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ET-051: Elevating your leadership capabilities through stealth strategies

With Mr. Joseph VanDusen

ET-051: A conversation with Mr. Joseph Van Dusen

and your host Wayne Brown on June 13, 2023

Episode notes: A conversation with Mr. Joseph Van Dusen

Hello and welcome to the ET Project. I’m your host, Wayne Brown, and as usual, we’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world whom we’re affectionately referring to as Team ET.

Today we’re off to a favorite location of many, Las Vegas, Nevada, which is part-time home for our guest, Mr. Joseph “Chronik” Van Dusen, part-time because the rest of the time you’ll find him flying high above a country somewhere in the world piloting his 787 Dreamliner.

THIS OUR VERY OWN “TOP GUN” EPISODE

Mr. Van Dusen is a truly extraordinary individual. He’s one of only 600 handpicked pilots ever qualified to fly the exclusive 2.2 billion B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber throughout its 30 year existence. Imagine that, holding $2.2 billion worth of power in the palm of your hands.

Here is an extract from our conversation as we start to get into it…

“… And so I grew up in a lower middle class, middle middle class atmosphere. And I didn’t really think that being a pilot was in the cards. But when I went to air shows, my grandfather and my dad, they would take me to air shows every once in a while. And I got the kick. I was like, “Wow, this is incredible. I want to do that. I want to do the loops. I want to do the fast burner right through the crowd and all that stuff.”

And I really that was my only drive at the time. And I love to talk about this from my perspective now because I’m a big fan of Napoleon Hill and he wrote the book, The Law of Success. And it’s a very kind of obscure book. Most people know him from Think and Grow Rich, but this is a 24 hour deal of audio, which is, it’s extremely long…”

Today’s Guest: MR. JOSEPH VAN DUSEN

Joseph’s been flying for the past 20 years and has accumulated a war chest of medals and accolades. He finished number one as distinguished graduate of his Air Force pilot training class. He was deployed seven times and completed 139 combat missions.

He is one of only a handful of pilots to achieve true endurance, leading a group of B-2s on a marathon 31.2 hour non-stop strategic mission. On the business side, Joseph’s been placed in charge of a failing $170 million company within the Air Force and he turned it around to a $220 million powerhouse of productivity, managing the application and the utilization of 20 B-2 stealth bombers valued at over $44 billion.

Joseph is also CEO of his own company Stealth Elevation, and the mission is to drive positive life and leadership transformational change in order to help you elevate your no-fail business.

He has uniquely packaged the tremendous tools he developed from instructing, leading and mentoring some of the world’s most elite aviators to help leaders regardless of industry or profession. Joseph proudly serves a diverse and select client pool. His above top secret NDA experience positions him well as an ideal speaker, consultant and executive coach to some of the most sensitive and high profile organizations and celebrity clientele on the planet.

Joseph’s first book, Stealth Elevate, is a premier source of leadership and personal development gems forged over a career of top level leadership. You’ll hear us speak about some of the leadership theories that Joseph operated during his career. One in particular is called the OODA Loop and it’s a decision-making methodology that can be equally applied in the heat of battle as it can during a business crisis.

Final words from Joseph:

“I would just leave the audience with one final thing, get out there and volunteer for whatever your cause is. For me, I’m very passionate about the homeless issue here in Vegas and in the States in general, it’s a big problem. And you peel back the onion and there’s so many layers and so many causes for this, and there’s a great organization called Shine A Light here in Las Vegas.

And I get out there and you go out and you talk to the homeless and you figure out where they’re at, and if they’re ready to come off the streets. And if they are, they can go and get a bed right now, and they start this recovery process of… And it’s a six-month, zero failure rate, by the way, of this. But you have to be ready, you have to be ready to come out. And a lot of people are ingrained into that and they just will hand them water and socks and stuff and say, “Hey, if you’re ever ready, let’s go.”

But find something that you’re passionate about and help, give of your unique talents and gifts, because we all have stuff to give, and I’m very passionate about spreading that message because you have gifts that I don’t have. And we need to spread those to the world and make everybody better…”

0:00:02.1 Wayne Brown: Hello and welcome to the ET Project. I’m your host, Wayne Brown, and as usual, we’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world whom we’re affectionately referring to as Team ET. Today we’re off to a favorite location of many, Las Vegas, Nevada, which is part-time home for our guest, Mr. Joseph “Chronik” Van Dusen, part-time because the rest of the time you’ll find him flying high above a country somewhere in the world piloting his 787 Dreamliner. Mr. Van Dusen is a truly extraordinary individual. He’s one of only 600 handpicked pilots ever qualified to fly the exclusive 2.2 billion B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber throughout its 30 year existence. Imagine that, holding $2.2 billion worth of power in the palm of your hands. Joseph’s been flying for the past 20 years and has accumulated a war chest of medals and accolades. He finished number one as distinguished graduate of his Air Force pilot training class. He was deployed seven times and completed 139 combat missions. He is one of only a handful of pilots to achieve true endurance, leading a group of B-2s on a marathon 31.2 hour non-stop strategic mission. On the business side, Joseph’s been placed in charge of a failing $170 million company within the Air Force and he turned it around to a $220 million powerhouse of productivity, managing the application and the utilization of 20 B-2 stealth bombers valued at over $44 billion.

0:01:39.6 WB: Joseph is also CEO of his own company Stealth Elevation, and the mission is to drive positive life and leadership transformational change in order to help you elevate your no-fail business. He has uniquely packaged the tremendous tools he developed from instructing, leading and mentoring some of the world’s most elite aviators to help leaders regardless of industry or profession. Joseph proudly serves a diverse and select client pool. His above top secret NDA experience positions him well as an ideal speaker, consultant and executive coach to some of the most sensitive and high profile organizations and celebrity clientele on the planet. Joseph’s first book, Stealth Elevate, is a premier source of leadership and personal development gems forged over a career of top level leadership. You’ll hear us speak about some of the leadership theories that Joseph operated during his career. One in particular is called the OODA Loop and it’s a decision-making methodology that can be equally applied in the heat of battle as it can during a business crisis. So Team ET with that, please brace yourself for our very own version of Top Gun and be ready to capture the insight shared by this elite of the elite in an episode titled Elevating Your Leadership Capabilities Through Stealth Strategies.

