As the high speed train wound its way up the English coast and onto the seas of Scotland I passed the hours by studying the man whom I would soon meet again, Dan Peña. I perused his full dossier: biography, newsletters, videos, and speeches looking for something that would tell me more about the man that I could not yet fully understand. But was I studying my enemy or my future mentor?
Six months earlier I had the dubious honour of welcoming the "50 Billion Dollar Man" into my studio in Shoreditch in East London for a two hour interview where I was both repulsed and fascinated by his many accomplishments and accolades. I declared on camera that the London Realers would either "Love him or Hate him" and the subsequent 50,000 views racked up on YouTube quickly answered my question. They loved Dan Peña.
During the interview Dan had quickly gotten under my skin by questioning my ambition and claiming that "Money" is what's necessary to accomplish things, "Not Zen." He implied that I was wasting my life on its current path and was not willing to step up and compete like my former days as a City trader in the financial district of London. My feeble retort that "Money isn't everything" fell on his deaf ears and even I had to admit that it a statement born out of weakness.
I agreed to meet Dan a few months later (dinner at the Ritz Carlton, suit & tie required) where he challenged me to come to his weeklong QLA mentorship program where all participants live in his Scottish castle isolated from the rest of the world while being schooled in his techniques of success. Without thinking the alpha male deep within had accepted immediately, much to my chagrin.
D-Day has arrived and as I travel up the winding Scottish coast I picture myself as the US Army Captain played by Martin Sheen in the film Apocalypse Now as he studies the inimitable Colonel Kurtz while boating up the Nung river on a mission to kill him. Dan Peña was my Kurtz, but the more I learned about him the less I was repelled and the more I became intrigued.
The more I learned about him, the more I was intrigued.
His accomplishments were noteworthy and the more I read, the more I respected him.
• Completes Officer Candidates School, US Army.
• Turns $820 into $450 Million in 8 years taking Great Western Resources public.
• Goes from the "Barrio" of East LA to owning Guthrie Castle in Scotland.
• In 20 years of QLA mentoring he has produced $50 Billion in equity and value.
I arrived at the immaculate grounds of Guthrie Castle and received the full tour: nine hole golf course, snooker room, trophy room complete with animal heads personally shot in Africa, castle turrets, guest houses, library, luxury cars, the works. The entire setup is a metaphor for Dan's core QLA philosophy: "Yesterday's dreams are today's reality." The scene had been set and I would soon find myself playing a cruial role in this unfolding drama.
On a warm Sunday night at Guthrie Castle in Scotland sixteen men sat down to break bread knowing their lives would never been the same again. I was one of those men. This is my story.
At the head of the table sat our fearless leader Dan Peña, the $50 Billion man, dishing out insults and motivation with equal measure while giving the most accurate representation of General George S. Patton on record. “You fucking CUNTS are weak and unaccomplished, which is why you are here in the first place. But all that changes tomorrow when we go deep and find out why Mommy and Daddy didn’t love you. Guess what? I don’t give a SHIT why! When you leave here you won’t have an action plan, you will have a WAR PLAN. And I NEVER leave a man behind."
I would like to say we were shocked. I would like to tell you we were offended. Both would be lies. No one who comes to Guthrie Castle would expect anything different.
“And don’t do any of that networking bullshit, that’s for losers. You are here to work on yourself" Dan continued. "I don’t want to see any business cards or electronic messages. When I see you guys swapping spit, my dick goes limp."
“I could easily kill three of you myself, or at least two of you with my bad hip. So if anyone wants a piece just let me know. And if I see any phones or laptops I WILL FUCKING BREAK THEM."
Dan Peña is a modern-day Ernest Hemingway, with cash.
To know Dan Pena is to know a man from a different era. He is a modern day Ernest Hemingway, with cash. Did he kill a brown bear with his bare hands? Of course he did. Did he turn $820 into $450 million in 8 years? Yes indeed. Did his father hold a loaded gun to his head when he was 11 years old? Affirmative.
