Mike Abrashoff (@itsyourship) is a former Naval Commander, leadership and teamwork expert, and author of the New York Times bestseller It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy.
What We Discuss with Mike Abrashoff:
- Why leadership style matters and organizational culture is everything.
- How to know when it’s appropriate to break the rules and favor innovation over tradition.
- When to challenge your superiors, and how to do so without endangering your career.
- How to earn the trust of your superiors so they come to rely on you and trust your judgment.
- What it takes to foster learning and innovation among the ranks of people conditioned to just follow orders.
- And much more…
Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps! Consider including your Twitter handle so we can thank you personally!
At age 36, Mike Abrashoff was the most junior commanding officer in the Pacific fleet when he was selected as Commander of USS Benfold. At the time, this was one of the worst-performing ships in the Navy. Morale was low, turnover was high, and the previous commanding officer was literally booed off the ship after leaving command. Just one year later, with the same crew under Mike’s leadership, it was ranked number one in performance.
So how did Mike succeed where older, more experienced commanders had failed? That’s what we’ll examine in this episode as Mike lays out the foundations of his New York Times Best Seller, It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
Mind Pump is an online radio show/podcast dedicated to providing truthful fitness and health information. It is sometimes raw, sometimes shocking, and is always entertaining and helpful. Jack up your ears with some Mind Pump wisdom here!
More About This Show
It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy author Mike Abrashoff recalls the scene when he arrived to take command of the USS Benfold.
“When my predecessor left the ship for the final time — with his parents and his wife and his kids — as his departure was announced on the public address system, my new crew stood and jeered wildly as he was leaving. And I had never heard of or seen such a blatant sign of disrespect in my entire career. And I was terrified.
“And the first thought that went through my mind was: ‘What do I have to do to keep that from happening to me two years from now when I leave the ship?'”
At the time Mike took command, the USS Benfold had a reputation as being one of the fleet’s worst ships. But in just one year under Mike’s leadership — and with the same crew that had jeered his predecessor’s departure — it became the fleet’s best. While Mike has only kind words to say about the ship’s previous Commander, he can point to how their leadership strategies differed.
“He’s a brilliant man,” says Mike, “But he never left his comfort zone. He was an engineer his whole life, and so he focused on the engineering plant and tried to do everything himself. So his engineers folded their arms and said, ‘Okay, you do it,’ and they became the first new construction ship in the history of the Navy to flunk their first engineering certification. It’s because, instead of becoming the Captain, he wanted to be the Super Chief Engineer.”
It’s the same story in the business world. The best salesperson in the company might be promoted to Head of Sales, but if their heart’s in sales and they never make the transition to leadership, they’re more likely to stand in the way of other salespeople’s progress by doing all the work rather than teaching them how to succeed.
Or, for people who better relate to sports: LeBron James is one of basketball’s finest athletes in a sport rife with examples of excellence. But would he make a great coach? Could he stand back and let others make the mistakes necessary to learn, grow, and excel, or would he call himself in to the game at every crucial moment to save the day at the expense of overall team progress? And what effect would the short-term wins of one person have on the long-term morale of his teammates as it becomes clear their own contributions are viewed as secondary to his?
Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about how Mike promoted trust and empowerment among the ranks for the good of the overall organization before his own path of promotion, when it’s appropriate to break the rules, how Mike learned to think like his own boss when feedback was scarce, why “my way or the highway” is a failed leadership strategy, the real way to speak truth to power today if you want to make sure you still have a job tomorrow, how reducing low-value work makes way for high-value results, and much more.
THANKS, MIKE ABRASHOFF!
If you enjoyed this session with Mike Abrashoff, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy by Michael Abrashoff
- Michael Abrashoff’s Website
- Michael Abrashoff at Instagram
- Michael Abrashoff at Twitter
- USS Benfold (DDG 65)
- William J. Perry at Twitter
- A Few Good Men
- C-17 Globemaster III, Boeing
- Joseph W. Ralston, The Hall of Valor Project
- U.S. Navy Destroys Iranian Drone In Defensive Action, CBS News
- Jocko Willink | Leading on the Line Between Extreme and Reckless, TJHS 93
- From Bridge Chair to Grid Iron: Philadelphia Eagles Take Command of Their Ship, Aegis Performance Group
- Master and Commander, Sports Illustrated
Transcript for Mike Abrashoff | It’s Your Ship — Here’s How to Shape It (Episode 231)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:03] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. As always, I'm here with producer Jason DeFillippo. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most brilliant and interesting people and turn their wisdom into practical advice that we can use to impact our own lives and those around us.
[00:21:00] Today, Mike Abrashoff is at the center of one of the most remarkable modern-day stories of organizational transformation. At age 36, he was selected to be the commander of USS Benfold and was the most junior commanding officer in the Pacific fleet. At the time, this was one of the worst-performing ships in the entire Navy. Morale was low, turnover was high, and the previous commanding officer was literally booed off the ship after leaving command. And 12 months later, it was ranked number one in performance using the exact same crew. Today, we're talking about leadership, not just about replacing command and control leadership with commitment and cohesion, but the principle that leadership style matters and culture is everything. Mike teaches us how to break the rules and when. We'll also discuss how you can earn the trust of your superiors so they come to rely on you and trust your judgment. There's a strategy here that will really help you stay close to the crown and help you learn a ton in your organization or company, whether you have 30 years of experience or you're new on the job. We'll even discuss when to challenge your superiors and how to do so without endangering your career. Of course, we'll toss a couple of war stories in there for good measure. I had a lot of fun with this episode and I think you'll enjoy it as well. It's not your typical business or leadership show.
[00:01:37] I met Mike through my network as I meet a lot of these guests and if you want to know how I create and reach out to people and manage hundreds/thousands of connections every single year, check out our Six-Minute Networking course. It's free. I just want you to try it out because I think you'll really have a game-changing experience with it, both at work and in your personal life. It's over at jordanharbinger.com/course. That's jordanharbinger.com/course. And by the way, most of the guests on the show here, they actually subscribe to the course and the newsletter. So come join us, you'll be in some great company. All right, here's Mike Abrashoff.
[00:02:13] Is commander the proper title?
Mike Abrashoff: [00:02:14] Commanding officer.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:15] Commanding officer of a guided-missile destroyer. So can you tell us what this is and what it does essentially?
Mike Abrashoff: [00:02:21] It's an incredibly complex platform. It cost $2 billion to build and I can track a bird and shoot it down at 50 miles. I carry as many Tomahawk cruise missiles as we can. I can shoot guns at other ships. I can shoot torpedoes at enemy submarines and I can search the electromagnetic spectrum for enemy communications and radars. So, it's multipurpose destroyer that's incredibly complex.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:51] That sounds really--Fun is not the right word, but it does a lot of things instead of just having--
Mike Abrashoff: [00:02:56] I loved the job so much, I would have done it for free.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:59] That’s great.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:02:59] It was fun. And I think when people see you having fun and enjoying your work, then they will tend to enjoy their job as well.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:05] Yeah, that makes sense and there are 310 people on this boat. All of my Navy knowledge essentially comes from the game battleship that I had when I was a kid and destroyer was the smallest one, so I thought, “Oh, that looks pretty small.”
Mike Abrashoff: [00:03:18] So, what's interesting is there's a cruiser next line up and it's the same platform except they carry 20 more missiles. Other than that, it's the exact same ship.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:28] Okay. That's interesting. I remember that the cruisers are also being in the, in the battleship game.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:03:33] Correct. My neighbors have been wanting me to watch battleship for forever? I do it as a matter of pride just to come to no end.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:41] I don't think that movie is going to live up to your expectations or anyone else's expectations for that matter. Sorry if you wrote the movie Battleship, whoever's listening. You mentioned in the book that we've lost our edge in terms of helping people grow. And I want to know what you mean by this because that's not just the military probably.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:03:58] I've been speaking now for 19 years since I got out of the Navy in this last year has been my busiest year ever. And it's because companies for the first time are facing up to the fact that with the low unemployment rate workers tend to leave more. And I spoke to a company yesterday, one of their plants had a 100 percent annual turnover.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:20] Oh, that's horrible.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:04:21] Absolutely. And they think that it's because of low wages and they were in a poor town. Well, guess what? You know people in the military today never started out life at the top rung of the economic ladder. They're good people, but they never started out life at the top. And they use the military as a way to climb the ladder. And we have a history of treating our people poorly and I decided to treat our people like they were the best and put them in positions where they could learn and experience. Today, they are enjoying a higher promotion rate than sailors off other ships. Those who got out or excelling in the private sector. And so it's about taking an interest in them and taking an interest in their careers. And you know what, they'll be loyal to you. They'll remember you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:05] Yeah, I can appreciate that. Some of the stats from the book and the book title is It's Your Ship.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:05:12] Correct.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:13] I want to make sure we get that correct and we’ll link that in the show notes of course. And I put the image in there, the slide you sent us earlier. It's a great book because it includes a lot of--I think when you wrote this book stuff probably nobody had heard before about leadership. Now, there are, some of your ideas are making their way into these edgy Silicon Valley leadership books. But even now, when I was reading this, I go, “This guy did this, but in the military, I mean the,” and we'll get into how that affected other ships in the meantime because I think you, there's no way, you didn't face a ton of pushback, but 40 percent of people don't complete their enlistment contract. That's military turnover and 40 percent--Is attrition the right word?
