Jim Stovall remembers the first time he walked to the mailbox.
That is, the first time after the lights went out, forcing him into a world of darkness; the first time since he had imposed upon himself a life sentence inside a 10-by-12 cell.
In reality, there were no bars to hold him in, but the ones in his head were stronger than any institution could provide.
He had his radio, a television (the picture of which he could not see) and some old John Wayne videos he could push into a VCR and listen to.
Those were the sulking days, when blindness to Stovall was unacceptable.
Somewhere shy of choking on his own misfortune, somewhere in his growing sense of despair, Stovall made himself walk all the way to the mailbox.
To do so, he had to push back fears of stumbling or hurting himself. Such wounds would be minor in comparison to those he was inflicting on his own soul.
He made it to the mailbox, 53 feet from his “cell.”
If he hadn’t, there would have been no Jim Stovall standing before a packed house of 200 at the Stonecipher School of Business on the campus of East Central University Thursday night, when he presented his journey from “cell” to podium.
It is his very effective way of showing people how to move from crushing adversity to a life of purpose and value, from disappointment to riches.
His audience in Ada was small compared to those he has commanded in Madison Square Garden in New York City — some 18,000, but here he saw the same number of attendees.
Since making it to the mailbox, Stovall has written 20 books. He has made five movies, so far, been on all the celebrity talk shows, rubbed elbows with the biggest celebrities, the most creative entrepreneurs and dedicated much of his life to making millionaires of us all, even if only metaphorically.
The sulker in the TV room has been called “one of the most extraordinary men of our era” by no less a financial wizard than former presidential candidate Steve Forbes.
Stovall was also the 2000 International Humanitarian of the Year. That puts him in the same company as Jimmy Cater, Nancy Reagan and Mother Teresa.
There is nothing fake, nor fictitious, about Jim Stovall.
One of those he met on his journey about 20 years ago was Harland Stonecipher of Ada, founder of Pre-Paid Legal Services.
Stonecipher and Stovall are credited with creating entirely new industries with their vision, self-determination and faith.
Stovall said he and Stonecipher were a lot alike. Stovall created the Narrative Television Network by creating an unheard-of concept once he became aware of the need.
Stonecipher, who brought Stovall to Ada for the free presentation, talked about Stovall’s willingness to not only walk the talk, but walk the walk.
When a member of the audience asked Stovall why he had agreed to come to Ada, he responded quickly.
“Because of Harland Stonecipher. I'd fly to two moons over Jupiter, if it was for this man,” he said.
He went on to praise Stonecipher’s courage and resolve in overcoming his own personal tragedies.
Truthful yarns pour out of Stovall like water and his message resonates equally among young and old.
Within minutes, he comes a cross as your friend.
One of the first things he does is give you his home phone number. It’s in all his books. In case you want to talk to him, dial 918-627-1000.
He probably won’t be there when you call, but he promised the audience he returns every phone call.
A group of eighth-grade boys from nearby Stratford sat spellbound as Stovall spoke. Afterward, one of them said, “I thought that was fantastic.” The kids around him nodded enthusiastically in agreement.
In another section, grown men and women gave Stovall a standing ovation, many with tears in their eyes.
Stovall is a tall man and a two-time former national champion weightlifter. He was an Olympic qualifier in 1980, the same year the U.S. boycotted because of Russia's invasion of Afghanistan.
Real-life millionaires — and he knows hundreds of them — are owners of small businesses with average skills and intelligence.
What they have that most don’t is a great belief in what they’re doing and how it creates value for other people. They find skilled and creative people to insert into their teams, each person adding a little different value than the other.
Stovall said if the rest of his team left, he wouldn’t know how to do many of the things he hires them to do.
Failure seems to be little more than falling behind 2-0 early in a basketball game.
He reminded his audience that most of us in our lifetimes will make more than $1 million, but that money will mostly work to make other people rich.
He suggests getting out of debt as quickly as possible and making our dollars work for us instead of someone else.
He says you have to learn how to make your dollars work, build a common-sense portfolio and discover how to invest. If any one of the three are missing, you won’t become a millionaire.
One other point that Stovall makes is that it is not a choice — your money is going to work for somebody.
The money, he says, isn't what’s important. It’s what it can do for you, for others and the world.
He got started creating the Narrative Television Network, another amazing story which will appear in Tuesday’s edition of The Ada News.
Contact Art Lawler at email@example.com.