All of us had journeyed to Scotland from around the world for one week of intense training in QLA, or what Dan calls his Quantum Leap Advantage. Quite simply he teaches you to amass wealth in 3-5 years that would normally take a generation of hard work to accumulate. It's a boot camp of sorts (the army trained Peña understandably hates this term) in which all participants live in Guthrie Castle, eat 5 star meals in full suit and tie, and have limited access to the outside world. Quite simply we were surrounded and immersed in the luxury, pomp and circumstance that was created by Dan's vision of his future over 30 years ago. It's all a very tangible metaphor that subconsciously hits very deep into the soul.
Everything is top notch at Guthrie Castle and the Dan Peña playbook is run like clockwork. Meals are served on time and are perfect with no detail overlooked. When relaxing in the library the butler will ask every 10 minutes to refresh your drink. The grounds crew work tirelessly to keep the estate gardens and golf course manicured to perfection. The staff are accommodating, polite and efficient. I know 5-star service and I was impressed. It is Peña personified.
Now I fully understand the concept of a bootcamp. Take an individual, isolate him, break him down, implant new ideas, build him back up, and indoctrinate him into the cult. I've done this before. My fraternity "Hell Week" at MIT was an epic event in my life that transformed me from a lowly pledge into a full brother. For six days straight I was sleep deprived, hazed, yelled at, over-worked, and forced to play the same 17 minute classical music song for 144 hours straight (can you guess which one? I can still hear it now). And it worked. When I was given full brotherhood into the fraternity I was overjoyed and personally thanked each and every one of them for the beating I had just received. When I tell Dan how I’m prepared for this process he responds with a simple, wry smile.
In our "pre-seminar" interview I ask Dan about his life since appearing on London Real he graciously gives me credit for rebooting his public profile and inspiring him to create his own podcast and soon to be launched Reality TV show (potentially on the BBC no less!). Accepting credit for re-releasing Dan Peña to the world is a heavy cross to bear indeed and one that might unfortunately appear on my obituary (which, under Dan's instructions, I will end up writing myself a few days later).
Dan admits that he will “beat us all like rented mules” from the start of the program and won’t even discuss business for the first 3 days. “Everyone always asks, ‘When do we learn how to make the fucking money?’” says Pena, “But first we have to break down and understand the fear that is stopping you from achieving your potential.”
Dan Peña serves up fire and brimstone like a Pentecostal preacher.
And so Day One begins as Dan challenges every notion of success that we have ever had our entire life. He asserts that we have wasted our existence and are worthless, sorry sacks of shit. He claims that our fear of failure has paralysed us and caused us to cower away from every challenge. And it's very hard to disagree with him. Dan Peña serves up fire and brimstone like a Pentecostal preacher and his steely gaze is handed out amply to every soul in the room.
You see Dan knows every sordid detail about our lives and can modify or emphasise ANY story or point in order to hit your soul like a laser beam to expose the soft spot. Before we arrived at the castle we have told him everything: our life story, full CV, personal relationships, failures, income, business models, hopes and dreams. I cannot emphasise enough how effective and humbling these personal assaults can be for the entire group. "Do you know why these people are successful?" Dan says as he points to the 50-odd pictures on his 'Hall of Fame.' "Because they dream bigger than you. Isn't that right Brian?" or "I don't have a little voice in my head. Cunts do. Just like you David" or "Every day is a test, Mark. Did you pass?" And my personal favourite, "That's why I live in a castle, and you live in a shack."
"That is why I live in a castle, and you live in a shack." - Dan Peña
Now this all might seem a bit shocking to you, or perhaps you're LOLing right now. And no, it's not for everyone. In fact it's not for most people. The majority of humans would rather NEVER be confronted with their own failings and shortcomings. They would rather NOT be asked why they have never followed their dreams. They would rather NOT have to be accountable for never putting their balls on the line.
