#056: GoRuck – Founder Jason McCarthy

Thursday April 21, 2022

The ruck march can be a leisurely walk to the store, or it can be a grueling test of personal strength, perseverance and drive. Jason McCarthy is the founder of GoRuck, a gear company turned international fitness movement.

Host Fran Racioppi takes a detour off I-95 and stopped in Jacksonville Beach to meet Jason and and reminisce about 10th Special Forces Group, the relentless pursuit of quality and what you owe when you admit it was your first time.  

Join us for this episode and check us out live at GoRuck’s First Annual Sandlot Jax Fitness Festival April 22-24 in downtown Jacksonville, FL. Jason’s goal has always been to bring people together to do fun – and hard – things. Sandlot Jax will be no different. The Jedburgh Podcast team will be there in force covering the entire event and putting in the work. We’ll see you there.

Listen to the podcast here

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About Jason McCarthy

TJP | GoRuckJason McCarthy is the Founder and CEO of GORUCK. He began the company in 2008 with a napkin sketch for a rucksack, GR1, that could thrive in Baghdad and NYC. In the summer of 2010, Jason and his dog Java took a 48 state cross country road trip, eventually leading to the first GORUCK Challenge. GORUCK now organizes over 350 community led Ruck Clubs all over the world, produces over 1,000 rucking events per year, and is united by a global community of ruckers.

Jason served in the US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group after 9/11 and lives in Florida with his wife Emily, their three kids, and chocolate lab, Monster. He proudly serves on the Board of Directors of the Green Beret Foundation. Jason recently co-founded Sandlot Technology, an app-based platform to bring together trainers and trainees.


GoRuck – Founder Jason McCarthy

The ruck march is simple in theory. Throw some weight on your back and walk a set distance but in practice, the ruck march can be a leisurely walk to the store or it can be a grueling test of personal strength, perseverance, and drive. It can bring teams together or break even the strongest competitors. It can set the example for building resilient teams and communities or it can be a deeply personal journey to find solace and growth.

Jason McCarthy is the Founder of GORUCK, a company he conceptualized in Africa in 2007 and has grown to over $100 million in sales. It started as a gear company but has become an international fitness movement bringing together veterans, civilians, law enforcement, and all those dedicated to putting in the work and feeling a little bit or a lot of pain.

TJP | 56 GORUCK Jason McCarthy

Meet Jason McCarthy

For this episode, I took a detour off I-95 and stopped in Jacksonville Beach to meet Jason and his team. We reminisced about our days in the 10th Special Forces group, and our commitment to live up to the honor and prestige of the regimen. The importance of a relentless pursuit of quality and standards and what you owe when you admit it was your first time.

We also talk about the history of GORUCK, the importance of networks and community, and how COVID has changed our perspectives on life, family, work, and society. Finally, we discuss the impact and Jason’s commitment to disrupting the fitness industry through his launch of Sandlot technology in the Sandlot app, an initiative focused on empowering trainers and democratizing their connection with fitness lovers.

Join us for this episode and check us out at GORUCK’s first annual Sandlot JAX Fitness Festival, April 22nd to 24th, 2022 in Downtown Jacksonville, Florida. Jason’s goal has always been to bring people together to do fun and hard things. Sandlot JAX will be no different. The team will be there in full force, covering the entire event and putting in the work. We’ll see you there.

Jason, welcome to The Jedburgh Podcast.

It’s great to be here.

In true GORUCK fashion, I have to disclose and we talked about it earlier but for the audience and especially those who are going to watch this on YouTube. I’m going on four straight days right now because I thought it was fitting since GORUCK is all about pushing yourself to the extreme. How long can you go? For me, it started on a Tuesday when I was in India. I woke up, so it would have been Tuesday night here in the US. I started traveling to enter India and Dubai to Delhi. I had a fourteen-hour layover and then took a seventeen-hour flight.

You probably got all sorts of rest. Nobody feels sorry for you.

I got a hotel but I went to the gym. That’s what I did when I was there. I went to the gym and I prepped this conversation. I never laid on the bed in the hotel room and then I took the seventeen-hour flight back here, landed morning, went to the house, packed up the car, and the whole family. Including the dog, the two kids, the wife, and the boat in tow have now driven down to Florida en route to South Florida but have stopped here at GORUCK to spend some time with you.

Down in Florida. You are so excited. We were over that state line and you are like, “This is awesome. Let’s stop somewhere awesome as fast as we can and enjoy it.”

The first place you’d come across is Jacksonville Beach. “Pull over. Let’s see what Jason’s doing.” It’s been a while since you and I last met. You were pulling out pictures before we started but it was the Green Beret Foundation dinner several years back. 2016 was the last time that we were in the same room but it is awesome to be back here with you and it’s my first time at the GORUCK headquarters. It’s incredible what’s going on here.

The first time you owe a case of beer. You walked into that on your own accord and you know it.

I have already failed in this mission but this episode is going to be the third in our lead-up to the Sandlot JAX Fitness Festival. We are going to talk about Sandlot JAX. I want you to explain it but we started the three episodes with Jason Khalipa, 2008 CrossFit Games champion. The world’s strongest man. It’s an awesome story about AMRAP, As Many Reps As Possible. For anyone who didn’t see it, they have to check it out because he smoked the crap out of me too. After we got done, I was sick the rest of the day. Don’t tell him because I don’t want him to know. I was faking it all the time. That was a great episode.

His daughter’s story and stuff, he’s got such a great story there, cancer and overcoming it like how to fight. It’s one thing to train for the CrossFit Games. It’s another be the rock and help your daughter fight for her life.

They applied that AMRAP to how they treated themselves, the family, and the fight against leukemia with their daughter. It was so inspirational. I left that with a renewed commitment to applying focus. It’s so impressive what he did there. Then we had Sara Wilkinson, her husband, Navy SEAL Chad Wilkinson, who died by suicide. Her story was so powerful. For me to be able to speak with her, tell her story, tied into veteran suicide awareness and mental health and what she’s also done in the fitness space. She’s a close partner with you and with GORUCK and you guys have built a tremendous relationship over the years.

She and Emily are surfing amigas. It’s great.

[bctt tweet=”Being social is the glue to our happiness.” username=”talentwargroup”]

Her story is fantastic. We were able to share that. Now we get to share yours and talk about GORUCK. I read the book How Not to Start a Backpack Company. There are so many things you take away in the entrepreneurial spirit. Many people have good ideas but it’s always about execution and willpower, drive, resiliency, and adaptability.

We talked about the nine characteristics of elite performance on the show. That’s our soft use. That’s our grounding function here. You had to demonstrate all of those in so many different ways as you were building GORUCK. A lot of people look at GORUCK and they are like, “It’s been there. They exist in the veteran’s community but the amount of work that has gone into building this company to what it is truly inspirational.”

