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Gamer: CEO John Allen’s rise from elite basement gamer to Navy SEAL

Ok, so first off John Allen’s  got a unique story, even for a former Navy SEAL, which is saying alot. 

The dude was a video gaming college drop-out living in his parent’s basement before he became a Navy SEAL. So there’s that to start with. 

I’ve been considering a couple of different story arcs for this interesting life story, ’cause that’s what I do. *Spoiler alert- if you you intend to listen and don’t want to ruin it for yourself, you may want to postpone reading this until later. 

Ok.

So perhaps John’s story is that of the underdog; here an unlikely hero becomes the hero in a typical way. In this version a frustrated middle class kid sets out to become a man, discover his purpose as a warrior, and then earns his manhood and more on the battlefield. Now a man he returns home only to re-experience frustration; he’s got to pretend to be something he’s not. So he wages war, but this time not as a frustrated kid, but as a war-tested leader. Man goes back into battle as a CEO fighting for the futures of the elite brotherhood he left behind. 

That sounds pretty tight. 

The alternative arc is that of the typical hero who plays hero in atypical way. Here an eager young man leaves home for adventure, takes up the sword, but only after a brush with death does he discover his true identify and purpose. He then gives himself permission to return home as the man he’d always intended to be. A man who leads a little differently.  

You know how the saying goes, perhaps the truth lies somewhere inbetween.

So “Gamer.” As said, this episode takes you into the life of a frustrated college kid who became the world’s top ranked gamer in a video game called Skate. I’m a 90’s dude, so I remember this. It’s the game that basically killed Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater in 1999, which was a billion dollar + franchise. We’re talking millions of users and an empire turned to dust by this release by EA Sports. Kinda a big deal in the gaming world.

So, yeah, John ruled that. Which if you think about it, is a cool story by itself, but the story gets better.

John is frustrated. So he gets an itch to become a Navy SEAL. But he doesn’t see himself as the typical Navy SEAL candidate. He’s not a “strapping jock,” as he states in the interview. But John defies the odds and does it anyhow.

 So now it’s a very cool story, but still it gets better.

Once on the teams, John’s plans change after a close call in combat and some unfortunate bureaucratic bugaboos. With little time to prepare, he gets hit with a sad reality. Transitioning from the service ain’t easy, and perhaps it’s even worse for former operators. Of course this struggle to shift from combat to domestic life complicates everything, including his marriage. Eventually he gets fed up as a civilian and decides, “hey I’m going fix this shit so my brothers and sisters in arms don’t have to deal with it.” And so he does! John founds a company which places elite vets and fighter pilots into good jobs. 

So now it’s a very, very cool story. But still it gets better!

John gets a visit from the ghost of combat past. He’s forgotten about “The Warrior’s Code.” Operators don’t talk.  So his special forces brothers remind him.  The community brings the heat.  John finds himself in a quandary. He believes if he’s going do any good as a CEO he needs to own his past as a Navy SEAL. Even more conflicting, he doesn’t want to let his identity as a warrior go! Striken with guilt,  he unsure whether he’s doing this for himself or others. And here comes the soul searching.  

Curtain.

So yeah, you get it. John’s story is an exceptional story. It’s paints a powerful portrait of the dilemma our elite solider’s face transitioning back into society and our working cultures. 

John talks openly about the pain of having to surrender his identity as a SEAL when returning home. And he talks openly about the fear of of losing the community he values most – this being his connection to an elite brotherhood. There’s also the added irony of John’s taking on the challenge of making transition easier for future warriors. 

As for me. Well, personally, I think this is a great episode so listen.  But really, as an interviewer I don’t always have the luxury of clicking with everyone. And I did with John. We had some funny similarities, gaming, philosophy majors, BUDs. But John’s objectivity, humor and humility really endeared me to him. He’s capable of talking to both the foibles and nobility of the warrior’s job and journey. I think you’ll hear what I’m referring to if you choose to tap in. 

Highlights of this episode include insights into; 

  • how a gamer becomes the best in the world without actually knowing it 
  • how a pair of swim trunks can become a weapon to inspire powerful change 
  • why luck matters in Navy SEALs training
  • How a near-death experience can rewire a person’s priorities
  • what many military spouses of Special Forces operators fear most
  • what motivates an operator to break age old unwritten warrior’s code
  • what some elite warriors fear about transitioning back into civilian life, i.e. what it means to “come down the mountain”

Watch the Story Trailer for this episode below:

 

Listen:

Listen to “Episode 19 – Gamer” on Spreaker.