0:03:01.9 Speaker 2: Welcome to the ET Project, a podcast for those executive talents determined to release their true potential and create an impact. Join our veteran coach and mentor, Wayne Brown, as we unpack an exciting future together.

0:03:18.4 WB: All right. Well, welcome Team ET. It’s another week. It’s a fantastic week as always. And as is the norm, we have a extremely well-versed expert guest joining us today and I’m really looking forward to this conversation. I’m sure many of you will be after you learn about what we’re going to be talking about, but it’s quite an interesting topic and I’m not sure how deep we’ll be able to go, our guest will be able to talk to this shortly, but our guest is a B-2 Stealth Bomber pilot, or at least a retired B-2 Stealth Bomber pilot. Currently a pilot on a 787 Dreamliner, so still doing what he loves and flying around the world. Joseph, welcome to the ET Project. It’s fantastic to be able to get you on the show and have this conversation. I’m looking forward to it.

0:04:10.2 Joseph Van Dusen: Oh, this is great. Thanks for having me, Wayne. This is fantastic. And I’m excited to impart some wisdom to the ET clan. I love that name, by the way. It’s awesome. So hopefully we can get into some deep stuff here. This is awesome.

0:04:25.3 WB: Look, I’m sure we will. We talk a lot about similar things. So I’m excited to listen to your perspective on a whole range of stuff. I always like to kick off though by just understanding a little bit about our guests and who you are, where you came from and what’s your background type of thing that brought you to that point. And in this case, I’m going to say brought you to the point where you decided that you wanted to become a pilot. So maybe if you can take it from there for a moment, just give us some background.

0:05:02.1 JV: Yeah, absolutely. Let’s see. I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. So if your folks aren’t familiar, we use the midden here and over here. So it’s a small Midwestern town. It’s very conservative in nature. And my dad was advertising manager at the Grand Rapids Press newspaper. And those don’t really exist anymore. So, and my mom was a bank teller at at the local bank there. And so I grew up in a lower middle class, middle middle class atmosphere. And I didn’t really think that being a pilot was in the cards. But when I went to air shows, my grandfather and my dad, they would take me to air shows every once in a while. And I got the kick. I was like, “Wow, this is incredible. I want to do that. I want to do the loops. I want to do the fast burner right through the crowd and all that stuff.” And I really that was my only drive at the time. And I love to talk about this from my perspective now because I’m a big fan of Napoleon Hill and he wrote the book, The Law of Success. And it’s a very kind of obscure book. Most people know him from Think and Grow Rich, but this is a 24 hour deal of audio, which is, it’s extremely long.

0:06:33.3 JV: But I’ve listened to it now several times at the gym. And I would encourage any of your Team ET to really get into that because it deals with your mindset and your flow and just having a definite chief aim in life. And I think that’s so important. My definite chief aim became I want to be a pilot in the Air Force, how do I get to become a pilot in the Air Force? And so I turned over several leaves to do that. And, well, long story short, I went to Western Michigan University, and they had an aviation program there. And I was like, “Okay, cool. This is an hour from home in Grand Rapids. So it’s close and I can go check it out and see if I actually want to do this thing.” And my first semester in college, I remember it was like technical writing, college algebra, all this stuff that had nothing to do with with flight, right? And I’m like, “Wow, this is terrible. I don’t want to do this.” So I actually went to the career counselor there at the university and sat down and took a battery of tests and they said, “Well, Joseph, you should be a janitor or a firefighter.” I’m like, “Oh, great, that really helps me out.” So fast forward to the next semester and I took my first aviation class and I was hooked.

0:08:00.0 JV: It was like, it was a history of aviation and it was the first professor that I had that was really passionate about what they were teaching. And that really set me off. And I was like, “Wow, this is incredible.” So from there, I started to get into the actual… My degree was Aviation Flight Science. So you work through all your ratings from the private pilot, commercial pilot, all the way up to multi engine commercial. And you can then decide where you want to go if you want to be… At the time, the flow was to the right seat of a regional airline but I didn’t really want to do that, I wanted to do the military path. So I pursued that in various aspects and then got hired through officer training school with the United States Air Force and went on to do some really cool stuff that I’m sure we’ll talk about here in a little bit. But that’s kind of a brief summation. I grew up small town conservative and then wanted to see the world.

0:09:03.9 WB: When I hear your story and we talk about 600 pilots only have ever flown a Stealth B-2 Bomber, and it really takes me to the Top Gun mindset thinking, is it like that at all? Like is it… How commercialized is that movie compared to the reality?

0:09:25.2 JV: The latest Top Gun movie, and in fact, I was inspired by Top Gun 1. It was awesome. I remember when that came out and I was like, “Yeah, I want to do that.” And then the air show thing and all that. But to answer your question, it’s kind of similar. There’s, with the B2 community, it’s very elite. It’s the top of the top apply for the program. And I’ll just tell you a little bit of a story of how I got hired. So they bring you into the simulator and you’re with about 25, 26 other folks that have been applying for the program and have made it through the different selection processes to get to the in-person interview. And when we’re there, they give us about a five or 10 minute introduction to what’s gonna happen. “You’re gonna go fly the simulator and it’s an evaluation, it’s a test.” And you never seen this airplane before. You don’t know. I remember leaving that briefing not knowing which side of the altitude indicator where we look to see if we’re up, down, left, right, which side of that the airspeed was on. I’m like, “Wow, this is incredible. I’ve never seen anything like this.” And you get in there to the simulator. And I remember walking through two bank vault doors to get there, it’s super secure, right? Like, boom, right? And you’re just intimidated by the environment.

