All I Really Need To Know I Learned From My High School Physics Teacher

Meet Mr. G. Some call him Mr. Gutekunst. Some (not me) call him Mike.


Regardless of what you call him, he was my physics teacher junior year of high school. I have seen him twice since I graduated. One of the best luxuries of working in your hometown – especially as a public figure – is that you can connect with people from your past fairly easily. The picture above shows we have both managed to keep our youthful look after many, many years.

I learned a lot from Mr. G. He basically set a foundation of science that I use daily as a meteorologist. Sure, all sciences – biology, chemistry, and others – are connected to meteorology, but physics is one of the most important.

While a love for science can connect two people, I remember Mr. G most for what he taught me about life. It is cliché, but what he taught on the last day of class was revolutionary and an appropriate foreshadowing for the reality of life.

I had lunch with Mr. G this past Thursday. We spent over two hours discussing our lives. We discussed everything from our families to our journey.

This blog post is not about a lunch reunion that many of us frequently have. I recognize many of us catch up with friends and colleagues, and that this meeting over lunch doesn’t seem unique.

I share this lunch meeting story because Mr. G discussed a message about life from which we could all learn.

When I was a junior in high school, Mr. G shared the “Mr. G Story” on our last day of class. With me being in his first ever class, he was in his early 20s giving his students – just a few years younger – some valuable lessons on life. Being a Purdue University physics and engineering major, a lot of his story was about keeping the pace going, fighting the urge to stop, and finding time to enjoy what makes you happy.

Part of our lunch conversation on Thursday was about the gist of the Mr. G Story, which had become grayer and fuzzier in my mind with time. I asked Mr. G to share the gist with me, and he deferred answering my question until he could look at his notes. He told me his story had changed some over time, but the overall principles were still the same. The gist of the Mr. G Story is to answer key questions about your life, and – yes – you must answer them:

1) What do you enjoy doing most?  When are you most satisfied in your life?

2) What are your best attributes, according to you?

3) How did you get to this point in your life?  Do you like where you’re going?

4) What do you want your life to stand for?  What do you want your name to mean?

5) If money was no object, what would you do with your life?

6) What will constitute you being a success in your life?  How will you know when you’ve succeeded?

7) Will your intended career path pay you a salary that lets you live the lifestyle you prefer? (put simply – will you make enough money to be happy?)

These seem like simple questions, but if you revisit them a time or two, you realize they aren’t as simple as they seem. Even if one of these questions seems simple, the next one may not be so simple. Some of these questions make you question what you are doing with the limited number of days you have on Earth.

Some could look at me, a meteorologist working at a great station in my hometown, and say I was successful. There are, however, so many things in my life that are incomplete or could use a change. I know I’ve made my mother proud, and I believe my late father would be proud of what I have done with my life. Both of them either say or would say my life is not about them though; it’s about me being in charge of my own life.

Question 6 hits me the hardest. How do you know when you are a success? What do you do once you’ve achieved success? What’s next?

I hope these questions have meaning to you, and I hope you revisit some of them before you close this webpage, end your day, or end your week. The answers to these questions can take a lifetime. If a man inspired me to contact him and have lunch years after I left his classroom, the questions he poses to all his students can be asked of all of us.

Ask yourself the tough questions. I’ve already printed the questions above and placed them over my desk at home. When a tough decision comes, I’ll be asking myself these questions until I know the answers.

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