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All the times I was a loser-1948 to 1981

Some of the postings (like this one) within "Off the Beaten Path"    did not occur within a specific year of my life. With little justification, I chose the random year of 1962 for this posting.

Couldn’t put the clock back together


At age four, we lived in Tracy City, Tennessee. We had an old, mechanical wall clock that did not work. I asked my mother if I could take it apart and promised to put it back together. I got it apart okay. I was either unable or not patient enough to get it back together. My mother was impressed that I was able to get it apart.

Disappointed the egg fight didn’t get broadcast


I organized a radio-broadcasted egg fight (maybe I was 10 years old), using eggs from my grandfather’s farm. My grandfather had to discard some eggs because, when they were candled, a blood-spot was noticed inside the egg. My mother drove me to the field area (with a few other boys and the eggs) where the broadcast was venued. The radio station, for whatever reasons, was not ready and asked to reschedule the egg fight. Because it was such an effort for my mother (and a disappointment for us boys), we didn’t follow through on that.

Never made it very far to China


I started digging a hole to China in our backyard in Flatrock, South Carolina. I was about eleven years old. I got my sister Karen to help with it. Most of me knew it was impossible, but I wanted to try anyway and, if not to China, at least I could dig an impressive hole. The hole was 3.5 feet in diameter and we dug down to about five feet. When we moved to Shelby, North Carolina, the year I was going into the tenth grade, I had to fill the hole up. That went a lot faster than digging it!

Never learned how to belong

I remember in grammar school that I wanted so much to feel like I belonged with the other boys. I was in six different schools when I was in the first grade. Maybe that had something to do with my ability to fit in with the other kids. But it either always seemed so hard (I would have to give up so much of myself) or impossible (I could see how anyway). Although looking back, I can see now how "not belonging" ended up giving me many life benefits later, it occurred as a failure during my early school years.

I failed at making friends

Especially up until the age of 14, when I read Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People," I had very few friends and I didn't understand why. Looking back, I can see that it was because I was so righteous and argumentative.

I failed at having a good relationship with my father

It always seemed that my father was trying to get me to "blend in" and not draw attention to myself. I took pleasure in trying to prove him wrong.

Couldn’t avoid becoming resigned


Noticing my father’s resignation about life when I was twelve years old, I promised myself that I would keep the child’s spirit of play, curiosity, and adventure alive within me. I was not successful in that. And, as my life progressed over the years, the day-to-dayness of my life seemed harder and harder. However, at age 32, I took a weekend “Intensive” led by Dr. Nathaniel Branden. In a dramatic exercise that he led us through in the workshop, I re-owned my five-year-old child within. From that point, life had a new ease and joy to it. Also after that intensive, I had some compassion and understanding for my father that I never had before.

Barbara never noticed me


I was in love with Barbara McDonald from age twelve. I wanted her to like/love me. I was unwilling to say anything or do anything to express my love for her. I pined for her, seeing her every day at the school bus stop, until we moved to Shelby, North Carolina when I was fourteen. In her case, after that, it seemed, “out of sight, out of mind.”

Ten years of searching without finding my career


Between the ages of twelve and twenty-two, I was serious about at least five different career choices: first I was going to be a beef-cattle farmer, perhaps inspired by my uncle who was a dairy farmer. Next, I was going to be a medical technologist. As I approached college, I thought I wanted to be a mathematician. Later, after reading Ayn Rand, I planned to be a philosopher/writer. Then I was going to be an underwater welder with the idea that I could earn enough money in two years to live off the interest. It was a very high-paying-by-the-hour job, so I could quit and live off the savings and “work” as a philosopher. I even took scuba diving lessons and signed up for an underwater welding school in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I “failed” to achieve any of these ideas, although, developing in a very “crooked way,” I could say that I am a successful philosopher today as a life coach because I teach practical philosophy.

I finally “stumbled onto” my first career by giving up on the idea of finding a career. After quitting college in the third year, I decided I wanted to live in New York City. I told myself, “Just get a job you think you might like. If after three months, you’re not liking it, quit and get another job…” Perhaps I lucked out, within three weeks of arriving in New York City, IBM hired and trained me as a computer programmer. Within two months I knew I’d found my career. Within six months I was the best programmer in my department.

