What do the numbers 207, 10 and 6 mean to me?


John Sperling was a modern-day Horatio Alger story: He was born in a log cabin and was functionally illiterate as a youth.

He educated himself and founded a movement. Thanks to Dr. Sperling’s work, more than a million working-class Americans have been able to back to school and earn a college degree.

I was one of that million-plus who had an opportunity to earn a degree through the University of Phoenix, when 10 years ago today, I earned my bachelor’s degree.

I was fortunate enough to be the commencement speaker in front of 7,000 people and thousands more watching virtually.

I didn’t take the traditional route to higher education. Life happened and I became part of the growing segment of returning learners.

I didn’t stop with my bachelor’s degree. Two years later, I completed my educational journey by earning my Master’s of Public Administration.

But in so many ways, my life truly began anew on this day a decade ago.

I look back at where I was and I think of a percentage: 207%

That percentage represents how much my income has grown over a career change and SIX different jobs as I climbed the ladder and broke glass ceilings.

Later in 2012, I  was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Sperling. Then-Apollo Group CEO Chaz Edelstein introduced us, saying: “John, this is Eugene. He recently earned his bachelor’s degree and we brought him here to work for us. Eugene is the embodiment of your dream.”

I’m grateful to the late Dr. Sperling, who founded University of Phoenix for adult learners like me.

I’m grateful for everyone who believed in me, supported, encouraged and assisted me in getting to a much better place in my career.

I have aspired to continue the spirit of “implacable opportunism, joy in conflict and…thrill from taking risks” that John Sperling lived by.

And I’m not done. Because limits, like fears, are just an illusion.

This Is Me

Finishing my first marathon (March 20, 2022)

May 12, 1973 was a good day in my life. Why? Because it was the day … afternoon … I was born.

I can remember almost every one of my birthdays since then. My mother would take me through her experiences on the day I was born. And when 4:43 p.m. struck, she’d call me and sing “Happy Birthday” in an extremely off-key verison of Marilyn Monroe singing to JFK.

My mother and extended family made a big deal of my birthdays when I was younger. The culmination was a party hosted by my godmother that included a clown. After that, I asked my mom to stop having parties.

Instead, she’d pull me out of school and we’d go to Disneyland or an Angels game. Those were some of the memories I treasured the most.

As I grew into adulthood and started working regularly, I always tried to take my birthday off to have a small celebration. In my mid 30s, I started a “Geno-palooza” celebration week where I’d get together with friends and do a different activity that I enjoyed.

When I woke up today, my wife came in as I was getting dressed for work and sang “Happy birthday.”

My 6-year-old wandered in to give me a hug and a kiss.

“Happy birthday, Dad. Do you feel older?” she asked.

“Actually, yes. Yes, I do,” I replied, while trying to match a tie to my suit.

“When I was five and turned six, I didn’t feel older. Does you body hurt?” she asked.

“Not today,” I said. “Do I look older?”

“No,” she said.

And then she went to finish getting ready for school.

Do I feel older? Maybe more mature. As I look back on my life, I am continually reminded that I have less days/weeks/months/years of life than I did last year.

For the past 10 years, I’ve felt the sands of time slip through the invisible hourglass of my life and I remember the seminal moment that made me decide to make the most of those remaining breaths.

So for the past decade, I’ve used my birthday as an event marker to take stock of my progress in terms of reaching my goals.

This year has been a good year: I’ve started running again and recently completed my first marathon. I’ve had the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of folks needing some help. There have been so many openings to serve, to give back and to uplift.

There will always be areas of opportunity: Being a better husband and father; working on professional development; taking time for self care, etc.

But at 49 … This is who I am: Husband. Father. Communicator. Educator. Human Rights Advocate. Citizen. Runner.

Who Is This Guy?

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror; I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer; If you wanna make the world a better place
(If you wanna make the world a better place); Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
(Take a look at yourself, and then make a change)” Man in the MirrorMichael Jackson

Before and after

See the guy on the left? That’s who I used to be. The guy on the right? That’s where I was last week.

I’ve lived my life in two phases: Being overweight and not being overweight. Until I was 24, I wasn’t overweight. I was in shape, I was active, I played basketball every day and flag football at least once a week.

My then-girlfriend told me that she was pregnant. I was working part-time, renting a room, didn’t own a car and didn’t have health insurance. I gained 60 pounds in 7 months worrying and working on being a provider for my family.

I got a full-time job and was able to take care of my small and growing family. The relationship didn’t work out and I stressed about what kind of relationship I would have with my daughters. My method of coping was to eat. And eat. And eat.

There were moments over the past 20 years where I struggled and fought to lose weight: At 30, a girlfriend broke up with me and I took that time to work on losing about 30 pounds.

