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Fearless Success: Beyond High Performance by John Foley



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Gary Pinkerton hosts retired Navy pilot with the Blue Angels and author of Fearless Success: Beyond High Performance, John Foley. John gives us insight into his time in the service and emphasizes why mindset is critical in our lives. He shares a few experiences as a pilot including when he flew in the popular movie Top Gun; when he flew planes in Moscow, and other flights. He leaves us the idea of whether the world is coming at you or from you.

Announcer 0:04
Welcome to the heroic investing show. As first responders we risk our lives every day our financial security is under attack. Our pensions are in a state of emergency. A single on duty incident can alter or erase our earning potential instantly and forever. We are the heroes of society. We are self reliant and we need to take care of our own financial future. The heroic investing show is our toolkit of business and investing tactics on our mission to financial freedom.

Gary Pinkerton 0:39
Welcome to the heroic investing show. My name is Gary Pinkerton and I co host this show with Jason Hartman. This is Episode 195. Today’s guest is retired Navy pilot john Foley. JOHN runs an organization that teaches leadership to large organizations improving their performance to make them Elite companies with a couple of his prior bosses, john teaches leadership he does keynote speaking and talks to companies about how to improve how to transform their DNA and pivot their business. To compete in the new digital paradigm. The ability to develop transformational leadership and enable workforce evolution is a critically competitive advantage. john and i were so aligned on all of our concepts and our understanding of what makes companies organizations grow. And it has to do with really effective leaders, but leaders that have to be able to transform as the world around them transforms keeping their business lean, and as he puts it, elite, john was a former combat fighter pilot and a member of the Blue Angels and has a great story about how they performed the only time and Blue Angels history in Moscow right after the wall came down and he has the claim to fame of having fled Russian big airplane so amazing story that his nuggets on leadership on what it takes to succeed out there. And in the transition from first responder and military, to running your own business and sharing your talents that you’ve learned over these years with the rest of corporate America is fascinating. It’s a really good podcast. I think you’re gonna enjoy it. Let’s get to it. Here’s Navy pilot, john Foley. Well, hello, investors. Welcome back. Again, I think I might say this on most episodes, I really mean it. This time. I’ve got an amazing high energy individual. That’s going to add a lot of value. JOHN, welcome to rock investors. And please give a little bit of your background.

John Foley 2:39
Gary, thank you and everybody out there. I’m deeply Glad to be here. When I heard about what this podcast is, and more importantly, the people on it. I just got goosebumps. And I said, Wow, if there’s anything I could share, happy to do that. So my very quick background was my dad was army. I was born in Germany and grew up as an army brat loved my dad wanted to be just like him. He was As an engineer, and an army officer, and that’s what I thought was going to be we actually lived at West Point. He was an instructor there. And then one day took me airshow, and I saw these six magical blue jets flying up there in the sky. I think I was 12. And I turned to my dad that day, and I said, Dad, I’m gonna do that. And it just started a journey, like we all been on, but it eventually worked out. I actually went to Annapolis instead of West Point, and my mom was totally happy with that dad was to play football there had a typical career. I went into naval aviation, flew jets off at four carriers flew a fours a sevens, f 14, got the flying movie Top Gun just happened to be in the right place at the right time off the carrier enterprise, and structure pilot, and then became a Blue Angel. And that was in the early 90s 9392, great experiences, they’re happy to share some insights. Then after that, you know, did the typical War College department head all that stuff? And then I decided to reinvent myself. And so I went to Stanford Business School and ended up being a Sloan fellow there got three master’s degrees couldn’t get it right. That’s why they kept sending me back. I went into venture capital right around 2000 2001. And if you all remember back in Silicon Valley, that was an interesting time, right? The old bubble, the internet pulse. It was, yeah. So I was on the inner circle of a VC firm, then I gotta be honest with you, you know, stuff was happening so fast. I didn’t know what was going on. In fact, when they even asked me to be part of the firm, I said, Wait a minute, why me? I know nothing about venture capital. I know nothing about technology. And this was an early stage technology VC firm right down there, California Avenue, right in San Francisco. And they said, you know, you know how to win. We can teach you the rest and what a great job opportunity that was right to see the inner circle. But anyhow, we’ll quickly had a couple years doing that realized that I personally had this entrepreneurial bug in me. So I tried to start a venture which is well known now Red Bulls doing it. It’s called the Red Bull air races, but I started in a venture call center point entertainment. It’s going to be the NASCAR aviation. Basically, I was rolling up air shows, performers, and you need TV and sponsorship. And yeah, I was putting that deal together. I was in New York at on a date we all know incredibly well 911 2001. I was closing an equity deal with ESPN on that day. And of course, that day had major significance for a lot of people, much more than me. But basically, the business deal blew up that day, and need to reinvent myself. And so I did, and started this company I have now which we go around and my tool bosses work with me and we speak to organizations on leadership and teamwork and high performance and been doing that now for 16 years spoken over 1000 companies really joyful in being able to share information that we all know really well in a way that’s beneficial to the outside world. So glad to be here.

