Content provided by Robyn Murray, Freelance Writer
Dustin Dorhout’s father left him with a special gift. A stack of letters to serve as lifelong reminders of the values he held dear — integrity, hard work, discipline — and about the kind of person he wanted his son to grow up to be. It’s a poor substitute for more time with him. But from a man who knew he would not live to see his son graduate high school or start a family, they’re the best gift he could have given. Today, as Dorhout begins his professional career, the letters serve as touchstones that keep him focused on what really matters.
Dorhout grew up in the small town of Hawarden, Iowa. His father owned a business that had been handed down from his own father — a company that manufactured and supplied cattle handling equipment. Growing up, Dorhout spent a lot of time at the office with his parents, helping and hanging out. He knew everyone who came in. They all lived in the same small town, and he remembers the strong Midwestern culture that ran through it. He loved being around the business and imagined himself running his own company one day.
When Dorhout was 10 years old, his father passed away from pancreatic cancer, one of the swiftest and deadliest forms of the disease. After receiving his diagnosis, he used the time he had left to write dozens of letters to his wife and two sons. He was 42 when he passed, and his death shook the family. Dorhout saw his mother take on the role of both parents, and he became closer to his older brother who tried to be a role model and ease some of the burden from their mom.
Shortly before his father’s death, Dorhout’s family sold the business and later moved to Dallas, Texas. Dorhout adapted to the move well. He’s outgoing, and he got involved in sports, theater productions, and choir which helped him make new friends. “I got to meet just about every type of person,” he said. “I try to assume I can learn something from everyone. That usually spurs good conversation.”
While Dorhout adjusted well, for a while in high school he struggled to see the purpose of some of his subjects. He recalls wondering why he was learning physics and what he would ever use it for. “I couldn’t always find meaning in what we were studying. I always wanted to know why we were spending time on something.”
But Dorhout always loved to learn, and he consumed books about subjects he was interested in, primarily the social sciences. His first love was history and politics, and that later expanded to psychology and economics, among others. He enjoyed learning about the major wars that shaped human history and connecting them to events today. “I loved learning about how something at a certain point in history creates something today and how history tends to repeat itself,” he said. “Throughout history, human beings have proven one constant: We are irrational beings capable of both magnificent innovation and terrible malice. It is important to understand what factors lead to which outcomes.”
Before he left high school, Dorhout began to focus. That was in large part due to his brother, who was instrumental in helping him find a path that brought everything together for him: his broad interests in what makes us all tick and a laser focus on real-world applicability. Investing. His brother was studying finance and economics at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. “He showed me how investing allows you to reach into all the soft sciences. The more exposure I got through reading, the more I fell in love with it.”
After high school, Dorhout followed his brother to Creighton and majored in the same subjects. He started reading about behavioral psychology and economics, which soon topped his list of favorite reading material. He got more into mathematics once he realized the need for a strong analytical side to be successful in the industry. “I wanted to study something that always pushed me to learn and never allowed me to be complacent.”
While at Creighton, Dorhout interned at several places, including the marketing department of a casino, First Data Corporation in product management, and Spectrum Financial, a private firm where he helped manage a large and diverse portfolio. He also interned at Orion Advisor Services, and that introduced him to CLS Investments, its sister company. In June, Dorhout took a position at CLS as a Junior Investment Research Analyst.
He liked the company first because he liked the people, and he knows how important that is. “That can drive you to come to work every day. The people you work with have to have the capacity to teach you, and you have to want to learn from them.” He also understood the importance of working somewhere that was creating value in the world. “The ability to help clients reach their financial goals and take the stress away from having to navigate the complex markets, allowing them to spend more time doing the things they love — CLS seemed like a place that was doing just that.”
Dorhout knew for sure he was at the right place when Kostya Etus, a Senior Portfolio Manager at CLS, shared an article about the importance of finding value in one’s career. That echoed what his father had written to him in his letters. Being of value, helping people, and making a lasting contribution to the world — that’s what matters to Dorhout. Out of the many lessons he’s learned from his father, what has really resonated is to make the most of the time you have. “Your time is short,” he said. “You have to strive to create the most value as a person and push yourself to be the best person you can be — because nothing is certain.”