One’s destiny does not depend on one’s wealth. It is neither measured by the amount of money that one has in his or her pocket. It is how one chooses to live his or her life. Film producer, director, professor and motivational speaker John Duffy shares the profound sense of enlightenment that he gained from his vast journey of twists and turns that he has gone through in life. From being a high school dropout, he has overcome the odds to become a successful Hollywood producer and professor. John takes us into his past where he was involved with revolution, getting disillusioned, finding a mentor in the person of Tony Robbins, being in Hollywood and the military, and all experiences he has gone through that honed his amazing uniqueness. Learn from his story’s powerful message and get absorbed into the depth of his wisdom as he pays respect to the American dream that his parents gave him.
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From Left To Right And Meeting In The Middle with John Duffy
This is going to be a special episode. We’ve got somebody that I love and adore and have become a dear friend of mine with a fascinating story and a fascinating pathway. It’s timely that we’re speaking to him now because of the political climate. This is a gentleman that’s been on both sides of the equation all the way. He’s a speaker. He hangs out in Hollywood. He’s been an actor. He’s a director. He’s writing stuff. He’s all over the Hollywood scene. His talk that he does for people is From Mao To Reagan. That will give you a little bit of a flavor for how our conversation’s going to go.
He’s very giving. He’s been part of a lot of the philanthropic stuff. He’s supported heavily A New Dawn for the domestic violence side of things. He’s supporting Bringing Happy Back around mental health and anti-suicide and is involved in a lot of stuff. He’s an all-around good guy and I have been looking forward to this conversation. Introduce yourself to the audience and tell us a little bit about where you come from. We’re going to talk about the normal subjects that we usually address on this show. This is a reminder. This show has been put together around the idea and the concept of being a guide and for people that are going through different challenges or looking for different angles to think about different subjects. Blatant honesty and revealing those things that sometimes we keep hidden. Doing that with my own life and my own path and acting as a guide so other people can step up and be the hero of their own lives and giving them more tools.
I’m inviting members. I’m inviting guests that have a different perspective from different angles and the people I love, adore and respect in my own life that have radically different views of things. To show the fact that we can have great conversations and come up with a better solution than either one of us could have come up with if we are in integrity. If we’re in that mindset we want to come up with a better solution. If we’re in that mindset that, “It has to be my way and my side, and I’m a Democrat, I’m a Republican, I’m an independent or whatever it is,” this isn’t the show for you. My evolution, John’s evolution as you’re about to hear has everything to do with keeping your mind open. Everybody in our audience can look back and John, I’m looking forward to some of your beliefs because they’re more pronounced than the normal human being. When we think back to several years ago what we used to believe, and what we believe now we look at ourselves and go, “That was stupid that I believed that way,” but it’s a part of our journey. There’s no judgment in that.
A lot of what’s going on with the world is you catch somebody for five minutes in their life when they’re making a bad decision and all of a sudden you’re digitally hanging them up and trying to get them to say, “You made one mistake in your life. It’s time for you to die and go away.” That’s not what life is about. The beauty is in our mistakes. As long as we don’t keep mistaking those same mistakes, that’s the beautiful part of being human. In this divisive day and age, it’s time for us to bring people back to the middle. I’m looking forward to this. Introduce yourself. Tell us a little bit about yourself and we’ll dive right in.
Thanks for having me on the show. It’s always been great hanging with you. I’ll give the audience a CliffsNotes version. I love a quote by Helen Keller, “Life is either a great adventure or nothing at all.” My life has been one great adventure. I started out the son of two Irish immigrants who came to America in 1928 during the Great Depression from the farms of Ireland to find the American dream. My dad joined the military and fought in World War II in the Philippines and unfortunately died when I was four years old, so I didn’t have a father when I was raised. I and my brother were raised by mother on two checks, a veteran’s check and a Social Security check. We grew up in poverty in a neighborhood that became famous for poverty, the South Bronx.
The South Bronx changed from a neighborhood that was white ethnic to black, Hispanic, Puerto Rican and Dominican. We were one of the few white families who remained in the neighborhood because we were too poor to get out. That was the beginning of my journey. I dropped out of high school at fifteen years old following in my brother’s footsteps. I started to work, got a job and then got caught up with the revolution. My neighborhood got caught up in the ‘60s and my neighbors were filled with black Muslims, Black Panthers, Puerto Rican Brothers and the Young Lords. I got involved in all that and became a Revolutionary Communist at the age of seventeen.
I went on to lead a trip, still was a high school dropout to China at the age of 26. I met with the Chinese communist leadership. I came back and eventually got disillusioned with communism and then had to recreate myself. I started acting, started working, started going to school, went back to college and met Tony Robbins. I started on another path that took me to Hollywood as an actor, as a producer, as a counselor. Now motivational speaking, political speaking, writing, producing, you name it. My bucket list is too long for at least three or four lifetimes. Here I am. I’ll let you dive in deeper and take us into whatever direction you want to go.
The path and journey are interesting. You and I have Tony Robbins in common and that whole entire mindset and belief system. That’s a lot of content in a five-minute introduction to yourself and your life. Take us back because I find it interesting. You’re as white as they come and you’re a member of the Black Panther party.
[bctt tweet=”You can choose to be happy whether you are rich or poor.” via=”no”]
I wasn’t a member, but I hung out with them. I couldn’t be a member as a white guy so I was involved in support stuff. I’ve participated in demonstrations in support of the Black Panthers when I started when I was sixteen years old. I went to some of the first Black Panther demonstrations. That was my whole neighborhood. I was one of the few white guys so I hung out with a crowd. I adapted and I adjusted. I felt at home in that crowd more so than I did. It was like I was less white because ethnically I was part of what I was growing up in. I got involved in all that. When I dropped out of high school, that’s when I started to read and I read every radical newspaper. I read every Marxists book that was published. I became an avid learner. I wanted to learn so much when I dropped out of high school and so I dived in deep into that.
It was three choices for me and my neighborhood or at least three choices that I saw at the time. There were gangs, there were drugs and there was the revolution. Of the three choices, revolution seemed to be the best choice because it was about trying to change the world and make things better. The other two were bad choices and was making the world and your own life worse. I didn’t choose those two luckily. I chose what seemed to be the only other choice for me because there were no success models. There were no business people. I didn’t have a father figure in my life. I was trying to do the best I can with what I had at the time and that took me into that path.
Talk to us a little bit about the early years leading up to that decision to become a revolutionary. Losing your father at four, was your mom dating other guys or was it literally a single mom scenario?
I saw him die. He died in the tenement apartment that I lived for eighteen years in the South Bronx. My first memory at the age of four was crying, “Daddy, don’t die,” and watching him die in front of me. At the time people didn’t understand things like depression and all that stuff. She got massively depressed. At that point, she lost connection with all her family, lost connection with everybody. She got isolated and she never dated again and never went out with anybody again. She raised us and did the best job. She became a mother to all my friends in the neighborhood. Everybody looked out for her. She was the whole neighborhood’s mother. I say all the best stuff I’ve gotten and who I am in life is because of her. She gave me those values. Even when I went off the wrong direction, it was her that got me in the right direction because she was a unique, loving human being and love was everything about her.
As we’ve been doing these shows, it’s interesting how important this family unit is. There are many mixtures of a family unit for people to say that it’s right or wrong or whatever, it’s just what it is. You have to deal with whatever cards you’re given. A lot of people run around. I remember I used mine as a big excuse for a long time for the attitude that I carried around and the anger that I had. My situation was different than yours, but I had an adoptive father not a father by choice. I didn’t know he was my adoptive father, I thought he was my real dad. He went to prison for attempting to murder me and my mom when I was seventeen. Talk to us a little bit about that environment. You’ve got siblings?
I have an older brother who is about three-and-a-half years older than me. He dropped out of high school first and then I followed. I used that as an excuse when I wanted to drop out because if he did it, I could do it. You know how you make those stupid decisions when you’re young. He got radicalized first in a different way. He went down to the East Village, got involved in the ‘60s anti-war hippie movement. He went down the hippy path, but he introduced me to all the radical material, which then I started to read and that opened up that avenue. I stayed in the neighborhood so I hung out with the Panthers and the minority groups of Muslims and all these other people who are my friends while he went on. We stayed connected because of that similarity and stuff, even though we looked at it a little bit differently.
