Section V - Something Priceless Is Born
32- From the Personal Self to the Personal Computer
run Built with Love to the best of my ability, and use the funds to support the beautiful work being done through the Temple. As usual, I was wrong, very wrong. What life had in store for me was much grander in both size and scope. How could I ever have imagined that I would end up running a $300-million-a-year computer software company, with twenty-three hundred people reporting to me, all without leaving the woods of Alachua or putting aside my spiritual pursuits?
My experiment with surrender had taught me to always be present in the current moment and do my best to not allow my personal preferences to make decisions for me. Instead, I allowed the reality of life to determine where I was going. It had certainly led me on a fantastic journey up to that point, and it was about to do something phenomenal with the next thirty years of my life.
Being a curious person, I walked up to the display and punched a few keys. As if by magic, the keys I touched appeared on the monitor above. I had never experienced that in my life.
I was absolutely fascinated by this Radio Shack device. It opened something inside of me that can only be described as love at first sight. I stood there playing with the machine for a long time. I marveled at typing in simple and complex math computations and seeing the results pop up. I finally tore myself away from the display, but I knew I’d be back. From the first time I touched that machine, there was an inner calling from the deepest recesses of my being. I had no choice but to surrender to that calling. When I returned to the Radio Shack store a few days later to lay out $600 for their best computer, I really had no idea what I was going to do with the thing when I got it home. I just knew I was meant to have it.
When I got the computer home, I buried myself in learning the programming commands and seeing what they could do. For some reason, everything was so natural to me. It wasn’t like I was learning something new; it was like I was remembering something I had always known. My mind became very quiet the moment I sat down at the machine. It was very much like entering meditation. The energy would rise up and focus beautifully at the point between my eyebrows, and a peace would come over me. Apparently, I was meant to be working with this computer. I didn’t question it—I just continued to surrender to what was happening.
I was so passionately inspired while working with the computer that I didn’t get tired. It was clear to me even then that something very special was going on.
I played around writing some programs just to get a feel for what the thing could do. Within a few weeks I decided that I was ready to write a real program. The first task I gave myself was to write a computerized accounting system for Built with Love.
I had made friends with the manager of the Radio Shack store, and whenever I went in I would show him printouts of the work I had done. He was impressed with what I had gotten the machine to do and began asking if he could refer some clients to me. To my surprise, he ended up sending me people who wanted programs written. All of a sudden, I had a new business. As unbelievable as it seems, this humble beginning was the birth of what was to become Personalized Programming, a nationwide, multimillion-dollar software company.
I wrote a grading program for a University of Florida professor for $300. I was such a perfectionist that I just kept making it better and better before I was willing to give it to him. From the very beginning of my programming career, my heart demanded that every line of code had to be the absolute best I could do. It didn’t matter what I was being paid; everything had to be perfect.
Soon I was getting more requests than I could handle. Being schooled in economics and understanding the law of supply and demand, I began raising my prices. It didn’t help; the jobs just kept on coming.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that writing custom software took a lot of time, and I was better off selling available software to satisfy my client’s needs. I became a dealer of one of the top accounting software packages sold by a company called Systems Plus in California.
To avoid overnight business trips, I just let those opportunities go and fully surrendered to putting my spiritual practices first. I would have gone on like that, but then James showed up.
James Pierson was a very sincere seeker who had just moved into one of the houses on Temple property. As perfection would have it, James had a pilot’s license. One day he overheard me discussing my inability to take on out-of-town clients, and he offered to fly me around. If we rented a small, single-engine plane for the trips, James’s rates were more than reasonable. We began to do day trips to the out-of-town clients who were willing to pay a premium for my services. These tended to be upscale businesses, like a client in West Palm who brokered private jets.
My formula for success was very simple: Do whatever is put in front of you with all your heart and soul without regard for personal results. Do the work as though it were given to you by the universe itself—because it was.
