Success Stories By Dick Kazan - Valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life
Entertaining and compelling real-life stories with valuable
lessons on how to succeed in business and in life.
The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on June 19, 2007

Today: A 106-year-old woman offers us two of life’s greatest lessons.

This woman is Anita Bogan, a black woman who overcame bigotry, the Great Depression and numerous other obstacles to live a full and fun-filled life right to the day she passed away at the age of 106 this year.

A long-time South Central Los Angeles resident, Anita built a successful transportation business, and she also built a very successful flower shop business.

And there were two things that were key to her happiness and to her success. One of these is the first of our life’s greatest lessons and it is that no matter what obstacles she faced, she calmly and promptly dealt with them rather than to let them stress her.

For example, Anita was married five times before she married the love of her life, Cecil “Boggie” Bogan. Anita and Boggie were happily married for nearly 30-years, until he became ill and died.

But in a prior marriage, Anita found out her husband had been secretly seeing a neighbor on the side. When he returned home from a romantic rendezvous, rather than getting upset and making a scene, Anita had placed his belongings neatly on their front porch. And she calmly said to him, “This marriage is over,” and she meant it, as a divorce quickly followed.

Years later when Pat Martin, one of her two adoptive daughters came to her terribly upset with a problem she was having with her neighbor, Anita listened. “We were arguing about construction of a fence,” Pat said. And who would pay for it.

“Don’t argue,” Anita replied. “Kill them with kindness. Ask how high they want it, how much will it cost and then just pay half.” And that’s what Pat did. And just like that, there was peace with the neighbor and the amount of money involved was soon forgotten.

For everyone moved on with their lives with no further concern for what had been a very stressful issue. By contrast how many of us get upset and internalize what are actually minor issues if only we were objective enough to see them that way.

“She didn’t get stressed,” Pat said. “That’s how she lived for so long.”

Speaking of not getting stressed, when Anita turned 72 in 1972 she calmly made a life-changing decision. She decided to retire and move to the warm dry climate of California City, a community of 8,400 people in the Mojave Desert.

But Anita didn’t retire. When she arrived she saw the city had no flower shop. Flowers were a life-long passion of hers and soon she opened a floral shop. It was a business she would joyfully run for the next 16-years, finally retiring from it at the age of 88.

Also in the 1970’s, Anita tackled another project. The city had no senior citizen housing and she decided to do something about it. Skeptics said she was wasting her time, it would never happen.

Anita helped to organize a housing authority to solicit government funds and she began speaking with property owners to sell some of their property cheaply for a good cause. At first when nothing seemed to come of her efforts, the skeptics laughed them off.

But 15-years of Anita’s good natured perseverance paid off big in 1993 with the grand-opening of Desert Jade Villas, a beautiful non-profit 43-unit senior’s complex. Anita was 93 at that time but of course she went to work on the expansion of Desert Jade Villas. Today it contains 96 units.

As if her schedule wasn’t busy enough with her flower shop and her Desert Jade Villas project, in her 70’s Anita took up golf. She sometimes played five times a week and she passionately played golf until she was 102.

In addition to golf, Anita went to exercise class at the senior citizen complex until she was “105 at least,” said her cousin Dee Dee Brown in amazement. “Two or three times a week.”

And yet that was still not enough for Anita. By her front door, she always kept a suit case packed and a bag of coins nearby. For Anita loved to play the slot machines. And if anyone was on their way to Las Vegas or to Stateline, she was always ready to go on short notice.

In her favorite casino, on her birthday each year they would attach a balloon to her favorite slot machine and host a party for her. Soon she was inundated with people who knew and loved her and she would hold court, dispensing “Dr. Phil” type advice.

And this was the other key to her happiness and her success and it offers us the second of life’s greatest lessons. Anita committed herself to pursue the joys in life. By contrast, how many times have you or I missed out on a good time because we were too busy.

And speaking of “Dr. Phil” type advice, Anita thoroughly enjoyed dispensing her wisdom. “If you were her friend, she would give you life’s lessons,” said Dorothy Lawson, Anita’s close friend the last several years of her life.

“She’d say, ‘Never say anything to someone you wouldn’t want them to say to you.’ She’d say, ‘Think before you speak. After you’ve said it, you can’t take it back.’ She never understood why people have to be enemies.”

For Anita always looked for the best in people and offered them kind words of support. How many of us take the time or have the interest to do that.

But for each person, in life the end must come. This year, at the age of 106, time finally caught up with Anita. She was surrounded by loved ones at her hospital bedside, as the end drew near from a blood clot.

To a caller planning to come the next day, she said with a smile, “You better come today. I won’t be here tomorrow.” And she was right, as her life came to a gentle end.

Throughout her life, Anita overcame all her problems including bigotry, the Great Depression and the loss of Boggie because she kept a positive attitude, committed herself to have fun, released her stress and she refused to feel sorry for herself. There was no “poor me” in her vocabulary.

Instead she had fun, enthusiastically helped others and made the world a little better place.

Success Tip of the Week: As Anita Bogan would do, do something fun this week, something you have been meaning to do for ages.

Editor's Note: Thank you to Los Angeles Times staff writer Jocelyn Stewart for her assistance in telling this story. The obit she wrote, “Anita Bogan, 106: proved old age is no obstacle,” [3/17/07] is excellent. I also thank Anita’s cousins Dee Dee Brown and Cleo Pierce, adoptive daughter Pat Martin and Anita’s close friend, Dorothy Lawson for their help for I never could have told her story without them.

In the next KazanToday: A working class man, who founded a famous animal sanctuary to rescue abandoned or tortured animals that desperately needed a home.

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Many of these short, inspirational success stories are about people from all walks of life who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve remarkable results. These stories contain practical advice and a recipe for success for each of these renowned individuals. Some of their stories may help you to avoid some of the costly and time consuming mistakes that many of us make in life and at work. Learn from some of history's greatest winners on how to become a winner yourself, no matter what the obstacle, and no matter how daunting the task before you may seem. Good luck!
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