Earlier this month, we released our latest episode of The Unfair Fight. Blackpoint’s CEO, Jon Murchison, got to sit down with George Piro in his gym, American Top Team, in Florida. George worked for the FBI for over 23 years, ending his career as Special Agent in Charge at the Miami Field Office.
In the early 2000’s, George was a member of the Counterterrorism Rapid Deployment Team that developed post-9/11 and the team leader of the Saddam Hussein interrogation team. As the lead interrogator, George talked to Saddam for hours a day, over the span of seven months.
In addition to his key roles within the FBI, George and Jon discussed his family fleeing the civil war in Lebanon, how he became interested in martial arts upon arriving to the US, and how he has come full circle—entering the world of competitive jiu-jitsu post-FBI retirement.
While reflecting on pivotal moments throughout George’s life, three key takeaways stuck out to the Blackpoint team. As always, our aim for these conversations with high-performing leaders is to examine how their lessons learned can translate to all arenas of life, including cybersecurity and corporate America. We hope our key takeaways empower you to lead your team well and live a high-performing life.
Three Key Takeaways
1. Drive And Discipline Separate Champions from Everyone Else
“Everybody wants to be a champion but not everyone is willing to do what it takes.”
When you look at someone like George Piro’s career and list of accomplishments, it becomes clear quickly that he is a disciplined man, willing to put the work in. He seems to have learned this from his parents, who, when George was only 12, fled Lebanon and brought the family to the United States for a better life. Once here, they saved up money for George to do karate dojo, helping him assimilate to American culture and learn English. Five years later George became a US citizen, enlisting in the Air Force as soon as he could at 18 years of age. This drive, discipline, and commitment to goals led to many significant moments throughout his career, whether it be interrogating Saddam Hussein or pushing on to an Afghanistan deployment soon after.
2. Good Leaders Recognize People’s Potential
“The common mistake is we tend to hire based on experience versus potential.”
Early in his career, the FBI saw the key role George could play within the agency. They called him out of the Air Force Reserves to join the Bureau, and upon graduation, was assigned to the counterterrorism division. This was not the journey he envisioned for himself, but his ability to speak Arabic was especially important to the FBI national security mission. And it proved to be so–when he graduated in the summer of ‘99, their focus “was already on al-Qaeda.” A little over a year later, the USS Cole bombing occurred, a suicide attack by al-Qaeda against a guided missile destroyer of the US Navy.
Fast track 20+ years later, another soon-to-be prominent figure in George’s life saw his potential. Former UFC fighter, Wilson Gouveia, invited George to attend American Top Tier, an MMA and jiu-jitsu gym, consequently encouraging him to consider competitive fighting. This belief in George led to his retirement from the FBI, opening the door for entirely new professional opportunities.
3. High Performers Must Learn How to Deal with Stress
“A strong body definitely helps having a strong mind.”
Throughout George’s life, there has been a common thread of stressful and demanding situations. From fleeing Lebanon in a small fishing boat before sunrise and entering American middle school without knowing English, to doing raids in war zones with Tier 1 Special Operations Units, George’s structured physical training program has always helped him destress. The demands and impact of his profession are undeniable. By keeping his body physically strong, he in turn has been able to keep his mind strong—a battle many in the military-industrial complex fight.
With discipline, drive, and a devotion to all-around strength as his foundation, people in George’s life have continually recognized and harnessed his potential. And he is grateful. “I never thought I would have the privilege or opportunity to serve my country [the way I did].”
To learn more about George’s jam-packed career, tune in to the latest episode of The Unfair Fight.
About The Unfair Fight
Welcome to The Unfair Fight, a podcast by Jon Murchison, the founder and CEO of Blackpoint Cyber. Previously an NSA computer operations expert and IT professional, Jon spent more than a decade executing high-priority national security missions. Now, he welcomes experts onto his podcast. Together, they participate in compelling conversations surrounding geopolitics, high-level performance in diverse fields, entrepreneurship, and the current cybersecurity landscape. Tune in today.