• Mike Olsen

My Story - Phase 1 of 3

Updated: Jul 5, 2019


This is my story of success, failure and enduring. I was born in the late '60s in the Western United States. My ancestors came from Denmark, Germany, and other Scandinavian areas and immigrated to the United States as converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and most survived the Mormon migration from Missouri to the West. I've been called a sophisticated Red-Neck and that feels about right. I have the DNA of blue-collar roots with a blend of cowboy, farmer, and entrepreneur. I still feel the immigrant need to hustle, but these days I prefer to tap my smartphone to order, pay for and deliver dinner. Memories of hunting, fishing, and farming to survive are clear. There are many Americans who are from my generation with a similar experience. We came through this

country knowing we lived on the edge of 2 worlds. One world has a clear recollection of the good old days of hard work and survival. The other world is the digital revolution that even in the second decade of the 21st century, digital dominance is still in its infancy.

Yea, cute picture, I know. Now for the interesting part. Notice my left hand. It resembles a T-Rex hand more than a human hand. This is the potential for a rocky start. If it were not for a loving and determined mother, doctors would have removed it, feeling it in my best interest.

"It would just be in his way", is the story recounted to me years later. "He won't be able to use it." I am grateful for a tough and loving mother. She also made sure to crush any potential tendencies for self-pity. "If you want something bad enough, Mike, your hand will never stop you from obtaining it." She was right. Throughout my early years, there were countless hours of pitching a tennis ball to me as a toddler. I would adjust the bat a bit for the hand. More pitches. Over and over and over. The repetition wasn't due to her desire to raise an athlete. It was because of the sheer joy that came from watching that tennis ball jump of the bat.

I remember as if it were yesterday. I couldn't get enough. As a child, you just do what makes you happy. If it's one thing I have learned over the last 50 plus years and raising 5 sons, it is that if a child feels loved, they will feel safe to do things on their own, free to explore the world as if they belonged like anyone. If a child feels confident that any failure will not reduce acceptance or love, a parent or parent figure has just given them superpowers. I was blessed to have parents that supported me through my failures. Come to think of it, they still do. Through all of my trials, they always loved. More on those later. I have learned than parental figures are not just biological. They can be a neighbor. They can be a friends parent. The parent may be a traditional male and female couple. Sometimes it's it's only a man or a woman. They can be a teacher or coach. Some parental figures may not even realize they are fulfilling that role. They quietly live their lives according to their own principles because they choose to. They are not perfect and they do not claim to be. They see imperfection but they do not value it over the potential they believe in.

I was blessed with what I would call "Good Genetics", I was certainly no world-class athlete. I was only average size and speed. Having been born with an abnormal hand, I had to work harder than the rest to keep up. I had to find ways to get the task done. I had to find different ways. I had to invent tools and gadgets that didn't exist. Creativity was not just a necessity I enjoyed.

I was blessed with what I would call "Good Genetics", I was certainly no world-class athlete. I was only average size and speed. Having been born with an abnormal hand, I had to work harder than the rest to keep up. I had to find ways to get the task done. I had to find different ways. I had to invent tools and gadgets that didn't exist. Creativity was not just a necessity I enjoyed.

I developed a tenacity to make it worked. Quitting after the first failed try wasn't acceptable to me.

This often led to intolerance when others decided to quit. I have learned through self-awareness over many years that while many others and even myself, my confidence and determination sometimes is born from fear of failure and need for acceptance. I have come to understand and accept this. It's not the worst motivation. Better motivation is just finding joy in the process of work. For example, I developed a tenacity to make it work. Quitting after the first failed try wasn't acceptable to me. This often led to intolerance when others decided to quit. I have learned through self-awareness over many years that while many others and even myself, my confidence and determination sometimes is born from fear of failure and need for acceptance. I have come to understand and accept this. It's not the worst motivation. Better motivation is just finding joy in the process of work. For example, I started out in sports wanting to be part of the group in a town that was small; very small. LaPoint, Ut, population less than 1,000. Stop lights, non-existent. Stop signs, 1. To think of being part of a "little league team" wasn't even an option. I had heard of baseball when I was 7 or 8 from a set of Encyclopedia Britannica. That was the prized knowledge base for our home. I call it red-neck Google. It had "artist drawings of the "mechanics of pitching". It's all I could get but, I made it work. "Now, who can I get to play catch with?". My dad worked a lot like most dads. The nearest human neighbor was 2 miles through fields in any direction. The nearest kid my age was 5 miles away.

