“First things first is care about your people as a leader. One thing that I learned from my leaders in the teams was you gotta really have a genuine interest in the people that you lead.”- Remi Adeleke
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Remi Adeleke (@RemiAdeleke) has had a journey through life that many of us would find hard to imagine. From Nigerian royalty to life in the Bronx, to the SEALs, to a career acting and writing. He and Mark talk about the importance of making the most of the things in front of you at all times. Hear his story of transformation, determination and defying all odds with his new book “Transformed” which will be released soon. You can pre-order your copy today at Amazon.
- The importance of making the most of what is in front of you.
- How the hard life he’d lived in the Bronx helped him for SEAL training.
- What it takes for a person who barely graduated high school, swim, act or lead finds success in those areas and acquires those skills.
Listen to this episode as someone going through times of intense struggle, pressure and failure can overcome all odds.
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Mark: Hey folks. This is Mark Divine. Welcome back to the unbeatable mind podcast. So stoked to have you here today. I do not take it for granted and I will not waste your time. Our guest today is going to be fascinating. Remi Adeleke, former Navy SEAL, actor, jack-of-all-trades, master of some. We’re gonna have a really, really cool talk.
Before I introduce Remi a little bit more, and we get to chatting… Keep in mind folks you could get this podcast all over the place. It’s now available at Google Play, Stitcher SoundCloud, and our website – unbeatablesite.wpengine.com – and my new website markdivine.com.
And it sure helps if you rate it, right? That’s how other people find it. So if you go rate the podcast… If you like what you hear, you just start at the right button which is all the way to the right. Just click on that and you’re done. Okay, that will at least give us five stars. If you can figure out how to give it six stars then go for it. But five is enough.
So that’s that. I appreciate that.
Alright, so Remi. Remi, former Navy SEAL – teammate of mine – but what an interesting journey you’ve had right? Out of, I think, Central Africa or wherever in Africa – I’m gonna figure out where – to the Bronx, to the seals, to the set of the Transformers, to author/speaker… Unbelievable. So stoked. I’m really bummed that we didn’t meet in person while on active duty but you know what? We live in the same town, so we can remedy that. Hooyah?
Remi: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes sir. Yes sir. Thanks for having me on. It’s an honor and blessing to be able to share with a fellow brother in the teams.
Mark: I hear that. Some of my favorite interviews are… I don’t get to do them very often, but man, it’s so much fun to talk to team guys… Cause so inspiring for people I mean how often can you have listened to two team guys just rapping about things that are important to them?
Remi: Absolutely. Doesn’t happen often, man.
Mark: So I always like to start out with kind of like the beginning… Like who is Remi? Talk about this life you had in Africa. And how did you come to leave the country and end up in the Bronx? Let’s start right back there at the very beginning of your story.
Remi: Yes I was born in western Africa, West Africa. My father, he was a well-known Nigerian engineer, businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist. I mean, he did it all. He was born in Nigeria.
He was the firstborn son to a tribal chief. So he, in return, was a chief as well. When his father died he ended up going to London a Fulbright scholarship in engineering. And then he came back and just built this massive enterprise. He was one of the first black people in the World Trade Center – the board for the World Trade Center. One of the first black people on the trade board in the UK. So he was big-time.
And my mom, she was American. So her and my dad actually met in the US when he was in New York on business. And she ended up going back to Africa with him after they got married.
So I was essentially born into wealth. I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I had nannies. We didn’t have a car, we had multiple cars. We didn’t live in a house, we had a compound and houses all around Victoria Island in Nigeria. Place in New York. Place in London. Place in Paris. We had security, we had drivers… I mean we didn’t lack anything at all. So that was essentially the early part of my life. The first five years of my life I would say.
Unfortunately Nigeria is a very, very corrupt country.
Mark: Hmm. I’ve been there, actually. Yeah, it’s an interesting place.
Remi: You know the deal. It’s really known for its corruption within the government. And it trickles all the way down to the locals, as far as police officers, TSA agents, etc.
So long story short – I explained it all in my book – but the Nigerian government ended up stripping my father of one of his most valuable assets. He had invested eight million pounds at the time and I don’t know what the equivalent of that is now – but it’s millions and millions and millions of US dollars. And he had invested this money into a project known as the lagoon development project which is now known as Banana Island, which was one of the first man-made islands in the world. And the Nigerian government stripped that from him.
And this all happened within days, so in the middle…
Mark: You mean they just stole his equity in the project?
Remi: Yeah. It’s more to the story, again… I go into great detail in the book. But they ended up just saying “you can’t have this land,” because my father acquired it from the Federal Government of Nigeria, but the Lagos State government said “well this land – the foreshore – belongs to us.” because you gotta remember that my father pretty much bought a swamp – he bought water. And so the Lagos state government said the foreshore – this water belongs to us. It doesn’t belong to the federal government. They should have never gave it to you.
And instead of giving him the money back and while waiting until he fully developed this swamp into land – once it was developed into land, then they said “you cannot have this.”
It would be nice if they said that before he started investing millions of dollars, but they chose to wait until it was developed into something. Which shows the corruption.
Anyway he went to go fight them. And within days he died.
Remi: Yeah, he died mysteriously. And so when he died – even before he died we still had everything, because he was still able to leverage his other companies and other stuff. But once he died we lost everything. We went from rich to poor. poor. We had nothing.
