Story originally posted on April 9th, 2021 by Authority Magazine on medium.com
One of the first ones that I learned early on was “Discipline instills morale.” During basic training, I had the mindset of joining the military and really wanting to be an officer. I was going to do everything I could to achieve that objective. Early on, I paid attention and made an effort to do the best that I could. I had a “me alone” kind of attitude in the beginning, until my drill instructor, or technical instructor, as they’re called, set me aside and said, “Listen, look at your bunk, how nice and neat it is. Look at how nice you dress. You’re thirty five-ten, the way you dress is exemplary.” Then, he said, “Now, look at your partner next to you, and look at his bed, the way he dresses, and how disheveled he is. Now, I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna make you a squad leader, and your main focus is to oversee this young man and help him get to where he’s equally as impressive as yourself.” I thought it was a joke. I really thought he was kidding, but he was serious. He said, “Now, if he messes up, you’re responsible, so you need to make sure that he lives up to these standards, and if you don’t, you’re also gonna be held responsible.”
As a part of my series about “Life and Leadership Lessons Learned In The Military”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jake E. Jacques.
Jake E. Jacques is the proud new CEO of energyware & owner of JOX Energy, an over-the-counter brokerage company focused on nature futures and options derivatives. Jake has thrived in the oil and gas industry. Based out of Houston, Texas, over the past 26 years, Jake has represented institutions such as BP Amoco, Total Fina, Shell Oil, Morgan Stanley, Vitol Inc. and various other Fortune 500 companies in the energy sector. Jake’s other business interests include Chalkapp.com in San Francisco, CA, a tech company where Jake serves as an angel investor and cofounder, as well as real estate development throughout East Texas. Jake proudly served in the United States Air Force prior to attending Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?
Well, with energyware in the renewable energy space, I just feel like we’re making a difference with the environment, especially for our children. If you’ve seen the ramifications of polluting the environment, our oceans, our greenhouse gases and what-not, you can see why this would be a primary objective. I believe that there’s going to be an extended opportunity in the market for the new products that we will be offering online very soon, especially since the renewable energy space is going to be hot for a while. I can see us expanding into the battery and back-up battery generation. That seems to be the hot topic these days, especially with Tesla currently moving to Texas with my boy, Elon Musk! He’s tying into the grid with some of his solar batteries, so it’s really interesting just hearing about the stuff that’s happening in the market.
Can you tell us a bit about your military background?
I joined the United States Air Force right out of high school. My sole purpose in joining was to become an officer. I also wanted a way to pay for my education, as I did not have the means to pay for college. My mom raised three boys on her own. She was a single parent for basically my entire childhood. My parents got divorced when I was five years old, and she never remarried. As a result, there were no opportunities financially for her to pay for me to attend college. So I chose the Air Force because of my uncles advice, who was a captain. The way I’ve always looked at life is, either you go to college and pursue your education, or you join the military, police force, or fire department. I just think that’s the best way to establish yourself and to learn responsibility that can benefit you. By joining the military, I was able to attend college. Although I didn’t finish my degree, I’m still benefiting from the experience. Today, I intend to finish my degree. I’ve re enrolled at Arizona State, and because of my military service, my daughter’s tuition is paid for here in Texas. She will be attending UT Austin in the fall. The military was definitely very important, as it was an asset to my future and fundamental in establishing the responsibility I took on very early in life. I needed it, trust me.
Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “takeaway” did you learn from that story?
I guess early on what I enjoyed most was the role itself. It was post-Top Gun, the movie, at that point in time. Being stationed at Luke Air Force Base, and working on the flightline hand-in-hand with the pilots who flew F16s and F15s, was a great experience. Back in the day, the F16 was the hottest plane out there. Everyone wanted to fly it. Luke Air Force Base was a training facility at the time. I remember how awesome it was to see these young officers flying multi-million dollar planes and taking it to the extreme. I just loved their energy and attitude. These were very nice guys, truthfully. I mean, they treated the enlistees as equals, which I really did appreciate. We’re talking about a difference of about four or five years in age for some of these guys, so I really looked up to them. A part of me wishes I would’ve been able to take that route myself. I would’ve loved to have flown in an F16 plane! That’s the one thing I did really enjoy watching. Just getting to interact with the pilots was awesome.
