Tom Jones (@quitproof1) is a former Marine combat veteran and a well-known extreme athlete in the Muay Thai and ultra-endurance communities. Tom talks to Mark about his childhood traumas and how he overcame all that to become the exceptional athlete and individual that he is.
- Tom’s experiences with Chuck Norris and being his sparring partner
- How he survived his childhood traumas and pushed himself beyond his limits
- His concern for the ocean and how Laird Hamilton helped train Tom to become the record-setting stand-up paddleboarder he is today
Listen to this episode for some expert insight on how you can push your mind and body beyond what is possible.
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Hey folks, this is Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Welcome back. Thanks so much for joining me. Super-stoked to have you here today.
If you like this podcast, please go rate us on iTunes. And we’re starting to do new video podcasts – so if you’re watching this on video, you already know that – but if you aren’t then go to my YouTube channel Mark Divine and you’ll see this on YouTube now.
I’m super stoked to be in studio here for the first time – new studio, up in Beverly Hills, California. And my guest today is Tom Jones.
Tom: How you doing, Mark?
Mark: I’m doing great, man. So Tom is… I’m just going to let the show kind of introduce Tom… such a unique individual… when we first met, I was impressed by a couple things – one is just how you’ve trained your body to do things that most people think are impossible. And then two) just the humility. Just being someone who really doesn’t give a shit about that but will do it just because you’ve got a mission. So you’re a man with a mission. So what is your mission?
Tom: To better people after having contact with me than before. And whatever that means to them.
And pushing my mind and my body beyond what most people think is possible is an interesting concept, because to me I have no limits on myself – I don’t have limiting beliefs – especially physically… I do have limiting beliefs, but I’m working against them, to get rid of them all the time… and I didn’t believe that I couldn’t do something. That thought never entered my mind.
I just did it and then went and figured out the “how” along the way. So to me as long as my “why” was strong enough, the “how” – I just went and figured that out along the way.
Mark: Yeah, I like that. So your “why” was heavily influenced as with most people by your childhood which sounded pretty challenging… so can you just give us a sense of what that was like? And how that forged your Quitproof attitude… you know, this person that grew out of that hardship.
Tom: Yeah… my childhood was pretty much robbed from me… my father had cancer, kidney disease, tuberculosis at the same time… and a real bad attitude and my mother was…
Mark: (laughing) I’m sorry… I would probably have a bad attitude, too…
Tom: Yeah, exactly… I mean, I’ve been in interviews and they’re like, “do you blame him?”
No, I don’t blame him. I only hope that I would do better faced with the same circumstances as him. So he had those physical challenges…
And my mother was clinically mentally insane – meaning like literally insane – she had her mind electronically erased – they tried to reprogram it in…
Mark: Good god. That’s a thing?
Tom: Oh yeah, yeah… they electrically shock…
Mark: Like frontal lobotomy kind of thing?
Tom: It’s done with electricity. They kind of erase your mind, and they plug in stuff that they want you to have in there.
I don’t really fully understand it, because I didn’t really understand it when I was a kid either. My mom was very unavailable mentally – tried to kill me on three separate occasions, because god told her to… she had other children too, and for some reason god told her to kill me first all three times.
Later on in life when I took care of my mom before she died – and as long as she was on her medication, she was okay – and one time I asked her I said, “are you sure that god told you to kill me first all three times?”
And she goes, “absolutely.”
And I was like “okay.”
Mark: What age were you when all this was happening?
Tom: Well I was like six-years-old and above, that I can remember…
Mark: Okay. So you don’t remember it – what I’ve learned is a lot of the abuse – a lot of the impact of the abuse – is actually experienced in the first three, four years of one’s life. So they say, “the first five years shapes the next 95.”
Especially if you can’t remember anything in the first five years, that means it was probably not good.
Tom: Yeah, yeah. I don’t remember a lot of it – I do remember things, you know… it was terrible, I remember that… just scared all the time – very insecure.
We moved 35 times from the time I was born until the time I was removed from my home by the state of California, when I was 12 years old, for child abuse. So it was bad.
Like is said, fear all the time – unstable, insecure and I think that the one thing to take away from that, is that taught me to be a survivor…
Tom: I learned how to survive under those types of circumstances. When I was 12 years old, the police knocked on the door and told me I had to come with them. And I was placed in a children’s institution – not like a foster home – but an institution.
And that institution… it was almost like going from the frying pan into the fire. Oddly enough, right? You’re hoping that you’re going from the fire to the frying pan, if you’re removed from your home and placed into an institution…
Mark: Someone who cares for you… and provides some structure and stability. But that wasn’t the case?
Tom: No, they were pedophiles…
Mark: Oh my god…
Tom: So I was a victim of that until I ran away from the institution when I was 17 years old.
