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Interview By Robert A. Schuller
James Malinchak (JM) is a much sought after motivational speaker and author. James was recently featured on the ABC program The Secret Millionaire. Raised in a small town in Pennsylvania, James graduated from the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and became a successful stock broker. After he began winning awards, he was soon asked to speak to others on how to grow their businesses. James has written several books, including, Success Starts with Attitude and Motivation Starts with Attitude, and are available in bookstores everywhere. Bobby Schuller (BS) interviews James.
BS: Today, it is my distinct pleasure to welcome to the Hour of Power a very sought after motivational speaker, Mr. James Malinchak. James, thank you for coming.
JM: Thank you, Bobby, thank you for having me.
BS: Now you are one of these classic all-American stories. You came from a steel mill town, and out of nothing, (I mean it sounds like my grandpa and a lot of these other stories) you have been very successful in business. You've made all sorts of money and really thrived. And now, because of this ‘ashes to riches' kind of story, you've been sought after as a motivational speaker, an author, and a writer. Tell us about your story and how that happened. How you went from sort of zero to hero.
JM: Well we didn't have much growing up. I grew up in a small steel mill town outside of Pittsburgh called Monessen, Pennsylvania. Mom was a lunch mother at the school serving lunches, and dad worked in the steel mill for over 30 years. So it wasn't like we came from anything.
But I think growing up in a small town, you start to develop certain characteristics, especially one of trying to do more and be better, and that was instilled within me. I wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed. I was a C student, which is pretty much "see your way through school." That was me. I played sports but I didn't really care much for school, to be honest.
But I always tried to be the best I could be and I think that's something that everybody can do. No matter where you're from, if you're tall or short, rich or poor, young or old, male or female; I've always wanted to be the best I could be and do whatever I could to reach to a higher level. For me, it was to get out of the steel mill town in order to try to achieve certain goals and dreams. So I took a basketball scholarship to the University of Cincinnati and after my coach ended up getting fired I transferred and graduated from the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
BS: Oh I'm sorry to hear about that. It must have been very difficult.
JM: It was tough, it was tough. But out of school, I started a career as a stock broker, because that was my dream. It was what I always wanted to do. And then a funny thing happened. I won some awards and I started getting asked to speak. And I thought what am I supposed to speak about? I had no idea.
But I just started talking and doing these motivational talks to help other folks grow their business, and one led to two and two led to three and so on, and next thing you know I'm quitting my job and doing the speaking full time because I felt really fulfilled. When someone would come up to me and say, ‘I was having a bad day and I didn't think I could make it, but something you said helped me through this.' For me, you just can't put a price on that. So I decided I wanted to do that for the rest of my life.
BS: So you became well known because you traveled around the country, speaking to many different people. Then recently, some of our viewers may recognize you from ABC's television show The Secret Millionaire. How did that happen?
JM: God works in great ways! I never auditioned for the show and I didn't go after them.
BS: What was the show about?
JM: The Secret Millionaire is about taking quote unquote millionaires out of their element, and putting them into situations they're not used to living in. They go through an entire week looking for amazing, beautiful spirited people who are making a difference in the lives of others, and at the end of the week, reveal their identity, and open up their checkbook and give them checks to support their cause.
Now I lived on $44.66 for the week in a ghetto area in Gary, Indiana. I had no credit cards, no cell phone, no money, no computer, nothing. And I think it was a God thing that happened and spoke to me because I quickly realized it wasn't about me. I needed to stay focused on the mission that I was there to do and that was to find amazing heroes and recognize them for the contributions they're doing day to day that nobody ever hears about. They don't care about recognition but that they deserve to be recognized.
So I really believe God spoke to me and said focus on why you're here. It's not about you quitting and going home. Just suck it up and make it happen.
BS: So it sounds like you even brought your philosophy of life into that moment, just trying to be the best regardless of circumstance and situation.
JM: And I have to tell you, I thought I was going to be some guy going on a television show, meeting beautiful people, writing them checks, and then I'd go home. But I can tell you, I got way more out of what I learned from these beautiful angels (I call them angels) than I believe they got out of the money I gave them. They taught me what sacrifice really is, they taught me about what it means to really care about someone else, and they taught me to just give and help people for no other reason than to help people.