What a fantastic opportunity to see completely another side that’s about you and your path. The fascinating thing for me is hearing that you dropped out of school, but school is such a tiny little piece of our education. It’s what you choose to read and what you choose to absorb. There are a lot of people that love learning and when you learn from one direction, it’s a great example for everybody. If you listen to just CNN or if you listen to just Fox News, if you’re taking that one form of information into your life, how much that is going to direct the outcome, which is the purpose. That’s how people control us. That’s how people control the narrative. How people control a group of human beings is through what they’re reading, what they’re learning, what they’re watching on television. What they’re watching on YouTube these days, the group of people that they hang around.
At first, I started reading everything because I wanted to understand the world for whatever reason. I read Khalil Gibran poetry, I read Buddhism and I read every different religion. I was reading everything into Marxism. Communism became the thing that I started to read more. Little by little, it narrowed down to that’s all I read. I never read any alternative points of view politically except for that. That made me a true believer, but I only had one point of view of life. I didn’t know there were other points of view that disagreed. I didn’t even know they existed. It was easy to believe that everything that I read was the truth, not looking at other points of view and going, “Let me consider that point of view.” I only considered one. It was easy to go in the path that I went for several years of my life because to me there was no other path. I didn’t know that there was another path or different ideas or people with different alternative views as to how we could organize the world. I didn’t know it.
When you decided to support the Black Panther party and you decided to go down that path? Functionally, what were you doing? What was your day-to-day life?
At first, when I quit high school or even before I quit high school, I started working. I worked in little grocery stores as a clerk, as a delivery boy. I did it all to survive and help support my mother. I started working at the age of fourteen, fifteen before they were even worried about the age limits of how you could work. I got paid under the table and I worked. After I quit high school, I was working at the grocery store one night and somebody came in and robbed the grocery store and put a gun to my head and put a gun to the owner’s head. I was able to talk the guy out of shooting us. That ended and after that, I decided to quit that job because I said, “I’m a fast learner. I don’t think I want to do this again.” That was the end of that one.
I was looking for other jobs, but I wasn’t working. I started to go into protest rallies. Another white buddy of mine was a heroin addict. We grew up, we were close. He became a heroin addict, went to prison and then got into a drug program. He came out and he got involved with this group, an anti-drug group, but that was made up of people, white, black, Hispanic, all trying to become revolutionaries. He introduced me to the group and I joined the group. I was the only non-heroin addict in the group. I didn’t do heroin. I didn’t do cocaine. I didn’t get high. Basketball was my drug at that point. I started participating with them and I became a leader. We started organizing against heroin in the neighborhood, organizing to improve the neighborhood and also organizing to make a revolution. That’s what ended up being my activity and my time focus.
Take us past that. How did that evolve as you’re supporting that? What was the path between there and you ending up in China?
This gets back to a lot of what’s going on now. I can’t dive all the way in because it’s complex. It was a multiracial group, but the politics at the time is what’s happening again on the far left. I say far left is that they didn’t like that idea that a group was made up of every nationality because they say, “Blacks should have their own group. Puerto Ricans should have their own group. Whites should have their own group.” We were forced to break our group apart and the whites go up into the white neighborhoods to organized whites. I didn’t grow up in the white neighborhood and my buddy didn’t grow up in a white neighborhood. We didn’t like that idea. We thought that was a suck pass idea. We had to go up and organize white gangs and people that we had nothing in common with, but we did it. We went up and it was a growth experience. I met a lot of other people. For a few years, we organized in the white section of the Bronx. Eventually, it fell apart because of political differences. I was looking at what’s the next path. I studied a lot of different groups that were out at the time. The Maoists were growing all over, different competing Maoists. I ended up joining one of the competing Maoist groups that ended up becoming the one that the Chinese gave the seal of approval to.
What was your belief? When you say you were looking for this stuff, what was in your heart and what was in your belief system that you were fighting for?
One was utopia. I don’t think I would have called it that at the time, but we wanted a perfect world where everything was equal, everything was redistributed, everybody got a fair share. It was about fairness and utopianism. Coming from my place, most of the people in that movement came from privileged backgrounds. I and a couple of other people came from blue-collar, working class, poor backgrounds. The majority went to college, had all kinds of privilege. It was an interesting dynamic to realize that most of those people were the majority of the movement and not people like me.
Why do you think that was? Why do you think that people have that privilege? It’s like we’re talking about now, but we’re talking about back in the ‘60s.
[bctt tweet=”Be somebody that whatever you do in life, people are going to say, ‘This person made it better.'” via=”no”]
It’s history repeating itself with little different variations and everything. Part of it is young people tend to rebel at a certain age. People with education and money and privilege have more opportunities to rebel because you don’t have to focus on survival and work and all the things that the working class or poor people have to do. You have all that opportunity. You can spend a few years going around the world protesting. It’s handled and you can hate your parents and your parents will still give you your credit card. Back in those days, it was the same thing. A lot of the protesters where people who had opportunities, but they rebelled against their parents. It wasn’t the perfect world and they were angry and they wanted it to be a perfect world. I’ve met some interesting people. I remember once I was trying to find what group resonated with me given who I was. I went to all these different programs with revolutionary groups and I went to one with a guy that you probably heard about now, one of the Weatherman terrorists, Bill Ayers.
At that time, it was before they went into blowing stuff up and being all out terrorists. They had a program and I went with a friend and we went to check it out and see if I wanted to join something like that. That was right after the Charlie Manson thing where they killed people in Hollywood, Sharon Tate. At the end of the program, they all give the Charlie Manson salute. It freaked me out. I’m a seventeen-year-old kid. I’m looking at this going, “What a bunch of rich, privileged people to think that Charlie Manson is a good guy.” It blew my mind. I was like, “I don’t want anything to do with people like that ever.” That’s why I walked away from that. I was trying to find people who are more normal in a way. I found it with a group I joined because it was more multiracial and a couple of Puerto Rican and black friends introduced me to it. I liked them and I said, “I can hang with you guys. You guys are cool. Let’s do it.” I joined that group and I immediately rose to leadership and ended up on the central committee. At the age of 26, we were sending trips over to China. I got to lead one of the trips to China for two weeks and started out in Yugoslavia. I met with the Yugoslavian communists and then we went into China and met with the Chinese communists. I gave speeches all over China. I started seeing things that didn’t impress me.
What were some of your speeches about?
They were improv. I was good and I probably still am. Whatever city I was going to, I’d quickly do some research. Back then we didn’t have Google so it was a little tougher. I’d find some material and talk to what that history was in that particular place. Talk to what the history of the Chinese was and then talk to ours and give them something that would bond us together.
What was the outcome? What were you driving people to do? What was your major desire?
The group’s major desire was the violent overthrow of the US government. Bottom line, we had FBI records for both groups that I was in. I read some of them from one of the groups and everything the FBI said was true. They did a good job and they knew what was going on. I have to give them credit on every level. At the time, I wouldn’t have said that. We were trying to imitate and model what the Soviet Union didn’t. We didn’t like the Soviet Union because the split between China and the Soviet Union, we were on the Chinese side. We wanted to model what the Chinese did and making their revolution. We wanted to do the same thing in the United States. We would organize everywhere, in the factories, in the schools and tried to bring people to communism and Maoism. That was our objective. At the end of the day looking back on it, a couple of thousand people weren’t super successful. At the time, we thought it was successful. We gave ourselves a lot more credit than was due, that’s for sure.
For those people that aren’t up to speed on history, what did Mao stand for? The violent overthrow of the US government, I get it. I know that there were millions and millions of people that were killed under his reign. What was the major tenet that was pulling people together around those ideas? What did it stand for?