And it’s very interesting, because the institution is one of the biggest and most powerful organizations on earth. It was a masonic home for children – the masons, the freemasons…
Mark: Are you kidding me?
Tom: So in 2007, I actually shut the children’s home down legally. And took them to court and shut them down. And they found 30 other kids over a 20-year history, that were severely abused sexually. And obviously that translates into mentally.
And when I was in that home… also it was an institution… and that institution had kids all the way from infant until 18 years old. So when I went in at 12 years old, I was automatically facing two or three 16-year-olds who wanted to beat me up… or 17-year-olds or 18-year-olds…
So I was in martial arts since I was three – that was one of the things that my dad did put me in that was really helpful and useful. Especially when I got to the children’s home.
And I found a martial arts studio that was close and pretty much stayed there a lot of the time. And just kept practicing martial arts, martial arts, martial arts…
And actually used that to defend myself in the children’s home. And I wasn’t used to sexual predators… I was only used to physical predators… you know, they beat the shit out of you… that I was very familiar with…
But sexual predators no, because they’re…
Mark: I don’t think anyone’s used to sexual predators.
Tom: No. Used to the way that they approach people. Like my dad would walk in and beat the crap out of everything. They’re more like the serpent…
Mark: They’re seductive…
Tom: Yeah, so that was a different type of abuse that I had no familiarity with…
So at 17, I ran away from that and I ended up joining the marine corps. Because the marine corps was the only organization in the military that would take somebody…
Mark: Did you have that idea in your head? Like, “when I’m 17, I’m going to go to the marine corps.”
Tom: No. I just did it… I ran away I started living on the street. And then somebody suggested that I ought to go check out the military. And as I was checking the military out, the marine corps was the only one that would take – because of moving around so much when I was young, and then being not available when I was in the children’s home – doing stuff that no child should do – I only ended up with a sixth-grade literal education.
So, I had no education. I had no proper upbringing. So, I joined the marine corps – they were the only ones that would take me. And when I joined the marine corps, it was refreshing that I was in a place where they meant what they said, and they said what they meant. Because child molesters don’t do that.
And that I got rewarded for doing things that were expected of me, right? So, I ended up graduating number one out of 3 000 people in boot camp. And so I was an honor graduate…
Mark: Plus, to be fair, you really couldn’t be hurt by them… I’ve noticed that – I think you and I talked about that – like how people who have been in abusive childhoods, actually do really well in the military. Because that structure their craving. And emotionally they’ve got a pretty narrow range and they deal with pain very well.
Tom: And I was already institutionalized, because I was in a children’s institution where we actually ate in a chow hall – we had an infirmary… all that stuff.
And I hadn’t didn’t miss my mommy and daddy – they were gone a long time ago. So the military was perfect in those respects.
And again, if I did what I was expected and I exceeded that, I was rewarded for it…
Mark: Were you inspired to lead? To get into this into the leading of other individuals in the Marine Corps?
Tom: No. In fact, if there’s any regrets that I have – and I’ve been asked that question before – when I graduated number one out of boot camp, they offered me to go to officer school. And I had been indoctrinated to be an enlisted person in boot camp. So they hammered it in “officers are bad and enlisted is good.”
And so I declined to do that. And I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes that I made overall.
Mark: Right. Interesting. So I ended up in the marine corps, and they did teach me about leadership, integrity, esprit de corps, being part of a team, being part of something bigger and different than myself. And it was a really good experience for me in all those regards.
Mark: So it wasn’t until after the marine corps that you ended up getting a passion for MMA style fighting, right? For competition fighting?
And then that led into you know more the endurance sports… let’s talk a little bit about how you got into that. And what led to that after the marine corps.
Tom: Well, I had been in martial arts tournaments most of my life, right? When I got into the marine corps… I had a child, when I was in the marine corps – and I was stationed in Okinawa, Japan.
And I wanted to see my child born. So, I was trying to figure out how to make money to fly my wife over, to have my child born over there. And in Okinawa you could fight in bars – it was like a tough man contest – winner take all, loser take an ass-beating…
Mark: (laughing) right.
Tom: So I started doing that. And I won enough money to have my wife at the time, flown over. And I saw my child born.
And when I got out of the marine corps… it wasn’t working, you know what I mean? So I started fighting again. And one of the things that I did when I got out of the marine corps is I moved to Huntington beach, California.
Well, when I was in the marine corps in South Carolina there was a Chuck Norris martial arts school. It was the only one in town.
So I joined that, and I actually became friends with Chuck Norris while I was in the marine corps at that school.
Mark: Did he teach at the school? Or just come out for cameo appearances?
Tom: Yeah, cameo appearances.
Tom: And I was really, really, really good at martial arts by that time… because I spent from the time I was three years old all the way into…
Mark: Was it a particular martial art? Like Muay Thai?
Tom: Not at that time. It was just a mix of things. So Chuck Norris school was the only school there. I ended up staying in that school for a year… went to Okinawa… started actually really fighting.