Gary Pinkerton 5:52
That’s fantastic. That’s awesome. So there are two things that I want to make absolutely sure we talked about before we run out of podcasting time. So I’m gonna just hit them both, if you don’t mind. The first one is you shared with me before we started the show. And I said, let’s just cover it in the show, because you definitely want to, because it’s very nostalgic for myself. I mean, you and I both went the Naval Academy, we were there in the, you know, in the 80s. And I was very tip of the of the 90s. But it was cold war time still. And there was so much lore about Russia and going against the bear and all of that you found yourself not only in Moscow, which is a place I’ve never been able to go with my clearance and still it’s on my my short term bucket list to get there now that I’m able to, but you not only found yourself in Moscow in the 80s, you flew one other aircraft, so tell us about that.

John Foley 6:43
Yeah, well, the background was, as you all know, the Berlin Wall came down at night. That’s when I got selected for the team, the Blue Angels that is and in 1992 we got this amazing opportunity because the world is changing quickly, as you know, and we submitted an application to Take the team to Europe, but not just Eastern Europe or not just Western Europe, rather back to Eastern Europe and they go to Moscow. Well, you can imagine what that was like trying to get it through the State Department. The God, of course, actually had to go through the White House. But in 92, we took the Blue Angels to Moscow, and it had been 27 years since we’d even been over the pond to you know, NATO countries and never to countries like Bulgaria or Romania. I remember, and I was the opposite at the time. So I’m the opposite of the team. And you know, imagine the coordination that’s required to take the team over their flight clearances, all the State Department, all that kind of stuff, but I remember we landed in Sweden, then went to Finland, did an air show at both those places, but then we’re flying over the border checking into Russian airspace, and they came up on the radio and you know, we just do our normal check in you know, actually the boss was flying. He has this Blue Angel number one flight level you know, whatever, three to zero, you know, checking in and they go Blue Angel one, what type of airplane are you and he comes up on the radio he says, These are eight US Navy FA teens, and there’s dead silence. Do you and we had already I had gotten all the clearances, but still you know there’s a communication gap Finally, about a minute later they say well continue. And then all of a sudden we get intercepted by su 27 mig 29 which this was, of course already planned right? We fly into Moscow. There’s some beautiful video on this. In fact, if your audience ever wants to check it out, hollywood did a documentary called around the world at speed of sound. And it’s Rob stone, the producer great friend of mine went with us and documented this bottom line is we can fly it into a bank airbase their master check base with these su 20 sevens on our wings MiG 29 and we did you know air shows there which have never before been done, and never been done since which is interesting. But when I remember besides getting a chance to exchange rides, you know, I flew in the su 27 got a chance to fly the Hero of the Soviet Union and back my back seat and can gladly say a knock them out, which was fun. But he tried to knock me out he couldn’t we had fun, but the best part about all that stuff was not The Flying The best part was to see how we were embraced by the Russian people. There’s pictures of me holding little kids. And you know, as you know, the Blue Angels mission as ambassadors of goodwill, and that’s exactly what we were. And I gotta tell you, after you got through the chest pumping up, you know, let’s go do it. You know, they’re just like us, right? warriors. And it was a real, real beautiful time in my life.

