Thoughts on Leadership: A Chip Off the New Block

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me starting Monday with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I participated in an early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy call and today I joined Intero’s Rally, where I shared “10 Things to Do Right Now to Crush it in Today’s Market” before sitting down to write this post to you.

Today I want to share an incredible story about an event that happened over the weekend. It all began when Michael Block, head club pro at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, California – located just a stone’s throw away from our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices franchise headquarters where I spent time last week – played in the 2023 PGA Championship.

But this story isn’t only about a golf club pro entering the 105th PGA Championship, one of four major PGA tournaments that take place each season. After Block arrived at Oak Hill Country Club in Pittsford, New York – the host of this year’s tournament – he went on to capture the hearts of golf fans around the world with a brilliant (and unexpected) run for the title.

On Saturday at the end of play, Block was in the Top 10, something that hadn’t been achieved by a golf club pro in a PGA Major in over 30 years. And he did it with humility and charm.

On Sunday, he hit not just a hole-in-one at the par-3, 151-yard 15th hole but slam-dunked it, meaning he hit the ball off the tee and directly into the hole without disturbing even a single blade of grass.

In a post-tournament interview just after he turned in his scorecard, Block explained how it all went down. He said he didn’t see the ball go in but knew it was a good shot and knew it was at the pin, though he thought it was a little short. Professional golfer Rory Mcllory, who was paired with Block for the round, walked up to him and gave him a big hug as the crowd cheered. Block thought, “Why in the world is he giving me a hug?” Then Mcllroy said: “Blocky, it went in!”

“Are you serious?” Block asked against the roar of the crowd.

He sure was.

Later, when describing the shot, PGA sportscaster Jim Nantz called it an “all-time up and down.”

In the end, Block finished the tournament in 15th place, winning $288,333, though he’d also be offered $50,000 for his trusty 7-iron, the one he used to make the hole-in-one. Two-thousand congratulatory texts poured in for the tournament hero, including, Block said, one from Michael Jordan. And when a reporter asked him how he felt about his performance over the weekend, Block said: “It’s amazing. I’m living a dream. I’m making sure that I enjoy this moment. I’ve learned that after my 46 years of life, it’s not going to get better than this. There’s no way.”

After Block finished the tournament, he received a sponsor’s exemption to compete at the Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas this coming weekend. Cameras captured the now-famous moment when Block received the news and said: “If you could talk to my boss real quick and tell them that I won’t be at work next week …”

So, what’s the message? Michael Block’s improbable tale of an Orange County golf club pro turned PGA Championship legend can be summed up in the same two words he’s had stamped for decades on every single one of his golf balls–including the ones he used at the tournament: “Why not?”

Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from Bruce Lee

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me starting Monday with my typical WIG calls, then traveling to Orange County, California. On Tuesday, I joined the early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy call followed by the HSF Leadership Summit and the monthly HomeServices of America leadership meeting. On Wednesday, I continued the HSF Leadership Summit and filmed videos with the team for various brand projects. This morning, I participated in the HomeServices Connect Series live event before sitting down to write this post to you from the airport gate, as I wait for my flight back to Northern California.

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a time to recognize the outstanding achievements, historic contributions, and cultural influence of this community on the United States and beyond. So, in honor of AAPI Heritage Month, I’d like to dedicate this post to an AAPI leader who had a profound impact on my career and life.

One of the earliest influences on my leadership style was the films of actor Bruce Lee. Born in San Francisco in 1940 while his parents were there on tour with the Chinese Opera, Lee became an actor at a young age. He appeared in more than 20 Chinese films – the first one when he was just three months old! At age 13, Lee began studying martial arts with the legendary Yip Man. He also studied dancing and was the 1958 Crown Colony Cha Cha dancing champ of Hong Kong! (He would later credit his dancing background for the signature grace and poise of his martial arts style.)

After he turned 18, Lee moved to Seattle, Washington, where he would eventually enroll at the University of Washington to pursue a degree in philosophy. He also opened a martial arts school, the Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute (humbly launched inside a Seattle-area parking garage), then expanded by opening two more schools in Oakland and Los Angeles.

As the story goes, Lee was discovered in 1964 by celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring, who saw him at the Long Beach Karate Championships and immediately phoned a client – producer/actor William Dozier – to tell him about this incredible martial artist he just saw named Bruce Lee. The rest, as they say, is history.

Lee’s life story is incredible. Did you know that despite how precisely he fought, he had bad eyesight? He wore glasses for most of his life and was one of the first people to ever try on newly invented contact lenses.

Credited with bringing martial arts mainstream, Lee was also an early pioneer of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Lee believed that martial arts shouldn’t be some secretive endeavor attempted by a few; martial arts should be available to everyone, no matter their race, age, or gender. In his movies “Enter the Dragon,” which eventually grossed more than $200 million, and “Fist of Fury,” he sought to shatter any prevailing stereotypes about Asian actors. Additionally, his 1972 movie “The Chinese Connection” helped shine a spotlight on Chinese music, cuisine, and language.

