my wife, “I quit”. With no direction and no visible talents, I was not going on one more job interview or filling out another application until I knew what my purpose was in life. I wasn’t going to be a man who held forty different jobs at forty different companies, in forty years. This was quickly becoming my track record. Some family members thought I was being unreasonable.

Tapped out of ideas for work, I reluctantly went back to college seeking a master’s degree in counseling. It only seemed fitting considering my background with alcoholism and now bipolar disorder. I still feared school. While slowly navigating my way through the two-year program I was becoming troubled with this decision, both, in my ability to counsel others and my overall interest in this career field. Due to my years of experience with a number of psychiatrists, nurses, counselors in hospital settings, at mental health agencies and in private practice, I felt like I knew too much about their shortcomings.

In all that time not one of these professionals saw any value in my suffering or was encouraged by my breakdown (or breakthrough). Yet, this hit to my ego would turn out to be the best thing that had ever happened to me. Therefore, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to overlook their faults or trust their opinion as a colleague and counselor in some dysfunctional environment. My experience as a patient, consumer and client had made me one big critic of it all. I simply couldn’t and wouldn’t be able to “toe the line” for any organization operating in institutional denial while hurting those that they were getting paid to help. So, what now?

Here’s where God did for me what I couldn’t do myself. At the beginning of my second year in school (fall 2006), my wife announced that she wanted out of our four-year-old marriage and our nine-year relationship. The marriage was derailed from the beginning and our relationship never got back on track. If the pressures in a normal marriage produced divorce rates of 50%, a marriage involving mental illness hovered at 84%. I already had career problems and now I found myself overwhelmed with mental, emotional and spiritual health issues. A successful outcome would require the couple to rise above the crisis with their best effort, their ‘A’ game while getting the unwavering support of both families if the marriage was going survive. In our case, some of these factors didn’t materialize and by design.

My wife made plans to travel up to North Carolina in search of a new life and job. Within hours and days of her departure the stress of her actions began to trigger a manic episode in me. It was the first one since going on medication, in June 2003. Over a thirty-day period, I enjoyed three weeks of blissful mania before crashing into full-blown psychosis and paranoia. Lacking in days of sleep, I snuck out of town on what would become a 38-hour non-stop race through five Southern states before returning home.

Out of my mind, I would go on to write an email to my classmates before getting arrested that night by police and taken once more to jail. During “lights out” a corrections officer assaulted me, with a fist to the face, shattering my two front teeth and busting open my chin. I would spend the next three weeks being stabilized in a psychiatric unit before being set free. The faculty in the counseling program and the university’s administration were too disturbed by my actions while I was temporarily sick. They refused to overlook this incident and allow me to return to school to complete my degree. This latest event delivered a quadruple whammy (a failed marriage, another manic episode, a bloody night in jail and getting kicked out of school). It was a crushing blow to my fragile ego.

A part of me or maybe the rest of me died from that entire incident as a tsunami swamped the last sense of order and control over my life. This certainly wasn’t my idea of success, but instead more failure. The truth is that it was a little of both. Regrettably, it would be the end of my marriage, but the beginning of a new way of life – a new freedom and a new happiness. I would no longer have a fear of people, a fear of economic insecurity or a fear of the world. These insecurities had all been knocked off of me by the many trials. At the age of 36, I was coming to know life as a free and honest man with a sense of inner peace. I had been through shear hell and lived to tell about it. It was an incredible feat; most men would have already drowned themselves in their booze. I became detached from our twisted society.

Within weeks of coming home from the hospital alone, our house was “put on the market” and was sold in sixty days. In packing up for my new life, I decided to leave my hometown, forever. My old beliefs of living out the rest of my years there had also died and washed down the drain during this latest rainstorm. Our two realities stood in stark contrast and greatly clashed. After trudging a valley for three decades, as a struggling student, a fruitless employee and now an individual with mental illness, I had unknowingly been climbing up a mountainside to the top. I became a changed man, a transformed man somewhere along my journey. I now knew my own personal truth and could recognize universal truths.

On February 2007, I left a nice four-bedroom house for a small one-bedroom apartment with a little cash in hand, a line of credit and no job prospects, but I was given a fresh start. Within ten days, I had a burning desire to write and so I broke out my old laptop for the first time in years. I had not tried writing leisurely since 2003. I spent the next forty days capturing my thoughts on my four-year manic odyssey producing a 50k word first draft. It was the most writing that I had ever done in my life and it would serve as a real confidence builder. In March, I switched gears and wrote my first political essay. It’s been almost two years and I have written thirty-three. I love this lifestyle and I couldn’t be any happier.

