Allan Holender is not only an entrepreneur but at the age of 69, he has become, of all things, a Zentrepreneur. To understand what that means one needs to have some idea of where Allan came from – and how he arrived at this stage of his life. The road has been long and winding with more than its share of bumps along the way.
The first one came early. Allan’s mother contracted Rubella while she was pregnant with him, and as a result, her son was born with congenital cataracts. From the age of seven, both eyes developed a film over them. He remembers, “It was like looking through a fog. This had a profound effect on my life and growth as a child. I was embarrassed to participate in anything that required visual acuity, although I loved sports.”
Allan’s problems with his vision often left him feeling inadequate. One way he dealt with those feelings was by becoming the class clown.
“Every laugh became approval,” he says. “I got recognition and, despite the fact I was called often to the principal’s office, it didn’t matter to me because it was more important to be part of the gang than to respect authority.”
At the age of 13, Allan received an experimental operation on one eye, which may have worked if he had heeded his physician’s advice and refrained from sports for one year. Instead, he played and the result was a hemorrhage in the one eye, which caused blindness. In the aftermath of this traumatic event, Allan found strength.
“I was wallowing in self-pity when I felt this incredible warm embrace like a hundred healing hands,” he says. “I went to my parents’ room, put my arms around them and said, ‘everything is going to be okay,’ and from that moment on it was.”
Allan applied to 50 U.S. colleges since no Canadian universities would accept him with his non-matriculation diploma. At the University of Montana, Allan not only received an undergraduate and completed his master’s degree in sociology, but he even made the freshmen basketball team, despite looking at life through a fog.
“Nobody, including the coach, knew that I couldn’t see from one end of the court to the other,” he says. “I just stayed under the basket and never hollered for the ball. Making the cut was a huge boost to feeling normal.”
By the time he was 37, Allan’s eyesight had deteriorated to the point he couldn’t see more than about 10 feet (3.1 metres). Despite the risk of going totally blind if something went wrong, he opted for another operation.
“When the bandages came off, I saw my doctor clearly for the first time,” he recalls. “I read his name, Dr. John Richards, on his lab coat. I saw colours, faces that were sharp and clear and most importantly my children’s faces for the first time. I began to dream of all the things I had been afraid to do. Above all, I could feel normal!”
After many years working in various fields, Allan’s passion for radio emerged.
“They say that what you liked to do when you were 10 years old is where your true passion lies,” he says. “When I was 10, my father built me a radio station in his den. He set it up and ran some wires to the kitchen and hooked up the speakers. He bought me a microphone and I would broadcast to my mother.”
For two years, he returned to those glory days.
“[I hosted] a two-hour show on AM 1040 called ‘Big Al’s Dance Party’ featuring music from the ’40s, ’50s, big band and jazz.”
Allan’s next project was to produce and host a business talk radio show for home-business owners that became so well received he decided to do a home biz minute syndicated across Canada. This eventually spread to over 450 U.S. affiliates from coast to coast on the Talk America broadcasting syndicate.
Following a few more ventures, and at the urging of his present wife, Allan started writing a journal that, in time, became a book. During his research, he visited a Buddhist temple and met with one of the program staff.
“While I felt at peace there, it still did not feel like home,” he says. “I decided I could no longer live the illusion that I was going to be the-Jew-who-became-the-Buddhist and, instead, I was going to write about something I already believed in – a life I was passionate about.”
Around the same time, Allan’s son wrote him a letter outlining a litany of complaints against his father.
“It came as a total shock to me as I had coached his teams and gone on father-son road trips together, but I had to admit he was right about me. My schemes and scams and all the directions I had taken in life were wrong. He was the catalyst for the book. My marketing people wanted to call it *Buddha and the Boardroom*, but I decided against that. I’m not a true Buddhist in the religious sense. Buddhism is about right action, right livelihood and integrity. I chose to take the eightfold path and apply it to business. You need to be a visionary, someone people will look up to. The idea intrigued me.”
When writing, Allan quickly realized that claiming he was an expert on Zentrepreneurism was just wrong. Instead, he researched, read articles and interviewed as many people as he could and compiled what he discovered in his book.
“I am a communicator and so what better role to have as a first-time author than to be the voice and messenger for Zentrepreneurism. I am excited by this and hope I can make a slight but profound impact on the culture of business in North America,” he says.
Once the book project was done, Allan turned his love of radio into a way to promote his new idea. He started a radio program about Zentrepreneurism on the Internet.
“The iPod is the new transistor radio,” he says. “We are trying to bring back original radio using new technology. I knew the future was in digital radio, so I’ve jumped in with both feet along with a Hollywood partner.”
Now, Allan has started the Positive World Radio Network, a digital-based non-commercial radio network broadcast at www.pwrnradio.com. Allan wants the broadcast site eventually to look like an old-fashioned radio dial so one can tune in to the various channels depending on their interest. He is also developing a True North radio website full of Canadian content. He did all this after his research showed that no one was doing this web-based commercial-free radio network in Canada.
“I am blessed that I can see with one eye, but there are many people out there who have no vision at all and their only real entertainment is the radio,” says Allan. “I wanted a place where I could bring in all the program ideas I grew up with. Radio is an extension of my life. I discovered I was good at inventing, but terrible at running a business. I kept trying and failing. I was forced to reinvent myself with no safety net and to this day it remains a challenge.”
MARCH 2011 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER & LOWER MAINLAND
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