I never left the woods, and I never for a moment took my life back. Now a boutique business in West Palm, one of the most affluent cities in the United States, had hired me to fly down and computerize the business. It was all beyond my comprehension. I was never even trained in any of this. I was just living in a fairy tale.
33- The Birth of The Medical Manager
my passion for computers had grown stronger since that first day in Radio Shack. Each computer I installed was like a dear friend I left behind to serve my clients. I may have looked like a one-man company, but in reality I had left my workers at every one of my clients’ sites. They worked for free day and night, and they never complained.
The perfection of how everything was unfolding was enough to silence the personal mind. It was around that time when I noticed that my mental concepts separating worldly and spiritual had finally dissolved. Everything began to appear as the miraculous perfection of the flow of life.
If I’d had my way, I would have continued my life in that direction. But somehow it seems that in my experiment with surrender—I never have my way.
Once I started testing the software, it didn’t take long to realize that the package was absolute garbage. There was no way I was going to represent that software.
They said they had heard that I was a very reliable programmer who had written custom software for numerous businesses. Why couldn’t I write software for their medical practice business?
I told my clients that it could take as much as two years to finish such a system. Unfortunately, they both said they were willing to wait if they could give input along the way. I definitely didn’t want to get into a programming project of that size. But though there was no definitive agreement with these clients, there was my agreement to honor life’s flow. My mind became still as I realized that I really had no choice but to surrender to the situation life had put me in. It was just like all the other times I let go when I didn’t want to. I took a deep breath and told both clients that I would try my best to write a billing system for their medical practices.
Little did I know that those first thoughts were the start of a journey into the computerization of the medical industry that would span almost three decades. People have often asked me how back in 1980 I had the foresight to focus Personalized Programming on the medical industry. Now you see that the answer is simple: I didn’t do a thing except serve with all my heart and soul what life brought before me.
There were no meetings, or budgets, or project plans. There was just me. I immediately started to code the software that would come to be called The Medical Manager—a product that would end up revolutionizing the U.S. medical practice management industry. I know it is difficult for people to understand, but to me writing code was the same as having a conversation with another human being. I didn’t have to think about what I wanted to say or how to say it. There was just a natural flow directly from the stream of my thoughts into the machine. When I was writing a program, the voice in my head would speak in the computer language I was using. I didn’t think in English and then convert to the language; my primary thoughts were in the computer language to begin with. Because of this, I could just sit down at the computer and write perfectly structured code.
I wrote and wrote with a fervor and passion that was almost frightening, first the patient record, then the medical procedures that needed to be billed. Everything I did, I did to the absolute best of my ability. I was not only writing a program for these two clients; I was writing the best program I possibly could as my gift to the universe. The flow of inspiration was such that I was not allowed to cut a single corner. This commitment to detail would end up distinguishing The Medical Manager from almost all competitive medical billing systems on the market.
I hired a young man part-time to help me do some of the small custom programming jobs for those clients. I trained him on the old programs I had written, and I reviewed and tested his code. Without realizing it, while I thought I was training him, it was really me who was getting trained on how to manage programmers. That was a skill I would definitely need in the near future. Turns out, I was destined to manage hundreds of highly skilled software developers.
34- The Early Programmers
In order to keep my distance from the inner chatter, I still maintained my regular meditation schedule and continued my moment-to-moment practice of centering myself. Every time I sat down at the computer to work on the program, I took a breath and remembered that I was writing this as a gift to the universe.
I certainly needed help, but I couldn’t imagine how anyone could help me. I had been writing the program directly from my mind into the computer. There were no hook points where someone else could tie in. In addition, I didn’t know this person, and she seemed very shy. Fortunately, I was well trained in watching these thoughts pass through my mind, rather than blindly listening to them. I simply stopped for a moment, took a breath, and recognized all this negativity as my mind’s initial resistance to change. I immediately let go and surrendered to the reality of the situation: this person had sincerely offered her services, and I was certainly in need of help. I told her that because I was used to working alone, I couldn’t make any promises. However, I was willing to give it a try. We set up for a meeting in a few days, and I told her that she should think about a reasonable starting salary because I wanted to compensate her.
