“you’re going to need a little faith — a faith that you make it through and, lastly, a sense of humor.” — Gabe George
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of dealing with crisis and how to adapt and overcome. The context of this series is the physical and financial fallout that resulted from the COVID 19 pandemic. Crisis management is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases, it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Gabriel “Gabe” George.
Gabe is a medically retired U.S. Navy Corpsman and fast-rising Paralympic archer. Gabe is also a proud father to an 11-year-old daughter and a three-year-old Cane Corso pup. After losing the use of his right arm in a motorcycle accident, Gabe became an adaptive athlete competing in Para Archery, Pickleball, sailing, cycling, and a few others. He is a firm believer that life is for living.
Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
I was born and raised on the Eastside of Houston, Texas. In a small community named Mc Nair, Texas. I was the middle child, raised by a single mother with three other siblings. Depending on who you ask, I was the one that got into the most trouble, but that was because I was the most adventurous and curious. I’ve enjoyed getting my hands dirty while learning something new. I was very entrepreneurial, and from a young age, I knew the importance of knowing how to work or fix things.
I was able to learn about many different trades growing up; by working with different people like my pastor on his farm or spending time with my grandfather and getting carpentry work experience like everything from electrical work to pouring concrete. Even spending lots of time working with my great uncle, who is a mortician, and doing everything from picking up bodies to helping arrange regular funeral duties.
After graduating from High School, there weren’t many great job options available, which aided in my decision to join the military.
And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?
I motivate and inspire overcomes everywhere, which means people that have gone through, people that are going through, people that need inspiration, that need to find the light within themselves. That needs to understand somebody else that has been through something or gone through something — knowing that they can relate too. Understand that you can still, life is still here, and we can still press on, find a reason too.
I’m an adaptive athlete. I compete in multiple adaptive sports. Adaptive meaning, I shoot Paralympic Archery. I race sailboats. I usually do it with a crew of Veterans, different people with different injuries. I’m an avid scuba diver. That’s one of my favorite things to do. I love it. Well, next to playing Pickleball. Pickleball is pretty amazing too. I love playing Pickleball. I love sharing Pickleball with others. I love teaching people about Pickleball and many other sports too. I love to see people find and experience something new. To experience that joy that I get to feel and get a piece of it in them.
When I’m not doing sports, I’m advocating. I’m Heavily involved with multiple non-profits as far as Veteran non-profit. From things with helping building homes or restoring homes with Team Rubicon. I do a lot of helping people — a lot of serving. We served in the military. I spend a life of serving and serving others and being of service.
Can you tell us a bit about your military background?
I’m a medically retired US Navy Corpsman. Meaning, someone in the medical field. In the civilian world, pretty much translates to a nurse’s assistant. But in the Navy, we do quite a bit more than that. I was an Anesthesia Tech for my last couple of years. I spent five years in the Navy. I join in 2004, right out of High School. I spent a couple of years on a ship. That was my first time, and that is when I learned what the Navy meant about “accelerating your life.” For the most part, I learned a lot. I got to travel quite a bit and experience and do things that I probably not have been ever to do and through other outlets. I’ve been to multiple countries, seen many things, and been apart of many things.
Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?
Since we are on the topic of survival, people often ask me how to I stay calm through the chaos and how do I not overreact when things are going crazy. I guess it comes from experiences going through multiple chaotic experiences while being in the Navy, especially being on board ship. There are many messy experiences that you will go through and have to learn from them. That is apart of life, and you get to adapt and overcome and to prepare. You learn how to be prepared as possible. For example, on one of my deployments, while we were out at sea, our Captain just decides to take us through this massive storm that we were warned about. The storm had 30-foot seas, and I was on a 505-foot ship long, the USS Carney DDG-64. We pretty much got tossed and turned and thrown around in the ocean like it was nothing.
I had the privilege of being helmsman at the time during a big part of the storm. I remember standing in the bridge holding the helm as well called it, and I could see wherever the lightning would strike. We could see a flash of light, and you would see the waves it would be just like the movie the Perfect Storm. I remember watching the waves that would come over the whole ship. The ship would just come up and would slam down. And you’re just trying to hold on to any and everything you could. And everyone on the bridge just throwing up, all the Officers, just barfing and throw up is just sloshing. That was a fun couple of few hours because then you had half the ship that was in the rack trying not to moving trying to stay still. At this time, I was training to be a Corpsman. So when I got off watch, from helmsman deck seaman duties, I had the OJT (on the job training) in the med hall..med deck, and a couple TBI’s later. One of our CS, which is a Culinary Specialist at the time I remember he had hit his head on the corner of a cabinet and split it right down the middle right on his forehand he had about an inch long gash which required stitches.