I read every book by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh and Che. I read every book by everybody. It amazed me how much stuff I read. Nowadays, I would look at it differently. It was basically that the working class needed to rise up against the ruling class, which was the bourgeois, the business owners, the people, the capitalists, and they needed to overthrow them. The only way equality would exist in society because they wouldn’t give up power and the goal was to achieve power, was to overthrow the ruling class. Each country, the ruling class was a little bit different. In the Soviet Union, it was the more industrial ruling class. In China, it was more a feudal ruling class. The goal was to overthrow and take power and create a world where everything was equal. It was going to be this beautiful utopia where everybody had the same opportunities, the same outcomes, and it was going to work perfectly and we’re going to create this. That’s how we looked at it then.
Honestly, it’s timely. We have people that are young. I love young leadership. They care a lot. There’s a lot of humanity in the Millennials and the younger group. There’s a lot of great energy around wanting things to be better. I always find it fascinating how I use the word muted. It’s not really muted, but how professional and how polished you are at replying because you have firsthand knowledge, which is different. It’s different to have firsthand knowledge and to have an opinion. I did not live through those times and cannot speak from experience, but you and I have read. One of the things that draw us together is our deep love of reading and trying to learn from history.
The post that I put up was talking about the fact that regardless of whatever utopia is that you have a vision of a right-wing one or a left-wing one. There are always ramifications. It’s class warfare where people that have and people that don’t are pitted against each other. The idea is that those that don’t will overthrow that and eventually get all of that stuff for themselves. The whole point of the post was to talk about the fact that when are we going to stop repeating history and create a new one? Throughout history, those violent overthrows never end up in leaving a better life for the overthrowers. All that happens is you flip top. Now, the people that were here leading this group of revolutionaries to end up on top and still oppressing the lower class and the poor throughout history. What’s your take on that?
If you go all the way back to Marx, later I studied it again with a different perspective. He was an alienated, middle-class kid, son of a rabbi. He never was going to be in charge or in control of a society. Once again, this alienated person had jealousy and greed for those successful people in society because they were more successful. He wasn’t. In many ways, looking at it from another standpoint, I realized that the politics of that in particular as the politics of jealousy and greed and the desire to be on the top. You can’t find a way there by doing it for your own effort. That’s one way to do it. We take over and we grab their stuff. They don’t deserve it, I deserve it. I heard somebody say, “Capitalism creates, socialism takes.” Unfortunately, that is the essence because they’re not able to create success or advancement, socialism, economics to be able to advance a society. They take them until they run out of taking and then they’re screwed because there’s nobody to take from anymore. You damaged all the people who are the creators.
What I’m curious about is how do you come up with a different result? Throughout history, regardless of how many violent overthrows happen, there’s always a class that has and a class that doesn’t. I believe there’s this concept of redefining what success is. You and I have been on both sides of the spectrum. I’ve been radically poor like you and standing in government lines for cheese and powdered milk. My mom, I distinctly remember walking around on different country roads and stuff to get asparagus so we’d have something to eat that night. There’s this other swing through business and through education and through working hard and failing, trying again, failing and trying again that has led me to this place of prosperity now.
You’ve done that same exact pathway. You and I can understand feeling left out, marginalized. I remember the rich kids in school. I remember being looked down upon. I’m not white, I’m Hispanic. I’ve got white. I’ve got English, Irish, Samoan, Native American and mainly Spanish at that point in time because my skin is white. We moved into a town and you hear me talk about that in the comedy about white privilege when I have white skin, I had no white privilege whatsoever. There’s no such thing in my life. Part of that being now that we’re on the other side is a lot of times we talk about the poor side and there are injustices that happen. The poor now live at a much higher level of success than the poor did a long time ago. Mainly, some would argue because of capitalism. The span that spectrum and I’m not billionaire status, you’re not billionaire status, but we’re doing well. The idea is now that I’m here. The wealthy that I hang out with and that I get to see are as screwed as the poor people that I used to hang around. They have challenges and they have jealousy and they have greed and all this other stuff.
If you took a person that didn’t have much means and you give them everything in the world, you see it happen a lot. The John Belushis of the world and those stories where people get everything that they’re looking for and then they lose it going, “It’s not about the money. It’s not about the big house. It’s not about the cars.” I went through it and had all of the stuff and do now. It’s not about the stuff because then I lost it again. All of the people that gathered around me when I had it disappeared. That definition, you and I both not have strong father figures in our life. What I have found is that there’s this gap of understanding what’s important. What tells us is important is the media, the television, the fancy cars, the jets and all of the stuff that everybody says is a success. It’s far away from that concept.
Money, if you’re a jerk, makes you a bigger jerk. Money, if you’re a good person, makes you a better person because you’re able to do more with it. It’s a tool of the content of the character in someone’s heart. I know that in poor families like yours and like mine, there’s a lot of love. We had an abusive father, but my mom’s heart is the size of the planet. It’s giving and loving and taking those beatings that she took and the broken bones and all and watching me get my nose broken. Seeing all of those things happen that there’s this other definition of success. You’ve been on both sides of the spectrum. How would you describe what we should be aspiring to?
The thing is it’s not that everybody’s not going to ever follow the same path. That’s the thing we have to accept. A buddy of mine, we’re trying to write his book and my book and he wrote this thing about you be you. You’ve got to be you. Don’t try and be somebody else. I look at it and go, “Life is complicated.” I have a saying, “Maybe yes, maybe no.” Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Maybe yes, maybe no. You don’t know at the moment sometimes what’s a good thing. Looking back on my life, I can say, “If only I didn’t grow up poor, it would have been much easier.” If I grew up with money and became a drug addict and ruined my life, it would have been worse. Did I have a bad opportunity by growing up poor or was I given a gift?
[bctt tweet=”Most stupid decisions are done when you’re young.” via=”no”]
Nowadays, I say I was given a gift. Not to say that everybody should be poor or being poor is a gift. A lot of it is how you look at it and what you take away from it. Tony Robbins was part of that journey when I started getting into self-development and I started reading a lot of people. Eventually, I did my first fire walk. When Tony was first starting a matter of fact, I was working the night shift at the post office as a mail handler for a few years. I did a fire walk on 34th Street with that crazy guy. It changed my life, but some of the things that you’re saying, some of the takeaways I got was to take responsibility for your life 100%.
You always have a choice. What that means to me is that you can choose to be happy. If you’re poor, you can choose to be happy if you wish. You can choose to contribute to others if you’re poor and you can choose to contribute to others if you’re rich. You always have a way to do more for others, to give more, to be a better person. That’s on you. To me, success is being happy, being who you are and making the contribution that you can make to a better world and to your family, to your community, to your friends. Make it better. Be somebody that whatever you do in life, people are going to say, “This person made it better.” Don’t be somebody who’s negative, trying to tear it down and attack other people. Don’t make it worse. Make it better. There are enough people that are going to make it worse. There are plenty of them. Don’t join that group. Join the group that wants to make it better and be that person. If you get financial success, that’s great too because that makes life easier. You can contribute more to that thing. That’s not the only thing in life. It’s one more piece to try and get right. We have many pieces that we need to get right and try and get them as all of them as right as you can possibly get them. You’ll never get it all right. You’ll do the best you can.
I hope that everybody understands your words because there’s so much wisdom buried in it. You go into the Hierarchy of Needs and you dive into this stuff. Ultimately, what that drives you towards is that we’re happiest when we’re giving to other people. There are two sides to that. One side is I’m a martyr and I’m giving all the time. That’s your whole identity. I’m talking about where you find something that you’re passionate about. You know the things that I’m passionate about. You and I are on the same path in that and we’re constantly supporting different things. Whatever it is, it doesn’t have to be our stuff. It doesn’t have to be feeding the hungry. It doesn’t have to be domestic violence. It doesn’t have to be eliminating the child sex slave business in this world. It doesn’t have to be any of that. It has to be whatever you’re passionate about.
When you start with that as your true north, what happens is the next thing that steps in place is personal responsibility by having to become the best you can possibly be for the purpose of serving other people. It’s that alignment. We talk a lot about sequencing. Everything that’s been taught about business has been taught. It’s in the proper sequencing. It’s like building Legos in a sense. If you start out with the idea that my greatest value, my greatest legacy, my greatest emotional well-being and my greatest wealth in this life is the sowing of seeds and easing suffering in other people where I can. Everything else starts to fall in place. You go to personal responsibility because you can’t blame Trump, you can’t blame Obama, you can’t blame right, left. You can’t blame black, white, gay, lesbian, straight, all those things. You lose the ability to blame.
