“From the time I was 11, I felt I always had to take care of myself.”
“Then one day, the phone rang, and my dad answered the phone and said, Scott Lenny Wilkins, is calling for you.”
“It showed me that as long as you had a plan and execute it, you can achieve anything you want.”
“Whatever you do in life, do it because you want to do that thing.”
Scott Warmuth was elected as a city councilman of Lake Forest Park, Washington, at the age of 18.
During this time, he worked two full-time jobs at a magazine and newspaper and took classes at a local community college.
Scott entered the Peace Corps when he was 23 and immersed himself in the culture of South Korea. Leaving South Korea almost one year into the journey, Scott felt like he had failed.
But his perseverance drove him to another test, one that he would pass; that test would be Law School at the University of San Diego.
PICKING UP WHERE WE LEFT OFF LAST TIME. YOU HAD JUST BEEN ELECTED AS A CITY OFFICIAL, RIGHT?
Yeah, when I was 18, I was elected as a councilman of Lake Forest Park, Washington.
THAT’S QUITE THE FEAT FOR AN 18-YEAR-OLD.
I was always trying to better myself, to be ahead of the game. When I was 18, I felt I could conquer anything, that I could do anything.
Our name was well known in the community. One reason was that my father had run for state representative about 9 years before I became a city councilman. I was also the paperboy for a lot of the voters.
So our community knew me and our name pretty well; I was pretty aggressive doorbelling and getting out there.
HOW DID THAT EXPERIENCE SHAPE YOUR LIFE?
It showed me that as long as you had a plan and executed it, you can achieve anything you want.
I was born in 1955 and grew up in the 60s. At that time, there was this feeling that you could achieve anything you wanted, and I rode that wave.
THAT’S NOT TYPICAL FOR AN 18-YEAR-OLD. DO YOU FEEL YOU MISSED OUT ON SOME EXPERIENCES MOST 18-YEAR-OLDS HAVE?
Yeah, I definitely felt like that. Looking back, I don’t think that was the best thing to do. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t recommend it.
I probably would’ve been better served to have what you might call a normal life.
HOW LONG WERE YOU A COUNCILMAN FOR?
It was a 2-year term, and after the end of that, I moved to Seattle and pursued other things.
WHAT DID YOU PURSUE AFTER BEING A COUNCILMAN?
At that time, I was working two full-time jobs as a reporter and a writer, was a city councilman, and going to community college.
WHAT DID YOU DO AT THE NEWSPAPER?
I started as a general news reporter at a paper in Bothell, Washington, and I was a sports editor in Redmond.
The sports editor position covered a lot of community sports like high school sports or little leagues.
WHAT DID YOU DO AFTER THE NEWSPAPER?
I worked as a sports reporter for a daily newspaper, The Seattle Post Intelligencer. It wasn’t a full-time position, though. I would work the summers and gradually began doing more and more, like working at the copy desk, creating headlines, or writing small articles.
I also worked for a monthly magazine, and I would do feature articles for them. I got to choose the topics for my articles, and I would choose prominent people in the community.
One of the people I interviewed when I was 18 or 19 was Lenny Wilkins for the Seattle Supersonics.
It was really something because I put the word out that I wanted to do an article about Lenny Wilkins. Then one day, the phone rang, and my dad answered the phone and said, “Scott Lenny Wilkins is calling for you.” It was such a thrill.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR MENTORS?
My first mentor was my father. He is who I have always wanted to be.
The most significant impact people besides my father would be Blaine Johnson. My good friend Tim Healy who I lived with in New York.
My professor, Father Jack Leary, was a big influence in New York. He was a Jesuit Priest, had been the president of Gonzaga, and founded a college in California.
Dick Carbrey, who was a professor at the University of Washington, was also a mentor for me.
Clifton Daniel was my supervisor when I worked at the New York Times. He was a dashing, good-looking guy who married Harry Truman’s daughter. He had a big time impact on me. He was probably the most celebrated person I had been around.
IS THERE A COMMON THREAD YOU LEARNED FROM YOUR MENTORS?
Father Leary was an intellectual. We would sit and read books and talk about ideas; he had this very specific way of talking. He would lead the conversation, but you had to be the impetus. He would ask questions that made you think.
He was very influential because I felt like he was teaching me how to think deeply and critically.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER YOU LEFT NEW YORK?
In my life, there are three bold acts I’ve taken. One was to move from Seattle to New York.
The second act was when I was 23. I joined the Peace Corps and served in South Korea. This was an opportunity for me to leave my country and be immersed in another culture and understand it, and understand myself deeper.
WHAT DID SOUTH KOREA TEACH YOU ABOUT YOURSELF?
I always wanted to go to a small college where you got to develop close relationships, and in the Peace Corps, I got that.
We went through language and cultural classes together, and it gave me the opportunity to bond with like-minded people.
It was also kind of a test for me. Could I live in another culture and not speak English? I guess I kind of failed since I didn’t do the full two years.
WHAT DID YOU DO AFTER SOUTH KOREA?
This was my third bold act. I went to Law School at the University of San Diego. One of the reasons I left South Korea was because I wanted to go to Law School.
WHAT WAS THE DRIVING FORCE IN ATTENDING LAW SCHOOL?
While living in Seattle, I volunteered for the Attorney General working in the consumer protection department, and I felt like, “Wow, you can really help people.”
People would call in and explain their problems with a merchant or retailer, and we would try to resolve it for them informally.
It showed me the power you could have to help people as an attorney. That was part of it.
Another part of it was the intellectual challenge. I went to Law School because I wanted to study law, not because I wanted to be an attorney.
Something I tell my kids is to study what you want to study and love what you’re studying. You shouldn’t go to college thinking, “Can I get a job out of this?”
Whatever you do in life, do it because you want to do that thing.
Another reason I went to Law School was the discipline. I moved to San Diego, and Monday through Sunday, I was at classes or the library at 8 am and did not leave until 6 pm.
I had been seeking to have a discipline for so long, and Law School provided that for me. It was like another test for me.
I had failed the test in South Korea, but I passed it in Law School.
Stay tuned for part 3, where Scott gives different meanings of what success meant throughout his career and personal life as an adult.
ABOUT SCOTT WARMUTH
Scott Warmuth, lawyer and the co-host of the podcast, shares his life story in this 3-part series. In this second part he shares his journey as a young adult looking for self-discovery. As he travels away from Washington and eventually to California, Scott encounters people who influence him greatly. On his path of life that deviates from the standard young adult, Scott went from journalist to law student, from newspapers and magazines to the Peace Corps, and from a man seeking to a man discovering.
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Podcast Intro and Outro