Bouncing Back

Book Review:
“Bouncing Back”
by Bill Bartmann.
An Autobiography
With Jonathan Rozek

As the title implies, Bill Bartmann tells of his personal experiences with overcoming adversity and “bouncing back” from defeat and misfortune.

Bill Bartmann grew up as one of 8 children, in dire poverty. At age 14, Bartmann ran away from home, dropped out of school and joined the carnival.  He lived on the streets, joined a gang and ate out of dumpsters.

At age 17 he was a full fledge alcoholic and after he fell down the stairs drunk, he crushed his spine and became paralyzed from the waist down. Doctors told him it was hopeless and that he would never walk again.

He didn’t listen to them and fought hard to end his paralysis.

Against all odds, he secured a job at a slaughterhouse killing pigs and used the money to put himself through school, college and law school. Then he started a real estate business and made millions.

Then he lost it all in the oil crisis and carefully planned his own suicide.

Yet he never gave up and started a new business from scratch.  He built it into a multi-billion-dollar business and became the 25th wealthiest person in America.
His company grew at more than a 15,000 percent annual rate and became the the subject of a Harvard Business School case study.

Then, over a 72 hour period, he lost his life savings again – this time more than $3.5 billion and had to declare personal bankruptcy. He was then indicted by the US Attorney General on 57 counts of felony and faced 600 years in prison.

Bartmann still never gave up.
He a) faced into his adversity, b) didn’t waste his energies blaming anyone for what happened to him, c) learned from every experience, d) appreciated his true blessings, his skills, his family, his genuine friends, e) found ways to keep giving of himself to others and d) worked hard, strategically and creatively on a plan to succeed.

He won.

He was cleared of all charges and started his life over again.
Bill Bartmann is the personification of the “Six Steps to Overcoming Adversity”.

Bartmann went from being a gang member to a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee; from a paralyzed alcoholic to a successful member of society; from a bankruptcy to a self-made billionare and named one of the top 100 entrepreneurs of the last 100 years; from facing 600 years in prison to having the freedom to rebuild his business and start again.

Bartmann’s biography proves, beyond all doubt, that there is nothing we cannot overcome. His story inspired me beyond words.

The following anecdote shows how he doesn’t waste his energy on holding grudges:

A few years after he won his case against the government, he happened to meet the Attorney General John Ashcroft who asked him:  “Where are you from?”
“I’m from Tulsa”.
“Oh really? We had a big case there a few years ago.”
“Yes. I know. It was mine” said Bill.
Then he continued: “Mr. Ashcroft, you know full well – and you knew then – that I was innocent. Your actions cost 3,900 people their jobs and cost me $3.5 billion, not to mention the enormous anguish on the part of my family.
Mr. Ashcroft, I came here for one reason – to forgive you.”

Then he turned around and walked away.

Forgiving and letting go of grudges is a huge part of making a comeback and overcoming adversity. As Bartmann writes “I did it for myself, not for him.”

Bartmann continues: “I never felt bulletproof or invincible, even at the height of my wealth, or after winning against the government…. My core really is my family and my health. If I have that, then absolutely everything else is rebuildable.”

This book is a must-read for every entrepreneur in the business world, and anyone who wants to be inspired to overcome adversity.