Mark: Is that because there was just no way to coral the assets? I mean, because of the corruption?
Remi: Yeah, because a lot of his assets were more locked up into the island. And then on top of that, a lot of his resources was put forth to fight the government for the acquisition, back up the land so…
Again, I go into really great detail in my book… But yeah, when all that had happened we went from rich to poor. My mom didn’t have a nickel to her name and she was like “there’s no way I’m raising my kids in Nigeria.”
So we permanently relocated to New York City and that’s how we ended up in the Bronx. Mark: So you had dual citizenship though?
Remi: No, fortunately for me – I can say that because I wouldn’t I want to have been able to become a SEAL if I had dual citizenship – I was just born with US citizenship. My father didn’t want me to have Nigerian citizenship even though he was Nigerian.
Mark: Oh. Interesting.
Remi: And he didn’t want my brother they have Nigerian citizenship. Funny story.
My dad wanted my brother to be in a run for president – he wanted both of us to be able to run for US president one day – which is an interesting story. So he had this crazy dream. So we were both born with US citizenship. Not dual citizenship at all.
Mark: Got it. Okay. So your mom ended up in the Bronx. Why there? Was that where she is from?
Remi: Yeah. Well my mom grew up in – not in uptown – but she grew up right across the bridge from the Bronx. So there’s this we live in West Bronx on Henry called Fordham and Cedric. And there’s a bridge like literally three blocks from our house that crosses over into the inner-city side of Manhattan. Past Harlem going north – so way past Harlem. So my mom grew up right there by – I believe the Dikeman projects over there. And so when he died, she just… This was the area she kind of knew. She grew up in. So she was just like “oh that’s what I’m going to bring my kids back to.”
Mark: Mm-hmm. So she brought you back there when you were what? Five, six?
Mark: Yeah. So what was life like at that point?
Remi: You know what? My mom… God bless my mom. She was really strategic in protecting us and not allowing us to see the change. Honestly, I didn’t know the difference at all. Because my mom did a great job at guarding us. And just giving us enough so that we had what we needed.
As a matter of fact, I remember she told my brother and I that he died. We were so young, we didn’t understand death, so we just went back to playing as if nothing happened. So I think that at that time we were just too young to even fully comprehend the shift in lifestyle, because, I mean, I was five, my brother was six, so…
Mark: Right. Now I read from your bio that things kind of went a little sideways or at least you became a little bit of a ruffian in your teenage years. So tell us about that and what those influences were like and how you got into that. And what you learned from it.
Remi: Yeah so as a young African-American kid growing up in the inner city, and not having a father, instinctively I began to look for a father. I began to look for a father in objects, I began to look for a father in things and people. And in the late ’80s and early ’90s, hip-hop music and just hip-hop culture – street culture – was very, very prevalent. Especially growing up in the Bronx.
And so I was able to look at these young African-American men – rappers, singers – who look like me, who came from the inner city just like I came from… Who had single parents like me… And not just rappers and singers, but guys on the block, you know what I mean? When I would walk down Fordham road, I was able to look at these guys and say “Wow. That’s who I need to be.” because I never had any other example in front of me really. And I’m talking a consistent example in front of me really.
And so I would hear about and see drug dealers, so that’s what I wanted to do. I would hear about having girls and all of these things, so that’s what I wanted to do.
And I started out stealing from my mom. And then that progressed to me… Actually I started out stealing from local stores – bodegas. And then that progressed to me stealing from jobs, and stealing from my mom. And that progressed to me getting jobs and stealing from jobs. And then that progressed to me selling drugs. And then that progressed to me running high-level scams where I was bringing in thousands and thousands of dollars a week.
And by the time I was 19, I had built this illegal enterprise for money. I mean, I was bringing all kinds of money… I was making so much money, that I was in return able to take on a business, fund a legal business. I was forming a record company. Because my dream was to develop a record company and not sell a record company, but partner with a big record company like Def Jam or MCA or RCA, whatever record labels…
Mark: So you were a money launderer too.
Remi: Yeah. That was a big part of it. And I was 18, 19, 20. The only reason why – the main reason why I did all of the illegal things that I did was to be able to fund my record company.
And I had a record company. I had artists signed to me. We put together a compilation album. We would travel back and forth from New York to Virginia to recording studios. I mean we did it. We were out there pushing really, really hard. So it wasn’t like the money was being wasted. It was being put to good use. And we were developing really great content at the time.
Mark: Mm-hmm. Whatever happened to that?
Remi: (laughing) well, the money ran out. And a big part of that story is I got involved in a deal with a drug dealer that were really, really, really, really bad. I sold some product that was supposed to last for certain amount of time. It only lasted for a fraction of time that it was supposed to last for. And he came knocking on my door and essentially threatened me in my mother’s apartment. Saying in so many words “if you don’t have my money by this time, imma kill you.” and I knew this guy, knew his reputation, and so for me… I made him the money as soon as I could. Within a day I think I made him all of the money back.
And then I made an internal decision that I cannot keep doing this life anymore. Because there were people born a federal prison for the stuff that I was doing. So I knew that if I kept on I would either end up in federal prison, or I would end up dead, getting caught up with the wrong people like I had just got caught up with. And so I internally made a decision “this is it. I’m not doing this life anymore. I don’t know what I’m gonna do with the rest of my life, but I’m not…”
And so I continued to push the record company. We were able to get into the door with Def Jam Records which was run by Kevin Liles at the time. He was a big time record mogul.