But for me it wasn’t anything new, because I did that in the children’s home. And it was only against like one person, when I fought other than the children’s home.
And then I moved to Huntington beach when I got out of the children’s home, and there was a Chuck Norris school in Huntington beach.
Tom: So I joined that, because I was familiar with it. And the guy that ran that school kept it really quiet, but he was Chuck Norris’ cousin. So he came up to me one day and said, “hey, Chuck Norris is looking for a doorman at his restaurant and bar in Newport beach – Woody’s Wharf… are you interested?”
I was like, “Yeah. Anything to get next to him. Let’s do it.”
So I went and I was a doorman there. And within three months of being a doorman there, I was Chuck Norris’ training partner. Driving to his house every single day. He made me general manager of the restaurant, mostly because I think he knew I was the only one he could trust not to rip him off or whatever.
So, I started to work for Chuck Norris in in that capacity. And Chuck is an amazing human being.
Mark: Yeah, what was he like? Just give us some of his personality quirks…
Tom: Chuck is awesome I mean when he asked me, “Do you want to come and work out with me?”
And I was like, “That’s like batman asking you if you want to like come be his crime-fighting buddy.” You know what I mean? Like, hell yes.
Mark: (laughing) I love that…
Tom: So Chuck is a really down-to-earth person. He’s a really trustworthy person. He has all the character traits that are that of a person that’s a stand-up person… didn’t cheat on his wife… all the rest of this stuff. Always treated me like gold. He used to call me up in the middle of day and go, “hey, do you want to go like have lunch with marvelous Marvin Hagler?”
I was like, “who doesn’t? Yeah.”
And he was a great role model, in as much as a lot of what Chuck did on his off-time was – for example – make a wish foundation… which is a foundation that gives wishes to children that have terminally ill circumstances. And a lot of the children wanted to meet Chuck Norris.
Well, he would go and meet them. He was real philanthropic that way. And that rubbed off on me. And I really didn’t realize it at the time, but it did rub off on me.
And so he ended up unfortunately getting a divorce from the wife that he was married to at that time… and he moved to Texas. And I remember him asking me if I wanted to go with him and I said “no.” I said, “if I’m going to go to the top, I don’t want it to be on your coattails.”
But it’s been great, we’ve kept in touch and so on and so forth. But Chuck is one of the best, solid people…
Mark: Tell me about your first encounter… fight… with Chuck.
Tom: Yeah, well my first sparring thing with Chuck Norris was we touched gloves and literally like the very first move I did… the very first move of the sparring match… was I kicked him flush in the face like, “whack,” right?
Mark: (laughing) wow.
Tom: And he just like looked at me and he’s like “so it’s going to be like that, huh?”
And I was like, “well, you’re kind of like Chuck Norris, and I thought we were like sparring.”
He goes, “oh we are.”
So we touch gloves again – and I like worship this guy, and for me not to be expecting this, or know this is kind of odd. But he was coined for spinning behind himself and doing a spinning back kick, right?
And so we touched gloves again… he moved in really close to me and did a spinning back kick. Hit me right in the solar plexus, and I was just like “boom,” hit the ground, right?
And so that was sort of the start of a great relationship.
Mark: I love that. So most great relationships don’t start with people beating the crap out of each other.
Tom: (laughing) yeah, I put a red Mark on his face like you wouldn’t believe, man. You should have seen the look on his face.
And one of the other things – before we move on – talk about Chuck was an honest, very humble person and I think that rubbed off too. Because I asked him one time, I said, “how did you get the part that was like across from Bruce lee?”
He goes, “you don’t want to know.”
I go, “well sure I do. Like how did you get that? How did they choose you?”
He goes, “well, you really don’t want to know.”
I go, “no, please tell me.”
He goes, “well, there was five martial artists in the world that were good enough at the time.” He goes, “out of those five, I was the only one that didn’t have dark hair, dark eyes and wasn’t dark complected. I was the only one that had blue eyes, fair skin, strawberry blonde hair.”
And I go “that’s it?”
He goes, “that’s it. That’s the reason they chose me.”
Mark: That’s cool. So tell us about your MMA career. What were the biggest lessons and what was the kind the highs and the lows of that fighting career?
Tom: The highs of it were just winning a lot.
Mark: When you win like world titles… I don’t know much about that world…
Tom: Yeah, I won seven major titles altogether in Thai boxing. I lived in Thailand for a total of about two years…
Mark: Thai boxing is no joke. I remember going to Thailand with seal team three, and they took the military champion. They brought him to us, and he was teaching us stuff.
(laughing) can you imagine how that went? We weren’t able to walk for like three days, because he just destroyed our legs.
Mark: Like, chopping down the tree is the whole idea. Take out the legs and then what are you going to fight on? No foundation left.
