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The Real Life Top Gun’s Advice to Become ELITE at Anything

The BiggerPockets Podcast
54 min read
The Real Life Top Gun’s Advice to Become ELITE at Anything

Chances are you’ve seen the movie Top Gun before. This exhilarating film showcased the almost unbelievably intense reality of being an elite pilot in the military. And behind many of those awe-inspiring stunts and scenes was John Foley, Blue Angels pilot, entrepreneur, real estate investor, public speaker, and all-around inspiring human being. John has performed these death-defying stunts for years and successfully became the one percent of the one percent of pilots. His key to success? Failing hard.

As soon as John saw the Blue Angels perform as a child, he dreamed of doing the same. It took him eighteen years to accomplish his dream, but it came with a cost. Before hitting his performance peak, John made a flight mistake that could have ended his career and another pilot’s life. Thankfully, this ill fate was avoided, but John still had to live with the consequences of making such a massive mistake. As a result, John reframed and rewired his brain to be better, retain more, keep his composure, and be “glad to be here.”

He’s made his way up to the highest level of flying and knows the key to elite success. The surprisingly simple method is laid out in today’s show, as John walks through the five steps he goes through every day to improve his life constantly, always be grateful, and never leave a day to waste. So if you want to push yourself to the next level, accomplish more than you think you’re capable of, and live more life in the moment, tune into this episode!

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Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

David:
This is the Bigger Pockets Podcast, show 713.

John:
When I showed up to the Blues, they said, “Gucci, we’re glad you’re here,” and then they took me on a demo ride and they blew my mind. We took off and you said it’s majestic, right? Can you imagine being in that cockpit where you take off four jets on the runway? Pilot does this violent left wing down, we’re just tucked in underneath the afterburners of the airplane in front of you, there’s metal all around you, the flames are coming out. The airplane’s shaking. These guys start going straight up. My eyes got this big. I’m a Navy tactical fighter pilot. I’ve been off aircraft carriers, I got 500 carrier landings, and this blew my mind. And the thought that hit me was, how am I going to do this?

David:
What’s going on everyone? This is David Greene, your host of the Bigger Pockets Podcast, the biggest, the best, the baddest real estate podcast in the world, here today with a fire episode for you that I guarantee you will leave feeling better about yourself, your life, and your future than you did before you listened to it. People pay lots of money to feel this good, and you’re getting it for free. In today’s episode, my co-host Rob Abasolo and I interview John Foley, a former Blue Angels pilot, meaning he was one of the best of the best of the best in his profession. If you’ve ever seen Blue Angels fly, it is absolutely incredible. And John pulls back the curtain and tells us a lot about what he went through, struggles he had, times he failed, and how he bounced back from that. How he interpreted failures to become a bad A-S-S at what he does, and he is very passionate about you being able to experience the same thing, which is why we love John, and we’re sure that you will too. Rob, what were some of your favorite parts of today’s show?

Rob:
Well, first of all, we met the real life Tom Cruise from Top Gun. I mean, this is just crazy. He was actually in that position, and he talks about how he was able to join the Blue Angels, which is the top 1% of the top 1% of the top 1%. And it’s just crazy to hear his story, and talk about the procedures and the processes that he put in place to become one of the most esteemed, awesome pilot, storied history pilot, of all time. The Blue Angels is just a very prestigious organization to be a part of. So it’s honestly one of those things where I wish we could have a part two. We’ll have to have him on, because he’s also a relatively established real estate investor too, which we didn’t really get too much into that. We got into the actual philosophies of developing a good mindset.

David:
I’m so inspired from this, I’m thinking about taking the top people from my mastermind and creating a group called The Greene Angels. We’ll have to see if that’s something that I actually do. Before we bring in John, today’s quick tip is simple. John talks about gratitude and how powerful it is, and I want to add, gratitude is probably the cleanest fuel you can possibly burn when it comes to motivating yourself. We all have different motivations on things that we want in life. They don’t all burn cleanly.
Sometimes there are negative side effects that come from the things that motivate us to hit financial freedom, or wealth, or whatever it is that we’re looking for in life. So my challenge to you is to start every day to try to incorporate a little bit more gratitude into your life than what you had the day before. As you listen to the show, if you get all the way to the end, you will hear Rob talk about his secret. So learning how to play the guitar 100% better every single day than what it was when he started. You’re not going to want to miss that. All right, without any further ado, let’s bring in John. John Foley, AKA Gucci, welcome to the Bigger Pockets Podcast. How are you today?

John:
David, glad to be here. And those four words meant something special to me when I was a Blue Angel, and I guarantee you by the end of this podcast, your audience will understand what that means.

Rob:
Well, before we get into the meeting of that, I really want to know the meaning of Gucci, because that’s your nickname, man. Can you give us a little bit of a background there?

John:
Yeah, Rob. So it’s actually more what we call a call sign. And in the Navy, in fighter pilots, you get a call sign. Now let me give you the first clue. You don’t get to pick it, and if you like it, it doesn’t stick, right? So no fighter pilot wants to be called Gucci, man, you want to be Hitman, Viper, Iceman, Maverick, something cool, but do something stupid, and your teammates will remind you. And that’s what happened to me. I don’t know if you knew this, I did some of the original flying in the first Top Gun movie, and all my buds are doing the flying in this last one. So you get branded with the call sign and I did something stupid one day and Gucci stuck.

Rob:
Can you tell us what that was?

John:
Yeah, well it’s close to looking at you in that shirt, man. So here’s what happened, okay? I showed up, we’re in Fallon, Nevada, that’s where we were filming Top Gun. That’s where we do all the strike stuff, and we go out, everything’s looking pretty well and they say, let’s go out in the town, let’s go to Reno. So I’m meeting in the lobby of the, they call the BOQ, and I show up wearing a thin black leather tie. That wasn’t even cool in the ’80s. And my teammates are all in jeans and T-shirts, and they look at me and they go, “That’s Gucci,” and I flinched. And once you flinch, they know that they got you. Boom. It stuck. Now it didn’t help that I was living on a sailboat, and driving an Alpha Romeo at the time, too.

Rob:
I see. Yeah, I’ve learned this one the hard way. If you try to deflect a nickname, it only makes it worse. You’re basically just pouring gas on the fire.

John:
That’s it. I’ve tried my whole career to change that and it didn’t work. And now it’s supposedly a cool thing to be Gucci. But I’ve got to tell you, when I was nailed that in the mid-’80s, it was not cool.

Rob:
Awesome man. Well you were in Top Gun. I’ve got a bit of a confession here, I had never actually saw Top Gun until about a year ago and I felt like I was conned. I was like, how did no one tell me about… How did no one force me to watch this movie my whole life? And then I just saw the new Top Gun, too. So already instant fan, instant classic in my mind. I love it so much. What was your role on that movie? Were you an actual… Were you someone in the cast? Were you a stunt double?

John:
No. Okay, so number one, definitely not in the cast. Those are called actors. We’re the real deal. We were the real pilots doing the real flying, and there’s no stunts in that movie, okay. That’s what you think about in Hollywood, stunts, and what you’re seeing, and the reason the flying is so realistic is that’s real stuff man. That’s us flying the jet. So the answer to your question, I was just in the right place at the right time. I happened to be on the aircraft carrier, it was called the Enterprise, it’s 1986, we’re off the coast of San Diego. Top Gun was filming down in Miramar, and they needed to get some carrier scenes.
So they flew out to the aircraft carrier and I just happened to be on a squadron flying jets off the carrier, and that’s when they were doing the filming. So you remember that iconic first scene? I mean if you remember how that movie started, they actually did it in Top Gun Maverick, too. You see myself, you see my teammates taxing up to the catapult. You see steam coming off the catapult, see my teammates all around me. They got this cool song, Danger Zone, blasting, you salute the capital officer, they salute you back, and bam, you get launched off that carrier. You go from zero to 200 miles per hour in 1.8 seconds. So that was what I was doing. That was just my normal day. We didn’t do anything fancy.

