By John Hedlund
An inventive man finds a broken ATM machine for sale at a garage sale.
The guy selling says "I don't know what's wrong with it but it only spits out $.25 for every dollar put into it. I know it can be fixed but I don't know how and it is just collecting dust in my garage"
"Hmmm...interesting, says the Inventive Man. What do you want for it?"
Well, right now it's not worth much but if you can get it to work it would be worth a LOT of money...it's a special ATM machine, a one-of-a-kind, you see you never have to fill it with cash or coins. "Nah, I don't believe you"...says the inventive man. "That's impossible!" I know, I know...that's what every body says and that's why it is still here, nobody believes me...but I'm telling you the truth. I've had this machine for over 10 years and I've taken thousands and thousands of dollars out of it and never had to refill it...EVER!
"Well", says the Inventive Man, "I still don't believe you but I sure would like to see what I could do with it."
"I'll tell you what", says the salesman. "I'll make you a deal. You pay me $100 a month and I'll let you have it for up to 2 years. You can give it back to me at any time before that and owe nothing more, but after 24 months you'll owe me $5,000. You'll have two years to figure out how to make it work and improve its ability to payout. If you do you'll have a machine that could be worth Millions, if not you'll only be out a few hundred dollars. How's that sound?"
"Hmmm", the Inventive Man thought to himself. He knew he had $2,000 in his savings account, so he could at least make 20 months worth of payments...and he should be able to figure it out long before than. "Ok, you've got a deal!" The Inventive Man stuck out his hand the shook the hand of the seller's.
The deal was struck, the paperwork prepared, and all parties signed on the bottom line.
The Inventive Man was very excited to bring home his new ATM machine.
But his initial excitement soon turned into frustration.
The inner workings of the ATM machine were like nothing he had ever seen before. He thought it would be easy to follow the series of mechanisms that resulted in the output of money but the whole thing was very confusing"and frankly overwhelming. So much so, in fact, that he soon lost interest in the machine and began looking for other opportunities of more interest to him. Unfortunately, the $100 a month payments continued to be deducted from his bank account.
It wasn't long before the Inventive Man had to make a decision whether he should give up on trying to figure out the ATM machine and return it and just cut his losses...or should he rededicate himself to figuring out how it works and how he can improve it.
He decided to would re-dedicate himself to fixing the broken ATM machine and threw himself completely into the project and gave up all of his other interests.
The fact that he had re-committed himself to his decision excited the Inventive Man and he found himself very motivated at this time and he knew, internally, that with this renewed focus he was bound to be successful.
So he delved into the inner workings of the ATM machine. Slowly testing different mechanisms, different voltages, circuits, and techniques to see what happens whenever he changed one element what effect it had on the other workings. He kept detailed notes on his findings. When he got stuck he sought out specialists and other experts on ATM machines, electronics, and advanced related technologies. He voraciously read everything he could find on the topics and slowly began to become rather an expert in the workings of ATM machines himself.
Gradually, but still rather painfully, he began to make progress. Finally, just after his twelfth month of working on the ATM machine, and depleting $1,200 of his $2,000 investment, he got the machine to spit out $1.00 dollar for each one he put in. He was so happy with his progress he wanted to celebrate.
However, every person that he shared his success with just looked at him like he was crazy saying "What are you thinking? You've spent a year of your time and over $1,200 dollars just to build a machine that breaks even...and you think you should now celebrate that success? Are you stupid or what? Why don't you get a REAL JOB and forget this crazy dream of building some magical ATM machine...such a machine does NOT exist and you are only wasting your time and your life on a silly dream."
This reaction from his closest friends and family was very disconcerting and troubled the Inventive Man greatly. He thought to himself "am I really a stupid person for thinking I could fix this ATM machine?" But he knew he wasn't stupid, in fact he knew how much more he has learned in the last year and was proud of the progress he has made and wondered why it was so difficult for other people to understand and appreciate what he saw as a 'success'?
He knew the ATM Machine was only breaking even right now but he was confident he was on the right path and that continued progress was certainly forthcoming. He was determined to continue on his quest.
Unfortunately, life often gets in the way of even the best intentions and plans.
