I hope what drives me will impact you and help you not to make the same stupid mistakes I did! As young people, we are not always interested in the thoughts and rules parents bestow upon us. As you grow older you may understand what Mark Twain said “ When I was fourteen, I just could not believe how dumb my old man was; but by the time I turned twenty-one, I was amazed how much he had learned.”
Believe me I grew up not listening to my father; after all what did he know? I will fast track to age sixteen, when they threw me out of the ninth grade. Why? because I was such a good student.
There I was, no school, no job, and very little education. Pretty cool, huh?
Lets go back to age twelve. I started delivering Newsday ( a Long Island newspaper ) on the waterfront of Freeport, N.Y. No kid at twelve could have had a better learning experience. I delivered to restaurants, bars, shipyards and some homes. This is where I learned to become a salesman, a businessman. In those days we made about $.08 a paper, big money, but the good money was selling papers at bars, great tips. It's so hard to remember back then, but maybe I made about $12 bucks a week. That's big money at twelve, back then!
I became such a good salesman, I continually won trips ( selling newspaper subscriptions ), with other boys to places like Coney Island, and baseball games. Coney Island was a fun place for kids, great wooden roller coasters, rides, games, a world famous amusement park. Of course we had great baseball teams, like the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants and the New York Yankees. Many of the baseball greats played there. If you liked baseball there was no greater baseball town.
At fourteen I still had the newspaper route, and also washed dishes part time at a seafood restaurant. In all I delivered newspapers for four years. Little did I know the impact these jobs would have on my life. They taught me salesmanship, and work ethic, among many lessons.
Back to sixteen, out of school, no job, no education, hanging out at the soda shop, how cool was I? So cool, my father said it's time to pay rent, $25 a week. Well sometimes you get lucky and I did, I met Bob Riley! The owner of the soda shop told me the owner's son of the lawnmower shop nearby was looking for someone to mow lawns. Maybe one time hanging out at the soda shop paid off. Bob Riley became my boss and my mentor, I owe him big time. Thanks Bob!
When you get the chance, get a mentor. A mentor can guide you and teach you. It's worth more than words; it could be worth your life! I know, and that's exactly why I created Youth Speaking to America ( YSTA ).
The amazing story was Bob Riley was only eighteen, but mature beyond his years. He taught me the Landscaping business. Bob built a huge landscaping business, covering many of Long Islands plush estates, as I cut my teeth, Bob trained me to become a pro just like him. He trained me well, as later I went on to win four City of St. Petersburg, City Beautification Awards, Thanx Bob.
Lets skip forward to 1988, after racing Motocross for over twenty years, I started riding mountain bikes, since I already had all the off-road skills, I just needed the endurance. I learned quickly that I was much better at mountain biking than motocross. In 1990 my close friend Dave Robichaux and I decided to travel to Durango, Colorado to the first official World Mountain Bike Championships, and compete.
Dave's skills as a bike builder and designer were unparalleled then. Frankly, he never received credit for all the innovations in bicycles he inspired. Dave built the first full suspension mountain bike, designed and built a time trial bicycle with aero tubing, years before anyone else. All this in the middle to late 80's. Dave's experience at motocross and motorcycle road racing, along with bicycles, lead to his innovative bicycle ideas. His welding was the best that could be done with a human hand. Dave was my hero. He was a brilliant man and a free spirit. He died in a ultra-lite flying accident.
On my way back from the World Mountain Bike Championships, I wondered why mountain biking was not successful in Florida? It was not because there were no mountains, but because there were no promoters. With over twenty years of motocross racing, I felt qualified to be a race promoter. So I spent the next 12 years promoting, mountain bike, off-road duathlons and triathlon events, while managing my landscaping business, promoting over 100 events.
Well I built the largest State Mountain Bike Championship Series in the country, with over $30,000 in prizes each year, with the help of Dave and Terry Berger ( Gone Riding ).
In 2003 as a three month old Toastmaster I was invited to speak at The Great American Teach-in. This is a program held in Florida Public Schools every Oct.
For my one hour program at Alonzo High School, Tampa Fl. , I decided on a motivational talk.
It was that 16 year boy sitting in the front row who caught my attention, he reminded me of that boy ( the class clown ) who was thrown out of school at 16! Flash back, the boy no one understood.
I knew exactly how to engage him in my program, as i did. That day I realized why I had become a Toastmaster; take my message DON’T QUIT SCHOOL to the youth of America.
My commonsense approach to teaching is from years of hard work, a lifetime as a entrepreneur, success and failure. Hundreds of Toastmaster meeting’s, contests and youth programs. Thousands of hours of listening and reading and speaking to help prepare them, our future, our children!
My commonsense approach to teaching, is to entertain, to challenge and even sometimes add some discipline.
That is exactly why Youth Speaking to America was born!