5 Steps to Success from a Sailor Turned NASCAR Driver

Jesse Iwuji is a Navy reservist and NASCAR driver. (Courtesy of Jesse Iwuji)
Jesse Iwuji is a Navy reservist and NASCAR driver. (Courtesy of Jesse Iwuji)

After commissioning into the Navy, surface warfare officer Jesse Iwuji mapped out a plan to race in NASCAR as a side hustle. Like all NASCAR drivers, he had to raise his own cash to buy into each event, all while still serving in the Navy.

To make it work, he found sponsors and started his own drag racing events company, The Red List Group. Success didn't come overnight, but in the four years since winning his very first race, he has shifted to the Navy Reserve; expanded his company into new industries, like long haul trucking; and moved up the racing ranks into the NASCAR truck series.

How did he get there? He attributed his focus to five key steps, which he shared at the 2019 Military Influencers Conference in Washington, D.C.

Jesse Iwuji's 5 Steps to Success

1. Vision

Iwuji first identified his goal of racing professionally as he was preparing for a Navy deployment. He had found some success at local amateur races but wanted more. He grabbed a dry erase board and wrote down his goal.

"You have to have a vision," he said. "If you have a goal in life or somewhere you are trying to go, you have to have that vision that you had in your head, not that someone else put in your head."

2. Decision

But vision is meaningless unless you take action against it, he said.

"Once you have that vision, now you have to actually make that decision and proclaim it to the world. Stand up and say, 'I will become this. I will do this,'" Iwuji said.

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3. Work

Now, you need to put your decision into action, he said -- and it's going to be a hustle.

"Once you make that decision, you have to take the actual steps. You literally have to do something toward your goal every single day," Iwuji said. "You don't do it five days a week. You don't do it three days a week. You don't just do it on the weekends or on your off time. You have to do it every single day."

4. Never Quit

People with a strong vision will likely encounter well-intentioned naysayers, he said. But the key, Iwuji explained, is to keep them from getting into your head.

Related: He Went from Sailor to NASCAR Driver. Here's How

"They love you, and they want to protect you. They want you to do something safe and secure. But when you're going after your goals and your dreams, they're not always safe and secure," he said. "It's not only about talent. It's not about skill. It's not all about where you came from, how much money you have, what color you are, what age you are ... There is no magic system that's holding you down. There's nothing that's holding you down except yourself."

    5. It's Not All About You

    In the end, Iwuji said, success should be more than just about achieving your dream. It should also be about helping others.

    "After all those steps, you have to remember it's not all about you," he said. "Make sure in your journey you are helping other people. ... If you help someone achieve their dream, you will get to your dream."

    -- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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