I’m interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.
I really, really admired what Patrick Tillman did. Patrick played at Arizona State when I was a student, and I really looked up to him and Jake Plummer. Arizona State made it to the championship game that year. They lost, I believe, but regardless, Pat was an amazing defensive back. Hearing the stories about how he was so even-keeled was cool. He was just an outsider and an outlier. He did things his own way. I heard rumors of him meditating on top of the light poles at the Arizona State football field. He would get up there, meditate, and walk around in sandals. Pat had long blonde hair and he was just a cool dude. He did end up making it to the NFL at the time. He was playing for the Arizona Cardinals, so I got to watch him play against the Dallas Cowboys, which is my favorite team. The kid was tough. Pat ended up getting an offer to play for the St. Louis Rams, but he chose to forgo his contract of $17M to $20 M to join the military. It was right after 9/11 and his brother had joined the military as well. He wanted to join his brother and become a ranger, I believe, a Green Beret. Pat was willing to forgo an NFL career and all that money to fight for our country, and he did so. And unfortunately, he was killed in action. They originally thought it was the enemy who had killed him, but it was actually friendly fire, which was even more horrible. But the fact that he was willing to do that…he’s the perfect example of selflessness. To just be willing to do that — it wasn’t about money. He could have had a peaceful retirement. Now, he’s gone. Putting his life on the line like he did, it’s something I still talk to my kids about to this day. He was just an absolutely amazing guy and I really look up to him.
Based on that story, how would you define what a “hero” is? Can you explain?
It is someone who is selfless and services others. It’s someone who is serving a higher purpose, one that is bigger than themselves, and it’s also someone who exudes class and character. That’s my definition of a hero.
Does a person need to be facing a life and death situation to do something heroic or to be called a hero?
Absolutely not. Acts of extreme kindness, giving, teaching others, motivating others, and caring are all ways of being a hero in my perspective. That’s the way I try to live my life, as well.
Based on your military experience, can you share with our readers five leadership or life lessons that you learned from your experience”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
One of the first ones that I learned early on was “Discipline instills morale.” During basic training, I had the mindset of joining the military and really wanting to be an officer. I was going to do everything I could to achieve that objective. Early on, I paid attention and made an effort to do the best that I could. I had a “me alone” kind of attitude in the beginning, until my drill instructor, or technical instructor, as they’re called, set me aside and said, “Listen, look at your bunk, how nice and neat it is. Look at how nice you dress. You’re thirty five-ten, the way you dress is exemplary.” Then, he said, “Now, look at your partner next to you, and look at his bed, the way he dresses, and how disheveled he is. Now, I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna make you a squad leader, and your main focus is to oversee this young man and help him get to where he’s equally as impressive as yourself.” I thought it was a joke. I really thought he was kidding, but he was serious. He said, “Now, if he messes up, you’re responsible, so you need to make sure that he lives up to these standards, and if you don’t, you’re also gonna be held responsible.” At the time, we had basic liberties, like going to grab something to eat, going to the library, listening to music, going shopping and stuff, on base. It was a big deal back then, and unfortunately, that was not the case for me. I ended up having to sit in the dorms the whole time, because this individual was not meeting standards. I learned to be a leader and to be selfless to provide and help other people. That was not my mindset previously. Quite honestly, being a team player has been a valuable lesson that I learned holds weight in my business career. Additionally, being able to attend college during my enlistment was huge. The military benefits I acquired only increased my education and my skills, and having access to the G.I. Bill when I got out helped me tremendously. I still haven’t even utilized all of the funding yet, so going back and using those funds is also going to be helpful.
