I was born in the late 1950’s in Fresno, CA. I split my time between our houses in Fresno and our ranch outside of Madera, CA. My father owned a number of bars and a few restaurants, while my mother was a stay at home mom that raised four children. As a child in elementary school I spent my weekends helping my father take care of the ranch (which really meant my brother and I would play more than worked). Then during summer vacations I would help my father clean the bars, take out the trash, mop the floors, count the money from the jukebox and pool tables, and stock the cigarette machines. My father instilled in us hard work, dedication, and a job well-done. But my father showed us unconditional love, hope-no matter how hopeless things may look, and how to dream and build dreams. One of the many things I remember my father doing for me was giving me the opportunity through hard work and saving my money that I earned while working for him to be able to buy my own jukebox, pool table, and place it in his businesses on a 50/50 split. As a young child, my father introduced me to being an entrepreneur that I have carried with me my complete life. By the time I was moving onto middle school I had two paper routes (one in the morning and one in the evening), and my older brother and I had our own lawn mowing service on Saturdays each week. During the Christmas season, we would sell Christmas cards door-to-door and make gift candles out of blocks of wax and melt crayons to pour on top to give it a frosty look. I graduated elementary school as a D+ student and had many wonderful teachers and a few mentors that helped me realize I liked the business world more than the academic world.
In my middle school years, I continued on the same path as my elementary years. I stayed a D+ student, changed my newspaper routes in for pumping gas, catering at a bowling alley, buying and selling go-karts, mini bikes and anything else of value. I even tried my hand at loansharking for awhile, but I upset one of my teachers when he did not have money for lunch, and I offered to loan it to him for a higher percentage back. I continued to work for my father’s bars but not for the money; I had seen the hard work he put in and how sore he was each evening from the long days. My father was 48 years of age when I was born. He had already worked hard to provide for his family, and the years were catching up to him. He worked Monday-Friday, 12-14 hours a day and 6 hours on each weekend morning. Up until his time the only vacation we had is when we went to the ranch after my dad got off of work on Saturdays. Then, he would get up at 4am Sunday morning and head back to Fresno to work and return Sunday about 12pm. I played soccer and baseball during these years when I wasn’t working myself. Many of my teachers were happy to see me graduate middle school.
High school was pretty easy for me. I had one teacher in particular that liked me; he was a teacher who taught an elective. So besides my basic classes that I was required to take I spent three periods a day working in his classroom. My teacher enjoyed fine wines, and my father had a storage shed filled with it. I felt it was a good trade; wine for three periods of his classes each year. The funny things about this is, I thought I was getting away with something but in reality my elective teacher was one of the best mentors I have had in my life other than a later ex-father-in-law. My teacher took the time to have many talks with me about life, dreams, and the smart ways to achieve them. He helped me feel as if I had value within myself and not what was in my wallet. He was the first to demonstrate on a daily basis compassion and understanding of who I was. He may very well have been my first Santa Claus. The rest of my school years were about the same as my middle and elementary school years. I found ways to get through until my junior year. After a little research, I found if I moved to Sunnyvale, CA, it had a lower graduation credit requirement. So I told my parents that I would be moving within one week. I was 17-years-old when I took a Greyhound bus that dropped me off underneath a highway ramp.
I started my senior year of high school in Sunnyvale, CA. I was required to take three classes a day. I scheduled my classes for the first three periods in the morning and had the rest of the day to work. I worked at Bob’s Bigboy as a busboy, Beaver Carwash as a window-washer, Dan’s Chevron pumping gas and a mechanic apprentice, and I started my own handyman business where I learned how to paint, plumb, and do minor electrical work. I graduated high school with a D+ average and I finally felt free to follow my dreams.