The level of talent and competence that was hidden inside this person who just happened to show up at the Temple is beyond my comprehension. Barbara was definitely very scared and shy in the beginning. Then for the next twenty years she kept stepping forward to accept and excel at whatever was asked of her. She also started coming to all the Temple’s daily services and moved in shortly after starting to work for me. Barbara was really Personalized Programming’s first full-time employee, and she became a foundation block of both the company and the Temple community. It turns out that this shy young lady I met on the Temple porch that day had a brilliant mind and the heart of a warrior.
When Barbara started working for me, I was already halfway done with the program. I had never actually verbalized my thoughts to anyone, so sharing my vision for the overall system with another person helped tremendously. We made a wonderful team, and it was clear that Barbara was perfectly capable of taking my vision and running with it. This became essential once the number of programmers began to grow. In short, Barbara was a gift from God. She showed up exactly when I needed her, at a time I was not even wise enough to know that I needed her. I never looked for her; she just appeared.
I was well aware that I was not causing these events to unfold so perfectly, but I was deeply honored to watch the perfection of life unfold before my eyes.
You basically had to be a rocket scientist to understand all the minute differences between how these practices were filling out the supposedly standardized forms. But they insisted that each of these differences was essential in order to get properly paid by different insurance companies.
Barb and I managed to develop a very sophisticated, template-driven system that would allow the practices themselves to specify how they wanted to fill out the forms for any particular insurance company. We were committed to developing a system that would perfectly handle a practice’s insurance billing needs, and this became one of the main reasons for the rapid acceptance of the software. In a very short period of time, Medical Manager practices would be defining hundreds of different templates needed to handle the nation’s insurance companies.
I had never in my life been involved in anything that demanded the level of perfection of that program. It was like a polished diamond by the time it was done. To me it was a living entity, and I felt tremendous respect every time I touched it. Just look at the amazing flow of life’s events that created this program. I felt like it had a life of its own, and we were just here to serve it.
35- Preparing for Launch
We had just finished our first installation of The Medical Manager, and I was finishing up the manual for the program when the phone rang. It was Systems Plus, the distributor of the accounting program we were selling. I was a very small dealer of theirs, and they didn’t generally call me.
At first I was too embarrassed to say anything. Systems Plus was this big, Silicon Valley computer company, and I was a guy in the woods who had taught himself to program.
Though the voice in my head was assuring me that Systems Plus would have no interest in my little software program, I took a breath, surrendered to the moment, and informed Lorelei that I had just finished a medical billing package.
When Lorelei returned to the call, she told me her boss was very interested in reviewing any software that could do a medical practice’s billing. She encouraged me to send in the system along with the manual I was just completing. We got off the phone, and I was stunned. What had just happened? I had never even thought about finding a software distributor. Then one of the industry’s top business software distributors calls me in the middle of the woods in Alachua, Florida, and ends up asking to see my system. I found out later that when Lorelei mentioned her boss, she was referring to the president of the company, Rick Mehrlich, who had just happened to walk by her desk at that exact moment. Perhaps now you can see why I have learned to so deeply honor the flow of life.
I had simply been following the flow. I hadn’t had any expectations, hopes, or dreams about anything.
To me, I was not a computer programmer; I was a yogi living in the middle of the woods. I had bought a tiny toy computer for $600 some years earlier, and I had played around with it. I got tricked into spending two years of my life writing a medical billing package after my mind had already decided that writing software was too time-consuming. Now, without my making a single call, I was about to send something I had programmed off to the president of a successful software company out in California. How does such a thing happen—even in a fairy tale?
A few weeks later, I got a call from Systems Plus informing me that the company president wanted to fly out to Alachua to meet me face-to-face.
