The American Dream Revisited: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Results – Gary Sirak. He’s been helping other people achieve their American dream for the last 35 years. These are stories about everyday people creating extraordinary results in their lives and the those around them a true inspiration.
I’ve got a really fun guest for you today, and his name is Gary Sirak, he’s been helping other people achieve their American dream for the last 35 years. He’s president of Sirak Financial Services in Ohio, a company founded by his father, Stance Sirak back in 1957 and the company will celebrate 60th anniversary this year.
Gary has written two books. First, “If your money talk, what secrets tell?” In this books about personal finance and the most common mistakes people make with their money and so many people make the same mistakes again and again and again with their money that you decide to do something about it. The second book the book we’re going to talk about today is the “American Dream Revisited.”
Ordinary people extraordinary results. It’s deeply personal subject for Gary. While it’s true it was a survey and deepest in this conversation in a coffee shop that spurred to write this book and the ideas and beliefs of the book that’s been with him for his entire life.
So, I just want to welcome you Gary for being with us today. Thank you, Dave. And so, I love the part about your book was thought about at the coffee shop. It’s like so many those businesses that were put together on a napkin
Well kind of. I’m addicted to mochas.
I really am. And between work and my home there are four coffee shops that I frequent. So, I kind of rotate them as they all make different ones, they all taste varieties of chocolate and coffee but I literally stop every day at one of them.
And I was in a place called Karma Cafe one morning, sitting down and just having my mocha thinking about my day, my week, my month, my life whatever I was on that day. I mean I never really remember that.
But as I was sitting there four college students sat down right behind me Dave, and they started talking about the American dream which really piqued my interest because I’ve always had an interest in the American dream. So
I heard them and I kind of slid my chair a little closer to them and my back.
Them I want to hear what they were saying and then very quickly the American Dream was referred to as the America Disaster. And three of them were really negative. They talked about college debt, credit card debt, tough job market, all these things that were negative.
And then finally the one person who had the same thing said listen I don’t really agree with you guys. I think you know life’s good. I’m going to pay my college loans, I’ll pay my credit card off. You know I’m going to have a good life he said. I feel like I’m really getting, I’ll get a good job, and they shut him down in a matter of seconds. And he never said another word. But the conversation was just very ugly.
I told people that day and this is a Tuesday and I love Karma Cafe with some really bad karma.
It was just a very negative experience. I was very disappointed and bothered me in about four nights later I woke up in a middle of the night and decided I was going to write a book to refute their opinions. And I just was gonna. I just believed that they weren’t right. And there’s no reason in the world to be that young and that negative. And it just really disturbed me.
Wow that’s pretty amazing. And you know I was like you were talking about that for people. It was kind of interesting that the 25% of the people were positive Yeah. Exactly. And so, it really runs close to 80 20 rule all the way around doesn’t it.
It really does. It really is that 81-year-old of. It is accurate that men were a long time ago Yeah.
And everything still comes. There’s the 80-20 and it keeps you break it down down down farther just gets crazy with the numbers. So, you got to write your book. And what were some of the highlights in there that helped you. I mean it was pretty good perspective in a sense where you got to hear both sides and it peaked you to really move in that direction to refute it. So, what were some of the things that really get your attention during that conversation.
Well a couple things that happened I realized that I needed to find people that achieve their American dream.
So, what I did is I started asking friends acquaintances who was the most interesting person they know or they knew that still living? Who did they know the most interesting person in their life that still living that I could talk to.
And people started throwing names at me and he said well what about. And I said well the American dream. I’m writing this book and I told this little.
Oh, I know this lady in California, I know this guy in Chicago. So, I started getting names of people all across the country, and a guy in England, and a guy that you know migrated here from South Africa and just fascinating. I ended up doing 25 interviews Dave. Wow.
And I took the 25 and I picked 13 of them that I felt most congruent with. I felt like they were the ones that fit. They were after they were in the model of what I was really trying to achieve. And so, each one after another felt like they were in the right place. So, I ended up with 13 stories. And it was kind of unique and how it all came together because I really hadn’t planned any of the thing except they broke up they going right away.