Rob:
That’s amazing man. So give us a little bit about your background. We know that you’re an established Blue Angel here, a bit of a… I’m starstruck here as I go through this. Tell us how you got there, and a little bit about your story.

John:
Yeah, absolutely man. I think you got to get to know people before you even want to listen to what they have to say. So for me, I was born in Germany. My dad was an army officer. I loved my dad, I loved my mom, had a great family. And one day I was like, “Man, I want to be my dad.” So he was an engineer, and he was an army officer. And then one day he took me in an air show. I’ll never forget this day, Rob, it was Newport, Rhode Island. I’m 12 years old. I look up in the sky, I see these six magnificent jets flying that day. And I turned to my dad and I said, “Dad, I’m going to do that.” A 12 year old kid. I had no idea how to get there. And I think this is good for real estate, it’s good for investors, it’s good for entrepreneurs.
And that is, you got to have a dream. But here’s the difference. I believe the dream has to hit you in the heart, not the head, and then you got to connect the dots, because there’s too many people that have unrealized dreams out there, right? Unrealized visions. So I learned this as a kid, that man, you got to have a plan, and guess what? You better have a couple backup plans because the first one’s not going to work. I got rejected twice to join the military. They said I was not physically qualified. I have to be a military pilot if I’m going to fly for the Blues. Initially, started flying jets off aircraft carriers, a la movie Top Gun, but then became an instructor pilot. And then one day I finally got selected for the Blue Angels. It took me 18 years from that initial dream to make it happen.
And that just started back when I was in my early 30s. And then after that, and we can dive into the Blues, but I think what’s more important is after that I wanted to reinvent myself. I heard this word entrepreneur and I was like, I can’t even spell it, but it sounds pretty cool. And ended up needing some education. Went to Stanford Business School, got three master’s degrees, worked in venture capital, during the boom and the bust 2000, 2001. I mean, boom, the whole world blew up, and a question hit my mind. I was with the partners of that firm, and I was like, how come? Not that the bubble burst, but my how come question was how come some people outperform others?
How come some people can consistently win no matter what the conditions, whether it’s market, whether it’s COVID, whether it’s increased interest rates, whether it’s supply chain challenges, whether it’s a recession, whether it’s inflation. My point is some people learn how to overcome no matter what. And that’s what I’ve been doing the last two decades, is working with the best teams in the world, sports teams, companies, Google, Microsoft. I’m with Nick Saban and Alabama Football, and I work with these teams into big high performance teams and how to turn them into business results.

Rob:
Wow, okay. So there’s a lot I want to unpack here because it started, the dream actually started, at a very young age, and you were like, “That’s going to be me one day.” Did you always know, was there ever a doubt in your mind that that was going to become a reality?

John:
Well, there’s lots of doubts along the path when you fail. And I had a ton of failures, a ton of setbacks. But I will say that the dream, this is why it’s critical, the dream was not in the head, it was in the heart. So whenever that stuff happened, I connected back to my heart and I just said, “No, I can still do this. It’s just going to take a different path.” Give you example. So I’m flying jets off aircraft carriers. I’m leading a strike. I have a hung bomb, I’ve got to jettison the hung bomb. I don’t go through my checklist like I’m supposed to, and I hit the jettison button, and I fire a heat seeking missile. By mistake, I almost shoot down my own teammate. And I’m like, “Holy crap.” In fact, actually I was like, “Oh (censored), come back.” And at that point I was fortunate, it didn’t hurt anybody, but it could have, right?
And I go into my commanding officer that day, I landed the jet, and he said, “What happened?” And I go, “I blew it, sir.” I told him the story that I didn’t do my checklist like I was supposed to, I got the switchology mixed up, and when I hit the jettison button, the missile went instead of the bomb. He goes, “Okay, thanks for telling me, you’re grounded.” So I’m grounded now. Now I had my letter into the Blue Angels. I was going to be an instructor pilot, all that went away. In fact, I wasn’t sure they were going to let me keep flying, all right? They have a board of inquiry and all that stuff, and it took me three days to realize the root cause of that mishap. But you want to guess, what do you think the root cause of that mistake was?

Rob:
A thousand switches in front of you?

John:
There were a ton of switches. Let me tell you. There’s a ton.

David:
Yeah, but you said you hit the right switch. You did what you meant to do.

John:
Nope.

David:
You mentioned that you thought you were jettisoning it, so-

John:
Well, I hit the jettison button-

David:
But it fired the missile, which meant there was something wrong with the checklist ahead of time. So I’m going to guess you just got comfortable. You just thought like, “Man, I’ve done this a million times.” You hit autopilot, you didn’t take it serious when you were getting ready.

John:
Dude, David, I’ve told that story over 2000 times, you’re the first one that got it right off the bat. Yeah, it’s complacency, okay man? I got too comfortable doing something I shouldn’t be comfortable doing. Let me tell you, the first time you fly live ordinance, the little hairs on your neck stand up. Even your head with your bald head, like me. Those things, those stand up and they stopped standing up because I was doing it day in and day out, and I got too comfortable doing something I shouldn’t be comfortable with. So I learned that lesson the hard way, all right, so here’s the question. Everyone who’s listening, where’s your blind spot? Where are you too comfortable? Even the two of you, you guys are cranking it. You got a kickass podcast going, we’re investing, this is a great opportunity for people, but where are you too comfortable?
Do you have a process, a checklist? And that was the other thing. I didn’t open up my checklist. I thought I would do it from memory, and you don’t do that, okay? You don’t do that in these situations. So that’s exactly it. Complacency kills. Now here’s the good news. Once I learned that, yeah, I had to dig myself out of a hole. It was a big hole. They ripped up my letter to the Blue Angels. Not even a chance. I had to go reinvent myself. Took me years. But eventually I got the shot again, and I made it work. And so I think it’s okay to make mistakes investing, it’s okay to make mistakes in life if you learned from them. And not many people really learn from them.

Rob:
Do you feel like the punishment, or not the punishment, but the actual, I guess getting grounded from the organization, was that tougher than the actual mental games that you had to sit through during that time? Because I imagine that being grounded is like, okay, I get it, right, but then actually having to sit with that and think through the different scenarios, I imagine that that might have been probably just as hard, right?

John:
Man, okay, Rob, you’re dead on. That was embarrassing. I’ll say not only harder, it was embarrassing, because picture this. You’re a pilot, you’re on the aircraft carrier, there’s only about 100 and so pilots on the carrier, 5,000 people, and all of a sudden you go from wearing a flight suit and that’s your day, to you’re in a khaki uniform, all right? All your buds know that you’re grounded, not only the buds in your squadron, but everyone in the air wing, and then they give you the (censored) jobs. I had to go up into the tower, watch my buddies fly and land, and we’re called a rep in case there’s an emergency. So not only are you grounded, but that’s the bigger thing. It’s what’s the mindset? And people don’t even want to look at you.
You ever noticed that? You walked out the hallway, people know that there’s a problem. So they want to look away. So yeah, it’s a mental head game for sure. But I will say this, it’s what I needed. And my commanding officer knew that. You see, if he had kept me flying, and everything would’ve been the same, and I had done that mishap board, which decides, okay, that’s a pilot mistake. They could ground you for life, they can pull your wings. They didn’t, okay, and I was only grounded for three days, because that’s what it took me to realize what you just said. And once you realize that, now the next thing happens is you got to get your butt back in the game. Because now you got to overcome that fear and doubt that is in your mind.