Tom: Can’t stand, can’t fight…
Mark: Right, so you learned how to do that.
Tom: I learned how to do that. And the way I got into it was I was fighting tournament fighting and I watched one of the very first fights on television with a guy named Rick Rufus who was like one of our champion, gladiator guys. They had a guy from Thailand come over that was either two or three weight divisions below him, and they had to carry rick out on a stretcher in the tenth round.
And I go, “I want to do that. I want to learn that.” And so that’s sort of how I even found out about it and got interested in it.
Then there was only one guy that taught it in my area, and they called him “Mr. Sacrifice,” because he’d throw you in with anybody. And I ended up being 19 and two as an amateur – and as a pro I won 54, I lost four.
So it was a really great record a great ride…
Mark: Did you make any money doing that?
Tom: At that time, no. If I was fighting now, it’d be like king of the hill.
Did it just because I was angry inside, I was still pretty disturbed inside… and I got to beat the shit out of people and didn’t go to jail… and they paid me a little bit of money. So it worked, you know?
Mark: (laughing) fair enough. And what about the lows? Like what was the low point of that whole…
Tom: The lows were just not feeling real fulfilled inside myself. It was like being Darth Vader, you know what I mean? You’re just destroying people, feeling good for a second, and then going back to being sort of empty and so on and so forth.
And while I was fighting, I met a guy that owned the largest computer memory vending company in the world. And I ended up being his bodyguard and his personal trainer at the same time I was fighting. And he was another great influence in my life… he was another good man, treated people really good…
I traveled the world with this guy, and one of the things that he did was he had a sales force of a couple hundred people, and he would bring motivational speakers in like Lou Holtz, pat riley… really, really top-level motivational speakers in…
And I would just be like enthralled with these people, because I had no manual of how to live in my life. So I was soaking up that information.
So in 1998, I decided that I was gonna like do something to help other people. And I was like, “well, I can’t go beat the shit out of people to help people. What am I gonna do?”
And I was running to train for a fight at the time and I go “you know what? I know.”
Mark: So this guy takes you around the world, and you start soaking up wisdom from the motivational speakers and it starts to have an impact on you…
Tom: Starts to have an impact on me. Like, I started feeling guilty that I had come from this life of being an abused and neglected child, foster care system… all this stuff, and I literally just turned my back on it completely. And just like shut it out of my life.
And so I sort of felt like I needed to go, and I needed to use my story to inspire kids not to be losers and be burdens on society, because that’s what they’re supposed to be.
Mark: Did anyone help you kind of craft that idea? Or did that just kind of come to you?
Tom: Just came to me.
Mark: That’s cool…
Tom: Yeah, it just came to me. And then when I was running to train for a world title fight, I had an epiphany… I was like, “I’m gonna run a long way, and I’m gonna like run like extreme distances every day during that long way. So that people will go ‘why in the hell are you doing that?’”
And that would give me that moment of their attention to like tell my story. And so one of the things that I did in 1998, I ran from Oregon to Mexico on foot. And it was at a pace of a marathon a day, every day.
Mark: (laughing) wait a second… let’s just say that again… you ran from Oregon to the Mexican border with a marathon every day…
Tom: 26.2 miles a day every day.
Mark: Okay… so on the way up here my son and I were talking about this logistically… did you just pull over to the side of the road and pitch a tent? Or did you like run from hotel to hotel?
Tom: Great question. So the way that I did it was – you’re gonna love this – so the way that I did it was I was thinking to myself, “how in the hell am I going to do this, logistically?” Because it’s a logistic nightmare.
Well, actually while I was thinking about that, the tv show “M.A.S.H.” Was going on, right? And the episode when I learned what M.A.S.H. Actually means. It means “mobile army surgical hospital.”
So they’re getting bombed right and they go, “well, we got to pick up and move down the road.” They picked all their stuff up – their whole camp – and they moved like 10 or 15 miles down the road.
And I go, “that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Just like that.”
So we got a motorhome – used it as base camp. Parked it like a hundred miles south of the border… used a pace car to shuttle me to the point that I left off every day… as soon as I ran 100 miles past it, we just leapfrogged the motorhome 100 miles past it, and kept doing it all over again.
Mark: I see. Interesting.
Tom: So that’s how I ended up doing it.
Mark: So let’s back up a little bit. You have this idea you’re going to run 26 miles a day… there was no part of you that thought that was crazy?
Tom: Everybody thought it was crazy…
Mark: (laughing) I’m talking about you. Of course everyone thought it was crazy. If you said, “hey Mark, will you go run 26 miles tomorrow?” I’d be like, “yeah, I’ll have to think hard about that.”
But every day for how many days did it take?
Tom: Well, the first time was less than 90 days, but when I ran across the nation – because that’s what I wanted to do originally, was run across north America – but nobody would give me… they’re like, “oh hell no. Nobody can do that.”
