At the age of nine, Harris Williams had already experienced the joy of making profits by doing something he loved. An avid fisherboy, Harris started selling the fish he loved to catch in the lakes and bays that surround his hometown of Sarasota. Soon he began teaching people how to fish. Before long he had become one of the youngest fishing guides in the state of Florida, with an established commercial fishing venture of his own before entering high school.

As a young teen, Harris found other pleasures he could share, delighting in teaching people to water-ski and windsurf. He was enchanted by the joy he found he could give others simply by sharing the things he loved. Working as a fishing guide and water sports teacher for vacationers also gave him his first lifestyle lesson.

“I saw how hard people worked and how little time they had to really enjoy their lives. From a very young age, I knew that’s not where I wanted to go, not the way I wanted to live—to wait for those precious two or three weeks a year to live the kind of lifestyle I wanted.”

His parents shared this dilemma. His dad, an editor for a subsidiary of the New York Times, worked long hours. His mother, a banker, was also tied down to her job. The furthest from home they ever ventured for vacations, says Harris, was “going over a bridge and spending one week in a little beach hotel—the year’s other two vacation weeks were spent painting the house and mowing the yard.”

His grandfather led a different kind of life, however: as owner of his own roofing business, he worked hard but loved his freedom.

“He lived his life with passion. He loved the outdoors. Even though he didn’t make a lot of money, he owned his own life.” His grandpa spent much of his free time with Harris, teaching him about the outdoors, about fishing—and about the benefits of working for yourself.

Fit for Entrepreneurship

Harris’s inclination to do what he loved while helping others and making a profit led him to the fitness industry fresh out of high school. Harris linked up with a new idea (which many considered crazy at the time) and the man behind it: Arthur Jones, developer of the Nautilus circuit training concept.

Jones became an important mentor for Harris and taught him a powerful lesson in the value of partnership.

“You can either work for me or with me,” said Jones. “If you work for me, I’ll pay you just enough not to quit. If you work with me, you have an opportunity to earn as much as you want and understand what it takes to create a business.”

Harris took the latter opportunity. Harris put up the sweat-equity and another partner put up money for their gym. At first Harris got to do what he loved—“working for smiles, doing things that enhanced other people’s lives”—but he soon learned the human cost of running your own small business.

“I loved working out and teaching people how to enjoy doing it, too,” recalls Harris, “but there were limitations. I was stuck under one roof all day; I had to deal with attorneys, accounting, rent, employees and other headaches. Those things that had been fun, that I used to enjoy, had somehow turned into a JOB that owned me more than I owned it.”

Opportunity Knocks

One day in the early ’80s, two boys in their late teens came into Harris’s gym and told him about a type of distribution system he’d never heard of.

“They were marketing a nutritional product; to be honest, I didn’t pay a lot of attention. They were younger and earning less than I was. They were neighborhood kids with no credibility.”

But they kept coming and coming. Their persistence finally paid off: Harris went to one of their meetings.

“This was certainly an important day in my life—and theirs,” says Harris.

When Harris heard the presenters speak about all the challenges of running a business, with time schedules, employees and overhead, he felt as if they were speaking directly to him. They offered an alternative. That presentation sewed the seeds of what was to become Harris’s career and his joy for decades to come.

“These people helped me understand that there might be another model that better suited my life. They described how to create distribution, not only in the US but around the world, and to do it in such a way that I could have freedom, a chance to travel, and the opportunity to really make a difference in a lot more lives than I ever could by owning a little business in Sarasota.”

Believing and Achieving

As he worked his new business part-time for the first few years, network marketing went from being a compelling idea to being an irresistible career move. The more time he spent engaged in this new business model, the more he enjoyed it. When his part-time income grew to match his full-time income, he took the plunge and went full-time in networking. Within about four years he created his first big success.

“I knew it was important that I look at network marketing as a career, that I stay in it and focus on it as a real business. The fact that we stuck in there when we didn’t have immediate success is key.”

The “we” are those two young men who corralled Harris to his first presentation, plus another gentleman who attended that very same presentation. Harris describes him as “down and out, clothed in thrift shop wear and speaking very little English, having jumped the Romanian Iron Curtain with his wife and son, and filled with a sense of unlimited possibilities in this ‘land of freedom.’”