Rob:
Okay, so was this the moment that, I mean obviously you recognized the complacency aspect, but was this immediate? You were like, “Okay, here it is, I’m going to fix this. I’m going to create my checklist and my processes.” What was the next big turning point for you?

John:
Yeah, so the big aha was it took three days. Initially I’m blaming it on stuff that wasn’t the root cause, it’s nominal cause. So I didn’t break out my checklist. I could easily say, “Okay, next time I’ll use my checklist.” Did I get the switchology mixed up? You’re right, there’s 126 switches. Did I mess one up? Yeah. Can I fix that? Yeah, but that’s not the root cause, see? So after three days when I realized that it was getting too comfortable, then that was an aha moment. When you have these light bulb moments, it’s okay, but now it takes a long time to dig yourself out of that hole. So I had to go back to the basics, go back to doing my checklist, go back to just executing on the small things. And I was actually flying off the airplanes again.
I wasn’t leading strikes. I was working my way back up. And one of the LSOs, the landing signal officers, those are the people who bring you aboard the ship, the head guy for the whole air wing looks at me, he goes, “Gucci,” it took about two weeks. He goes, “How’s it going?” And his name was Filthy. And I go, “Filthy, what do you mean how it’s going? It sucks. I mean, what do you think?” And he goes, “Okay.” He says, “Well I know you’re going through a bunch of (censored).” He goes, “How would you like to become an instructor pilot in F18s?” And I looked at him, I was flying A7s at the time and F14s. I said, “What do you mean instructor pilot in F18s?” That’s the holy grail, besides the Blue Angels. And I said, “I would love that, but what are you talking about?”
He goes, “Well, how would you also like to live in El Toro, California?” Which is Dana Point, all right. I’m like, “What? Are you kidding me?” Because Miramar is a cool place to live down in San Diego. I said, “I would love that.” I said, “But there’s no Navy jobs there.” He goes, “No, you’re right. The Marines have a base. They’re standing up an F18 squadron, they need one LSO. You’re the guy if you want it.” I was like, “Holy crap. My whole dream went full circle.” So I got the job, and I had to reestablish myself, which I did, and then I reapplied to the Blues and everything worked out. So it took a while, but the aha moment was there. And then you got to dig out, and you got to have process, you got to have procedures. But more importantly, keep your belief levels high. Keep your mindset high. Don’t let go of your goal.

David:
So I’ve got a question for you. This is clearly a pivoting point in your life. Of all the stories you can tell, this is what you opened with. Now obviously this story could have gone a horribly worse direction, where it could be, “I killed one of my friends,” and who knows what kind of consequences can have come from if there could have been prison time? This story could have been, “I was labeled a criminal.” I mean, I don’t want to insinuate that that’s the case. This is the way things get spun, when “I hit the wrong button,” turns into, “I’m a murderer.” Luckily that wasn’t the way that things went down for you. So you have this renewed lease where now you get to… You have a new shot at life, but it was very impactful with the way that it changed how you were thinking. What it made me think about was we don’t always remember our wins, especially when you’re a high performer, which you clearly are.
You’re trying to be a Blue Angel. We expect to win. We remember the losses, you hear this from really good poker players. They remember the hand that they lost that they should have won. They don’t remember all the times it went well. You hear this from golfers, they remember the put they missed or the shot that they shanked. They don’t remember the ones that they did perfectly. There’s something about life where the losses that sting the worst can either destroy us, like the hypothetical example I gave before, or can absolutely strengthen us and help us to hit levels that we never would’ve thought. So that one experience impacted you. I don’t want to say scarred you, but it was such a monumental impact that complacency is now your sworn enemy for life. You’re not going to be caught complacent. We would hear stories of this in law enforcement that were just horrendous, because you get used to carrying around a weapon all the time, and you’d hear about, someone shows up to a training and the staff, the instruction staff, doesn’t check their weapon or doesn’t check it good enough.
And the person just out of habit, they show up, they take all the rounds out of their rifle, they put dummy rounds or whatever, and they’ve done it so many times you get complacent. And there are horrible stories of someone showing up to a training and actually firing a live round at one of the role players or something, that are just sickening. But like you said, it’s always complacency. It’s such a small thing that could have been done to stop it. Complacency is this evil spirit that gets in your head and tells you, “You don’t have to do that. The rules don’t apply to you. You’re better than that.” It’s almost a form of arrogance, right? And I’ve caught it many times in my life where you’re driving to a call code three-

John:
Ego.

David:
Yeah, and you’re just in your head you’re like, “Oh, this is no big deal.” It is a big deal. You got to push that stuff out and get right back in. But like you said, ego is the enemy in that case. You tell the story and it’s a really good impactful story. But I’m curious, when you were in that tower and you had to think about how embarrassing it was, people don’t want to talk to you. There’s obviously your own moral guilt of, “I can’t believe I fired a missile at somebody, do I even deserve to be a pilot?” All those thoughts got to be going through your head. How did you make sure that you didn’t take the road of despair that so many people can go into when they make their first mistake, their property doesn’t work out, or that something goes wrong with whatever their endeavor was and they interpret like, “Ah, see I knew it. God doesn’t want me to do this. If he did, I wouldn’t have made that mistake.” How did you strengthen your results to say, “I’m going to come back and be better.”

John:
Yeah, so I think David, by the way, great analogies you’re giving. I would just add not only a police officer and me, that’s life and death. But hey man, it’s little things like texting while you’re driving. Okay, we all know that’s not supposed to do it, but…

David:
Oh, that’s a good one.

John:
Yep. I do it sometimes. And my wife, it pisses her off so much. She goes, “Come on,” and I can rationalize it. “Oh, I can multitask,” all this crap. So the bottom line is, it’s not just life and death. It’s small stuff that can make a big difference. So to answer your question though, you need a process. You need a system, you need a framework that helps you out of these difficult times. It’s not enough just to say, “Oh, okay, I figured it out. I made a mistake and I’m back in the game.” No, you better have a solid process. So for me, it’s what I learned in the military, and what really became extremely powerful on the Blue Angels, is this idea of what I call a cadence of execution. It’s this idea of briefing. Be prepared before you go flying.
Did I brief that day? Absolutely. Was I prepared? Yes. When you’re executing though, you got to realize that things change, okay? And that’s one thing that you can find out very quickly in fighter pilots, why someone adapts to that is you got to adapt airborne. I don’t care what the scenario is, the minute you get airborne, things change. Same thing in real estate. So can you adapt to a market which is changing all the time, right? But here’s the secret, I’ll give you a secret right now. None of that’s going to make the game changer. The game changer is what I call a debrief, or a glad to be here debrief. We learn how to do that in the military. You always debrief a mission. You always are constantly, the minute you land, you go back and you reflect on what went well, what could have gone better, and you take responsibility.
And this is the key. You take personal responsibility for the outcome, and you don’t blame it on your teammates. You don’t point fingers at somebody else. And we do that religiously. So I have that ingrained in my process, that I’m debriefing every event. Like, we’ll debrief this podcast, all right, I want to know, hey, what went well? But more importantly, what could have gone better? So I’m constantly in this feedback loop. And then when you get to the Blue Angels, and we can dive deeper on this if you want, they take that debrief to a whole new level. They take this thing what I call glad to be here debrief, where you’re not only going over the event, you’re reinforcing the why. Why are you doing this? The appreciation, the gratitude. So when I landed my jet on the Blue Angels, did I have a lot of little things I could have done better? Absolutely. Because when you’re pushing the limits, the limits push back. So you can feel that, right? But the appreciation and gratitude is what gets you through it, and you need both.

