I’ve been asked by some on my Facebook page called Gusto about how I came to be on the path I’m on. Normally, I wouldn’t be writing something like that here, since this website is designed primarily in providing stories of inspiration. However, given the nature of my Facebook page, that is to say the motto of “living life OUT LOUD”, as well as my desire to help others in various ways, including coaching and mentoring, it appears now is the time to tell you more about just WHO I am.
I was born in 1958 in a little town near the Colorado border called Tribune, KS., the only son amongst 6 siblings; 4 older sisters and one younger. Tribune is your typical Midwestern town; sparsely populated and dominated by the agricultural way of life. My father was involved in farming and raising livestock, primarily wheat, grain sorghum, cattle and hogs. My mother was your classic homemaker, typical of those days. Our lives as their 6 children, my 5 sisters and I, were filled with hard work, long hours, and a lot of love, particularly from my mother. But when we did have the time to play, we took full advantage of it. Our little farmstead was full of interesting ways for children to amuse themselves, plenty of dogs, cats, and running through the sprinklers in the summer time to cool off! As the only boy, outside was my playground. I loved practicing football by my-self and about wore the leather off of several basketballs practicing my shot for hundreds of hours in our farm quonset. I was also literally my Dad’s shadow. Wherever he went, I was sure to follow. He taught me many lessons about life, not the least of which was the value of hard work, and was a good source of encouragement when it came time to play, especially in sports activities. In other words, I went at life full tilt, in fact I have ever since, hence the nickname “Gusto” my Dad tagged me with when I was quite young. But it wouldn’t be completely forthcoming if I didn’t mention something else about “play” time in those days. Though it never interfered with our family life to a great extent nor had an overbearing effect on our personal lives, it’s safe to say that alcohol use was a fairly common occurrence amongst the adults in those days, something that came back to haunt me personally several decades later. I’ll get to that in a moment.
Everything changed in 1972, when, at the tender age of 13, my life, along with the rest of my family, was shattered into a million pieces. Some of you who have read this blog know the story of how my mother was involved in a tragic farm vehicle accident during wheat harvest that year and how I witnessed it. And for those who know me well, they know just how big an impact her death made on ALL of our lives, though at the time, I was in such a state of shock it took decades for me to fully realize just how big that impact was.
As you can imagine, it was very hard on my Dad as well. He wasn’t what one would call a “Mr. Mom.” Tough shoes to fill given he left the house at or before sunrise every day, not returning until well after dark to tend to his farming interests. More importantly, it was apparent NO ONE could ever fill Mom’s shoes. Fortunately, my Dad’s sister was living in Southern California at the time where she was employed as a high school teacher, something she did and did quite well for 35 years.
So, at the behest of my Dad, and some of my older sisters who were on their own at the time, this Western Kansas farm boy went west kicking and screaming, as it were, to attend his last two years of high school in 1975. From there, my life started what can only be described as a dramatic turnaround. I discovered that it was “cool” to be a good student and, since I had some natural athletic talent, I also become deeply involved in sports, primarily football and basketball. As my Aunt says, now retired in her mid-80’s, “I took to it like a duck to water.”
In 1982, I proudly graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in Business Administration/Finance, and fell just a few credits short of a minor in Psychology, something I still wish I would have completed. Today, perhaps that training has come in handy, for some reason it was a subject that always came easy to me, and which has been a source of helping others, particularly now as I embark on my life’s mission of providing guidance and advice to other individuals.
By then, however, I grew tired of the Southern California scene and longed for home. As they say, and which I’ve repeated often, “You can take the boy from the farm but you can’t take the farm from the boy!” So, by 1985, after 2 ½ years working for a finance company in Montana and Colorado, my first REAL job after college, I returned to my beloved Kansas and settled into my hometown. For the next 23 years, I worked at the local bank, starting out as basically a file clerk, eventually working my way into the loan department, and attained the rank of Senior Loan Officer in the mid-2000’s. I also attended several post-graduate schools to further refine my skills, including a Bank Compliance program at the University of Oklahoma in 1989, as well as completing a prestigious three-year program during the summer at the Graduate School of Banking, sponsored by the University of Colorado, graduating in 1994. During this time, I married, fathered two beautiful children, and managed to have enough energy to assist my Dad with his farming operation until he retired in 1994, at which time I took over THAT too. I did it all; worked at the bank 8 hours a day, five days a week, raised two children, and managed a 4000 acre farm. Sadly, my marriage of 8 years ended in 2000. However, I was awarded residential custody of my children at that time and continued banking, farming, and was a single Dad for several years. I wore a lot of hats! I worked hard and, as I alluded to earlier, played hard as well.
That play, the years of it in fact, began to finally catch up with me beginning in 2005, and life began to unravel. By late 2007 and early 2008, the boy who loved to work hard and play hard, and the man he grew into carrying those same traits, finally hit bottom for only the second time in his life. Next to my mother’s death, succumbing to an insidious, powerful, and baffling DISEASE called alcohol was one of the most tragic and humble experiences I’ve experienced in life. I lost nearly everything; my job, my home, almost my children, my freedom, my self-respect, and nearly my life, not once, but THREE times from this horrible disease.
That all changed again and life began a rapid ascent, reaching new heights, and new successes beginning June 5th, 2008, the last time, and God willing, the very last, these lips will ever taste that evil poison. Since that fateful day, everything about my life is totally new. At age 50, I was literally and figuratively born anew. In fact, I would consider it an act of God, a true miracle. Today, the dynamic life I’m living continues to astound me every moment of every day. What I’ve lost, I’ve gained in immeasurable ways. Pride has given way to humility. “Movement” in a figurative way has replaced stagnation. I don’t watch TV, rarely sleep more than 6 or 7 hours a night, have an unwavering and passionate desire to give BACK to others that which I nearly lost, something called LIFE, with new ways of thinking, and new ways of living. My mind is moving constantly, along with another gift God left me with; the POWER of expressing myself with the written word. What I have left, I treasure deeply; what’s inside my heart and soul, a mind that is sharp as it’s ever been or, as something my Dad told me in mid-2010, shortly after I moved BACK to Southern California to start over and get a fresh start in life. I was helping him one day with some personal business using my computer where I live, and I'll never forget his words, uttered softly from this now 80 year old man; “Gus, I always knew you were good at what you did. But I believe you’ve come back BETTER than you EVER were.”
To put it another way, that little boy of his called Gusto is back, and back in a BIG way. One whose purpose is to inspire others with 52 years of wisdom gained from not only unfortunate occurrences in life but also, and more importantly, what some might call unparalleled success. Wisdom to GIVE to each of you reading this, to inspire you, that REGARDLESS of your circumstances, no matter whether you consider yourself a success or failure, that there’s always more to learn. Life is a never ending series of character tests and continual growth. I’m here for the rest of my days for one purpose and one purpose only, to SERVE my fellow brothers and sisters the BEST I know how with every fiber of my heart and soul.
I’d say the name fits, wouldn’t you?