And I tried to sell him my record company and he didn’t want it. He didn’t like what we put out. It wasn’t for him at the time.
And that was the straw that broke the camel’s back and after some time, there was no more money to fund a record company. So it essentially dissolved and for six months this is January now six months from January 2002… Starting on that date I pretty much didn’t do much of anything. I just sat home for six months and did nothing.
And then in June of 2002, I was lying in my bed and I heard this voice speak to me. And that voice said to me as clear as day “you need to get out of here. You need to join the military.”
It was crazy, because the military… It was not my thought, it wasn’t not my mind. It wasn’t my idea.
Mark: You hadn’t been pondering it for the few weeks prior?
Remi: Not at all. It was just something that came out of nowhere, cause the military was totally contrary to everything I was. Everything I stood for. I hated Authority. I hated the police. I likes my clothes baggy and my hats backwards. I remember watching the kids in high school who were part of the ROTC program and their uniforms. And I remember making fun of them. There was no way I could have come up with the idea of joining the military. And I remember when l heard that voice… I remember arguing like “hell no. There’s no way. I’m not doing it.”
And after a while of laying in my bed that morning, I sat up and I looked around the room, the same room that I had been in since my father died and we moved to the Bronx… I looked around in that room and I said to myself “damn. What else do you have left? What else are you gonna do with your life?”
And that’s when I was just like “Alright. Let me see what this whole military thing is about.” mark. Yeah. “Uncle.”
Remi: And I walked down the street I grew up on, Fordham Road, and first I went to the Marine Corps recruiters’ office. And I sat in there, because I was going to join the Marine Corps. And the office was open – the door was open – coffee was on the desk, but there was nobody in the office. And I sat. I don’t know if the guy was taking a dump or what but I sat in there for about 15 minutes. And no one showed up.
Mark: (laughing) funny how these momentous decisions are made. Nobody there.
Remi: Yeah, nobody there. I sat in the Marine Corps office for 15 minutes. No one showed up. So I got up, I walked down two doors to the Navy office. Cause there was a film that I had saw years earlier called “The Rock,” and in “The Rock,” and that’s the first time I was exposed to Navy seals. So I saw Navy and it was “maybe I’ll try and do this Navy SEAL thing.” it was like a far-fetched idea but I was like “maybe I’ll do that.”
So I went to the Navy recruiter’s office and there’s a gorgeous Puerto Rican Navy recruiter in there. I’m going into in with the mindset of not only am I going to get in the Navy, but I’m going to make this girl my girlfriend. I tried to suave her and sweet-talk her. And long story short, she ended up getting me in the navy.
And there’s more to the story. I had two warrants out for my arrest. That day, when I went to her office she ran my background. And she was like “what are you doing here, dude? You have a warrant in New York, and you have a warrant in New Jersey.”
And I got up to walk out of the recruiters’ office, and she said “where are you going?” I said “well, I can’t join the military obviously, because the cops are looking for me.”
And she said “do you have a suit?”
And I said “no, I don’t.”
She said “do you have a collared shirt and slacks?”
I said “I can get some.”
She said “come back next week.” and I came back. It was either next week or the next day I came back. And she drove me in her government car and her dress uniform. She drove me to both judges. Judge in New Jersey, judge in New York. Essentially said “this guy’s trying to turn his life around by joining the military after an act of war.” Cause 9/11 had taken place that previous September.
And both judges unanimously cleared my record. Expunged my record.
Remi: And then she told me… She said “Remi, don’t ever say what I did for you. Don’t say that you went to a judge. Don’t say that you got your record expunged. Don’t mention any of that stuff. Cause if you do the military won’t take you.”
And I kept my word, and that’s how I got to the Navy.
Mark: Wow. Another godsend. That is incredible.
Remi: Absolutely. Another crazy story, she died – I just found out when I was writing the book. After I finished writing the book, I had my mom read it, and my mom said “You know, Remi, what’s gonna happen? One day you’re gonna be at a book signing and your recruiter’s gonna come up and see how what she did paid off.”
And I said “yeah, can’t wait. But I can’t remember her name. And if I can’t remember her name, there’s no way I could find her.”
So as soon as I said I can’t remember her name, this thought popped in my mind – my military service record – I had that. So I run into my desk, my office, and I got my military service record. I flipped through all of these papers and I was able to find the day I went to mess and I found her name. I Google her name, when I Google her name, I found out that she died four years after sneaking me into the Navy. She died this was super-… She was young, she was 30 years old. She died of this super-rare autoimmune disease.
And so, yeah, that crushed me. But I did was able to meet her family…
Cause the story’s in my book and I was able to kind of share her family story in my book. And I was able to find out from her family that that’s one of the things she did. She would drive around the Bronx, and pull drug dealers aside and say “hey listen, I see where you’re going. Come with me and join the military.”
And she even did that for her brother, who had misdemeanors. She snuck him into the air force. So she was like a Robin Hood. That’s what she did.
Mark: (laughing) Yeah. That was her mission.
Remi: That was her mission. She was from the Bronx. So she knew that she was the only way to get people like me and other people in who had made mistakes in our past. So God bless…
Mark: I want to shout out to all those recruiters out there who are helping out people like Remi:
You know what? I got helped out by my recruiter. My officer recruiter literally saved my ass. I mean, I would’ve been a SEAL without him. And I can’t go into the whole story, because it would take too long, but I basically screwed up. And screwed up my first MEPS exam. Because as an officer I still had to go through that.