Gary Pinkerton 9:23
It’s amazing. Well, thanks for sharing that with the audience. And allow me time to get the chance to share that but it’s probably fun to relive

John Foley 9:29
it is and like just talking about it. I got, you know, I’m picturing into my eyes. And I really picture besides the Jets, and that was all fun was the kids. That’s what stuck with me. That’s awesome.

Gary Pinkerton 9:37
Have you been back to you know, Russia since

John Foley 9:41
I haven’t back to Moscow. I’ve been back to other areas all over Europe. In fact, I’ve been to I think 62 countries now, but not been back to Moscow. I want to do that sometime.

Gary Pinkerton 9:50
Cool. Very cool. All right. So the other thing I want to pivot a little bit and it’s not that much of a pivot, it’s a continuation but it’s a nice way to consolidate your lessons. Learn that I want you to pass in the next 10 minutes into the investing audience. That is specifically a new book you have, which is rolling all of this up for us. It’s called fearless success beyond high performance talk to us please about that.

John Foley 10:14
Yeah, Gary. Well, thank you. First off, it took me 10 years to write that thing. I’m not really a writer, and I wasn’t happy with the manuscript. I have written four of them. And the one that’s out now, you know, please, we got it out. Because what it does is it it just takes the reader through the journey, right? And it’s a journey of not just with the Blue Angels, but I heavily look in there and say, Okay, what were the attributes? What were the qualities of that High Performance Team? And how can we transfer that into investing into personal life into business, all these elements? So what I really focus on is something that I think we all know, incredibly well, and that is, you got to have a belief, right? It’s about instilling this mindset, and I call it a mindset of Glad to be here. To me, that’s means about being grateful and appreciative for every little moment in our lives. You know, as veterans as active duty military as first responders, we have a lot to be grateful for, we hold a special bond that we all know. But this means this even goes beyond that. This is just being grateful for the little things in life. Like when I woke up this morning, I do it every morning, I just say what am i grateful for? And first thought was you I said, Man, I can’t wait to meet Gary and, and the people on this podcast and then I go back in my day. And turns out if you go back, the human brain doesn’t care if you’re remembering something or you’re actually experiencing it for the first time. Then a lot of research in the neuroscience I get to work with those people and and so I start going back there and I just remember what happened yesterday and then I go forward to my day. Anyhow, the idea I call it my glad to be a wake up. But what it does is it changes the way your brain works, right. So I try to combine what we know which extremely well, operational excellence with this glad to be here mindset and what I’ve found is if you’re able to do both because it’s like two sides of the same coin. You actually You get breakthrough performance. And then you can target it and focus it in area. Any area one, you want to focus in on investing, bam. And there’s a methodology that I’m happy to share with you, that works. And so that’s kind of the essence of the book. But it’s a lot of stories. Right storytelling. It’s got some Russian stories in there. And happy to go deeper into it, if you want.

