You have vital powers. Afford them scope.

The exercise of vital powers along lines of excellence in a life affording them scope. — Greek Definition of Happiness, Circa 500 B.C.

Shannon McGurk, 馬伯樂

I was privileged to attend Mary Washington College when the principal at my high school (Bishop Denis J. O’Connell H.S.) picked up the phone and got me into that excellent college because it was clear I had no plan for my life. I remember thinking “Don’t mess this up,” as I set foot on the Mary Wash campus. I graduated in 1982 (English/Political Science), but until I was about 30 I was a train wreck. A hazard to myself and everyone around me. I owe apologies to many people. If you are one of them and you are reading this post please know that as a young man, like many young men, I didn’t know how to be a Human Being. As an undergraduate this was especially true. It wasn’t until about a year ago I decided I would like to learn how to be a truly better man. That, in turn, has led me to pursue being an Authentic Man, which will take the rest of my life. More on that at some later date.

During the summers of 1979, 1980 and 1981 I worked at The Washington Post, first as a janitor then in advertising. I played rugby at Mary Wash (not well at all but I really liked the fellowship), hosted a radio show and was the Editor-in-Chief of the college newspaper. Two of the highlights of the experience at The Washington Post were interviewing Mr. Don Graham and shaking Ronald Reagan’s hand after being pushed out of the way by a Secret Service Agent. However, in spite of these wonderful experiences and the education I received working as a janitor, upon graduation in 1982, I didn’t start at The Washington Post on probation as a reporter, as planned.

Instead, I joined the Army.

Being a Second Lieutenant and First Lieutenant in Germany in the 1980’s was an amazing experience. I was cursed with great. Great. Leadership. at 2nd AD. That great leadership set me up for some hard falls in subsequent years in the Army. I thought all senior Army Officers were as honorable and heroic as the first U.S. Army active duty Tank Commander — he of German extraction– I encountered, my first Platoon Sergeant and Track Commander, my first Troop Commander and first Division Commander. They were giants.

My father fought in WWII, Korea and Vietnam and loved the Army so I thought I’d see if I liked being a soldier. I also wanted to work outdoors and see Europe. So, I attended Army Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia in the hot summer of 1982. I asked to be an Armor Officer. The Army said yes. I loved being a tanker and served as an Armored Cav Platoon leader then as a Division staff officer at 2nd Armored Division in beautiful Northern Germany outside Bremen. After a happy tour in Germany I was very fortunate to serve as a Cav Troop Commander in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Bliss, Texas. At Bliss, roughly at the mid-point of my career, I heard about the Army’s China Foreign Area Officer Program. I asked to be a China Foreign Area Officer. The Army said yes, I could apply. I applied. To my complete surprise, I was accepted. The first step was to learn to speak Chinese, so I studied Mandarin Chinese in Monterey California for 47 weeks at the Defense Language Institute in 1990. When I graduated I spoke pretty good Chinese and understood it very well, proving the Army can teach anyone anything. I love all things about the Chinese language to this day and most things about the Chinese culture. For that I am eternally indebted to the incredible instructors at DLI and my subsequent training and experience traveling in China. Next step was to get a Masters, so I was flabbergasted to fulfill a lifelong dream I had had to attend the University of Virginia. That’s where I met my wife, Maureen, in a Chinese language class. Maureen changed my life and I owe her everything. After a beautiful– like a dream– year and a half in Charlottesville, I was posted to the most fascinating city I have ever lived in– Hong Kong. My job was to learn all I could about China, so I traveled throughout mainland China for 18 months. Maureen and I married in Hong Kong. After Hong Kong I worked in the Pentagon, did some more work with tanks, returned to China as an Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. After retiring from the Army I worked as a defense contractor and started some businesses which succeeded moderately well until I crashed a business in 2007.

Here’s where it gets a little crazy. A lot crazy.

In November, 2007, just as our family had begun to enjoy financial success with my second part-time business, our 4-year-old daughter (who was our 7th child… we now have 11), was diagnosed with cancer. A week later I crashed my business– I had tried to fly it too fast and high. A spectacular failure and I am sorry to this day for what my errors in judgment put Maureen and the children through. I gleaned, we gleaned– as we re-built our lives– personal, family, financial and professional lessons which have enriched our lives and contributed to the many successes we are enjoying now. In addition to my full-time job, I do some private consulting work as a coach and trainer for others, now, to help them avoid the many mistakes I have made. My goal with everyone I talk to is to help them improve their quality of life, to show them how to qualify legitimate financial opportunities in global businesses and to help them position themselves for abundance in this growing, improving global economy.

Maureen and I live on a farm in Virginia with 10 of our 11 children, two boarded horses, two Tuxedo Cats named Winston and Wilbur, two rabbits named Romulus and Remus and an English Bull Terrier named Walter. Our daughter, diagnosed with cancer in 2007, is now a thriving, happy, precocious 10-year-old. Our 24-year-old son lives in California.

It would be great to hear from you. If I can help you with anything at all, shoot me a note at shannon@shannonmcgurk.com