0:10:52.3 JV: And you get down in the simulator and it’s cold and the instructor evaluator, he’s like, “All right, Joseph, here you go. This is the stick, here’s the throttle, and this is an evaluation. I’m gonna kind of coach you through the next, what the next maneuver is, but you have to be able to perform.” I mean, that’s what we’re grading and go. And at the time I didn’t know what that was for, and now I look back on it and it was totally about how fast that you can fail forward and grow. So if you’re in a completely different environment, you’re… And I’m sure a lot of your ET team can relate to this. You’re thrown into something and you’re just like, “Wow, how do I deal with this new environment?” And you have to be able to make mistakes and grow really fast. And that’s what the whole test was about, which was incredible, because I just took a deep breath at that moment and I’m like, “Okay, I know I’m going to make mistakes, but if I can just be in the moment and fail forward, I can do this thing and let’s just have fun with it.” So I take off, I do the thing and the next maneuver, the next maneuver, I screw some stuff up and I end up just like, kind of laugh through it, right? And I was able to just be present in the moment and perform for that hour simulator check ride, basically, that I had no idea about.

0:12:26.3 JV: And it’s such a valuable lesson for your folks that are listening to this, because it’s so incredibly important to fail forward, not dwell on those past mistakes, but grow through them. Some reflection, I’m sure we’ll talk about that a little later, but do some reflection later on, but then use that experience to catapult you and elevate you into the future. And for the Top Gun stuff, it’s pretty similar to that environment. I mean, you got the top of the top people that are competing with each other and with themselves to be the best. And it was great because we had people from all over the Air Force. We had folks like me that came from the KC-10 Extender, which was a tanker platform. We gave gas in the sky to fighters and bombers. And we had folks that came from fighters and bombers and cargo aircraft. We had this huge entity of information available to us at any time. We never really had to reach out to any foreign… We didn’t have to reach out to the CIA or something like that. We had all that information in-house, which made it a really great environment.

0:13:46.2 WB: I heard you say the simulation exercise lasted an hour.

0:13:50.8 JV: It did.

0:13:51.4 WB: That’s a lot of pressure to be effective for an hour.

0:13:53.8 JV: It is, right?

0:13:56.9 WB: And did you manage to land okay or you didn’t crash I’m guessing, otherwise you probably just did…

0:14:02.4 JV: Yeah, we never find out how we did on that simulator. It was kind of like a pass, fail type deal. But no, I didn’t crash. I just had fun with it. I made sure I was in the moment and I was able to land the airplane, which I hadn’t done before. It was brand new, so. [chuckle]

0:14:20.4 WB: But I guess that’s probably one of the main criteria, right? I think these things are two billion, more than two billion a piece, right? [chuckle] I don’t really want you to ride them off too often.

0:14:34.4 JV: 2.2 billion dollars, yeah. So it’s a lot of money.

0:14:41.1 WB: We’ll get a little bit more into that in a minute. But I have to ask a question that’s been bugging me since we spoke the last time. There’s a lot of popularity around the military services in America. We’ve got Jocko Willink, we’ve got David Goggins, we’ve got Leif Babin. Who is there from the Air Force? Come on. [laughter]

0:15:04.4 JV: Well, that’s true.

0:15:05.9 WB: Tom Cruise or what?

[laughter]

0:15:09.5 JV: Well, other than that, that’s a Navy movie. So I don’t know. Yeah, you’re right. I don’t know, haven’t really heard of anybody stepping out in the Air Force realm. But, for me, it’s all about just serving and giving to leaders, ’cause that’s what we need. I feel a great need to help leaders grow, and that’s why I wrote my two books, going on three now, is just to impart those nuggets of knowledge that people can lead their companies better, and be better entrepreneurs, and help serve the people that they lead. That’s one of the biggest things that we need, right?

0:15:48.7 WB: For sure. Let’s touch on the books right now seeing you’ve mentioned it. Do you want to introduce the books?

0:15:55.8 JV: Sure. Let’s see. Well, I got, the first one here is Stealth Elevate. It’s leadership and business. Basically, I took my lessons learned throughout KC-10 and then the B-2 Stealth Bomber and all the leadership experience that I had. In fact, I was charged with turning a failing $170 million company in the Air Force around. And I turned it into a $220 million, what I call a powerhouse of productivity, because we were great at the end. When I got it, it was a disaster. So all those lessons learned from that time period. And I really just kind of distilled that into Stealth Elevate. But it’s greater than that because it’s also I talk about my divorce in there and going through that and recovering into the person that you see before you today, because I think it’s so important that we have that personal development piece along with the leadership piece, and I didn’t have that at the time. I was so focused on my career progression that, and I’m sure a lot of people can relate to that, what’s the next step? How do I get there? Da da da da da.

0:17:13.7 JV: But I forgot about my personal development and it took me going through that divorce and then finding myself going to counseling and really getting in touch with my emotions for the first time in my life so that I could grow and become better. So that’s all in Stealth Elevate. And now I’m writing the next series here. I’m gonna duck down ’cause I dropped it. But it’s How To Elevate Your Life And Leadership: The Target Backwards Approach. And it’s how we did business in the B2. And I really wanted to distill those lessons, those hard leadership lessons, that tactics and strategy that will help you grow your business and lead better. And so in the B-2, I talk about, well, we would get briefings from the DIA, NSA, all these three letter agencies all the time. And I remember one in particular, we were sitting there and the B-2 pilot group is all together, it’s classified, but we won’t get into those specifics.

0:18:19.4 JV: But the premise behind this is so important. The briefer says, “Hey, look, we think that this new weapon that you guys carry would be perfect for this target complex.” And And we’re like, if you look around the room at that time, you’d see every B2 pilot’s eyes roll, like, “Man, we don’t function that way. We work from the target backwards.” And that’s one of the biggest things that I can instill to business is like, hey, work from the target backwards. You’re going to have these little fires that come up in your day to day, right? And you need to not get trapped into that because you’re, you need to put those fires out, but as the leader, you need to stay strategic and delegate that stuff to your front people, right?