Got dumped by my first girlfriend


At nineteen, I fell in love with Donna White. I was on my sabbatical from college living in a converted one-room chicken house on my grandmother’s farm. We got into some heavy petting in my grandmother’s pickup truck parked on some secluded dirt roads common in that area. But then I prepared to take our relationship to the next level. I choose a lot of courage to get ready by buying some spermicide and laying some blankets on the ground in the nearby woods. But when Donna found out my intentions, she responded with, “What kind of woman do you think I am?!” That ended our relationship. She got involved with and married another man, who was richer and had a car, shortly after that. Later I learned from my mother that marriage did not work out well.

Rejected by another girl


At almost twenty-one, I was living with a homestay family in Grimstad, Norway. It’s a tradition in Norway for young people to have a “party” and stay up late into the night on the longest day of the year. I was invited to such a party and, from my very naive point of view, it seemed that one of the pretty girls was flirting with me. I invited her to go for a walk outside the shed we were in and into the all-night twilight. I tried to hold her hand and she refused. Later I kept trying to indicate my affection for her but to no avail.

Too hard to learn German 


At age twenty, I committed myself to learning German so that I could graduate from college. I decided to do it in Germany “the easy way.” But once there and then at age twenty-one, I couldn’t or wouldn’t force myself to continue with the classes to learn German well enough to pass some exams back in the States. 

Gave up on college after three years and never graduated


At age twenty-one, after rushing back to America from Europe to get back into school to avoid the draft, I realized that the only reason I was staying in school was to avoid the military and Vietnam. And, even if I stayed in school and later graduated, I would then have to face the draft anyway. So, choosing lots of courage, I wrote my parents and told them all the reasons I thought it was a good idea to quit college, even after I had already tolerated three years’ worth.

Gave up on trying to change the government


From twenty-one, I put considerable spare-time attention on trying to influence the United States government to reverse its then-current direction toward more and more government interference in the personal and economic lives of its citizens and, instead, move in the direction of a more libertarian society. At one point, I took on and finished a project to mail a “personal” letter that detailed the harm done by some government program. I’m not remembering which one it was. I mailed this letter to every Congressman and every Senator...well over 600 mailings. I got a few replies. Either they were boilerplate or I was thanked for having some concern on an issue that wasn’t even related to what I wrote about. At that time I felt that I could not be happy unless the United States government reversed the direction of its current course.


When I was mid-24, I asked myself the question, “Does it make sense to base my personal happiness on what the government does or doesn’t do?” I decided it did not. From that point on, I took the position that, as far as I was concerned, the government is like the weather. I wasn’t going to change it because of any actions that I might or might not take. I would just adjust my actions to take care of myself within the context of the government/weather. So far, that approach has served me well and I'm much happier than I would have been inside that old mindset.

Bombed out on getting an occupational deferment


I joined the Marine Corps Reserves to avoid both the military draft and being sent to Vietnam. After moving to New York City and getting a job with IBM as a numerical control computer programmer, I made some effort to enroll my manager to help me to get me an occupational deferment so that I could get out of five and half years of being a “weekend warrior” with the Marines. No such luck. I did the five and half years.

Almost lost my best friend

My best friend in New York City, almost from the time I moved there, was Anne Wortham. Being almost clueless about subtle signals, I chose some big courage by writing a sexy "I love you" letter to her, dropping it on her desk during lunch hour. After one week with no response, I called her. She told me how shocked and offended she felt. It took almost four months of tentative contact with her to repair our friendship. I was mortified that I had hurt her so and grateful that she finally forgave me for my unforgivable gaffe.

Wrote an amazing software package and no one bought it


At age 24, just as I was getting ready to quit IBM to work for myself, I was eating lunch with a more veteran New Jersey-based computer guy named Frank Seiter. I told him about an idea I had for a set of subroutines that would allow the user to add, subtract, multiply, or divide any two numbers of any length. 

For example, it would be able to multiply one number with 123 digits by another number with 207 digits, providing the exact answer, with no rounding, which would contain either 229 digits or 330 digits. Computers are limited to about nine digits of precision with the top precise number that can be stored being 2,147,483,647.