That left me with learning the art of pitching from a book, so, I made it work. The "B" encyclopedia had a drawing of a transparent target and a bullseye over the center of the catcher's mitt. Ah! I had an idea. There was on old barn, circa 1800's, on the edge of our 2 acre property. Four foot tall weeds had pretty much taken over at the time. This was the kind of barn made from logs with mud in between. It had a wooden roof. Dirt was used to cover the roof instead of shingles. A 4ft x 8 ft piece of plywood was hanging on the exterior wall. This was used in the winter when I would trap muskrats or beaver and stretch their hides on it to dry before selling them. Trapping or hunting was one of the very few ways a young kid could make extra money in the winter. If I could attach a target to it somehow, I would have a catcher. I would teach myself to pitch. Now, for the target. I didn't have one. I didn't have a magic marker. The board was sun-bleached white. As far as I could see were weeds and sunbaked red dirt. Another ah-ha moment. I could draw a circle in red dirt on the board. I stepped off the distance between the board to my pitching mound, according to the book "B". 60 ft. 6 in.

I learned a year later, locating a tape measure, after hours and hours in the sun practicing, that I was actually practicing from about 62ft. Maybe this had something to do with the 90 mph fastball I had in high-school. Anyway, I threw at that board all summer for 2 summers until my father obtained a new job and our family moved to a to"town", 10 miles away. Roosevelt, Utah population at the time of about 3,000 and I had moved to the big city in my mind. I made the little league all-stars and continued to work hard and find success. All the while I had to do extra to keep succeeding. I didn't mind the extra. I enjoyed it.

I was a small school star and average Jr. College pitcher. I didn't care. I earned a full ride athletic scholarship and was successful in the only mind that mattered, mine.
Golf was a very similar story. I had to teach myself things that people with all of their fingers didn't have to deal with. I sewed my own golf gloves and modified my gear when necessary. I think I was even better at golf than baseball. Baseball was just cooler then.

Girls paid attention to baseball players. They really liked pitchers. Yep, I was a normal young man. I did, however, get to a certain level where even becoming a professional was not a crazy idea. I got to a point in sports where every average athlete must make. You own the fact that the world-class athletes are blessed with something more and a decision has to be made. Do you grind it out for years in hopes of a shot? Do you accept that your competitive sports career is finished? There are many examples of professional athletes who are far less gifted than their peers that become professionals. It takes the sacrifice of everything else but, it is very possible.

I was not willing to make that sacrifice and instead decided to focus on my future and family. Whatever that would be. "What am I going to do for the rest of my life for work?", I wondered daily. I didn't know what career I wanted. I did enjoy the hustling moments when I sold animal hides for money. Then there were the times I would sell fishing flies to the locals and tourists stopping at small gas stations in the area on their way to fish for Brown, Brook and Rainbow Trout in the beautiful and rugged Uintah Mountain range. These mountains were my home away from home. The rugged mountains were for us, a playground. As I reflect on my life, I think I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I just never knew what it meant. I enjoyed the risk and the reward but, I didn't have the access to the correct mentors. I knew no entrepreneurs. "Get a college degree", was the hope and dream of parents for their kids. I don't regret my upbringing. I loved it as it gave me so many life lessons that are needed to live a full and happy life. Family values, hard farm work and more are all characteristics that are a key component to any happy life. I had more than enough of that. I was also a curious child that viewed the world through the lens of "How does this work?" Not from the normal mechanical point of view but, from the viewpoint of wanting to know how the money flow operated. I didn't covet the money but rather, "Who gets paid to do what and when?", that's what interested me.

I went to college on partial scholarships but, I was really there for the baseball... and girls. I had just returned from serving a 2 year church mission in Tallahassee, FL. to attend BYU and had a short stint as a pitcher. Life on the bench at a Division 1 University was good. It was the late 80's and I was able to hob knob with the some of the best football players in the country. BYU had just won the NCAA Championship for the first time in school history. Our baseball team was so so and I began to think hard about my future. Our team was not great but, we did have some serious individual talent. We had one young pitcher on our staff that passed on the draft out of High School that included a $250,000 signing bonus in 1989. That was some serious money then. He was younger and much more talented than I. I knew the top Triple-A players. They made about $30K a year unless they ever got a chance at the big leagues. I had my eyes opened. Professional sports are hard. My father was a great athlete. I was able to see the life of professional athletes. It wasn't all that glamorous in the late '80s if you weren't the top in your field. I needed to chart a course outside of baseball. What do I do now? My future was certain up to this point. Now it was wasn't. I faced the question every athlete faces when he or she has to decide if the struggle and payoff is worth the work. I chose to start a family and dive into the real world.

There is more to this portion of my life but, that will have to be added later. The failures to come. At least the reader will know me to this point. Mike Olsen. A 21 year old about to be married.


0 views
  • Black LinkedIn Icon
  • Black Instagram Icon
  • Black Twitter Icon
  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Black YouTube Icon

© 2018 MikeOlsen.me