0:19:06.0 JV: You need to have that delegation concept so that you can trust those people that are below you and beside you, and you can get stuff off of your plate so that you can stay strategic and make those strategic decisions by working from the target backwards. And it’s so important that you have that target in mind, whether that’s, I wanna make 23 million dollars in 2023. It needs to be specific, measurable, timely, those three things, and we can get into all that stuff a little deeper. But we… Basically those are the two books right now. And then I’m working on, and I’m about to put out part two of this series, which is The Art Of Elite Execution, and we’re gonna get into chair flying and rock drills and contingency plans. It’s gonna be great. So yeah, I’m just excited to impart all this unique knowledge that I have to help leaders grow.

0:20:06.8 WB: There’s about a hundred different avenues we could go based on what you just said. [chuckle]

0:20:13.3 JV: Right?

[laughter]

0:20:15.2 WB: Tony Robbins… I’m sure you’ve heard of Tony Robbins, but Tony Robbins often quotes Jim Rohn. He’s his mentor, but Jim Rohn apparently used to say, “Success leaves clues.” If I look at your career and everything you’ve achieved and you’re still achieving, where do you think those clues lie in the successes you’ve had? What do you see as some of the real milestone moments that led you to this direction?

0:20:48.6 JV: Yeah, great question. I would say just being… Overall, I would say just being hungry, never satisfied with where you currently are. And I think we always need to improve. You’re either growing or dying, and you need to always take that next step. We all have unique passions and talents that we’re meant to give the world, so what are those for you? And for me it was just a self-discovery process along the way. And I think one of the most monumental things that I went through in life was my divorce and just hitting my rock bottom, and not knowing which way was up and where to go from there, and even how to recover. Thankfully, I had a great leader at the time who was like, “Take as much time as you need. Meet with me once a week so I know that you’re progressing, but just take the time to get to know yourself and to grow.”

0:21:48.6 JV: And it was amazing, yeah. I couldn’t fly at the time anyway. I was flying the B-2. I had just made instructor pilot. So out of those 600 pilots that you mentioned, now all of a sudden I’m top 25% of that elite group. And it was an incredibly humbling experience to fall from that because I was so driven career-wise, and the next step would’ve been going to the Weapons School on the leadership path to the B-2 eventually to be a General. I mean, they want everybody to be General. So I really hit a wall right there, and having to really find myself was an incredible experience of just deep diving, going to counseling, and being humble enough to do that, I think that was absolutely critical for my growth and why I’m able to be so open and free now. Because, one of the things that you don’t see with B-2 pilots is stuff like this. They don’t get out there.

0:22:58.9 JV: And, because the world is so secretive, and to distill those lessons and put them into an unclassified setting that really helps people grow. And lot of people, they don’t even think about doing that work, it’s just like, “What’s next? What’s next? What’s next?” And fortunately for me, I’ve had that experience of being able to divest and just take a pause and really look at the person in the mirror and say, “I don’t know you but I’m going to know you,” and that became my drive. And now my chief aim in life is just to become the most effective agent of positive life and leadership transformational change that I can become. And that way, I just compete with myself every day. And that’s another thing, we’re so used to comparing ourselves to other people, and, who’s doing this? Oh, John over here, Susie over here, they’re… I need to be better, whatever. And really, you need to compete with yourself and just become the best that you can become.

0:24:10.9 WB: So reading between the lines there, how critical throughout your career has the team environment been? I could imagine it could be very easy to become that singular entity only worried about yourself.

0:24:26.3 JV: Yeah.

0:24:26.5 WB: But how critical was the team environment for the success of everything?

0:24:32.1 JV: Super critical. We would be charged with a task at the beginning of a 12-hour day that would… It would blow most people away. Like hey, do you need to solve this impossible goal by the end of today? And you have to do it because you’re running into crew rest, which is a hard, hard thing. You need to get your rest for this mission that you’re gonna go fly, that you’re planning right now. And in order to do that, you needed to really trust and delegate extremely well. And when I was first learning this, I thought I was good. I was like, “Man, I’m a B-2 aircraft commander. I can do this next step. Formation, lead, no big deal.” And that’s where you go from your single ship where it’s all about you and your co-pilot to now you’re leading three or four or more B-2s, and each of them has a leader in their respective aircraft, right? And so you have to be able to bring that team together really quickly. And when I first started doing that, it was a disaster. I got up there and I’m like, “Yeah. Hey, welcome to Reaper one one flight, this is our objective today, and this is what… ” And I took too much responsibility on myself.

0:25:52.2 JV: And so my team quickly called me out, and hopefully you have a team that’ll call you out, because it’s so important, we don’t know as the individual how we’re doing. We think we’re doing great, but if we don’t get that external feedback, we’ll never know. And fortunately, I had my team there, they called me out. They’re like, “Hey, you’re putting way too much on yourself. You need to get rid of some of this stuff so that you can focus on developing these contingency plans,” and that’s so critical too. As the leader, you need to be strategic and you need to think of what can kill my mission right now? What can kill my company right now? What can… What is going to keep us from getting to this goal? And you need to be focused on that and delegate everything else away. And so I really, through repetition and practice, because I suck so bad at that first one that I was like, “Okay.” My boss would come into the scheduling office, and I was kind of cowering. I was like, “Man, I need to get more reps as number three and not in the lead. I need to see this done from somebody else.”

0:27:06.5 JV: And he would come in and we have these magnetic pucks, and he would see my name and he’d be like, “Okay, well… ” Boom, he’d put me into the number one slot, and now I was formation lead, and you’re not gonna… It was a great leadership decision, and it didn’t take any words. He just saw me and, boom, put the puck back in the first spot. So it’s like, hey, either grow and get more reps to grow faster, or fail. That’s it. You’re gonna get the opportunity, so let’s see what you do. And I would just… One of the lessons that I impart when I speak or do executive coaching or anything really, it’s, “Hey, give your folks the chance.” So instead of going with your top burners or who you think are your top burners, go with that person that failed once before because they got a chip on their shoulder now, they got something to prove, and give them the opportunity to succeed.

