“I am the oldest, youngest, middle, and only child – depending on how you look at it.”
“I think that was a place where I did receive positive feedback from my mom and my brother, and, looking back, that wasn’t something that I regularly got.”
“I always had to sort of prove that I belonged there as a younger person.”
“I’ve been told my whole life I am sensitive. As a younger person, I used to feel like that was not a good thing, but as an adult, I feel like it’s a strength.”
“I think my mom put too much of a responsibility on my brother to help raise me, and I think my brother also had this idea that he was going to make me successful.”
“As soon as I heard him struggling to breathe, tears just started pouring out of my eyes. I let him go, and we never fought after that, and he never tried forcing me after that. I was instantly free in that moment.”
Russell is the only child of both of his parents; the rest of his siblings are half-siblings.
Russell loved playing sports as a child.
Always soft-spoken and empathetic, Russell had a rage growing inside him due to the abuse from his older brother.
Russell tirelessly worked out and exercised to strengthen his body to ward off his brother.
Russell immediately left home after high school to join the military.
WHAT IS YOUR CONNECTION TO SGV?
Russell was born in SGV. But his family moved to Monterey park before he was one year old, and that’s where he made all of his childhood memories.
Russell has five brothers and two sisters. He is the only child of both of his parents; the rest are half-siblings. Primarily he grew up with an older brother. Russell loved playing sports and outside activities.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE GROWING UP IN MONTEREY PARK IN THE 1980S?
Russell’s mother was born in Japan and came to the USA when she was four, and his father is Japanese but was born in Korea.
Russell had a very American upbringing. He believes they wanted that for him, and it was obvious to Russell as his parents had him in activities such as American sports while his friends were doing Japanese or Chinese school every weekend.
However, Russell never felt left out because his friends always complained about going to school on the weekends while he had fun.
His parents spoke fluent Japanese but refused to speak it at home in front of Russell.
WHAT WAS SCHOOL LIKE FOR RUSSELL?
Russell didn’t love school growing up; he was advanced a year and was almost advanced a second grade.
He was pushed hard by his older brother, so by the time Russell was in preschool, he knew all of the state capitals, the states, multiplication tables, etc.
Being so much younger from moving ahead in school, Russell always felt he had to “prove himself.”
WHAT DID RUSSELL ENJOY GROWING UP?
Sports and competition were always the most fun for Russell. He enjoyed it and the camaraderie but also being able to make people happy.
Russell played baseball, basketball, bowling, cross country, swimming, and soccer. Soccer only lasted one season, though; he discovered it wasn’t his thing.
DID RUSSELL ENJOY BOY SCOUTS?
Russell enjoyed the family aspect of Boy Scout, plus being able to be outside and do activities.
There was a core group there throughout high which he enjoyed.
WHAT WAS RUSSELL’S EAGLE PROJECT?
Russell needed to do an Eagle Project to be an Eagle Scout.
There was an elderly woman in Montebello, and her landscaping had become a fire hazard, and the city was going to charge her for it.
So, Russell arranged donating tools and organized a team to help with her landscaping and took care of it completely. It was about a two-day, 16-hour project.
HOW DIFFERENT IS RUSSELL TODAY FROM HOW HE WAS AS A CHILD AND TEEN?
Russell feels he has always been empathetic, soft-spoken, and sensitive.
Being sensitive is something he used to feel shame about, but now he views it as a strength.
Russell believes, at times, he was his authentic self, but he finds that at certain stages that how other people viewed Russell started mattering more.
This was a major impact on him in high school. This would appear in music, movies, and fashion. He didn’t want to stand out.
WERE RUSSELL’S PARENTS AROUND?
Russell’s parents divorced before he was a year old, but he was able to see both growing up.
He saw his father every other weekend, and his mother, a paralegal, was gone early in the morning and back home around 6 pm every night.
WHAT HAPPENED WITH RUSSELL’S BROTHER?
Russell refused to talk to his father about the stress and unhealthy environment he was in regarding his brother because he feared nothing would change; it would just get worse.
So, 80s movies were a bit influence on Russell, and he kept seeing the same theme over and over again – train and strengthen your body, and you can overcome anything.
It got to a point where he asked for weights from his father at age 14 and trained, basing his exercises on movie montages. At one point, when he was 16, he was aware that he was stronger than his brother.
He decided he was going to stand up to him and pick a fight. His brother was shocked, and they fought.
There was a moment when Russell could tell his brother was having trouble breathing, and he started crying and let him go – and that was the moment he was free from his brother.
WHAT DID RUSSELL DO AFTER HIGH SCHOOL?
He joined the army almost immediately after school and went to Fort Knox, KY, for basic training. He has two main reasons. To help pay for school and also to escape his family situation.
His mother broke down crying when Russell left and wrote him a letter, and his brother did not say goodbye.
ABOUT RUSSELL MANO
Russell ended up becoming a mechanic based on what they needed to fill a quota.
Russell Mano, strength coach and co-host of the podcast, shares his life story in this 2-part series. In part one, he shares how he was raised in Monterey Park, was a member of the Boy Scouts and several sports teams, and how he wanted positive attention from his family.
Of his journey from a young child doing his best to a teenager wanting to join the military. Russell gives voice to his struggles of growing up in a dysfunctional mixed family and the path to finding strength against it.
Podcast Intro and Outro