Rob:
Okay. So yeah, I would actually love to dive into that because I’m always so fascinated. I’ve seen many Blue Angel shows, actually I used to work in Huntington Beach for four years.

John:
Nice. I’m going there in a couple months to speak with an organization, and were you there last year? Because the Blues were part of a really unique show there right off the pier.

Rob:
I was not, I was in Tennessee, but I did catch probably four shows in my time there. And there’s a level of synchronization, and coordination, and choreography, and orchestration, it’s really quite majestic is the best way to put it. And so I’ve always wondered, I mean you’re coming from the military background. Is the Blue Angels a more difficult endeavor, or is it just a different kind of difficulty than you might encounter in your military missions? I’ve got to imagine they’re just very different kinds of difficult.

John:
Yeah, they’re different, but it takes it to a whole new level. It’s the 1/10th of 1/10th of 1% that get to do the Blue Angels. So if you remember how Maverick started in the movie, in Top Gun there was a scroll and it said there’s this thing called Navy Fighter Weapons School, it’s the top 1% of all fighter pilots and the pilots call it Top Gun, okay? The reason they did that is they were setting the tone. That’s right. That’s the top 1% of fighter pilots. The Blue Angels are the top 1/10th of 1/10th of 1%, right? Now to your question, in a flying skills stick and throttle we call it, you have to raise your game to an un unforeseen level. 300% improvement in 90 days.
When I showed up to the Blues, they said, “Gucci, we’re glad you’re here,” and then they took me on a demo ride and they blew my mind. We took off and you said it’s majestic, right? Can you imagine being in that cockpit where you take off four jets on the runway, pilot does this violent left wing down, where he’s tucked in underneath the afterburners of the airplane in front of you. There’s metal all around you, the flames are coming out, the airplane’s shaking. These guys start going straight up. My eyes got this big. I’m a navy tactical fighter pilot. I’ve been off aircraft carriers, I got 500 carrier landings, and this blew my mind. And the thought that hit me was, “How am I going to do this?” Because what they were showing me was this is a whole new level. This is a whole new league.
And they were saying, “If you want to play in this league, do you want to play in this league, Gucci? Then you got to raise your performance 300% in 90 days.” And now here’s the good news, there’s a process to do that. There’s a way to take people, not just me, we do this with three pilots every year, and they go through that process and they get to that level. So the answer to your question is in a flying way, it doesn’t get any harder or any better. But tactically now, it’s a total different game. When you’re flying tactically off the carriers, when you’re going to Top Gun, it’s not stick and throttle, it’s weapon system management. It’s understanding the situational awareness. That’s a whole different level of expertise. So we take people who are already good at that and then we say, “Let’s now improve your flying skills 300%.”

David:
This is such a powerful message, particularly for anybody that hasn’t yet in life pushed themselves into a point where they were trying to be elite at something, which I would think is probably the majority of people in America. We have a very comfortable life. And that’s not meant as a slight towards people who have a harder life than other Americans, but if you compare us to human beings 6000 years ago, or someone now living in another country, our life is comparatively more comfortable than other people’s, where the human body and the brain was really designed to operate not in a perfectly nerfed world where things don’t go wrong. And I remember experiencing this for the first time at something as simple as going from the freshman basketball team to playing with the varsity. I got asked to play with varsity when I was a sophomore, and the speed of the game was so nice freaking fast.

John:
Nice.

David:
Thank you for that. Yes. It was wild how fast it was, right? I had these habits where I would be dribbling and you’d get a defender to commit to you, and you’d pick up your pass, and you’d fake it to one side, and he’d go that way, and you’d pass it to the other guy. It was like bread and butter, so easy. And then I got to varsity and the guy would pretend like he committed to one defender, and then jump back, and I’d pick up my dribble and go to pass it to the other guy and he’d intercept the pass. And I’m like, “They could do that?” Or you’d come down with a rebound, they’d hit it out of your hands. Since when was that a thing that would happen? Or they’d steal the ball from behind you. There were all these things that I never had to think about playing with lower competition, but I never had to consciously figure out that problem.
My brain told me, “Be careful. You don’t know where the guy is. He’s probably behind you.” Or, “When you grab that ball, hold it really strong.” Your mind adapts to the struggle you’re in. What I guess I loved about the point you were at was we often personalize, “I am the problem. I am not good at this. I should quit,” where what you’re saying is, “The problem is my lack of preparation. The problem is my lack of exposure to trying to play at the highest level. The problem is my complacency. It is not me. I am not those things. Those are habits that I have or values that I hold that can be improved.” And that little tiny shift in blame is the difference between, “I should quit this. I shouldn’t do it. I’m not good enough. I knew I wasn’t good enough, remember I was never good enough for my mom? Well now it’s being validated,” and all that stuff goes through your mind, versus. “I can do better. Let me get in there again. If they give me another shot, I’ll get better at it.”
And that’s what we want the listeners to hear because real estate investing is daunting. You can screw up. In fact, you will screw up. And it’s impossible not to screw up. You can’t play the perfect game in a sport. You can’t have the perfect investment. Something always goes less than ideal. And if you interpret it as, “I’m the problem,” you won’t buy real estate. You’ll be lulled into other things like investing into multi-level marketing schemes, or pyramid schemes, or cryptocurrency, or whatever the new trend is. If you say, “My inexperience was the problem, my lack of awareness was the problem, my ignorance was the problem,” there’s something that can be done to correct that. And I really, as you tell the story, I’m like, this is a great example of a person who just, for whatever reason, you attributed the problem not to you as a human being, but your lack of preparation. And you always were like, “I could do better.” I mean, am I way off with my understanding of your story so far?

John:
Man, David, you nailed it, okay. And I think the analogy back to investing is really critical. And that is, you got to surround yourself with people who you want to be like, okay, so when I got selected for the Blue Angels, I realized I needed to up my game. But guess what? Because I’m around people who knew how to do it, and they decided to mentor me, they coached me just like you guys are doing. The reason this podcast is so useful to people is we’re gaining knowledge and tools of people who have done it at a high level. So that’s the number one thing, is continually push, have that drive. And that’s why when I said the dream has to hit you in the heart, have the drive to improve every day just a little bit. It doesn’t mean I’m not going to screw up. In fact, if you’re really self-aware, you’ve made a lot of mistakes and that’s fine.
What I want to do though is have a process and more importantly, a mindset. What you’re getting to, David, is exactly right. What’s the mindset? Am I in my lizard brain, and am I operating out of fear? Or am I in my adult, and I’m actually operating out of opportunity? The RATs, the reticular activating system, it’s only two things are going to get through, a threat or opportunity. When you see that you’re going to react. Do you realize that every time I snap my fingers here, you get 65 chances to make a decision. That’s the amount of impulses that are coming through your eyeball. So it’s what we call the gap, the gap between the stimulus and the response. And it’s in that gap that you make your decisions. It’s in that gap that you either go down the rabbit hole, or you reset and you spiral up.
And there’s a way to focus your mind. There’s a way to train the mind. I do meditation, I do visualization, I have lots of things when they’re working with Team Penske and we’re winning the Indy 500, it’s about mindset. They already got the processes down. This is great teamwork, but it’s the mindset that makes you an Indie 500 champion. It’s the mindset that makes you a national champion. And not just to get there, but then the harder part is sustaining excellence. And that’s what I work on with companies and people. How do you sustain excellence under change?