Frank assured me he could sell these routines to universities and other high-level scientific or technology researchers. We signed a contract. He would pay for the computer time on an IBM System 360 for me to design, program, and test the routines. Then he would sell them and we would split the money 50-50. I coined a name for these routines: EPSILON (Extended Precision Subroutines in Limits of N).

It took me four months to learn FORTRAN, to write, and then to debug the programs. I spent many hours, often late at night so that the computer time didn’t cost so much. I was refining my knowledge of FORTRAN, learning how to read computer dumps, and developing the four subroutines one by one. A few times I swore that the FORTRAN compiler had a bug, only later to discover that an error in my programming was forcing the computer into an endless loop. I tackled adding and subtracting first and then moved on to multiplication and division.

The computer center broadcast many popular songs over speakers to keep the computer operators happy. One of the songs I loved to hear was, “Those Were The Days” by Mary Hopkin. Often I was in the flow, loving the feeling of how my mind was working.

After it was all finished, including writing up the documentation of how to use the routines, it was Frank’s job. After a few months of waiting, Frank informed me that he had not been able to sell it to anybody. I learned that even someone who seems to be a competent salesperson may not be actually a competent salesperson.

I’d hadn’t been so careful in spending the money that I had saved up working for IBM. For example, I spent money on private Fred Astaire dancing lessons, hoping it would help me get a girlfriend. After no income from EPSILON, I knew that I had to get a client who would pay me for smaller projects, at least for the time being. EPSILON bit the dust.

Failed at picking up girls by learning ballroom dancing


At twenty-four I started ballroom dancing lessons. My sole intention was to learn dancing well enough to meet and attract women that way. I never got good at ballroom dancing and it also never served as an effective way to meet women.

Another woman never let me in


I fell in love with Ruth Brooks when I was twenty-four. She was a few years older than me and lived in White Plains. We met as students at the Fred Astaire dance studios. She liked me and we did some light petting, but I could never take it past second base. She was unrequited in her love for another man.

Being too honest right away gets me dumped again


At almost twenty-five, I met a girl through a dating service. On the first date, we had amazing sex many times, at least from my perspective. Remember, at this time (1969) the USA was deep into the sexual revolution.

She was a single mother with an eighteen-month-old son. Near the end of our long date, I said to her, “One reason it’s great to have a relationship with you is that I like children, but I don’t want to have the responsibility of a father.” She refused to see me again.

From age 12 to 25+ no girlfriend 

So horny and so rejected. Even though I was very interested in getting a girlfriend from age nineteen when I decided it was okay to have sex before marriage, I was not successful, in the sense of having regular sex with a girl, until I was twenty-five and half years old. You could say that I failed many times until I finally succeeded. 

I lost two girlfriends

I could then get a girlfriend, but then the troubles started. Two girlfriends “failed.” I had two long-term romantic relationships, about three years each, with two girlfriends. With Loretta Weiss, we lived together. With Jamie Garde, we lived separately, but she had “her own room” in my house that she decorated just as she liked. My general intention was to keep a good, exciting relationship going indefinitely. I failed with both of them.

I messed up and lost two girlfriends at once

I fell in love with two girls about the same time, Sheila and Nanette. Sheila was Jewish and Nanette was Filippino. Everything went fine for six months. But then the New Year was coming and they both wanted to be with me. If I had been smart, I could have at least kept one of them. But I wasn't and both of them said goodbye to me. I felt bad, both for them and for me.

Another business enterprise fails

My entrepreneurship bites the dust: In 1980 and 1981 I worked hard on developing and selling two products I had invented, called SpeedCOBOL and ReadCOBOL. SpeedCOBOL was a COBOL preprocessor that enabled COBOL programmers to use short abbreviations, that only they have to remember, to write a COBOL program. SpeedCOBOL would then automatically expand all these short abbreviations into long descriptive names that could easily be understood by others. ReadCOBOL was a post-processor. It could take as input any COBOL program, no matter how poorly its statements were formatted, and output a beautifully formatted COBOL program. I sold these products to a few companies, but then I just didn’t have the energy or interest to keep going on it.

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