So what I decided to do was spoon feed it to them… I go, “well what am I going to do? I’m going to spoon feed it to them…”
Mark: Who’s “them?”
Tom: “them” was people that I was approaching for money to do this. So I could convince them that I could do California, mostly because of the major titles that I had fighting. They’re “if you can do that, then you could probably do that.” You probably can’t do that, but we’ll go ahead…
Mark: In California you ran like 90 marathons?
Tom: Yeah, I forget exactly how many it was, because my ability was this… they’re like “how did you do it?
And I was like, “well in my mind – still to this day – I only ran one marathon.” That’s it. Just one. Because I was able to shut the one off before and didn’t think about the one tomorrow. And have the blinders on.
And the only marathon I ran was “the one.” And that’s how I made it across north America, too.
That and my “why.” So my “why” was I wanted to buy a playground for a children’s home that was in my area. That kids could like bounce off and not get hurt. It was like one of the new playgrounds that had the foam floor and all the rest of that stuff.
And the other thing that I wanted to do is again share my story. So I stopped at children’s homes along the route and told my story. And tried to inspire kids to be winners… to not accept what they’ve been dealt with and make it what they’ve been dealt with…
Mark: So you had that to motivate you every day. You did that after the ride or after the run? Or was it sometimes during it?
Tom: No after. And then sometimes I’d drive more than 100 miles to a children’s facility, do a motivational speaking event, drive 100 miles back. And then do it all over again.
Mark: Let’s talk about the physical aspect of that. First, when you started – like the first few days – what did your body go through? And what did your mind go through, to try to adjust to this new reality?
Tom: Hell in a handbag. Just, hell on steroids. So the only agreement that I made to myself when I ran was if I could physically pick my foot up and actually put it down in front of the other foot, I wouldn’t quit, right?
And so physically it was brutal – I mean, I had to soak my legs and feet in five-gallon buckets that had one quarter ice, two thirds of water – every single day. I don’t know if you want to challenge yourself – give that a try with one leg, much less two at the same time.
The nutrition – I had to figure out how to take in like 6 000 plus calories a day…
Mark: What did you eat, by the way, for that?
Tom: Well, we were trying to figure it out… so the guy that I brought along with me was one of my team members… was a guy that trained me Muay Thai…
I actually flew this guy from Thailand, because he was so famous and so on for fighters… flew him over to train me to fight, and he ended up helping me on the runs, because he did chiropractic, massage… he was amazing.
He still is one of the best cooks ever. And when I wasn’t suffering, I was living like a king, big time.
Mark: So just lots of real good food?
Tom: Yeah, and then we were trying to figure out how we’re going to take it…
Mark: So you had a mobile cook kit and your mobile tent and everything…?
Tom: Yeah, he took care of all that. Yeah, we were trying to figure out how I was going to take in all that food – he’s like you have to drink it.
Tom: I was like, “what do you mean?”
So we blended and drank my fruits and vegetables… so we drank all that… all the meat that he did minced it up, so that my digestive system didn’t have to like work overtime to digest it. And so we got all those calories a day in.
And then like I said mentally, I just decided that if I could actually pick my foot up and put it in front of the other foot, I wouldn’t quit. I can’t tell you how many times I sat on the road and cried my eyes out – “whose freaking idea was this anyway? This sucks. This straight up sucks.” You know what I mean?
Mark: (laughing) when you did that they literally went there, to the side of the road…
Tom: (laughing) I’m out in the middle of nowhere. Nobody can see me. There’s roadkill everywhere. Like this was not a good idea.
Mark: (laughing) this is a bad, bad… but you got up and put your foot…
Tom: Because I knew that I actually could. And then by the time I actually ran across north America I would like dispense with that, and go “screw it, man. I’m just gonna keep running. I’m gonna like not do the half hour cry session.”
Mark: I used to be impressed with Goggins – David Goggins and his story – but now that pales in comparison to what you just described…
Tom: Yeah. I mean, 3170 miles is what I ran before I ran the New York marathon. And they’re like “wait a minute you like ran to New York on foot, to run the New York marathon?”
I was like, “well, yeah – kinda.”
Mark: Pretty much. So sleep is incredibly important. What time did you try to get to bed every night? And how many hours of sleep were you getting during this?
Tom: Absolutely. So when I got back from running, I would take the nutrition that he would give me, get a massage and go down and completely out.
Mark: So right after the run?
Tom: Right after.
Mark: And then you would go talk to the kids, or are you saying…?
Tom: Well, on the days that I didn’t go talk to the kids. On the days I did go talk to the kids, I would go talk to the kids, come back, and then die, right?
And so I rested a lot of the time that I wasn’t actually running or doing these appearances. So there was a lot of rest involved as far as that went.