Rob:
Yeah, this is really… I don’t think people are grasping how mind blowing this is, because I always think about, when you’re trying to get better, it gets hard to get better at a certain point. When I was learning guitar, when I was in the seventh grade, picked up a guitar and my goal was, can I get 100% better? And then it was like, okay, cool, next day I got 100% better, and then the next day I could get 100% better. But then it got to the point where then it was like, can I become 50% better in a month, and then can I get 20% better in a year?
And so at a certain point, getting 1% better becomes extremely difficult. And you’re talking about not just the military, but Blue Angels where you’re like, okay, these guys are coming in and we’re trying to get them to become 300% better. You’re trying to get the greatest pilots in history, arguably, to become 300% better. And that to me, I can’t even grasp that. But you mentioned that there’s a process for this, so I’d love to hear what does that look like? Because in my mind it seems impossible.

John:
No, good question. I love the idea about this mindset of continuous improvement. I would like to add this. What I’ve instilled in my mindset is the process of getting better, this continuous improvement, not the outcome. You see, if you put a goal out there and once you hit that goal, that’s too late, man, you got to reset yourself before you hit that goal. So the point is, I’m constantly in this process of getting better, continuous improvement. And by the way, not just myself, but value to the client, value to the people who are listening here, right? Value to your families. See, what we’re talking about is not just business, all right? It’s your mindset of how you approach life. And I like to approach life with what I call joyful effort. So effort’s not enough, we can talk about that, but you have to add this glad to be here in there, this joy.
And to do that, you got to own the outcome and you got to give it all you’ve got. If you try to shed that on somebody else and you don’t take that personal responsibility, you’re not going to learn. And you just better hope you get another challenge that you can tackle. But back to the process. So Blue Angels, I’ll give you an example. When you join the Blue Angels, first, for six weeks, you have no job, okay? Actually, the selection process is you get selected, all you do is observe, and you get to sit in on the briefs and the debriefs, and this stuff is gold. In fact, if anyone wants to see some of this, they can just go to my website, JohnFoleyInc.com. And I’ve got tons of video of what I talk about, YouTube, all that kind of stuff.
But the point is, you get to observe how we go about process, focus, this visualization process, how we’re going through our checkpoints, we know what our center point is. That’s the single point of focus. We have flight lines with one mile, two mile, three mile checkpoints. So just milestones in a business plan. But the milestone is not, “Hey, the two mile checkpoint’s going to be this white house.” No, the milestone is two mile checkpoint, northeast corner, two story white house, upper window with the green shade. See? See, when I said that, you see your level of clarity. I can actually see the green shade of a window flying upside down a hundred feet off the ground at 500 knots. If I know what I’m looking for. If I don’t know what I’m looking for, it’s a blur. Same thing in investing, same thing in life.
So you pick up these cues, then you better have a process of somebody who’s helping to coach you and mentor you. So for the next 90 days, I’m going through 120 training flights. We go back to basics. You’re right, we do take pilots who are highly skilled at that point, and we break them down and say, okay, let’s go back to basics. Let’s just get in sync, turning the smoke on, the smoke off. Then let’s get in sync where we get our checkpoints. I have 20 seconds to go from 6000 feet down to 200 feet, and I got to be on time, on altitude, on air speed. So this, to move forward is there’s 120 training flights. I’m getting better every day. I film these, I look at them, I asked, here’s the critical part, not the flight. It’s what you learn from it, okay? And I also want to learn what’s going well.
Because we want to double down on what’s going well, okay? I don’t want to just focus on mistakes, right? Double down on what’s going well. And then three things. I’ll leave you with three things that have to happen in every investor, in every high performance community. You got to connect, you got to align, you got to commit. It’s that simple. Say it again. Human beings, we need to connect, all right? You and I, the three of us right here, we’re connecting at a different level than we were before we started this podcast. Then we got to align.
So you got to make sure you’re all headed in the same direction. What is the goal? And then there has to be a commitment. And this is where most people fall short. It’s what level of commitment. When I climbed into that cockpit, I was committing my life. I was willing to give my life for my teammate. But guess what? Not just me, everybody. Everybody. You’re surrounded by people who have this level of commitment. And when you’re surrounded by that kind, you don’t want to let somebody else down, and you’ll do anything in your power not to let your teammate down. And that’s the glad to be here mindset.
To me what you said about not having a clear target. Because there becomes this point where you become so good at something where you now have a lot of options. You’re like, I’m good at this. Here are all the different angles I can take. And I’ll probably be successful at all those different angles because I’m good at what I do. And I think real estate is real estate investing is very much like this, where if you become a seasoned investor, you understand the concepts, you’re crushing it in your portfolio. For me, I started out in short-term rentals, now I’m kind of like, oh, there’s sub two and then there’s wholesaling and there’s, there’s syndication. But it’s really hard to start to, without that clear target, without that clear goal to truly keep growing. Because I was at this point a couple of months ago where it’s a bit of the Cheesecake factory of options for me where I’m like, I want to do it all.
But without really having that clear single goal to guide you, I can totally relate to that. Because it wasn’t until recently where I started really refining those goals and just trying to figure out what is, if I can just keep shaving down my goals to that one finite goal, what is it that I want? And I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’m really close. I’m still shaving it down to that one thing. And the closer I get to it, the closer I get to sort of having the clarity on what exactly I need to do.
Okay, Rob. So I’m going to give you a little tip here. Okay? Number one, you’re on it, all right? You got to know, “What do I want?” And that’s a hard question for some people. It was easy for me when I saw the Blue Angels, I knew what that looked like. I knew what it felt like. I mean, I could feel it, so I knew what I wanted. That’s hard in life. A lot of people don’t know what they want. But here’s even a more powerful question: your why. I want to know why you want it, okay? I want to know why that I wanted to be a Blue Angel. Was it so that I could fly upside down 100 feet around San Francisco? Was it so I could set car alarms off, because I did? Was it so that I could go to Moscow and fly against the Russians, which I did?
Was it because I did all that stuff? No. The reason I wanted to be a Blue Angel, and the purpose of the Blue Angels, is we call ourselves ambassadors of goodwill. I want to inspire greatness in another human being. If I can do that through flying, great. That’s not what my job was, to be a pilot, my job was to inspire greatness. And when I’m holding a little girl in my arm after an air show, and I’ve lost six pounds of sweat in 37 minutes, because that’s what the G-forces do to you, okay? I’m sitting there going, I’m tired, okay? Was it exciting? Absolutely. Am I worried about the debrief? Sometimes, sometimes I’m not. But all you have to do is look in the eyes of a little kid and bingo, you realize why you’re doing it. So my only question to you is what’s the why behind what I want? And when you can align those two things, now you’ve got some real power.

Rob:
So do you feel like, is it like a… Am I trying to figure out what I want, and then why do I want it? Or am I trying to figure out why I want all these things that I want? Sorry, that might be a weird question, but is it like, am I trying to get to that why as fast as possible?

John:
Well, I don’t think… Whenever you ask a question like this, that’s a dualistic answer, it’s either A or B. Anytime I get that kind of thing, I realize that I’ve got limited thinking. It’s not dualistic, okay? It’s not either the what first or the why first. You got to have a third option. You got to have a way to grow it. So the answer to your question is, I think it’s both, okay. I mean, some people want to figure out their what first and then their why. Others will say no, I need to know my why and then the what. Whatever works for you, okay? I think that what’s critical here, though, is knowing that the world is coming from us, not at us.

Rob:
Yeah, okay. That makes sense.