Seven years later, my high school reunion prompted me to work out. I lost 40 pounds, but that didn’t last and ever so slowly, I gained all that weight back and more.

Fast forward to this year. I was 43 years old with a wife and a 1-year-old daughter. I played slow-pitch softball and needed a runner when I got to first base.

I was 256 pounds.

My wife suggested I try a boot camp. I found one that was highly recommended and tried the first week for free. And then I took advantage of a discounted monthly rate. And then I signed up for 6 months.

Five days a week. Waking up at 5:45 a.m. Working out. Changing my lifestyle and eating 1,200-1,500 calories a day. And then I started doing something I hadn’t done in nearly 30 years: I started running.

I ran a 5K. And then another 5K. And then a 10K and then a Virtual 5K. Softball, which had been so important to me for so long, stopped being important. Getting healthy, getting in shape, losing weight, having a long life with my wife, being able to keep up with my almost 2-year-old, and being able to run faster have become my priorities.

So here I am today: 49 pounds lighter. Two pants sizes smaller, one shirt size smaller. A half shoe size smaller. A new attitude. And new work ethic. A rekindled fire within. Seven pounds away from breaking 200 pounds – for the last time in my life. 41 pounds and 19 years away from where this crazy journey started.

One of my friends remarked at how easy I’ve made it look. It’s not easy. It’s the hardest thing I’ve every done in my life. There are days I just want to sleep in. There are days I want to turn the car around. There are days I look in the mirror and feel like my progress is good enough.

And instead of quitting, I get back to work.

The Time of My Life – And 7 Other songs

Remember this girl? You might best remember her as Ferris Bueller’s sister or Johnny Castle’s underage summer fling. Or, you might think of her as a Dancing With the Stars champion or as Mrs. Agent Phil Colson.


Whenever I think of Jennifer Grey, memories of my youth of growing up in the 1980s flood my mind. I remember her in “Red Dawn” (her first screen appearance with Patrick Swayze) as the grubby freedom fighter.

Of course I remember her as Jeannie in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and later, as Frances “Baby” Houseman in “Dirty Dancing.”

What I like best about my memories of times gone by include remembering the feelings that accompanied said memories.

Ms. Grey was a guest VJ this morning on  Sirius’ 80s on 8. She revealed her top 8 (get the branding?) favorite songs from the 1980s. I found myself disappointed in her list of 8:

  • When Doves Cry;
  • Nasty (by Janet Jackson);
  • Express Yourself (by Madonna). Grey said Madonna claimed to be inspired by her when writing this song;
  • Looking for a New Love ( by Jody Watley);
  • What’s Love Got to Do With It;
  • I Wanna Dance (With Somebody);
  • Every Breath You Take;
  • Everybody Wants to Rule the World

It’s tough to compare favorites because it’s all a matter of opinion. With that said, I thought I could easily share my Top 8 from the 80s. As I started compiling my list, I had too many choices. There are just hundreds of 80s songs that I love.

So I set this requirement: I had to have heard the song during the 80s and not later in life. Before I give the list, here are the honorable mentions:

Purple Rain, Don’t Know Much, Just Another Part of Me, Tell it to my Heart, Smooth Criminal, Forever Your Girl, Every Little Step, Living in America, One Night in Bangkok, Need You Tonight, Lean on Me, Don’t Stop Believing, Everybody Wants to Rule the World.

So with that, here’s my favorite 8 from the 80s in no particular order:

  1. (I’ve had) The Time of My Life: That’s right, I’m taking Baby out of the corner. If I hear this song on the radio, I’m never turning the channel.
  2. Beautiful Boy: My mother sang this to me as a child and I sing it to my 1-year-old every night before bedtime.
  3. We are the World: The NY Post recently published a reader-submitted list of the 20 Worst Songs Ever and this was on that list. I totally disagree.
  4. Strange Love: This song inspired my love for Depeche Mode. There are about 15 versions of this song and I love them all.
  5. Lost in Your Eyes: Debbie Gibson was one of my first celebrity crushes. I actually got to dance with her at Disneyland at an old dance spot called Videopolis. This, in my opinion is her greatest song.
  6. Crazy For You: Everytime I hear this ballad by Madonna, I picture her singing in that lounge in Vision Quest. The funny thing is that I had that image in my mind before I saw the movie.
  7. Head to Toe: This song is a guilty pleasure and what keeps it in my heart is that it doesn’t get a lot of airplay, so when I hear it I still get good feelings.
  8. The Power of Love: I thought I’d end with this song because this whole post takes me Back to the Future.

I’m sure I’ve left out some songs that you love. I encourage you to leave a comment or write your own blog!

Until next time …

The Kissing Game … What?

“Since the invention of the kiss, there have only been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind.” – Peter Falk in The Princess Bride.