I remember talking to the Baby Doc at the time, and I was like,” Hey, what are we going to do?”. He was like, “you gotta sew it up.” We’re holding on in this ship, as the boat is rocking, we’re just sitting there going back and forth. And I was like how are we going to do this. I will never forget that day. You have to be calm because you don’t want to mess this guy’s head up. It was a real learning experience. From going through extreme things like that from storms, we should not have any business going through. The ship got torn up a bit. We had flooding in certain compartments. We lost a lot of parts to the boat by going through that. There is a short video on YouTube where we have some of our cameras on the ship recording outside of it. I think we called it the Perfect Storm. That would be a nice interesting story of my time in the Navy.
One of the takeaways causes there were so many takeaways you can learn from this story. You learn from your experiences for one that it teaches you the importance of being ready and prepared. We were aware and pre-warned that there was a storm ahead. Hence, we took precautions and tighten down everything on the ship. There are going be times where rough seas of life will be coming at you, and you can plan for and be prepared. You’re going to need to tie down the things that you want to hold on to. When the waves come and try to wash everything away certain things are going to wash off, you’re going to lose little bits at a time, but that’s life, At the end of the day, how prepared you were beforehand, is how fast you bounce back and recover for when it comes.
We are interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.
It’s just a tricky one for me because depending on how your views and your perception. The most heroic thing that I’ve personally seen was after my accident. Seeing a lot of people in my command, Chiefs, Leadership, come to my aid and support. They were right by my bedside, making sure that I was being taken care of, and making sure that I was just OK. They knew me, they knew that I hadn’t done anything, that I wasn’t irresponsible. I had some Chiefs that came through just to make sure things like my insurance and rehab, and housing was taken care of. They understood certain things in my life at a time weren’t altogether. People were trying to use me. I was very naïve to a certain degree. The most heroic time was when people came out to save me. People that come to help me when I need it the most and didn’t even know I would need it. That’s why I still have these mother figures to me. These Chiefs some that would come around and still come around to this day. I just have this bond and respect for the Chief’s mess, especially the female Chiefs mess since my time at Bootcamp when my first female Chiefs then, til the moment, effects that they have had on my life till this day. Those are my heroes.
Based on that story, how would you define what a “hero” is? Can you explain it?
How would I define what a hero is? So since I’m talking about some. People that didn’t have to do anything didn’t have to go out their way for any reason; I didn’t do anything special for them or to them, someone that does good for the sake of good. Someone that has no second thought about the repercussions per se and just makes an effort without explanation. Yeah, to me, that’s a hero, or shero.
Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business or leadership? Can you explain it?
Do I think that how much any of my experiences in the military help me prepare for business or leadership? I’d say for both for business and leadership, and it was a tough transition for me coming out of the military comes to civilian work there was a massive gap of the misunderstanding of how the translation of business of how things flowed and how people communicated in a work environment. Hence, in the military there, we had a structure, we had a chain command, but everybody knew everyone’s role.
Also, not only was I taught to know my position, but I also know the part of the person ahead of and behind me. Not that I’m trying to take over that role, but just in case something happens with that person I can fill in to keep it going versus the civilian side, things were like everyone for their selves. Everything was just people operate on their schedule, and things got done whenever they want to, and I was so used to the structure of alright we say this is our plan; this is the mission first, and this is what we get done. In the beginning, the day we meet, this is what we’re going to do, we get it done.
And I carry that with me, I still take it to this day. This is the plan, and alright this is what we do, and let’s do it. And then we mark it off, and we prepare to move to the next thing. Paying attention to detail is something that was drilled into me. As a Corpsman, we would hear that over and over. That instilled a quality standard to me. It stood out for my interactions in business and with people.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’ve been the fortunate one to have many people over my life journey to help me get to where I’m at as a human being right now, but at the current moment when the main things that I’m doing involved in are in Paralympic archery. And I can say that a person that’s been a significant impact and very helpful to me daily has been my mentor and friend Andre Shelby. He, himself is a gold medalist and a champion. Andre is a very calming individual. I’ve learned so much from him just from my time around him, not only archery — but being a better man a better human being. I’m grateful beyond measure for that. Honestly, he’s a massive motivation for me to want to do better and keep going in this sport. Winning is my way to show him and others my thankfulness and gratefulness for the time and support that he’s putting in with me. I’m doing it not just for myself but for others.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out how to survive and thrive in a crisis. How would you define a crisis?