What possibly could a 70 year old American man yelling at the top of his lungs in a Scottish Castle have to do with drinking the plant medicine Ayahuasca? EVERYTHING.
This is also why most people will never drink Ayahuasca or consume Psilocybin mushrooms. Because they cannot mentally cope with the idea of facing the reality of their own personal shortcomings and failures. What possibly could a 70 year old American yelling at the top of his lungs while wearing a three piece suit in a Scottish Castle have to do with drinking the plant medicine Ayahuasca you ask? EVERYTHING.
The majority of humans would rather NEVER be confronted with their own failings and shortcomings.
Because both of these experiences require that you submit to uncomfortable truths that will make you question the very fabric of your life and the dogmatic structure of your reality. And if you can make it out alive, both will allow you to better understand yourself and make the positive changes necessary in your pathetic excuse for a life (sorry, I'm channeling Peña a bit there).
"Brian are you comparing Dan Peña to Ayahuasca?" You're Goddamn right I am, and the irony is not lost on me whatsoever.
By the end of Day One I was questioning every decision I had made in the past 10 years including any idea that London Real was anything more than a half-assed attempt at video blogging. My brain was so physically fried that all I could do was lay down in my room on the floor in the dark. I wanted my Mommy.
His energy is boundless and his focus laser-like.
On the second day the rebuilding process began. The pacing and fire was still there but Dan Peña's tone had softened ever so slightly and flashes of humour arose. "It's time to Nut up or Shut up", "You have to kiss a lot of frogs", and "I think Brad Pitt is an ugly little fuck" resulted in LOLing across the board. Dan tirelessly recounted story after story pointing to the 100-plus pictures on the wall of "The Influencers" including General George Patton, Jesus Christ, and yes, Hitler himself. No other man in the world could get away with this but for Dan Peña, it just works. At the end of the second day Dan calmly says, "I am one Bad Motherfucker." Amen.
By the end of the first day I was questioning every decision I made in the past 10 years.
You see Dan Peña is the polar opposite of politically correct. He is the last of a dying breed of real men who once said what they meant and could give a fuck what anyone thought. For us 20-40 somethings in the class this is something we can barely conceive of and are drawn to like mosquitoes to a light bulb. Dan Peña became our Alpha Male leader and we the loyal and cohesive pack. I cannot overstate the importance of the male bonding that happened here. It is something I haven't felt since my fraternity days and something distinctly missing in our modern life. All men truly yearn to be part of a well-lead and efficiently organised pack. At Guthrie Castle for one week, we all became that pack.
Dan Peña is the last of a dying breed called real men.
And so the week continued...6 am wake ups, suit and tie for breakfast, into the classroom for hours of pounding and instruction and side-splitting stories from Dan Peña, the modern warrior. Days were rounded off by one-on-one hour sessions where Dan would individually "really tear into you" in his office about your life and business model. The evenings resolutely finished off with drinks in the library and three course meals by candlelight in the elegant dining room complete with Dan's rousing tales or deprecation and inspiration. "When I was in Japan the men would line up side by side and all stick their dicks in holes in the wall..." We were men. Being men. Among men. It was absolutely fabulous.
All men truly yearn to be part of a well-lead and efficiently organised pack.
On Day Four and Day Five Dan began describing the details and nuances of doing deals "QLA style" and how we were to build our "Dream Teams", get financing, and become "Big Fucking Hittaahssss." The methodology is simple and principled. Don't spreadsheet your ideas to death. Make a judgement call and pull the trigger. You win a few, you lose a few but you keep on fighting.
Dan broke down over 700 deals he's been a part of with details concerning board members, law firms, accountants, and bankers. It's very hard to convey the vast amounts of knowledge Dan can access at the drop of a hat and how powerful that can be. His energy is boundless and his focus laser-like. A few of my most favourite quotes from the week are:
"Holidays are for poor people."
"If your friends and family don't think you're nuts then you are doing the wrong things.