Mike Abrashoff: [00:05:55] Correct.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:00] That's really bad.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:05:59] Nobody ever took the costs of all the commercials, the Be All You Can Be commercials and then getting them through eight weeks of boot camp and what that costs. And so I did the math and for at the time, 20 years ago it was like 45,000 just to get one person through boot camp and then we're losing them before their contract is up and nobody's being held accountable for that. And now it's even worse because the military is not meeting their recruiting goals. So, now you're getting a $30,000 bonus just to sign up on top of the $50,000 or $60,000 now to get you through your first days’ weeks. That's an incredible investment that nobody was ever being held accountable for.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:41] And so of course, if you get through boot camp and then you go through a little bit of your job training and then you go, “You know what, I don't like this.” You're talking with that bonus, possibly six figures and then it just 40 percent of these people are unplugging and then leaving.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:06:53] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:54] That's a huge cost to the taxpayer.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:06:56] It sure is and it's a cost of business as well. You know, what they invest in people in training them and then the lost productivity until they find somebody to replace them and now businesses are waking up to the fact that labor isn't free anymore.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:10] Yeah, of course. You know when you go work for a company that they often won't even pay, let's say the recruiter or your signing bonus until you've been there for eight to 12 months because they've seen this movie before.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:07:23] Absolutely.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:0724] The idea that people then counter recruiting in some military was interesting. I hadn't thought about that. But yeah, if somebody leaves early and it's one of the 40 percent that leave early and then you are my older brother and you say, “Oh, how was it? My friend is thinking about joining,” and I go, “It sucks man. Everybody there is such a jerk and the food stinks.” They don't sign up. So you've got, you got all these expensive Be All You Can Be commercials on TV, but then you've got all your friends saying, “Screw it, man. It's a trap. Don't do it. That's going to be a more powerful weapon.”
Mike Abrashoff: [00:07:52] Well, and it's the same for businesses in the local community. Especially with the way things go viral today, that if a disgruntled employee takes a video of something that's not appealing and it gets out there, they're out there counter recruiting against you. If they do leave, I always wanted them to leave on good terms so that you came, you did your job and we're going to celebrate the fact that you're choosing not to continue with us, instead of kicking them in the behind and walk out the door.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:22] Yeah, I can. I can imagine that. Even if somebody hates working for you and hates every element of the job, and you mentioned some examples of this in the book, you can still make them feel like at least they counted at the moment, even if it's a 10 percent shred of fondness for the experience.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:08:39] Or to feel like they made a difference and that they contributed to the overall mission. I tried to connect every sailor's job to the completion of the overall mission. Even if they were running the sewage system on the ship, I wanted them to feel important and that we couldn't operate without them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:55] I think somebody who's running the sewage system on the ship--that guy is important.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:08:59] One guy, I went to see him every day to thank him, because he had a crappy job down in the bowels of the ship, and I went down ladders, hand over fist, four decks down into the bowels of the ship to say, “Sean, you're doing a great job. I appreciate your hard work.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:13] Yeah. Any price? Can I get a window? Can I get a fan down here? Oh man, that's got to be one of the worst jobs because I would imagine anything that gets clogged, it's kind of his purview.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:09:24] It is.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:26] Your ship improved so much that other commanders were then sending people to your ship to learn how you turn things around. Originally, when you started this was not an all-star—
Mike Abrashoff: [00:09:37] We weren't the worst ship in the Pacific fleet, but we were near the bottom. And we had one of the highest turnover rates. We had one of the highest accident rates of any ship in the Navy and the sailors were just disengaged. They were bitter. They were just waiting for their contract to be up. And so this is what I inherited. What I tried to do is to get people to understand, you know, don't be a victim and I didn't feel like a victim and it was focused on the things I can influence and treating our people well in setting high expectations for them were things that I could do and they responded.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:11] Tell us what it was like when you first took command. The story of you first taking command of this ship—When I read this, I thought, “Okay, I would be intimidated,” because it was just sort of like general applause when the commanding officer—
Mike Abrashoff: [00:10:26] No, it wasn't general applause.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:28] Or like jeering. Yeah, that's what I meant.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:10:30] Total disrespect. When my predecessor left the ship for the final time with his parents and his wife and his kids, and as his departure was announced on the public address system, my new crew stood and cheered wildly that he was leaving and I had never heard of or seen such a blatant sign of disrespect in my entire career. And I was terrified. The first thought that went through my mind was, “What do I have to do to keep that from happening to me two years from now when I leave the ship.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:58] I think having somebody essentially booed off the boat.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:11:01] Right. It's a verdict on their tenure.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:06] Yeah. I don't know if this is just predecessor, but there were some stories of him really throwing his weight around and like doing kind of everything wrong that you could—
Mike Abrashoff: [00:11:18] He's a brilliant man.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:20] Yeah. You have to be nice about it now.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:11:22] But he never left his comfort zone and he was an engineer his whole life, and so we focused on the engineering plant and tried to do everything himself. And so his engineers fold their arms and said, “Okay, you do it,“ and they became the first new construction ship in the history of the Navy to flunk their first engineering certification. It is because instead of becoming the Captain, he wanted to be the super chief engineer. I see that in business all the time. Like a very good salesperson becomes head of sales and then they have to become the super salesperson and close every deal. Instead of training the other salespeople to close deals on their own, they have to be seen to be doing it all and it doesn't end well.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:06] It's funny you bring up the sales example. That's one of the most classic problems in sales as promoting your best salesman to a sales manager because I think at its core, a lot of salesmen don't want to be a sales manager in the first place.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:12:18] Correct. They're happy working by themselves being individual contributors and they're not prepared to step into a leadership role. They've done nothing to prepare themselves. What happens in that situation, they can drive the good people out, who have options and want to be hired by other companies.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:35] Yeah. LeBron James doesn't want to be the coach. He wants to be the player that's given interviews and stuff like that. And sales guys a lot of times especially are like that because they're the ones that get the most flexibility. They don't have to necessarily show up to all the meetings. They're generating business and then you say, “Here's a stack of paper, manage all these other people and make them look good,” and they go, ”What are you talking about? I'm the one that makes a bunch of money and gets bonuses. I'm not sitting here trying to schlep people around. Laying low and taking no risk in the military also sort of historically is a great way to get promoted and take no risk.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:13:09] It is you can get by if nobody notices you, you don't screw up and you don't go out on a limb and try new things you can get by, but it doesn't get outstanding performance. And what drove me at this point wasn't my next promotion. I never wanted to have to write to the parents of any of my sailors telling them that their sons or daughters weren't coming home because we didn't give it our best. It wasn't about just getting by. I wanted to put ourselves in a position to control our own destiny so that if we go into combat, we come out number one because we're not playing to come in number two. Everything that we did on that ship was driven towards controlling our own destiny and creating a climate where every sailor—I used to tell them, I don't care what your age is, I don't care what your rank is, I don't care how long you've been here. You can come to work every day and challenge every process on this ship and if you have an idea on how to improve something --one percent-- I want to hear from you. I wanted to create, and I think we did an intellectually curious organization that didn't fear change but actually embraced it and led it so that we could control our own destiny. That's what's at stake today in the business, in every organization globally.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:23] I think that's highly unusual for the military of course. Because you think rules should be questioned and challenged, that's not really kind of a mindset or a paradigm that you see applied often to top-down command structures, at all ever.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:14:37] Where junior people can question me in the appropriate moment—Is this the best way to do this? I'm free to admit that my way may not always be the best way and I'll listen to what you have to say. When I listened to my sailors, they take ownership and what my goal was is to get away from that top-down command-and-control and to get them to take ownership of their own destiny. They came together, formed a great team, had a shared sense of responsibility, and we became the leader in our industry.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:11] And the timing has to be important. Because if you're engaged in a military exercise or God forbid actual combat, now is not the time to go, “You know, I don't think we should handle this way. I've got another idea. Let me walk upstairs.” It's like, ”No, do this unquestioningly now and then maybe later improve the process.”