That’s a moment of loneliness for a lot of people because they’ve been able to blame and attack. That takes all of your personal responsibility and it shoves it off on somebody else to where it feels better at the moment, but makes you feel miserable long-term. It’s harder to take a punch and take responsibility at the moment, but it’s much better long-term. That’s part of wisdom and growing up. I didn’t know that when I was younger. I hurt people. I made bad decisions. I lost my money. I lost other people’s money. I cheated in marriage.
I did all of this damage when I was younger that felt good at the moment, but cost me integrity. The thing about having powerful father figures, strong men, strong women and strong mothers, those lessons are important. Rather than abdicating your responsibility as a parent to a screen to allow companies, corporations, governments and messages, marketing and advertising to seep into your child’s mind. It should be you with your solid base of understanding, love and knowledge that’s going to guide and lead your children to make better decisions. Ultimately, that’s what’s going to set them on the path to freedom for themselves.
What you say is powerful. I hope people hear it in understanding that the first objective should be, “How I can ease suffering in large chunks of this world or in my neighborhood or with my own family or with my lover or with myself first? How can I ease the suffering in my own life?” It’s in that sequencing that we get it right. Go ahead and advance the story. You go from that. You start to see maybe that way of thinking is not something that is leading down the path that you thought it would or creating the outcome. Now, what starts to take place in your mind?
I’ll give you two things that were light bulb moments for me that started to make me reevaluate the belief systems that were supporting my belief. The first one was besides being a Maoist, we also supported the Maoists in Cambodia, which you may have heard of Pol Pot and later heard about the killing fields. We were supporters of that group and we sent the trip and met with the leadership of Pol Pot. That gives you an idea of how far left that we were. There were some young Cambodian students in New York who we knew and I was in New York at the time. They were supporters of the communist revolution in Cambodia. These are young Cambodian college students. They were asked by the communist government of Cambodia to come back and help them build the revolution. These young kids, idealistic, wanting utopia, get on a plane and they go to Phnom Penh. They get off the plane and they’re shot dead on the runway by the communists because they were brought back. I knew some of them and that was, “This is what it’s about? That’s what this is?” It was that moment where you went, “Who would do that? I thought they were making the utopia? These were good guys. Why would you kill these loving students who come to support you?”
I’m going to answer from my perspective and from history. From what I’m witnessing now and what I’ve witnessed throughout history is that the means justify the ends as you get there.
You can justify and not even think twice about it. That would have been me if I was in that position of power probably. I have to look at myself and go, “That’s where you would be,” and then I had an opportunity. I was going to college at the time. I got back and got my GED and went to college and I ran across some books by the CIA that analyzed all the communist countries. Being curious, I started to read them. I’m like, “These are the enemies’ ideas.” I start reading what they’re saying. It started to show me all the things that I felt existed in those countries, but I didn’t know it.
Give us some specifics. What did you see in their writings?
Say for example, in the leadership of North Korea. I supported North Korea, Kim Il-Sung. The Black Panthers were big supporters of North Korea. The leadership of communist countries, when you got into the number two position or the number three position, you tended to stay there for a little while. Until the great leader, whoever that great leader was Kim Il-Sung, Mao Zedong, decided that you all of a sudden were potentially a competitor. He’d have you killed. That happened many times in those countries. That was their way of changing power. You come into second, I kill you, then another guy comes in for second, I kill you.
In China, there was one guy who I modeled because he was humbler, this guy Zhou Enlai. Every time he was offered the second spot he would turn it down because the second spot never turned out well. He was a little smarter. He stayed in third or fourth and stayed away from being killed by Mao because Mao seemed to try or imprison his enemies, anybody who had one different thought than he did. That started making me realize that it wasn’t what I thought it was. It was pure power. Once somebody got into power, they would do anything to maintain power.
Rabble-rouse the disaffected, rise to power and then kill everybody that disagrees with you.
Kill them, imprison them and that’s any extremist, totalitarian dictatorship whether it’s on the far left or far right, anything that’s a dictatorship that gets set up. That’s the role model because what’s different than that than our society where we have all the checks and balances that were put in place where we have different forms of government. We have laws. You have to get people elected in and out. We have all of those things that protect against human nature. In human nature, there are always going to be people who are going to be corrupt. There are always going to be people who are going to take power and try and manipulate it for their own use. There’s always going to be that. That’s humans. We have a system that at least tries to prevent that and puts in all things to do it. Those societies have nothing to prevent it. Once you’re in power, you got it. You’re the leader for life. God forbid anybody has a different thought than you because they’re dead or they’re in jail, either or.
The tension in America is the restraint on dictatorship, part of it. There’s been a massive shift, but it’s been the frog in the water scenario where little bit by little bit we’re giving up our rights. We’re giving up our responsibility as citizens to say, “I’m going to allow somebody to go into government. They might be broke or whatever, but they’ll go.” You start to see them become wealthier and wealthier. I love the statement, “If you went to government broke and come out rich, you stole from somebody or used your position to advance your own agenda as opposed to your countrymen.” You see that restraint for people that are very power-hungry start to become a barrier to them accessing more wealth, power, influence and control. What typically happens is let’s start to beat back those restraints because they’re inconvenient for me because I can’t have my belief system have absolute rule unless we get rid of those things in place. That’s what I see happening. That’s what scares me about the direction of this country.
[bctt tweet=”Every endeavor, whether it’s business, politics, or Hollywood, has a good, a bad, and an ugly.” via=”no”]
Every endeavor whether it’s business, politics, Hollywood, you name it. There’s good, bad and ugly. Sometimes people look at a group and say they’re all bad like politicians are all bad. I don’t think so. There’s good, bad and ugly in every group. I don’t paint all of them with one brush or another brush. You got to distinguish who’s the good, bad and ugly. There are the challenges of our society and this gets back to where it’s not a utopia and that’s a good thing. The attempts to create utopia make worse societies. Ours is a flawed society and will always be a flawed society with strengths and weaknesses. We got to fight the balance of the bad with the good.
One person’s utopia is another person’s hell.
If you’re on top, it was utopia. If you’re on the bottom, it was hell. There are always things that are not the way they should be. There are always things that you got to rein in. There are lobbyists who spend money to get what they want. That’s not a good thing. There are pharmaceutical companies who do all they can to promote bad drugs to doctors. They achieve that goal with opioids and stuff like that. There are always weaknesses in capitalism and in our society. I say it’s the worst system in the world except for all the others. You’ve got to keep reining in the things that are not bad and trying to improve the things to make things better. You’ve got to look out for the people who need to get looked out for. We’ll never have that utopia. We’ll never have that perfect place. That’s okay. You got to be all right with that. You got to be like, “So what?” That’s what it’s supposed to be.
My parents came from Ireland. Were they supposed to arrive in America and be rich? No, they had nothing. They started with nothing. They had to work. That’s the way it works. Wherever you start, you start and then you try and go somewhere else. It’s never going to be different than that because the world’s always going to have wealth, poverty in between. It’s going to have all those things. You got to do more for the good, do more to help others. Do more to make sure that the bad gets reined in or stopped, like a lot of stuff you’re doing, the sex trade stuff. What you’re doing and what groups are doing to stop that is incredible. That’s why we exist though unfortunately because ugly and evil will always exist. It always has and always will. All you can do is keep fighting it and keep beating it.
The idea that everybody’s going to always be all good, it’s a great idea. It’s great hope. It’s like being on the negative or the positive. It’s not a positive thinking thing, but when 95% of the stuff that we think about on the bad side doesn’t happen in real life, then why are we concentrating on that 95%? Let’s make up a better 95% that never comes true. At least, we’re going to enjoy this thing called life. That’s a general philosophy, but there’s this shift and I want to keep moving along your story here. It’s never going to be that way, the rules and history.