I look forward to talking more about it but I want to talk about Sandlot JAX first. It’s coming up. This episode is going to release the day before it launches. We are coming down here. The show is on location. We have a World War II Land Rover ambulance with a studio set up in the back of it. It’s going to be our first on-location activation. We are pumped. We are coming down and we are going to do this activation. The partnership with you and everybody else who’s coming is exciting for us in 2022. Talk to me a bit about Sandlot JAX. What was the theory behind it? Why’d you come up with it? What do you want to achieve?

It started with GORUCK and the natural response or reaction to what the pandemic became. We are in Florida. We recovered more quickly than most.

TJP | 56 GORUCK Jason McCarthy

Jason McCarthy Sandlot Jax: how it came about.

Did they ever stop?

No, they shut our beach down for 30 days, very early on in the pandemic. You are shutting the beach down and then it turned to the street next to the beach into this congested walkway. It’s like, “What are we doing here? We shut the beach down.” To go back to some history on this, Florida was crazy because we opened to the beaches. They don’t ever go back and say, “Sorry, we got this wrong.” They did. We opened up the beaches and people were on the beaches, breathing around each other and soaking up sunshine. That was supposed to be what? It’s called freedom down here.

It’s a place where you are supposed to be outside. That’s where they told you to go.

What I did not like about our response in America and I love this country and I owe it more than I can ever pay back. I owe the Special Force’s regiment more than I can ever pay back. There’s the response that too many people that I saw were focused on the wrong things.

Instead of all of the parlor tricks that we played, what if we would have had a reasonable discussion about health? What if we would have said, “What is healthy? How am I healthy and happy? How do I achieve that type of fulfillment out of life?” When you look at it, what we know from our time in the Army, that is the avatar for my experience of happiness. You have a small team. You share a mission and you’ll do anything for each other. It’s like a family unit.

Even if you don’t like each other.

No matter what. It’s wild. Nobody cares. You can be Black, White, purple, pink or polka dotted. You are on that team together. It’s the same in a family. It takes on a different hue at times but a family is the same. You’ll do anything for your kids, wife, or loved ones. That is what binds us together. That is what we think about on our deathbed. That is what matters the most in our lives. What we were told to do was to isolate and to stare at everybody on screens. We are injecting fear.

There was no reasonable discussion around how we define success and around anything. At its core principle, it’s like we are social creatures and we need to be around each other, go outside, sweat, do heart-friendly things and focus our energy and our stress levels on, and not just on working out or working in front of a screen all day and then feeling shamed into working out now in front of a screen. It was like back to the roots of let’s throw the biggest party that we possibly can in the capital of freedom in the universe. Let’s take out this big and giant green field at Met Park. Right on the river, Downtown Jacksonville, this town that we know and love.

It’s because of what we have sacrificed both correctly and incorrectly and I’m not here to go back in time. You can’t go back. What we can do is go forward and say, “Let’s invite them,” and say, “Come bring your communities and yourselves. We are going to help the communities all activate.” It’s like, “What do you want to do when you are here?” We are building an obstacle course with Savage Race. Rogue Fitness is bringing down rigs, strength and conditioning equipment. There are challenges there. GORUCK is here. We will do a bunch of trainer-led classes with all the trainers.

There are fit talks or TED-style talks, which we are filming with 30 plus world-class trainers, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and all that stuff. It’s a big, giant party. It’s fitness in nature because social is the glue. This is my personal belief. The AAR, After-Action Review of what’s going on is the social fitness component of our lives is the glue.

TJP | 56 GORUCK Jason McCarthy

Jason McCarthy: “The social fitness component of our lives is the glue.”

Being social is the glue to our mental happiness, physical happiness, and all of that stuff and we have murdered it in the last couple of years. It’s been the greatest assault on community and social fitness ever because it’s the first time you could do it. You could make everything virtual and it’s not working. Let’s go back to what works.

We are seeing that. You are seeing a lot of companies. This is what I’m hearing and seeing in my own company and the people that I’m working with. I got back from India because we hadn’t seen each other as a company in two years. We went out there because it was important to build that relationship and bond.

I started working with this company. It’s been years that I have been working with them and it’s been months where I have been primarily full-time. I feel like I just started. That was how I left everybody in India when I left. It was, “This may have well been my first two weeks on the job because I feel like we have achieved more in the time that we have spent together over two weeks than we have in the last six months apart.”

TJP | 56 GORUCK Jason McCarthy

Jason McCarthy: “When everything is virtual a tremendous dehumanization occurs.”

When everything is virtual, there is an enormous dehumanization that occurs. We are wise to remember this. You see someone on Zoom and the thoughts that you have before you get on and after, it’s not the same. We were in here shooting the breeze while you were setting up. That comes into this interview where I’m ribbing you about like, “Have you been out of the team room too long?” You start admitting everything’s your first time.

It all builds into the rapport and the natural human stuff. We got to get back to that. I get it. I’m for handling some stuff with Zoom. I’m for technology. I’m pro with these things but we have to remember that this is the best. Coming together with the people in the real world is the best. It’s also the healthiest.

You mentioned Savage Race, Rogue Fitness, and bank of speakers. I want to dig into the bank of speakers for a minute because it also brings up something that you spoke about it in the book. It’s a component of special operations. This is the sense of community. You are talking about it here in terms of the broader societal norms that we have established over the last couple of years.

Everybody understands that we were both in 2nd Battalion 10th Special Forces Group. You left right as I got there. We have the common friendship of Corey Wibach, who you and I go back a long time with. You had him in his past. I have him in his present. We have traded babysitting of Corey.

I don’t know how they could have come in much younger.

This sense of community, the importance of the network resonates so well with the GORUCK story and manifests itself here with an event like Sandlot JAX. When you look at this bank of speakers and I can name a couple of them here. You have Ryan Manion, Michael Rodriguez, Dr. Matt Miller, Melissa Urban, Gideon Akande. We mentioned Jason Khalipa, Stu Smith, and John Hanke. This list goes on and on. I could give all their titles and none of that would do them justice. Can you talk about the importance of building this community? What does networking do for not only for businesses but for people and their personal connection with each other, when you are trying to achieve something like this?

These are good friends of ours who are coming or they are good friends of someone else. For most of them, it’s taken a career and a lifetime to get to know them. Emily jokes. She’s like, “We basically cashed in every favor we ever had. Please come to this party.” One example is John Hanke. His background is he started a company called Keyhole which was bought by Google. It’s a mapping terrain software. It was used in the first Gulf War. It was all over CNN. The founders of Google brought him in, Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Street View, Google Local, all were his.

[bctt tweet=”It’s more fun to work with the people that you want to spend time with because those are the people that share your values.” username=”talentwargroup”]

Before you heard of them, he was managing those. That’s a big deal when you say, “I’m going to oversee the project of Street View. I’m going to put cameras on cars and drive over the entire country in the world.” He took that mapping background, not gaming background, although we had that as well, and apply that to Niantic, which came out with Pokémon Go. Pokémon Go is a geospatial video game. You have to move in the real world. Fitness festival, what’s Pokemon Go doing there? People walk 7 billion kilometers in 2021 playing Niantic games. It’s a $9 billion company. It’s created inside of John’s brain.