John:
I’ll say that again though, because it’s really powerful for the listeners. The world’s coming from you, not at you. So if all I’m doing is responding, and I feel like this whole world is coming at me, then I’ve got a problem, because I’m reacting. What I want to do is, I want to realize that I can plant the seeds. It’s coming from me, okay? So give you an example that will help you do this. Knife Edge Pass, Thumper and I, goal, come at each other 1000 miles per hour, close across within a wingspan, all right? If we miss by one second, it’ll be two football fields, and we want to come within a wingspan. So that’s our objective, so I’m very clear on what my objective is, all right? So how do we do it? You better have a plan. So my plan was simple. I told Thumper that day, and I called these, by the way, verbal and non-verbal agreements, commitments.
I said, “Thumper, I’ll be on the flight line. I won’t be five foot left or five foot right.” The flight line’s not the runway, it’s the inboard edge of a left painted stripe on the runway. You can count on me, you can trust me that that’s where I’ll be. I’ll set the altitude, I’ll make the timing corrections. I’ll give you the command to execute a full stick deflection roll. You, my teammate, have one job, miss me. It’s the biggest game of chicken you ever played, but it wasn’t a game, and it wasn’t chicken, because we had very clear expectations, and then contracts on what it looks like to do this. So the idea that I brought that up is trust matters, process matters, okay? This ability to make this clarity matters. And the last thing I’ll share, because I think you guys hit on it, is you have to have the ability to focus down and open up.
It’s called awareness, okay? So awareness is two pieces. There’s an internal awareness and an external awareness is one way you can look at it. What I call it is situational awareness. So as I’m coming at Thumper at 1000 miles per hour closer, I’m looking out there, I got to have my visor up, because I mean, split seconds matter. Where’s his nose position? Where is he? What altitude he’s at, okay? So I’m focused down. At the exact moment, I got to open up and I got to say, wait a minute, I don’t want to hit a sailboat mass as I’m coming in. So it’s focus down, open up, focus down, open up. And that’s investing, okay, I got to understand the market. I got to open up, understand what’s changes. Then I got to focus down on what you said. Do I have a specific goal? Do I know what I’m going to? Bingo, open up again?
Because guess what? In that split second, things have changed. So I’ve trained my brain to do this really quickly. Here’s the good news, you can do it too. Every human being can do this. It’s natural. It’s the way we perceive information. So if you want to focus on your problems, you want to focus on your challenges, you’re going to have more of those. If you want to focus on joyful effort, you want to focus on giving back first… That’s one of my other things is learn, grow, give every day. But I want to give first and give often. So just being on your podcast, this is a gift. Thank you for what you guys do, but I want to give first. And then if you provide value, something good will happen. So that’s the way I see what you just said.

Rob:
Yeah, that makes total sense. Well, I want to go back to the phrase here on your shirt, the glad to be here. I mean, we’ve talked about it, we have a general understanding about it, but could you just debrief us on the concept, and what it means to the Blue Angels Organization, and what it means to you?

John:
So the first time I heard that was my mom, but it was said in just family situations. And then when I was on the Blue Angels, when you’re applying for the Blue Angels and you’re not a Blue Angel yet, they’ll let you sit in on the briefs once you get to that level. And you get to see how they prepare, which is what we’ve mentioned earlier, David, is at a whole new level, which is great, okay? So I’m listening to that, boom. But you never get to sit in on the debriefs. The debriefs are only reserved for the current team and ex-Blue Angels. Why? Because there’s a sacred space in there. This is not about just ratting on somebody. There’s a sacred space, all right? So when I was a blue angel, when I actually got selected, I’m sitting there for the first time, I’m watching the leader of the flight team, who’s been my hero.
And what does he or she do? They start off with a general statement. I’m glad we went flying today. And they looked at the team and said, “You know what? I dropped you off a little bit low, Gucci,” and it’s an inward look for an outward result. But anyhow, you go through that, and then every single person ended their comments with Glad to be here. And all of a sudden it started to really sink into me that yeah, initially what glad to be here meant when I was a Blue Angel was, “Hey, I’m grateful to be on the team. I’m grateful to be part of something that’s very special. I’m grateful to be surrounded by others who care. I’m grateful to make an impact on people’s lives like that little girl.”
But then it takes on such a deeper meaning, to where in my life, glad to be here is the ethos of high performance. Glad to be here is what I want to live my life by. I want to be in a state of joy. I want to be in a state of giving. I want to be in a state of awareness and appreciate. Like right now, I’m in my home studio up in Sun Valley, all right, I’m looking out. We just got two and a half feet of snow. I just had an epic powder day yesterday, and I’m going to go out skate skiing right after this, and I’m going to try to appreciate every moment, get outside, breathe. So as hard as we’re working, people who are listening to this, you got to build in that appreciation time. And then the other thing I do every morning is I do a glad to be here, wake up. I’ve trained my brain to wake up happy, and I can teach you that if you want, but it’s important to have the right mindset.

Rob:
I can use a little bit of happiness in the morning. What’s the hot tip on that one?

John:
Okay, it’s not new, but you got to do it, okay?

Rob:
All right.

John:
So it turns out that gratitude is one of the biggest, how do I say? It’s not a skill. It’s one of the biggest gifts we have. And science has really gotten good at realizing that people who are grateful become happy. It’s not the other way around. It’s not because you’re happy that you become grateful. So what I’ve done is I just do what I call my glad to be here wake up, and I’ll give you the first piece, all right? Everything I do the minute I wake up is I’ve trained my brain to say, what am I grateful for in the present moment? So your brain, check, I want everybody who’s listening to this podcast, check the first conscious thought that hits your brain tomorrow morning. See if it’s one of gratefulness, or see if it’s one of what’s my next challenge? What’s my next problem kind of thing.
So the point is you can train your brain to wake up happy. So I go and I say, which is three things, all right? What am I grateful for in the present moment? So today was easy. I’m home. I’ve been traveling. I do 100 speeches a year. I work with 150 companies around the world, all right? I’m finally home for the holidays, right? I’m like, great. So I’m grateful. Just to be home. I got my two dogs in bed with me. They’re not little, they’re Rhodesian Ridgebacks, okay? We rescued them. There’s 104 pounds. But I’ve just said I’m grateful for this. But then do this, and here’s the key. Go back 24 hours. Go back to yesterday and bring to mind something that was grateful that you were able to experience yesterday. For me, I had a briefing call with a client and we were talking about how to align high performance teams.
They’re in the pharmaceutical, they’re helping people with asthma. It’s unbelievable. And I just remembered the briefing call and said, “I’m grateful to have that experience.” Then do this third piece. Go forward in your day. Go forward in your day and think of others, not just yourself. So this morning I thought of YouTube and I said, “I get the rare privilege to be on a cool podcast. How can I make that special for somebody?” So that’s it, it’s simple. Just wake up in the morning, what are you grateful for in the present moment? Go back 24 hours, go forward in your day. When you first practice in this, you can go back well beyond 24 hours. Go back to the things in your life that make a difference.
And it turns out that what that does is it changes the grooves in your brain. Neuroplasticity, right? You’ll start to have more grateful talks. And by the way, if you want a copy of this, go to the website. It’s not only that, but then I’ve learned how do you reboot yourself when something knocks you off balance? Because we all get punched in the face, and then how do you go to bed planting seeds in your brain, so you actually sleep better and happy, and wake up happy. So all techniques I’ve learned after the Blue Angels, after I learned how to put it on the line.

Rob:
Well, I love it. Yeah. Okay, well you and I have something in common. I wake up thinking about David Greene too, every morning.

David:
He’s wondering how long he has before his hair falls out. When he thinks about me, he’s like, oh God, that’s where I’m headed. How many more months do I have before-

Rob:
I look at my pillow.

