Another Mentor Gone — What He Taught Me

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Whatever you do for a living, if you’ve done it long enough, and have diligently pursued excellence, you no doubt know an expert in your industry when you see one. Heck, we’ve all seen folks who’ve spent thousands upon thousands of hours at a hobby for which they harbor a white hot passion. They’ve become experts, whether or not they’re considered pros in the traditional sense. I’ve spoken with more than a few of ’em over the years, and many said they simply followed somebody who knew ‘more than they did’ ’til they continued learning on their own. ‘Course, making mistakes, sometimes big ones doesn’t matter all that much when it’s a hobby and not your living — or your retirement.

I bring this up as one of my most cherished mentors, Gene Fisher, passed away last year. I met Gene as a scrawny 15 year old wannabe bodybuilder one day in 1967. I rode my bike by his gym, smiled at my luck, and walked in. He greeted me as a peer,  which was awesome, considering he was the embodiment of who I wanted to become. At about 5′ 9″ tall, his chest was just under 50″, and his biceps over 20″, which was almost beyond comprehension, even to my lyin’ eyes. :- ) Gene made friends easily cuz he had sparse criteria. You had to be genuinely forthright and honest. You had to be a hard worker. You had to show respect at all times, no exceptions. You had to follow the rules of his gym. The rules? They boiled down to no roughhousing or cussing. To say his gym was OldSchool was understatement to the British degree. But most of all, you had to be teachable.

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About Gene and What he Taught Me

He was an army vet, having spent almost 26 months spread over a couple tours in Viet Nam. He spent much of that time, however, in the surrounding countries. He was tough beyond description, yet one of the kindest most generous men I’ve ever known. He was later asked by his country to, as he put it, ‘spend time’ — twice — in the jungles of Panama during the Noriega period. The army also taught him to fly in a time so shortened by necessity, he laughed when tellin’ us stories about it.

His bodybuilding expertise was what I’ve come to call quietly legendary. Most of the big names in the world of bodybuilding knew him. But he rarely talked about them, except when they’d show up, completely unannounced at the gym now and then. Bill Pearl was one of ’em, a multiple winner of the Mr. Universe contest. He just walked in the door one day. We looked at him, then at Gene. Gene was big, but this guy was from another planet. Gene introduced us to Bill as if we were co-owners of the gym. I’ll never forget that day.

Anywho, Gene taught us that true success in anything is only and always the result of keen focus, true dedication, and prodigious effort expended an hour at a time. He said there was nothin’ we couldn’t do, if we looked at it as a process broken into hour long segments. Whether it was bodybuilding, our education, or a career that might take years to build, he convinced us we could do anything, be anything, if we attacked it ruthlessly and just 60 minutes at a time.

Gene never taught me a thing about real estate. Over the years he introduced me to college and pro football players, various bodybuilding champions, and the like. Regardless of who they were, they treated Gene with the ultimate respect. My buddies and I saw how much these guys, some of them who were so very well known, revered Gene Fisher. Still, he was possibly the humblest mentor I’ve had, who’d accomplished more in life before he was 40 than most do in a lifetime. Lord knows how many young lives he directed towards success. Better still, we’ll never know how many lives he likely saved.

When I met him, I’d recently moved to San Diego to be with my father. Didn’t know anyone cuz I’d made the move on the last day of school. Like so many others he mentored, I was a different kid by the time summer was over and my junior year of high school commenced. Over the years I witnessed what Gene referred to as ‘bad actors’ transform under his guidance. I’ve often wondered how many of those kids became successful in life based upon their experience in Fisher’s Gym.

The Quiet Impact of a Mentor

As I’ve often said, nobody deserves the group of mentors with which I’ve been blessed. Gene Fisher’s affect on my outlook on life, and how I view challenges and goals cannot be overstated. He showed me in the gym, an hour at a time, what’s possible. He taught us that remaining calm in scary times is what leadership is about. The lessons he taught those who listened were priceless. Hearing a ‘Not bad, Brown’ from him was worth more than I can say, as he wasn’t a believer in givin’ out trophies for merely participating. You had to earn his respect.