It’s always the Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon. You’ve got to say yes to stuff. If something comes, you say yes. There was a mutual friend, a guy had found GORUCK. His name is Rock Myers. He was one of the guys that helped develop the SIPRNet. A classified network that the military works. Other stuff in Vietnam and all that stuff.

He’s one of these great Americans that you’ve never heard of. He got followers on Instagram. He lives out in the middle of nowhere in New Mexico with his incredible wife. He was like, “I see this world where GORUCK that does these team building events could work with some of the live events that Niantic is putting on for this previous game that they had called Ingress.”

We did and we met them. Emily flew out to San Francisco when Niantic was still inside of Google and put them through a little mini-event for their team, which was not a “GORUCK event.” They all showed up and it was team building and they smiled. It’s like, “Come out and try this.” This was long before anyone ever heard of Pokémon Go. We happened to like them. They are fighting the same fights in a different way. John was in the State Department. He served our country over in Asia and stuff like that.

All of a sudden, you fast forward to now and we have been in touch with them. Their family is great. They are friends of ours. It’s like, “John, please come.” He called the metaverse a dystopian nightmare because it is. This idea of haptic suits and you are plugged into some mainframe shoved through your ear, brain, or whatever and don’t move. All the feelings will be the same. Sit there with your haptic suit. It’s not going to work. We are human. He wants to move society forward with technology. That’s the same way of life that we believe in as well.

The list goes on and on but a lot of the people in health and fitness, there are CrossFit people. Michael Easter, the fitness editor at Men’s Health, wrote about rucking a long time ago. I was like, “This guy is great.” I tracked him down and he did a GORUCK heavy, which is a 24-hour event. We stayed in touch because he would come up with new articles. He’s a great writer. He’s going to be one of the premier writers in health, wellness and fitness as his career progresses but nothing happens overnight in this.

What I’m getting out with your original question about community building, partnerships and all this stuff if all you are doing is picking up the phone when you need somebody, first off, that’s not that great. It’s more fun to work with the people that you want to spend time with because those are the people that share your values. Those are the people that you want to spend time with.

Whether you are posting about it, whether they can do anything for you, it’s like getting the joy and the fulfillment out of time with people who you like. When you have an opportunity to invite them to a party that you are throwing or to say, “Would this make sense?” Those are fun because you don’t lament the idea of like, “I got to pick up the phone and call that person. They texted me. Their email, I saw it. I don’t even want to open it.” Those are terrible. Don’t work with those people. Spend your time elsewhere.

It’s like Patrick Swayze in Road House. Be nice. Give the time to the people that you respect and care about and then try to work with them. This is a series of touchpoints that you have. It’s like any relationship. You have to grow and foster it. That’s how the best partnerships happen when they are natural.

I’m still laughing about your point about when you see somebody texting, it’s like, “I don’t want to answer it.” You see the email. I’m thinking about a couple of emails. I got this sporty. You are driving down near that. I literally was like, “Don’t even open it. I don’t want to see what happened.”

It’s mood roulette. You open that and all of a sudden, your anxiety levels start to go up. First off, you probably live in a virtual life with that person. You’ve dehumanized them. They are a name in your email inbox, like someone’s spammed you from wherever. Less of that. Deep breaths.

I think of the term agency. We have an agency here where we get to choose. For so long, you think that you have to make certain associations. You have to do certain things. We talked a bit about COVID. One of the big things that people have learned coming out of COVID is that you have a choice. You can choose who you associate with. You can choose what you do with your life. You can choose the people you surround yourself with and the path that you follow. What you are seeing now in society is people who are now seizing those choices and they are taking that autonomy. They are making decisions on how they live their life and then they are executing on it.

We throw these big words out about personal responsibility but what does that mean to you? Look yourself in the mirror and say, “What does that mean to me?” We talk about words like freedom. What does that mean? What are we going to do? Most things are best when you view them as action verbs.

TJP | 56 GORUCK Jason McCarthy

Jason McCarthy: “Most things are best when you view them as action verbs.”

What does it mean to be free? There are no shackles. This is America.

The true shackles do not exist here. Go over somewhere closer to Russia, China, and other places. There are a lot of shackles there. The shackles that we have is trying to keep up with the Joneses or live someone else’s life or these things that are eating away at too much of our soul because we are focused on the wrong things but it’s not because we lack freedom.

It has been a great reminder of these universal and foundational principles upon which America was founded. That’s great. Let’s view that as a positive because it is. Regardless of what the past held, it is what it is at this point. There’s nothing we can go back to change time. We have this opportunity before it slips away to continue to lead this examined life and make decisions on that.

Not just pontificate and philosophize about it but what’s your health worth to you? I don’t mean your heart rate when you go to the doctor or your blood pressure levels. I mean your happiness, your mental health, physical health, social health, and the time that’s ticking away. What’s that worth to you? What are you sacrificing in order to not live your best life?

What are you doing? Is it worth it? When it’s not worth it, then make a change. The first step is you got to understand the problem. It’s been a great wake up call to understanding a lot more of a lot of us with problems. My problem was, “I will get on a plane and go wherever. I will go there. I will go do that.” That’s the drug. It was great.

The best part about COVID was I got to spend more time with my family. I got to re-remember to prioritize them first above all and I got to see my kids play every night. They climb on our Jeep. It was the jungle gym because it was. Things got simpler. Reminding ourselves that simpler is better, we get to define what that means for us but it was a great reminder. The thing now is, don’t let it slip away. Don’t start chasing everything again because it’s like, “That was great. Nice reset. Let me get back to the exact life I had before.”

You can’t look at it as a point in time where it was like some short vacation. It’s got to change your lifestyle. You never want to say that something like COVID was the best thing that ever happened because people are going to look and they are going to say, “What do you mean? People died.” Nobody’s saying that but I agree with you 100%, that for my family and me, to be able to spend or almost forced to spend that time together with nowhere to go allowed me to experience things with my son now, who had been born when COVID started that I never got to have with my daughter. He turned two and I’m like, “This has been an entirely different period of two years than I have ever had in my life.” Going away for a month was nothing.

You go away right after you were gone for eight months. I did a year in Iraq in the infantry and then I went to SF and I did eight months. I came home for six. I went back for another eight and then when I was home for the sixth, I went away 2 or 3 times during that, and then subsequently, after the second eight, was gone over and over again for the rest of my career. I was gone for two weeks. It felt like a year because so much has changed in my perspective, the ability to want to now stay closer to those that you love. You want to be a part of what they are going through. It was a totally different emotional event that had always been in the past for me.

I try to say this from a position of when you are always chasing the next thing and they are admirable things. You can feel a lot of praise. I’m chasing the war drug, business drug, and the partnership. I got this event I got to be at. We pride ourselves on doing hard things, on being introspective people and being warrior-poet types. Lead the examined life. A lot of that chasing, as admirable as it is, comes at a cost. Oftentimes, guys like us are not having that conversation with ourselves about what this is costing.

