I have always been a tinkerer...

As a teenager living in Mountain View, CA, I was fascinated with cars and everything about them, especially car electronics and car stereos. One day I was installing a car stereo in my father’s 1980 Blazer and I realized I was missing something I needed to complete the job.  I headed down to Dealer’s Car Stereo in Los Altos and went in asking for a very specific part. The sales manager wondered how I knew what to ask for, so I explained that I was doing the installation myself.  The store’s owner happened to be in listening distance and, after I gave him a chance to see my work , he offered me a job. It was while working at Dealers Car Stereo that I met the person who taught me the concept ‘paying it forward’.

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His name was Cliff Goldstone and he was one of Dealer’s Car Stereo’s best customers. He was encountering problems with a very expensive stereo that was installed before I was hired. Since he was such a valued customer, his satisfaction was crucial. My manager asked if I could solve the problem. I knew I could, but it would take three days to complete the work because I needed to take the installation apart completely and put it back together again correctly. My manager was horrified, telling me I could not ask to keep this man’s brand new Porsche 928 for three days. He reluctantly asked Cliff it this was OK. Cliff agreed, under the condition that it would be the last time he brought in his car about this problem.

I used my three days, taking the entire stereo system out and reinstalling it, piece by piece. When I was finished, everything worked perfectly. Cliff came to pick up his car and was so impressed with my work. Then and there, he offered me a job in his San Francisco company West Coast Communications. I would be installing mobile phones and two-way radios, this was 1981.

I was so excited that I immediately accepted the offer and ran home to tell my parents. When they found out the job was in San Francisco, they told me I could not borrow any of their cars to get there.  As I did not own a car myself I was crushed. I called Cliff to tell him I could not take the job. He said, “Tony, if your parents don’t want you driving their cars to San Francisco then I will let you drive one of mine.”

This was the first of many opportunities Cliff gave me that helped me grow as a person and expand my career. He believed in me and my abilities, and became one of my key life coaches. Each time I asked what I could do to repay him for all his help, he always replied, “When you are in a place where you can do something to help someone else, do it. That is all I want from you.”

Cliff passed away from an unexpected heart attack in 1985.  His life lesson of giving was so engrained in me that I started making donations to charities each year in the names of my friends and family.  This holiday giving began after I sold one of my business ventures in 1995 and I decided to give myself financially, as my time had become a precious resource. In 1997, I started a charitable trust that will grow during my lifetime and be allocated to charities when I pass.  In the past 20+ years, I have donated over $3 million to various charities and charitable trusts, and I will continue to donate my time and money to great causes.

The reason you are reading this story is to hopefully gain some insight into the core of who I am. I have always tried to do whatever I can to help others, through giving advice, loaning a car, a spare room or offering assistance in some way, financial or otherwise. This has been, and will continue to be, my way of life. It is my hope that those whom I have helped will strive to do the same for others and continue to “Pay it Forward”