OSCEOLA — It was the summer of 1965.
That summer Dan Gable’s father had arranged for him to begin working with a local concrete company. Gable was 16 years old and weighed about 103 pounds. Gable awoke each morning at 7 and worked 10-hour days in the sweltering sun.
“My dad wanted to make me physically and mentally tougher,” Gable told an estimated crowd of 500 people at the second annual Southwest Iowa Workforce Summit held Tuesday at Lakeside Casino in Osceola.
“That’s why he got me this job in construction. This was training for me. I was a junior in high school and was undefeated in wrestling. It was not about the money, but it was nice to get paid to train.”
Gable’s first week on the job resulted in several construction workers quitting.
“They told the boss I was working too hard for them,” Gable said.
However, the construction workers who remained built a relationship with Gable and became aware of the goals Gable was trying to reach on the wrestling mat.
“We often stacked up 100-pound bags of concrete next to the houses we were doing work for,” Gable said. “So, when there was down time and I was looking for work, those guys would tell me to move the bags from one side of the house to the other.”
Then at lunch, the construction workers challenged Gable to wrestling matches.
“These guys drank beer and would often run out of gas wrestling me,” Gable said. “They thought they could just beat me on sheer size, but they couldn’t.”
After working construction for 10 hours, Gable would then go to open mats held at his high school at West Waterloo three times per week. He’d wrestle there for one hour.
“Then I’d go home, eat and go to bed,” Gable said. “That’s the kind of commitment you have to have in your daily life. You have to create that culture for yourself and when you do, it will begin to rub off on others. But, it won’t rub off right away, and it won’t be easy because people are set in their ways.”
Gable — the keynote speaker for the summit Tuesday — spoke early and often about the importance of work ethic and commitment.
“I opened up my high school at 6:15 each morning,” Gable said. “My coach gave me a a key to the school because he knew he had a very dedicated wrestler who might just rub off on some of his other wrestlers.”
Gable was in the wrestling room jumping rope, doing chin-ups and wind sprints each day at 6:15 a.m. and other students would peek their heads in the windows of the room about 7:45 each morning to watch Gable working out.
“They didn’t really know or understand why I would do that,” Gable said. “And, you know what they tell me at the class reunions? Now we know why. Now we know why.”
Gable also spoke about “hooking people.”
“You have to find a way to get people on your side,” Gable said. “That’s critical because no person that’s successful does great things without support. The greats get people to believe in them and their dreams.”
Gable also gave a list of items he believes to be good leadership qualities. They include:
• Being the first one (to the job) and last to leave
• Knowing your subject, knowing your subjects and staying current with both
• Positively affecting the masses
After speaking at the summit, Gable also spoke to several hundred students at Clarke Community School District later Tuesday afternoon.
Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds spoke directly after Gable at the summit. She presented awards for counties becoming Skilled Iowa Communities. Those counties awarded Tuesday included Union, Ringgold and Adams.
See a photo of the award presentation for Union County on page 2A.