So, the interviews were very interesting the 12 that I didn’t use, I didn’t use for a whole host of reasons sometimes I didn’t like the credibility or lack of credibility. There were some things that just didn’t feel right or sound right. And deep six those and the people that I ended up with I had a very nice feel about it. And I was able to fact check them enough that everything they said was true.
That’s wild. So how long did it take for you to pull this all together? Close to a year.
What was the most out of all of this story, who’s story was the most interesting?
Well it’s funny. There were three that I really, I always think about. And one of them is a man who actually became a friend, a dear friend, had survived seven Holocaust camps. Oh wow. And not only the surviving but he ended up coming to Canton Ohio. By the way home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Oprah coming to Canton Ohio and being a physician and taking care of people in this town.
And I got to know him because I was on a basketball team and he was the team physician for the basketball team although he knew absolutely nothing about basketball.
He did understand when you got beat up. What chances do you have? When you weigh what I weighed you get knocked around a bit so he just became friendly with him and then later on he became a client and I got to know his story fascinating man. So that story clearly resonates. There’s another man that I found equally interesting. He
was an Old Order Amish farmer and he had an eighth-grade education and his wife and two kids left the order which is very traumatic events and move to Canton and started a company and he did this with no money or anything and just all on a leap of faith.
And at the peak of his business success he had a 186 million in sales. Nineteen hundred employees, 13 locations across the country. I mean just fascinating what he was able to achieve. So, those are a couple that really stand out. But there is another way I always find incredibly interesting and she’s actually down your way. She’s in Jacksonville. Her name is __ Echiveria, and __ was brought up in the Bronx and she was a girl gang member a quarter and girl gang member. And her story of how she escaped the gang and how she turned into the person she is today. A great story. Just and a wonderful person by the way.
So, every single person that you talk to and I think where you are really trying to make the point was that everyone has a story and everyone can overcome the odds if they choose to. Yes.
And that is exactly correct. Every single person in my book had adversity had trouble had nothing for anyone of them and they all overcame them.
You know it’s kind of interesting. And I’ve said this to color.
I know you on the straight today a couple of other people and you know it seems like it in our society today people look at success and they see the top of the iceberg and the base of the iceberg is all the trials and tribulations all the hard work all the sweat all the tears and everything that got them up to a certain point for you or I see them but the interesting thing is for those people who are the iceberg that we’re looking at. They still see themselves like a halfway point yeah.
They really do. Actually, one of the key points in the book and I found this unique once I really sat down and did all these stories I was looking for points where there were links between the different people. OK. And one of them I came up with was that the people that I interviewed all had an amazing ability to not just look forward and see what they had accomplished but to look where they came from and their sense of achievement and what they’d accomplished once we started talking and they look back where they started from. Remarkable how they would think in terms of that and a lot of them said gosh I haven’t thought about this in years. But yeah, I started out it was really tough and all that. And
I said Yeah look where you are now.
I just haven’t done that long time and said it really helped rebuild my self-esteem and my self-worth and it made me feel proud to look at all the things I’ve accomplished she said because sometimes there’s one person in particular talking about Whitney Hadnagy. And, all of a sudden, we are talking and I realize we got on my copy which I love to go back and see where everything started from.
I mean I get on my desk to look at how I started looking to lots of people start and what they’ve accomplished. It’s just a remarkable journey backward and fun journey too by the way. And that’s what I’m in this for all these people were much more backward based than forward base which is really very interesting.
And you know here.
Yeah you know that’s really interesting that you said that because I think that the people are just, they don’t really think about what they’ve achieved.
They think about what they haven’t achieved or there’s so much more to do.
And we get lost in that.
And that’s kind of funny because I’m in that process my own self I think we all go through it at different times or all the time just at different stages. And I was talking to my wife this morning and telling her I’m going to put this webinar and going you know it’s yeah, it’s so I’m doing it and I’m going. And then I started thinking about you know introducing myself in a sense you know who are you.
And then I started looking at all the stuff they’ve written and I’m going Hey I have done a few things you know but you don’t look at it from that standpoint you’re thinking about I could do so much more. I haven’t done this yet. It’s pretty wild.