Mike Abrashoff: [00:15:26] That's exactly right. Because when people take ownership, discipline improves, and if I've got a missile coming at me and I give the order to shoot, I don't want them to say, “Hey, Captain, have you thought of this?” There are times when you have to be directive, but if you're a directive 24/7 it wears people down and they don't have the mental stamina or the physical stamina to do what's required and so that direction has to be saved for when it's critical and you really need them to do something then and now in order to save your organization.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:59] Yeah, I think now you don't need robots controlling these different computer systems and things like that. You want to leverage their skills as humans essentially. It's not a crew rolling a Roman or a Greek ship anymore where they need to fire arrows and cover themselves with a shield. You need people going, this doesn't look right. I'm going to run this up the flagpole and double-check it. And if I think of your top-down all the time, you just end up with people going, I don't have to think, I'm going to hear what I need to think from the top.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:16:28] You're going to create order takers and order takers don't take accountability for the results.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:32] Yeah. And that can obviously generate huge problems later on.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:16:34] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:35] One thing that seemed a key distinction is you promoted the organization. You never promoted yourself.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:16:41] Correct.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:41] Or maybe not never. But in this particular situation, why is this distinction important? Because I think a lot of people end up running into problems because they ended up promoting themselves instead of the organization. And that's what rubs people the wrong way.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:16:55] My sailors had a term for it me-me-me, I-I-I. And that's what they said about previous leaders on their ship, that they were just in it for themselves. I took a step back and I'm willing to admit there may have been times in my career when I may have been perceived that way. So, I wanted to go the other way and put them—They got the credit and when something didn't work out, I took the blame. As a result, they became even more dedicated and loyal. And what's funny is when I stopped caring about my next promotion, they delivered the results that got me promoted for years to captain ahead of my classmates from the Naval Academy.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:35] So there's something there obviously.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:17:39] If you focus on results, you will get the credit. It will come back to you.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:17:46] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Mike Abrashoff. We'll be right back.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:51] This episode is sponsored in part by Better Help. I love the fact that this exists. This is online counseling, so these are licensed professional counselors who specialize in issues like depression, stress, anxiety, relationships, sleeping, trauma, sleeping --I didn't do much of that last night-- anger, family conflicts, grief, self-esteem. All of that stuff. I know it's a long list. We all got troubles. Connect with your professional counselor in a safe and private online environment. What that means is everything is confidential, everything's convenient. You don't have to drive across town and get a parking space. You don't have to worry about finding an appointment with your therapist during the hours that you're not at work. I mean, I'm thinking people can go to their freaking car on their lunch hour and do a secure video or phone session. There's chat, there’s text with a therapist, and if you're not happy with your counselor, you can just get a new one. There's no charge for that. I love the fact that this exists. Therapy needs to be more convenient and certainly more affordable. Jason.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:18:44] This is a truly affordable option and for our listeners, you can get 10 percent off your first month with discount code Jordan. Why get started today? Go to betterhelp.com/jordan. Simply fill out a questionnaire to help them assess your needs and get matched with a counselor you'll love. That's betterhelp.com/jordan.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:02] This episode is also sponsored by Nobull. At first, I saw this sponsor and I thought, “Athletic gear. Do they know me? What were they thinking?” But they sell footwear, apparel, and accessories and I thought, “All right, you know, I'll, I'll do it. I'll check it out.” Best t-shirt that I've ever —I know that the t-shirts probably not their focus— but this is the softest, nicest fitting t-shirt I've probably ever owned. It's really, really something else. Like it's strong. I wear to the gym, but I can also wear it anywhere. It's like super thin, really fine cotton that stretches a little but doesn't look like those guys that are vacuum-sealed into their gym gear if you know what I mean. Those guys that walk around and it's like, “I can see the hair around your areola poking through your shirt.” Like, no thanks. So they've got really, really nice stuff. The simple design is what I like about it. It's built to perform. It's been around for a few years since 2015. Ideally, what they're, what they're going for is take everything off that you don't need. So it sort of minimalist athletic gear that has to work hard with you in the gym or with your activities. There's no gimmicks. There's no BS. Now, we're coming full circle here. Jordan finally got the light bulb on why they call it Nobull, so it's cross-training, weight lifting intervals, cardio or me walking around the neighborhood with the sun hat on cause I'm an 85-year-old man now, but it's lightweight, it's breathable. The shoes are great as well. It's really, really comfortable and it looks really good. Jason.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:20:27] For simple, durable and functional training gear visit nobullproject.com/harbinger. It's training gear for people who work hard and don't believe in excuses. Visit nobullproject.com/harbinger and get your gear today. That's N-O-B-U-L-L nobullproject.com/harbinger.
[00:20:46] Thanks for listening and supporting the show. To learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard from our amazing sponsors, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. Don't forget we have a worksheet for today's episode, so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of the key takeaways from Mike Abrashoff. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. If you'd like some tips on how to subscribe to the show, just go to jordanharbinger.com/subscribe. Subscribing to the show is absolutely free. It just means that you get all the latest episodes in your podcast player as they're released so you don't miss a single thing from the show. And now back to our show with Mike Abrashoff.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:24] I almost went to the Naval Academy and I luckily decided, “Hey, you know, I don't know if I can handle this and if I want to handle this and I should probably think about that before dedicating the next, I don't know, 12 years or something.”
Mike Abrashoff: [00:21:35] I hate it all four years. I'm not going to lie, but I'm glad I went there.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:39] Yeah, I mean, it's a great school.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:21:40] It is. You know what's funny, today it's considered one of the top academic schools. And there are surveys of hiring managers in the Naval Academy ranks 12 or 13th of colleges that hiring managers want to hire from.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:53] I think anybody would be lucky to hire somebody who went to a school like that because you know that not only are they qualified, they're also going to do the work which is now we should be table stakes but isn't anymore. So, the value of somebody who's willing to put their head down and put their nose to the grindstone is now increasing today. There's a lot of innovation that you mentioned in the book as well. For example –I almost didn't even believe this— You use the ship's food ration to buy civilian brands, which are cheaper and tastier. How come if civilian brands are cheaper and tastier, why don't we always use those? Because the Navy wanted to buy used bulk contracts in the hopes that it would standardize everything. But a lot of times the quality decreased after the contract was let and we really weren't getting the best prices. I knew the rules and it's just that nobody ever pursued it before because it took the extra work, but we use the rules to our advantage. We live within the rules but we tried to do what was best and what was most economical for the taxpayer as well. That's why we went out and bought food off commercial from commercial sources.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:11] It seems like common sense. I do understand that look, if you've got cabinets that measure this and you need to fit 40 cereal boxes in there, you buy the ones that fit in there 40 at a time. But if you buy Cheerios from Walmart, you can only fit in 32 boxes and now you come up a little short. There are probably reasons behind some of this.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:23:29] I didn't get into those reasons.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:30] You didn't get into those. You just went—
Mike Abrashoff: [00:23:31] I had people who were worried about that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:33] People want Cheerios. Damn it, I'm going to get Cheerios.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:23:35] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:36] Yeah. I don't want Navyoes, all right.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:23:38] Well, what was disgusting is like we'd get these five-gallon tins of peanut butter and you cut the top off and there's like two inches of grease on the top. And it's like we put that out on the chow line for the sailors and there's nothing remotely appealing about that. Why don't we get Jif? Why don't we get Skippy peanut butter that is fresh every time you opened the top. So, stupid stuff like that that we challenged and people could have challenged it before. But it always follows the rules and not challenge them and I'm going to challenge the rules. If something doesn't make sense, we're going to do it and find the most efficient way to get it done.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:18] To be fair, real peanut butter made out of peanuts that don't have chemicals in it. It has that and you stir it and it goes away. Jif doesn't have it, which really freaks me out. Sorry, Jif. But real natural peanut butter has that. Now whether that was what you were getting or whether you just had a layer of random grease on top.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:24:34] It was a layer of random grease.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:35] Yeah. I believe that. Something tells me the suppliers aren't like, “Look, we want to make sure it's all organic.”
Mike Abrashoff: [00:24:41] There was nothing appetizing about this butter.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:43] I believe you. I definitely believe that. You took the balance of the ship's food budget that was left-over after buying civilian brands and sent the cooks to culinary school.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:24:53] That comes out of a different budget. I have like five different budgets. One is food that only goes to food, but then I have a training budget that I sent the cooks to culinary school. What's funny is nobody joins the Navy and wants to be a cook.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:07] Oh yeah, that makes sense.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:25:09] Yet their recruiters have to fill cook quotas and so if you walk into a recruiting office on the 30th of the month and the recruiters haven't filled their cook quotas, well, guess what? You have a 1600 on the SAT—You're going to be a cook.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:22] That seems inefficient though. I remember taking—what is it called the AVAB?
Mike Abrashoff: [00:25:27] ASVAB.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:28] ASVAB, I was close and I remember at the end they went, “Oh, you got a perfect score on this test.” Which is funny because I didn't know a lot of the answers, but apparently they don't count some of the categories like mechanics and spacial recognition, all that stuff they don't care about. They care about math or something. And I went, “Oh good, does that mean that I can have any job I want?” And she was like, “No it doesn't.” And I went, “Ooh, that's kind of scary.”
Mike Abrashoff: [00:25:51] So go figure. We put non-volunteers in the job and then we don't give them the training and we give them substandard food. And what do you get? Crap on the other end. So, I took it to my training budget and sent half of them to culinary school in San Francisco. Guess what? The Navy now has started its own culinary school to train—
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:10] That's great.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:26:11] –how to cook.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:12] You're on a boat for how long at a time?
Mike Abrashoff: [00:26:15] Typically you go on deployment away from homeport for seven to eight months. Now you're not out to sea all that time, but you're out to see 45 days continuously.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:27] That's a long time to eat food that you don't want to eat anymore. The whole ship's morale goes up when you are eating eggs that taste—
Mike Abrashoff: [00:26:36] So, once we won the Spokane trophy, which is the trophy for the best ship in the Pacific fleet, my Admiral came over and asked me how I did. I said, “I didn't do it. The crew did it.” And he said, “Well, what was your top priority?” And I said, “The food,” and that he looked at me quizzically and says, “What?”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:52] How is that possible?
Mike Abrashoff: [00:26:53] How was that possible?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:54] Everybody needs to eat is the answer to that question, right?
Mike Abrashoff: [00:26:56] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:57] Everybody needs to eat. Projecting movies on the deck of the ship, while people do routine tasks and things like that. These are rules that probably don't have a high cost of breaking or these are molds that you can break without too much sort of backlash. I am curious. What was the favorite movie on the ship? Was it Top Gun?
Mike Abrashoff: [00:27:15] Probably Top Gun. Or what was that Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise movie about the Marines in Guantanamo?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:23] Oh, A Few Good Men. Okay. So, it was a military movie, not like gremlins or something like that. And that makes sense. You're from a military family though. Naval Academy?
