The bull market

Peter Lowe explains how to succeed in business without really trying: First, find 20,000 suckers Photographs by Mark Graham

Glen, who sells wholesale eyewear and is just finishing his breakfast of three eggs, ham, sausage, and hash browns, tells me not to expect any epiphanies from the day's events. "If you can get a few pearls, something that keeps you motivated in your everyday life," then the seminar will be a success, he says. I thank Glen for his advice and think about eating the roll he leaves behind. But it's nearly 8 a.m. and time to make the trek to Reunion.

Rush-hour traffic being what it is, I am one of the first to arrive at the arena. Looking around, I notice a half-dozen TV monitors and two large screens projecting an image of the empty stage. A hint at the day's patriotic theme can be gleaned from the red, white, and blue Peter Lowe logo hoisted high overhead. A fog machine begins to cloud the stage, giving it a disco feel.

Then, from nowhere, a slight man in a black double-breasted suit approaches me. Other than his red hair and a passing resemblance to Jerry Seinfeld, he looks like the kind of guy you never spoke to in high school. Only it is Peter Lowe, America's No. 1 Success Authority. He is a merely affable man whose presence takes more significance only after he begins to speak about his work. His eyes bug and his voice elevates an octave as he tells me how he started by giving speeches about 17 years ago to a handful of people. Then, in 1988, he matched up with the irrepressible godfather of motivation, Zig Ziglar, and his career began to take off; that is, until he skyrocketed to the next level of success in 1993, when he convinced a reluctant Ronald Reagan to speak at his seminars. Once he secured Reagan, all the president's men followed: Gerald Ford, George Bush, James Baker, Oliver North, Colin Powell. His seminars feature a medley of world leaders, entertainers, broadcasters, sports figures, and motivational speakers who are themselves motivated by the hefty speaker fees Lowe pays them. (Ziglar reportedly gets $30,000 a pop.)

A well-appointed fiftyish woman interrupts Lowe's historical account and gives him an awkward hug. A glimmer of recognition brightens his face. "I told him to get out of this business years ago," says the woman. "Thank God, he didn't listen."

Lowe quickly excuses himself, tells me to enjoy the opening ceremonies. The arena is still filling up, but there's a tight schedule. Christian singer Babbie Mason enters the stage and sings a gospelized version of "The Star Spangled Banner." As she gets to the part about the rockets' red glare, fireworks leap from the floor of Reunion--an eye-popping spectacle of sizzling reds, whites, and blues. The pyrotechnics do their job, grabbing the crowd by the throat and demanding it wake up or else.

The "or else" is Tamara Lowe, master of ceremonies, "Peter's adoring wife," and head cheerleader for what will soon become a pep rally for prosperity.

"Good morning Dallas!"
"Good morning," the crowd echoes.
"You are the metroplex's best and the brightest. Its movers and shakers. You are the business owners. One out of five of you already are making over $100,000 a year."

If that's true, I wonder, why do we need this seminar?
She must have heard me. "You want a motivating, educating, life-giving event. If that's true for you, say yes."

"Yes!" the crowd hollers back.
She continues in her pump-up-the-volume, singsong delivery. "I want you to give these speakers the greatest response they have ever had." She incites the masses to leap to their feet, stand on their chairs, stomp and shout and generally make a spectacle of themselves. She even has them practice. Twice. The decibel level is deafening.

"Ladies and gentlemen," she hollers. "Would you put your hands together for Ann Richards?"

The warm-up obviously worked; the ovation is through the roof. Richards looks radiant, her silver hair as luminous as the day she gave her famous keynote speech at the 1988 Democratic National Convention. "Let me begin by quoting that great director and child-rearing expert Woody Allen, who said that 90 percent of success is just showing up...You don't have to be the best person for the job. You just have to make people believe you're the best person available at the time."

Already the audience is hers for the plucking. Failure, she suggests, is the key to success. "You learn something from every failure...You do the best you can, and then let God and let go."

What she avoided telling us were the lessons she had learned from her own political failure--her defeat as an incumbent by a rookie politico with a fancy pedigree. It's one thing to be a salesman and get rejected when you make a cold call; it's another matter to get rejected by an entire state. Despite the benefit this information might offer those assembled, no comeback secrets are revealed, no dark days of the soul shared.

Instead Richards turns her attention toward health. She tells us she is strengthening her bone density, lifting weights. She has cut back on fats and carbohydrates. "I always have the dressing on the side and never eat red meat. I am determined to make my body strong." And she enlists the crowd to do the same. "It's the God's truth. If I can, you can too."

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