Gary Pinkerton 12:20
Yeah, well, please, I think the application of it because there’s, you know, we have a varied audience out here. Yeah, certainly those that are still actively pursuing their career of service. And also, we have a high percentage. I know you know, this as well as I do. Have people who leave the military and leave first responder service that start their own businesses and go their own way in a leadership role. Whatever you can share with respect to the ability to make impact, that

John Foley 12:48
happy doing its impact. I love that word. By the way. I think that’s the key. It’s that purpose larger than self right, that we all have an ability to actually translate that is into the civilian world. is not always there as much. And so I think we have to create that right and first responders, of course, and police and all that, but out there in the business world. So I think the key is, here’s what I basically did. So I remember being in Silicon Valley and, you know, I had gone through all the schooling, but it’s not about schooling, I think it’s about, you know, firsthand experience, right? I’m seeing all these companies, and a lot of them early stage, you know, someone IPO whatever. And I’m sitting here going, what’s the threat? You know, and then I remember when the bubble hit, you know, and it burst, right. And I remember sitting around the room that day, with some of the other partners and and we’re just talking about, like, what are we going to do, right? And a thought hit my head and the thought that hit my head was not why did the bubble burst? That wasn’t my question. My question was, how come some people outperform others and some don’t outcome some teams consistently can outperform some don’t? How come some organizations consistently the best, and in the military, we know how to do extremely well, and some are right, and then how do you do that under change. So how do you lead through change? Changing people change the dynamic changing markets? So that was the question that hit my head. That was back in 2001. And since then, you know, I’ve been on an 18 year journey of trying to figure that thing out. And the good news is I’ve got about 10 what I say about 1000 companies, high leaders that have been resource Timmy right? Here’s what I discovered real quick. We all know, it’s the vision plan, execute feedback loops. TJ man’s me theory tells us that right? What’s the vision, come up with a plan execution plan, hopefully have a feedback loop. Military, by the way, is really good about those debriefs in a civilian world is not okay, great. Okay. I say well, that’s that works for we’ll say the one percenters All right. And we call that operational excellence. But what happens in the point oh, 1% let How are the best of the best different and what I’ve realized over time, is we think differently, we act differently. We actually speak differently. So when I get a chance to work closely with CEOs and whatnot, I talked about beliefs, not vision. Okay, vision is easy. That’s a given you need to have a vision. But what’s hard is how do you get people committed and bought into the vision? So it’s all about creating beliefs, and changing limiting beliefs, which usually fear based in deliberating beliefs, you can see this in investing all the time. Right? Then when it goes, the second one is focus. So I talk a lot about the focus. How do you focus your mind I gave you a little tidbit there about the Glad to be here. Wake up is a way that I tend to focus my mind, but done a lot of studies on you know, meditation visualization, I do more visualization these days. And its ability to be able to block out distractions like we all know we need to do, and then focus in when you need to, but then open up again, see, that’s the critical element. You know, this, obviously is worried you got to have situational awareness, you focus down but you better open up again, are you going to get shot by the unseen guy, right? So it’s going through that, that methodology. I like to talk about alignment, how to get teams aligned through a center point, which I use my techniques from the Blue Angels where we come at each other 1000 miles per hour closure and Miss within wingspan. And remember, for one second off, we’re gonna miss by two football fields. So a little bit of, you know, high speed precision there. And I translate that through trust, and then the debrief. And what I’ve added is this glad to be here component, then it what it does, it resets the cycle. So it’s all in the book. But what I wanted to do was just at a high level say that I find this is a very simple methodology. It should be simple. And the cool part is it works. It works in financial services, it works in technology, works in manufacturing, just spoke to every leader at Mercedes Benz works in health care. And it works. The sports teams Roger Penske, and I just had lunch Thursday, and I helped them out when we won the Indy when I helped them out on four years ago. So we’re trying to do it again. But anyhow, high level, that’s what it is. Gary, what hit you.