Mike Abrashoff: [00:27:32] Well, I'm one of seven children and I have a sister who was a nurse in the Air Force and my father served in World War II, but other than that we're not a military family.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:42] Okay. But that's more than a lot of people who have no previous service. I guess the reason I bring that up is because it seems like somebody whose dad was in the military sibling, in the military, and then you go into the Naval Academy--In theory, be the last person to then go, “I'm going to break tradition and break the mold. It seems like that's a job for somebody who's got a background that doesn't have a lot of service in it. It's a little counterintuitive that you would be the person to break all the rules and break all the molds, having a history of military
Mike Abrashoff: [00:28:13] to get in command of the ship. I worked for William Perry, who was the Secretary of Defense and I was his number two assistant. And I sat in every meeting at his for 27 months and they never asked me for my opinion on whether we should bomb anybody or not. I sat in the back row, but I learned and I listened and I saw what it's like to run a large organization and try to improve everything every day. And that's what William Perry told us is to improve every day, be 1 percent better today than you were yesterday. Working for him showed me how to do it, how to challenge the system within the system, and so I had more confidence to go out and do it when I became captain in the ship.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:54] Ah, that makes sense. So you've seen, you saw somebody a few rungs up doing it and you thought, “Okay, well if that's the idea, I can bring this back to where the rubber meets the road.” Okay, that makes sense. So, William Perry was the Secretary of Defense. You mentioned at first 75 percent of your work product got tossed out, but he never gave you any feedback
Mike Abrashoff: [00:29:15] Between me and him is the general, the senior military assistant, Colin Powell had the job, John Kelly had the job, Admiral McRaven who planned the raid on Bin Laden had the job. So, it's the premier two or three job, two or three-star job in the Navy. And so that's who I worked for directly. And so my job, I reported to him and at the beginning, he threw 90 percent of my workout.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:39] Wow. How did you even find that out? You just tell him to come back and be like—
Mike Abrashoff: [00:29:44] I could watch them from my desk and I watched them work every day.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:47] Oh man. So you're just watching him sort of burn everything.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:29:50] Throw everything away, rejected, rejected. If you feel like this and he was the type of guy who never gave you any feedback, positive or negative. And for me that's the worst type of person to work for because you know, if I'm screwing up, tell me about it. If I'm doing something great, tell me about it. But don't just throw my work away and give me no feedback.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:10] Feedback would have made the growth and mentorship process a little easier and faster, I would imagine.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:30:15] But it forced me to get creative on how to get better. And so every night at eight 30 when he went home from work, I would take his classified destruction bag, put it out on his desk, and I'd compare everything of mine that he threw away compared it to what he sent on and I got better.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:33] So, you basically had to go through the garbage and figure out how—
Mike Abrashoff: [00:30:35] Exactly what I did on your work, 8:30 every night I went through the garbage. Last thing I did before going home.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:43] So the moral of the story is going through your bosses garbage but don't—
Mike Abrashoff: [00:30:46] The moral of the story is I started putting myself inside his brain and tried to think how he thought. I would try to make a decision before he ever made a decision. And if he ended up making the same decision that I made, it was like, “Gee, I can think like a three-star.” If he made a different decision, there's a gap in my training that I need to go fill. And what that enabled me to do was start thinking like my boss, anticipating what he needed before he needed it and be there with the solution and he started to trust me. And so I took that with me to the ship. I would put myself in the shoes of my Admirals and I would try to anticipate what they needed, be there with the solution, let them take credit for it; and they become loyal to you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:30] And that obviously where it has at the time you took command, I guess the ship was losing 75 or so percent of its personnel, if not more. And all of your sailors re-enlisted?
Mike Abrashoff: [00:31:41] Almost off yet.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:42] Of course, some people have other plans but everybody who at least was thinking about it.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:31:46] We had the highest retention that year.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:48] That's amazing.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:31:49] After having one of the worst two years prior.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:51] And your ship, broke performance records and then broke many of the same records that they had broke once again. That's a really dramatic turnaround, so obviously what you would learn—
Mike Abrashoff: [00:32:00] And what you, and it was with the same crew.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:02] Right. Yeah. It's not like you just got lucky and got different people.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:32:05] What that tells you is the training was there, the aptitude was there, they just didn't collaborate, they didn't take ownership. And so when you think about the waste and productivity that is going on out there, where if bosses just were more engaged with their people, they might get better production and better performance. That's what I tell my audiences and that's in our consulting business, you know, is how to have that self-awareness as to how you're being perceived so that you can get the most out of your team.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:37] That's great. Because a lot of people are going to go, “Oh well you know, when you have different recruits or you have different sailors, there's all these different variables and you can't really control for that.” But if you had the same people, it's hard to argue that you got lucky with some other sort of factors—
Mike Abrashoff: [00:32:54] I couldn't choose him. That was the same crew. I couldn't choose our missions and I couldn't ask for more money to get the job done. I could be a victim or I could say I'm going to focus on what I can influence. And first and foremost was myself to become a better leader. Because I grew up a top-down, my way or the highway guy. That is a failed leadership strategy and anybody who continues to use it, they're not going to have the people to drive performance. I change first and then asked my crew to change and here I am.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:25] Yeah. I think there's a lot to this. I'll go back to that in a bit, but I know when you are working for William Perry, you set up some high-level meetings between officials in the USA and overseas officials. That whole process sounds really, really complex and you hint at this in the book. A lot of these trips were last minute too, which makes it even more complex and ridiculous, but I would love to hear what's involved in these because if someone says, “Hey, we're going to Dubai in three days, you can't, it's not like going to Manhattan from New Jersey. This isn't, we're flying to Chicago. You need food, transportation, logistics, security. I mean this is the Middle East. You can't just roll in and get takeout.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:34:08] You need air clearance, permission to fly over other countries because our commercial airliners have what's called the Open Skies Treaty where they can fly, but military aircraft have to get permission. I'll never forget it. It was labor day of ‘96 the General's daughter was getting married in Dallas and he took Friday off labor day weekend. I'm going to take a four-day weekend, calls me from the airport at 6:00 a.m. “Mike, nothing's going on this weekend. It'll just be calm and everything will be okay when I get back on Tuesday. Well, at 11:00 a.m., William Perry called me from the Oval Office and said, “Mike, we're going to the Middle East tonight, make it work”. And so I'm there by myself and I've got to move the Secretary of Defense to Middle East countries that he didn't tell me where he wanted to go. So, I had to choose which countries we were going to go to. I had to get the aircraft and pilots can only fly like 14 hours a day. This is more than 14 hours, so I have to line up pilots, all around the world on six-hour notice I have to get security, logistics, transportation. “Oh, and set up the meetings with the foreign heads of state.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:20] Right. That too. Coordinate it with all of their logistics BS too.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:35:24] So, I called the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was a four-star Air Force General. His name was Joe Ralston, one of the best generals we've ever had. And he says, “We're in this together. I'm going to help you do this.” And so—
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:36] That must've been music to your ears at that point.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:35:37] It was that. We left at nine o'clock that Friday night. Over the next 36 hours, we visited five countries, two of them twice. It was non-stop and I had pilots in every city that we landed in so that they could take the plane and take over. Saddam was massing troops on the border with Kuwait again, threatening to invade. And because of that trip, Saddam back down. We planned it on six hours’ notice.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:10] Yeah. And you didn't sleep that whole time, I assume?
Mike Abrashoff: [00:36:12] Not at all. There was a Sergeant in the office. I gave him the keys to my house, go home and pack a bag for me. So, I didn't even get to go home and pack, but it was like my graduation exercise on logistics and planning trips. And what’s neat was it appeared on every news outlet and my parents didn't even know I was going and so we'd land in Bahrain or we'd land in Riyadh and it would be carried live and I'm standing right behind the Secretary of Defense. It was a pretty neat mission. But it's funny, the general said nothing's going to happen.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:45] Yeah, don't worry. Just keep, keep a low profile and we'll be fine. Meanwhile on Al Jazeera at a CNN Live for 36 hours, there you are walking behind. I wonder how the hell your boss felt that blank because he must've been like, “I'm glad I didn't have to deal with this, but also I'm a little bummed that I'm not right behind this.” It’s kind of a big deal.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:37:05] He was bummed that he wasn't there. This was a big deal.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:07] This is a game-time for him and he can't go. “Sorry honey, I got to go to work. It's his daughter’s wedding.” It's like the one thing he could not really skip. That's good limelight for you, I guess at that point though.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:37:20] What's funny is that plane that I chose to fly us was a cargo plane called the C-17 and they were brand new in the inventory at the time and we only had 10 in the entire Air Force. And when I talked to General Ralston, I said, “We're going to take this plane because I can put pilots in the Middle East and stage them there so I have crew rest to move us around. Out of the 10 in the entire inventory, five were in Asia and General Ralston flew all five of them and parked one in every city we might be going to in case our plane broke down. And so this plane was so new, William Perry, he's the Secretary of Defense sat in the cockpit as we were landing the first time. And then he decided to sit in the cockpit again and he turned to me and said, “Boy, this is odd. Everywhere we go there's a C-17.” He says, “We only have 10 in the inventory.” He said, “I wonder how that happened.” And I said, “You don't need to worry about that.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:17] Did you say it happened because I'd been awake for three days?