One of the things that I see in business, one of the things I see in finance, one of the things that I see in Millennials is that there’s this belief system that we may have a different outcome because we’re new. Everybody thinks that we’re new. You’ve never tried this before. Try reading a history book. There’s that. You also throw on top of it this technological advancement that’s happening consistently. That may skew results. You see things like Amazon and you see different companies. Their business models didn’t exist before and you’re getting different results. How do you think technology may or may not impact the evolution of this idea of utopia?
Being a learner, I’ve watched as much as I can with time. I watch TED Talks. I try to absorb a lot of it because all this is amazing new technology, amazing possibilities, amazing opportunities that didn’t exist in my younger ages. It’s creating a different world for all of us. There’s so much good there. I read an article. This Israeli firm may in a year have the cure for cancer. The technology is incredibly amazing and will change the world in many ways. There’s the negative with everything else, the good, bad and ugly. Technology also has played a damaging role in the world as well with social media in particular. Social media has encouraged, brought out divisions between people, made them more divided as opposed to more together, more listening, more willing to respect each other. Social media has done good things and has done some bad things, especially among the young. It’s also creating the illusion that the technological elites know everything and therefore they’ll make things so much better. Like the communist elites thought they knew everything, the technological elites think they know everything. Quite frankly, they don’t. They know what they know, but they also don’t know what they don’t know.
What they don’t know is a lot of common sense things because a lot of them don’t live in a world that the average person lives in. They can go anywhere. They’re wealthy. They can live in Davos, they can live in Spain and they can live wherever they want. The average person can’t do that. The average person’s world and life are much different. I know people who live in that technological elite world, they think they know all the answers, but they only know the answers for their group. Their group is a small group compared to the world and the main people. It’s complex like everything else. It’s learning from the good, use the good, try to combat the bad. Try to prevent some of these technology companies from doing what humans do, which is manipulate, use control, find a way to monetize it, to make themselves even wealthier and not have the interest of the people in mind. They have both sides to them as well.
It’s watching out for that same justification of Pol Pot for harming others as a justification for the advancement towards a utopia. It’s that wisdom not to repeat history. It’s not that they’re inherently bad; it’s just that’s the direction. If you go back and you Google the prison experiment where they took people that became prisoners and they assigned them randomly. Unfortunately, one human nature is to gravitate towards power, control and being better than or setting yourself aside from. Part of that is on the technological side is the same thing, a mob. A mob is inherently a bad thing. It doesn’t matter if it was back in the day of the Salem witch trials. It doesn’t matter if it was during the slavery and oppression against the blacks. It doesn’t matter if it’s slavery in other countries that exist, the difference between the Muslim world. It doesn’t matter especially when it comes to everybody thinking it’s okay to be a part of a mob online. It’s still a mob and you’re adjudicating things outside of a structure that has maintained one of the greatest countries on the face of the planet in history as far as easing suffering in the world.
We’re messed up in many ways. I’m not an apologist for any of those things, but we seem to work through them because of the tension in the middle. To destroy that tension in the middle is to destroy everything that the extraordinary founders of this country. If you want to know about some extraordinary human beings that foresaw all of the stuff that we’re going through right now through that one document called the Constitution, it’s fascinating. Mob and technology might take and then want to move your story up a little bit, but technology speeds things up. It speeds up in innovation. It speeds up attacks. Before we were doing business this way and then a few years later we would change something and it would evolve. Now, things can change like that.
Everybody that has a good reputation in the world, actors, actresses, government officials, sports heroes, people in general. Mother Teresa has this element that goes out and tries to destroy them because of their goodness. There’s no other reason. Think about my haters. You could probably think about yours. Anybody in our audience, you think about your haters that are attacking you. They say it, whatever it is. It could be true. It could be false. It could be their side of the story. There are two sides to the story. Whatever it is, it comes out. The general sense is, “I do not want you doing better than I am and here’s this piece of information you need to know about John Duffy or Jason Sisneros so that it completely destroys and negates any wisdom that they may have. I’m going to give you this piece of information so I can negate all of it.”
You messed up. I messed up. Everybody messes up. That doesn’t define us. What defines us is what we’re doing now and what we’ll do later. Not what we did yesterday. It informed us, but it didn’t define us. These people that are out there that are doing this stuff, technological mobs, that pick up one piece of thing and they go, “It must be true.” 90% of the stuff when you dive into it isn’t even true. This idea of destroying other people so you can advance your own self I hope is a fad and I hope that people realize that to do it to anybody without a court of law, how does it impact you? How does it affect you in the first place? If it doesn’t, then shut up and go and try to improve your own life.
Everybody has a need to be special and feel special. How people find a way to be special is different for each person. Some people find a way to be special by contribution, by doing things to help others. That’s how you feel special. That’s positive. Some people feel special joining a gang because they get feedback that makes them be part of something that’s different and gets respect, even though what they’re doing isn’t positive. Some people do it by joining cults. Some people do it by being online. It gives them away to be special because they can tear everybody else down and they’re the one who does that. They’re special. They know everything. Nobody else knows anything. They’re uniquely special people.
It’s the vehicle people choose.
They choose that because that’s the only one available to them. They can’t join a group or they’re not joiners because nobody wants them. They do it that way. They’re always going to find a way to try and make themselves feel special. It’s unfortunate because the best thing about life is if you can find a way to make yourself be special by being somebody who elevates others. Who celebrates others’ success, who loves when other people succeed even though it’s way past what you’re going to ever succeed at. That’s okay. It’s like, “Right onto you. You’ve given me a path.” I look at you and go, “I want to be that someday or at least something like that.” If you celebrate others and you help others that are a way to feel special and do something good in the world. In the real world, not everybody’s going to do that. We’re always going to have to deal with the others. Rather than give them attention, air and space, focus on doing the good and look at them and feel sorry for them quite frankly because it’s not a great place to be in life. It’s a sad and miserable place to be in that place in your life to be like that, and that’s too bad.
I had to think through this because when I poke my head out of the sand, I had lots of people trying to take it off. In the beginning I’m like, “You’re lying. That’s BS.” I started thinking to myself, “Some of that is true.” That’s when I got into a place where I’m like, “I’m going to write a book with all my stuff in it. I’m going to air all my stuff online. I’m going to talk about all the mistakes I’ve ever made so I could take that power back and start to advance my life of saying, ‘I’m sorry for all of that, but I want to do things differently now and then start easing suffering in the world.’” That’s made all the difference in my life. I know for the most part, I’ve flipped the entire script. You know those old movies where you see Harry Potter suck out the energy and it makes them more powerful. I feel that way with haters. They’re giving me all their time and their creativity. They have my name in their mouth and they’re giving me all their time, energy, and it’s making me more powerful.
[bctt tweet=”The best thing about life is elevating others and celebrating their success.” via=”no”]
It’s the same for that, but you’re right about looking at yourself. The turning points from me on that point was there are many steps, but 9/11 was a big turning point for me. As a New Yorker, when 9/11 happened, it hit me hard. Many of us got hit hard by that. At first, I took it as though it was an attack on my city, even before my country because I was a New Yorker and you don’t mess with New York. It was that and then I put on an American flag pin for the first time in my life. When I put it on, some of my far leftist friends went, “Why are you putting on that Nazi flag?” I wanted to slap the stupid out of him, and then I thought for a second and went, “Before you do that, you’re going to have to slap the stupid out of yourself because you believed that stupid stuff too.”
Do a little head slapping of yourself first and then you can move a little further. I had to look at myself and look at why I went to certain beliefs and certain paths and then reanalyze them and say, “You thought this wrong.” Reevaluate, recreate and recreate another born again American who I became after that experience. I got to respect that my parents gave me the American dream and I didn’t even believe it or respect it, but I came to know that they saw fit to give me what I got. Even though I grew up in poverty, I was happy to grow up in that poverty compared to what they grew up in.
The violent overthrow of the American government, it was the country that provided you that cover to have those thoughts into a protest against it. Your wisdom is going to inspire a lot of people at that shift and of looking at yourself and having people call the American flag a Nazi flag and all those different things. One of the biggest things I respect about you is the capability and the capacity for you to be able to alter a belief system. That’s the hardest thing. In all of my interactions around the world, the hardest thing for us to resist is our own ideas. Where are those ideas being spawned from? Why do we believe the things that we believe? Move us forward because this is the transition that I’m interested in and everybody wants to get to. You go from this radical left and then you start to advance through. Take us through that and to Reagan and where you are now.