Well that is exactly the point. So, I’m a financial adviser and I help people with their money I help them. Right now, I’m helping a ton of people with their retirement or helping them gain money so they can retire. And when I find out is I’m also a cheerleader in a lot of ways.
I’m inspirational to them because they’re stuck and they don’t need to talk to when they talk to me and they say wow you’re really fun to talk to because you inspire me or you make me feel better. I sleep better at night which are all very nice things to say and appreciate it.
But I also find out the reason they say that is because I get them to go back and see what they’ve caught where they’ve come from and where they are now and it just makes them feel better. I’ve got a guy right now going through a divorce which is really tough. And I’ve been on the phone with him a few times now helping him because his self-esteem has gotten kicked in in the gut and he’s really down. And I said wait a minute look at who you are what you’ve accomplished.
Look at how cool your kids are. I said that didn’t happen by accident. I said Yeah. One person rejecting you. And that’s true but there’s 300 million people out there that don’t know you and some do and the ones that know you really care about you.
I said so don’t focus on the one that doesn’t Wow that’s amazing. It really is you know man that’s such a great thing right there because we do get stuck in at home. I don’t want to downplay it too much but we do have like our own little pity parties.
I’ve been there from time to time and I go I can’t, I can’t afford to be here I need to go somewhere else.
But it’s I think it’s just part of human nature where we just have a tendency to go backwards instead of looking too far forward. I mean it’s just really weird on how it just all comes together. And I like the way that you’ve been presenting that and I’m sure your book really demonstrates that especially with each one of these stories of these people who you know come through.
Not a bad place. Well I mean in the beginning you’re probably was in a bad place. I think we all start off in different places and we can consider it good or bad but it’s challenging let’s put it that way. Clearly counting and you’re right.
And it’s funny. Someone asked me what do all these people have in common. I can tell you one thing when they all started it was all about food, clothing and shelter. Was it about being rich? Was it
about making a ton of money? It was just can I provide for my family. Yeah. What do I need to do to provide for my family? How do I get that accomplished? That’s
really where we started that and quite frankly that’s kind of how it went down. So
we’re looking at this and saying if that’s the case these people had something very similar to everybody else I’ve ever met who was just starting out. And that’s you got to start somewhere. And when you start you don’t start at the top. You start at the bottom and you work your way up. That’s just how this being goes.
Yes. That’s amazing. I know cause, it’s you know I look at kids going through school. It’s for some grandkids I’ve got one just graduated she went into high school and I’m gone. Awesome. You went from the top of your class to the bottom of the totem pole.
And then you graduate high school you go into college to graduate top of your classes go to the bottom of the totem pole. And then, each stage of our life. That’s what we go through as we go, we reach a pinnacle and then we start something new. And we got to start at the bottom. We have this. There’s no place. How are you going to learn?
That’s the thing. How do you learn.
It was the point that came out in the book club where was all these people fail.
And sometimes they fail a lot the whole time.
And they all had the same response I said Well how did you overcome failure. So, we don’t have a choice. It’s food clothing and shelter Gary. We didn’t have a choice. Failure wasn’t an option. Delaying was an option but failure was not an option. We were going to make this thing work come hell or high water. And they did.
That’s so true. Failure is not an option. It’s the only time you fail is when you fail to get up and start over again. Exactly. I know it’s kind of funny I would thinking the other day and I’m going you know I’ve been in business for so, so long. The other day it was and it wasn’t too long ago and I think we all go through this at a certain time.
I was really sick and of course you know it doesn’t matter whether you’re in business for yourself or not when you’re sick it doesn’t matter. You just do what’s gotta get done you know. And so, I said to somebody this, you know this these are times like this when I wish I had job when I could call in sick. Yeah, I know there are many days where I’ve felt the same way.
I have lots of people around me. We have a pretty good-sized staff. But quite frankly there’s things only that I can do. Right. And some days I don’t wanna do them. No I said Are you sure you can do it. No. So you see you know I really need to teach them how to do those things so if I don’t feel like coming in I can actually do that.
Right. And that’s just that’s another part of the process that all it is.
It is. It’s really how you replicate yourself and give somebody else in position to take over for you. You just teach them.
Tricks. Yeah that’s it. That’s amazing. So, in the course of your book what were some of the things that that were eye openers for you.
