Feb 1, 2021
20 years as a Navy SEAL Commander, today's guest is obsessed with what it takes to be the best and the cost of success.
That means discussing not only the benefits of striving hard for success, but the pitfalls. Listen to him share his stories of triumph and failures so that you can learn and grow professionally, physically, and mentally.
Please welcome Jack Riggins.
Jack Riggins, welcome to learning from others. How you doing? Good. Thanks for having me. Yeah. What do you got in the background on the pitcher that you got? Are you a golfer?
Yeah, golf is my one, a competitive endeavor left in life. Um, so I've been doing it for about 20 years and I probably take it too serious, but I enjoy the, uh, I enjoy the process of trying to get better at golf on an individual level. Having spent my entire life in teams, in groups, it's kind of fun to take on something where it's just you.
And so, yeah. Yeah. Golf is my one habit. Maybe addiction. If you ask my wife. You know, it's funny as our, as our guest that I was with just yesterday as a total opposite, he's been in, he's been golfing for not quite as long but long enough, I think 10 or 15 years. And he says he just sucks. Uh, the same as day one.
So, well, we usually, it's a, it's a difficult skill. Yeah. Yeah. I was telling him and the listeners don't have to excuse us. So it looks like there's a little delay between our replies, but what I was telling him, Sam is our guests yesterday, as I said, I have his name's Tom Mattson. I said, I haven't picked up golf because I'm afraid that I'll embrace it.
And I just don't want another thing on my plate.
Understood understood it. Uh, if it gets you, it becomes, I mean, you gotta kind of pattern your life around it, depending on how hard you want to chase it. Yeah. All right. So, Jack, I told you we start with two questions. Question number one is what's your background? What's your area of expertise? What are we gonna learn from you today?
Yeah. Great question. Um, So I'm a retired Navy seal commander with 20 years experience. Um, what I would tell you is, um, I've been in teams in groups, uh, my entire life. I was an athlete before seal team. Um, my expertise is in leadership and collaboration and, or getting groups of people to accomplish something, whatever that may be.
Um, and so I both have a formal education in that with my undergrad, my master's degree. And. I also have a lot of years, two decades, uh, doing that internationally, not just with us forces, but coalition forces and also partner forces around the world. So, um, that's my area of expertise. And, and to sum that up real quickly, my whole thing is it's all about the people.
So no matter what you do, people is your most valuable commodity. Yeah, I agree with that. Uh, I have a lot of questions that come to mind being in the Navy as a seal for that long. Yeah. But not until I asked you a question. Number two is what do you suck at?
Yeah, I think that's a great question. Um, because it's not asked a lot, so to speak, I ask a lot myself when I'm consulting and helping folks, um, What's interesting is so we spend a lot of time, especially in seal teams, even in my consulting, work with businesses and teams talking about arousal control or managing your fight or flight space so that you can perform at your optimum at the given time.
And even though I teach it, and even though I would say I've had lots of experience in it, I would also say that it's one of the things I suck at. And I, I suck at it the most. It's in my own home. Um, meaning that I've found that when there's an emotional connection, um, to people you care about, um, that adds another stressor.
And so it's a balance, um, between, you know, groups and teammates and things like that, and getting to know them and care about them, but also. You know, not only for performance standpoint and whatever you do, managing that space, but managing those relationships. And, and so in one way, I think I'm really good at it, but I would tell you that I'm also really bad at it and constantly trying to grow and learn in that space.
Um, and I think that's because I'm human, like everyone else. Yeah. It seems like there's a reoccurring theme with, uh, you know, our different guests at different levels of performance. It's almost like more often than not. Whatever they are exceptional at, there is a, there's a parallel to that. That's completely opposite in the same, in the same space.
So you as a Navy command or a Navy seal commander, and you talk about you, your area of expertise as being a leader, did that role as being a leader? Come from a, I mean, obviously the Navy seals played part of that, but were you a leader before that or did that develop primarily through that.
Okay. Yeah. I mean, I think that, you know, five was to go back and talk to peers or mentors or coaches, teachers. I mean, in my area, I grew up in, in Nebraska, small town. Um, I would say that, that I was introduced to leadership, um, primarily through sports early. And as I grew through those and in my formative years and high school, if you will, I would say I was kind of designated that.
And so I paid attention to it a little bit. Um, and I even read things on that. And so I, I had some experience and there's certainly some, um, you know, nature versus nurture. If you will. And there's a little of both. I mean, some people I'm an outgoing person and so we tend to think, Oh, outgoing people. Well, you know, they're a leader, you know, that's not always the case, but, you know, I had some inherent skills that maybe showed that.