The first part was once I became disillusioned and I didn’t believe in communism. It’s a religion and like any other religion except their god is the communist party and the great leader. The communist is god and not a real god. Having given up religion, I didn’t know what I believed in. I had to recreate myself and begin to open myself up to new ideas and experiences. It was like, “Who do I become?” I came back to New York. I was living in Chicago for a couple of years leading the group out there with others and then came back to New York, and then I started to scramble. I had to get jobs. I worked as an aerobics instructor at Jack Lalanne. I worked as a youth organizer, community organizer. I worked in the post office. I got my GED. I went to college. I was trying to find out who I was on a personal level. I started getting introduced to motivational materials, started studying that. That started giving me a new direction, a new identity that I went, “That’s a positive. I want to go in that direction,” and that’s what led me to Tony Robbins.
For those of you that don’t know what he’s talking about is Tony Robbins at his events, Unleash The Power Within, commonly referred to as UPW. One of the nights is a breakthrough night and he teaches you strategies to walk on 2,000-degree hot coals and not get burned and all that stuff. When he says firewalk, it’s an event. I’ve done 25 or so of them. I’m sure, John, you’ve done a bunch. It’s a metaphor for life in many ways. I wanted to clarify for the audience that’s not familiar with it that we do walk on fire.
That one, in particular, was when he was starting out. He did it on 34th Street on the sidewalk in Manhattan on a Friday night. That’s madness. Heads were stopping. Drunks were falling in our direction. It was total freaking madness. We walk across these hot coals and then the rest of the weekend he hypnotizes us. That is another great story because that changed my life as well. I go back to the post office that night and I’m a couple of hours late. I just walked on hot coals. I’m working in the post office for a few years. I hated it with a passion. I look around and it was a different world. I went, “I’m out of here. This is over. I’m retiring. I’m quitting. I don’t need this anymore. I’m going for my dreams.” It was that quick a change.
The hypnosis thing that he did, he hypnotized the whole crowd and he said, “You’re going to change something you need to change and this week you’re going to have wild dreams. At the end of the week, you’re going to change the thing.” I’m going, “What is this nonsense?” I had no clue what this guy was talking about. Friday night comes. I go to my liquor store to get a quarter rum. That was my pattern. Friday night, Saturday night I drank quarter rum. I drank way more and did substances that I shouldn’t do. I walk into the liquor store and all of a sudden, I’m standing there and I hear this voice in my head, “You don’t want to do this anymore.” I look around and go, “Who said that?” There was nobody there. I said, “I don’t,” and I walked out of the liquor store and for a year I didn’t have a drop of alcohol. I had no desire to get drunk ever again. It changed my life on that level as well.
He’s not hypnotizing you. He’s putting you into an altered state.
Whatever it was, it was like, “I knew it was this freaking 6’8” giant telling me to go to sleep and I’m going to change something. I have no idea whatever.”
It’s an altered state, that’s what he teaches. We’re all hypnotized by the BS that we hear on television, CNN and Fox News. We’re all hypnotized. What he does is he unhypnotizes us.
In my case, it was something I wanted to change that was deep inside of me. It wasn’t brought to the surface yet. At that moment, it came to the surface and went, “Why are you doing this? You don’t need to do this anymore. You’re better than this.” That flipped my life and it flipped one of the big pieces of my life. It took me in a better direction. Eventually, I moved out of the Bronx after going through a lot of challenges and got to Hollywood with $100 in my pocket. I started to recreate myself in the industry as an actor first. I worked as a counselor with runaway kids for a couple of years and then moved into producing films. That was all part of the next journey of recreating me as an individual and who I was.
That brings us up to now and the stuff that you work on and your path and the movies that you’re producing and writing and the amazing people. I saw you with Kevin Sorbo.
That was a great experience. We did a fabulous movie up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It was based on a true story called Miracle In East Texas about these two guys back in the ‘30s. Lovable con artist types and true, and they ended up discovering the biggest oil find in the history of the world. It changed Texas and it changed the world. There’s a positive message in the movie. It was fun working with Kevin and the people up there. We had a blast. I’ve done about 35 feature films. It was the most challenging. I had the least time to prep it, the least time to make it and it was the easiest film. I felt I didn’t work a day in the whole film. He was amazing and the whole team was amazing, everybody who worked on it.
You’re doing amazing things. I’m proud of you. I’m proud to call you my friend and to have hung out with you and had some real conversations. We’ve done some good with these charities and philanthropic things that we work on together. I’m looking forward to much more. I know that you are taking your game to a whole other level and I support you at every angle. I hope people follow you and support the things that you work on. Let’s talk a little bit about business. I know that in the world of entertainment, a lot of times it’s like, “I’m an artist.” There is a business that’s underlying all of this. You’ve sat in on the work that I’ve done with companies and the consulting work that we do and the turnaround work. You’ve been through the twelve-week course that I got forced to build for business owners as I decided to change paths and start heading down this other path. What are some things that you would give? You are an artist. You’re a consummate artist. What is some advice? You’re entrepreneurial too, but I would say your artist first, entrepreneurial second, manager leader maybe third. What’s some advice you’d give to other artists out there about focusing on the fundamentals of business?
In your course, you talk about those three types the entrepreneur, the artist and the business manager. I struggled with that because you’re right as far as the two because I haven’t built a business per se as much as I have entrepreneurial love. I haven’t shown up on that level fully yet. The job I do in the film industry as a line producer is to manage your type as the business manager, one of the artist types. I’m the person who I come in and I create the schedule for a movie. I create a budget for a movie. I hire a whole crew. I supervise the movie-making and my job is to make sure it comes in on time and money. In that sense, it’s that part of my brain, the business manager. It wasn’t something I ever expected to do.
All my skill sets came together in life because part of it is dealing with people. It’s people management. That’s one of my best skill sets is I know how to build rapport and relationships with people. I love people. It’s easy to manage people and get the objective. I’m objective-driven. I’m always looking for what’s the objective. Rather than get emotional in the middle of a crisis, my job is like, “What’s the objective? What’s the solution?” Rather than, “I feel mad. I feel like punching this person out.” I do, but that’s not going to help me get the solution. Let me chill out and get the solution.
[bctt tweet=”In life, we spend our time arguing as opposed to sitting down and trying to solve the problem.” via=”no”]
The artist side, I’ve done some acting. I did a one-man show based on a girlfriend of mine who died of AIDS that I performed. It was powerful to me. I’ve done the artist acting and occasionally I still may do that, but in general that’s been pushed to the side. I’m trying to write those books. I wrote one memoir called Black Irish: Not Your Average White Boy. I’m trying to get that and I have somebody helping me to re-edit that. Someone stepped up and wants to give me because I need that help. I’m working on the one from out of Reagan, which is the political journey. I’m starting that one and I did a couple of chapters and the outline. That’s the creative side and then I got the manager side. Which one is it? I don’t know. They both play out at different times and I’m good at both of them. The entrepreneurial side I’d love to do because the business or being able to create financial success in life, that’s something that’s been a weakness. Watching all your stuff has been helpful. That’s something that I’d never put that much focus on or figured out strategies and tactics to get to that.
For everybody in our audience, that is the tagline for every artist. You have functionally become a manager-leader in the roles that you’ve taken on. A true artist doesn’t care about the money. It’s like, “I’m going to go do what I’m going to do. Hopefully, I’m able to pay the bills.” That’s probably one of the greatest lessons, that one sentence to everybody in our audience going in. We need all three. There are strengths in all three. I’m an entrepreneur. I’ve dove into the world of artists. I put myself in what I call my growth prison, where I put myself in the role of a manager-leader so I could understand the structure, flow, accountability, budgets, finance and all that other stuff. I feel that was my personal prison because I hated every minute of it because entrepreneurs are free and everything’s going to work. Artists are like, “As long as it’s pretty, people will like it,” and the manager-leader goes, “You’ve got to pay rent.”
I can do that manager leader good for others in the world of doing a film. That’s as easy. Doing it for myself? Not so much.