This wasn’t the life that I envisioned or pursued after college. My inflated ego would have never settled for this. Therefore, it can only be one thing – a gift from God. It’s been a homecoming, an acceptance of oneself and a wholesome feeling knowing that I am part of something bigger and greater – the human race. I know that I am no better and no worse than God’s six billion other children. That feels good to know.

In the course of writing, I have also discovered what it means to be successful. I have redefined it. It no longer matters what others think of me, of my family, of my alcoholic dad – whether it’s the opinion of my extended family, ex-wife, old friends, high society, the church, the newspaper, etc. For the last eighteen years, I have been slowly taking back my POWER, learning how to take care of myself, learning how to really live including standing up for me.

Today, I march to the beat of my own drum and no one else’s. Success is simply measured by whether I am enjoying myself on a moment-by-moment basis and reflecting on my day while climbing into bed at night. Success is learning to put myself first, each and every day, because I matter. If I don’t then, who will? It’s about getting my needs met throughout the entire day and not sacrificing them at the expense of others. I have found getting my spiritual needs met first results in me needing fewer material goods beyond food, drink, clothing, transportation, shelter and safety. I love great food, good conversation, good music, a good book, a good laugh and cry. I laugh, a lot and I cry some. It’s to live in simple abundance, to be human. Today, I can embrace daily changes in lockstep. That hasn’t always been the case.

Living happily is my #1 daily goal and all my energy is spent obtaining this. How is this accomplished – by putting my relationship with God first, synchronizing my will with His, my values with His? Everything else will fall into place. Looking externally for my happiness in other people, things or drugs doesn’t work. I have slowly come to learn that my Life, my Liberty and the pursuit of my Happiness have nothing to do with you and what you think of me. You no longer have that power over me. You can make me neither happy nor mad.

You’re judgment of me as a ‘success’ or ‘failure’ in your eyes has become irrelevant in mine. I am no longer living to rewrite my family’s history, to prove something to the world or to make up for my father’s faults and secrets. If I ever run for political office, it will be to serve a greater cause or I may choose to simply walk out the rest of my journey in anonymity. I have that power. It resides within me, it resides in you and you know what – it always has!

You don’t arrive – the day you get your college degree, land your first job, get married, have children, win the lottery or retire early. It comes from living each and every day to the fullest – however you choose to define that. What’s my goal now – to see how many happy days I can put back-to-back? How am I doing? I am coming up on almost two years.

My only great sorrow is that my parents didn’t know this same truth when they first got married, things may have turned out a little differently for all of us.

“My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents, and I lay them both at His feet.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

“You have to count on living every single day in a way you believe will make you feel good about your life…”
– Jane Seymour, an English actress


I am available for speaking, consulting and political advising. My other essays can be viewed at my blog @ I can be contacted via email:

Copyright © 2009, 2010. All Rights Reserved. “Success” by Ted Burnett.


Wikipedia – Jimmy Buffett
Wikipedia – George W. Bush substance abuse controversy
H.L. Sonny Callahan
Wikipedia – Billy Carter
Wikipedia – Roger Clinton, Jr.,_Jr.
Wikipedia – Jeremiah Denton, Jr.
Wikipedia – Vincent Dooley
Wikipedia – Betty Ford
Wikipedia – Gerald Ford
Wikipedia – W.E.B. Griffin (born William Edmund Butterworth III)
Carolyn Haines’ website
Wikipedia – Lee Iacocca
Wikipedia – Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr.,_Sr.
Wikipedia – P.J. Kennedy
Jim Marshall’s U.S. House of Representatives’ website,
Metapedia – Barack Hussein Obama, Sr.,_Sr.
Wikipedia – Barack Obama
Washington Post: The Ghost of a Father December 14, 2007

I'm an American thought leader and pioneer on the subjects of human, organizational and societal development and health. I write about the role that integrity, dignity, sanity play, as well as, on the topics of spirituality, faith, freedom, happiness, problem solving and risk taking. I produce and deliver original, world-class commentaries on business, political, social and spiritual matters to a global audience of world leaders, chief executives and key decision makers, top faculty and notables in the fields of academia, banking, business, foundations, government (including heads of state, lawmakers and governors), healthcare, media, non-profits and policy institutes. Website: