This week I have been thinking a lot about mentors and people who have affected my life in a positive way.
As many know my dad is without a doubt my biggest mentor in life and someone I have looked up to since I was a kid so I will stay brief on him, but he deserves to be mentioned first! Growing up my dad used to work from sun up to sun down and there were many days as a kid that I wouldn’t even see him at all because he would be gone before I woke up and wasn’t home until I was already asleep. All this changed once I started racing. We spent a lot of time behind a windshield as we cris-crossed the country. My dad instilled from me at the beginning something that I will take to the grave and that is that hard work does not go unnoticed and that if you work hard enough you can do or have anything. I am now lucky enough to have my dad in my corner supporting my business adventure and although we are not traveling the country, I still get to see my dad every single day at work!
Obviously almost everyone thinks of a parent as a mentor, but what about other people who have made a positive impact on my life?
When living the life as a racer I was lucky enough to work with some amazing people along the way and I would like those people to get the recognition that they may or may not know affected me. Three people come to mind, some who still talk to me and some who won’t even make eye contact with me!
First would be the man with one of the oddest nicknames out there, Flea Ruzic since most people don’t know his real name. Flea was my crew chief for quite some time and we won a ton of races in a short time, something like 50 races in 2 years. He was the first person who let me get behind a tig torch and try to teach me to weld as well. Where Flea excelled with me was getting every last bit of effort out of my skills, we connected on a level that not many people do. We were also had one of the most brutal relationships in which, if I messed up, he was just waiting to bust my balls on it. The same went for if he may have given me less than subpar advice back. We also had a relationship in which we could almost communicate without even speaking and were always on the same wave length. Flea is one of the worlds best fabricators and has a successful business very similar to mine in which he builds chassis called Rippers. Flea and I speak almost weekly about anything you could imagine and still have a very great relationship. Besides my father, Flea is one of the more influential people in my life.
Another mentor I was very fortunate in having was Rusty Kunz. Rusty is one of the best crew chiefs in the nation for midgets having won some of the biggest races in the USA. Although Rusty and I did not have nearly as close of a bond, he taught me almost everything I know about how a car handles and what to do to make it better. I really soaked up as much as I could from Rusty and I am sure I never have communicated to him the knowledge that he instilled in me from car maintenance to setups he always gave it 100 percent and provides every driver he works with the best car to win with and its clear when you see his racing resume. I can credit a lot of my success to the knowledge that Rusty taught me over the years.
Remember how I said some of the mentor’s won’t even look at me anymore? That leads me to my next person I would like to mention and that is Rick England. Rick worked with me for several years and unfortunately, we had a falling out that just couldn’t be repaired. If there is ever a project out there in the world that someone can not complete because they lack the knowledge or skills you should call Rick. He is by far one of the greatest fabricators in America. He taught me how to run our first South Bend lathe, how to cut my first chips on a Bridgeport Mill, and how to work with sheet metal. I know for a fact since our falling out I was never able to really let him know how much he taught me, but I know for a fact the skills I learned from him our priceless.
There are several other people who have done so much for me along the way as well. Jeff Palazzolo spent countless hours of his own time teaching me how to tig weld until I figured it out and is always my go to source for information on subjects, I am clueless about.
Barrett Baebler was one of my college professors who I more recently circled back to thanking for his positive affect on me. Webster University offers a entrepreneurship certificate and he was in charge of the program at the time and the classes I was able to take with him pushed me in the right direction giving a true education on it versus a hard knock approach to it the other mentors in my life may have given.
So, what’s the long and short of this post? I would say I was lucky in the resources that I have been given and am grateful for them, but for anyone reading this post I would say there is a mentor out there for everyone. Believe it or not people are almost always willing to help others and most the time these people actually get satisfaction out of knowing someone is interested in some of their knowledge. Hopefully I didn’t get to far down the rabbit hole and lose any readers, but I think it is very safe to say that if you surround yourself with good people you will see good results. Don’t be afraid to ask for help in life, there is always someone out there willing to help.
Drop a comment below and share your thoughts or stories on one of your mentors or role models, I am sure people would love to hear positive results from others on this topic as well!
Until next time….