I can chase another 50 miler, business trip, and deployment but am I willing to do the hard thing of investing two straight years with my family at my house and going through that and learning to embrace that because it’s not easy. It’s also very rewarding. It’s like going to war isn’t easy but it’s very rewarding. I’m a better person because I went to war. It’s the same contradiction of COVID. I’m a better person because my wife, Emily, and I went through COVID with our family together. Everything is better except the people that we have lost, which is a natural part of life. We have to grieve for that as we do other losses in our lives, of which we have many.

It’s that contradiction. What is missing are the real conversations around that like this. It’s soundbites. You can’t say COVID was good. You can’t say these kinds of things because nobody’s going to listen to anything after you say that. If you follow, how is it good? I remember being fascinated by people who had been to war before I was, tell me about it. It’s this crazy spectrum of human experience and emotions and all of that. You try to learn about it but you can’t until you go and you can’t learn about how great it is to be there when your wife has your kid. You can’t know what it’s like to be in the middle of COVID when you are literally forbidden and shamed to go see anybody else. You are on lockdown.

We couldn’t leave our apartment. In New York, we lived on the 24th floor and you wouldn’t make eye contact with people those first couple of weeks. It was like the apocalypse. Run the other way but people would walk. People will say, “New York is a friendly place.” In some ways, it is a friendly place but in a lot of ways, it’s not a friendly place. If you could say that it became like an adversarial place so quickly, within two days, you did not look people in the eye because you felt that if you looked at this person, you were going to get something. You didn’t know what you were going to get but if you looked at them, you were going to contract it. That was what it was like living in here.

[bctt tweet=”Simpler is better.” username=”talentwargroup”]

We need to unwind that fear. This is the part of the examining where we are. There are still kids that are outside with masks on. It’s because they are comfortable in their masks because it’s been conditioned. I don’t want to get into the mask debate or whatever. A lot of things have been conditioned. The fear part is you cannot go through life afraid. It is a cancer. That’s the great transformation that I had to learn mentally. When I first showed up in Iraq, I was still very afraid to die. On some level, you are always afraid to die but you have to learn how to operate.

If I let this fear consume me, it’s going to get me killed. In this case, if you let fear consume you, you are going to waste your life away. It’s going to consume you. You’re trading this time. It’s got this negative hue all over it because it’s laced with fear. At some point, if it’s your time, it’s your time and you’ve got to make peace with that.

TJP | 56 GORUCK Jason McCarthy

What Fran and Jason McCarthy discuss in episode 56

Fear is natural. The first step in overcoming fear and we have had a number of different conversations with other guests that we have had on where we have talked about fear. Laura Wilkinson, an Olympic diver, is one that comes to mind where we had a deep conversation about overcoming fear and the fact that the first step in overcoming fear is understanding and accepting that it’s there. Once you can understand that it’s there, then you can say, “What am I going to do to act?” You have to understand and accept the fact that you have to act. You can’t not do anything because if you don’t do anything, how do you ever expect to achieve anything?

You are leaving your outcome up to the world. The world does not care about you. It will consume you like that. You have to navigate through that. We have not had any conversation about risk, acceptable risk. What is success in all of this? Is success that nobody dies? What are we willing to trade to try to reduce whatever risk there is? There are vaccines. We are a lot smarter now. There has to be some risk.

Wherever you are on this journey, life has risk. You have to learn how to navigate what you are willing to accept and what you are not. We all have crazy stuff. I will give you an example, all the Special Forces’ stuff and guns and jumping out of planes and all this stuff, I viewed it as an acceptable risk because you are training for this and that’s a cultural thing and so, “Yes, I’m willing to do this.” Cycling on the side of the road in Florida is not an acceptable risk to me personally.

There are teenage drivers out there. I have no control over them. I’m on a lane that’s 2 feet away. For me, that’s not an acceptable risk. I’m not saying that should be or should not be an acceptable risk for you or anybody out there. That goes to the definition of freedom. I’m saying that, for me, I don’t have a lot of interest in taking those kinds of risks. We all have those. Accept them and move forward.

Let’s talk about the biggest risk that you’ve taken. I want to tie that back to building GORUCK. I want to go back to the beginning of GORUCK. You came up with the idea in Africa. It’s 2008, you are in Africa with Emily. You had gotten out of the military. You have this thought that there’s an opportunity here to bridge the gap in what you called from Baghdad to New York City and you came up with this concept for GORUCK. Can you talk about the early stages?

It was the December of 2007. I was on 30-day leave after we’d gotten back from Iraq. She was posted over there. She was with the agency. It was the first time we’d “lived together” for five years. Trying to figure out, because I was going to get out later in 2008, what am I going to do when I go back for a year or whatever? I was in that war deployment mindset. I’d come from Iraq and West Africa. They love a good crew there.

At some point, it felt safer. You have your gun trucks in your team and you are at war. Sadr City is a bad place. You learn how to navigate there. It’s crazy. I made her some go bags, “Put this in your car. It’s stuff you need in case they start to coup. Keep this at your house. There are radios, running shoes, water some self-defense stuff. Stuff like that you need in case.” It’s like, “What should I do when I come back later in 2008.” She’s like, “You do the GORUCK thing.”

I went back to Fort Carson then. That seed had been planted. I was busy. We had a couple of deployments after that. It wasn’t even a thing but I started it and planted a good seed. It was like, “I will work towards being able to do that later in 2008.” To fast forward because it morphed so many times, it turned into manufacturing and when nobody wanted to buy the stuff after two years of all I had and then some. I came up with an event based on our training, trying to do what I knew. All I knew was what I’d learned in Special Forces. The biggest risk that I took was to care about GORUCK because it was a hobby for a while.

It was something to do that I was going to do to pass the time. When I say that the risk was to care about it, I don’t say that flippantly. What I mean is what I never wanted to do was to get out of Special Forces and be the guy that was trying to trade on that name. I think about the guys that I served with, that I went to war with, that I would still do anything for. It makes me almost puke in my mouth to think about, they would see something that I was doing and they would be like WTF. That’s how it works. You get blackballed in the shadows. It is something that I was never willing to trade any degree of anything to get blackballed by the guys who I served with.

I was like, “How can I do this if I want to do it at all?” What changed was when it became about more than the gear and we started running these events and it was about building better Americans, building that bridge between the military and the civilian world. It was about giving credit to the regiment for training me to be able to give back. I felt grateful.

It was a way for me to apply some energy. The transition was hard. I had no idea what to do with my energy. What I found was that bringing people together of all walks of life in this country and whooping it on a little bit, don’t care if you are Black, White, gay, straight, female, purple, pink, polka dotted, or alien. It’s like, “Put the rucksack on the back and pick up the log.”

It cut through. Nobody talked about politics. Nobody talks about any of that stuff. You have people that are there working together. There’s such a purity to it. It felt great. I started to bring on some of the guys that we know and had worked with. It was our way of giving back. That clicked for me. This ability to give back and tell the story and feel like I was making a difference in building that bridge and representing what Special Forces meant in a way that honored it, it’s not a charade. I’m not out here to make a quick buck.

