Funny Side Up

A Southern Girl’s Guide to Love, Laughter, and Money

Some years ago my buddy Bob Burg and I wrote a book titled The Go-Giver, and in the story there was a character referred to as “the keynote speaker.”

This woman is an amazing speaker, with an extraordinary capacity to be both profound and hilarious at the same time, and she has touched millions of lives with her story. When the protagonist, Joe, hears her speak about authenticity, it signals a turning point in the story.

We named the speaker “Debra Davenport”—and that was not a coincidence.

When Bob and I wrote The Go-Giver I’d already known Rita (not Debra) Davenport for nearly a decade. I met her first in the nineties, when I interviewed her for a magazine cover about phenomenally successful female company presidents. But by that time I had already known her by reputation for many years. It seemed that everyone I knew and everyone I talked to had heard of Rita, most had heard her speak, and all had some variation of the same thing to say:

“Oh, Rita Davenport—I love her!”

The outpouring of affection and admiration that seemed to follow this woman around made me wonder if she was something like Mother Teresa. When I met her, I found out: yes, she was exactly like that—if you can picture Mother Teresa with lightning-fast and screamingly funny delivery in an outrageous Southern twang … and wearing terrific outfits.

Fast forward.

In mid-2011, I got a call from my friend Reed Bilbray at SUCCESS Media, who wanted to know if I had some time to work on a book project with them. Honestly, I didn’t. “Dude,” I replied, “I am really and truly jammed, half a dozen projects on my plate, couldn’t possibly take on another one, very sorry, love to, but no can do.

Then he told me it was a book with Rita.

And that was that. I mean, I couldn’t very well say no to a character out of one of my own books, could I?

It’s hard to describe just what a pleasure it was to listen to Rita tell her life story and then weave the bits and pieces of it, together with her perspectives on life and living, into this book. And how excited about the impact I already know it will have on the people’s lives who read it.

Rita has a sort of Socratic Midas touch.

Socrates asked his students questions until they found the answers inside themselves. Rita does something like that, only she interacts with people until they discover the gold inside themselves. And when she talks about “a rich life,” she’s not just talking about financial abundance, but about the abundant richness of human experience, accomplishment, connection, fulfillment, and love.

Every phone call I’ve had with Rita ends the same way: the last words I hear as I’m about to hang up are, “Love ya!”

That’s how she ends every phone call with everyone. And she’s not kidding.

Love ya, too, Rita.

Funny Side Up Reviews

“Rita and I have so much in common. We both hail from Tennessee. Neither of us had an indoor pot to piddle in. Both are blondes who found poverty to be a minor inconvenience, sharing bushels of determination. Neither of us was willing to accept what folks told us we couldn’t do. We spend more time counting our blessings instead of our money. And both with big ol’… brains. Rita shattered the proverbial glass ceiling, and used the shards to make the cutest lil’ sequin dress. I love the girl! And you’ll love Funny Side Up!”
— Dolly Parton

“Rita Davenport has such a depth of experience and wealth of good ideas that I listen to whatever she says and read whatever she writes. Her ability to teach great truths with warmth and humor make her a powerful communicator. I’ve learned from her, and you will, too.”
— Mark Sanborn, The Fred Factor

“Rita Davenport is a true leader who has inspired others throughout her career with her great insights into how to live a successful life — and how to have fun doing it.”
— Tom Hopkins, How to Master the Art of Selling

“Rita Davenport’s life and career prove that the American Dream is not only alive and well, it is thriving. When Rita speaks, smart people listen and act.”
— Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE, past president of National Speakers Association

“Rita Davenport is an icon in the self-empowerment movement. Her new book is guaranteed to bring out the leader in you, expand your vision of what is possible, and empower you to live your greatest life.”
— Les Brown, legendary speaker and bestselling author

“Rita Davenport has more energy than Hoover Dam on Red Bull. She has enjoyed multi-media success and has inspired thousands along her journey. And the motivational kick-in-the-butt from Rita’s live speaking engagements make Knute Rockne and General George S. Patton seem like pacifists. Rita Davenport could write the alphabet and sell more copies than Gone with the Wind. I will be the first to buy a copy of Rita’s new book … and I will be the first to charge her $34.95 for this quote.”
— Dave “Morning Mayor” Pratt, host of KUPD’s Dave Pratt in the Morning

Excerpt from Funny Side Up

Before we get started … let’s put this one right out on the table: I talk funny.