Gary Pinkerton 16:44
That’s awesome. Well, you know, one of the things I didn’t expect you to talk about is mindset. I think that’s fantastic. I’ve done very similar journey here in the last couple of years after leaving the military leaving uniform and running my own company and podcasting and you know, and the like, is A lot of a lot of work on visualization meditation, I’ve gone through the Master Key System Programming twice. And one of the things that there’s some really simple lessons that hit you pretty hard. And one simple lesson I’m trying to teach my children that they just are not getting the gravity of it, which is cool. I mean, I’m 50 they’re 15. So give me a little time is that your mind cannot hold in its grasp or respond to more than one thought at a time. So, if you’re having a bad day, simply choose to have a good day like we all make fun of Pollyanna, right? You know, he said, that’s very pollyannish it’s just you know, you’re not even live in reality if you just, you know, if your world you run into a brick wall, you get fired by your boss, your your spouse leaves you, whatever. And you say, I’m choosing to have a great day. That’s just you’re an idiot, right? But in fact, if you recognize that the human brain is just that simple, like I can’t be having a bad day and forcing myself to think of the thought of this is going to be a great day. I’m going to make it be one right so It’s just amazing that it’s that simple.

John Foley 18:03
Well, I love that you’ve done the research, you know, 65 chances a second. So the human brain can only take in 65 impulse through the eye a second. So we get 65 chances a second to choose what you just said. And that is why see that as a threat or something negative, or do I choose to see it as a positive? And I agree with you. The key on this stuff, though, is you got to plant seeds, right? Because here’s a question. Where do your thoughts come from? You ever think about that? Where do your actual thoughts come from?

Gary Pinkerton 18:33
Well, it comes from your responses to external sensory, I guess, and then it’s how you interpret them. So, you know, the same thing happens to two people who are walking beside each other. It’s just their past experience, their subconscious is going to tell them how to interpret that. Exactly. See, it’s the same way how one person can see something as a threat and the other person see it as an opportunity. Right, right. In business, especially in investing. One person goes say, well, that’s where That’s a threat. Next person go, wow, this is a great opportunity. So the key is planning those correct seeds, right? And that’s why gratitude works. So well. If you go through life, starting to really appreciate things you watch your day will naturally get happier. It’s just it has to happen. Absolutely. And another I think, great piece of advice that I have learned and I think the audience could learn from clearly having a good restful, peaceful sleep is super important for rejuvenating the human body, just the actual physical cells out there, right? I mean, you’ve got to have that I mean, heck, aviation knows that very well. Right, you guys have a limited time you have required minimum amounts of sleep to be able to get in the cockpit. And so many people out there though, are not having restful sleep because they go to sleep, having you know having a lot of electronics around them. So they’re not actually ready emotionally ready to go to sleep. Or it’s that they’re thinking negative thoughts, right? They listen to the news of all the horrible stuff or you know, some history blues event or something right, some gun, shoot them up. thing right before going to sleep and then that’s in their head. And so doing the gratitude portion that’s right before bed. Yes, you know, sets you up for being able to be calm, have that adequate sleep to actually physically recover the body.

John Foley 20:13
Oh, I love it. You know, there’s so many those are beautiful techniques and recommendations for people you know, I turn my cell phone off definitely go to Airplane Mode at the very least. But it’s about ritual. Right? So what is your ritual when you go to bed? What’s your ritual when you get up and these could be very simple ones, but it does set the day and it does help you rest better. And of course then there’s the whole thing of working out and eat well to you know those three things, man, you’ll be a superstar.

Gary Pinkerton 20:40
Absolutely. So one other thing I am curious about your opinion on I’ve kind of gone over the top again with my poor kids, but also just with with other people. I’ve talked to that. I’ve started to believe that if you just own everything in your world, like you know, of course, there’s an easy way to make a case that you can’t control everything that happens in your life. Right, and it’s about how you respond to it. However, if you decide to own everything that happens in your life, and then try to learn from it, it is my opinion that you’re in so much better situation like people ask me, hey, you’ve lost 100% of your investment in this deal? How is it that you’re not suing the person? And my answer is because I decided to own it. Like, that was my mistake. I’m going to learn something from it. I’m going to get my money back, because I’m going to learn something from it. And so, you know, I tell my kids all the time, well, you get to choose how to respond to that. And you caused it like, how could I possibly have been the one that caused this? You know, you brought it into your life? What do you think?

