Five years ago, he decided to fix that. Through his workplace, he applied for a University of Phoenix scholarship. To his surprise, he was one of 10 who were awarded scholarships through that nationwide opportunity.
The scholarship brought welcome financial news but also intense fear of failure. “I was terrified. I thought, ‘I cannot mess this up. If I get F’s I’m going to lose this scholarship,’” he says. The fear, rooted in not doing well in junior college as an 18-year-old, was something Trout had to overcome. “I already felt like a failure to some extent, never having gone to school.”
Running a $2.3 million budget, serving 650 kids a day in an Orange County community that ranks high in gang arrests, leading a large staff, playing in a band, keeping up with Thursday date nights with his wife, and devoting nights and weekends to homework, Trout got it done.
“I would do a little bit of work here and a little bit of work there. I did homework on my lunches. I dove into my blind spots. And my academic counselor kept me grounded. He helped me find the confidence that I could do this.”
In some ways, being a college student in midlife motivated him. “Being older, it meant way more to me,” he says, acknowledging that he picked up many new tools that he applies on the job. “It has made me better at my approach to problem-solving, which is one of my big jobs as CEO.”