0:28:06.7 JV: Give them the tools, give them some mentoring, like, “Hey, this is what you did wrong.” Do a debrief real quick and be like, “Okay, cool. Here’s some tools to help you succeed, and now go do it. And we’re gonna give you the opportunity to do it,” as opposed to going with somebody that’s proven that they’ve done it over and over and over. Because, case in point, I was able to become one of the best flight leads in the squadron because I had those opportunities. And so often we just overlook that. We’re like, “Wow, that guy really screwed up. That girl screwed up.” And we need to give those folks more opportunity because they might just surprise you.

0:28:46.8 WB: For sure. There’s so many valuable lessons in what you just said there for leadership in general, regardless of what environment you’re in. I think there’s some great insights there. I’d like to talk a little bit about some of the programs that you’re doing. But before I jump into that, there’s a theory I believe it came from one of the colonels in the Air Force, a theory called the OODA Loop. So OODA is a four-word acronym. I know you speak about it and you’ve obviously used it. I wonder if you could talk to that and the importance of that decision-making process.

0:29:28.3 JV: OODA Loop, I think it was Colonel John Boyd that came up with this back in the Vietnam era, I don’t know. But OODA Loop is a decision-making process that you can just use in your daily life, which is awesome. Use it in your business, in your daily life. OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act, and you just want to… And that’s your very basic decision-making model, and it works as a great foundation. So whenever you’re hit with a crisis, for example, like when we have an engine fire in the airplane, we initially, they say, “Hey, smoke a Lucky,” [chuckle] because you’re hearing all these bells and whistles going off and everything, and you need to first observe what is going on. And then you have to orient yourself, “Okay, is it the left engine, is it the right engine? What is it? What is actually happening right here right now, and what do I need to do?” And then you have to decide, and then you have to act.

0:30:31.7 JV: So those four things can happen really, really quick, but the first thing you have to do is just calm yourself, because as the leader, you need to make that decision and get your team on board. So whether it’s… We just had the Silicon Valley bank failure, and many bank failures. So if your assets were all tied up in Silicon Valley Bank, you’re like, “Holy crap, this thing just went to… What do we do?” And so you need to observe, orient, decide and act. How do we get our assets out? How do we function on the day-to-day? So many startups were in that bank, and I can’t imagine the pressure of that decision to… You gotta get your stuff out. Let’s go, let’s grow. And so that’s one of the biggest things. You gotta observe, orient, decide, and act. I’m a big fan of OODA Loop, and I know that you teach it as well, right?

0:31:31.4 WB: Right. I did a leadership program in the Middle East probably a decade ago now, and I introduced it back then. And yeah, it was really a nice stumble to get the opportunity to talk to you when I saw that you talk about it. But yeah, listen, I wanted to bring it up. Now, one of the things that fascinated me, and it would be really relevant for you, I believe, in your career is it’s such a simple methodology but so powerful. But having that self-awareness and the regulation to be able to step back, to pause for that moment in amongst the chaos, this is the challenge for most leaders, to be able to say, “You know what? The world around me is burning, but I need to orientate myself first before I then do something.”

0:32:26.2 JV: Absolutely. You need to take that second to orient yourself, because if you just jump into decision-making, you’re not gonna make good decisions right then. You need to, at least just remember that piece, smoke a Lucky. Smoke a Lucky cigarette. Just be like, “Okay, take a deep breath.” That’s another example of that. Just, “Okay, what is going on? Everything is burning. Now I need to orient what is really going on.” Get your situational awareness picture, right? And that’s what we talk about in aviation all the time, is you only know what you know at that moment. So try to gather other information. For us, it’s like radio calls and the environment, what’s going on? Is there thunderstorms over there? Is there different… Turbulence, this and that. So in your business world, you need to just gather that situational awareness picture. Bring in other people, what’s really going on, and gather the data. Okay, the bank failed, right? So what are our options? And just listen. Take a breath, get some other opinions, gather the data before you make your decision as opposed to just rushing into something. “Oh, we need to do this now,” because you’re gonna look back on that and be like, “Maybe that wasn’t the best decision at the time.”

0:33:51.8 WB: We were talking… Before we hit record, we were talking about the incident with the pilot that landed on the Hudson River, and that process that he must have gone through in his mind to remain as calm as he did, to be able to make that decision, those calculations, it could have so easily been entirely wrong and ended in disaster, but it had a great outcome. I look at those moments as the testaments of people that are able to really put these theories into practice. They’re no longer just an abstract that we read about in a book. These are really useful implementable tools that people have demonstrated work. I like to look at leadership in that sense or from that perspective, so I think it’s a great tool. I didn’t mention earlier, your company is also called Stealth Elevation, if I’m correct?

0:34:49.0 JV: Yes. Yeah, it is. So that’s a play off of the stealth bomber, obviously, but it’s also what we need to do inwardly, and I think that’s more important. So Stealth Elevation, the tagline is, “Hey, we’re gonna work on the stealth stuff, the stuff that no one sees you doing so that you can elevate to an outside world.” And it’s so important that we do that. And whether it’s… Your personal development is critical. So leaders are readers. I’ve always been ingrained to that, and you need to read everything that you can. Would you agree with that?

0:35:30.4 WB: Absolutely. I’m an avid reader. Two books a week, so I’m up there with you. [chuckle]

0:35:36.7 JV: Yeah. Well, it’s so important. You get so many good ideas from all kinds of different backgrounds, and it just helps you become a better leader. And so that’s that stealth stuff that we’re working on. You’re working on that, and you’re also getting the situational awareness picture for your business and making those decisions. You need to take time to recreate or recreate. Earl Nightingale, big fan of Earl Nightingale who passed away, but he would talk about that all the time, you need to recreate yourself. And I think it’s a daily process that we go through. You’re not the same today as you were yesterday. So for me personally, I do meditation in the morning, I do gratitudes, I’m thankful for the day. That’s so critical. You wake up, you see a sunshine or whatever, even if it’s cloudy, grab your coffee. Just take a few moments before you start your day, whatever that is for you, to orient yourself.