Today, 21 years later, each of those four are financially independent and have accumulated tens of millions of dollars from their work with different companies.

“Our society’s ‘I want it now’ mentality keeps many people from earning a lifestyle of their dreams,” laments Harris. “The tendency is to treat this as a lottery. People want it easy; they don’t want to have to pay the price.”

“To become a boat captain, I spent years being tested and getting the hours I needed as mate—all in all, a three-and-a-half-year process. Most people spend at least four years building their vocation, but in this profession, some think that if they don’t get it in 30, 60, or 90 days, it didn’t work. What really happened is that they didn’t work, at least not for the long term.”

Honor Your Partner

A consummate team player, Harris extols the virtues of network marketing as one would a team sport.

“It’s all about the team,” he explains. “It’s not about me. People want to be part of a team—a winning team.” He builds trust with his new team members by proving to them that he is there for them. “I don’t care if it’s an 18-year-old just starting out or an 80-year-old who is retired, I’m there for them if they truly want to work, are focused and coachable.”

Harris attracts new partners by telling his own story, focusing on benefits and explaining what the industry has done for him. He likes to “keep it third-party”:

“I’m looking for partners; who do you know who would be interested in secondary income? In looking, feeling younger?” It’s fascinating, says Harris, how many folks respond to that question by saying, “That’s me! I’d be interested!”

“I don’t refer to ‘my’ downline or ‘my’ distributors. First of all, they don’t belong to me; they own their own lives and their own businesses. Secondly, these are my partners and I honor them as such.”

Teaching How to Fish…Again

Harris has an insatiable appetite for helping others enjoy their lives. For each new business partner, he designs an individualized life/business plan to meet his or her greatest desires.

“So often we try to make people into who we are, convincing them to do what works for us. I develop a plan that works for that person. The how-tos are the easy part; it’s the why that is critical. Before I can help someone, I have to know what makes him tick. What’s driving him to do this business? If money and time were no object, where would he live? Where would his kids go to school? What would he do for himself? What is most important to him about his family? Community? Personal and spiritual development?”

It saddens Harris to notice how many people have lost the ability to dream. When he probes, he uncovers three areas of desire that seem to be universal: to be healthy, to have financial freedom, and most of all to have peace of mind.

“People don’t want to be running on a treadmill to oblivion. Most people are looking for balance and a way to get there.”

Harris shows the way by being a model. Like his grandfather, he always worked diligently, but also lived a lifestyle of freedom—and showed it. In his earlier years, this resulted in not finishing college because of jaunts he took to exotic places. Now, he shares about the exotic places he’s lived: at the ocean in Newport Beach; on the desert in Scottsdale; part-time in Hong Kong; in Park City, Utah, the Caribbean, Costa Rica.

These days he hosts prospective business partners at his beach retreat on Siesta Key near his hometown of Sarasota and at his ranch retreat on a mountain bluff in the Rockies. While gazing over Denver from his 4000-square-foot deck, chipping up to his own green, playing croquet on his favorite home course, or dropping by his horse stables, Harris’s greatest hope is to help his guests to shift their state and see what’s possible; to give them an idea of how they can create and design their own lives based on what they want, and let go of just making a living to try and get by.

From Retirement to Community-Building

Having started his network marketing career in his early 20s, Harris was able to retire in his 30s. A few years later he got a call from someone he trusted and respected. This friend shared, the way Harris had for so many years with so many others, about an opportunity that had touched his heart and had the promise of helping many. To Harris, it sounded like the right people with the right mission, the right resources and the right heart, coming together to do this business in the right way. And the timing was right for Harris to come out of retirement and join in this new venture.

“For me, it was a lot more about their mission and vision that got me to come out, and their focus on community and sharing in ownership. I wanted to be part of a community of like-minded people where I could help by bringing my understanding of the profession, and maybe some wisdom from what I’d learned over the years to make a contribution.

“What’s big for me is to give people the kind of awareness that puts the smile back on their face, gives them the ability to be curious again, and to believe that they can shift their health to a better state and improve their self-development and their financial development. To attract the people who are looking to make a change and to be there for them. To be there as a mentor, and hopefully to coach them to get to where they want to go. That’s what gets me up in the morning and why I’m back at work in this great profession.”