And the way I screwed it up is I went out partying the night before. Nobody told me that the first thing they’re gonna do is hand me a breathalyzer, right? So when I partied, I partied, you know what I mean? The first thing they did was hand me a breathalyzer. I was dumb enough to blow in it. They said “turn around and walk out. And you’re disqualified for six months.”
I was like “Oh shit,” of course being a sneaky future SEAL I decided to go up to Albany to take the test cause back in ’88 when this was happening. I think. I was like “there’s no way these guys are connected. There’s no way their databases talk to each other.” I didn’t even know what the word database meant. But I just figured they weren’t talking each other.
So I went up and snuck the thing and I passed with flying colors. And I’m back at work a week and a half later and I get a phone call. It’s my recruiter. His name is Nick Philipone. And he goes “hey Mark? How you doing?”
And I say “I’m doing pretty good, Nick. Good to hear from you. Any word about my SEAL… Anything?”
And he goes “no, no. So anything you got to tell me?”
I said “no. Everything’s good.”
He goes “okay, well I’ll check in with you later.” and I hung up and I had that overwhelming feeling in the pit of my stomach like “oh shit. He knows.”
So I just sat there for a second. I said, “oh god. What do I do now?” and of course I got the message like call him back right now. So I picked up a phone and call him back, and I said, “Nick, I do have to tell you something. I basically tried to cheat the system. And I went up and took MEPS up in Albany.”
And he goes “I know.” and then he goes, “and if you hadn’t called me back, I would have disqualified you from the seals.”
Mark: And then he goes, “but, you know, the way I look at it, the seals really need sneaky bastards like you.”
(laughing) anyway, so shout out to all those recruiters who saved Remi’s and my ass.
Mark: That’s awesome.
BUD/S and Hell Week
Mark: So you went in the Navy. Did you go right to BUD/S after boot camp? Or how did that work?
Remi: No, I couldn’t swim.
Mark: (laughing) Small detail.
Remi: Two things. One, I couldn’t swim. Two, I didn’t have the academic scores, cause you had to have a high ASFAP score, and I had scored good enough to become a corpsman, but I score high enough to be a SEAL. And then I was skinny as a whip. I mean, I was pretty much skinny my whole life. I would just put on baggy clothes and act like I was tough. But I was a skinny kid and so I could barely do any push-ups. That was an issue.
So there was no way I was going into BUD/S. So after I got to my first command, which was Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, that’s when I put the pedal to the metal, man. I was just like “you know what? I want to be a frogman. So I’m gonna figure it out.” and so I purchased a bunch two-three-four video. And I just watched that thing religiously. And I just started creating workouts. I didn’t have a car, so I would run three miles to the pool. Jump in the pool and try to figure out how to swim.
And finally after a few weeks of almost drowning myself in the shallow end of the pool, humbled myself and I looked up at the lifeguard and I just said “Hey, can you talk me through this.”
And so the lifeguard would talk me through the stroke – the sidestroke – and eventually there was a lieutenant colonel would see me running three miles uphill – because the hospital was down in this valley – and it was this massive hill that I had to run up to get to the pool. And he would see me run back and forth every day and one day he showed up in the pool locker room and he said “Hey, what are you training for? You training for recon?”
And I said “no, I’m trying to go to BUD/S.” and he said, “Well if you meet me here at the pool at this time every day I’ll work with you.” and then he started working with me. That’s kind of eventually how I got the stroke down. And then…
Mark: And what was his name? Do you remember?
Remi: Lieutenant-Colonel Murray. I’ll never forget him.
Mark: Murray. Shout out to lieutenant-colonel Murray. Hooyah. What a great mentor.
Remi: Absolutely. And yeah, so after I checked into the command… Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton. Skinny, without the academic scores, not able to swim in 2003. And 2004 I checked into BUD/S.
Mark: No kidding.
Remi: So I bust my butt at work and a big part of that was having my command support and I had the emails and the work ethic that proved that I deserve the shot early. Because usually got to be in a command for 18 months before they let you go anywhere. And yeah, I got orders to BUD/S within the year. And I was in BUD/S in a year.
Mark: So before we talk about BUD/S, what was it about your street life that helped you and what hindered you from that? And what were the major lessons that stayed with you and helped you?
Remi: Oh my street life helped me tremendously. I mean growing up in the Bronx is not a easy life. So it’s a hard, hard… I mean, I’d been shot at. I was jumped repeatedly. I got beat up… I remember one time – I was probably like eight or nine years old and I got into an argument with this kid on the basketball court. And he left and showed up with his uncle who just got out of prison. His uncle had to be like 35 and his older brother was 19. And they beat they beat me to a pulp. Slammed me on the concrete. Spit on me…
So I mean, that was my life. There were times when my mom didn’t have enough food to feed herself. She just had just enough food to feed me and my brother. And my mom, she didn’t play, she was hard, she would discipline us.
So when you grow up in an environment that’s just naturally hard. And you begin to train for BUD/S, which the training should be hard if you try to get in and get through the program – it’s just like a walk… I don’t want to say a walk in the park… But it’s just like daily life. It’s like another day.