We already brushed over a little bit on the philanthropic side. I know you know that that’s important. It’s something that is in proper alignment. That’s our true north. Let’s ease suffering in the world. You line that up to where I’ve got to get as good as I possibly can, which means I can’t blame other people. I have to take responsibility, which means what do I have to do tomorrow? What do I believe now that’s hindering my path forward? Talk to us a little bit about your vitality. I always talk about vitality from the perspective, not of health and fitness and a six-pack and big muscles or long-distance running ability and all that stuff. We have this thing called functional vitality, which means how can we optimize our mind’s clarity? We’re going to have some amazing people on about the subject. Most of the people I ask this question of because you’re a functional human being. You have to get up in the morning. You have to go to bed. You and I go have tequila and a cigar every once in a while. We still have all this energy that we have to have to be able to create. What’s your best advice? It’s a functional vitality. It’s that energy to be able to optimize your output for achieving your true north, proper sequencing. We’ve got to be in shape enough. What are some things that you do to keep yourself in that place?
A lot of the philanthropy and all the causes that you’re doing I appreciate. One of the ones that have come up for me in my life, which I didn’t expect, a lot of my life I say God had bigger plans for me than I have for myself. I got involved years ago in doing some training videos for the US Marine Corps that I line produced. Having met these young Marines in Pendleton and Quantico, I realized that I met some of the best young people I’d ever met in my life. That door started to open up and I said, “What can I do to give back?” I started doing a lot of veteran support in Hollywood, speaking and training veterans, contributing to events. Anytime there’s a veteran’s event where they need me to share my experience, I’m there for them.
I found that particular group and there’s a big group of military veteran men and women in Hollywood working as young men and women that I’ve come across in my life. That’s a big cause that I’ve been blessed to be given the opportunity to participate in and to be able to help. That’s one thing that’s special to my heart and whatever we can do to support the military and veterans is something that’s become dear. My dad was in the army. I went far away from that, but I eventually came back to him without expecting to and reunited with him and what his process was for what I’ve done with the veterans in Hollywood.
These veteran issues are super important. I’m working with a young man by the name of Isaac Belden on what he’s working on. We do a lot of work. There’s an organization that I did an event with. You saw some of the videos and whatnot that we went out to support and it’s the War Machine. These vets, I fell in love with every one of them. The mindset they have, the stuff that they go through, the care they come back to. Literally, to be a vet means that you put your life on the line for people who will never meet you. I love and respect our veterans and want to do as much good as we possibly can. There’s going to be a couple of vets that I’m bringing on that are fairly well-known vets to talk about these issues as well. Thanks for leading that in and your support for them too.
When you get some day into LA or Hollywood, I’m a member of the American Legion in Hollywood as a Son of the Legion. It’s probably one of the best American Legions with the youngest veterans all hang out there. There are a lot of groups like that and Operation Gratitude that I work with. There are a lot of things like that we can always do more and contribute more to help a great group of people. Vitality, I’ll start with the mindset because I grew up playing basketball as a kid. My addiction to basketball kept me away from drugs because I love playing ball. I played on the street at night until 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. If my friends are going out shooting heroin, I’m playing basketball. Luckily, I had that as something to distract me from the negative influences growing up. At the age of sixteen, I studied martial arts, Kung Fu. I was a junior Kung Fu instructor until I got injured. When I came back, I was an aerobics instructor at Jack Lalanne. Being in shape and physicality and always doing that with something that always resonated for my life.
When I did Tony Robbins, he had this one mindset to get into the mindset. He said this thing about you don’t get tired until you allow yourself to get tired. I liked that and I adopted that belief system. Even when I’m working twenty hours on a movie set, I’m not tired. I get tired when I choose to get tired. When I get home and go, “Now it’s time to get tired,” I get tired. That mindset allows you to have vitality. You wake up in the morning and go, “I’m tired,” you started off the wrong path. If you wake up in the morning and say, “I don’t get tired until I feel like getting tired,” you don’t get tired often. I stay active. I work out. I lift weights. I play basketball every week, I play on the team. I’m the oldest guy on the team, but nobody could tell that because I do my best to out hustle every single person. I love the competition that way. It’s mind and then diet. I’ve gone through different ways of eating. Move and don’t overeat. Move more and eat less.
That’s every diet book. He gave you the answer. Move more, eat less.
I don’t know who said it first. It wasn’t me that’s for sure. Whoever said it that originally created that idea, but it’s the bottom line. Exercise, move, eat less, eat better and have a great mindset. Have a mindset of youth. Don’t have a mindset of age. I hope to be playing basketball when I’m 95. It’s going to be hard to stop me because that’s my desire. I want to stay that active.
A couple of things you say there. Mindset is super important. Thinking yourself energetic. It does help. I’ve got a neuroscientist that’s going to be on the show that talks about a lot of this and where the mindset is. It’s not positive thinking, but how our brain works and how we can wire it our self in neuroplasticity. On the vitality side of things where you eat less, a lot of people overwhelm themselves, “I’ve got to take these 50 vitamins. I’ve got to eat exactly this handful of this and a handful of that and this much water and this much sleep and all that.” Most of the opinions that are out there about vitality, health, fitness, wellness and all that other stuff, they’re selling something. I get it. I love that but diving in and having 50 different things in your regimen that do nothing but suck your energy in and you don’t look forward to it. There’s some basic stuff.
That’s why I talk about vitality because people get overwhelmed with too much information rather than eating sensibly. It’s easy to find stuff on the internet for free. These fad diets that come and go, which do good in some areas and not in others. Take care of yourself. Optimize your energy so that you can take on the world. Last subject and the last one that I want to talk about is politics now. Tell us a little bit about how you believe. What do you think that the environment is creating? Where do you think we’re headed?
There are many pieces to this.
It’s funny every single time I ask this question. I use the girls as an example at A New Dawn. 27 felonies, one lady was thinking about committing suicide by chopping her head off with a chainsaw. I go, “Let’s talk about politics,” and they all go, “No, I’m tapping out.” It’s polarizing and if you’re too far on Trump’s side, you’re a racist and you’re a misogynist. If you’re too far on the left, you’re a socialist. That’s why I like talking about it with people because you and I have different viewpoints on a lot of things, but who cares? You’re a good man.
I heard once that Eskimos have a lot of words for snow. They have a lot more distinctions for snow than we do. It’s wet. It’s cold. I hate it. That’s it. What else do we need to know? They have a lot more distinctions because they got to deal with it in many layers. With politics, sometimes we label everybody one thing when there are a lot more distinctions there. When you create more distinctions you realize that the extremists, whether they are on one side or the other, is a small group that’s on both sides. They’re a small group. They’re loud and obnoxious and they’re hateful and they’re full of it. They got a lot of anger in them for all kinds of reasons. You could get into the psychology of why they are angry and hateful, but that’s the far extreme. You’ve got the spectrum.
You come a little closer and you’ve got progressives on one side, then you’ve got liberals and that’s on the Democratic side, those two sides. You go on the Republican side and you’ve got conservatives and libertarians. There are distinctions and all of them don’t agree with each other on everything or anything, even within their own group. When you realize that everybody doesn’t agree on everything, you understand that being more specific and understanding where somebody is coming from. As opposed to labeling them and trying to make them your simplistic point of view of what group they’re in is the best way to approach it. Understand who people are and deal with them.
I’m not in politics. If I was in politics, then I’d have to fight harder. If I’m going to get elected, my party got to fight against the other party because I’m running for office. I’m not running for office so I don’t have to fight to win that particular office. I can be a little bit more understanding, balanced and respectful because it’s not a battle for victory. The good side of our society is that we have two parties and that’s a good thing. The bad side is that you’re going to have to fight with each other over the election because you’re going to vote for one or the other. You can vote for the third party, but they’re never going to win. If you’re voting for somebody who wins, it’s going to be one of the two parties. You’re going to get into disagreements. You’re for the Yankees or you’re for Boston. We’re going to disagree. They play against each other. You can’t pick both teams. You got to pick one team or the other team. Everybody will pick their team, but you don’t have to hate the people who are picking the other team.