I don’t care. Emily is like, “You are 1,000% idealist. I want you to know that’s not always the easiest person to be around.” I’m like, “I idealize and I idolize the men in our regiment and I don’t want to betray that. No amount of money is worth that ever.” It was always about the way that I would want it to conduct that and represent it. If you are going to say you were in Special Forces, you better carry that torch well because if you don’t, it’s everlasting shame. I never wanted that.

TJP | 56 GORUCK Jason McCarthy

Jason McCarthy: ”If you are going to say you were in Special Forces, you better carry that torch well, because if you don’t it’s everlasting shame.”

You represent the regiment in perpetuity. I talk about this with athletes that I work with and executives and organizations. I tell my daughter this. She goes to school. This is her second year of lacrosse now and I tell her all the time that, “You represent your organization in everything that you do forever. You don’t get to walk away and be like, ‘That was then, this is now,’ especially when it comes to Special Forces.”

I say it all the time. This is one of the greatest, if not the greatest organization on the face of the Earth when it comes to the ability to take people from different walks of life, bring them into an environment, baseline them in the same common set of core values and then align them to a cause that this small group of people will have strategic impact on things that you may not even realize happen for 5 to 20 years. You see that day in and day out. They run to the sound of gunfire time and time again.

It’s a privilege and an honor.

I was thinking about it on the drive down here. I never want to say it’s the highlight of my life because you have your kids and your family. You build other things in your life. I have been fortunate to have gone so many places and met so many people and done so many cool things. There is nothing like dawning the Green Beret and the sense of achievement. That sense of achievement on that day though is only the first. It’s only the day one because you have to earn it. That is the best part about the organization. I think about the special operations truth of quality is more important than quantity.

It’s something that you’ve talked about a lot with GORUCK. It’s something that I identified a lot with you when I read the book and I have come to know GORUCK over the last several years and I have built the show. It’s always this strict adherence to quality. It’s this not compromising on standards. How many times do I go back to the team and say, “Do it again. You left one thing out,” and they are like, “No one will notice?” It doesn’t matter if anyone else notices because I don’t want to look at it because it’s not right. If we don’t do these little things, then we are never going to achieve the big things. You’ve done that here in GORUCK. That adherence to quality is something that has been a core staple of it. Can you talk a bit about that?

The phrase is the relentless pursuit of excellence. You learn all these phrases in the military. It’s impactful. All my grandparents were impactful on my life. My family was impactful. The Special Forces came later in life and it was impactful. My wife is impactful but there are all these kinds of life lessons that you are mentored in the Army. This idea around quality, I see problems all the time. To pull it back a little bit, I hate everything until I don’t. I don’t think that everybody’s built like this.

TJP | 56 GORUCK Jason McCarthy

Jason McCarthy: “I hate everything until I don’t.”

It’s one of those things where it can be insufferable to be around. I literally cannot look at this right now because this one thing bothers me so much. The next sample has to fix this. This is supposed to be done. This thing is rubbing right here. Every time I feel it, it bothers me. It’s got to change the whole everything. I’m not special. That’s the other thing. If this hurts me this way or that bothers me, the thing is that I’m more sensitive to it, perhaps.

You see something, “This is a major problem. These shoulder straps are right here and there. They are too close because it’s too close on the neck. You are this. Your body type and everybody’s different.” I’m like, “Maybe everybody’s different but this is terrible for me. Let’s fix that.” I could go on and on speaking in riddles or without getting specific about the whole process but the process of designing gear and coming out with that gear, it is meant to be perfect when it comes out and yet it can’t be perfect. Everything has a breaking and failure point. Perfection is never a standard. It reminds you of Special Forces. You are supposed to be perfect but you’ll never be perfect.

You know who is pushing hard to get after that standard. That’s what the culture is. It’s iron sharpening iron. For us, it becomes about the culture. It becomes about always looking to do it better and simpler. That’s the trick, the more complex and complicated that you get, the more stuff that goes wrong. You have to use it, abuse it and test it. There is no magic button. There’s no, “Here’s the blueprint. Follow this and then you’ll know.” It doesn’t work like that.

[bctt tweet=”If you let fear consume you, you are going to waste your life away.” username=”talentwargroup”]

If you ever have that doubt that creeps up that says, “This is terrible. I don’t like this. This could be better if.” I feel like a lot of social norms have taught us not to bring that stuff up. I feel like if you live that way in Special Forces, you will not be in Special Forces long because you are always looking for a better way.

General Tovo, who is the Chairman of the board at GBF, you know him well. We both served under him. He’s like, “Green Berets are professional problem solvers. To solve problems, you have to always be looking for what’s wrong. You are always looking for 360-degree security. You are always thinking about the enemy. ‘How would I attack if? Where are my weak points? Where is this? What’s going to go wrong?’” Once you’ve covered that, what you’ll find is, “We are set up pretty good.”

Life has risks, bad stuff can still happen and it can and it will. When your head is always on a swivel, more Army phrases, you are triaging all the time. It’s different than say, “My dad, God bless him. He was in the union in Ohio for 41 years as a pressman. He doesn’t think like this. He’s like the happiest guy I know.” He works on his Harleys. When he gets home, he drinks a couple of beers. He wakes up, he goes back to work. He’s got a project list at the house 1 million miles long. That’s not how I work.

You said too about GORUCK. I want to bring this up because it’s pertinent of what you are saying. It drives this point where you said, “GORUCK was not some hero’s journey. It certainly didn’t feel like one. It still doesn’t.” That’s an important phrase. We talked about entrepreneurism in a lot of our episodes when we highlight conversations with CEOs and founders. Not one of them has looked back and told me everything was perfect.

There are always these ebbs and flows. As you’ve built this company and you’ve referenced $100 million, you’ve taken this thing from $0 to $100 million over time and you look for the next phase. Where’s it going? You talked about having to push the envelope. We talk about curiosity as 1 of those 9 core characteristics of elite performance. Are we challenging the status quo? Are we looking to the next two to make it better? How are we going to do that? What’s the next step for the company?

COVID was clarity. My healthy fear, skepticism, and risk assessment on GORUCK is that it has the potential to drift into, “We build the best gear. Let’s be a gear company.” That can be a cultural thing because it’s simpler in some ways to build stuff and sell it. It’s not something that I necessarily want to be as much a part of. When it gets like that, it’s where I fight it with all my soul. I care about people. These lessons in Special Forces are humans are more important than hardware. Soft truth number one. It’s exactly right. If you go back to them and you say, “This is how this applies.”

Fighting for our way of life, which to me is the Special Forces way of life. It’s real-world, community, camaraderie, doing hard things, fulfillment, and purpose. All of those things are great. They make us happy. Notice I didn’t mention money. When you look at how we serve this mission for our GORUCK community, when I say community, I mean real-world communities in our case.

We have 500 GORUCK clubs around the country. Those are independent community-led club leaders who organize people close to them. They go out and they go for rucks or they do PT in the park or they go out to dinner. Social fitness. Whatever form that might take but it’s real people in the real world. We say, “This is what we are fortunate to be able to serve is people that have bought into this idea of let’s come together and be together.”