John Foley 21:33
More than one? I think so It’s funny, you don’t even know this, but I’m in Sedona, Arizona, right now doing this podcast. And I’m here because I’m always trying to grow myself, right and learn just like you’re saying, and there’s this phenomenal teacher on Eastern wisdom that I spend time with. And what he talks about is exactly what you just said. Yeah, the question is, is the world coming at you? Or is the rule coming from you? Right? Most people feel like the worlds coming at them. And so that’s when you’re in the reactive mode. That’s when you say, Well, that wasn’t my fault. When you take ownership, like you just said, when you realize it’s actually coming from you, then you control your destiny. And that gets really powerful. Especially when you get to choose how you react to something right? Power

Gary Pinkerton 22:18
Yeah, in the end when you’re able to blame somebody else and say it wasn’t my fault then you’re able to cop out of it right? You don’t have to you know, own it and you know, roll up the shirt sleeves and get busy fixing it.

John Foley 22:30
I remember once I don’t know where I heard this, but you know when you point your finger at somebody, three of them are pointing back in. Yeah,

Gary Pinkerton 22:38
those two things very, very simple little things have made the biggest difference for me in the last year is simply realizing that all I have to do to stop the stinking thinking is Zig Ziglar said this just put a positive thing in my mind even if I don’t necessarily believe it. Just keep saying it. brainwash. Yeah, and then the other is owning everything that happens in my life and just you know, fixing it. It’s pretty cool.

John Foley 23:00
Love the fixing it. You know, on the blues, we had a saying I’ll fix it in the debriefs we did. Again, if you read the book, you’ll see where it’s there. I go through how we did that. And that’s the ownership. Everybody took accountability, but they actually said, I’ll fix it. And it elevated their responsibility. I love that idea of both positive thinking with a plan, right? Because the positivity of how I choose to think, I believe, though you also have to take ownership. You have to have a plan, right? There you go.

Gary Pinkerton 23:29
Right, right. Yeah. Yeah. It’s hard to think positively. If you don’t feel like you can change it if you’re gonna have any control of what’s coming next at you. Wow, this has been amazing. It’s the time has flown by I’m looking at my clock like we did something wrong because it’s almost 30 minutes. But this has been amazing, john, I can’t wait. We’re certainly going to stay connected and I can’t wait to you know, get more more involved with learning about your company visiting some things, seeing how we can both help, you know, help veterans, first responders and just Americans

John Foley 24:00
Yes, I’m with you, Gary. It’s it’s been a joy. And, you know, I’m just thinking about the people listening. And that’s it. I want to get back. Right. I want to help people. And if there’s any kind of insights from the past great, you know, but it’s all about making that impact. Right. And Gary, I look forward to it. Maybe we’ll get together on another one of these and definitely wanna stay close.

Gary Pinkerton 24:18
Absolutely. So how did they find your company? what you’re doing? I know. So the book again, fearless success beyond high performance on Amazon. And I’m sure everywhere else, how do they find out about more about your company?

John Foley 24:30
It’s john Foley inc.com. JOHN Foley, I nc.com. pretty much put in john Foley on a search and it should come up on there. You’ll see actually, if you go to the website, we got actual store there. We’re bundling in some special stuff for the book. So not just the book, which of course, you get to Amazon. It’s in all the bookstores. It’s in the airports all that but I got this other thing called breaking belief barriers, really good for setting your beliefs, right. But the company Yeah, there’s light information there. You know, we do a lot of keynotes and leadership, but I’m starting to To branch off into the personal mastery space, and that’s what excites me to talk more about what you and I are talking about, right? Yeah, yeah. How’s it individual, you know, really benefit.

Gary Pinkerton 25:10
Perfect. Awesome. JOHN, thank you so much for joining us. We’ll get you back on here real soon.

John Foley 25:15
All right, Gary, thank you. Glad to be here.

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