If I’m in a boxing ring and I’m boxing my opponent, I want to kill him. After it’s over, I give him a hug because it’s the rules. That’s how we play it. We play to win and then we play to hug. Basketball is the same way. When I play, we play hard. We play to win and then we hug each other. The winner wins. Politics isn’t like that anymore. It’s become demonizing people. I’ve been on all sides. I voted Democrat. I didn’t vote. When I was a communist, I wanted them all to be destroyed. I became independent and then I was like, “I’m going down the third-party path,” and that changed and I went Republican. When I did that I was freaked out because I went, “You believe in that stuff?”
I realized I had changed. I believed in small government. I believed in responsibility. I believed in the military. I believed that America, besides all its flaws, is the greatest country where everybody wants to come to. I don’t blame them. I feel blessed that I was born in poverty in America as opposed to born in poverty somewhere else. I’m lucky. I won the lotto by being born in the South Bronx. That’s the big picture stuff as far as what I’d like to do where possible, and I can’t do it with everybody. Open-minded people, you got to find a way to bridge the divide and treat each other with respect, listen to each other first.
How I am politically now, I’m conservative. I call myself a common sense, optimistic, Duffy conservative. I got my own way of seeing the world. One of the ways I see the world is that I love people. I respect people, all people. I like to learn from people. That’s where I start. I start with respect and I start with listening. I have no need to. When I was young and under left, I knew everything. I had everything. I knew every answer. I knew nothing. Nowadays, I try not to be that dumb young kid who was arrogant and thought he knew everything. Now I have opinions. They’re my opinions, they’re my beliefs. They’re strong but I don’t need to convert anybody. It’s not a religion. This is my belief. You want me to share it with you? I’ll share it with you. You don’t want to hear it. I don’t need to talk about it. Do you want to start a fight? I’m not into it. I got better things to do in life than to fight over politics because, at the end of the day, your life and my life isn’t going to be any better after that fight is over.
I’m like, “What’s the outcome do I need?” My outcome is I’d rather make friends. I’d rather find what we have in common, what we can do to solve a problem. It’s like in the film industry, as a line producer, I got to get the film made. If I argue with people, it isn’t going to work. In life too, we spend our time arguing as opposed to living. Why don’t we sit down and try and solve the problem? This homelessness, maybe you don’t know the answer, maybe I don’t know the answer. Let’s try and see if we can figure out an answer together rather than me blaming you for the problem and you blaming me for the problem.
Not worry about the credit. That’s where a lot of people get caught up. It’s a good place for us to stop because you articulated my entire hope for this show and for the Misfit Nation and for the things that we’re working on. The hope is I love the fact that people disagree. There’s no reason for me to destroy because we love more than we hate. That’s the idea. Right and left I get attacked on those extremes and I get told all the time, “The only thing in the middle of the road is road kill, Jason. Is that where you want to be?” I might learn a lesson here. I have to pick a side or whatever.
Right now, what I believe is that there are ways more people saying the sane middle. You can be left. You can be right-leaning and still love that other person without needing to destroy them, to have a conversation. You see this all the time, especially on this news TV shows where people are arguing their side and their making relevant, cognizant points. Somebody else’s point you can see their point and that was a better point than my point. All of a sudden, “You cheated. You stole money here. You did this or you did that,” whatever these people are attacking each other on, it goes away from content and goes to character. It becomes about the character assassination and that’s what needs to stop.
I don’t think it will, unfortunately, because we go back to social media. The purpose of these shows is to create that conflict because conflict creates audience and audience creates money. Basically, their goal is to make more money. Like with clickbait, the more they can create attention. Tony Robbins had a TV show that he did for NBC for one quarter. It failed because it didn’t have enough viewers because their story wasn’t knocking people down, kicking people off the island. It was making people better. Unfortunately, the people didn’t resonate to want to spend their time watching people made better as much as they want to watch somebody get kicked off the island.
They replaced that show with Minute To Win It. Tony’s show was beautiful.
The bottom line is I have strong views. I vote for who I vote for. Everybody votes for who they vote for. I’m willing to say all that, but at the same time, I wish people would accept that you’re going to go vote for who you vote for. Somebody else is going to vote for who they vote for. They vote from a different person than me, I’m still going to be their friend unless they don’t want to be mine. I don’t care. Some people will care and they’ll say, “I’m not going to be your friend.” I can’t stop that. The media wants that conflict. They don’t have a show on TV where all those people sit down and say, “How do we solve this problem together?” Nobody would watch it, unfortunately. They don’t bring people together to solve the problem. They bring people together to blame each other for a wider problem, and they make money off of it. That doesn’t mean that you have to follow them because that’s how they make money. They’re not giving you any of it. I’m not getting any of that. I haven’t seen any checks from them when they do that.
The audience that I’m looking for is not people that are looking for hate. I hear a lot of people that read my blogs because they’re learning stuff and of those shows. We’ve had a tremendous amount of people that have read. I have long shows sometimes. People read all the way through because they think we’re adding value to people’s lives from a different perspective. It’s a different way to look at things, a different voice from these people that are screaming at each other the entire time. It’s being done with love. I’m not here trying to create the next let’s hate somebody show. We’ve had hard conversations. We’re spacing difficult situations and we’re adding in the element of understanding, intellect and love. That’s what it is. It’s not fluffy. You know me well-enough to understand that I’m not a fluffy love.
No one will ever accuse you of that.
When people hear that word, they go, “He’s talking about love.” It’s hard to love. It takes a beast to love through a lot of this stuff in the world. You’re a beast of love. Thank you for coming on the show. I was looking forward to this conversation. You did not disappoint. I know my audience is going to fall in love with you as I did. Looking forward to changing the world with you and doing a lot of great things.
Thank you so much for the opportunity. Any time with you is a blast.
We will see all of you in the Misfit Nation on the next show.
About John Duffy
John Duffy is a Film Producer, Director, Professor and Motivational Speaker who shares a powerful message of overcoming all odds to succeed in life. John shares his personal story and journey of growing up in the South Bronx, dropping out of High School at age 15 to today when he is a Hollywood Producer and Professor. He inspires others with a message that there is always a solution and that you can overcome all obstacles.
John’s journey from “The Bronx to Hollywood” wasn’t a straight path. He worked many jobs including in factories, cab driver, US Post Office Mail Handler, Substitute Teacher, Oral history interviewer, aerobics instructor, salesman, Counselor with runaways in Hollywood, Actor and finally today Producer. He has produced over 30 feature films. He is also very active in veteran support activities in the film industry. A short film he directed “The Flag” screened at the GI Film Festival in Wash, DC. He is presently working on producing a feature film based on the incredible true story of a Houston Boxer who took Iraq to the Olympics in 2004 entitled They Call Me Termite.
John’s political journey took him from being a Maoist Communist leader in his teens to today. John led a trip to Communist China in 1978 when he was 26 years old. He went from there to eventually becoming a Reagan conservative. John was recently honored with the Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge’s National “George Washington Honor Medal” in Public Communication for his work in veteran support and for freedom, John has given speeches at NASA at the “You Mission Critical Event”, a Keynote for the Los Angeles Film Schools Salute to Veterans, A Keynote at Notre Dame and spoke to Rotary Clubs and women’s groups, He has also spoken at many Military Veterans training events in film industry including at SONY Studios in Hollywood for “PA 101 for Military Veterans” . He has written a Memoir “Black Irish” about his life and writes a Blog entitled “The Glass is 3/4’s Full” that captures his optimistic attitude of life.
John has a life long commitment to Personal Development. He has worked with Tony Robbins and attended and crewed dozen of his events. He has walked on hot coal over a dozen times and twice across glass. He has read over 500 books in the fields of Personal Development, Psychology, and Entrepreneurship. He brings a passion to inspire others to their greatness and bring in his education from the streets of The Bronx.
“John Duffy was presented the Outstanding Speaker Award at the YOU: Mission Critical at Space Center NASA on January 31st, 2017 by event leader and host T. Allen Hanes, of The Authority Syndicate Group. Duffy was the VIP night featured speaker and one of 17 handpicked speakers who are on a mission to help others succeed in mindset, finances, overcoming fear, media, and publishing, social media, and public speaking.”