How would I define the crisis? I would define a crisis as of a moment of complete loss of control of a situation or your response to a situation. When you are not prepared, and things are coming from everywhere, and then there you have no idea what to do. When I’m prevented from moving forward, per se is a crisis.
Before a crisis strikes, what should business owners and leaders think about, and how should they plan?
In business, the crisis is always right around the corner. Nowadays, we get comfortable with the automation of and often the effortless flow of business. As soon as things are looking great, that’s when crisis likes to strike. Look at how at this COVID-19 crises pop up, and no one knows if tomorrow was going to come for the business or how to flow in this new tomorrow. As prepared as you were for so many other things now, people are falling off the side because there’s no more preparedness. When you run out of resources, you run out of things. As for myself as an athlete, all my tournaments were canceled or postponed. Over 80 percent of my support either withheld contributions, or either informed me that we’re not able to support. I was able to take a step back and use this time to my advantage; this gave me more time to slow down and reassess the plan.
I had a schedule that was set for the whole year, but now that everything is postponed, let’s reset the program, and don’t worry about this because when no one knows when things are starting, so let’s focus on what I have right now. I can train I can work on focus sharpening everything in this business in myself making it better and then once things start to open up I will be still moving right on track and at the same time reach out to my resources send thank you messages, saying hello, or just checking in with them to make sure they’re doing alright. I’m not asking for anything just, just showing my appreciation for what they’ve done already.
Also, remind them how important they were and how beneficial they are to our whole cycle of how we do things. And slowly indeed thing we find ways of being present being OK every this whole virtual thing is going on is going to zoom meetings and then now we just find your resources. You’re making finding new reserves finding new relationships. Because it’s when things start up again, it’s not going to be the old way is going to be something completely new at the after crisis after a storm is coming through nothing is the same anymore you have to start over. So it’s letting go that mindset of a hold on to what was. Now you focus okay on what I have now and how I can proceed forward with that.
There are opportunities to make the best of every situation, and it’s usually based on how you frame it. In your opinion or experience, what’s the first thing people should do when they first realize they are in a crisis? What should they do next?
What should you do when you realize you’re in a crisis situation? The very first thing that you do when you know that you are in a crisis is rule number one. Rule number one is don’t panic. Once you panic, the crisis just explodes, and there’s almost no chance of you coming back from that. If you don’t panic, you stop and breathe, then assess your situation. If you were already pre-planning before the crisis, you had some kind of plan.
Nothing ever goes entirely as planned, but you can use the plan as a guide out of the crisis. Things are going to keep coming. Life is going to keep rolling in. Still, you will find a way to hold yourself up, dust yourself off. Trust in the skills that you’ve had, and relationships that you’ve built, the bridges that you’ve already been building. Next would be to reach out to other resources. Look around and see if there is someone else trying to help me. Nine times out of ten, were not in this crisis alone, or others have been through this crisis, so look to your resources.
What do you believe are the characteristics or traits needed to survive a crisis?
For one resilience. You must be resilient to endure and keep going on. To have to pull that out of you that there is a reason to go forward. Also, you’re going to need a little faith — a faith that you make it through and, lastly, a sense of humor.
When do you think of those traits, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
I’m trying to think of one person, and I can’t. When I think of resiliency, faith, and a sense of humor. I’m seeing faces and multitude of faces of all my fellow brothers and sisters and veterans that I compete with and train with and do the Warrior Games competitions with. Cause these are groups of soldiers and sailors and Marines and Coast Guardsmen that have gone through some people that have seen war. Still, we come together we laugh together and cry together, we compete together, and you have to have resiliency you have to have some kind of faith, and you have to have a sense of humor to be able to get through. People tend to look at this crazy if you sit around and just watch from afar. The jokes that we have and things that we talk about, but to answer your question, there is no one person there is all of us.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
The greatest setbacks but bounced back stronger. Oh my God, I can’t say great. I’ve had so many setbacks, and I’ve had to bounce back many times over and over. It’s easy to believe that you are just okay. You’re going to take some hits and just bring balance back, but as a human being, sure hits hurt, and yeah, you can take them, but they wear and tear on this body. It is not necessarily a bounce back, but there’s a healing process that must take place; you might bounce back once twice, but if you keep taking the same hits, it affects you; in the long run. You will feel it when you get older.