And then certainly as the years would go on, I would say that, you know, I formally was educated, trained and, and, and learned a lot of things. And certainly believe that leadership can be taught without a doubt. Um, and, and got hopefully really good at it. Um, throughout the Navy, at least enough to have a Navy career.
But what I would say is that to me, you know, leadership is a journey. So if you're really trying to be a leader or you are a leader, it's best that you think about being on a growth curve that never ends. So it, you know, you're constantly not only trying to improve, but learn and, you know, in leadership, if you think you've arrived, you haven't.
And so, uh, you know, I almost feel like, well, I, I am a leader and I am an expert in it and it. Each it at the same time, I feel that there's so much more out there. And sometimes that I don't know anything. Yeah. Is kind of on what you just touched on. Is there looking at yourself before and after your Navy career?
Is, is there something that stands out the most about how you yourself has changed?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think like a lot of young people, I mean, I was driven to service, um, by the excitement and definitely wanting to serve. I certainly was wanting to find kind of another locker room. Cause I was a big sports guy and you know, I was a little bit naive, um, to maybe the, the big picture of things and dynamics of human beings on teams.
Um, and so there was a lot of learning. You know, about different types of people, different ways they communicate, things like that. Yeah. And ultimately through that experience, um, you know, I would say I was a hard charger, I would say, you know, out front, you know, I probably thought louder is better at first.
Um, and then throughout the years, you know, I learned to, um, you know, move more towards a, a servant leadership role. You know, which was to listen, you know, find compassion and empathy and all the people I lead and, and try to make those three things, the cornerstone of my leadership. Um, and at the same time, um, develop a real good self-awareness to where, you know, I had some shortcomings in my case addiction and, you know, not handling injuries right.
Or mental health. Right. And so I had prioritized a lot of other things well, before myself, Um, and kind of drove myself into the ground. And so in the end, you know, getting those challenges and taking care of them on a self thing, you know, that realization that I'm a better leader, I'm a better person. If I take care of myself, um, and you know, I'm in the best state that I can be to lead.
And then going back to those cornerstones of, you know, servant compassion, empathetic leadership, and listening. And so, you know, I think what that taught me was, um, again, growth and that, you know, sometimes people get sideways and they need some help. And, um, and so I would say ultimately I learned balance.
What made you realize the benefit of taking care of yourself first? Was it just a slow evolution of understanding that? Or was there a very specific moment that made you realize that. Okay.
Yeah. I mean, I think in the end there was, it's a very specific moment or two. Yeah. Um, and you know, to back up, um, given how I was raised, I had an abusive father and so I kinda threw all my coping skills into athletics and just. Getting exhausted as a young person, certainly drove me to, um, the excitement of joining a special operations unit.
Um, and so my coping mechanism was just to physically get exhausted every day. Um, And that's not a great coping mechanism because as we get older, you know, it's tough to do that. You get injured. And so anyway, um, and, and some of those things played out well in that type of career, meaning, you know, the go, go, go, go mentality.
But. Ultimately, you know, I broke myself. And so there were a lot of people around me in the teams, mentors of mine or teammates that, you know, and you see that I think in a lot of those jobs, but anyway, you know, some of those people had to essentially intervene in the case of injuries. They were like, you need to go get fixed, you know, because physically you're not performing and you're just trying to power through something.
Um, and that was one, wake up call more on the physical side. And then, you know, I used a lot of, uh, opioids, things like that to block pain and that kind of caused addiction to go into overdrive and then alcohol. And then it was my family. Um, my wife and my children who, you know, kind of gave me the, hit on the head and said, you know, you've messed yourself up.
And, uh, I'm so thankful. Both those groups of people, um, one had the courage to do that. Um, cause at that time in my life, I don't think I had the courage myself to do that. I was just going to grind into the ground. Um, but then, you know, then I went and got professional help and uh, you know, have really stuck with it and uh, in an, an.
I am in a better place with better mechanisms and it's all just part of the growth curve. So yeah, I needed some people, um, to help me out a lot of that. Well, well, I imagine benefits your ability to relay and, and do consulting. And I want to get into your consulting, but I kinda have one more question before we transition to that.
Um, so. That's amazing that they were willing, like you said, to have the courage to come up and, you know, have a little intervention. Um, when, when did you yourself realize that the exhaustion component was a coping mechanism?