"When value is clear, decisions are easy."
"You turn dreams into reality through discipline."
"Create a diet of practicing fearlessness."
"You should have more dreams than memories."
"Unless I'm dead or in a coma, I show up."
"Manage risk, don't eliminate it."
"Where is your new peer group?"
"They can't kill me."
"Make the big bet."
"If it must be done, it should be done quickly."
"Success is simple changes compounded over time."
"Take the hardest emotional challenge possible. Every day."
"Take risks, you can't fall off the bottom."
"Excellence is willing to be more wrong."
"Change or Die."
"Being successful lets you feel good."
"Disgust and Resolve and two great emotions that lead to change."
"Stop working in your business and start working on your business."
"Stop finger-fucking it. Stop Google-fucking it. Stop spreadsheeting it. Take Action."
"We fear because we think we're inadequate."
"Chaos breeds life. Order breeds habit."
"Passive income makes you passive."
"Good is the enemy of Great."
"Put your best people on the best opportunities, not the biggest problems."
"Human talent is currency."
"Failure is a resource."
Dan Peña became our Alpha Male, and we the loyal and cohesive pack.
By the last day Dan was putting the finishing touches on his masterpiece as us students watched on in awe and amazement. At one point he stopped and said, "You all look tired. I'm 69 years old and I'm not tired. That's because I'm doing what I love to do."
I knew the end was coming but I wasn't sure exactly what to expect. Then Dan delivered the Pièce de résistance with a final roaring speech about how he lives his life like the final minutes of a Super Bowl Football game, "performing at his maximum to get all of us across the goal line." We all responded with a deafening standing ovation that seemed to never end. As soon as I could leave the room I broke out into tears.
As soon as I could leave the room I broke out into tears.
I couldn't stop crying so I just let it go and it felt amazing, a rare chance to express my emotions like a strong man should. I haven't cried like this since my 2nd Ayahuasca ceremony over two years ago that I described in my article "Ayahuasca & Me". Again the irony is not lost on me whatsoever.
So what made me cry? I'm not sure. Perhaps because Dan Peña was the first strong man to actually give a shit about me in a long, long time. Or perhaps because I witnessed a beautiful piece of real humanity as this man selflessly displayed such compassion for his fellow man. Or perhaps I realised in that very moment that life, in all of its glory and wonder, is fleeting.
The evening concluded with a gala dinner for those sixteen men dressed in formal kilts clutching graduation certificates and bottles of Guthrie Castle single malt scotch presented by the handsome and majestic Dan Peña in his own full traditional Scottish dress. The evening was rounded out with a full ceremonial bagpiper conducting a haggis presentation ceremony in the dining room where we enjoyed another incredible meal and told tales of our future billions in the making.
Unfortunately words and video don't suffice. Dan Peña must be experienced.
And like that, it was over. As I make my way down the Scottish coast on the train back to London I can only attempt to piece together the events of the past 8 days. I glimpse at a "selfie" I took with Dan on the turrets of the castle before the week began and I actually look like a different person, much more innocent. I fully expect the next year of weekly mentoring by Dan Peña will take the "rented mule beating" metaphor to an entirely new level. Of course I will immortalise this entire experience with two video interviews that will be published on London Real. But part of me writes this in desperation as a futile attempt to capture the feelings I had during that balmy October week at Guthrie Castle, when I got a glimpse of the man I always hoped I would be. Unfortunately words and video don't suffice. Dan Peña must be experienced.
Quite simply, Dan Peña is the Baddest Motherfucker I know.
Brian 1.0 was created from the crucibles of MIT and Wall Street. Brian 2.0 was the phoenix who rose from the ashes of self-destruction and loss after 9/11. Brian 3.0 was built by the London Real community of the world. Brian 4.0 was inspired by Dan Peña.
Quite simply, Dan Peña is the Baddest Motherfucker I know.
To Your Future.
(Please leave your comments below, I will respond to all of them)