Mike Abrashoff: [00:38:21] Right, exactly right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:23] I think the moral of this story also is that you try to think as ahead as much as you could so that your boss didn't have to do this stuff.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:38:30] Correct. And I had spent two years preparing to do this by watching the general and how he did this. And so that's what I talk about in my presentations is if you try to train yourself to think like your boss, that's how you climb the ladder of success.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:46] You even called your boss's wife to update her on what was going on. Tell us about this because I think people go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Think like your boss.” And it's like, “Wait a minute. Every little detail here matters.”
Mike Abrashoff: [00:38:56] Correct. And I would let her know what was going on. And what's funny is one day she came into the office just to see me and she thanked me for everything I was doing because I was lifting burdens off her husband's shoulder and that he was coming home happier at night. It's because I was taking more and more of his responsibility and it wasn't the big stuff. It was the crappy little stuff that needed to get done, but he didn't need to do it anymore, so I did it
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:24] Right. I think it's not just, “Hey, thanks for updating my wife.” it's, he then goes, “I don't have to worry about calling her because you're going to do it. And that means that I don't have to worry about this. I don't have to be distracted by this. I don't have to be in a meeting going, ‘Got to call my wife after this. Let me see if I can get 10 minutes to call my wife after this.’ ” He just doesn't have to think about it at all. And that gives him cognitive bandwidth to work on avoiding conflict in the Middle East.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:39:49] And make no mistake about it. The Secretary of Defense's office, as you might expect, is a pressure cooker and you are responding around the world to incidents. Like just this morning, the Iranian shot down one of our drones.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:02] Oh, I didn't know that.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:40:03] $130-million drone that they shot down in the Strait of Hormuz.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:07] Oh wow.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:40:08] And so, I mean we can't say, well this is we'll get to it tomorrow. I mean you have to drop everything you're doing and respond to the crisis all over the world. So it's a, it was 27 months of a pressure cooker that I loved every minute of it, but never want to do it again.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:25] Yeah, I don't think I could do that job. Obviously, you have more training when you're in that position, but if Iran shoots down $130-million drone, it's not an accident. This wasn't a Canadian, “Oops, sorry. We'll cut you a check.” This is Iran. There's a whole lot of this cascade and dominoes all across the whole world.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:40:45] And everybody else, every other adversary and potential adversary is watching what our response.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:52] Sure, everybody's cracking their knuckles and rubbing their hands together and going, “Oh, what are you going to do about this? We'll wait. How is this going to get handled? Do we get to shoot down a drone and then enhance our public profile standing up to the United States or do we go, ‘Wow, good thing we didn't do that because Iran got spanked for that.’ ” You have to really balance that and then go, “if I deliver this message, is it going to result in us servicemen getting killed as a result and then I'm going to regret it or look bad to it.” I mean there are so many things you've got to balance.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:41:19] So, I took that ability to balance to the ship and whenever I did anything I put myself and all the stakeholders’ shoes to try to understand and advance how they were going to perceive it. And if I couldn't perceive it by putting myself in their shoes, I had to do a better job of communicating it to them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:38] Yeah. Of course, the crew in this particular situation, servicemen probably want a response, but they also don't want to be the person who has to then go to Iran and be in the line of fire as a result. And so you have to think about those people. You can't just go, ”Oh well I'm going to look really good if I put all you on the firing line right now.” You have to think about—
Mike Abrashoff: [00:41:56] And that's one of the things that our civilian leaders take personally is their decisions could end up with people dying. And just like every decision I made on the ship could end up with somebody dying. So it's something you take personally and so you need to be measured and, uh, understand the consequences of your actions. Everything I did, I gained it out in my mind before I did it to make sure it was being perceived the right way and that it would get us the result results we were looking for.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:26] There's a line from your book here is if your bosses see you acting independently and they don't have to worry about your judgment, they will give you more independence and freedom and you can use that to innovate and improve your ship. I'm paraphrasing here, I guess, but that's the important part here is when you act such as you're an extension of their brain, then they don't have to worry about what you're doing and then they're not going to sit there and try to micromanage and question you and that gives you a little bit more leeway, which you can then dedicate to—Since I haven't screwed up anything before, how about I improve this process? And they go, “Well, you haven't screwed up anything before, so why not?”
Mike Abrashoff: [00:42:59] I'm calling, I call it the American dream. Never hearing from your boss, never hear from your boss. So I mean, if you're proactive in pushing information and doing things that need to be done, and if your boss doesn't have to worry about you, they'll leave you alone.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:43:14] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Mike Abrashoff. We'll be right back after this.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:20] This episode is sponsored in part by Vincero watches. I know what people are thinking. “I don't need an analog watch. I've got a smartwatch,” but a quality analog watch lasts a lifetime. You can pass it down generation after generation. You don't have to worry about software updates. They don't get outdated. I mean the watch design as a whole, the mechanics behind it have been similar for a pretty long time now. There's a lot more style options as well. Analog watches are a better representation in my opinion, of who you are. They fit better with different clothing. It's not just like, “Oh, I've got a blue band for this one.” There are all kinds of different design tweaks and it just makes it a more personal statement and I like the idea. An analog watch is also great for people who appreciate real craftsmanship and there are not as many distractions. You don't have 7,000 apps going. You're not wearing your phone on your wrist. You can check the time. You don't have to see all these notifications and Vincero has really nailed the market for high-quality, good-looking, precise watches that don't cost a crazy amount of money and they do this really, really well. You're not going to find a better-made watch for this price point. There's you're just not. I've got friends who have watch whatever fetishes if you will, and they're like, “Oh, this looks like a really nice piece. Where'd you get this? How much was this?” They've got over 16,000 five-star reviews. I know how hard it is to get people to review anything, especially a product that already sitting on. So that's kind of a big deal. And they have watches, not for just guys. It's not just bro watches. They've got watches for women. And the one that Jen got is so nice. It's like this rose gold looking watch and it's just like, it looks like a high-end piece of jewelry and she's like, “I don't want to wear this just every day.” And I'm like, “You, you can wear this every day. You can get three of these.” You get 10 of these for the price of one fancy watch from the mall, so I highly recommend these. If you're on the market for an analog watch, Vincero is where you go for that and a lot of people have been given compliments on these, so go and check them out online. Jason, you've got a deal for everybody, I believe
Jason DeFillippo: [00:45:18] Exclusively for our listeners Vincero is giving you 15 percent off your purchase. Go to vincerowatches.com and use code Jordan to save an extra 15 percent. That's V-I-N-C-E-R-O vincerowatches.com and use code Jordan for 15 percent off.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:33] This episode is also sponsored by HostGator.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:45:36] Who are you? What's your story? Where are you telling that story? Relying on the free options offered by social media is like writing the chapters of your life in the sand. When the tide turns, as it did when My Space recently last 12 years of user data, these chapters will wash away. Gone forever. Wouldn't it be nice if you were in complete control of your own archive of memories safely away from the fickle tides of someone else's incompetence? Get your own website with a guiding hand of HostGator and you can be. HostGator has outlasted your favorite social media sites of yesteryear and is likely to outlast the ones you consider unstoppable today, but even if HostGator were to go extinct tomorrow, your website's data remains yours to transfer forever as you see fit. This is why we recommend HostGator for creating and maintaining your best possible online presence. You don't have to know the first thing about programming or design in order to custom craft your own mobile-friendly website. Thanks to HostGator's simple drag and drop builder. Choose from hundreds of themes to effortlessly switch up your presentation as you see fit or run it all on WordPress with a one-easy click. Gauge your site's performance with analytics that don't take a cryptographer to decode. Stay engaged with your audience across the entire social media landscape, accept payments directly from customers and trumpet your presence to the world's most used search engines with HostGator's arsenal of tools at your disposal. HostGator’s 99.9 percent uptime guarantee and around-the-clock support ensure your website is available to the eyes of the world every day and night of the year. Got a tight budget. No worries. As long as you're a new user you get to try any HostGator package for up to 62 percent off the normal price, just for hearing the sound of my voice. And if you're not completely satisfied with everything HostGator has to offer, you've got 45 days to cancel for a refund of every last penny. Check out hostgator.com/jordan right now to sign up. That's hostgator.com/jordan.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:23] This episode is also sponsored in part by Progressive.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:47:27] Saving money on your car insurance is easy with Progressive. It's an average savings of $699 a year for customers who switch and save. In fact, customers can qualify for an average of six discounts on their auto policy when they switch to Progressive. Discounts for just starting a quote online or owning multiple vehicles. Get your quote online at progressive.com and see how much you could be saving. Discounts not available in all states and situations.
[00:47:52] Thank you for listening and supporting the show because your support of our advertisers keeps us on the air. To learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard so you can check out those amazing sponsors, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. Don't forget the worksheet for today's episode. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. And if you're listening to us on the Overcast player, please click that little star next to the episode. It really helps us out. Now for the conclusion of our episode with Mike Abrashoff.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:21] How did you challenge senior officers? You had a couple of rules for this. One was to do it in private, which I think is pretty wise instead of making a whole show about it and then causing them to lose face. But there were a few other rules that you had. The other one that I think requires a little bit of explanation is you had to make it clear that your only agenda was to improve the organization. It goes back to what we were saying before, not self-promotion, promotion of the mission. How do you do that in practice?