And so every day for me was just like another day, cause I had been living a hard life since ’87. So I been hard-knocks since 1987.
Mark: It reminds me Mike reminds me of a conversation with Goggins. Do you know David?
Remi: Yeah, I don’t know him personally, but I know of him. Yeah.
Mark: Yeah. I recently did a podcast with him and he was just starting his book “Can’t Hurt Me.”
But it was kind of the same thing. When you get kicked in the balls enough times, by the time you get to SEAL training it’s like they really can’t do anything to you, you know what I mean? Unless they killed you. Which they’re not allowed to do.
Remi: Yeah. So that’s what helped me tremendously. I don’t want to say – I can’t say that that they were that the life I lived hurt me in any way in my preparation in the program. I would just say that it helped me big-time.
Mark: Right. So what BUD/S class did you go through initially?
Remi: My first one was two five zero. So I was in BUD/S with Mikey Mansour. He was in my boat crew.
Remi: Yeah. Won the Medal of Honor. Great dude. Great dude.
I was in BUD/S with Workman. Was Extortion 17. He was in my boat crew. The first time I went through Hell week I got medical rolled for pneumonia. They thought I was… The entire staff thought I was faking, because I had made it through the initial med brief.
But there’s a story behind that. Before the initial med check for you to start Hell week, I was spitting up blood. And I was a corpsman, so I knew what that meant… And I wasn’t just spitting… I mean, they were chunks of blood – so I knew that I had pneumonia. I knew I had something serious. But I was like “I can’t go through this four weeks of first phase again and then go through… I need to get to Hell week, make it through Hell week, so I don’t have to go through this hell again.
So I started Hell with pneumonia. And by the by the first day by Monday I was just destroyed. And the instructors all thought that I was faking. So they were screaming at me “you need to quit. You’re faking. You’re faking.” and then I got hypothermia and my core temperature dropped to eighty-eight point eight degrees… Eighty-eight point seven. And they sent me to medical. And when I got to medical they rewarmed me, and I was still spitting up even more blood.
But for some reason they didn’t believe me. I don’t know what it was. They thought I was faking. So they sent me back – the rewarmed me, sent me back to Hell week.
And I went tits up, man. I mean, I just literally… I can’t tell you what happened, they had to revive me. I was in the ICU Balboa for like five days – for like a week. I was destroyed.
And when I got out the hospital Master Chief Hoffman – I remember I got back to the barracks and Master Chief Hoffman and Assistant Chief Ford, they came in and they were just like “that’s what we look for. That’s what we look for in a friggin’ SEAL.
Mark: (laughter) People who will work themselves to death.
Remi: He’s dead, and he’s down-and-out, and everybody telling him he sucks – and he doesn’t quit. He’s dead but he still keeps going. You gonna be a frogman. You gonna be an active frogman.”
Mark: (laughing) But you’re still rolled.
Remi: Yeah. And Assistant Chief Ford said “yeah, that’s the good news. We love you and we’re glad that you didn’t quit. But the bad news is you got to start day one all over again.” so yes I went through… I classed back up with 251. Great class. Mark Lee was in my boat crew. Ryan, Joe, you know. Bunch of great, solid dudes. And made it through Hell week with 251.
And then after I made it through Hell week, I got double rolled for swims. Because I didn’t know how to swim. When I was training for BUD/S, I didn’t know that you had to swim with fins. I didn’t know that you had to swim period. I just thought that you had to do the 500 yard swim. And then when you showed up to BUD/S, it was just a beat down session and the swim wasn’t for time or anything like that.
So anyway I showed up to BUD/S and I don’t have swim with fins. So we had a 2-mile time ocean swim – was 85 minutes. I was doing 2 hour swims. And the instructors wouldn’t stop me at all. They would just say, “well, you’re gonna keep going until you finish or quit.”
So anyway, so after I made it through Hell week, the CO of BUD/S and commander Zinke – Ryan Zinke – he was excellent on soon when he said “we want to teach you how to swim now that you made it through Hell week.”
So I got double rolled two classes after Hell week. And classed up with 253. And then I passed my first my first swim. And then went to dive phase – got to dive phase, the times dropped 85 minutes to 80 minutes…
Mark: Did you get some coaching in swimming in between? You must have had…
Remi: Yeah, yeah. I did. When I was rolled those two classes, there was an instructor, he worked with me one on one on the swims. And I that’s where I learned how to swim. And so I had learned how to swim good enough to Pat make the eighty five minute time limit. But when I got to dive phase – cause I only had to do one swim and then with 253 once they made it through Hell week and then I passed that. Graduated to dive phase. Once I got to dive phase, 2 weeks later the swim times dropped to 80 minutes. I couldn’t make the 80 minute time swim.
Mark: Jesus Christ!
Remi: So I failed the first two swims. After I failed the first two swims I got sent to a board and they said “hey. You have to pass everything in pool and you have to pass the rest of your swims, or we’re gonna have to drop you.”
So I got to dive phase and I got to pool week. I passed everything in pool week except for the tread. I failed the tread four times and after that it was a wrap. And they sent me to a ARP board. They’re like “hey, dude. You’re hard dude. We love you, but we’ve gotta drop you from the program.”
So they ended up dropping me, but they did offer me SWIC, cause they were like, “we want to keep you in the community.
And I just ended up going to fleet. First Marine Division. I was there. Did my time and then went back to BUD/S. And made it through.