Do some stuff that’s good for us because I believe that now more than ever, we need that right on the heels of COVID. There was a guy on our board named B. J. Naedele who I had met. He was on the GORUCK long before this. He was the old COO of Nike+. He put four number one apps in the App Store, he and his team.

It was like, “Should we build a GORUCK app?” Everybody does this. It’s always proprietary. You come and you do the thing that the brand is doing. He’s like, “Go look at the Nike app now. It’s a vessel to sell more sneakers.” What we wanted to do was take these communities and these community leaders and empower them, force multiply them to bring other people into the ecosystem, if you will. Businesses face the problem of how do you get new people. One of the worst ways you can look to do that is to go spend a bunch of money on metaverse ads. You are buying mercenaries.

They are not loyal to the cause. It’s a never-ending stream of Facebook and Meta. They tell you how much ad you spend and how great it was. When it comes out in the wash, the only person they want is the company laughing at you because their sheriffs went up. That’s the economics that we have seen but how do you do proper community building?

Let’s start with this assumption which we have already talked about, technology as a tool. It’s meant to empower us but humans are more important than hardware. How do we sync that up in a real world? We started something called Sandlot Technology, which is basically a geospatial fitness app. What that means is it focuses on people meeting up in the real world and making it. If you open it up, you’ll see a map. On that map, you’ll see the activities that are going on around you, whether it’s going to start and is now. Starting with all the GORUCK clubs, 500 plus of them spread out.

TJP | 56 GORUCK Jason McCarthy

About Jason McCarthy Sandlot fitness app

It gets into other people leading independent boot camps, leading yoga classes or 15,000 run clubs can go on there. It’s given the big tools to the little guys. You’ve got these different verticals but we are still all active people. It’s okay if you like to run. It’s better if you like to ruck but it’s okay if you like to run.

Do you want to do yoga on the beach in the middle of the pandemic? There are yoga instructors who are out there on the beach, hustling for, “Venmo me $10 at the end of this class.” Let’s get outside and empower more of these leaders and trainers to hold these classes and these sessions, whatever we want to call them, outside and bring more people together in real-world social fitness.

I found this interesting because you said, “Our mission is to empower trainers. Trainers are the glue of the organizations. This is not a hustle for you and that fitness is ripe for disruption.” When I think about this app that you are building here, these events are being sourced by the people who are conducting them.

This is Green Beret 101, SF 101. What I mean by the trainers is the glue as well is when you go to wherever and you take the class, you are there with a trainer. The trainer is the one leading the session. You rank your experience in your own mind or whatever the reviews that you leave. The training had a big part to do with it. The people that show up have another big part but the trainer is the leader. Right now, the economics are not good for the trainers. If you have a trainer and they spend 30 minutes, they drive to the CrossFit box or to the gym, the Globo Gym, they lead a class for an hour. They get paid $20 to $25. I’m sure there’s some inflation going on.

It’s 30 minutes to get home. You are looking at $10 to $15 an hour to lead these classes. A lot of the gyms aren’t making any money either. The economics are not right and you say, “What if any trainer could pop up any class anywhere they wanted to and charge whatever they wanted to?” The infrastructure could be the parks. It could be sandbags in the back of their pickup truck.

TJP | 56 GORUCK Jason McCarthy

Jason McCarthy: “We think that the world needs more trainers, not fewer.”

They can use the beach. They can use whatever they want and we will get religious about supporting the trainers’ efforts to monetize their training. We think that the world needs more trainers, not fewer. We think that we need to be more active together in the real world, not less. This idea of you are working in front of your screen all day, you are zooming and all these important things.

Mr. Spandex on your Peloton app is telling you to pedal faster. It’s staring at him on a screen. Come on, people. What we owe as technology is we need to make it accessible for people to provide this alternative that is better because it’s hard. How do people find people anymore? Increasingly people don’t and they seem not to want to.

The biggest problem is you give up. You say, “I don’t know where to go to meet people.” People become more private and more reclusive. In the last few years, every single measure of human health is worse than it was years ago. This idea that we don’t lack knowledge, technology, and access. We have “everything” but it’s not working. The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. It’s not working. We need to be part of real-world communities that come together. Our position and what we are fighting for is a technology platform that makes that at the heart of the experience.

What do you take away from building GORUCK that you apply into this new endeavor?

I still see stuff at GORUCK. I have a unique vantage point here. I have been around for the whole day. It’s like if you are on the range and you are shooting at a 10-meter target and you are 1 millimeter off in where the barrel is pointing. You are still going to hit the 10-meter target. When you start to look at 1 kilometer away and that target, 1 millimeter, you are not even going to hit the paper. You are not even close. What I have seen is the importance of establishing certain cultural norms and trends. The people follow the cultural norms of the leadership. Certain things that go in at an early stage have enormous ripple effects later on.

I will give you an example with GORUCK relative to Sandlot. This idea of what I learned early on at GORUCK is that we have to over-communicate. You might say it’s not possible, in which case you would be correct. I don’t mean sizzle videos, glitz and glam, or trying to be cute. We need to over-communicate the value statement.

What are we doing and why? We go through all of this trouble and pain to create something that we believe in that we put out there into the world and we ask people to spend hard-earned dollars to buy. We need to communicate why. With Sandlot, it’s been, “We need to take that same approach.” Since the beginning, we have had a weekly newsletter that goes out, that features people in the community.

[bctt tweet=”The world needs more trainers, not fewer. We need to be more active together in the real world, not less.” username=”talentwargroup”]

It features some behind the scenes, how we are building the technology up. Here’s the progress that’s going on. One of the big takeaways is it gets easy to try to appeal to the people that you think are buying your product right now but how did they find out about it? Marketers are looking for complete and absolute attribution. They want to know exactly where everybody came from. As if there’s no faith less than galaxy and magic doesn’t exist from human connection.

Word of mouth doesn’t matter. I think it matters more than anything else. If you create a great service or great product and you keep at it, keep telling that story, the people that love that product and use that service, they are the ones that are climbing the mountain tops with you. They will be the ones that are screaming at the top of this mountain top, while you are on that slow journey up the next one and then they are the first ones to join you on the next mountain top.

You have to keep the snake eaters that are at the tip of the spear for you. You have to keep them fed and you have to make sure that you take care of them. It’s like, “Is it favoritism?” I don’t know. I don’t know what the perfect word to describe it is but you need those evangelists. You need to take good care of them and over-communicate them. Would they know the why? It’s like, “Nobody wants to be Bravo rifle on a patrol.”

That’s the guy who stays in the back and isn’t allowed to talk.

Knows nothing that’s going on. “Decisions were made, I have no idea.” “Keep moving forward. One foot after the other.” You got to know the why. If you treat the people that are supporting you, most importantly time, energy and money, keep them looped in. They don’t need to know every single detail. Life’s a busy place but give them the top stuff and do it consistently. That’s the thing. One blog post is not going to save anything but you do one of these a week. If it’s magic, you say, “The next one, it’s with this great person. I can take eight weeks off because it’s going to be so awesome.” It doesn’t work like that. You have to be consistent about things. Those are the habits that determine our lives.

