GNA Success Stories – Mike Ledson

Get to know Mike Ledson

“Thrift shopping wasn’t cool when I did it. I had a single mom, who always worked her hardest to provide what she could, but sometimes, it wasn’t enough. You know, she gave me what I needed, but I worked ever since I was a young kid for the rest: delivering papers, washing dishes…because I wanted things, so I wanted to go out and get them and not burden my mother. And that’s pretty much it. I used that as fuel to do more, because I saw that at a young age, if you put in the work, you’ll get rewarded for that work. I wanted to get out of the mentality that people owed me something because I didn’t have a lot, so I just educated myself and read books and found mentors and learned from my family’s mistakes, and just kind of took it and ran with it.  I didn’t want to get stuck in a dead-end job, I didn’t like my situation, and I did whatever I had to do to change that.

I wanted to go to college in the city, and the city was too expensive, and there was a toxic relationship with the other side of my family–I love the other side of my family, it just wasn’t  good at the time–so I was like, “You know want, let me go and travel and maybe I’ll wind up somewhere really cool and see a different part of the world.” And it worked out. I always try to tell guys to try to get out of your hometown for at least a few years where nobody knows you and you can maybe change the way you think or the way you do things, because everybody gets stuck in a small process on how things work. My world views, when I lived in Pennsylvania and when I lived outside of the continental United States, vastly changed. You realize a lot of people do a lot of things differently than you, and you can take those things and apply them to your daily life. Like for example, I have a lot of friends from Hawaii and they’re Japanese, so I learned how the Japanese are huge on respect for the older generation and the younger generation. Say if you’re at a table and you’re drinking: you don’t pour your own Saki–I pour yours and you pour mine. Everything’s built on respect and education and furthering a collective mentality: they want to make the collective better. It’s not just ‘I’m going to do what I have to do’ and ‘I don’t care who I’m going to step over.’ I actively strive for kindness and equality. People put each other into little groups and tend to dislike the “other group” they’re not in. And I’d love to help break that in society.

A lot of sub guys actually have crazy backgrounds, too. One of my friends grew up in a drug house in St. Louis. Another dude was a drug dealer and quit and joined the Navy. People who were in gangs and quit to join the Navy to try to better themselves and turn their lives around. I feel like I didn’t need to turn my life around, per say; I just needed more direction. I realized it’s not as hard as everybody makes it out to be.

I wish I could just explain to these kids: stop living above your means. You don’t need the mustang with the 20 APR loan; you don’t need all the designer stuff that you’re not gonna wear in five years, you don’t need any of that. You need to invest your money in your twenties, and be smart, and buy a house, and just kind of put your nose to the grindstone and work hard.”

Mike Ledson, 2011

Submariner, United States Navy