Not that what I say is always funny. Although I do put a lot of importance on humor, because I think it helps us keep things in perspective, and even when it doesn’t succeed in doing that, at least it keeps us sane. And if it doesn’t do that, it still makes us laugh—and laughing is good for you. It’s a proven scientific fact that laughter increases endorphins, lowers blood pressure, helps regulate cortisol and epinephrine, the stress hormones, and boosts immune function. It also causes weight loss and raises sex hormones. Okay, I just made that last part up. But it could be true. Makes sense to me, and until there’s science that disproves it, I’m goin’ with it!

But no, what I mean is, I talk funny.

I was born and raised in a Tennessee home so poor we had no indoor plumbing, and unless you were born and raised there too, I don’t talk the way you talk. As an adult, when I moved to Phoenix, Arizona, and pursued a master’s degree in child development, I worked with young children at the college daycare center. Soon after I arrived, parents were calling the program administrator and saying, “Uh, Dr. Ferrone? This is really strange, but … our children are speaking Southern.” Imagine that! I do not know how that happened.

On top of that thick-as-molasses Shake ’n’ Bake accent, as a child I had a speech defect. My favorite dress was one my aunt had sewn for me out of some big old fifty-pound feed sacks when I was six. I went around the neighborhood bragging about it, except I couldn’t say feed sack and instead it came out theed thack, so for the next few years, to the people of Flat Rock, Tennessee, I was known as Theedthack. Those years are behind me now, nobody calls me Theedthack anymore and, while there are those who might disagree with this next statement, I no longer have a speech defect. But you could put me in a basin and scrub me all you want and, thankfully, the Tennessee in me is still never coming out.

My point is this: I talk Southern.

Think Dolly Parton, then speed it up from 331/3 to 78 rpm and take away the guitar, and you’ve pretty much got me. Which is interesting, because I once dated the guy who ended up marrying Dolly Parton. I never understood what he saw in her. I’m kidding, of course. Dolly came to Phoenix one time and said she wanted to meet me and offered to be on my television show. I think it was because I was one of the few girls her guy had dated before her, and she was curious to find out just who I was. I said, “Well, Dolly, you’re probably wondering what he saw in me. I’ll save you the trouble of trying to figure it out and just come out and tell you the truth: I wore a padded bra.” She said, “I figured. He told me that’s what he guessed.” I said, “Well I’m glad he wasn’t naïve!” Dolly and I had us a good time together. But we’ll come back to Dolly Parton in another chapter, because she has a story to tell here, too.

The reason I mention the speech defect, the hillbilly accent, and the mile-a-minute resting rate of my natural speech patterns is that it all makes this fact very clear: from the very start, God was playing tricks on me. Why do I say that? Because in the course of my life, as you’ll see, I eventually discovered that He had put me here on this earth to be a public speaker.

Hello? A public speaker—with a speech defect? And who talks Southern?

It’s a little bit like hiding Easter eggs. I was given a gift—only after being hard boiled and painted with all kinds of spiffy colors, the darn thing was hidden long before I even knew it was there, and hidden so well I nearly missed it altogether.

Now you might think this book is about my life story. And yes, there will be bits and pieces of my story in here, at least enough so you can get an idea of who this person is talking to you from these pages. But this book isn’t really about me: it’s about you.

And right here, this is the part where you come in. We’ll get to my story in a bit. For the moment, I’m more interested in getting to your story.

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