Mike Abrashoff: [00:48:49] So, I do it respectfully and I do it privately. If I were to put, you know, people CC on the email, it's generally not a good thing to take away your boss’s options and a few CC other people. Then it reduces their options. And so I want that boss to think I'm only telling him or her about it so that they get to take credit for it. But if I really disagreed with something, I had a way of disarming my boss so that they wouldn't take offense. And I would say, “Can I add, can I ask for an NFL instant replay on this decision or can I throw their red flag? Which means review the play. That was a way to disarm my admirals to let them know that I really didn't agree with what they were doing and can they look at it again. They would always look at it again. Sometimes I'd win, sometimes I'd lose, but I made my objections known and then I saluted when they made the final decision.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:53] That's all you can really ask for, I suppose. I mean for them to go, “All right, I will look at this again. Given what you've said,” is kind of a big deal because I would imagine some of them went, “This guy? Who the hell are you? Just do what I'm telling you.” And you’re, “Well please consider these the following.”
Mike Abrashoff: [00:50:10] For the following reason. And so William Perry called an iron logic. If you lay iron logic out for your chain of command, there's no choice but for them to accept what your decision is.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:22] The idea that you're always asking yourself would I want this printed in the Washington Post? I think is probably wise too. Because I think we've all done something where we think, “Well no one's going to find out, so who cares?” Or this will be fine. What's the worst thing that could happen.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:50:35] These days when everybody has a video on their phone and can text the way what you just did. It can be awfully embarrassing. So if you use that as your guideline, generally you won't be embarrassed.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:47] Right. So it's not, we're not too far away from things actually ending up in the Washington Post and/or a video being made available within 24 hours online for the whole world. Back then it was more maybe of a hypothetical, would I want this to in a year leak out somehow. Now it's like, “Do I want my kids finding out tomorrow that I did this?” Seeing the ship through the crew's eyes as an important concept that you wrote about as well, what does this mean and how do we do it?
Mike Abrashoff: [00:51:16] So after seeing my predecessor getting cheered off the ship or jeered off the shit, it hit me that I can't command excellence sitting in the captain's chair all day. So I spent my days walking the ship and talking to the sailors and I came across the sailor one day and he said, “Captain, we have a term to describe the organization on this ship.” He said, “This ship is like a tree full of monkeys. He said, “You're the monkey at the top of the tree. On every branch, there are different levels of monkeys and we're the monkeys in the bottom branch.” He said, “When you looked down from the top of the tree, all you ever see are smiling faces coming back at you. When we look up from the bottom branch, we have an entirely different view.” So, when that sailor said that to me, “I went, hmm, I got to start putting myself in their shoes and seeing what they're seeing.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:01] Yeah, I think a, I can see where that's going. And you started taking suggestions instead of sitting on tradition. Tell us about the repainting. This is a really good analogy, or I guess a metaphor for what you were doing. This is why a lot of civilians who think, “Oh, it's so simple. We were just banging our heads against the wall looking at this,” because we see our tax money kind of going down the toilet with the fasteners and the rust. This is the kind of thing where we think, how come the whole organization isn't run like this?
Mike Abrashoff: [00:52:34] I interviewed every sailor on the ship individually and I got to know their name, their spouse's name, their children's name, what they were most proud of in their lives, what their goals were. And I also ask them three questions. What do you like most about this ship? What do you like least? What would you change if you were the captain of the ship? And it was their chance to tell me what really irked them about the ship that we could change. And one sailor comes in and says, “Do you know how many times we've painted this ship in the last 12 months?” And I said, “No.” He said “Six times,” and I didn't know it, which means it takes us a month to paint it. So every other month we're painting this ship. And he said to me, “Have you ever painted your home?” I said, “Of course.” He said, “It sucks, doesn't it?” Then I said, “It does. It does suck.” And I said, “Well, what's your solution?” When we add something topside to the hollow of the ship, at the time it was bidding, being put in place with nuts, bolts, screws, washers, and fasteners that are made out of Ferriss metal that rust in saltwater. And when it rusts, it streaks rusting down the side of the ship. And no wonder we have to constantly be re-painting the ship. And when the sailor pointed out to me, hit me that this is $5 an hour work. We've been doing it for forever. No wonder they're demoralized. Well, the way it used to work in the Navy, the people who procure the equipment in Washington never look at the total cost of ownership of what the sailors have to do to maintain that equipment. And they think all we're, we're going to ship this out to the lowest bidder, and they think the labor from the sailors is free.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:09] Right, they're already getting paid. That's the idea.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:54:12] Labor isn't free. And so I'd rather get them out of doing $5 an hour work and have the time in the day to figure out how to defend ourselves better. So, we scoured the globe. It was a global mission because you have to get into tensile strength and everything else. Yeah. Finding stuff that won't corrode but still keep all this equipment in place. We spend about $25,000 painted. The ship didn't have to paint the ship again for the next 10 months. And it came from a sailor who was 21 years old.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:40] Right. He's gone, “Hey, you know, these are rusting and if we use this, it's going to be stainless steel. And if we get it strong enough to, it's not just going to fall off the boat when we turn, so why don't we do this?” And it's like “You might be onto something.”
Mike Abrashoff: [00:54:53] Exactly. Right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:54] It opens up capacity for the sailors to focus on improving systems, getting better at their jobs because the more you're out in the sun painting over rust, the more you're not, I don't know, looking at a radar system and saying, “Hey, if there's a better way to plug this in.”
Mike Abrashoff: [00:55:07] Correct. Right, exactly right. We get out of the low-value work that gives us the time in the day to do higher-value work.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:14] By empowering your sailors, you solved actually a huge communication problem. Can you tell us about this? Because this ended up going all the way to the White House.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:55:23] Sailors watch and you know, people watch every decision you make and everything you do and by me listening to the sailor on the rusty bolts sent signals to other sailors, he'll listen to us. So we get to the Middle East and you know, this was the late ‘90s. You know, we still had AOL dial-up at 56 kilobytes, you know, back in those days, and but because we now had this capability to send data, we didn't have the speed to increase the bandwidth because these are going through satellites and you just can't launch a satellite tomorrow. You have to plan for this. So as a result, we were sending too much, there wasn't enough bandwidth, communications ground to a halt. What of my sailors in a different department in the communications division, John Rafalko, on his own study, the satellite architecture over the Middle East, and he said, “There's a satellite over here that we're only using 10 percent of the capability. If we just switched this over to that satellite, it will solve the problem.” And so I pass it to the admirals’ communicator. He said, “Ah it won't work. Dismissed it.” The first word out of his mouth was no. We waited for another two weeks. It got even worse. I went straight to the admiral. He looked at it and say, “Let's try it.” Switched it over and it cleared the communications problem just like that. And this was so serious. Washington put together a panel of admirals to study the architecture of what our satellites should look at. And they asked me to come to and testify and I said, “Nothing to do with it. I'm taking my petty officer. So, uh, the mid-grade petty officer presented in front of nine admirals who were studying this architecture and he got such rave reviews from this presentation. He got chosen to be President George Bush’s communications advisor and for six years patched in all of the president’s communications.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:24] How old was he at that time?
Mike Abrashoff: [00:57:26] He was probably 27 when he came up with the idea on the ship and he was probably 31 when he went to work at the White House.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:34] That's incredible. So he's a kid at that point, by my standards at 39. At 27, I had no appetite for that level of responsibility, but for him to feel comfortable coming to you and saying, “Hey, if we move this over here, and we switched the comms—” Because the problem was grave. I mean, in the book you wrote that urgent essentially combat communications are being delayed by like six days which is probably a really bad—
Mike Abrashoff: [00:58:00] And the thing is it wasn't even his job to study this. He did it on his own because he saw that we listened to this guy over here about the painting. It gave him permission to challenge this about the satellites.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:14] Tell me about the value of trust because people have to be able to give you bad news. And to do that, they have to know that you're not going to shoot the messenger, which is a really common problem and that something's going to be done about it and they're not going to end up putting their neck out for no reason.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:58:31] I did have to be careful not to shoot anybody when they brought me bad news, and it's something William Perry taught me. He said, “Mike, no matter how hard you try, your ship will never be perfect. And if you don't get the results you're looking for, assume your crew wanted to do a great job. Have that at the starting point. And if you don't get the results, look inward and ask yourself, did you clearly communicate the goals? Did you give them the training necessary to be successful? Did you give them the time and the resources to do a great job, but most importantly did the process support them, delivering the results you were looking for? And there came a time to do an exercise with two aircraft carrier battle groups. We were to screen them from enemy submarines. In the morning, we were to get underway to do this. My number one department head on the ship came to me and said we couldn't participate. And I said, “Why not?” He said, “The sonars broken.” And this is highly complex equipment.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:30] Yeah, you don't just unplug it and plug it back in.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:59:33] Well, sometimes on Monday morning when you flip a switch, a tube breaks or something and it doesn't work. I said, “How long have you known about it?” And he said, “Two weeks.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:42] Oh man. Oh man.
Mike Abrashoff: [00:59:44] And so I didn't yell at him. I didn't scream him. I looked at him just like I'm talking to you. And I said, “John, I've never been more disappointed with anybody in my life than I am with you right now because in the last two weeks you took away all my options.” And one of the things you never want to do to your chain of command is to leave them with only bad options. That's what happens when you cover stuff up and you can't fix it. With all that time that goes by, you take away your boss’s options.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:13] You wrote bad news doesn't improve with age and I'd love that.
