The Leadership Under Fire Optimizing Human Performance Podcast provides a platform to prepare performance leaders to navigate the moral, mental, emotional, intellectual and physical rigors in high-risk and ultra-competitive settings by developing strength of mind, body, character and critical thought. The podcast features guests who are performance leaders in a myriad of industries and explores human performance at the tactical/individual level, the operational/team level as well as the organizational level. The LUF Human Performance podcast endeavors to synthesize ideas, concepts and practices from divergent industries where uncertainty, risk, time-pressure and resource limitations are pervasive, and the consequences of sub-optimal performance are severe.
Romeo Okwara currently is a Defensive End for the NFL’s Detroit Lions. Prior to this, he played college football at Notre Dame and signed with the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2016. Born June 17, 1995, Romeo stands 6’4” and weighs 275 pounds. But as we’ll discuss in this episode, when it comes to Okwara, there’s more than meets the eye. He moved to the United States from Nigeria with his family in 2005, and he played organized football for the first time a year later, but his lack of experience resulted in him being cut from the team. During his childhood, Romeo’s parents stressed the importance of education to him and his siblings so much so that during the recruiting process he would not entertain interest from colleges whose academic reputations did not meet his standards. And the one thing he rarely leaves home without is his camera. Off the field, he indulges his creative side and enjoys traveling the world.
Renewable energy offers many benefits to the environment and its workforce. But while these are often great jobs, they can also be dangerous. Renewable energy workers are exposed to hazards that can result in fatalities and serious injuries. Many incidents involving falls, severe burns from electrical shocks and fires, and crushing injuries have been reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Our guest in this episode, Troy Ryan, is the Director of Operations for Leeward Renewable Energy—an industry leader in North America. Prior to joining the private sector, Ryan served in the US Marine Corps. His experience in these two seemingly different, yet similarly high-risk industries is the impetus of this interview.
Stacy Shilling has dedicated the last 21 years to educating patients and families about health and wellness as a Registered Nurse. After obtaining her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from West Virginia Wesleyan College, Stacy was awarded a grant from Stevenson University for her Master of Science in Nursing with a focus in Population Based Care Coordination. Stacy’s career has included caring for patients in Neuroscience Critical Care, Medical Oncology Critical Care, Interventional Radiology, and as an Organ Procurement Coordinator for transplant. In her current role, as the Coordinator for Nursing Clinical Standards at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Stacy assures that nursing policy and practice implement current evidence-based practice for all 3,800 nurses.
The Senior Firefighter is one of the most significant roles in the fire service. A member who carries this informal position can be a valuable source of experience, knowledge and leadership. Often their actions dictate the level of success that members of a company will achieve both individually and as a whole. James McNamara is a dedicated member of the FDNY who embodies the true characteristics of a senior firefighter. Jim joined the FDNY in 1994 and eventually was assigned to Engine 37. He currently serves in Ladder Co. 26 in Harlem. Jim is a long-standing member of the Division 3 Safety Committee and a Company and Battalion Delegate for the Uniformed Firefighters Association. He serves on the strategic committee for the FDNY’s Mental Performance Initiative and has developed the operational research component in partnership with Columbia University. Jim also serves as Human Performance Advisor for Leadership Under Fire. He attended Thomas College in Waterville, Maine where he played basketball.
Michael Wyly enlisted in the US Marine Corps in 1957 at the age of 17 and was commissioned as a US Marine Corps Second Lieutenant upon graduation from the US Naval Academy in 1962. Colonel Wyly served two tours in Vietnam—during which he was wounded in the head and received the Purple Heart Medal. In the years following Vietnam, Colonel Wyly led a revision of US Marine Corps tactics with a view toward making them fully relevant to the demands of modern war. Colonel Wyly was a principal author of the FMFM 1 – Warfighting manual, a seminal doctrinal publication that cemented the USMC’s adoption of maneuver warfare under the leadership of Commandant Al Gray. Following his retirement in 1992, Colonel Wyly founded the Bossov Ballet Theatre in Maine. He has continued to actively publish in professional journals on modern war and lead intellectual efforts designed to improve the US military’s operational and strategic capability set.
The spectrum of fitness genres continues to expand. So, in this saturated—and often overwhelming—fitness market, how should you go about attaining a high-level of physical and tactical fitness while maximizing your enjoyment and quality of life? FDNY Firefighter James Lopez has dedicated his life to answering this question. Lopez joined the FDNY in 1997 and currently is assigned to Rescue Company 2 in Brooklyn. He also serves as a tactical fitness advisor for both Leadership Under Fire and the FDNY’s Mental Performance Initiative. Jimmy majored in Physical Education at Hunter College where he also competed as a collegiate wrestler. He left Hunter to join the FDNY prior to his last semester and finished his degree with Kaplan University studying Nutrition. Lopez also operates a gym in Staten Island, New York where he lives with his wife and two children.
In 2016—after a 108-year wait—the Chicago Cubs finally won the World Series. The Cubs’ journey from being a last place team to one of the most iconic in baseball history is charged with lessons learned on effective leadership, teamwork, culture creation, sacrifice, trust, possibility and character development. So, it seems fitting that in the fall of 2018, the Cubs named Anthony Iapoce as the team’s Hitting Coach. Iapoce began his coaching career in 2006, but prior to that he spent eleven seasons playing in the minor leagues with the Brewers and Marlins organizations. Just as Cubs fans always remained steadfast, so has Iapoce.
