Rich DeVos was always eager to try new things, meet different people and visit places he’d never been.
In Jay Van Andel he found the perfect partner in adventure.
They shared a wanderlust and a fearlessness that took them from their hometown of Grand Rapids to points all over the world by land, air and sea.
Their first adventures were by car. When Rich was 14 and Jay just 16, Jay’s father, who owned a car dealership, asked them to drive two trucks from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to a customer in Bozeman, Montana. For Rich and Jay, it was a way to see America.
“Just as a boy today hops on his bike to ride around the block, I was going to hop behind the wheel of a pickup to drive more than a thousand miles to Montana,” he wrote in Simply Rich. “This trip revealed the sense of adventure that was ingrained in both our business and personal lives.”
Rich later recalled that during that trip they learned teamwork, self-reliance, responsibility and satisfaction in a job well done. But the most important lesson? The trust in one another they built during that journey.
Years later, intrigued by tales of sailing in the Caribbean, Rich and Jay sought to do more than just read about such adventures. Neither knew how to sail, but they thought they could figure it out along the way. They bought a 38-foot schooner, the Elizabeth, that had sat too long in dry dock – which meant it began taking on water not long after they set sail from North Carolina for the Caribbean. The boat eventually sank off the coast of Cuba.
Rich and Jay were rescued by a passing freighter and could have returned home. Instead, they chose to continue their journey, working aboard a British tanker until they reached South America.
“The experience of taking on and overcoming challenges instilled in me a wonderful sense of confidence. I learned that when you’re in trouble, you simply figure out how to get out of it,” Rich recalled years later. “We also learned that you don’t turn back. Just because our boat sank didn’t mean we ended the voyage, we only changed the means of transportation. You take what’s available and you get on your way.”
Rich later used sailing as a metaphor in a famous speech, “The Four Winds” to describe how to handle challenges that come your way.
Rich traveled the world as Amway expanded from its U.S. headquarters to operate in more than 100 countries and territories. And from that first ill-fated sailing expedition aboard the Elizabeth, Rich became an expert sailor, masterfully navigating waters from the Great Lakes to the South Pacific seas.
To learn more about the life and adventures of Rich DeVos, who passed away September 6, 2018, visit www.RichDeVos.com.