Updated November 28, 2020 - 2:59 pm
After being born into one of the biggest scandals his small Pennsylvania town had seen, Nelson Tressler will tell you: “My life sucked.”
But, the Las Vegas resident and UNLV graduate said, he set goals and turned his life around, landing himself on Vegas Inc.’s 40 Under 40 list in 2009 and working in commercial real estate for 20 years before retiring in April.
He has written a memoir, “The Unlucky Sperm Club: You are Not a Victim of Your Circumstances but a Product of Your Choices,” which he described as a self-help book aimed at helping others accomplish their goals. It was published this month and details his rocky childhood and how he overcame it and created a better life for himself.
Tressler, 48, said his mother got pregnant with him when she was 15, after she said a Pennsylvania police officer pulled her over and raped her. Her father, Tressler’s grandfather, found and fatally shot the officer, leading to a trial that resulted in a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Tressler said his grandfather served the rest of his life behind bars.
When Tressler was in first grade, his stepfather died and he was sent to live with his paternal grandmother and his cousins, giving him what he said was his first glimpse at a stable childhood. His grandmother made him go to school.
He said his life was changed in seventh grade when a Penn State University counselor spoke to his class about college.
“That was the time where I was like, ‘What if I could become the first person in my family to graduate from college? That would change the direction of my life,’” he said. “It was a big goal, but my life sucked and I needed to try something.”
He graduated from high school and, after attending four different colleges, Tressler said he accomplished his goal and graduated from UNLV in 2000 with a degree in finance.
“After that, I became obsessed with goals,” he said.
Tressler said nobody but his wife knew about his childhood story when they moved to Las Vegas in 1996. He grappled for a long time with whether it was something he should share with the world. But he changed his perspective and, when he got rid of the “victim mentality” surrounding his childhood, he realized his story could inspire others.
“I saw what I did with my life, and I knew there were so many other people out there that just needed the right tools, knowledge and support to really live up to their potential,” Tressler said. “My heart breaks because of where I came from, and I see people living on the street and just think, ‘Man, the only difference between them and me is a few choices.’ ”
He said his memoir utilizes the stories of his failures and successes to help explain why goals are so important, and how people can make choices to take control of their lives.
He named his book after “the lucky sperm club,” which he described as people who are born into privilege and wealth.
“Because of the circumstances of their birth, people think their success is guaranteed,” Tressler said. “The unlucky sperm club, being born into a rough situation, I feel is even a bigger advantage if you use those circumstances to fuel your growth and success.”