Oddly enough, the things that changed the trajectory of my career and life happened to me prior to graduating from high school.
The first pivotal point happened when I was 14 years old. I had an incident with my stepfather, and he slapped me. It wasn’t child abuse or anything like that. I had done something stupid and deserved to be slapped. I was old enough and big enough that the slap didn’t hurt me, but I got really pissed and stormed out of the house. I decided I would not return home and would run away. I found a place to be alone and sat down to plan my escape. I thought the whole thing out.
After much thought, I reached a few conclusions:
- If I dropped out of school and with no education, I would have a hard time getting a meaningful job.
- If I wanted to leave home, I would need to finish my education and start to earn a living.
- If I wanted to do well in life, I would need to do well in school and then go to college.
The next pivotal point in my life occurred in my freshman year of high school. A friend of mine convinced me that we should try out for wrestling. Once I started wrestling, I loved it. My friend didn’t care much for it, and he quit. I was good at it. I was quite heavy for a freshman and wrestled in the unlimited weigh class which was 210 pounds or higher. The more I wrestled, the more weight I lost. Each year I was in the next lower weight class. By my senior year, I was wrestling at 175 pounds. Had I remained at over 200 pounds, I would never have been accepted at West Point. By junior year I was captain of the wrestling team.
The next pivotal point also occurred at the start of my freshman year. My stepfather moved the family onto Fort Lewis (Washington) late into my freshman year. I enrolled in a small school that was just getting started. I was in the first class to eventually graduate from that school. My friends were kids in the neighborhood and in my classes at school. All were honor students. The first thing they wanted to know is which military academy I want to attend. I had never thought about it before. My plan was to attend UCLA and take ROTC. One friend wanted to attend the Air Force Academy. Another one wanted to attend West Point. Another was planning on attend the Citadel in South Carolina. Without much thought, I answered West Point. After graduation, two of us did attend West Point and one went to the Citadel. Unfortunately, the fourth friend failed the medical exam and didn’t go to the Air Force Academy. He did, however, take Air Force ROTC in college as served 20 years in the Air Force. We all were lifetime friends. Without them, I would have gone to UCLA.
A funny blog next week. I promise.