Most thoughts scrawled on a napkin come right out of someone's brain, onto the napkin and soon after, into the trash.

True to his ever-present desire to do what others will not, World Financial Group's Rich Thawley turned an idea written on a napkin into a business and eventually, a dream come true.

Born in Van Nuys, Calif., as the youngest of two sons, Rich moved to Santa Rosa, Calif., when he was 10 years old. While his love for freedom and individuality was always present, Rich used it to his advantage during his junior year of high school when his parents moved again - and he chose to stay behind in Santa Rosa.

"I lived with two families my junior and senior year of high school, and my grades got better," Rich said. "That's when I found out I loved independence. I moved from a 3.8 to a 4.0 GPA during that time."

When it was time for college, Rich was accepted at both University of California at Berkley, and San Jose State, but San Jose State let him design his own schedule in general studies. Once again, independence called - so he enrolled at the latter and majored in political science.

In college, Rich immersed himself in studies, athletics, organizations and later student government. He first met Cindy, the woman who would eventually become his wife, when he was running for vice president of his school's student body.

"I met her while speaking to her sorority," Rich said. "In a room with beautiful young women, it was Cindy who captured my undivided attention."

He dated Cindy on and off, but they couldn't work it out while he was in school.

After graduation, Rich considered law school, took a year off and accepted a position as associate athletic director at his college alma mater, where he worked for four years.

"I always advise people to work for someone else before they try to go into business by themselves," Rich said. "You learn why you want to be entrepreneur, you begin to establish self-discipline and you build better habits while you're on someone else's payroll."

In September of 1978, Rich met Cindy again - when he pulled out in front of her in traffic.

"I saw the car in my rearview mirror, and I knew it was either the President of the Association, or it was Cindy," said Rich, laughing. "Either way, it wasn't good that I pulled out in front of that person."

The two started dating that weekend in September of 1978 and were married the in December 1979.

On their honeymoon, Rich and Cindy wrote on a napkin five things they wanted to accomplish during their lives. One was that they wanted to go into business together.

Seven months later, they did just that when they started their own financial services business part time. In January of 1981, they went full-time.

"We really went at it together," Rich said. "We sold out to building our business. We didn't watch TV for five years and only saw movies on flights. We had no hobbies, but we stayed involved in our church and we loved being a family."

Rich and Cindy's first child, a daughter, was born in 1982, followed by a son in 1984 and another son in 1993.

Meanwhile, the Thawleys' business just kept growing.

They built their business through several companies, recruited and developed influential WFG leaders and maintained deep personal relationships with these people they went through everything with. During their intense dedication to their business and each other, Rich and Cindy carved out an ideal life for themselves.

"During that time, the business-building has been wonderful - we've made many remarkable friends, and we've traveled the world," Rich said. "We've learned a ton about the business, the industry, our system, but we've learned so much more about life."

The man who craves self-reliance has formed a business and a lifestyle that supports his independent streak. Rich wakes up in the morning when he wants, fits golf into his schedule and keeps his wife and children as his top priorities.

"I spend time with my wife every day," Rich said. " We take our courtship very seriously. She is my top and most trusted counselor in the business, and she knows the business well - in some areas, better than I do. She's a great teacher, world-class mom to our children and daughter to her parents."

There's no denying that Rich is successful, having reached the highest honors WFG can offer and reaping countless benefits from his achievements. However, at the end of the day, Rich believes that doing things right supercedes all else.

"You can't be number one in every category all the time, but you can be a great husband, a great father, a great son and an honest man," Rich said. "There never has been - and there never will be - a substitute for those things."