John Foley: From Pilot to High-Performance Speaker
This pilot turned speaker is making an impact to change the world in a very big way.
John Foley’s dream of becoming a pilot for the Blue Angels started when his father took him to his first air show as a child. Little did he know his dream would eventually become a reality. After he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1982, he became a Marine Instructor pilot and was recognized as a Top Ten Carrier Pilot six times during his service in the Navy before fulfilling the dream of the most significant job of his life.
Dreams Really Do Come True
Shortly after earning his pilot status from the Navy, Foley became a lead solo pilot for the famous Blue Angels, the United States Navy’s flight demonstration squadron flown by America’s most qualified tactical aviators from the Navy and Marines. If you ever had the opportunity of going to an airshow, it’s likely that you’ve witnessed the beautiful precision of these powerful jets as they roar across the sky.
During his career as a Blue Angels pilot, Foley regularly performed in high-risk situations. He flew his jets at speeds of 500 mph and sometimes more. He had to rely on the trust of his fellow pilots during multiple formations as close as 18 inches apart in flight. From air shows across the country to multiple practice runs and tactical combat scenarios, he learned quickly how to excel as a team player.
While this experience may sound exhilarating or extremely frightening, it made Foley an extraordinary leader. He refers to his many intense situations in the air to teach critical life lessons during many leadership and self-improvement conferences around the world. His exciting, one-of-a-kind journey as a fighter pilot has inspired many people to live life at full capacity personally and professionally, causing many to rethink that all things are possible in life.
“What I learned from being with the Blue Angels had nothing to do with flying itself, I learned that the process of engaging at this high level, when my very life depended on successful communication, accurate information, trust, and follow-through, is the same process leaders and successful individuals use to achieve success,” says Foley about how his past flight experiences transformed him into the world class self-help public speaker he is today. He believes so much in his experience as an aviator to help others live their best lives that he shows actual flight footage in his presentations to drive home his main points to his audiences.
From Flight to Coaching Others
After retiring from his career with the Blue Angels, he went to the Stanford Graduate School of Business. While there he became a Sloan Fellow and earned three master’s degrees in business management to advance his education as a business leader and self-help coach.
The Premiere Speakers Bureau’s website describes Foley’s self-improvement presentations as having three prevailing points: A contagious attitude of gratitude that he calls “Glad To Be Here,” an energizing delivery that inspires high performance with a higher purpose than oneself, and a practical solution for living out his message that works in organizations as it does in the Blue Angels. Foley strongly believes in the importance of controlling one’s brain to think strategically for success in all areas of life, and how having the right mindset and being clear of mental distractions are crucial to achieving everything wanted in life.
To further emphasize on how his past experiences are directly related to what he teaches today, Foley speaks on the importance of mental focus, the myth of multi-tasking, and how it compares to flying a Blue Angel jet. At a TEDex Talk event in May of 2018, Foley passionately expresses, “If you can learn how to focus your mind, you have real power. Every time I snap my fingers, sixty-five frames hit your eyeballs. The human brain cannot focus on two things at one time but because you give sixty-five chances a second you think you are multi-tasking. You are not, you are doing the same thing I was doing in my jet, when I was flying 500 mph, 100 feet of the ground, and inverted with an imposing jet coming at me at over 1,000 mph closer. You have to be able to slow these frames down and block out all distractions to do what I had to do.”
Leaving a Legacy
Today, Foley is recognized as one of the top 10 most in-demand speakers. He is the author of the self-help book The How of High Performance and consults with many Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, venture capital companies, and educational organizations on how to win in leadership, team building, and business.
He also created the Glad To Be Here Foundation in 2011 to support a wide variety of social, educational, and environmental services around the globe. Foley donates ten percent of his proceeds to charities and has thus far given over $1 million to positively impact thousands of lives around the world by setting them up for success in ways that they may not have been able to.
John Foley is a unique individual who lives his life with an attitude of genuine gratitude. A saying of his gives insight on who he is as an individual, “Thankfulness is something that you offer to others in exchange for their kindness. Gratitude is something that comes from within you and that you give to the world around you.”