Raised in California as the son of a minister, Skip Ross followed his father's path, attending seminary and becoming a Church Minister of Youth and Music. His love of music and children gave him plenty of satisfaction--but not enough money to pay the bills.
He picked up a few music gigs from time to time to help make ends meet, but there was still more month left at the end of his money. So when a college friend introduced him to network marketing, he saw it as a way to earn extra money to lighten his load.
"After three years or so working the business part-time, I went full-time," says Skip; "and it's been our sole source of income since." Skip laughs heartily and adds, "I say 'full-time,' but of course, with the freedom our type of business gives us, I do lots of other things too!"
Torn Down and Rebuilt
But Skip wasn't always laughing. When he was in his fifth year of network marketing, he hit an all time low. Although he was earning more money than he had earned in his previous ministry work (or for that matter, in his life!) he had come face-to-face with himself--and he didn't like what he saw.
"As a result of being involved with people all the time, I became aware of shortcomings in my own life, things I needed to work on, to improve." While Skip says he was "already successful, but not wildly so," he believed that he had reached the peak of what he was capable of achieving. He dropped into depression.
"I was frustrated to the point of thinking I would quit."
Then an angel sent him an opportunity to see things differently. During a network marketing event which he organized, the guest speaker spoke these words: "You have, right now, exactly what you want."
The statement's bold assertion shocked Skip. He found it incredulous--and he took it personally.
"The speaker was addressing 800 people, but I felt like he was speaking directly to me. I thought, 'This can't be true. If it were true, then I am where I am by my own design and fault...and I am responsible!'(which is now one of my favorite phrases). 'And I'm just too young to have gotten this despondent all by myself. It's got to be someone else's fault.' Like so many others in our society, I had learned to play the part of victim and as a matter of habit, automatically looked for somebody else to blame. So I set out to prove the man wrong."
Challenged by the speaker, Skip went on a quest, which in time proved to be just the opportunity to deepen his understanding of himself that he'd been needing. Despite all his training, his degree from Fuller Theological Seminary and his years of experience in the ministerial and entrepreneurial paths, Skip had never before fully explored the territory inside himself.
As he explored his own circumstances, he found that his life was falling apart; his business was suffering; and he felt isolated. He took time out to get his life back on track. For 18 months he spent three to 12 hours every day (that's seven days a week!) reading and listening to only positive sources.
"I shut out everything that had the potential for negative influence that I could think of: radio, television, newspapers, conversations, even friendships."
By listening to positive speakers and reading the classics, and especially the Bible, he discovered that he was indeed responsible. Instead of feeling more depressed about his self-imposed predicament, he felt uplifted, and recognized that he had the power to think differently, and by doing so, to change his life.
At the end of those 18 months of self-discovery, Skip emerged renewed, recommitted and re-energized. He had a different outlook on his own abilities and on the potential of all people. His business began to explode. People started asking, "Skip, what happened?! What's changed?"
Skip explains, "It wasn't the product and it wasn't the marketing plan; it was what happened inside of me."
The Power of a Mission
Skip began to teach the power of reaching for one's potential to his business associates, and his business soared. Realizing that he had found the keys to living a truly dynamic life, he felt called to share them with others, especially younger people, so that they could avoid the type of pain he had created for himself out of his limited thinking.
"If I had known as a teenager the truth of how life really was designed to be lived, I would have had far fewer problems; I would have been far better prepared for life. Now that I did have that sort of understanding, it became my goal and my dream to teach teenagers those principles in a setting they could relate to."
That setting, as Skip envisioned it, would be a special summer camp for teenagers. Putting plan to vision, Skip immediately set a target date for when he would create and open this camp of dreams. He and his wife Susan would build the camp when they'd earned enough money through their networking business to give them enough time and financial freedom to make this dream come true.
The one-time youth minister with the new entrepreneurial mission looked forward eagerly to once again having an opportunity to serve youth, this time in a far more powerful and far-reaching way than he had ever been able to accomplish in his earlier days. Driven on by the power of his vision, Skip's business surged forward, and in 1979--five years sooner than he had anticipated--his dream became a reality.