Habits set the foundation for everything. I’m about to ask you here about your habits. Before we do, I want to know what’s the timeline on Sandlot.

The technology app is out. Here’s another lesson. You need these big, giant forcing functions. The Sandlot JAX Fitness Festival was an enormous forcing function for the technology app, which we haven’t started because nobody cares yet. Once we say, “The entire schedule is going to be inside of the technology app. It’s already preloaded. Here you go. By the way, there are other training classes in town.” You go back to your town and you say, “There’s some stuff here too. Look.” It’s like a truly social network. It’s live in the Google Play Android store and in the iOS store now. It’s out.

There’s the cadence of you have to have things that you come back. One great episode of anything or one great product that you released and you stop talking about, you have to keep the drumbeat going. That requires energy, purpose, focus, and all of those things. When you don’t talk about or don’t focus on stuff, it goes away.

It dies a slow death eventually. You got to keep charging those hills. Annualizing the Fitness Festival is an important thing. We have gravitated towards that. This will be an annual thing because it’s serving a lot of these, bringing the people together. The partners are coming. We are seeing them in the real world, which is human, not dehumanizing.

You see these people that you like and that you believe in. You love the missions that they are fighting for you. It’s like, “Let’s absolutely do that.” We have and we’ll see that happening with other connections being made. You with Jason Khalipa and Sara Wilkinson, that’s where the magic is. Do you know what you owe me? You did that to yourself right here in this room but what you owe me for those connections is nothing.

I got a note from Jason Khalipa after your interview. He’s like, “Fran was a total pro. That was awesome. Thank you.” That is literally about the nicest feedback because I know how our community works. When I introduce you to somebody and they come back to me and say, “That guy was awesome,” that’s what we live for. That is your reputation that you’re staking. Your whole life is based upon stuff like that. When you make those connections with good people to good people, that’s an incredible feeling.

That’s fostering the community and you watch that grow. That’s one of the biggest things that I look forward to about both Sandlot Technology and Sandlot JAX Fitness Festival is how does everybody grow year to year? How do you continue to foster that relationship?

You think about the festival as a way of bringing or backed into it. Even behind the curtain briefly is the technology is meant to be a community of communities. You bring all the people together and it makes no sense to anybody out there. “If you have this app, you should do this one thing.” I don’t live like that. I like to do lots of things and I like to know the people that are doing lots of things.

I don’t like to have 100 different things. I like to, “This is where I go to do this stuff.” The festival is an extension of that. Bring in all these vastly different communities aligned around the mission of health, fitness, and activity. Let’s be active. Let’s live life like that and bring them all together. It’s an extension of everything that the technology is driving towards supporting.

I want to talk about Green Beret Foundation. This is important because you have a commitment to giving back. You guys give 1% back. This show is partnered with the Special Operations Warrior Foundation and General Hutmacher and the team over there, down in Tampa. Giving back to the community is so important and so impactful.

We think about the last many years and veteran’s service organizations. You have your own foundation here at GORUCK as well. I believe fundamentally that it has been easy over the last many years to keep veterans and veteran advocacy at the top of the fold because we have been at war. We enter a period of time now where our wars maybe are not going to be at the top of the fold. At least we don’t believe so. Anything can happen on any one day and this situation certainly in Russia and Ukraine could put us all there very quickly.

I bring it up because we want to keep veteran advocacy at the top of the conversation. We want to keep the transition of veterans out of the military at the top of the conversation. It’s something that I have been focused a lot on in a lot of my work is how do we get good people out? How do we put them into roles in the real world so that they don’t necessarily have to go through some of the struggles that you did that I did as we transition? How can we best set them up for success? Can you talk a minute about the Green Beret Foundation, your work with General Tovo and the team over there, and how we get involved with Green Beret Foundation?

When I first showed up at the group, the first counseling statement that I had, I was there. It was pretty short like, “You know nothing. Sign this. These are my expectations of you. Any questions? No? Good. Read it, memorize, whatever.” At the top were those to whom much is given, much is expected. That was at the top of my counseling statement. I’m thinking like, “I’m this bad-ass Green Beret. Let’s get after it.” Me, me like a little bit. You are the king of the universe when you put that green beret on. It’s like, “You are more now. Not less. It’s not about you at all.” That’s another lesson that stuck with me but you have to act on that.

Since the beginning, I have been attached to Green Beret Foundation in some way, shape or form. Raising awareness, funds or whatever the case may be. It made sense at one point for me to come on and serve on the board of directors. I rope-a-doped General Tovo. He was our group commander. He later went on to earn his third star, Lieutenant General Tovo.

He’s a fantastic mentor to me. You get to pick your own mentors. They don’t have to agree even. You learn by how they conduct business and how they lead their lives. That’s been one of the great honors. Think about it. I was the lowest guy in 10th Special Forces Group. He was the group commander when we were at war together in 2007.

We are on the board. He’s the chairman. I’m happy. I will work for that man on anything he wants to rope-a-dope into. He’s going to turn the favor anytime. I brought Cooper on as well. I’m on the nominating committee. When I say I, we vote. It’s I brought Walt on. It feels good. It helps me sleep at night. I sleep well. To do things the best I can, the quality of the business and all that stuff but service and giving back and all of that, it’s important. That’s core to who we are. Culturally, that’s important to us as an organization. We live that life, specifically the Green Beret Foundation.

It’s something like 60% of all casualties inside of special operations post-9/11 had been Green Berets, had been Army Special Forces. The challenges are shifting and changing. It’s important as well to remind people out there that we as a nation have come a long way in supporting our veterans. We are throwing massive amounts of cash and capital at the veteran transition, veteran health, and all of these. It’s never going to be good enough. It shouldn’t be. It’s like lots of things should never be good enough. Like the health of our kids. When are we ever going to say, “We have done too much for this?” Never. It’s just, how can we do what is the best and smartest that we can now?

Part of it is advocacy and awareness. Part of it is telling the story of what it means to serve in that capacity. The Green Beret Foundation deals with any and all problems that arise within the Green Beret community past and present. Vietnam era, Rich who works here, is 73 or something in great health. A lot of the guys were a little older than he is, less great health. All the way through post-9/11 stuff, you name the problem and the Green Beret Foundation supports Green Berets and their families. It’s a really simple mission statement like that. It’s a real easy one that I’m proud to get behind and support.

They have been a great organization. We want to line up General Tovo for an episode. We got to get him on here too, talk to him and tell his story and talk more about it in further detail. Jason, as we close out, the Jedburghs in World War II had to do three things as core foundational tasks to be successful. They had to be able to shoot, move and communicate. You’ve probably heard this before. If they did these three things with the utmost precision, then they could apply focus on other more complex challenges that came their way. What are the three things that you do every day to be successful in your world?