Mike Abrashoff: [01:00:15] Correct. Instead of blaming him, I thought he should have known better. And to his credit, he was so outstanding. He thought it could get it fixed on his own without ever bothering me. But at the end of the day, he didn't. And you know, in those two weeks I could've called the manufacturer to come send a tech rep. I could have gotten a part from the logistic system at a minimum I owed it. I owed it to my chain of command to let them know we were not mission capable. And so I changed the process afterwards of what you need to do when a piece of equipment breaks and you have 60 seconds to pick up the phone and call me and tell me about it and say, “This broke, here's my plan to get it fixed. This broke, I don't have a plan, let me get back to you. Or this broke, I need your help.” And so I put in a new process so that it didn't happen again. But I never yelled at him I just looked him in the eye and said, “I'm very disappointed in you,” and he felt worse if I’ve yelled at him.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:14] Sure. Yeah, of course. Because he wants you to yell at him at that point. Let me get punished now so I don't feel so damn guilty about it. The idea, the moral here, the rule never bring petty problems upward if you can solve them yourself. But with big problems, go get them early, covering them up early, bring them up early, because bad news doesn't improve with age. And I like this idea because if you do your homework and you don't go up with petty problems, bosses or higherups will finally--if you've do finally come to them with something, they'll listen. And Jocko Willink, I don't know if you've heard of him.
Mike Abrashoff: [01:01:46] I have.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:47] So he's been on the show. Yeah, I would imagine.
Mike Abrashoff: [01:01:51] Extreme Ownership.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00] Yes. Yeah. He mentioned in Extreme Ownership that when the COs would come and say, “Hey, what do you guys need?” A lot of the other commanders would say, “Oh, we need better wi-fi. And we got, you know, our weights, we need a squat rack because we can't—” He would say nothing. Nothing. We don't need anything. We don't need anything. We don't need anything. So that when he finally said, “Hey, we need this, they went, ooh, Task Unit Bruiser they never asked for anything.” So now that he's asking for this different thing, let's get him that. This isn't a guy who says we need faster wi-fi. This is a guy who says we're good. So when he says this optic isn't working, he means this is not going to work. That's really important. You only ask when you really need something, but you communicate enough so that your bosses are aware of that. How do you know when to break the rules? Like do we have rules for breaking rules, guidelines?
Mike Abrashoff: [01:02:41] So I had a rule on the ship. If what you're doing could kill somebody, injure somebody, waste taxpayers’ money, or do damage to the ship, don't go there without me. The other rule I had was we don't waste taxpayers’ money and if what we were doing appeared on the front page of the Washington Post tomorrow, would we be proud or embarrassed? And so rules are guidelines, and it's like guardrails on a highway. Generally, you want to stay within the guardrails because when you go outside the guardrails, bad things are going to happen. So, that's what rules are and so it doesn't mean you have to go straight down the center of the highway. You could go to the left or you could go to the right and we leave you the option to decide what is best for you. And to me, that's what rules our guard. They're guard rails that you have to stay within, but if you want to go down the right side of the guardrails, have that and that's what we decided to do.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:37] Yeah. I think this goes in line with people not telling you the problem is actually this is dangerous, but as long as they're able to innovate within a certain set of guidelines, I suppose you would allow outside the guidelines or outside the guard rails as long as they say, “Hey, look, this is a big problem and I need to go, I need to make a detour through this. What do you think? Do I have your permission to give us a shot?” There's a set of responsibility or a level of responsibility that you're giving to these sailors, to these people under your command that they know they can, they can bend things, but if they need to break something, they need to at least give you a heads up or maybe get cleared for that beforehand.
Mike Abrashoff: [01:04:17] If I can get fired for it, you'd better tell me.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:20] Yeah, that's a good rule. I know you intercepted some smugglers from Iran and you had to board ships and inspect them. And I'm curious, how do you search a ship because it seems really hard and really dangerous and ships aren't exactly—it's not like looking in this room. I mean there's all these nooks and crannies and pipes and—
Mike Abrashoff: [01:04:34] And their cargo ships aren't very dedicated to comfort. So you're going into these cargo holds that could have methane gas in them that could kill you or they're not airconditioned. So the big thing is checking the manifest and then spot-checking the cargo containers to make sure it matches the manifests. And if you see something amiss, then you bring it to the attention for more thorough inspections.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:00] I mean, this is a needle in a haystack situation, right? You're looking for a hundred kilos of heroin and the ship has 700,000 tons or whatever those things carry of automotive parts. It almost seems hopeless to be able to find something like that.
Mike Abrashoff: [01:05:17] So by and large, it was an effective program. But I'm not going to sit here and tell you that the contraband did not get through. I'm sure it did. But we have to balance how much time it takes to inspect versus what the return is going to be. So, we came up with a metric on things we needed to do and we would do it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:37] It seems really dangerous to go, “Hey we're going to get on this Iranian ship,” that probably has guns and drugs on it and these guys might know that that stuff is in there and I'm just going to send a bunch of --I mean these are qualified sailors-- they're in their 20s and 30s but still like how you got to have the eyes on the back of your head.
Mike Abrashoff: [01:05:56] That didn't worry me as much as the physical danger of methane gas or something. That worried me more.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:04] So you're less worried about them getting shot in the back looking at the boat because you know you're going to just sink them if that happened.
Mike Abrashoff: [01:06:09] Correct.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:10] Okay. That makes sense.
Mike Abrashoff: [01:06:11] The threat of the implied power or what we're going to do to you if you get out of line.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:16] Yeah, that's interesting. I suppose if I were a smuggler, I would probably mind my P's and Q's when there's a bunch of—
Mike Abrashoff: [01:06:22] Or take a different route.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:23] Yeah. Extreme kind of weapons aimed right at the haul of my boat. And my best case scenario is getting torn in half by those. Yeah. It's the methane gas I suppose at that point. They don't become wealthy smugglers by playing Russian roulette with their lives. You almost shut down the fleeing Kuwaiti Air Force that could have been in a big mess.
Mike Abrashoff: [01:06:46] This was before I took him into Benfold. So I've made seven-month deployments to the Middle East and I have no desire to ever go back there again.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:59] No vacation plans.
Mike Abrashoff: [01:07:00] I'll fly through there, but I've seen it all. And so we were there on the 2nd of August 1990 when Saddam invaded Kuwait. And at 4:30 that morning, we detected 21 unknown fighters come and directly at our ship and we sound the general quarter's alarm. And I get to my radar screen and I'm looking at these 21 fighters and I'm thinking, “We'll be able to shoot down many of them. But I gave us only a 50 percent chance of being able to shoot down all 21,” and we have to be perfect and we have to be right 100 percent of the time. And the first thought that went through my mind that morning was my life insurance is paid up and in my will is up-to-date. And we track these fighters as they got closer and closer. And just as we were getting ready to fire the first missile at them, they hung a right turn into Saudi Arabia. We later found out that it was the Kuwaiti Air Force fleeing Kuwait that morning.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:07:50] Why didn't they say anything? Or they couldn't?
Mike Abrashoff: [01:07:5] We wouldn't have trusted them if they said, “We're Kuwaitis”. We would've thought, “Oh, your Iraqi's lying to us.” So they're in a no-win situation.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:04] And there is no, at the time there was no like AWACS going, “Hey, we got—"
Mike Abrashoff: [01:08:09] At the time there were none in the air.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:12] Wow. What our capabilities have come pretty far since then.
Mike Abrashoff: [01:08:14] Now they’re up continuously.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:16] So AWACS those are the big 747 looking things with a big, the UFO dish on top.
Mike Abrashoff: [01:08:21] They're actually 707, but they have a UFO dish on the top.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:25] And that says, this is a MiG that's from Iraq and we've tracked it since it took off.
Mike Abrashoff: [01:08:29] Correct.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:30] So, this just pops up and everyone's going, “I don't know, it looks like a MiG, but it could be Kuwaiti and it could be Iraqi. We don't know.”
Mike Abrashoff: [01:08:36] And there's no other us shipped within a hundred miles of us.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:39] So it's not one of—Oh man. Yeah, that's a scary thing to wake up to. I would imagine
Mike Abrashoff: [01:08:44] It actually made the Wall Street Journal the next day. That's how big a deal this was. And after the excitement died down, I started thinking I don't like a 50 percent chance of survival now. And so from that formed everything I did on Benfold in that we are going to win with overwhelming force and not have a 50 percent chance of survival.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:06] Yeah. Yikes. You often gave people who technically weren't qualified for maybe that particular task, a lot of responsibility and a lot of people argued this is too much for their level. But what are you looking for specifically? Like, okay, of course, they can do the job, but what would you look for now maybe outside the Navy and somebody who underutilized at work.
Mike Abrashoff: [01:09:26] If they have the desire to do it and if they have the aptitude to do it and if they have the desire in the aptitude, I can train you to do anything. And so, if they don't have the desire, I've either got to create that desire or keep them in their current position where they can't do any harm. And so attitude is what I look for and I figure everything else I can work with.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:54] How does somebody, let's say I feel underutilized at work, how does someone who feels like they're underutilized at work bring this up to their boss without sounding like an arrogant ass who just thinks too much of themselves or overestimates their own capability?