0:36:41.8 JV: It goes back to that OODA Loops thing, Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act, right? So you need to orient yourself to yourself, and yourself is different today than yesterday. So take some time, even five minutes just to be grateful, to do some meditation, to be like, “Alright, where am I today? How am I feeling? Where do I need to grow and how do I maximize this day?” And that’s how I approach the day, and I just try to make the most out of every day, because we’re not guaranteed tomorrow, right? And so it’s so important that you do that stealth stuff that no one sees you doing, and you just work on that because it’s gonna help you in every aspect.

0:37:30.1 WB: Right. And at the other end of the spectrum, you also talk about the debrief of the activity from the day being the real area where you learn, where the learning occurs.

0:37:42.4 JV: Yeah. So debriefing is so critical, and we often don’t do it, right? Because we were constantly worried about the next fire, this and that. We need to learn from the day, we need to learn from the goal. If we set a goal out there and we said, “Hey, look, we didn’t hit it, but that’s cool.” And we just move on to the next thing, that’s bad. We need to take some time to debrief and to do this in an organized way is absolutely critical. It’s gonna be part of this book series that I’m writing, but for your audience, it’s, you need to figure out the contributing factors. So you need to list out like four contributing factors, why you failed at this or that or maybe why you succeeded at this and that. You can take those lessons as well.

0:38:32.5 WB: Right.

0:38:33.7 JV: And you need to boil it down to a root cause. And so there’s one thing that did it, and guess what? It’s not the environment. And I talk about… We talk about that all the time in the stealth bomber. And also I talk about it with Stealth Elevation, you cannot have a root cause that is due to the environment because everybody is playing in the same environment. Everybody is playing in the same… So like if you’re in a American football game and you’re both out there in the rain, there’s a battle going on, but guess what? The rain is not the issue, it is absolutely your execution. So we talk about thunderstorms coming up in our pathway for bomb release or something, and be like, “Wow, we could blame it on the thunderstorm being there.” No, you still have to put bombs on target, so you could have done something else, you could have planned around that, you could have done… Anyway, you need to come up with a root cause, the one thing that caused you to… For success or failure for that goal or that day or whatever you’re grading.

0:39:38.7 JV: And then the biggest thing is, you need to come up with what I call an exciting elevation. What will you do next time, right? Okay, so I figured out my contributing factors, that there were thunderstorms in the area, the winds were out of limits, blah, blah, blah. Whatever it was for you, it was SVB bank failure. We put all our assets in one place, we’re not gonna do that again. So you gotta figure out what you will do next time, and that’s how you wrap that thing full circle. And I’m gonna expand upon that in this leadership book series. But real quick, so contributing factor, root cause and some sort of exciting elevation, what you’ll do next time to get your team on board with that and let’s learn, let’s grow and let’s put that into as a base foundational piece for our next goal that we’re going after.

0:40:38.0 WB: And I can imagine it’s like anything, when you first start doing this, it takes a bit of time. But the more you do it, the more consistently you do it, the more familiar you become with it, it becomes second nature and you do it very quickly, and it doesn’t take much time. The reason I say that is I can imagine there’s a lot of people sitting here listening at the moment thinking, “Man, I don’t have the time to do that. I’m too busy fighting the fires. If only I had that amount of time, that luxury.” The reality is the fires are a result of not doing it.

0:41:11.4 JV: Yes, you need to take that time. And you’re right. We would spend like three hours doing this in the Air Force and nobody has that type of time to dig that deep, right? And especially in the business world. So what I’ve developed is a way to do this in five or ten minutes where you can really get down. And if you focus on those three things, the contributing factor, the root cause and the exciting elevation, you can do it very quickly. And the more practice that you get at it, absolutely you become faster, but you need to take some time. If you don’t take that time, like you said, you’re just gonna repeat the same stuff over and over again. Like, “Wow, we failed at that. We failed at that. We failed at… ” Why don’t we learn from this and stop failing all the time.

0:41:56.4 WB: We’re running short on time, so I wanna touch on some programs that you have that you use as a basis when you’re working with your clients. And I believe there’s three levels to it. The first is the developmental-based leadership program. The second is the stealth-based leadership, and then you have a team-based leadership. So I wonder if you’d like to just introduce those briefly if you don’t mind?

0:42:21.3 JV: Yeah. Oh, thank you, Wayne. So developmental-based leadership, I talk, it’s more of a broad audience. So these are different speaking type engagements that I do, and they’re all customizable and we can intertwine them based on your needs as the client. But basically developmental-based leadership is more on the stealth-development piece. Like I’m gonna speak more on my journey from going through the divorce and going through counseling and what I learned, and then incorporate some of the goal setting and execution that we did in the B-2 Stealth Bomber that will absolutely elevate you in life, leadership and business. And it’s great stuff. The stealth-based leadership is more for executives because it’s… Okay, we’re gonna get into the nitty-gritty of things that we just talked about, the debrief, right?

0:43:14.5 JV: And we’re gonna learn how to set goals better, from the target backwards. I’ll explain that in your terms, where we use what you’re going after and then we put it in specific measurable and timely characteristics, and you’ll see how powerful that is. And then we work through the whole execution piece and setting contingency plans and how important that is. As the leader, you need to think things that are gonna throw you off. And if you don’t do that, you’re running into a fire that is preventable, right? So if you can come up with some contingency plans for your business, like what is gonna throw you off right now or in the foreseeable future, like, “Hey, we’re gonna have a capital crunch in six months.” Well, instead of waiting for six months, maybe you can actually plan that out and work around that and so that it’s not a fire, right?

0:44:12.4 JV: And there’s so many ways that we can pivot during execution and it’s so critical that we do that to keep our companies moving forward. And so as a leader, you need to really invest in contingency plans, you need to do some chair flying for your business, and I’ll explain that. You need to do rock drills, which are rehearsal of concept, especially if you’re going into negotiations. You need to kind of role play this thing out. The Blue Angels do a spectacular job, you can look this up on YouTube. Go look at Blue Angels Pre-flight Briefing and you’ll see them, it is amazing. They fly 18 inches apart for 45 minutes. There’s no room for error. And what they do during their pre-flight is fascinating. And this is what we did in the B-2 as well for different things. But they’ll get there, they’ll close their eyes and they’ll visualize what is going to happen. And the leader, and if you listen to the radio calls, it’s amazing. They’re talking to each other real calm, and the leader is like, “And now we’re… ” And they all do the maneuver at the same time, and they come up and it’s just very smooth, very calculated.

