Meet Gary Ervin
If you don’t believe in God, climb a mountain.
Gary Ervin was born in Germany, and moved to the United States when he was four years old. As part of a military family, he moved around the country, finally settling on a farm in Boxville, Union County, Kentucky. The oldest of six children, Ervin has fond memories of growing up surrounded by family and spent his time working the farm.
Ervin wrestled during high school, a sport he excelled at. His progression as a wrestler was evident; winning no matches during his freshman year to only lose one match his senior year, and becoming a state champion. Ervin attended Central Missouri State University on a wrestling scholarship where he studied Business Management and Aviation. While ruminating over his career options, he happened upon a newspaper classified advertisement listing a lineman job for the first cable company franchise in Morganfield, Kentucky.
It wasn’t long before Ervin took another risk. Mortgaging the family farm, he began his own cable franchise business. It was a particularly tough time to be in business, much less start a business. Jimmy Carter was president; farms were failing as a result of grain embargoes against the then Soviet Union, and interest rates were sky high. At times, Ervin couldn’t even afford to pay the interest on the loans he had taken out to start his business.
Not afraid to get his hands dirty, Ervin often designed and built cable systems for other companies on the side in order to make ends meet. Difficulties were not limited to finances and while times were indeed tough, Ervin was determined to persevere. He continued in the cable business, setting and achieving new goals. Eventually, he sold his cable franchise business to Adelphia, the predecessor of the modern day cable and communications company, Time Warner Cable. He continued to work in the cable business, setting up franchises from Arizona to Florida.
His curiosity led him to seek out new experiences and it drove him in a different direction, too. It made him more committed than ever to be a part of the world and something bigger than himself. This is why he decided to become a mountain climber. “Mountains make you feel small,” he says. It’s this feeling that drives him to attack problems and challenges from different angles. “Mountain climbing gives you a different perspective, it’s a lot more than just going up and coming down.”
It wasn’t just enough to simply decide to climb mountains, Ervin was driven to educate others about his experience in hopes of inspiring individuals to set and achieve their goals. Additionally, Ervin has become an advocate for many global causes around the world. Although Ervin is a popular speaker on the business lecture circuit, one of his favorite groups to talk to is kids, particularly middle and high school. When asked why this group, his response was that they are just at the age of formulating their goals and big dreams, and he feels his story helps to give them the initiative to start moving towards the finish line.
Ervin believes the difference between dreaming and doing comes down to initiative. “Initiative is what makes you take action on your ideas,” he says. He’s a firm believer that it is not failure that kills dreams; it is the lack of will to try. His experience on Mount Everest indeed shows his initiative, and his desire to achieve no matter the circumstances. Despite technology and great equipment, scaling a mountain is a test of strength and endurance. Not just in a physical sense, either. Ervin’s Everest story highlights terrifying circumstances, brushes with death, and tests of his faith. “If you don’t believe in God, climb a mountain.”
Ervin’s time on Everest also highlights his drive to attain his goal. Two months in a tent can help a person decide if they really want to do what they set out to do. Add in snow, ice, wind, and hanging in there means you are really dedicated. “Time in a tent or alone on a trip helps to also identify what is important to you, and give up any baggage that is weighing you down.”
Ervin sets out to tell his tale in order to inspire others to achieve their goals. His life is far from boring – and he has many stories about his adventures that his children and grandchildren don’t even know.
Ervin has known his wife, Lisa, since the 4th grade. They’ve been married since 1983 and have four children: Mallory, Jade, Luke, and Gabe. Lisa is Ervin’s biggest fan, and he cheers her on as she participates in marathons and other long distance running events.
His favorite lesson from business is to stop and take it all in, don’t risk everything without weighing the options.
His favorite place is the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. The crater is a World Heritage site, created by a volcano caldera. Ervin loves the beauty and scenery of this location, and the people there who live simply with little possessions.
Why he works so hard. He can see the impact of what he does – whether it was feet of dirt blasted from a coal mine, to how many miles of cable he put up as a lineman, to creating jobs in Union County, Ervin enjoys knowing he has made a difference.
Ervin and daughter Mallory were selected to participate on Season 16 of the Amazing Race, where they finished in 6th place. They were asked to return to Season 17: Unfinished Business where they finished in 3rd place on the final leg. You can still watch some of Season’s 17 & 18’s episodes here.
What he does to relax. He climbs mountains, of course. Climbing shows him how to tap his reserve of strength to accomplish a challenge that is both physical and mental. He will go to Everest, again.
His greatest success in life is his happy children.
His mantra: Money isn’t everything. Working isn’t either. You need to focus on the importance of other things, so when you’re out of work and out of money, you find the drive to continue on. Work – Life balance is paramount.
One of his most favorite projects has been leaving legacy interviews for his family. Family is everything to Ervin, and he has set out to give his family traditions and experiences, instead of things. A firm believer that success is how your kids turn out, Ervin spends time with his kids and extended family, which the majority of live nearby on the family farm, encouraging them to blaze their own trails.
His greatest achievement is that his best friends are still his family.
His most vivid memory is excelling in wrestling – going from not winning any matches his freshman year to winning all but one his senior year. His excellence in wrestling earned him his way to college – and his legacy lives on through his family’s wrestling dynasty in Kentucky and beyond.
His wish for the world: Do not short change yourself, be with whom you love, do what you love, pursue happiness.