In An American Journey, entrepreneur Mal Mixon explains why who you are is really a collection of your life’s experiences. If you are curious about things and like people, it will do a lot to develop yourself professionally. It did for Mixon. Along with his “can do” attitude, he pulled himself out of obscurity, got his MBA from Harvard Business School, survived service in the Vietnam War, was triumphant over cancer and a stroke, and built an impressive investment history of 100 deals and a record of giving back.

Here is how he accomplished it all, and how you can be inspired to rise up from humble origins to be a successful entrepreneur.

  • Raise the bar for yourself — you will learn how much mettle you have - When Mal Mixon had graduated from high school, in many ways he thought he was just an above-average student from a small town in rural Oklahoma, and couldn’t hold a candle next to students educated at fancy prep schools. He eventually proved himself wrong. Although it took some time, he constantly raised the bar for ...
  • The funny thing was, Dad was right about defending my honor as I started dating - Adolescence has never been a walk in the park. This time of great changes in a person as he or she approaches adulthood has received more than its share of books, movies, TV shows and the like. What guidance you receive from your parents can play a large part in these formative years. Mal Mixon ...
  • One day it may just come to you: you want to be a self-employed businessperson - How you feel about work will control your career. Some folks have an inclination to be self-employed, and others would rather follow someone else’s lead. Still other folks mix it up; starting a career working at a company and when the time is right, decide to start a business. The beauty of the situation is ...
  • Invest in your people, but learn when to cut them loose if needed - When is it time to keep at it? When is it time to move on? Mal Mixon reminds the readers that these questions are the property of leaders. Ironically, many people in a leadership role don’t have a lot of knowledge about leadership. Many times, leaders may just imitate the executive they worked under before. ...
  • Mal makes a major sale after delving into the customer’s needs - After Mal Mixon finished Harvard Business School, he started as assistant controller for the Seybold Division of Harris Intertype Corp. selling high-quality printing presses among other duties. It was there that Mal discovered his talent as a salesman. It took a little doing, but he seemed to have a knack for it. Here is his ...
  • Be resolute; you will be amazed at what can happen - Ever hear of a short-timer’s attitude? Well, it’s that attitude the men and women in the armed forces often get when their stint is about up, and you don’t want to get killed so close to finishing your tour of duty. Mal Mixon experienced it, but he knew he could make it through. It goes ...
  • With a little help from Paul Harvey, Dirt Devil sales exploded - The second major acquisition that Mal Mixon completed was for Royal Appliance Manufacturing Co. of Cleveland. He had been approached by an investor who dangled a $4 million price tag in front of Mal, and Mal, who didn’t have any money to invest since it was only two years after he bought Invacare, still was ...
  • ‘What business are we in?’ Mal asked, and helped form his vision - When Mal Mixon first walked around the company he had just purchased, he knew he had to discover the corporate identity. He went around from associate to associate and asked the same question. It helped him set the stage for Invacare’s growth and his future acquisitions. -:-  I asked, “What business are we in?” The ...
  • Mal Mixon banned the use of the word ‘can’t’ — and it paid off - Mal Mixon wanted to have a company that was his own, and once he acquired Invacare, it was time to roll out all the skills he had been accumulating throughout his career — and indeed, his life. One of the early meetings became the setting for a teaching experience. It also was an opportunity for ...
  • Every part of the Invacare purchase story is astounding - Chapter 7 of An American Journey is titled “The Amazing Invacare Story,” and it is truly an amazing story. The first name that was chosen for the chapter was “The Invacare Story: Fulfilling the Dream.” A later idea was that since Mal Mixon was facing challenges at many times in his life, each chapter would ...