The lessons I’ve learned about being disciplined, responsible, and respectable have been key. Those are the last three lessons I learned. I have benefitted from all of them as a father in raising my children. Now I am teaching them to be responsible and respectful of others, and I stress the importance of adhering to kindness. If someone joins the military, it’s because they’re doing it for their fellow soldier and to protect our country. They do it for all of those who have sacrificed their lives. I take a lot of pride in representing the United States of America, the American flag and what it represents. That brings up the subject of people not standing for the National Anthem and such. I understand that you’re free to protest in your own way, and I respect the right to protest, but I wish sometimes people would consider another way to express themselves. In my eyes, it is somewhat disrespectful to the soldiers who are gone. My stepfather fought in the Korean War, my dad was in Vietnam, and various cousins joined the military. Some of my family members fought in Desert Storm and came back with PTSD. I understand the sacrifices that everybody has made, and my stepdad, having served in the Korean War, has shared a few stories that I’ll never forget. He’d get teary-eyed at a certain point. I know that he was a platoon sergeant and he lost quite a few men. When I think of those tears of pain, it re-solidifies how important it is for us to appreciate the flag and what it stands for, and everything that entails being an American.
Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business? Can you explain?
Absolutely. As I mentioned earlier, it taught me to be self-sufficient, responsible, strong-willed, strong-minded, and to bring a team mentality.
As you know, some people are scarred for life by their experience in the military. Did you struggle after your deployment was over? What have you done to adjust and thrive in civilian life that others may want to emulate?
While I did serve in Desert Storm in the Air Force, I never went overseas during that time frame. We prepared ourselves to go, and I remember that Riyadh was our destination. But fortunately, our Air Force demolished pretty much their entire air force and dismantled their ground capabilities significantly. I’ll never forget. I was so proud. I was working at night on the flightline. The initial bombings that took place were from our stealth fighters, and they went in unrecognized, under radar, with no knowledge, and did some severe damage to their communications tower. That was probably one of my proudest moments: being in the military and being a part of Desert Storm.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
As I’ve mentioned, the energy efficiency space is extremely important. I believe it’s a very necessary industry at this point, for environmental purposes. With that said, acquiring energyware happened at a profound moment for me. I learned a lot, pivoting from oil and gas and from being a commodities broker for 27-plus years. It was also a unique time because unfortunately I had recently lost my son, Jakob. Being able to continue his legacy by helping others and trying to make this world a better place has been an invaluable experience. We established a foundation on his behalf and picked a few charities to donate to. I want to set up a scholarship fund on behalf of Jakob for one of them. It will directly benefit disabled children. I want to continue to do that, so that’s my main focus. It’s going to happen soon.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team thrive?
I want to establish a family atmosphere with everyone on my staff, my team, and all my amazing directors at energyware. To me that’s extremely important, because the open-door policy is huge, and so is being completely transparent and honest. I always put my employees first, and I always try to surround myself with people who are smarter than me and who are equally as spiritual and caring. I want like-minded and positive people on my team, and that’s how I try to build my businesses.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
One of the most amazing men that I know is my stepdad. My mom and him got remarried when I graduated high school. Just for him to be there for my mom was huge, so I respect him, and everything he’d done prior to them getting married. I respect his military background and the way he grew up, working on the farm in Wisconsin before joining the Army. He was just a hard worker. I’ll never forget. The guy worked upwards of 12–17 hours a day, five days a week. He instilled that in me. Another important person is my uncle, Tony. He’s my dad’s brother. My parents got divorced when I was five, and as I mentioned earlier, my father was pretty much non-existent in my life. He was never around to give advice or anything. I don’t think I saw him for the first five years after they got divorced. But my Uncle Tony, his brother, took me in when I joined the Air Force. I was stationed at Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix, Arizona. He and my aunt happened to live there. They were really kind. He taught me a lot, and I looked up to him. He had a company car, and he wore suits and ties. He interacted with people for business, and he even included me in some of his business dealings. We went out to lunch with some of his associates. We also travelled and went fishing with a few. His boss owned a house in Mexico, so we got to go on the beach. Being in that type of atmosphere motivated me. I’ll share a funny story. Uncle Tony used to get upset with me when I borrowed some of his ties for job interviews after I got out of the military. He got mad because I’d use a lot of cologne. He told me I smelled like a pimp! Anyway, he definitely had a big influence on me. To this day, I always thank him. I’m very grateful to attribute much of my business success to my uncle Tony.