Mark: (laughing) so what… Dude, you were in 4 BUD/S classes. Holy cow.
Remi: Yeah. Three of them were Hell week.
Mark: That is burly. So you went through Hell week twice, right?
Remi: Well, 3 times. Well three times – the first time I medical… I got Med-rolled Tuesday of Hell week. Which, you know, the first three, four days are the worst.
And then I made it through Hell week twice.
Mark: (laughing) Well, extra credit. So which BUD/S class did you graduate from?
Mark: And then where’d you serve?
Remi: I was at Team 3. Did some time at SRT-1.
Mark: Team 3 was my team, by the way.
Remi: Awesome. Can we talk about this stuff?
Mark: Oh, yeah. SRTs… Yeah, we don’t have talk about that one. But I was at SEAL team 3, SRT didn’t exist when I was in the teams, except for… Well it was called SA teams, remember that, before they changed the name?
Remi: That’s what it was, when I was there too. And then towards the end of my career like that’s when they changed it to SRT. But yeah…
Mark: We just won’t tell anyone what they do. It’s just an acronym.
So you deployed overseas. Obviously Iraq, Afghanistan? Or what was the highlights? Remi: Das, man. I just love kicking down doors. That was the highlight of my career was just being able… Especially having gone through all the stuff that I went through to get to the teams. And then now doing das man. I loved that. I loved what they doing a human stuff.
Mark: I bet you… Back to your prior life… I bet you that the life on the streets made you much more aware on the streets of Baghdad or Ramadi or wherever the hell you operated.
Remi: Yeah. Absolutely. A hundred percent. A hundred percent. Especially what I did, because I dealt with dealt with the Intel that I had to collect and handle that we needed to use in order to go operational. And I was the one talking to people. And I can tell when somebody was BSing me on the streets. I could tell when somebody was being straightforward. I could tell when somebody was trying to play me. And because I grew up in the streets. So when I’m out on the streets of… I won’t name all the places I was in -some of them I can’t really talk about – but when I was on the streets of… Will just throw Iraq out there… I knew what was. Up and when something was about to go down.
Mark: You could feel it, probably, beforehand.
Remi: Yeah, man. I talk about that in my book, too. I talk about the contrast between growing up in the Bronx and how that really helped me as an operator on the streets of whatever country I was in.
Mark: Cool. Give us the… We’ve been going for about 35 minutes, so we only have like 10 minutes left – so I want to get into some other stuff.
But what were like your top three lessons? Like, if you were to go talk to a leadership group or a bunch of young professionals – which you do – I know is part of your thing now. But what are your top lessons from serving as a SEAL and from the training and whatnot?
Remi: First things first is care about your people as a leader. I think there’s a lot of leaders out there who… Companies, corporations, even in sports… They focus more on themselves and how can I use these subordinates to get a leg up? Or get to the next rank? Or get that next promotion?
And one thing that I learned from my leaders in the teams is you got to really take… Have a genuine interest in the people who you… The people that you lead.
And the more you show an interest in them and show that you care about them, the more they will be willing to run through walls for you. So that was one of the big lessons that I learned.
Another one would be every great leader… This is something that a phrase that I came up with you know… Every great leader will never make you do something that they have not done, or that they are not willing to do. And so, what I mean by that, is if you’re gonna tell somebody to do something as a leader, you need to have done it, or be willing to do it. Cause I’ve been around leaders who will quickly tell you to do something that they… They’re just telling you to do it because they don’t want to do it at all. And they would never do it. And they have never done it.
And then where that can hurt is when they don’t have experience and so they don’t know how much it sucks. Or how much it takes to accomplish that task. So they just tell you to go do something about giving you a right and left limit. And you don’t know how to attack it. Or you attack it and you attack it the wrong way. And now they’re coming down on you.
So every great leader will never make you do something that they have not done or that they’re not willing to do. That’s another thing took away from teams.
And then on the communication side – because I did a lot of intelligence stuff – it’s not just about what you communicate, it’s about how you communicate, what you communicate. Because so often we communicate to people in a way where we understand. Because that’s our language. That’s the way we phrase things. And it’s so easy for someone to receive the information that we’re communicating the wrong way. Even though we’re speaking the exact same language and looking that person in the eyes, because so often we communicate in a way that we understand. But in a way that others – our team members, or our subordinates, or our leaders – may not understand. So we have to be clear and concise in the way we communicate. And confirm information is something I always talk about as well.
Mark: That’s awesome. Awesome lessons.
Ministry and Acting
Mark: So why’d you get off active duty? I mean, things seemed to be going pretty well and then all of a sudden you decided you’re done.
Remi: Yeah, I was having a great career and my last deployment was pretty much an augment with… You know who we augment, so I won’t mention that name.
But one of the main reasons was my dad died when I was young, when I was five, right? 2014 my first son was born. Kaden. And then 2015, my second son was born.
And you know how it is in the teams – you’re just going full-time, whether it’s for training or it’s for operating. And that’s why…
Mark: Dude, that’s why I got off… I got off active duty because of my son, too. And my marriage. I was like, yeah, I don’t want to be an absentee dad. Or husband.
Remi no absolutely. Absolutely. And there are guys who are great dads, who were able to stay on and do it. And I commend them and have so much respect for them.
But just because of my background. And having lost a father at a young age, I knew that it was important for me to be home as much as I can be with my boys. Especially having boys. And so that was one of the reasons – one of the main reasons why I decided to get out.