But some of the days were really, really difficult because I would run – I would go to the children’s home – I would come back, then we’d have to leapfrog the motorhome another 100 miles down the road. Those days were brutal – that was like 14, 15-hour days…
And again, I was perfectly suited for that mentally, I was the king of suffering, the harder, the more comfortable I am…
You know, I had to get used to like actually having a functional life, peaceful life, not self-sabotaging… you know what I mean?
Mark: The more calm things got, the more uncomfortable they got. Yeah, that’s interesting…
Mark: So at what point let’s say in your first run down the California coast, did your body/mind system finally go “okay. We got this. This is the new normal.”
Tom: So my Thai trainer says it best – he says, “Tom, make it seven days, make all.”
Mark: Right. One week of total resistance – “what the hell am I doing?” Your body’s going crazy… and then suddenly it changes.
Tom: Yeah. In fact, when I ran across north America, when I got to New York, I straight up stopped and then I got on an airplane and flew home after the New York marathon. I got really sick – like, physically ill. Because my body was used to that and I went from that to nothing.
Mark: That’s really interesting… in fact, that reminds me I just had a friend who did the workout Murph for 365 days, every day… and he even got Covid in the middle of it.
Tom: Oh wow…
Mark: So he trained every day… he had Covid – he pushed through it – he said it was miserable. That was the hard point.
But on the last day a bunch of us did it with him, to kind of honor it – and he was doing it for charity and same thing – he had a strong “why,” it’s not the same as running a marathon every day, but you know, Murph is not an insignificant workout, with body armor too.
But I said “tomorrow, what are you gonna do? Are you gonna just stop cold turkey?”
He goes, “no, tomorrow I’m going to do Murph.”
And I said, “that makes sense.” Because it’s like you gotta slow the flywheel down or else your body will go into shock. So that’s what happened to you?
Tom: Yeah, went straight into shock. I got super sick. Threw up constantly… I mean it was bad for about a week. For my body to get readjusted with that.
And mentally it was also difficult. I almost didn’t know what to do with myself…
Mark: I wonder about that… so after having those experiences, do you have to do something like ridiculously hard every day?
Tom: Yes, pretty much…
Mark: And how hard is it when you do something like this, where like your day’s taken up like “I gotta get to a studio, because I’m doing this podcast with Mark.” And does that mean you’re gonna go home and do like 10 000 push-ups or what…?
Tom: Well usually I get up early I do burpees in the morning and work out and all that. And then in the afternoon, I’m now hydrofoiling on a hydrofoil board, because my next Quitproof quest is to set the world record on hydrofoil board, same as I did on stand-up paddle board in 2000…
Mark: So is that a surfboard or…?
Tom: A hydrofoil board‘s like a surfboard, but it has a three-foot fin on it, on the bottom…
Mark: Yeah, I’ve seen surfers and I know you’ve trained with Laird Hamilton, but I saw the image of him hydrofoiling like almost forever on this really long wave in Hawaii. So are you paddle hydro-boarding?
Tom: Well, I’m not 100% sure yet. So I have an electric hydrofoil board right now from Lift electric hydrofoil boards that sponsor the board. And it has a hand controller, it has a motor on the back of that large fin down below.
So that thing propels you, but the thing like you’re saying with hydrofoil is you can keep up with the speed of the wave.
Tom: So when your board’s off the water, it has very little drag, right? So you can literally ride like one wave as long as you can stand up and stand on it. And stay on the wave.
So I mean, theoretically, you could ride a wave all the way from Oregon to Mexico if you could stay on that wave that long.
Mark: Yeah, but there’s no waves that are that long. You’re always going to be going up and down, up-down
Tom: Yeah. And then you just wait and catch the next one. So I’m not exactly sure whether I’m going to use the electric hydrofoil board, whether I’m going to have a smaller boat tow me into waves along the way…
Mark: But you’re not going to be on the water for the whole time, are you?
Tom: No, do the same as I did when I did the stand-up paddle board world record in 2007. Same as with running.
Mark: Let’s talk about the logistics for that. Because I’m kind of curious about it.
Tom: Same thing – I had a motorhome parked it – we had two wave runners… we’d take them out and they were like my pace car… and I had one wave runner went the whole way down California, and then I split the states in thirds. And I had an indigenous per person for each third of the state, because you really need to know what you’re doing on the water as you’re going down.
Mark: You mean someone who knows the water. Not like a native American…
Tom: Yeah, 100 percent. And the other thing with the paddle boarding thing was the great white sharks. We did an interview with the world’s leading authority on great white sharks, before I did that world record paddle in 2007. And the guy goes on for 45 minutes about all this stuff about sharks and then he looks at me and he goes, “you know what?” He goes, “at the end of the day, you probably wouldn’t survive the initial hit.”
And I was like, “okay, well first of all that really sucks. Second of all, we could have had this interview in like two minutes,” right?