Okay, I’ll say well one of the greatest setbacks that I’ve had took place over a few years. It would have been my five years or so post my accident from the time I came out of the hospital and went through the process of seeing all the people around me that were claiming to be friends and family and whatnot. Some people that I entrusted myself to, and I gave everything to in this belief in this dream or the hope that I would be healed and hope that life is going to be better-hoping things were going to be tremendous because I was doing so good and doing the right thing.
To finally, the wake-up moment becoming woke and realizing that that’s not how it works, none of the stuff that I was being told was truth or reality. And it took a few years to go through a process of cleansing and to detox a mindset. To get to a point where I could accept and let go of what happened. I acknowledged that I was scammed but realized that I’m still here I’m still alive. I have a daughter that needs an example in life for somebody to train and teach. To understand that I could not hold on to that for the rest of my life. I began looking at it as a pruning process. Yes, it hurt a lot, but it made me so much more robust and woke me up out of that dream. It woke me up to pay attention to how things work. I finally was able to find my path in life.
Here is the main question of our discussion. Crises not only have the potential to jeopardize and infiltrate your work, but they also threaten your emotional stability and relationships. Based on your military experience, what are five steps that someone can take to survive and thrive in these situations? Please share a story or an example for each.
The Navy has three core values: Honor, Courage, and Commitment. I will start with those three.
Having honor, of yourself, the honor of the brand, honor of the Navy, honor your country, honor of community, carrying honor with everything that you do. If you honor yourself, you will be able to carry yourself in a certain way. You’re going to perform, act, and serve in a certain way.
Having the courage to do the right thing. The courage to be that hero or shero. That courage to be that right person at the right time to be that helping hand when someone needs it. The courage to take that extra step and go above and beyond in your business to be of service to your community and your consumers.
And commitment to do whatever it takes to get it done. The commitment to whatever storm that comes, we’re going to fight through this together and get through it and rebuild afterward. A commitment to I’m in this, and I’m not giving up.
Those are the first three. Once you take those steps and you have those principles and core commitments that starts you on a path that when chaos happens or when something comes up, you already have these pillars to stand on. Two more of the five steps, I would say a fourth would be to use your resources. Connect with others, you know. Nothing great is built by itself. You can’t operate a business by yourselves, so it’s essential to lean on your volunteers and lean on your supporters. Lean on whoever is around you in your community. when it’s time to rebuild, you helping them is going to help them help you. And finally, take care of your people. At the end of the day, when the chaos comes, it’s how you treat your workers and how you treat those around you while you’re going through the chaos is what’s going to be remembered. That’s going to brand you and set the standard for everyone around and under you and those depending on you.
Ok. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My life’s mission is to motivate and inspire overcomer’s everywhere.
By overcomer, I mean anyone that has gone through and survived anything or even still going through something that meant to destroy you.
I can not count how often someone comes to me and says how inspired they are from just watching me, rather it is from me being outside working, training, competing, or even just playing. As humans, we tend to repeat what we see. When we see something that makes us feel good, we share it, and it spreads. We often need inspiration to find the light within ourselves. By seeing somebody else that has been through something or gone through something — knowing that they can relate too. It shows you that life is still here, and you can still press on, and find a reason too. I hope that through adaptive sports and recreation, I can motivate and inspire others to keep living and to show them that there is still a lot of good after a crisis.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.
I’m pretty sure I can think of a few that I want to have a private breakfast with, but I won’t say who that way it keeps it private. But there is this one guy that I wouldn’t mind having lunch with. He happens to have a unique perspective and view not just in life, but also in business. I would say, Mr. Robert F. Smith. He’s a philanthropist, amongst other things, and owns many companies. I admire his point of view, and what I’ve seen from him listened to interviews — how he flows and the amount of giving that he does. I’m a believer in giving, and the more I get, the more I give. Having a conversation with someone with that type of experience is inspiring to me. That’s is someone I would like to meet to chat up some ideas or ask some opinions.
How can our readers follow you online?
I’m pretty much available on all social media platforms from Facebook to Snapchat and Instagram, and TicTok, my daughter, has me on now. You can find me @TheoneArmedArcher, and that would pretty much connect you with all my stuff. Or you can search one of my hashtags (#GoWithGabe) that’s a little separate, but that encompasses all of my adaptive sports and some of the things that I do. And this journey of life as I go. You can find me @TheOneArmedArcher and #GoWithGabe.
Thank you for having me. I appreciate your time.