He said it was about the best he had ever seen, and he could do a great job representing it in the marketplace.
As Rick and I shook hands on our intent to enter into a distribution arrangement, we couldn’t possibly have known that for the next few decades of our lives we would be involved in a fantastic voyage together. It should come as no surprise that Rick and Systems Plus turned out to be the absolutely perfect distributor for The Medical Manager product. Life had worked its magic once again.
That was exactly the deadline Systems Plus had given me to send them the finished version. Since I didn’t get the software shipped before leaving for the retreat, Ram Dass ended up with it on his lap the entire drive down. At one point he asked me in his very no-nonsense way of speaking, “Is it any good?” I answered him by saying that I had no idea; it could be worth nothing or it could be worth a million dollars. Turns out I was off by a few zeros. I always had tremendous respect for Ram Dass, as do all of us who grew up under his aura of absolute honesty with one’s self. The perfection of circumstances that had him holding that piece of software just before it launched into the world was amazing to me. Who knows how these things work? I certainly don’t claim to know a thing. I watched how this software was conceived, and I saw it attract exactly what it needed to not only get written but to be a leader right out of the gate. It then magically attracted its own first-rate distributor and was now sitting on the lap of one of the most-respected New Age spiritual teachers in the world. This program had a destiny of its own, and it was about to take us all on a journey, the likes of which we never could have imagined.
Section VI - The Forces of Natural Growth
36- The Foundations of a Successful Business
It’s one thing to see your kid grow up for eighteen years and then watch her honored at her high school graduation. It’s quite another thing when your kid was just born a few months ago and was now center stage of a very professional production at a show the size of COMDEX. Systems Plus had one of the larger booths at the show, and everyone did a wonderful job presenting the product. The market was ripe for medical billing software, and there was tremendous interest at the booth. I marveled at seeing all the Systems Plus salespeople demonstrate the product. The Medical Manager had no warm-up period. It went from the quiet woods of Alachua to the big-time lights of Vegas without a single step in between.
If you asked me how, I would tell you that my experience with meditation had shown me that there were two very distinct aspects of what we call mind. There was the logical, thought-driven mind that links together what we already know into complex patterns of thought in order to come up with logical solutions. Then there was the intuitive, inspiration-driven mind that can look at a problem and instantly see a creative solution. As it turned out, the years of spiritual work I had done to quiet that voice in my head had opened the door for almost constant inspiration. It seemed that the quieter the mind, the more that solutions became self-evident. This was also true for Barb. Somehow she had the ability to almost instantly tune in to the same creative solutions I had seen and then help me work out the logic.
Our ability to rapidly design software became legendary.
The year 1985 would turn out to be a landmark year. In only two years, Systems Plus had signed up more than a hundred dealers, and we were averaging more than a hundred and fifty new Medical Manager installations every month. Our template design for insurance billing became a huge success, and we were able to do billing to pretty much all insurance companies across the country. But before I could catch my breath, the industry was about to go through a tremendous transformation. As more and more practices computerized, it suddenly became possible to replace paper billing with electronic billing. The advantages would prove to be so enormous that an industrywide push was about to take place.
that was a topic we knew nothing about. The story of how we ended up leading the industry in that area is just another tribute to the perfection of life’s flow.
His name was Larry Horwitz, and I vaguely remembered that some people at Amrit’s had told me how bright he was. I assessed his background and talents, and it dawned on me that, once again, life may have sent us the perfect person to tackle the problem at hand. Though Larry had absolutely no background in insurance billing, he got really interested in our innovative approach to electronic claims. I decided I might as well give him a try. After only a broad overview of the project, I left him pretty much on his own to see what he could come up with.