In 2014, the Leadership Under Fire team hosted the 3rd Annual Making Yourself Hard to Kill Conference. During this event, a Navy SEAL Commander with extensive operational experience shared his thoughts on navigating risk, mutual trust, decision-making among SEAL teams and more. This conversation was moderated by the LUF team’s Leadership Director, Eric Nurnberg, who joins us in this episode. Nurnberg is a Deputy Chief with the Iowa City Fire Department and a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.
“Thrilling” and “thought-provoking” are just two words to describe the work produced by our guest in this episode. Sebastian Junger is an American journalist, author and filmmaker whose work demands contemplation regarding what history, science and experience tells us about the ability to endure hardship and how to navigate our current cultural terrain. Junger’s work includes the books: Tribe and The Perfect Storm as well as the Academy Award-nominated film: Restrepo, which he co-directed with Tim Hetherington. Junger holds a degree in anthropology, has a propensity towards dangerous jobs and an admiration for the “working man.”
In an era where many elite athletes specialize in one sport, the Fowler brothers stand out. Brendan Fowler was a two-time NCAA Champion during his days of playing lacrosse at Duke, the NCAA Championship most outstanding player in 2013, and the single-season leader all-time in face-offs won in the same year. Also on the football team during his time at Duke, Fowler was a part of the Blue Devils squad that made its first bowl since 1994. After graduating, Fowler spent half a season with the Charlotte Hounds of Major League Lacrosse. Fowler then made his way onto the wrestling mat for a final season of NCAA eligibility. His professional lacrosse career has been spent with the Vancouver Stealth and New York Lizards. Danny Fowler was named an Under Armor All American in 2013 as the Chaminade High School star lacrosse goalie. That year he also helped pin down the Catholic State Championship in wrestling. He followed his older brother’s footsteps to Duke where he too played on the lacrosse and football teams. He’s now coaching lacrosse at Highland Park High School in Texas. So, how is it these multi-sport athletes excel in competition and in other areas of their lives?
Jason Brezler is the Founder and President of Leadership Under Fire (or LUF). In this episode, we’ll get to share how Leadership Under Fire came to be and how the LUF endeavor has evolved over time. We’ll also learn how Jason’s personal experiences have influenced his views on how to develop leaders and optimize human performance. Jason serves as a FDNY Special Operations Firefighter in Rescue Company 2 in Brooklyn, New York. Prior to becoming a firefighter and creating the Leadership Under Fire Team, Jason began his career as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. He’s led Marines on several deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan where he was decorated for his combat service. Jason holds a masters degree from Oklahoma State University. He completed his undergraduate degree at the United States Naval Academy where he also played Division 1 baseball for the Midshipmen.
It’s something we all do every day of our lives. Breathing! And yet, most of us are doing it wrong. In this episode, Dr. Belisa Vranich, a renowned clinical psychologist, public speaker and author, will tell us some surprising information about breathing and walk us through the simple, revolutionary program she developed to improve mental and physical heath through breath work. As the founder of The Breathing Class™, Dr. Belisa has taught and lectured nationwide, and so we are honored to have her on the Leadership Under Fire Optimizing Human Performance Podcast.
In 2018, the FDNY’s highest honor for the most outstanding act of heroism was awarded to Lieutenant Mickey Conboy. Lt. Conboy has more than 30 years with the FDNY. He is presently assigned to Rescue Co. #3 in the Bronx. Conboy previously served in Engine Co. 79, Ladder Co. 37 and Rescue Co. #3 as a firefighter and Squad Co. 41 as a Lieutenant. Conboy is an Adjunct Instructor at the FDNY Fire Academy and the FDNY’s Technical Rescue School. He was instrumental in the development of the course curriculum for the Firefighter Victim Removal training for FDNY Special Operations Command firefighters and officers. External recognition aside, he’s also experienced quiet moments of accomplishment and fulfillment in the fire service and in his personal life.
“Life As Sport.” It’s an approach to performance and everyday situations that Dr. Jonathan Fader strongly believes in based on his experience working with top athletes. Dr. Jonathan Fader is a licensed performance psychologist who served two seasons as the Director of Mental Conditioning for the New York Football Giants and also served as the team psychologist for the New York Mets for nine seasons. In this episode, we’ll unpack some the of skills Dr. Fader teaches professional athletes and find out more about how he is influenced by his experience working with high performers in various fields.
Our guest in this episode has spent two decades traveling to some of the most dangerous and remote areas of the world—masterfully capturing all facets of the human experience. Lynsey Addario is an American photojournalist whose work appears regularly in the New York Times, National Geographic and Time magazine. She’s covered conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Darfur, and the Congo, and has received numerous awards, including the MacAthur Fellowship. In 2009, she was part of the New York Times team that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. She’s been kidnapped twice, nearly killed, married and had a son, but still is committed to documenting injustice in the world. Why does she do it? We’ll discuss this and more on the Leadership Under Fire Optimizing Human Performance Podcast.