He received a call from his Mother that his Dad was ill and needed emergency medical help. They didn't have the money to cover the expenses and wanted to know if he could help.
The Inventive Man checked his bank account. He only had $800 left. If he gave them all he had he would have to give back the ATM Machine as well as his dream. He thought to himself "If I could only get the ATM Machine to work better I could put in $100 into the ATM and perhaps get back $200, $500, perhaps even $1,000! Then I could pay for my Dad's medical needs AND still have enough left over." But, that was still in the future and his Dad's medical condition required the funds right NOW.
So he decided to take $500 from his savings and give to his parents and do his best to finish the work on his ATM Machine within the next 3 months using the $300 he had left in his savings account.
But once again, life got in the way. His father's treatment was working but it was not immediate. The Inventive Man spent many days and nights worrying about his Father's condition and he longed to spend as much time with him as possible, knowing it could be soon be the last opportunity to do so.
Unfortunately, as a result of all of this his time spent on improving the output of the ATM Machine was very limited...and his already limited funds were quickly disappearing. He began asking his friends and siblings if they would like to invest in project but all they could do is ridicule him for continuing on with this ridiculous dream...remembering his previous excitement just about breaking even.
Again feeling depressed, concerned about his Father's ongoing condition and realizing his life's savings is drawing closer to zero...he says a prayer. He asks God to help him with his burden, to reveal to him what he is supposed to learn from this struggle, to show him the path he should take, and too accept whatever the outcome as God's will and his own destiny. With that prayer the Inventive Man falls off to sleep.
During his sleep the Inventive Man begins dreaming. His mind is working subconsciously on the multitude of electrical connections, transistors, switches, gears, and ratios. Images and ideas he never considered before begin exploding in his thoughts. New revelations and how to manipulate the inner workings of the machine for greater output become clear to him as never before. He awakes with a burst of energy and begins to scribble down his thoughts and drawings afraid that if he stops to breathe the ideas will be like a leaf lost in a fall wind.
As he finishes his last notes he jumps out bed and hurries down to his work area where the ATM Machine lays waiting in a glimmering light. He's not sure if it is his blood shot eyes adjusting to the bright light but he thinks the machine appears to have a glow or even a halo surrounding it.
Excitedly, he begins to redesign the mechanisms according to his new ideas received by him during his dream state. As he works, he remembers asking God for help the night before and praises God for his newly found inspiration. The thought endows him with confidence that his new design will work.
It is now his last month and his last $100 is removed from his bank account leaving him with a zero balance. Although disturbed by this knowledge he laughs to himself thinking "Well at least my monthly statements will be easy to reconcile for awhile now!"
Knowing that he is running out of time he makes the last improvements and restores the connectors and plugs the ATM Machine into the socket. The machine makes a whirling sound, a chug, and click and then a green LED lite glowed indicating "all systems are GO.".
Excitedly, he feels in his pocket for his money and realizes he only has a one dollar bill in his wallet. If he puts this into the machine and only gets $.25 back he'll have lost 75% of all that he has left. However, if he doesn't invest the money into his idea, his invention, he will certainly lose the dollar to something else...like buying groceries or some other frivolous expense...he smirks a crinkled grin.
With tightness in his stomach and a shaking hand he takes his last dollar and slides it into the ATM...it spits it back out as if saying..."are you SURE you want to risk your last dollar on your belief in your ability to make a difference?" Thinking that he didn't come this far just to stop now...he flips the dollar over and with more conviction than before inserts it back into the ATM Machine.
Out the bottom of the machine comes a crisp clean TEN DOLLAR bill!
Ha ha! exclaims the Inventive Man "IT WORKS!"
To make sure he takes the $10 bill and inserts it back into the machine...
Out comes the beautiful picture of Benjamin Franklin on a pristine $100 dollar bill!
"YES!" Shrieks the Inventive Man as he grabs the $100 bill and holds it up into the light to see if it possesses the necessary watermark, woven security threads, and clear lettering and printing of an authentic US Currency. "It's perfect" he exclaims and puts it into his pocket.
It's time to celebrate!
Realizing, as he looks down at his watch, that it is 2:45 a.m. and that he had worked through the night without ever stopping to eat, his stomach responded with groans and waves of hunger pains as he soon found himself famished.