Mark: Yeah. I respect that.
So you got off active duty when? What year was it?
Remi: January 2016. I got out January 8th 2016.
Mark: And so how did you go from that to being on the set of the Transformers? Did you just think that into existence or was it a favor? Or what the hell happened there? That’s pretty cool.
Remi: No it was interesting. I was not trying to do it at all.
Mark: You weren’t trying to become an actor at the time?
Remi: No, no. Not at all. I was doing three – I had three things on my plate – one I was working in ministry, because I am a minister as well so I travel to preach and teach.
Mark: Good for you.
Remi: And so that was my primary role at the time was working in ministry. And then I was applying for the agency. Because the ministry doesn’t pay well. And I had mortgage and two kids – two mouths to feed. And I didn’t want my kids to have the same life I had. So after a few months of getting out, it’s just like “I need a job that’s gonna actually pay me good enough so that I could sustain this life for my kids.” so I started applying for the agency.
And then I was in grad school at the time. So I was using the post-9/11 GI Bill to finish up my master’s degree in organizational strategy. And then one day I was… Long story short – a buddy of mine, Charlie Keating, we were in the same BUD/S class together and we were in first Platoon together. He ended up getting killed in Iraq. And when I was at his memorial service – at the end of his memorial service a guy approached me. He said, “Hey, there’s been some people who’ve been throwing your name around in Hollywood.”
And I was just like “what?”
He’s like “they’re looking for you for something.” I was like I thought it was a joke – you know how team guys joke. I was so put off by the comment that when he asked my number, I didn’t even give it to him. It was another one of my old platoon chiefs – he ended up giving my number to this guy. And he ended up passing it to this woman who worked in the industry. Who had really been looking for me. She had been looking for me for months. Apparently, she had been emailing and emailing
Mark: How did she know about you?
Remi: Cause I helped out with a project… And I don’t even want to call it “I helped out.” I did like three hours on a project called a TV show called “The Last Ship.” she had called me up…
Mark: Oh, I remember that show. That’s a great show, yeah.
Remi: Can you show up and I was still in the military and it was they were fine with military people. And it wasn’t anything where I was on camera. I was literally just sitting on a boat like doing nothing, so wasn’t anything. And so because of her Michael Bay, he was executive producer of “The Last Ship.” and so when she was getting ready – they were getting ready to do “Transformers: The Last Knight,” Michael Bay requested… He’s like “hey, I’m looking for diversity. So do you know any African-American seals who could come help out on this project?”
And so she remembered me, but she had an old email. And so she had been emailing me for months, but I never received any emails. And so when this guy said what he said at the memorial service, he was right. This person really was looking for me.
So she ended up calling me a day before filming started for Transformers. Said “hey, are you available?”
And I was just like, “well, I’m in grad school writing papers, but I can make time. And she said send me some pictures. And I sent her some random operational pictures and regular pictures of me. Just whatever she requested.
And the next day I was on set.
Mark: No shit. That’s awesome.
Remi: Yes it was just supposed to be one day. And one day turned into three weeks. I end up filming a week in Arizona. And then two weeks in Michigan.
And the last week of my time in Michigan and in two weeks production approached me and said “hey, Michael Bay wants to keep you on until we wrap.” and so he ended up keeping me on this film until we wrapped in December.
Mark: What was the role? I haven’t seen the film.
Yeah I played… It was like a bad guy at the beginning. Hunting Autobots and Decepticons. And then I flip-flop halfway through and I ended up joining Optimus prime and Mark Wahlberg to save the world from Unicron.
Mark: (laughing) so you had a speaking role? Where people would recognize you…?
Remi: Yeah. I had a bunch of lines. And a bunch of short, one-liners and stuff like that. Mark: That’s cool.
Remi: Yeah, it was cool. And you know what? Honestly, it wasn’t the industry I was trying to get in at all. But once you do a film like that, doors open up. So it was through that I ended up doing some commercial work. I ended up signing an endorsement deal with Jockey underwear and doing commercials with them and print and stuff. And then…
Mark: Cool. So you’re an underwear model too.
Remi: Underwear model too, man.
Mark: (laughing) I’m sure you don’t get any shit for that from your teammates.
Remi: You know, team guys always joke about it. But I tell them all the time… I say “hey man, they cutting the check. You could joke about it all you want, but I’m getting a paycheck for it.
Mark: For wearing my jockey shorts, right.
Remi: Wearing underwear. All I gotta do is wear underwear, and I get a paycheck, man.
Mark: Sounds pretty good to me.
Remi: So yeah, just opened up all kinds of doors. And then that’s how I got my book deal with HarperCollins. I went on “The Today Show” to go help promote the film transformers and Kathy Gifford – she’s the host of “The Today Show.” she was just like “dude, your story’s just remarkable. You need to write a book.”
So she walked me essentially to HarperCollins, and said “you need to sign this guy to a book deal, right now.” and they signed me to a book deal.
Remi: And that’s how I got into writing. I wasn’t really doing a lot of writing, but that’s essentially how I got into writing.
And I wrote my book myself. I didn’t have a ghostwriter. I didn’t have… It was funny cause the editor who edited my book after I sent it to her she said “you know, HarperCollins hired me to rewrite your book, because they weren’t expecting you to turn in anything good.” and she said “but I don’t have to do anything.”