By himself, Larry studied every one of the 250 specification books from the nation’s insurance companies and mapped out exactly what we would need in order to use templates to handle the entire country with one program. We implemented these changes, and The Medical Manager now had an electronic billing program with designed technology that far surpassed others in the industry. The response was phenomenal. Larry became so busy creating the templates that we had to build an entire department around him. The insurance companies ended up changing their specifications on a regular basis, and twenty-five years later, Larry Horwitz was still in charge of electronic claims for the company. How does such a person just show up by himself exactly when needed?
37- The Industry Knocks on Our Door
Personalized Programming was truly an anomaly. We were located in the middle of the woods in a small building on Temple property. None of us were sophisticated businesspeople or experienced professional programmers. We were just people who had been brought together by the energy to do a task. Normally, successful businesses have to plan their growth by developing business plans and financial budgets. In our case, our only business plan was to try to keep up with life’s powerful wave that was carrying us forward. Our only budget was to hire whoever showed up who could help us. But no matter how hard we tried, it seemed that life just kept stepping things up to another level.
Hawaii, Mississippi, Colorado, and a few others. All those Blue Cross Blue Shields ended up marketing The Medical Manager to the doctors in their states. I saw this as a living lesson in the power of surrender. For years I had been willing to let go of my personal preferences and focus on doing the absolute best I could with what life presented me. I hadn’t expected anything in return, and I was very humbled to see what was unfolding.
We were a tiny company, yet we were earning millions of dollars a year in royalties alone.
I had never worked at that level before. But just as life had given me on-the-job training to become a builder and a programmer, she was now training me to be a corporate executive.
One thing I saw again and again on this ride with life was that the right person would show up at just the right time.
Systems Plus staff practically begged me to wear a jacket, laced-up shoes, and have everyone on their best professional behavior. Paul Dobbins was our visitor’s name, and he had an extensive background as a senior technical analyst and product manager.
I sent Rick Karl, our very presentable attorney, to pick up the gentleman from the Gainesville airport. When he returned, Rick stuck his head in my office with a grin on his face the size of the Cheshire cat’s.
The first thing I noticed was that he had a particular piece of jewelry wrapped around his upper arm. It looked remarkably similar to the special bangle that Yogananda used to wear. As it turned out, it was. Paul Dobbins was a follower of Yogananda, had taken the lessons, and had been doing Kriya yoga for many years. You can be sure I was shocked, but imagine how he felt. He flies in from St. Louis on this important business trip to meet the president of the company that wrote the top-rated medical practice management system in the country. He walks into the president’s office and sees pictures of Yogananda all over the place.
At first, there were no words between us. Paul just sat down on the couch and took in the beauty of the moment. The energy in that room was befitting the presence of a master. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and Paul was visibly overcome. After sitting in silence for a while, I asked him if he would like to see the Temple. We walked down the tree-lined road, onto the rustic dirt path, and into that holy place adorned with the pictures of great masters. Needless to say, this was not Paul’s usual business trip.
Paul extended his visit through the weekend and stayed in a small ten-by-ten-foot guest room on Temple property. Come Sunday, he didn’t want to leave. Paul had apparently gotten into meditation on his own, and he didn’t have many people around him who were into yoga. He was overwhelmed by what was going on at the Temple and the strength of the Gainesville spiritual community. He came to me after Sunday services with the inevitable question: “May I stay and work for you?” I felt deep in my heart that Paul belonged here and that he really wanted to be part of the Temple and the business. But I didn’t feel right about him just leaving the company that had sent him here, so I told him let’s wait and see how things unfold.
Some months later, I received a rather panicky call from Paul. He told me that his company had suddenly been sold, and his boss and many other employees were bailing out. Paul was turning in his resignation but wanted to continue working with The Medical Manager in some manner. Life’s message was perfectly clear—it was time to offer Paul a job.
We could never have succeeded as we did without Paul on our team. When I reflect back on how he came to us, it looks like a gift from the universe. Twenty years later, Paul still worked for the company and, to this day, lives in a home with his wife and family bordering Temple property. It appears that some things are just meant to be.