David:
To see if it fell out.

Rob:
I look at my pillow and I think, is today the day?

John:
You got some serious hair, David and I, man, that’s what do pulling too many G’s does to you, right?

David:
That’s exactly right. The life of high stress. I wish I could say that man, and mine started falling out when I was 17 and a half. I was in high school and people were already pointing out my receding hairline. But there’s all those quotes, like it’s too much testosterone that makes your hair fall out, or a life of stress. I’m like, yeah, those sound… Definitely bald people made that stuff up. That’s funny. So one of the things I was fascinated by with your glad to be here debrief, John, I want to cover these briefly, was the five steps. Can you go through the five steps that are involved in the debrief?

John:
Yeah. So I call them the dynamics of a glad to be here debrief. And this is different than Top Gun. This is different than what happens in the military, because those are basic, right? And what I’ve realized is that, yeah, that’s the process, but here’s the five steps, all right? And anyone who’s listening, if you can adopt these into the way you communicate with your team, and even yourself at night, I guarantee you things will happen. So number one, you need a safe environment. And what I mean by a safe environment, it’s respect, okay? You got to respect the people you’re with, who you’re around. I mean, respect is the number one thing. Second thing is you got to check your ego at the door, okay? This is about humility. So people are investing, hey, if you hit it, great, but don’t get stuck on your ego. We talked about this, David, a long time ago.
So I got to say check your ego at the door and be humble. It’s about the we, not the I, especially in a team environment, all right? The third thing is you got to lay it on the table, okay? And what I mean by that is that you need brutal and open honesty. How many of us are not completely honest with our teammates? You got withholds. Or even your spouses, you got to have honesty, all right? The fourth piece is the accountability piece. But I call this the own it and fix it mentality, because I don’t want just accountability. What I want is personal responsibility, which means your ownership mentality. The last piece, the fifth one is the glad to be here. Even with the first four, that’s fine, but unless you add in this gratefulness and gratitude and appreciation, that’s the fuel that keeps you going. That’s what gets you up every morning saying, “I’m going to crush it today. I’m going to make a difference in someone’s life.” So that’s the most important one, and that’s that mindset of gratitude.

David:
I love those. You’ve simplified it to restate those. It’s the safe environment, which is a form of respect. Respect for other people, respect for yourself, respect for safety and the mission. Check your ego, which is humility. We opened up the podcast by talking about how important it was to actually make sure that your ego is not getting out of line. Because that really is the trait that takes all of your best traits and nullifies them. Doesn’t matter how amazing you are at everything, if your ego gets out of hand, it screws up all the other good things you have going for you. Lay it on the table, which is openness. That’s the, we’re honest with each other. And you called it a sacred space, which is cool cause if you call it a safe space, no one knows what that means. Because safe space could be a charged word.
So a sacred space is a place where you can say, “Hey, this is an area I screwed up,” without being judged by them, because you’re judging yourself and you can tell them, “Hey, I think you screwed up.” Rob and I actually had a moment like that when we were hanging out in Cabo one night where we talked about the podcast, and he gave me some perspective on the way that I do things and the way that I impact people. Where he thought, not necessarily could be improved, but he wanted to be aware of how it looks. And because I know that the goal is to make the podcast better, I’m like, “Yeah, you’re right. I’m 100% like that. In fact, I’m even worse than that.”
And we went back and forth. It was a cool, like what you were talking about, the debrief that makes us better. You got to be able to have those conversations if your goal is to be better. If your goal is to protect your ego, then you shy away from that. You don’t want to have those conversations. Next is own it and fix it, which is accountability. That is one of my favorite things in the world. This is one of my favorite books in the world, Extreme Ownership. I’m sure you’re a fan of that, John, written by Jocko Wilnick, right? Awesome book. Awesome philosophy to live by. Go ahead.

John:
No, you nailed it. Well, Jocko and all the Navy SEALs, I’m good buds with most of them and that’s exactly right, because they get it, right? And the same thing in the blues, and the same thing in investing. So keep going. You nailed it. What was the fifth one though? You only got the first four.

David:
Fifth one is glad to be here. That was gratitude, which is also the one that takes the other four and makes them fun. If you don’t have the gratitude then you’re not enjoying life. There’s no point of doing the other four. You got to be grateful for what you’re doing, and it fills you with this energy. And you know what I was thinking about, John? Something I really am impressed by with you. Your fuel is your gratitude, right? I was thinking about my time in law enforcement and as you’re talking, I’m like, my brain’s going back and experiencing all the freaking trauma. That was self-imposed. I was always afraid I was going to forget something. I was going to make a mistake. There’s a lot of pressure. It could be driving the car and trying to figure out am I going northbound or southbound right now, and what street is it that’s in front of me?
And when my buddy’s going, he’s coming, where are we going to intercept out? It’s so much crap is going through your head, at the same time you’re trying to look at, is someone going to ride their bike right in front of the car, and what are the dispatchers updating me with? And then actually driving the car at the speed you’re trying to drive. And that was just one thing. There was, am I going to make a mistake writing a report? Am I going to screw up when I’m trying to test something in the evidence lab? There was this constant anxiety that was always present that I know was meant to help me not make mistakes. The problem was if you’re fueled by the anxiety of not making a mistake and that’s all you have, your life sucks. You don’t enjoy the job, you’re just trying to not feel pain 100% of the time.
But there’s no actual reward. You’re not getting any pleasure. And I personally think that’s why a lot of people get into addiction, is they need something to make them feel good, because they’re just experiencing negativity all the time. And now they know they’re not supposed to eat that donut, they know they’re not supposed to take that drug, they know they’re not supposed to do that stupid thing. But it’s so hard not to, if that’s the only place they get joy. Whereas gratitude is this cure all medicine where if you’ve experienced enough of that, you’re not driven by anxiety, you’re not driven by fear, you’re not tempted to go do these bad things. And I love that you’re sharing that message, because gratitude is almost like the wonder drug, man. If you can have that in your life, it will help you overcome all the other vices that tend to take us out.

John:
Man, David, you got it brother. And once you understand that, and you believe that, you can change anything. You held up Jocko’s book Extreme Ownership, here’s another one, Fearless Success, all right, so I wrote this about four years ago. You can get on Amazon anywhere, go to my website, but see this framework on the back. So Rob, you went back to, well how do you actually do it? Okay, there’s an actual framework to this, right? And you think about strategic management theory will tell you vision, plan, execute, feedback loop. I’ve taken it the whole new level.
This is about belief levels. What do I believe? How do you get commitment and buy into something? What’s this brief? The brief is that preparation and that focus, center points that alignment, the clarity on where I’m going. The trust is the execution through high trust contracts. And then we are talking mostly about this debrief, but it’s the glad to be here that resets belief levels. You get the spiraling up process man. So there’s a framework to what we’re talking about, but at the end of the day, you got to do what David said, man. You got to connect to your gratitude, connect to your heart, start there and then we can work on these other things.

David:
That’s awesome. So I want to ask you the last question that I have, Rob may have one, but what stage in your life do you feel you… I don’t know, it’s hard to describe. There’s always this pivot point to switch where something becomes real to us. Maybe you’ve heard this stuff from other people, but sometimes there’s a moment where it just sets, man. Maybe was it when you were in air traffic control, watching other people fly, thinking, how did I end up here? Was there a relationship you lost? Was it one of the 20 times that you tried for something and you didn’t get that position, and you had to do some soul searching? Was there a catalyst that led to you really grabbing a hold of these values and saying, “I’m going to live this way.”?