So I wrote my book and I got rave reviews from the publisher and the editor. And we got the book… It was supposed to edit the book for three months. I think she edited the book in three weeks. Not even. Two weeks, and got it done.
And then from there I got into screenplay writing. And I wrote my first film, which is now being shopped around to be turned into a movie. And so yeah man.
Mark: That’s incredible. Good for you.
Remi: Working on Michael Bay’s last film as well.
Mark: Unlocked a whole creative strand in you, right?
Mark: Awesome. So the book is called “Transformed.” obviously playing off of the Transformer theme.
Remi: Yeah. Well, that wasn’t my plan. My publisher came to me they say “this is what we wanna call it.” I was like “no.”
Mark: What did you want to call it? Because I thought that that was kind of an interesting title.
Remi: Yeah. I didn’t get a chance to pick. I didn’t even have a chance to come up with an idea for it. It was just interesting, they just came to me one day and said, “Hey, we want to call it ‘Transformed.'”
And I was just like “okay.” it’s not really what I want, but you guys know better than I do. And I guess they had tested the title. They tested the title with people and all that…
Mark: Yeah, well if you sell the rights to a publisher, they’re gonna name it whatever they want, anyways. I’ve dealt with that too, in my books.
Next one you can self-publish, and then you’ll have creative control over it.
Remi: Well I can’t. Actually that’s funny you bring it up, because with my deal I have an option on the second book. So I just submitted my second book to them. So they have 30 days from last week to accept the book or turn it down. So we’ll see.
Mark: Yeah. Awesome.
Well, man, we could keep chatting. Sounds like you’ve got a lot of irons in the fire. Good luck with all the projects. Good luck with the book “Transformed.” any big movie projects coming up, do you think?
Remi: Yeah, just finished working on a new Netflix movie with Michael Bay. It’s called “6 Underground.” Ryan Reynolds.
Mark: What’s that about?
Remi: I can’t go into details about what it’s about just yet.
Remi: If people look up “Six Underground”… It’s a Netflix movie. It’s their biggest budget film to date and we just wrapped that in November. So I got a small role in that, but I was primarily hired as a consultant. I was a technical adviser on pretty much the whole film. Started working on the film in pre-production and in July. And then I had some acting.
But, yeah, we just wrapped that in November. That comes out I think in July.
Mark: Is it fun? Do you enjoy that kind of work? I mean, I can imagine it being both laborious, but also a lot of fun.
Remi: Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. A lot of hours but I can’t complain, man. It’s like I’m getting paid some good cash to advise and travel the world. And hang out with celebs. And build something for my family. So it’s great work.
Mark: Awesome. Well keep it up Remi: Super great to talk to you. Let’s get together or find a way to meet in person? Or we’ll just stumble across each other…
I do want to say something… I know you’re busy, but we do have these events we run at SEALFIT called Kokoro camp. And kind of like world-famous or basically you imagine the first 50 hours of Hell week and we put civilians through it. And most of my instructors are SEAL – former SEAL instructors or seals who are just really into development. So if you ever have an interest in coming up and being on the cadre. And really feeling into what it means – what it’s like to develop another human being through this 50-hour event, then I welcome you to jump in on one.
Remi: Yeah no absolutely.
Mark: We’re here in San Diego County.
Remi: Shoot me a date and time. If I’m available, I’m always up for kicking people in the nuts.
Mark: Yeah, it’s a lot of fun.
Remi: Just for all those… Make a pre-order for my book right now – We just got the book cleared through the Pentagon so we’re going to release the book May 14th. That’s our official release date. And again, anybody can go to transformedstory.com to pre-order the book. And then I’m on all social media platforms – remiadeleke at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
Mark: Awesome. Good luck with the book. I know you’re gonna crush it. Good luck with everything else. Thanks for your time. Thanks for your service. In many ways. Service in the ministry, as well as service to the country. So appreciate that.
Remi: Thank you for your service, and thank you for your work.
Mark: Yeah, look forward to meeting you in person. Hooyah.
Remi: Absolutely. Same here.
Mark: Alright folks Remi Adeleke. What an interesting guy. Fascinating. And just doing some really, really cool things. I can’t wait to learn about “Six Underground.” can’t believe you wouldn’t tell us about that but whatever… He signed his little papers, right?
Remi: (laughing) I’m not trying to get sued, man.
Mark: No, smart. But I’m glad you’re off the streets too. Doing great stuff. What a formative life that must have been and helped you out along the way. I’m sure.
And I’m sure there’s people out there who are… Want to help other people who are in those positions and man…
What about is there any way people can reach out to you? And ask questions? You have like a Twitter or something that…
Remi: Yeah. So on all my social media platforms – remiadeleke on Instagram so then go to Instagram and just type in Remi Adeleke or Twitter or Facebook…
Mark: Are you actively involved in responding to people?
Remi: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. All the time and I get messages every day. I tell people when I do mention that I get messages every day or on social media platforms I mentioned in the interview I tell them “so don’t take advantage of it.”
Mark: (laughing) exactly.
Remi: But I do respond to my DM’s and all that kind of stuff – to try to stay connected.
Mark: Yeah. Good job.
All right. Well, we’re gonna wrap this up. Thanks again Remi. Thanks everyone for listening. I appreciate it. And stay focused, train hard, do the work every day. And go out and do something good.
See you next time.