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I was a fun kid. I loved roller coasters, my brothers' KISS records, and learning about hurricanes, tornados, and earthquakes.

However as a child, I bought into a fallacy that charted the course of my life:
I believed I had to fit in.

Fitting in was tough enough in a military family, living eight different places before starting high school. Then high school was tough, because I was a closeted gay boy who desperately wanted to be in the hyper-masculine world of hard rock music. Coming out as a hard-rocking gay man in the gay world of dance clubs and drag shows was tougher still. It seemed there wasn't a place on earth I fit in.

Where I did shine was helping people be happy and carefree as a Skipper (no pun intended) for five years on the world famous Jungle Cruise at Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. Not only did I offer exciting trips through the jungle, but I also got a taste of work-life balance! (After all, you can't take the jungle home with you.) From there, I moved on to various customer service and support roles in corporate America. Those jobs paid the bills, but offered little in the way of satisfaction or fulfillment.

As a diversion from my growing dissatisfaction with the corporate environment, I took up two hobbies. First, I found the confidence (and the technology) to take up home recording. I sang, played guitar and bass, and recorded an album in my basement that reflected my experience of having each foot in two worlds that no one thought could reconcile. Singing my own songs, I not only stood in my own power, but also on the stages of six pride festivals in 2011, playing my music my way.

Concurrently, I spent years of my corporate commuting ritual studying audiobooks and lectures about personal, professional, and spiritual growth. I fell in love with teachers like Caroline Myss, Joseph Campbell, Alan Watts, Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, and others. Their teachings on mysticism, history, and philosophy opened my worldview and provided me a "secret decoder ring" to understand the world both around us and within us.

Becoming a certified professional coach became the practical application of all that I had learned. Through it all, what I learned was this: life is not about fitting in. Authenticity is about being powerful — and comfortable — in your own skin, making your own choices, regardless of anyone else's expectations.

The mental, emotional, and spiritual teachings I took on served as an inner retrofit, like retrofitting a home for earthquakes. The retrofits don't stop the earthquake from coming, and they don't lessen the intensity of the shaking. What they do is hold your house together through the shaking, so that it's easier to rebuild your life when the shaking is over.

Life can sometimes feel like a roller coaster full of natural disasters. Obstacles in life can block our path, and break our hearts many times. But we can learn the skills to address, acknowledge, and release the hurt, anger, and grief. Time does not heal all wounds; it's what we do with our time that makes the difference.

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Today, I help those struggling with a status quo that needs to go! Through a model of Energy, Power, Choice, and Authenticity, I call on my original "Jungle Cruise" spirit, a lifelong passion for personal and professional growth and development, and the Energy Leadership™ coaching process to help people create their authentic selves. I've done my job when clients have recognized how and where they've given their power away - and have taken concrete action to reclaim their power. I'm a Certified Professional Coach and Energy Leadership Master Practitioner, and have partnered with such organizations as AbbVie, American Society for Quality, Age Forward, Bodhi Road, and Metropolitan Community Church to present practical, tangible material creating instant impact on grief, work/life balance, and major life changes. I'm an Assistant Training Coach for the iPEC Coach Training program, and a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist.

(I still also regularly attend "dashboard university," whether driving into Chicago, Milwaukee, or traversing (and photographing) the continent.)