Well here’s an interesting one. I interviewed a guy named Duez. Duez lived in South Africa grew up in Johannesburg and moved to the states because at the time he’s an Indian living in South Africa which had all kinds of issues. And there was violence everywhere. We saw so many people injured. And when I interviewed him and he came to America with like a thousand dollars and turned out to be very, very successful.
In fact, he actually owns a mini mart and a drive through and he’s just a super nice guy. Charitables can be a couple kids both of whom are going into med school and it’s very, very interesting talking to him. When I talk to him though the main reason he came to America was freedom.
He said, Gary I need needed freedom to vote. I needed freedom to have a chance to get a job. Means, that there, I would have been stuck in the system I would have never owned my own business in the threat of violence was so prevalent every day.
He said I can’t say how many people he said I was knifed in a fight and he said I can’t tell how many times that you know I had to fight or how many people I knew were killed in fights he said. Just ridiculous how many people were threatened every day in the streets. And he said I had to get away from that.
He chose to come here. And he ended up here because he had a relative that owned a motel and he came here and clean rooms for him until he could figure out what to do with his life. So, the idea that America provided opportunity is really the point that I think has been trying to make your America has really been an opportunistic country if you take advantage of your opportunities and all of the people that I interviewed took advantage of those. Right.
I think you know going back to the conversation of you know those four guys in the coffee shop that they realized that there was an opportunity and the other three were not really thinking about an opportunity but thinking about the long-term effect of paying back a loan or Bill or you know and it was something that they chose to do from the beginning.
Absolutely. And I’ll say one thing about this is if they were sitting here today and they really felt sorry for themselves and then that came out really loud and clear also. They really did feel sorry for themselves. And I guess that’s ok you’re allowed. But, I don’t think you want to go in the light, feel sorry for yourself. I just don’t think that’s a real healthy thing to do.
I just don’t think that comes out positive energy. Yeah you know because you end up like you know we go back to the percentages you know like 75% of the other people out there are whining, complaining and just don’t see any good in anything.
Right. It’s funny Dave. As I’ve gotten more successful for a long time.
One of my key ingredients that I look for on the clients I work with are making sure they have a positive attitude and that they have a go forward attitude not you know not put their head in the sand attitude I really want people that are progressively moving forward in life that are exciting and dynamic and entrepreneurial. Those people.
I like that and I have fun with them. I don’t do so well with the others. It just doesn’t resonate quite so well
Yeah this doesn’t seem like it would fit well with your personality. You sound like that fun-loving guy who loves to help other people and wants to always moving forward directions and then you would give it all. But if they’re going to fight every step of the way then it’s just a losing battle for everybody.
That is exactly the case so I’ve really gotten pretty, pretty careful about who I do business with because of that and someone have said you know you’re pretty exclusive and I said I’m not exclusive I’m just careful. So, I just know who I’m going to fit with and who I’m not going to fit with and I don’t want to waste my time.
Well you know I think if more business owners thought about that you know from a different perspective on how well do we do we work together instead of going after the end result which is you’re not going after you’re going after the solves their problem.
In place of collecting their money exactly.
And I don’t I don’t try and solve their problems anymore Dave. I use to do that. That was frustrating now just give them suggestions. Right.
They have to take action because I can’t do that for them. In the beginning. I try to do that for them and I had to engineer things but that was miserable and so many times I was doing things that they didn’t have they weren’t so long as I was I said OK this has got to stop. This
is frustrating. We don’t do that anymore. It will be more like pushing spaghetti. Right. Pretty much Leave them the water they have to drink. I
can’t make over. So, this has really been exciting. I love the way you brought this all about.
I loved the interviews with the people and just the whole brings back you know that American dream Revisited.
And it’s just like you said the American Dream Revisited: Ordinary people, Extraordinary results. So, there’s extraordinary results in each one of us if we dare to dream.
Yes, and take advantage of our opportunities. We all have them. It’s a question of seeing them recognizing it’s an opportunity and then doing what it takes to make it work for you. And I was with someone the other day and there were some that started in the company and he started the lowest end of the totem pole and he asked me what I thought.