So he said, “but the sharks are going to be scared of the wave runners. They won’t come anywhere near the wave runners.” Well when I took out from Oregon through crescent city, one of the guys that was the indigenous guy – his name was ren knoll – his father was Greg Knoll who was a big wave surfer – the first guy to serve Waimea.
They were crab fishermen for 20 years. This guy was a strapping, huge dude. And we’re paddling, it’s completely sunny… it’s almost like a bad movie, right? It’s completely sunny, the water’s tranquil…
Mark: You hear the music…
Tom: Yeah exactly. So this guy’s taking this wetsuit off and I’m talking he has a back like a silverback – and he starts dancing on the wave runner on his tippy toes. He’s like “whitey, whitey, whitey!” Like completely hyperventilating. Like his voice is all screechy.
And I look down and there’s like a 17-foot great white shark. And it’s doing an upside-down roll and it was a male – it does an upside-down roll like three feet underneath the wave runner and I’ve never seen anything like that.
When I started all this stuff, the only reason I wanted to do anything on a paddle board was I was training to learn to surf, paddling in canals with all this plastic pollution and I decided that I’d get involved with that. And that’s how I met Laird Hamilton.
I saw him in a magazine, and I asked my friend Mickey Munoz… I go, “who’s this guy?”
He goes, “that’s Laird Hamilton. He’s one of the best watermen in the world.”
I go, “I want to meet him.” And so I ended up meeting Laird and we hit it off immediately. And I go, “don’t you hate people that have ulterior motives.”
He goes, “what?”
I go, “don’t you hate people that want to be your friend for some other reason than wanting to be your friend?”
He goes, “yeah, I don’t like that.”
And I go, “well, here’s the deal. I don’t have any interest in being your friend, but I want you to teach me to stand-up paddleboard.”
He goes, “why?”
So I told him why. I go, “there’s plastic in the water. It has all this stuff that’s bad for the humans, bad for the fish… you’re an ocean guy. I’m sure you understand that.”
And so we’re in Hawaii at that particular time – he starts eating his food and he goes, “you know Tom Jones?” He goes, “I guess we could share the aloha spirit with you.”
And I take a couple bites of my food, and I go “what’s that?” There’s Hawaiians everywhere, so they all start laughing… like uncontrollably laughing…
Laird’s like “what?”
“what’s aloha spirit, man.”
He goes, “well, it’s sharing information, and loving your other brother… and blah, blah, blah.”
I go, “okay, well let’s do that.”
And so you have to understand, I didn’t have much water experience… so he goes, “you’re going to meet me at Maliko Bay” – him and Dave Kalama – another very well-known waterman… “you’re going to meet me at Maliko Bay, and we’re going to do this downwind run thing,” right?
So I was like, “okay.” I go to this bay and there’s no waves at all or anything. Now mind you, I’d never seen a 20-foot wave ever in my life. So we’re cruising out of this bay and as soon as we go around this rock the waves are like 20, 30 feet.
I’m like “oh no. This is wrong,” you know? And just again, all I do is live outside my comfort zone. So I knew that if I wanted to paddle from Oregon to Mexico, I had to do this. So I braved it – I went and I did it.
And later on I found they had a conversation where Dave said, “hey, should we tell him he probably won’t make it?”
Laird goes, “why are you gonna do that? Let the guy try.”
And nobody thought I would make it from Oregon to Mexico on stand-up paddleboard… stand-up paddleboard was brand spanking new – nobody even really knew what the hell it was. And that’s some of the toughest coastline in the world.
Mark: They just thought you would quit?
Tom: (laughing) they thought I would die.
Mark: Really? Just getting hit by a rogue wave? Cause you’re paddling outside…
Tom: Or eaten by a shark. Or like I’ve been lost at sea a couple times, because the fog gets so freaking dense you can’t even see five feet from you. I got separated from my wave runners, I’ve got my foghorn… I’m like “honk, honk.” Nothing. I’m like “help, help, help.” Nothing.
So we got to get wrapping up here, because we’re running out of time.
Mark: What’s next for you? I know the hydrofoil thing, but really what’s kind of like the next phase of your life?
Tom: Quitproof the brand – the brand that I have Quitproof… one of the things I really admire about you is that you are an amazing person to me in a lot of ways because I’ve done research and the ability that you have to communicate with other people in a positive way, to a positive end. And that’s sort of what I’m after.
Like, there’s so many of these life coaches that are running around that have no resume.
Mark: (laughing) seems to be an epidemic…
Tom: Yeah, like they know exactly what to say, but they haven’t done a damn thing. And I have like this insane resume, that’s just beyond lengthy and impressive. And I want to learn how to communicate. I want to learn human behavior, so I can understand human behavior. So I can help people achieve their dreams, their goals, to be the most complete contributing human being that there is to the human race.