Mike Abrashoff: [01:10:08] I would come with the plan, I would identify things that I would like to be doing extra or in addition to. What people need to think about is they need to plan for their future and how they control their own destiny when the workplace is changing and even the concept of work is going to be changing. If you wait till it already changes and you haven't prepared for it, you're going to be a victim. But if you anticipate what that future is going to look like and then you start adding that skill sets and you will have a job and you'll be in control of your own destiny. I'm laughing because I'm thinking of my sister. She was getting older. She was 58, and she wanted to work for another eight years and she saw people her age getting downsized. And so she studied to become the tech manager of her group in addition to doing her sales job, she became the tech expert at age 58, and so she never got downsized and she was able to work until age 66 because she saw what was happening and acquired the skills so that it wouldn't happen to her. If I'm out there in the workforce today, that's one of the things I'm looking at is what do, what skill set do I need to continue to acquire so that I control my own destiny?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:31] Sure. So let's say you're in a sales position and you're thinking, “Huh, our sales methods are really outdated. We need a new CRM.” Maybe you go explore CRM options, present those to your boss. Your boss says, “Well, maybe we can do this in two years. So then in the meantime, you learn how to use Salesforce and then when it comes about, you go, “Hey, I'm already pretty well-schooled on this. I've taken some Skillshare classes, I know how this works. I've got a contact that's going to help train us. We can bring them in.” Then they're going, “All right, well, you're essentially in charge now of this,” which is a good place to be rather than, “Well you're the slowest one learning Salesforce and we needed to let someone go. So you're on the chopping block.”
Mike Abrashoff: [01:12:08] Exactly how it works.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:10] So you kind of as a boss, assume everyone is inherently talented enough unless they've proven otherwise and then challenge them to catch up to that expectation.
Mike Abrashoff: [01:12:18] I assume they want to be there. Okay. Because we're all volunteers. Yeah. So I assume that you have the attitude and that you want to be there and then I have to make the assessment whether you have the technical capability to do what's required of you and whether I can train you to get that technical capability. So that's what I'm assessing.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:38] How did your unconventional leadership affect other leaders in boats? Because I would imagine if you've, you've got your guys having a new year's party on a barge or you're eating civilian brands, there's got to be other—Word travels fast, even in the ships. So there's got to be leaders who are going, “Damn it, Abrashoff. I don't want to buy Cheerios. Why do you keep making waste? You're making my job harder. You're making us look bad.”
Mike Abrashoff: [01:13:03] It could make their job harder. But what's interesting now is I'm the references my book gets in the private sector. And last July 18th, my book It’s Your Ship got a shout out in Sports Illustrated and they're doing an article on the Philadelphia Eagles offensive line coach. And that previous year, the Eagles were acknowledged to have the best offensive line in the NFL. And they asked him how he did it and he said, I used to be a my way or the highway hard-ass and five years ago somebody gave me this book called It's Your Ship. And he said, “I realized I needed to become a better leader. And so suddenly the players are able in team meetings to provide suggestions on things that they're seeing, things that they might be able to do better. And so Jeff --his name is Jeff Stoutland-- became a better coach and a better leader and the players took greater ownership when they go to the Super Bowl.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:14:01] Even my limited middle school football experience, we had a really good coach and he said, “If you're on the offensive line,” —which I was at the time, that just goes to show how long ago this was, I was one of the biggest kids in the football team at five, four, or whatever I was in seventh grade. He said, ”If there's somebody who's not blocking you and you can make a hole, you got to come and tell us.” And no other coaches were doing that. They were just running plays. And if they didn't notice that there was a hole there, it just never happened. So I remember all of our lines would say, “Hey, there's a hole here, there's a hole there.” And we would, we went all the way on, we dominated the whole, the whole league at that point. So unique.
Mike Abrashoff: [01:14:36] It was unique. So after this appeared in Sports Illustrated, I tracked Jeff Stoutland down. I said, “I want to come to Philadelphia to get my photo taken with you and the offensive line.” And he let me, and while I was there, he told me that during the Super Bowl they ran a play the game two yards and one of the offensive linemen saw something and went to Stoutland and said, if we run this exact same play again, only put this person in his left guard, we'll gain more yardage. Stoutland takes it to Doug Pederson, the head coach, they run the exact same play again and it went for a touchdown and it turned out to be the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl. And it came because a linemen saw something that nobody else saw and they listened to him.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:18] That's incredible because of course a lot of people look at lineman, of course, just spectators but also I would imagine players and coaches and they go, “These are the guys that are job is just to follow. They're not supposed to innovate. They're supposed to stand there and not more.”
Mike Abrashoff: [01:15:30] They’re supposed to execute. Well, let’s do the thinking. You execute.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:34] You're, yeah, you're not paid to think one of those kinds of positions. Do you think that this type of out of the box tradition-breaking is the type of thinking that's going to be necessary to win future conflicts against unconventional enemies like ISIS, criminal gangs?
Mike Abrashoff: [01:15:47] Absolutely. We, we have to become more entrepreneurial and we are the good news. We were raising a new generation of military who are awfully entrepreneurial and think outside the box. But my first shout out in Sports Illustrated was the 9-August-2004 edition. They were doing an article on Bill Belichick and in this article they asked him what his favorite leadership book was and he said, It's Your Ship. And so most, most people either love Bill Belichick or they hate his guts. There is no middle ground when it comes to him. But you have to admit deep down, even if you hate him, he's probably the best coach of any sport in the United States today. It's because he's technically competent what he does. He has a passion to win, but he takes castoffs from every other team in the NFL. He brings him to New England and the first thing he instills in them is the concept of teamwork and shared responsibility. That's what we did on the ship wasn't still that concept of shared responsibility and teamwork and that's what got all that talent that was there previously to work together as a team.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:54] Well, thank you very much for your service and for your time today.
Mike Abrashoff: [01:16:58] It's my honor. Jordan. Thanks for having me on your program.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:17:00] Great big thank you to Mike Abrashoff, the book title is It's Your Ship. And of course, we'll link to that in the show notes as we always do. And we're teaching you how to connect with great people like Mike Abrashoff and the other guests you've heard on the show, you don't have to be booking a show to get value out of this. This is for personal and professional reasons. Everybody needs a network. You got to dig that well before you get thirsty. You don't wait until you need something to reach out to people. You know, how that feels it feels crummy. They're going to ignore you. They're going to think that you're a taker because you didn't put in the work. I've got a free course teaching you how to do this right at jordanharbinger.com/course. The drills take six minutes a day, not even. This is the stuff I wish I knew two decades ago. It's not fluff. It is crucial and it's all free at jordanharbinger.com/course and by the way, most of the guests here on the show actually subscribe to the course in the newsletter. So come join us, we'd love to have you. Speaking of building relationships, tell me your number one takeaway here from Mike Abrashoff. I'm at @Jordan harbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, and there's a video of this interview on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube.
[01:18:04] This show is produced in association with PodcastOne and this episode was co-produced by Jason DeFillippo and Jen Harbinger, show notes and worksheets by Robert Fogarty, music by Evan Viola, and I'm your host Jordan Harbinger. Our advice and opinions and those of our guests are their own naturally. Do your own research before you implement anything you hear on the show. And remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful, which should be in every episode. So please share the show with those you love and even those you don't. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:18:42] A lot of people ask me which podcasts I listen to Mind Pump is a great one. You've heard me talk about it many times before. I've got Sal here from Mind Pump today. You told me about this episode before you did it 1045 but now that it's out. I'm literally already bought the book while I was sitting here waiting to do this particular thing because Dr. Jolene Brighten about birth control.
Sal Di Stefano: [01:19:05] She's awesome. She's a specialist actually in the subject of birth control. Now, here's the thing with this episode that really blew people away. We released this episode and we had a massive influx of messages from women from all over the world who this episode really impacted them. Birth control, we know that it does prevent your body from getting pregnant, but there are a lot of other things that women are just not privy to that birth control can affect. For example, did you know that birth control can affect your mate selection? They've actually shown with studies that women on birth control will prefer a different type of man or a different looking type of man. Then when she's off birth control, the breakup rates and divorce rates spike a little bit. When women meet men on birth control and then go off, for example. There are also potential risks for autoimmune disorders from birth control. There's something called post-birth control syndrome where women go off birth control and then for months just feel really fatigued and have all these terrible symptoms. She goes all into depth about all the things surrounding birth control, how it affects you besides the ways we already all know and understand what to do when you go off of it. She's phenomenal on the subject.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:20:23] This is so fascinating. It almost seems like what you should do is if you're dating somebody and they're on birth control before you pop the question, you've got to be like, wait a minute, stop taking the pill for like three or four months and see if we still like each other.
Sal Di Stefano: [01:20:36] Exactly. That's so interesting. It's fascinating because again, a lot of women don't know or a lot of people don't know that birth control has such wide—And think about it, it is a hormone that you're putting in your body. Just like any other hormone, there's going to be cascading effects that are far-reaching and so she just, her book is called Beyond The Pill and she really goes in-depth in the book, but on the podcast we have just a phenomenal conversation, and she's a very bubbly personality, very, very likable. So this episode just went gangbusters. People enjoyed it quite a bit.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:21:06] I bought the book because I want to bring her on as well and I definitely want to, I definitely want people to listen to this as well. I think most people think I take the pill, it does something in my body that doesn't affect me in any other way, but it just prevents me from getting pregnant. They're not thinking it has effects on the brain. It has effects on other hormone balance—
Sal Di Stefano: [01:21:25] You're microbiome. It's crazy.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:21:27] Yeah. I didn't even think about that. The microbiome. Jeez, there's all kinds of, man, anytime you mess with the body, you're just asking for trouble.
Sal Di Stefano: [01:21:35] There's just, there's just stuff. You need to look at the whole picture. That doesn't mean you shouldn't take birth control, but it is important to educate yourself fully, and so she just gets on the podcast and goes off and it's great.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:21:45] I can't wait. That's one 1045 Dr. Jolene Brighten on Mind Pump. We'll link to it in the show notes.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.