The Circle A Ranch
This summer, 25 years later, nearly 300 teens from all over the world will join the over 8000 youth who have enjoyed the Rosses' Circle A Ranch summer camp just outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Sixty beautiful acres of green rolling hills surrounded by forests, white fenced pastures, sparkling streams and hidden trails await the teens who venture forth to have an active summer camp experience in a family atmosphere, while learning from Skip's program of inspiration that has a lasting positive effect.
One summer, a psychologist doing research for his thesis tested the kids before and after their two-week camp to learn if their self-esteem improved as a result of their camp experience; 88 percent showed substantial increases.
"I knew we could affect them," says Skip, with obvious delight in his students, "but I didn't know how significantly. I was thrilled with the study's results. And it's been heart-warming to see the long-term effects on the lives of these young people as they mature. I have had the privilege of marrying several of them...and now their children are coming to camp!"
Says the Circle A Ranch web site, "The main focus at Circle A Ranch is to teach young people to reach higher levels of achievement, contribution and fulfillment, and to become all God created them to be."
Using principles from his book, Say Yes to Your Potential, Skip enjoys teaching these teens what he wished he would have known when he was their age. He has a good chuckle every summer when he tells the kids, "If it were up to me, we'd do seminars ten hours every day!" But he keeps it to two or three hours a day, and gives the kids plenty of time to enjoy the ranch horses, swimming, canoeing, fishing, tennis, soccer, softball, basketball, volleyball and more.
While some of us wait until we are learning to be successful networkers to improve our self-esteem, maintain self-motivation, set goals and accomplish them, these are the central lessons Skip teaches his young campers to "live life dynamically." The camp brochure's lead statement says it well: "A Lifetime of Motivation...For Those Who Have a Lifetime to Use It."
One of Skip's students from Texas sums up the magnificent experience Skip has created through the glory of God, with his giving heart, his sharp mind and the abundant resources afforded by his networking business:
"When I think of Circle A, I think of a place that is so dear and special to my heart that there's just no other place like it on earth. When you come here, you enter, you come onto the land, and you just feel something so different and special about this place; you feel a love. Circle A has changed my life majorly!"
A camper from New Jersey adds, "This is the place to spend a lifetime!"
Applying the Lessons of Network Marketing
How did Skip know how to design and implement the many facets of a successful camp? First, he'd had a dream as youth minister that someday he would help kids in a bigger way. Second, he set goals (often called "dreams with a deadline"!). And third, he applied skills he learned from building a successful network marketing business.
A recent project of the camp, the OFIDA project (Open Forum Into Developing Adulthood), has qualities that sound a lot like network marketing training. Toward its three-fold mission of information, inspiration and implementation, the young adults in OFIDA experience the power of balanced living as they study, apply and then live the principles of success, the tools of time management, the joy of people skills, the focus of goal-setting and the momentum that is generated from proper motivation.
"Much of what we learned in the course of developing a large network marketing business we have applied to the process of the camp, where we seek to teach the kids those concepts. They are good people skill concepts, right-thinking concepts. Kids need to be mentored in those things."
The network marketing profession has been an instructive path for Skip, and the youth who attend his camp have learned to lead better lives because of it. Principles we learn in our profession, such as confidence and self-esteem, duplication and edification, are modeled and taught.
One of Skip's programs, "Multiplication Through Personal Duplication," is taught and exemplified by modeling the principles of "Dynamic Living," which explicates how to live a well adjusted life in six areas: future career, home, social, physical, mental and spiritual.
"Edification" is part of the program for everyone, not just one's upline. One of the camp mottos is: "Building One Another Up at All Times."
Skip and his wife could live a life of leisure, doing whatever they like with the riches they've made in network marketing. Indeed, one could scarcely say the Ross family has been deprived; for example, they purchased an antebellum Southern plantation home when Susan fell in love with the property after noticing it in the pages of the opulent Robb Report. They realized that this home was the fulfillment of a dream picture they had placed on their bedroom mirror more than 20 years earlier.
But for Skip and Susan, the true riches are the results of his work with young adults. His greatest investments in life are helping teens to discover and live up to their potential.
"If I had learned how to say yes to my potential as a young boy," says Skip, "I would not have had to start from scratch as a man. When young people realize how very special they are, when they learn how to direct their lives and set their goals, they can accomplish anything they set out to do."
And there is no better illustration of the principle than the life of the man teaching it.