And I said, would he make any comments that OK’s He’s not making much and what is he doing. They called me and said OK. I said this is temporary. He said Why do you say that. He said he’s way too talented to be left in that job for very long.
They are going to see if he has what it takes to work on the bottom. I said they’re just testing it. I said so let’s find out how this plays out.
Anyway, it was funny it was about six months ago and he got his first promotion and the promotion was pretty good one. What was really at the bottom. I mean they jumped him about three levels and that’s awesome. They
saw what he could do. But he was humble enough to start at the bottom.
Absolutely. And below where he wanted to see all his friends were making more money and they were giving him crap which they would and said No, no I’m going to do this and we’ll see what happens. Yeah. Yeah. It’s just like there’s a young guy I know it’s a bartender in a bar.
And then 15 years later he owns a bar and it’s a very successful bar. And he goes really well at it and he started as a part time bartender but you know he did whatever that owner had him do to the point when the owner said hey I want to sell the business would you buy it because you fit the culture of what I tried to do here.
That’s awesome. Yeah that’s plenty of opportunities. We just have to be willing to look with open eyes. Yes.
And don’t let people talk you out of it. That’s the other thing that amazes me. The people around people I always mention. And it didn’t come out in this book but it came out in “If your Money Talks what Secrets would it tell?” and that’s upgrading your friends. So, many times I have found people that were so negative around that I just don’t want to be around those people so they stop being my friends. And I stop calling them and stop going out to dinner with them because I didn’t want to be around negative people. It just wasn’t fun.
And I just wasn’t, I mean they complain about everything, and I’m thinking man this wasn’t enjoyable. This is like going to the dentist and getting a tooth bowl without Novocain I know I’ve gone out to people that dinner right.
Well I went out to dinner with a bunch of people one day and I said next to one person when I left my wife, I said listen, if they come out to dinner with us again, great but don’t ever, ever sit me next to him again ever.
Right. And it’s like one guy one day it was kind of funny at a family function so I can say this because it’s family. And one of my in-laws says you know you’re lucky and I go explain luck to me I don’t understand it but explain what you’re saying.
He goes you can afford anything you want. And I look and I says No I said I can afford anything you want.
But I can’t afford anything I want or everything I want.
It’s interesting how perception isn’t really reality after all. So, I work with some people that are massively wealthy and massively wealthy and they’re just not happy people.
And I don’t like hanging around them I don’t really like working with them all that much because they’re not fun to be around and their money is OK as long as I deal with them on a regular basis. But it’s just not a group because they’re just we just don’t have it in common. And so eventually they’ll go away.
And I don’t get sad about that at all because I think of myself, good I don’t have to go to deal with this guy anymore. I mean I can think of three of them right up top of my head that I’ve left that I was maybe I helped touch them up Dave, I don’t know. Sublimely, maybe I did that and all I know is gosh I don’t have that point with the people anymore. I sort of smile about that.
Yeah that’s pretty awesome. That is really awesome. Hey Gary this is really been awesome and I just I just love the whole concept. How can our listeners get in touch with you and maybe just talk to you about your book or work when they buy your book?
- The book is available on the Amazon. OK we’ll put a link on our phone so that yeah, it’s on the Amazon and it’s also on GarySirak.com and as far as communicating with me, if they send me an email Reiffel it she tells me and we answer all of them.
We’ve never had answered an email so far in the four or five years I’ve been doing this, as I’ve always responded when someone sends me something and I do get things sent to me I guess I’ve gotten some very interesting questions over the year.
I said really, they’re asking me that. And you know I can smile. Yeah. Anyway, I never forget Dave I was doing this and I got a call from somebody what kind of refrigerator that I buy? What? I said OK. Why would you ask me? and he said well your proof smart about a lot of stuff, we’re thinking you might know something about refrigerators. And I said how much do you know about refrigerators?
I said that’s what they like and they said OK well thank you. I mean that was just, it was just an interesting phone call.
I’ll bet it was. It’s kind of funny. That was pretty awesome.
So www. GarySirak.com and Amazon and that’s where my books available and they’re both on there and.
Yeah, I just thought thanks for taking the time to share your story with us share your book and the experiences. It’s been a really, really been a fun time. Thanks Gary.
Dave, thank you.
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