I mean here we were cleaning up trash and I asked the gentlemen that I was cleaning trash up with (he was a person who'd just been released from prison after 20 years) and I asked him, ‘why do you do this?' because he's making $10 an hour but only getting paid two hours and working all day long. He pointed to a man and a woman swinging on a set of swings, and he said ‘I do it for them so that one day they can sit on that swing and they don't have to see this trash.' And I thought now that's what sacrifice and giving and serving is all about.
BS: So what I'm hearing from you is that the message of our faith should be that there is something more important in living. I mean money comes, money goes; circumstances change, but in the midst of all of that, something is more important about living.
Now you have a real personal faith in Christ and a godly life. How has faith worked into your own world view?
JM: One the greatest gifts God ever gave to me was when my sister Vickie was diagnosed with a brain tumor and the doctor said she was not going to live more than a couple of months, God gave me time to be with my sister before she passed away. A lot of people don't have that time. They lose somebody in an instant and they don't have that closure and that time to say good-bye, or tell them how much they love them and care about them. I truly believe that having that time was a blessing and the greatest gift I've ever had in my entire life. When I experienced that, it changed my whole spirit. It changed my whole life. And I realized that we didn't come into this world with anything, and we aren't leaving with anything. We might have a fancy car and a nice house, and that's fine for while we're renting space on earth, but we aren't taking it with us when we leave. So if you aren't a good person, and you don't try to help people and lift people up and give back, then what else do you have?
BS: So the experience you had with your sister has led you to create a certain number of new projects and humanitarian things. Tell us about your projects and what you're doing.
JM: Well I've written several books, and I'm writing four more right now. I want to take this millionaire mindset philosophy because the word millionaire is generally associated with money, but I believe it's also about giving and serving, and that's what I learned being on the show Secret Millionaire. It was all about serving and I don't see a lot of millionaire-type books out there that actually talk about serving.
So I've just completed one book and would love to offer it to anybody that's watching if they want to go to a special website, millionairefreebook.com. It's a free book and I'd love for your viewers to have a copy.
BS: Thanks, James. Now from your experience of just kind of coming from nothing to leading this successful life, and then that rootedness in your faith, what would you say to these people that really are stuck in a bad place?
JM: I think a few things. First of all, you've got to master a certain skill. You have to have a specialty. Get really good at something in order to earn a higher income. Then second, I believe faith moves mountains so you've got to keep the faith.
At one point in my life, I was really down and out. I turned the television on one day, and I see this TV show called the Hour of Power, by your grandfather, Dr. Schuller. He was interviewing Mark Victor Hansen, who happens to be a friend of mine now, but I didn't know at the time. Mark created a great book series with Jack Canfield called Chicken Soup for the Soul.
BS: Sure! Yes.
JM: And your grandfather and Mark were talking about challenges, overcoming things and not quitting. Now I'm down and out, and I'm really sad about my sister, and things weren't working well for me financially and professionally. But I heard your grandfather say something that has now become one of my favorite quotes: "tough times never last, tough people do."
So here I am, down and out and feeling sorry for myself and I hear him say that quote while he's interviewing Mark Victor Hansen with this Chicken Soup for the Soul thing. And after the show, I literally went right to the bookstore, got the book, started reading the book, started getting inspired and to make a long story short, I've now co-authored the book Chicken Soup for the College Soul with Jack and Mark and today they're dear friends of mine.
JM: They've even spoken for me at my seminars. Now what makes being here today special for me is I'm blessed to be here and maybe saying one thing to that somebody out there might be watching right now. And maybe, in some small way, you and I are serving them and picking them up, just like Mark and your grandfather picked me up when I was in a bad situation.
BS: James, let's hope the Hour of Power can continue to do it for 50/60 more years.
JM: Oh and many more after that. The world needs the Hour of Power.
BS: Thank you, James. We're so glad you came and we're so happy..
JM: Thank you for having me.
BS: ..to hear your story. You've been such a blessing.
JM: Thank you.
BS: James has written a number of books including, Success Starts with Attitude, and Motivation Starts with Attitude. You can get these on Amazon.com and his website, as well. In addition, if you'd like to download his free book, go to millionairefreebook.com.