I would say about 50, 15 years into my career. So, you know, right before I turned 40, so my late thirties, um, I realized that, you know, I was very frustrated at work and, you know, wasn't always excited to come in and, and was just trying to survive if you will. Even though I was very seasoned and I, you know, was an expert in, in special operations.
Um, you know, and I wasn't sleeping well and the injuries, you know, wrongfully, I was trying to hide the injuries, you know, because of a fear of what might that might do to my career. Um, and so, you know, ultimately, you know, it was exhausting and, um, and I guess I just didn't, I just thought that I could.
Power through if you will. And you know, eventually, you know, for me, you know, physical health, you know, led to mental health, mental health. Uh, degragation, you know, lead to wrong coping mechanisms to the point where I couldn't overcome it individually or really as a group. And, uh, and that's when, you know, I learned that it's okay to ask for help, you know, whether it's inside or outside and, you know, and in my case, it saved my life, but it took me a very long time.
If you will, you know, late 30. You don't realize that professionally and personally. Yeah. All right. So let's talk about what you're doing now. So now you have like all this experience as a leader, you have the ability to personally relate to situations because you've overcome them yourself. So give me an example of what type of consulting you do now.
And then I want to specifically get into the phrase that you mentioned the dark side, and I assume that that's a transition we can make based on that first question.
Yeah, no, no, that's great. Um, you know, first I was lucky enough to, while I was in seal team to be asked and begin kind of consultant. Well Dean with, uh, sports teams around the Midwest national level sports teams. And for me at the time, you know, that was a nice one. What I called leadership exchange.
Because if you think about the age groups, 18 to 22, 23, there's a lot of that military. And obviously in college sports teams, that's the demographic that you're trying to lead. Um, and so I learned a lot and I thought, wow, this is great. You know, I learned a lot. I took back to seal team. I'd like to think coaches, mentors and athletes learned a lot from me as well.
And that just kind of led to more, um, more, uh, eggs are more clients, if you will. And, and through that, I met a psychiatrist too, was working more on kind of the mental health side of things with people. And so we formed our own company mountain in 2016, um, just to bring it to a broader audience, um, businesses.
Cause we felt that what we really teach is personal skills. Um, and you know, from my angle, I relate to them, you know, military stories and addiction and recovery. And those type things. And, you know, my doctor partner relates to it both in psychiatry, but also he's been doing high performance mental skills.
So just this kind of dual approach, um, we've added some other people have had some success over the years. And so, you know, really what we do. Is again, teaching leadership from a, uh, basic foundational level, um, and guiding and mentoring leaders of people through that, as well as teaching a lot about followership and, and what it means to be a good follower and role acceptance.
Um, and we do one on one coaching, of course. So some of those may be more personal to where someone like me, as you said, can relate to issues that are going on. Um, in some leaders lie, if. Um, but ultimately, you know, when you break it down, what we're doing is we're trying to invest in the individual human and make them the best that they can be with their potential.
And then of course, making the group function. And oftentimes what we find is it's just really all about communication. And then if we can get everybody communicating in an open and honest fashion, you know, we can get the group to what we call ultimate trust and people function really good in that environment.
I mean, we spend a lot of time talking about vulnerability and being your true self. Um, so sometimes leaders. Are leading, but they're not doing it from a place that's their true self. And they may not even have explored what their true self is. And so then that creates friction in their leadership, um, and vice versa, you know, there's other dynamics.
So, you know, in a way we're a life skills consulting group. Is there an ideal quantity of participants in a unit that kind of better support the group trust theory?
From my experience, um, both in seal team and in sports and business, um, certainly the more people, right? So you take a seal team roughly, you know, 50 to a hundred, um, that's manageable. Um, the smaller is obviously better. You just have. A numbers favor on your side with personalities, you know, different experiences in human beings.
So there's less, um, potential points of friction or things you have to work on. Obviously easier to teach a small group. Um, But I would say, you know, our success has been, you know, 50 and below. If you start to look at college football teams that can get to 150, um, you know, and then there's another 20 coaches.
So very difficult. If that group is trying to all be on the same page. And certainly as you get to bigger corporations, you know, There's a lot of people. And so trying to generate the same culture dynamics across say 20,000, you know, that's a difficult task, you know, the United States military does do it.
Well, you know, each service. Um, but in the end of the day, I mean, when you're talking about, you know, individual units, individual kind of cultures, then a culture, you know, I would say my experience has been, you know, 15 Dean below you, you can make. Some great gains then hopefully, you know, you go to the next 50 and you make great gains.
