The year 1988 was a horrible year (Annus horribilis). Eric Arturo Del Valle, the constitutional President of Panama, was ousted by General Manuel Antonio Noriega, a.k.a. The Man. Del Valle decided to remove Noriega from the Panama Armed Forces, but instead, Noriega bounced back and got rid of him. Del Valle sought diplomatic asylum in the former Panama Canal Zone and traveled to the United States where he fought Noriega’s regime until his end on December 1989 with a U.S. invasion.
During that time, I was working at Compañía Colonial de Seguros, S.A. as a Comptroller making a decent salary. I was part of the Middle-Middle class of the country, with my car, nice home and all the perks of a Comptroller in an important insurance company.
Since the economic conditions in Panama were dire, as a result of the political disruption created by the separation of the constitutional president, my contract was terminated and I joined the long lines of unemployed workers in the country. The psychological blow was so hard, I had a stress attack and ended up in the hospital. I couldn’t accept the fact that I was jobless and that there was not the slightest possibility of getting a job to put food on the table. Through a good friend of my wife, I was recruited to become an Amway Distributor. They said so many nice things about the self-employed program, that I easily swallowed the pill and really thought I could become an Amway millionaire.
We worked hard to build a network marketing business. Even though the country was in dire straits, we were able to build a network of over 104 distributors selling Amway products through the organization. I remember working between 15 and 18 hours a day. I was responsible for making the sales pitch of the Amway system to recruit distributors, and my wife was responsible for moving Amway products. We were very good at what we did. I never thought I had the skills of a sales rep, but “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do”.
In a year’s time, we broke Direct Distributor and Ruby Direct Distributor in the same month, plus all the different sales levels down the ladder. We had fire in our belly and our enthusiasm to become a millionaire had become an obsession. After a year we were making about $1,800 per month, which was about half of what I earned at the insurance company. It was enough to pay the bills and eat three times a day. We thanked God for what we had. I will never forget those Amway times when we had to sweat our days to earn a living.
Fortunately, in 1989 Noriega was gone and Panama recovered its breath. We went back to Democracy, and under the leadership of President Guillermo Endara Galimany, the country licked its wounds and started a slow economic recovery. Guillermo “Billy” Ford gave me a job as Chief Internal Auditor at the Ministry of Economics and Planning with a salary of $2,000 per month. Sanity had returned to our home; the “good all days” were back, and the rest is history.
Below are my Amway awards and the official certificates of Amway Direct Distributor and the prestigious Amway Ruby Direct Distributor. Both were earned the hard way. We learned so much during those calamitous years. We learned how to survive no matter what. Even in tragedy there is light at the end of the tunnel, dim as it was in our case.
Hope and persistence are two good words to keep under your pillow. They will float you high above choppy waters and bring you safely ashore. Good Day.