Could there have been a more jaw-dropping, more eye-watering or more humbling surprise?
It was Oct. 19, 2014, at A View from the Edge in Atlanta, and the Kim Eaton Hero Award was about to be announced. Past award-winner Bethany Webster was delivering a heartfelt profile of the 2014 recipient. She was citing the recipient's many admirable traits, speaking of the hard work, describing the adversity the person had turned to advantage, leading up to a crescendo of the honoree's name.
Seated in the audience were Jonathan and Kwinn Gooch, Regional Marketing Directors with WorldVentures for six years.
As Bethany was reciting a litany of personal and professional accomplishments that the 2014 winner possessed, Jonathan thought, "I would love to meet this person."
And then Bethany announced, "The 2014 Kim Eaton Hero Award recipient is … Jonathan Gooch!"
Months later, Jonathan would reflect on that instant in time: "When she called my name, I was in complete shock and was overcome with so many emotions. The Kim Eaton Hero Award stands for everything our company is about, and to know that my peers and the WorldVentures executives chose me as an example of those characteristics was a huge honor."
Despite the inspiring introduction, few in the audience had any idea of the path that led to Jonathan taking the stage that day.
The Gooches' journey had been both as business owners and spiritual leaders. Jonathan speaks candidly about their experience as owners of two restaurants. "I was raised my whole life hearing about the 'American Dream' and when we opened our restaurants we quickly found it to be the 'American nightmare.'"
He elaborates about the brick-and-mortar restaurants they owned in their native Tennessee. "We couldn't afford to take time off, and my wife and little girl were at one location while I was at the other location, so time with my family was very limited."
It was their breakneck, unrelenting, seven-day-a-week restaurant pace that piqued Jonathan's interest in WorldVentures. In short, it sounded remarkably simpler than being a restaurateur.
Jonathan was introduced to WorldVentures and didn't approach it with a lot of vigor at the outset. In fact, Kwinn said, "You spent [money to join] WorldVentures? That's stupid. We worked hard for that money. It sounds like a waste." Eventually she gave Jonathan a half-hearted thumbs-up and said, if he wanted to try WorldVentures, he should go for it, but please, just leave her out of it.
Despite Kwinn's reserved enthusiasm and Jonathan's limited time for WorldVentures, calamity would lead them to embrace the opportunities that WorldVentures would offer. Over the next six months, their world crumbled.
Jonathan remembers it well. "We lost everything we owned. They came and took our cars and our truck. We were 28 minutes from losing our home. At the lowest point in all this misfortune, the church which I led came to me and asked me to no longer be their pastor."
At that point, Jonathan knew two things: First, that the struggle they were battling could define them or how they emerged from the struggle could define them; and second, that WorldVentures just might be what they needed at that moment.
As quickly as things had crumbled, things began to be rebuilt and the new structures that were being built in their lives were better than the old.
He had a simple epiphany. "When the economy crashed in 2008 and our restaurants financially crumbled, I quickly shifted my focus and energy toward WorldVentures. I began to realize that the true 'American Dream' was possible. This is something that was not attainable through our restaurants."
Thanks to mentors like Byron Schrag and the step-by-step training that WorldVentures makes easily accessible to everyone, the road to success for the Gooches came into focus. And the stress was miniscule compared to running two restaurants. In fact, the pressure to spread the WorldVentures message was fun.
Jonathan says, "If I had to start all over again tomorrow, honestly I probably wouldn't change anything. Everything that has happened over the last six-and-a-half years has strengthened not only my WorldVentures business, but also my marriage, and my relationships with my kids. Your test will lead you to your testimony."
The DreamTrips have been a highlight for the Gooches. The family favorite was a four-day, action-packed, pre-Christmas trip to New York City that even included being shown on NBC's TODAY holding a "You Should Be Here" sign.
The Gooch children have their own favorite DreamTrips: anything Disney. As a family, they've been to Orlando's Disney World several times and Anaheim's Disneyland "just to mix things up a bit." The California trip also afforded the younger Gooches their first airplane flights.
Jonathan most closely credits his success to the Core Value #7 that inspires individuals to champion their full potential. "I believe we are all placed here on Earth with the ability to impact the world. We just have to understand our gifts. It is my goal to help people find and use that gift. In our company, we have a culture that cannot be duplicated. We have to express that culture in everything we do."
Kim Eaton, a brilliant woman who passed away in 2008 at the age of 48, stood for so many things that are good in this world and upheld at WorldVentures.
"Kim's zest for life was evident in everything she did. I am so honored to have been chosen to receive this award. We do not take it lightly. We will carry Kim's torch for the rest of our lives," Jonathan says on behalf of himself and his wife. He thanks Kim Eaton and WorldVentures. We thank Jonathan and Kwinn, and congratulate them once again.