Rich DeVos attributed his trademark optimism to growing up in a positive atmosphere. From a father who advised him to never use the word “can’t”, to a high school teacher who wrote in his high school yearbook praising his leadership potential, Rich learned early in life the power of positivity.
His father was the first to teach Rich to see the potential in people and situations and live his life with “can” rather than “can’t.”
“Any time I’d say, ‘I can’t,’ he’d stop me and say, ‘There’s no such word as can’t,’” Rich recalled in Simply Rich. “’I can’ is a statement of confidence and power. My father always reminded me, ‘You can do it!’ Those words stuck with me and guided me for the rest of my life.”
Rich wasn’t a good student at Grand Rapids Christian High School and had been told that he shouldn’t go to college because he was unlikely to succeed. Yet one teacher, Dr. Leonard Greenway, wrote a line in his yearbook that changed his life.
“All I heard was that I wasn’t college material,” Rich recalled decades later. “Yet Dr. Greenway wrote that I had leadership ability.”
Rich later spoke about the power of that single line in him realizing his own potential, and how he could help others realize theirs. As a result, Rich spent his life and career being a motivator for people all over the world.
“I tried all my life to inspire others to use their talents and fulfill their potential,” he once said.
Rich’s interest in Jim Ayres – Amway North America Managing Director, is what led Jim to build a 35+ year career at the company.
“Rich saw people, really saw them for who they were and who they could be,” Jim recalled. “He looked for and saw the real person, the whole person and the beauty within.”
Jim said that Rich looked past race, education, country of origin and background – anything an individual might view as a barrier – to identify the potential and power within each person. From there, Rich helped everyone he met see what they had to offer and contribute.
“You can make excuses about not having the right education or experience, not coming from the right background, being afraid to attempt something new or a challenge that appears too daunting,” Rich said in what became one of his most famous speeches, “Try or Cry.” “You can sit around and cry about what you perceive as a life stacked against you, or you can try. Just try, and if you fail, try again. In my experience, trying always beats crying.”
Amway Americas Regional President Candace Matthews called this Rich’s intrinsic ability to know exactly how to inspire people to take a positive step forward.
“Rich was always encouraging, always supporting and always knew exactly what to say to make people feel special,” Candace said. “He’s done this with me and I watched him do this with others, making them feel valued and worthwhile. He was masterful at this but very sincere and genuine.”
Rich later coined this philosophy as being a “life enricher” – a phrase borrowed from Walt Disney. He felt it perfectly captured his sincere desire to help people achieve their potential.
And in Rich’s view, it all began with his father telling him “You can do it” and Rich repeating that phrase wherever he went, to everyone he met.
“My encouraging phrase ‘You can do it’ has become a slogan repeated around the world in the Amway business,” Rich wrote in Simply Rich. “That positive phrase has been carried around the world to people who have likely been told they cannot do much of anything.”
Rich passed away September 6, 2018. To learn more about Rich’s life or to share how he may have inspired you, visit www.RichDeVos.com.