Too late, or too early depending upon how one chose to look at it, to invite any friends to celebrate with him, he decided to head out for a celebratory meal all by himself.
His favorite 24 hour cafÃ was within walking distance and the Inventive Man soon found himself almost skipping as he glided down the sidewalk with a bounce in his step that he hadn't felt since he was a kid.
He entered the cafÃ with a confidence that seemed to energize the entire room as a sleepy waitress suddenly stood at attention and smiled back at the Inventive Man. "Dinner for one please" he informed the waitress.
"Right this way Sir" as she led him to a table by the window. "You seem to be pretty happy for this early hour" she inquired. "Happy? Yes, happy"indeed I am"in fact I am VERY HAPPY. Thanks for noticing. I'm here to celebrate a life changing event"at least for my life"I hope.
"Well, that's wonderful Sir. I'm very glad for you. Now, what can I get you?"
The Inventive Man ordered his favorites and washed it down with a Vanilla Shake which he used to smooth and cool his coffee"just how he liked it.
The dinner was so wonderful and the hostess so nice he took out his shiny new $100 bill and handed it to the waitress and said "Thank you for your great service. The meal was terrific and I want you to keep the change!"
The astonished waitress smiled and then in disbelief said "Oh, I could not accept that." But the Inventive man smiled and said "No, I insist take it." As she did she wept slightly as the gesture touched her deeply knowing she also prayed to God the previous night asking for his help to relieve the financial stress she was experiencing in her and her children's lives.
The Inventive Man smiled with an unspoken understanding and stepped out into the cool air for the brisk walk back home.
As he neared his house he stopped to pick up his mail. Glancing through the letters and bills he noticed a letter with the return address of the man who had sold him the ATM Machine"all of sudden the deliciously full meal he had just eaten felt like a load of rocks in his stomach as his upbeat confident stature soon bent over in a heave of exhaustion.
"I had forgotten all about that $5,000 balloon payment" The 2 years was now up and he now owed the seller $5,000 or he had to return the ATM Machine.
He suddenly realized how foolish he was to have given the waitress his last dollar. "Now I don't have any money to put into the ATM Machine! How stupid could I be?" And with the mention of the word "stupid" all of the pride and joy he had earlier felt for his success quickly faded away as he realized he would have to ask once again for assistance from his friends and relatives to save him from losing his new found wealth generator.
The Inventive Man thought to himself "But it should be different now. The machine works for goodness sakes. It spits out $10 for every $1 you put in. Anybody should be able to understand that investing in such a machine is a safe, if not guaranteed return."
So the Inventive Man began talking with his friends and relatives. He explained that because the machine gives a 10 times return on money invested he only needs to borrow $500. He explained that if he was given only $500 he can turn it into $5,000 almost instantly.
As logical as this seemed to him there was nobody willing to borrow him the money. As time began to run out before he would have to give back, his now much improved ATM Machine, his pleas for assistance sounded more like the urgent request of a dope dealer rather than that of a sound businessman which made people even more leery of borrowing him the needed money.
As a result, he was not able to pay off the $5,000 balloon payment and the Seller came by and picked up the ATM Machine. He was completely amazed at the improvements the Inventive Man had made and was thrilled to find out that the machine he now owns again spits out $10 for each $1 invested. The Seller exclaimed "How can you let such a valuable resource come back to me after you put 2 years of your life and all of your savings into making such incredible improvements to it?"
The Inventive Man could not speak. He didn't know what he could say. He didn't know what felt worse, that fact that he had come so close to realizing his dream, that now he had to start over with nothing"or that his friends and family had such little faith and belief in him. All he knew for sure was that he was in a lot of pain.
He looked down at his feet to hide the shame and sorrow on his face. Soon drops of wetness fell upon his sneakers below"plop, plop plop"he shook his head, covers his face, and begins to cry.
It was later reported in the newspaper that a local man had just sold a "Magic ATM machine" for $14 million dollars.
The Inventive Man's parents read the article and thought how proud they were of their son for being able to create such a magnificent machine. They left the article on top of the kitchen table so their son could see it when he rose from the basement bedroom where he now resides.