John:
I love that question. It was actually multiple ones that hit my brain real quick. And now I’ll go to the one, the turning point. So the first one we already talked about, a little boy looking up and saying, boy there’s a dream. The second one that hit me was when I played football in college, and I fumbled the punt against Georgia Tech and I’m like, crap, I got to do better than that. Flying jets off the carrier and not just the missile shoot, but some scary night landings. But the big one was when I transitioned out of the Blue Angels, out of the Navy and I had to reinvent myself, and I went back to Stanford Business School. I went and got three master’s degrees, I went and worked in venture capital, and I realized that that wasn’t my sweet spot. I’m not a great VC, because I didn’t know the environment as much as I knew flying.
I didn’t know that what I really needed to do to make really good investments. Now, real estate, I do know that better. Like we talked about before, I’ve got seven homes. I’m an LP in many different investments with apartments. We’ve got multi-family, we’ve got commercial buildings, we’ve got over 200 units. But I’ve learned on how to surround myself with other good people. But I think the biggest moment was after the internet blew up, okay, I was an entrepreneur. I was trying to start the NASCAR of aviation when 9/11 happened. I was in Manhattan on 9/11. I was running towards the towers, not away from them, right? Seeing if I could help. And my business blew up that day. You’re not going to start an aviation entertainment company, like Red Bull finally did, after 9/11. And I remember that I was crushed. But what really crushed me was what you just talked about, the relationship.
The woman that I was dating at the time dumped me. So now I got relationship dumped, business blown up, what are you going to do? And I went to a seminar on personal growth, because I’m always trying to get myself better, and this is the light bulb moment. I’m in the dumps, and the person who was talking this guy name was Lou Ty, great inspirational guy. And he talked about visualization, what do we visualize? And he was using a video that I was in when I was on the team. Remember I talked about the brief where there’s some visualization and he said, “Hey, we got a guy here that really knows about this.” He was talking about from a psychological standpoint and he said, “John, would you say a few words?”
I got up there on that stage and I didn’t talk about the science or the psychology. I said this is how you use it. This is exactly what we were doing, this is what I was thinking, and this is how I use it in my everyday life. That was the light bulb moment. I get off stage, people are running up to me going, “Hey, how do you do that? Do you do this?” And I had a light bulb moment. High performance teams, high performance people, how to turn those into business results. I know how to do that. And that’s been my passion for the last two decades. And I had no plan at that time, but I had the dream, I had the clarity, and that’s it. And so now I get to do this hundreds of times a year. It’s a blessing, and I want to share it with others.

David:
Well that’s fantastic man. I love that that’s the case. You and Jocko, there’s a few other people, some of the Gracies that do Jujitsu. Well, before I get into that, I’ll say when Rob talked about how he can get 100% better in one day, it totally made me think of jujitsu. Because I’m a white belt and I don’t know anything. So 100% of the classes I go to, I will learn really good stuff because I know nothing. But I look at some of the brown belts and the black belts in there, and it’s clear they’re just there for us. They rarely get an opportunity to really get better. And there is a fact or a pattern to, the better you get at something, the harder it is to get good, so the more intentional you have to be about putting yourself in the right environments.
But the people that have done that, you, Jocko Wilkin, some of the really great martial artists that have committed their life to excellence at something. They’ve got this gift that they share with the world. They’ve figured out the right way to do it, is the best way I can describe it. They’ve experimented with all the wrong paths, they know the handful that are the right way, and now they’re preaching that message. And it is so powerful to hear it, because we don’t have to make the same mistakes. We can hear your story, we can listen to the pain that you talked about, we can hear about the things that worked, and we can use that in our own life going forward if we choose to do it.
So thank you for doing that, man. Thank you for not just letting your ego get huge because you are one of the best in the world of what you do, becoming a Blue Angel pilot, and you’re clearly an amazing communicator, and a wealthy individual that’s figured out business. But you’re actually still trying to throw down the rope from the top of the mountain to help everyone else. So thank you for doing that. The last segment of our show we are going to skip, because you’ve done so good that we don’t need to get into asking you about your favorite books. You’ve mentioned your book, again, can you show it to us, and can you give us the name and tell people where they can find it?

John:
Yeah, so Fearless Success, How to Go Beyond High Performance. Obviously the best place, go to my website, JohnFoleyInc.com, because there’s a lot of stuff you can get besides the book. We’ve got lots of videos, we’ve got lots of support stuff. Or go to Amazon, and actually we just created the audio version of the book and the ebook, so it’s out there. But what you went back to is, I think, critical David, and that is at some point in your life, you got to start giving. And what I learned was that you got to give first, right? So you mentioned Jocko and myself, I mean, we are giving. People ask me, do you need to fly anymore? The answer is no. That’s my past life.
If I can use that in a way that helps others, that’s what wakes me up in the morning. And we started a foundation, my wife and I, we give 10% of all our fees to charity. And because of that, I’ve been over the Himalayas with my buddy Geoff Tabin, The Himalayan Cataract Project. We’re doing, he’s doing, cornea transplants, he’s got a 100,000 people cured of blindness in the foreign world. We’re going over to Africa to do that. We help veterans who come back with PTSD. There’s over 300 nonprofits that we’re involved in right now, and I think everybody can benefit from just giving first. So hey, start the year off, have your clarity, have your dreams, but start by giving, and that’s the seed that allows those to come to fruition.

Rob:
So the only other thing we will ask you is tell us more about where people can find out about you. I know you said JohnFoley.com, do you have any social media or anything like that where people can look you up?

John:
So the best place is JohnFoleyInc.com, okay. But go to any of social media. I’m under John Gucci Foley, LinkedIn’s a good one, Instagram, all that kind of stuff. I got a podcast by the way, where I’m not at your level. It’s called The High Performance Zone. So there’s multiple ways to stay engaged. I would say get on our community, our high performance community list if you want, if this stuff resonates with you. YouTube, so many videos, TED Talk, all that kind of stuff. Website’s a good start. Just join the community and above all, let’s just give our knowledge and our wisdom to others. Glad to be here, buddy.

Rob:
Awesome. What about you, Dave? Where can people learn more about you?

David:
I hope they do. You can learn about me at David Greene 24 on all the socials, and that includes YouTube. Also go to DavidGreene24.com to see my website in a couple weeks. Actually, when this comes out, I might have a new one up and running. How about you, Rob?

Rob:
Oh, you can find me on YouTube at Rob Built, but I will say my call to action to the audience is if today was inspiring or life changing or motivating the way it was for me, and I’m sure Dave too, consider leaving us a five star review on the Apple Podcast platform, or wherever you download your podcast. It does help us with the podcast algorithm, believe it or not. And it helps us get served, and our podcast can get in front of so many other people and change their lives too.

David:
All right, John, thank you for being here. Really appreciate it. We’re going to give you the last word, if you got anything else you want to say before we let you go.

John:
Well, I just want to say thank you. You guys are awesome. Thanks to the audience. Continue to crush it in real estate, and other aspects of your life. But above all, glad to be here. This has been precious. Thank you guys.

Rob:
Glad to be here.

David:
This is David Greene for Rob, my Blue Angel Abasolo, signing off.

 

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • Knowing your blind spots and why witnessing your weaknesses can boost your skills
  • Why complacency kills and thinking you’re “good enough” can drag you down
  • The benefits of a debrief and why you always want to know what you did wrong
  • Finding your “why” and turning it into the driving force behind your success
  • The “glad to be here” method and why it’s a “wonder drug” for human happiness 
  • How the 1% of any skill set optimize their performance and push others to do the same
  • And So Much More!

Links from the Show

Book Mentioned in this Episode

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Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.