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Successfully Yours

Don Johnson

Don Johnson is a softly spoken, mild mannered American who was born in the famous gambling town of Reno, Nevada. However, he has not gambled with life in the style of Luke Reinhardt’s “Dice Man” but has always applied long range goal planning to his future direction.

His father was a bartender and his mother worked at a small print shop. He was an only child, and was also adopted, a fact that was kept as no secret from the young Don. He was an average student who went to the University of Nevada when he was 17 years old, where he did general subjects to keep his options open. “I didn’t have a clue on what I wanted to do.”

Around this time, the US Government was offering holiday packages for their young men in glorious jungled Vietnam. “Being not a particularly good student, this enhanced my chances of going.” Rather than sit around and hope his number didn’t come up, Don enlisted in the US Air Force, where he was trained as an instrument technician, and then scored overseas postings in Japan and Korea. This was his first taste of travel and he liked it.

Returning home after the USAF, he went to college and finished a four year engineering degree course in electronics, a natural progression after his USAF training.

His first job was with the Goodyear Blimp, the dirigible that would be seen at sporting events. There (or in it) he racked up 640 hours of flight time, while maintaining all their electronics and instrumentation and communication devices. However, a better offer from the Arizona State Police brought him back to the ground, and he spent four years with them responsible for the maintenance and expansion of their telecommunications systems. “I had a badge, but I was not a law enforcement officer.”

Around this time, the travel bug got to him again and he was recruited by Rockwell International (a firm that made everything from space shuttles to B1 bombers and parking meters). He agreed to join if they guaranteed him overseas assignments. They did and he went to Taiwan as a project engineer, where he learned Chinese, knowing that this would also stand him in good stead.

After that contract he took a slight side-step - “The money was in marketing, not engineering” and he convinced Rockwell to give him a chance. They did, and he became the manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa, opening Rockwell’s first European Telecommunications office in Athens.

It was at this time in Greece that he fell in love with diving. “There are three realms we can experience. Space (unlikely), our earth and underwater. Before I died I felt I should be able to experience two out of three, and I fell in love with the underwater one.”

Don then began a series of other overseas appointments, including Japan and Korea again, moving through various companies, eventually becoming the vice-president of Raven Electronics, a company which won the prestigious “Exporter of the Year” award, a feat for which he remains very proud of his and his people’s efforts.

The natural progression was for him to start his own business consulting company, but when one of his clients (California Microwave) needed regional management for their Singapore office to service Asia-Pacific, the idea of travelling again was the final factor to make him take it on.

He was still in Singapore when the Asian financial crisis hit in 1997, and when California Microwave pulled out two months later Don had an important decision to make. Move back to the States or retire in Asia.

He had a friend who had bought a condominium in Jomtien, and that allowed him first hand investigation of this region, and the traveller put down his roots, Thailand now being one of the 78 countries that Don has visited. While here he has been joined by his Chinese partner Carmen, who also shares his love of SCUBA, and who has just passed her Divemaster certification.

Here Don indulges himself in SCUBA diving. A passion he passes on to others all over the world, now being an accredited PADI Master SCUBA Diver Trainer and Staff Instructor, giving instructor development courses in places such as Vietnam, the country he tried to avoid so many years before! Of course, he does also manage to find the time for some golf, skiing, squash and a collection of classic cars in America.

Still in his early 50’s, Don Johnson has done well out of life, and I asked about his concepts of success. “I am a goal oriented person. I set goals and objectives and write them down and read them regularly. I (worked towards) having the time, resources, and health to go wherever I want, to do whatever I want, whenever I want. This must be done with personal integrity, which is something no one can take from you. When I didn’t need corporate life any more I put the plan into action.”

Don comes across as someone who really does have his head together. I asked him whether being adopted had influenced his thinking or his attitude to life. It had not, and he had actually found both of his natural parents and even discovered that, “I had two sisters and a brother. I was thrilled.” One of his sisters and he have become very close and she has even been on overseas trips with Don. I went further and asked when someone spoke about his “Mum”, which one did he think of first. His answer was immediate and direct, “The mother who changed my diapers!”

His advice to those who would emulate his success is first to get education. “It’s critical. Then think globally, there is always a need for improved communications throughout the world.”

That field has certainly been fruitful for Don Johnson, a man with a plan that he put into effect with great success!

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