0:45:25.8 JV: There’s no hesitation and there’s no anxiety in their voices. The power of visualization for execution is so incredible. I already mentioned Napoleon Hill, and we talk about… There’s some others that are doing this more modern day stuff. Dr. Joe Dispenza talks about this where you get vision boards, I’m sure everybody has heard of vision boards and stuff, but you have to connect your subconscious with your conscious mind, and that’s what this whole rehearsal of concept thing is doing. So we go in depth into all of that stuff with stealth-based leadership. And then team-based leadership is more, again, more of a broad audience, and we talk about Stealth Bomber, goal setting and execution. We talk about team building and delegation, and all of this stuff to make your team function really well. And even at the airline, we do this really well because you have standard operating procedure, you have checklists.

0:46:31.7 JV: And everybody… So you can pull somebody off the street that is qualified and put them in the seat and you know what they’re gonna do. And it’s so critical that you have that in your business, and you set up that avenue because in order to build highly functioning teams, you need to have some sort of standard that everybody is going for. And so we talk about setting that up and how to do that for your corporation or your business, your enterprise. And so those are the three and we can intertwine based on your needs, and then I also do executive coaching to really get into helping because it’s lonely at the top, right? Nobody is there to bounce things off of, and it’s so critical that we are continually growing and divesting these ideas, these great ideas that we have, bouncing them off somebody and saying, “Hey, look, how does this look? How do I grow? How do I become better?” And giving you different techniques to do all that, so.

0:47:32.3 WB: So the feedback is a critical component. We’re doing a lot of work at the moment around communication. And I know you talk about eliminating stovepipe mentality within the team environment, which I believe is so important. I’m not sure everyone will know that term, it’s a little bit American, but maybe you can explain. So stovepiping, what does that mean for you?

0:48:00.2 JV: Yeah. So stovepipes are very toxic for your organization. It’s people that get a little bit of expertise and they hold on to that. And so they view themselves as a subject matter expert for that particular deal, and they’re not willing to share it with anybody. They want people to come to them, right? “You’re always gonna come to me.” But the problem with that is that if that person is gone, maybe they’re sick or whatever, they’re out of touch and you need that expertise, and if they’re not willing to share and teach that to those around, we should all be trying to make each other better. And so that was a big thing in the Stealth Bomber, is you had these little enclaves of knowledge and you had to get them all together and we would have different trainings and different things for that.

0:48:57.8 JV: And so we’ll talk about how to eliminate those stovepipes, but just a stovepipe in general, if somebody is harnessing information that they should be getting out to everybody else, you need to take that person aside and say, “Hey, look, we need to have a discussion because this is not working out too well. You need to be able to spread your knowledge and to help everybody grow, and that’s how you become better as well.” So if people are fearful of their job, fearful of their position, they develop these stovepipes where they’re like, “I’m the sole nugget of information here. Everybody’s gotta come to me. So my job is protected.” Yeah, we need to eliminate that.

[chuckle]

0:49:43.8 WB: Yeah, very much. I only have a couple of questions remaining, so we’ll wrap it up shortly. But I know you also talk about discipline, and I can imagine from a military perspective, the relevance and the importance of discipline. If we apply that to a leadership environment, the extent that discipline plays a role, what’s your thoughts about that?

0:50:08.4 JV: First, we’ll go with self-discipline, right? As the leader you need to control yourself, you need to control how you react to the day and also how you’re… I think it was… Who was it? Patton. General Patton came up with this. He’s like, “A leader is always on parade.” And it’s absolutely true. So you may think that your activities outside of work are yours, but that’s not really the case, you’re in the leadership position, everyone is looking up to you. So what you tweet, what you put on Facebook, what you do with your external activities, it’s all being watched. And so just remember that as the leader and have the discipline to harness the responsibility of that position, I think that’s probably the biggest thing with discipline now. As far as discipline for the team and the organization, well, you can set up standard operating procedures, you can set up standards, if you don’t like standard operating procedure, just be like, “Hey, look, our bar is here, if you’re not meeting it, then we need to raise your expectation level so that you can meet it.”

0:51:28.4 JV: And I think we need to do that within our organizations to instill a baseline and then people can form their own discipline around that. If they’re not meeting it, then we have to have those discussions too. I think we’re too afraid in corporations to have that tough love kind of talk now. And a lot of it has come with, there’s some really great stuff with DEI, but there’s some bad stuff too that has come and everybody’s kind of walking on eggshells. It’s, “Can I say that? Can I do that? Can I do… ” Yes, you can. You have to have that mentoring in order to grow. If you… I think I read recently that somebody at Facebook was making $190,000 a year for nothing. They literally did nothing. And now that position’s eliminated because they’re going through their year of efficiency or whatever but it’s like, come on now, we can’t have this. [laughter]

0:52:32.1 WB: Sure. What are you working on at the moment, Joseph? What are you… What’s the next thing on the pipeline for you?

0:52:38.8 JV: So the next thing on the pipeline is the next book in the series, How To Elevate Your Life and Leadership. And this one is The Art Of Elite Execution. And so I’m really distilling, and these are little pamphlet books, really, that you can go back and reference from time to time, just hard-hitting leadership knowledge that will help you. And so we’re talking about contingency plans, we’re talking about rock drills, chair flying and how goes it meetings, so important that you have checkup meetings. A lot of times we get distilled into these meetings that don’t lead anywhere, right? Like, “Oh, I got a meeting at 9:00 AM.” Okay, cool. And then an hour later you guys didn’t get anything accomplished, what’s going on? So we talk about how to run your meetings more efficiently and with more purpose, so start on time, end early if you can, and give your folks back that most precious commodity of time. So that’s what I’m working on right now but in the broader sense, I’m working on a lot of brain work. I’m fascinated with the subconscious mind. So if you can get your subconscious on board with your conscious thinking, you are going to explode and elevate hugely. So I’m… That’s… It’s kind of a back burner project that’ll be in probably the third or fourth book of this series.