Gene Fisher had a profound affect on two generations. I’m proud to have known him. He was a blessing, and I miss him.

Photo: RS Snaps

About Author

Jeff Brown

Licensed since 1969, broker/owner since 1977. Extensively trained and experienced in tax deferred exchanges, and long term retirement planning.


  1. jeffrey gordon on

    Great story Jeff!

    Role models and mentors sure seem a lot harder to come by these days for young men!

    Usually when they are no longer around do we truly come to appreciate how important they were in our lives!

    Almost all the guys I know who reached great success, attribute much of their position to someone along the way who took them under their wing and showed the how and the why.


    jeffrey gordon

  2. Jeff

    My next hour at the Gym (And my next hour or Real Estate Investing) will be dedicated to the memory of Gene Fisher.

    Love the part about no trophies for participation!!! Love That!!!

    Good Investing

  3. Great article Jeff! Those kind of mentors are truly priceless and we’re so blessed to have had them in our lives.

    My main mentor was a man that I never even met in person – the late Jim Rohn. I’ve listened to and read his material countless times and he changed my life in unimaginable ways. I literally cried when I heard of his passing, and sat in silence and said a prayer for him – my own way of saying thank you in the most sincere way.

    But now it’s our turn to be the leader and help the next generation up. The torch is in our hands, and it’s our good work to prepare those to carry it well.

  4. Wow! Love how you write!

    The best REI mentor I ever had was Barney Zick, the best Creative REI Teacher, ever, of Houston Texas.

    Contracts and word patterns for sellers, buyers, and private lenders – JV partners. Still no one comes close.

    I still listen to this day to his mp3s.

    My condolences for you good friend and mentor.

    And Jeff, keep up the great writing!

    Brian, RISKills

    • Jeff Brown

      Thanks so much, Brian. My mentors as a group were so diversified in so many ways, it’d be virtually impossible to pick the best. With the exception of Gene, the common denominator in the group was their relationship with Dad. Since I knew my place, and was raised OldSchool, i.e., my job was to be seen and rarely heard, they liked me. 🙂

    • Jeff,
      I am sorry for your loss and happy for you that you got to know suck a good person that made an impact in your life.
      Thank you!

      Hi Brian,
      I am currently investing in Houston Texas and saw that you know someone from here? Do you know who can help me with advice in the area?

  5. I met Gene in 1982. Belonged to the gym printed the t-shirts for him for years. I printed the stickers that we put on the gym equipment that went on the USS Ranger and other ships docked in San Diego. I have never met a more humble man with such an interesting past. He talked about his contacts through the years only if I brought it up. He was a Army Ranger but most of the guys in the gym didn’t believe it. I think deep down we were all jelous of the experiences he had been through. He told me that he was the strength under Don Coryelle at San Diego State. He loved his cars his kids and of course his dogs. He will always be missed I feel very blessed to have known Gene. Rich Craig

    • Jeff Brown

      Hey Rich — Gene was a role model for countless kids like me. I trained under him when he was Coryell’s strength coach. In fact, many of those players worked out at his gym. A couple Chargers worked out there too, Houston Ridge and Dickie Post. I’ll bet the ‘warmup’ stick he had there back in the day is still there, if it’s still a gym. A knife was used to carve out, ‘Dickie’s Stickie’. 🙂

  6. I just came across your post today and I want to tell you thank you for your kind words about Gene.I am his second spouse as he liked to call me and his daughter Jennifer is still at the gym with some of the old faithful members who still come. I will share this with her.

    • Hi Darla…don’t know if you remember me, I was tight with Gene for many years. I have often wondered about you and Jennifer. How are you all doing? I am in NC now and completely out of touch with SD, so did not know of Gene’s passing. So sorry…we did a lot together.
      Would be nice to hear from you and catch up.
      Don Millet

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