TJP | 56 GORUCK Jason McCarthy

Jason’s Three Foundations for Success

[bctt tweet=”It’s okay to say ‘no.’ It allows you to pour more energy into the yeses that you are able to say. ” username=”talentwargroup”]

I have thought some about this. It’s a consistent question that you ask. The move and the communication parts are very true. This is GORUCK. This is not, go sit your ass on a couch and not move. When you think about movement, the only fitness statistic, if you will, that I ever look at is my step count. It’s a measure of how well I sleep too. It’s directly correlated anecdotally, this idea of 10,000 steps. I build out different ways to get that.

I don’t do it every day but I look at trends. I’m not addicted to my watch. Some days it doesn’t happen and other days, it happens massively. I walk and ruck to work. I’m outside to do that preferably, which is a lot better.

My mornings are basically my time for me to process whatever it is that I’m planning or working directly on. Emily says I get nicer and more social as the day goes on. I have structured my day around what I have learned about myself over time. I wake up. I have my coffee. I have these routines. I walk the dog or I ruck to work. I drop the kids off. Life gets in the way sometimes but there are times when it requires a lot of focus. How do we do that? It’s not just, “You got to focus on this.” For me, I literally will put a single song and repeat it with headphones on. That song can drift or change over time. I have a stable of probably 50 songs maybe.

Sometimes I will listen to a song for a week straight for hours and hours on end. Certain songs work and certain songs don’t. I will give you an example. I love The Smashing Pumpkins. I grew up with Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. I loved damn near every song on that album. Two of the greatest songs ever written are Tonight, Tonight in 1979. Tonight, Tonight is a terrible single song repeat because it’s so dramatic. There are the strings, hard start and the bottom drops out. That’s very jarring when I’m trying to focus on something on the computer. That song, for whatever reason, it doesn’t work.

1979, if you go look at my play count, it’s probably 10,000 or something listens because there’s a perfect cadence to it. It’s never too high. It’s never too low. It’s on loop and it’s a beautiful song. It’s like a soundtrack to my nostalgic youth times. It’s optimistic and hopeful. I love it. There’s always this time of single song repeat while I’m focused on a certain task at hand and it works amazingly well. Single song repeat to focus.

I can’t do that. If I’m trying to focus, I have to shut the music off. I need the silence.

What I have found is when I try to make something silent, it’s never silent and then that becomes jarring unto itself. I don’t know if training myself to do this was the right thing but that’s how it happened for me. Another thing that works well is there’s this idea of you can work and family and the circuit. This is like one of these recognitions in the last couple of years especially. My kids are young. You start to realize that, number one, I’m mortal. My kids are the next generation and I don’t have them for very long.

Before they are out and I want to spend that time with them now. This is something that I asked and I clarified this. I chat with John Hanke. I’m like, “Are you on the circuit at all out in San Francisco?” He has a big important tech company. He’s like, “I got a full-time job and a family. Those are my two priorities.” Making decisions through that prism of these are my two priorities.

The first can be your family. The second can be your work, your passion. The third, if you start letting the third priority creep in too much, it doesn’t work. I am processing the decision of whether I’m going to go on this trip or whatever. Is this worth it to sacrifice not being here for the dinners I’m going to miss, the picking the kids up? My kids just started jujitsu.

I am taking them to jujitsu and being there to watch that. I can’t go to everything. There are trade-offs. Passing decisions through that lens has been transformational. Sometimes because I’m not revolutionizing anything, nobody’s a self-made man. Connecting that dot to an off comment conversation that I had with John at one point, it’s like, “How are you doing this?” He’s building this enormous, great company with a mission that I love and support.

I look up to him. Another mentor of mine doesn’t have to say yes. He gets to be. It’s like, “No. I don’t have time for that.” I’m particular about the time that I spend away from my family and the mission that I’m working on because he drifts like we do into, he can work 1 million hours a week by Wednesday. What’s the point?

Making decisions like that has been a good reminder. It’s like the reminder that I had before I went into the Army, which was the regret alarm. If I don’t do this, I will regret it for the rest of my life. That’s the counter in the decision-making process here. If I’m going to regret not doing this or regret doing it, that’s a big alarm in my head. I’m like, “I need to process this right now.”

I need to think about this before I act on whatever these alarm bells are going off. Those are so intertwined for me. It’s taken me a long time to get to that point. It’s not like, “I will go do this and I will go do that.” You can be respectful of people and say, “No. I don’t want or I can’t do that.” I have got a carve out. It’s going to take away from this and this. You can say no. It’s okay. It allows you to pour more energy into the yeses that you are able to say.

We are always worried about what people will think of us if we say no. That’s always become one of the hard parts. What you mentioned about John is insightful because of what you see when someone like John. I don’t know John. I look forward to meeting him and I hope to make the intro when we are down here. Do you realize that someone at that level is normal like the rest of us? They are undergoing the exact same challenges and have to make those exact same decisions that we are faced with every day. When you see that, it makes it so much easier.

His youngest kid is skateboarding. He wants to be there. He wants to see that. I see how much his eyes light up when he’s around his kids and all of that. These are the trade-offs that we all face. We have to know that we are facing them and it helps us. We are not alone in facing them. That helps us make better decisions.

I talked about the nine characteristics of elite performance used to identify and assess talent, drive, resiliency, adaptability, humility, integrity, curiosity, team ability, effective intelligence and emotional strength. We always talk about these nine in the context of in order to be a high performer, you have to demonstrate these in some way or another. As green Berets, there was a certain number of these that we were evaluated on. There are five that were weighted differently than, for instance, the SEALs. They all come out of the nine but the SEALs had a different number.

That’s fascinating. I want you to come on our podcast at some point. I’m going to talk a lot about that. I love it. I’m like, “I’m on the receiving end of a lot of that. Not on the doctrinal side.”

That’s a big part of what we break down in so many of our different discussions. I always say that you have to exhibit these nine. You have, in so many ways, your book for anybody who’s interested in reading, How Not to Start a Backpack Company. Learn the GORUCK story, learn your story about, your personal story with you and Emily. We didn’t get into it here but fascinating story and ties so much to what I have gone through as you, me and Emily were talking about before we started this. I always take one at the end of our conversation. I say that when I think about what we talked about here, you and your story, it exhibits it and represents it.

I think about curiosity when I think about you and the GORUCK story and where you are going with Sandlot. It’s because it is about challenging the status quo. You mentioned that you are not going to be part of something that becomes stagnant. You are going to be part of something that’s pushing the envelope. You always want to find new opportunities.

I believe that that is one of the most important traits to be successful in this world to build something that has a true impact. You talked about community, creating an impact, giving back, and representing the Special Force’s regiment in a way that you can be proud of that you can sleep well at night. Our counterparts will look at and say, “I support what they do. I believe that comes back to curiosity.” Thank you so much for sharing your story, for welcoming me here, for the partnership between GORUCK, Sandlot and the show. I can’t wait to come back here. It’s going to be a great event. We’ll be following up on it.

Thanks for coming into the real world as God intended. It’s better this way. I appreciate it. It’s awesome.



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