0:54:07.4 WB: And I guess that’s centered around habits and routines and all that.

0:54:11.7 JV: Yes, absolutely. And then also vision, what you visualize and what you think, what you think is what you become, and you’re putting those thoughts out there in the universe, and that’s energy. And so you’re gonna reflect, you’re gonna get back what you put out. And I think that’s another reason why it is so important to be grateful for every day. It just gets you in that great mindset of being nice. We need to be nicer to people.

[laughter]

0:54:46.8 WB: You’ve mentioned chair flying several times, so I can’t finish without finding out what that is.

0:54:52.7 JV: So this is a concept that has to do with your subconscious connecting to your conscious. It really does. So when I was going through the B-2 initial program, you learn the T-38 Talon, which is a little mini fighter jet. And that’s how we keep our hand skills and our flying ability really fresh because you only fly the B-2 a couple times a month. So you start out flying this little fighter jet and it scoots. It’s fast. And I came from flying the KC-10 Extender tanker, and it was slow. So now I have to speed up my thinking and everything. And the program is not designed for me. It’s designed for somebody that has flown the airplane previously and I had never flown it. And there’s only 12 flights in the entire syllabus to get done and I started out and I was like way, what we call behind the jet and just hanging on by the tail because everything was happening around me and I wasn’t reacting to the environmental factors. I was passive and just letting things happen. I’m like, “Wow, no, I need to fly the airplane.”

0:56:06.8 JV: And so to get up to speed, I had to do this thing called chair flying. And what you do is, you just visualize the whole flight and it’s kind of what goes back to what the Blue Angels, what I mentioned earlier, but this is more in depth. This is all about you and what you’re gonna do. So I would sit there in front of a cockpit photo, and I would have all the switches and stuff. And so I’m like, “Okay, well now I’m gonna hit this switch and do this and this and this.” And I’ve used this, whether it’s learning a new airplane or learning marketing and sales, whatever it is, like how do I become better? And you have to go through this kind of chair flying experience where you’re just visualizing, “Okay, during the pre-flight, I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna hit this switch, I’m gonna look for this and this and this.”

0:56:57.9 JV: And then you’re getting that subconscious program so that you’re not having to think in the moment, your momentary, your present thinking is all based on this experience that you’ve done in the background. So if you wanna learn concepts really, really fast, you need to chair fly and you need to practice these things whether it’s yeah, just a sales call or your new marketing ad, how is this gonna play out? Let’s go through this and let’s chair fly it. Let’s say, “Hey, this is… What if this plays this way? What if this plays that way? How are we gonna react to that?” Now you already have that baseline knowledge, so when those situations come up, you can just react in the moment and it’s no big deal. You can be like, “Okay, we’re gonna pivot this way,” and that’s how we do that.

0:57:52.8 WB: Yeah, I can sleep easy tonight now I understand. So thank you for that. [chuckle] The fantastic thing about our brain is that our brain can’t tell the difference between simulation and reality. And therefore what you’re doing… What you’re talking about, the chair flying is really that simulation experience and the brain is seeing it as real. And when it comes to the reality, it’s like it’s already been doing it.

0:58:17.8 JV: Exactly. And you exponentially increase your ability to perform and execute, which is… That’s where it’s at. Executions is what we’re graded on.

0:58:28.8 WB: We’ve only scratched the surface. So, I didn’t even get to talk about Dave Ramsey and your work that you did with Dave Ramsey. And many of the listeners, of course, will know of Dave Ramsey. You do facilitation work, you do public speaking, as well as fly Top Gun planes, right? [laughter] I keep having this visual image of Maverick while you were talking. [chuckle] Many visual images came of Maverick. I’m sure the listeners will get a lot from our conversation and really appreciate you finding the time. I know it’s very early where you are over in Las Vegas at the moment, so I appreciate that very much.

0:59:12.7 JV: Well, thank you for staying up late. And yeah, no, this has been great. I would just leave the audience with one final thing, get out there and volunteer for whatever your cause is. For me, I’m very passionate about the homeless issue here in Vegas and in the States in general, it’s a big problem. And you peel back the onion and there’s so many layers and so many causes for this, and there’s a great organization called Shine A Light here in Las Vegas. And I get out there and you go out and you talk to the homeless and you figure out where they’re at, and if they’re ready to come off the streets. And if they are, they can go and get a bed right now, and they start this recovery process of… And it’s a six-month, zero failure rate, by the way, of this. But you have to be ready, you have to be ready to come out. And a lot of people are ingrained into that and they just will hand them water and socks and stuff and say, “Hey, if you’re ever ready, let’s go.” But find something that you’re passionate about and help, give of your unique talents and gifts, because we all have stuff to give, and I’m very passionate about spreading that message because you have gifts that I don’t have. And we need to spread those to the world and make everybody better.

1:00:37.7 WB: Final question. Where can people find you, if they wanna connect with you and have a conversation?

1:00:42.5 JV: Yeah. Thanks, I’m all over social media, website is stealthelevation.com, but you can find me either Joseph Van Dusen on LinkedIn, Stealth Elevation, I’m under both of those names, I’ll come right up, whether it’s Facebook, twitter, TikTok, whatever. I do all kinds of little videos and just try to spread little nuggets of knowledge here and there, but you can find me in any of those spots and then the contact information is there.

1:01:16.2 WB: Excellent. Well, Joseph, thanks so much for being on the ET Project, it’s been fantastic, and I look forward to staying in contact.

1:01:24.5 JV: It’s been great, thanks Wayne. Have a great day and yeah, everybody, keep elevating.

[music]

1:01:31.8 Speaker 2: Thank you for joining us on the ET Project, a show for executive talent development. Until next time, check out our site for free videos, e-books, webinars and blogs at coaching4companies.com.

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