Beyond his blockbuster films, Bruce Lee has shared unique philosophies, many of which are written in Tao of Jeet Kune Do, a collection of thoughts from Lee’s personal notebooks that was published after his tragic death at the age of 32. He wrote: “I fear not the [person] who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the [person] who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Famously, Lee also said: “Be afraid of the calmest person in the room.”

Why? Lee believed the opponent to fear in a boardroom or on a playing field isn’t the one jumping up and down or yelling at the crowd. It’s the one who remains calm, knowing exactly what they are capable of and possessing the unrattled confidence they will achieve it.

So, what’s the message? This Bruce Lee quote perfectly encapsulates his life and legacy: “Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.”

Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from the Kentucky Derby

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me participating in my typical WIG calls on Monday, joining an early Berkshire Hathaway Energy call on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, going to the California Theatre in San Jose, California for The Dwight Clark Legacy Series: Playmakers. The event featured round table conversations with San Francisco 49ers greats, including Fred Warner, Bryant Young, Jerry Rice and John Taylor. Today, I sat down to write this post to you.

Over the weekend I was entranced – as I am each year – by the Kentucky Derby. (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network members will remember 2022 when the network took over historic Churchill Downs for an incredible Sales Convention celebration.) I love the Kentucky Derby not only because it’s exciting, but also because it always provides important leadership lessons. Here are a few from the 2023 races:

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from the Kentucky Derby
  • You can win against all odds. Mage entered the Winner’s Circle as a new champion in the 149th year of the Kentucky Derby, racing against tremendous 15-1 odds and eventually, getting that coveted garland of roses. Before the race, Mage was far from a favorite. In fact, he only had three starts this spring. Mage’s success proves that it doesn’t matter what the odds are, what happened in the past or whether people doubt you. Only you can make the outcome yours.
  • You only fail when you fail to keep going. The jockey riding Mage, Venezuelan Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, was far from a trending name in the race. He was 0-15 before he broke his streak by this Kentucky Derby win. “I never give up,” Castellano said. “I always try hard to do the right thing. It took me a little while to get there. I finally got it.”
  • You can use your critics as motivation. As Castellano was in the jockey’s room preparing for the race, he said he looked up and saw NBC’s pre-race broadcast where the network had written: “0-15, Javier Castellano” below his name. When he saw the not-so-encouraging stat, Castellano told himself, “This is the year … I’m going to win the race.” Well, we all know what happened next.
  • You must write down your goals so they become etched into your subconscious. When asked, Mage’s assistant trainer and co-owner Gustavo Delgado Jr. said the win was a fulfillment of a dream – or we could say a Wildly Important Goal – that he had written down a year-and-a-half ago. Delgado said: “I wrote a note: ‘We’re going to win the Derby next year.’” Then, he won. Delgado’s story reminds me of my own start in real estate and a box I still have in my storage closet that has my old 3×5 index cards inside. On each card, I had written out my goals and affirmations. Re-reading those years later, it’s surreal to me that they all came true. As an example, in 1985, I set a goal of making $60,000, noting that it would be in direct proportion to the service I give. Even though it took me six months to get my first pending sale, I still hit my goal by the end of the year.
  • You can’t stop until you reach the finish line. In the backstretch of the race, Mage focused on the horse in the leading position and passed him at the eighth pole, going on to win the Kentucky Derby. Imagine if he gave up when he was behind? Instead, Mage didn’t stop until he was ahead of them all. “He’s a little horse with a big heart,” Castellano said.
  • You should always remember those who support you on your way up the ladder (or around the racetrack) of success. According to, Castellano’s win was as much about loyalty as it was about fate. For the last five years, Castellano has been sponsored by restaurateur Jeff Ruby, proudly sporting the Jeff Ruby Steakhouse brand. But in a tweet by Ruby, the restaurateur said Castellano almost didn’t wear the brand during the race. Why? Castellano was originally set to ride a horse called Raise Cain but the owners of that horse told him “at the eleventh hour” that he couldn’t wear the Jeff Ruby Steakhouse pants. Castellano said if he couldn’t support his sponsor, he simply wouldn’t race. He was going to give up a chance to be in the Kentucky Derby! Then in April, Castellano switched from Raise Cain to Mage so he could represent his sponsor. And when he triumphantly crossed the finish line with Mage, he was proudly sporting the Jeff Ruby Steakhouse pants. (Castellano also went to dinner at Ruby’s Louisville steakhouse after the win, where diners gave him a well-deserved standing ovation.)

So, what’s the message? Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties President Martha Mosier said it best when she shared her experience attending the Kentucky Derby this year. From the horses to the friendships to the leadership lessons this race contains, it is truly, as she wrote: “The experience of a lifetime.”

Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from Shark Tank’s Daymond John

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me starting the work week early, with a flight to Naples, Florida on Sunday. On Monday, I participated in my typical WIG calls and then joined the start of the T3 Leadership Summit where I spoke onstage the following day. On Wednesday, I returned home to work out of my Northern California office and tomorrow, I’ll fly to Omaha for the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting.

During the T3 Leadership Summit, I had the honor of hearing Daymond John speak about disruption and entrepreneurship. John is the founder of global lifestyle brand FUBU and a regular on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” He’s also been on LinkedIn’s list of Top 20 Voices and received Ernst & Young’s New York Entrepreneur of the Year award.

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