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Well, I don’t know about that, but I’ve donated to various charities. Being financially successful, I was able to make several large donations back in the day when I was a commodities broker, and I’ve been doing so ever since. I was on the board of directors at the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I did that for about six years, and I’m thinking about going back. I got to see how some really, really cool people work. These were selfless individuals. As a matter of fact, both of my boys were granted wishes. My son Gabriel, who plays football at Fordham University, had a bone marrow transplant about six years ago. Jakob, with his predisposition and being on a ventilator, we were able to go to the Super Bowl via the Make A Wish Foundation. These experiences made me grateful and willing to give back, hence why I joined as a director. In regards to energyware, improving the environment is very important to me.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
That’s a good question. I guess my advice would be to believe in yourself. Take risks! Taking risks is important. Embrace failure, because without failure, you’ll never succeed. Failure allows us to rethink, reassess, make changes, and overcome. Overcoming is the biggest obstacle. Never make excuses. I often hear people say, “I need to go to college and get a degree to succeed.” I’m here to tell you that that’s not necessary. Some of our biggest, most successful tech guys out there, and I can name several, have done very well without having a degree. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room.
My Hispanic heritage inspires me. My mom, her brothers and my father overcame a lot as first-generation Americans. I use their journeys as motivation.
As a young kid, I always told myself early on that I was going to do something with my life — not so much financially, but just being a good person and helping others. I hope I’m remembered that way when my day comes. One of the things I can say is that I’d always tell Jakob, “Don’t play the victim role.” Whatever your circumstances, you have to remain motivated. The most important advice I’d give to anyone is to find your purpose. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s the truth. My purpose until this point, I can honestly say, was to raise three amazing children. After losing my son, I’ve had to reevaluate my purpose in many ways. For him to be taken away like he was, it was very, very hard. So I can honestly say to this day, I’m trying to reevaluate my life and find my new purpose, which I’m going to do. Through my higher power, I know I will.
Can you please give us your favorite “life lesson quote?” Can you share how it’s relevant to you?
There’s one that comes to mind, and it’s from something I read recently. It is by an amazing young man: my son, Jakob. I found it in his seventh-grade journal where he wrote 10 life lessons that he had learned in seventh grade. I think about this one every day. He stated, “Every day God grants us a new beginning, the ability to start over.” I take that to heart. Regardless of your circumstances you have the ability to change every single day. God grants us that ability. I try to live that, because everybody has bad days. And it’s easy to take waking up the next day for granted. Reading it as written by Jakob means a lot to me.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch? Why this person? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Elon Musk is an amazing individual. His name gets thrown around quite a bit. I love the way he thinks. Elon is a free thinker. He’s not a politician, he’s not politically correct, he speaks his mind, and he’s a visionary. That’s extremely important these days. And as far as sports go, Emmitt Smith. He was a running back for the Dallas Cowboys back in the day when I was a huge Cowboys fan. With all of the Super Bowls they played in and the attention they were receiving at the time, and with everything that was happening in his personal life, he still went on to become the leading rusher in the NFL. He was always humble, and he always thanked God. He was very close to his mom and his family. I really look up to him. To this day, he’s all about class and character, and he’s the one person in sports I look up to today. As far as the entertainment industry goes, Its Denzel Washington. I’m a big fan of his, because he’s an individual who doesn’t seek attention. He tries to help people and donate his time and his finances to those in need. Some of the information that I’ve found about him is I obtained through the grapevine and word-of-mouth. I get to hear a lot of generous acts he does that few people are privy to. He just seems like a really great guy.
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was truly uplifting.