Yeah. Um, but that's just been my experience. And I think it's mainly because of the personal nature in which we do it. And so, you know, difficult to mass produce on us a 10,000 person level. Yeah, uh, kind of on that same note because of the potential of how diverse the groups are that you're working with and the participants within the groups.
I imagine. And though with all that diversity, there's, there's probably a reoccurring trend in like, is there a reoccurring thing such as self-doubt ignorance, naiveness, whatever, no matter how diverse the group is, there's always like this top one or two reoccurring theme that you run into.
Yeah, the top reoccurring theme that I noticed in seal team. And then I kind of, for my own leadership, if you will ballad. Dated it in different groups, men's sports, women's sports. And then, you know, the businesses I've worked with, um, is communication. Um, and when I say communication, I mean, person to person, face to face communication and, and most of the, the issues that arise in those groups just comes down to that.
Simple facts. So whether it's a lack of it, um, on one person ability simply to communicate face to face, um, or another person to misread body language and social cues. That tends to then spiral and not be taken care of and, or create, you know, mass quantities of miscommunications, which then lead people, you know, to not work effectively or to, you know, have grievances.
And so we spend a lot of time, um, on that, right. And almost like an arbitrator watch a situation from your experience of say leader follower. And see the dynamic and then, you know, go back and discuss, you know, what was the leader trying to say? What was the follower interpreting? You know, how can we bridge that gap?
And so for me, for that question, um, in human dynamics and trying to perform at an elite level and whatever that is for people, and almost always comes down to communication skills on both sides. Yeah. Is, is you have a term that you use before we jumped on the call, uh, the dark side, and then that's part of, you know, your entity, the dark side of elite.
Can you define dark side for us?
Yeah. So. Part of it, as you said, it's, it's a little bit of a hook into my journey, um, into seal team, which, you know, for the most part, most people would say that's an elite organization and, and I'm a leap. I don't necessarily believe that. I mean, in the end of the day, I realized from a numbers perspective, um, and it is an elite unit.
Um, but it's what I wanted to accomplish. That's what I wanted to do in the first half of my life. And so what, what I've seen, not only there, but then consulting with elite sports teams and personalities from Olympians to pro sports athletes to very successful business people is that there's a cost to being elite.
Not everybody has it, so to speak. Um, but it may be family time, right? It may be like me, you get off kilter, get your priorities out of whack back. And you, you know, you have physical and mental health injuries, um, in your job. And so I look at it more like there's challenges and I use the term, the dark side of it, say that when you're striving.
You know, to accomplish whatever it is you want to accomplish. And you know, the more you push there is blow back. There are things that you have to be careful of, um, and balance and or work through. And I just feel, um, especially in the male culture and maybe my background and seal team that it's not talked about a lot and that it really shouldn't be something we're scared of.
It should be something that we do discuss, and we realize a lot of other people have these thoughts and things get out of whack. And it's something that if we discuss it and get it front and center, you know, we can deal with it. And so that's why I use the term, the dark side of elite, um, in my podcast.
And that's why, um, most of our guests, if they, if they're willing to share, um, we'll talk about that to bring it. Front and center to not only people that have accomplished things, but everyday people with stressors and, and, and, and help them understand that they're not alone in that no matter where we're at, you know, we can deal with this together because I think it's inherent in human nature that, you know, at some level we all have, uh, bad decisions we make and our stressors, we don't handle well.
Yeah. Why do you think it is that in the culture of men, that mental health is, is still not discussed as, um, equally or openly as other demographics?
Yeah. I think just one, it it's kind of society in general. Um, you know, without ostracizing different side, uh, sides of whether it's science or, um, evolution is that, you know, most societies have males generally. You know, when you're young, it is about toughness. I mean, we see more of that, um, and that, you know, crying or talking about mental health is quote unquote a weakness.
Um, and so that still is a stigma that's out there, whether we like it or not. Um, the other thing is, I mean, here in America, right? We have a lot of fatherless children, um, that creates anger and resentment. Even if a kid doesn't understand that at the time. Um, right. And so now we have kind of a two negatives, you know, that are prevailing in society.
And, and then ultimately, you know, we tend to run with that because. Of peer pressure, then all around us as we grow up up until we learn something different. And let's be honest, there's a lot of jobs and a lot of places where then if we are making money and providing a, we fear on the male side, you know, well, what if someone thinks I'm weak or, or what if.