Because I think that there’s so much of that not going on, that I’d like to be a part of it going on. And I’d love to become really close with you and learn – you know what I mean? Learn a lot of these things…
Mark: I’ll be your Laird Hamilton…
Tom: Yeah, you’d be my Yoda, for sure. So that’s what I want to do – I want to use all this stuff that I’ve amassed to do good, because my life was entirely…
I should be behind your grandmother, at the ready teller to be doing horrible things to her, feel great about it, have you read the newspaper the next day and feel sorry for me…
But I’ve turned all that on its ear and said, “no way. I’m not doing that. I’m doing this.”
Mark: Well, I tell you what abuse is so insidious and it’s so prevalent around the world that obviously we want to slow that down and turn that around – but regardless, a lot of people are victims of it. And so your story is very inspiring. And I think you could help a lot of people who have suffered from that childhood abuse.
Tom: Yeah, because you don’t got to let it… the great thing that I love that you say – and this is what’s really awesome and what people really need to understand – is that challenges either defeat you or define you. And when you said that – when I started listening to your podcast originally – because my incredible wife goes “you got to listen to this guy.” Jennifer’s like “you got to listen to him.”
And when I heard you say that I got like “this guy’s got his shit together. He knows what he’s talking about.”
Because they do. Challenging times either defeat you or define you.
Mark: And there’s always challenging times.
Tom: And there’s always challenging times…
Mark: So let them define you. Lean into it and figure out the secret silver lining.
Tom: Right. And let’s put Unbeatable Mind on my jersey going down to establish another world record, right? Because I don’t like breaking world records – I like establishing them – that’s why I paddled from Oregon and Mexico – established the first stand-up paddle board world record.
Then I broke it when I paddled from key west to New York. And then this hydrofoil thing is going to be circumnavigating the united states I’m going to go from Oregon to Mexico leg one, do the gulf leg two around the key west, and leg three go up past New York and circumnavigate on the hydrofoil…
Mark: I would definitely support you in that. And sponsor you. And maybe do a podcast right in the middle of it.
Tom: That’d be great.
Mark: That’d be fun. When does that kick off?
Tom: Well, I’m still raising money for it. So I’m gonna do a warm-up deal from Catalina to either Huntington beach or san Diego – we haven’t decided yet – this summer. Next summer, I’m going to be doing the Oregon to Mexico regardless.
I’m in talks with Laird about doing that part of it with me. So I’m really hoping that that’s going to come together.
So I believe that we’ll start that off next year. And in the meantime, I’m doing a lot of work on learning how human beings behave, how I can possibly help them. About limiting beliefs, cognitive awareness, all this other stuff… so that at the end of the day, I can go into that at the same time…
I’m never going to quit…
Mark: Because you’re Quitproof…
Tom: Yeah, and I’m never going to give up, never going to give in… because people told me, “you know, you’re getting older now. Maybe you want to like kind of wind down.”
I go don’t drag me into your private hell.
Mark: (laughing) I’m with you on that. Age is in the mind, anyway. It’s an attitude.
Well, so people can find you… what’s your website…?
Tom: Quitproof.com. If they Google “Tom Jones athlete” instead of Tom Jones…
Mark: There’s a lot of Tom Jones’s out there, right?
Tom: There’s not many. There’s two significant ones – one, you get pelted with underwear and then the second one is me.
But the internet does a great job of bragging about me, and also connecting people with me. So I’m looking to do that, I’m looking to get more closely associated with people like you so that I can learn and pick your brain and so on.
Because I think that you’re a great asset to the human race… honestly, I don’t bullshit anybody… I don’t do that… so I’m just telling you straight from person to person – I find you to be an incredible asset to the human race – and I’m very honored and I feel really privileged to know you and meet you.
Mark: Wow, well man that’s very humbling. And I think we’ll kind of close it off on that note.
So Tom, I’ve really enjoyed this interview. I think you’re a really good man, and I really appreciate you for taking on the mission of helping others who have been suffering from childhood abuse or the kind of torturous things that you described. It’s an important mission…
Tom: Yeah. Or just being a human – because being a human is like insanely challenging, but I think – honestly, Mark – I think that’s part of the design.
Mark: Can be insanely rewarding, but you got to make the switch from victim to victor…
Tom: Well said. Bravo. And that’s exactly right and it’s a choice. And one of the things I really like that Laird says is that “you have two ways to go in life, up or down. Pick one.”
Mark: I love that too.
Tom: And I was like “okay, I’m going to pick that one.”
Mark: Let’s pick “up.” Hooyah, Tom.
So folks, thanks very much for joining us. This is the Unbeatable Mind podcast. I am your host Mark Divine.
Thank you, Mr. Tom Jones and until next time, stay focused and stay Quitproof.
Tom: Yeah, hang tough, stay strong, remain Quitproof. Let’s do it.
Mark: Let’s do it.