Happy New Year! Most of us celebrate the passing of the new year by counting down the seconds and then planting a smooch on a loved one, or the person/s nearest us in a room or crowd.

The celebration of the New Year is one of the few times it’s OK to kiss a complete stranger and not get slugged by the stranger, the stranger’s significant other, your significant other or a combination of all three. By no means are we advocating waiting until the end of the year to get your smooch on with a stranger just to feel the soft lips of … Sorry, where was I?

Ah yes, kissing. Sam from Casablanca sang “A kiss is just a kiss,” (ff to :35) but I must disagree. Kisses have meaning. Kisses have depth and kisses can be symbolic.

For example – take one of the most famous kisses in history: The picture of a sailor kissing a nurse in the middle of Times Square – taken on Aug. 14, 1945 – was shot most famously by Alfred Eisenstaedt (This photo was taken by Navy photojournalist Victor Jorgensen).

The sailor was grabbing women and randomly kissing them in celebration of President Roosevelt announcing the end of World War II. At first look, the pair pictured kissing could have been lovers. But they were complete strangers.

Fast forward 66 years to another kiss caught in the middle of a public situation – this time in Canada. Normally, I crack jokes about our neighbors to the North, but in this instance, I must tip my metaphorical cap to the Canadians featured below.

In the aftermath of the Vancouver Riots, which happened in anger after the Canucks were shutout in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals by the Boston Bruins. No fan of New England sports teams, I can understand the angst of being on the losing side in a sports contest.

But let’s be sensible: Did the fans in Ottowa riot in 2007 when the Ducks beat the Senators for the Stanley Cup? Did the fans in Philadelphia riot (moreso than normal) when the Toronto Blue Jays won the 2003 World Series?

Championships aside, the riots did occur. At first glance, the couple in questions – Australian Scott Jones and his Canadian girlfriend Alex Thomas – seem to be sharing a tender moment in the midst of urban crisis.

But there was more than meets the eye. Jones later said that after he and Thomas were knocked to the ground, he was kissing her to comfort her and calm her down.

In this case, a kiss was definitely more than a kiss. It was meant to help the turbulent times go by.

Until next time …


Guess what Rick (played by Humphrey Bogart) ISN’T saying to Sam in this scene from the 1942 classic, Casablanca? 

One of the most misremembered lines in film history comes from this movie. What is commonly remembered is “Play it again, Sam.”

What Rick actually said is “You played it for her, you can play it for me.” (it’s at 1:46 of the clip).

Similarly, in Empire Strikes Back, when Darth Vader finally takes responsibility for being Luke’s father – (Guess they didn’t have Child Support Services in a Galaxy, Far, Far Away) – Vader is misremembered to have said “Luke, I am your father.”

What Vader actually said was “No. I am your father.”

However, a coworker – and others – who haven’t seen these movies wouldn’t know those quotes – or even the mistaken quotes. With that … wait for it … Here … wait for it … is MY list of the 10 movies that if you claim to like movies – you need to see before you die:

1. Gone with the Wind – I read the book during my spring break of my junior year of high school and then watched the movie. The story, the backstory and Clark Gable chucking the deuces is epic.

2. Ben Hur – Chariot races, ocean battles … and a cameo by Jesus. This is an early example of a movie by men for me.

3. Casablanca – Boy meets girl, boy loses girl in World War II, boy and girl meet in gin joint, girl uses boy, boy loses girl, boy gains beautiful friend. That’s the condensed version, but there’s singing, kissing, and gun-play in between.

4. The Godfather I & II – I lump the first two movies together because they were were an extension of one film. Fredo was responsible for Vito almost getting whacked in Part I and got the kiss of death in Part II.

5. Star Wars – An incredible tale of boy meets girl, who turns out to be his sister; fights villain, who turns out to be his father; meets mentor, who dies nobly. Oh, and Han shot first.

6. Pulp Fiction – We found out what a Royale With Cheese is, how to dispose of a headless body and how to revive someone who ODs on heroin.

7. Hoosiers – A true-story about the little team that could. They ran the Picket Fence, but didn’t get caught watching the paint dry.

8. Rocky II – Forget about the original – which won the Oscar for Best Picture. Why? Because Rocky LOST!! The sequel shows the dangers of illiteracy, commitment to family and the true resolution: Yo Adrian, I did it!

9. Forrest Gump – This movie had more catchphrases than almost any movie in history. I think I might watch the movie later one to see how many catchphrases there are. My favorite? “Run Forrest, run!

10. Top Gun  – This is the movie that started the conversation in my office. A 27-year-old colleague had NEVER seen this movie (or Star Wars, for that matter). In honor of that colleague – and another who loved this movie for the VOLLEYBALL SCENE … here you go.

Until next time …