I disclosed this is it going to hurt my job? And so, you know, and obviously there are places that, um, if you do do that, it can cost you your job. Is it right? I don't think so, but it is a reality. And so, so I think that, you know, right now, as we sit in the year 20, 20, the default still is for a man to beat his chest, you know, when stressed to a degree and to hold things internally, And not to try to process it in an inappropriate way.
And it takes time, it takes a maturation and it also takes more people to be open about it, to say there's another way. Yeah. Is, is there anyone throughout your journey, whether it was in the Navy or with performance teams and the athletics that really kind of stands out that made the most progress underneath your wings?
Underneath like my leadership or, uh, uh, of some young person that I was grooming. If you will just like a standout story of progress.
Yeah. I mean, I've, um, you know, without, without giving names, um, there's several CLR officers and seals that are still on active duty, that I'm very proud of helping them in their careers. And it always warms my heart when they call, um, for some advice, whether that's professionally or personally. Say in marriage or, or whatever they're struggling with.
Um, I would say one of the ones that isn't in seal team is a student athlete that had a phenomenal career in the sport, um, and still does, um, but was very suicidal and had a lot of mental health issues, you know, young, beginning of college and being one piece of, of the group that helped, um, You know, help work through those things.
Um, that's very gratifying to me because it definitely could have turned out very bad and, um, been very nice, only shocking to her family or friends, um, but you know, on a national stage. And so that's very gratifying to help someone, uh, work through maybe some of the issues that I struggled with in my professional career.
Yeah, well, Jack, has we get kind of closer to wrapping up? What I want to ask you next is, you know, what's what's next? Are you going to stay in performance consulting? Are you going to branch off into something else? What's what's the longterm play.
Yeah, that's great. I mean, you know, performance, mountain, if you will, our company is kind of the umbrella. Um, Got me from a military London, again, a high performance psychiatrist. Um, we've added some other professional sports athletes. We're close to adding some people that have been very successful in business, um, so that we can work those lines and kind of share our experiences to help people grow individually and to grow as a group.
Um, in whatever they're doing, um, from that each one of us has our own, um, if you will individual brand where we are sharing our experience through prod podcasts and books. Um, and I think we're going to continue just to grow that and share those experiences to the audiences and groups that, you know, find it beneficial.
And all of us, I guess, are fortunate enough to. Have succeed in one thing. And so we don't, I don't necessarily need the money, which is a stressor for a lot of people. And so we can focus on giving it away and just helping, you know, one person or one group at a time. And so it's very gratifying. Um, Through, you know, podcasts, social media books, interactions with other people, um, share that on an individual level that falls underneath the umbrella of the corporation.
And then of course, if, if there's good client synergy to absolutely go out and work with groups, which is what we love the most. Yeah, that's awesome. Uh, I want to give you the last moment, uh, I want to say thanks for jumping on learning from others, but it give, be the last few moments to put out contact information, or how can people find out more about you?
Yeah, that's great. Um, our performance company is performance mountain, and it's a performancemountain.com. Um, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, we educate, train and provide the tools to motivate and develop elite mindsets and winning culture across business for life on my own personal podcast, the dark side of elite it's at the dark side of elite.com.
It is on all platforms. And we regularly put out about two or three podcasts from interviews to just, um, little series with thoughts on leadership and culture and addiction and any stressors that people are going through. I'm very proud of that. Cause we've had international people on everyday people up to Olympians up to people that have been so successful, but they've been very good about sharing their struggles.
And I think that that's a great learning platform for all people. Yeah, I agree. I know a couple of people personally that have gone from addiction to, um, you know, some sort of performance thing. Um, one that comes to mind is, uh, an organization called, uh, now I'm going to forget it addicted to. Addicted to now, now I'm going to slaughter it, but it's like a it's they do triathlons and marathons and it's all just a group of people that have recovered from addiction.
Very cool. Jack. I support several things. I mean, yeah, go ahead. No, I support for several things. Obviously, as I support seal family foundation, I'm big on supporting our active duty and their families. You know, I support veterans here in Nebraska and Nebraska soldiers fund. And so you'll find me big on, uh, on that.
Cause of course, and I also, you know, and I'm an influencer for the same here, global health mental Alliance. So, so I'm big on trying to change that stigma. And use my background, uh, to help people realize that all of us have a little something that we have to work through. So yeah, I appreciate you having me was a great, great interview.
Yeah. Thanks. Um, well, as we wrap up, when we jump off here, I'm going to introduce you to a couple of people. I've got a couple of a couple of people to come to mind, but Jack Reagan's performance, mountain. Thanks so much for jumping on learning from others. Thank you.