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Leadership Matters

Florida exec finds new life purpose after being confronted by gunman

John Miles accomplished quite a lot in business and the military before he turned 50. Those wins are mere pit stops as he executes on his next big life mission: helping others find their purpose.

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 5:00 a.m. January 29, 2024
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
John Miles
John Miles
Photo by B.Lively Images
  • Tampa Bay-Lakeland
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St. Petersburg resident John Miles had quite the violent surprise awaiting him when he arrived home from his gym, Orangetheory, one early morning in November 2017. There was a man standing at the top of the stairwell inside his home, staring at Miles. The intruder was holding a gun.

A U.S. Naval Academy graduate who later led teams in combat zones while a commissioned officer, Miles, unarmed, used his military training to avoid the man and run outside. Miles called the police. The man, a maintenance manager in Miles’ rental community, was eventually caught. 

Even for a combat-tough veteran like Miles, then 47, the experience was a life wake up call. Up until that point, first in the military and later in a series of high-level Corporate America posts (one of the youngest vice presidents at Lowe’s, chief information officer at Dell, to name a few) his life, he says, was all about the next step. Some of those jobs, like the one at Dell, and later chief digital officer and head of global operations at St. Pete marketing firm Catalina, paid Miles well into the mid-seven figures annually.

“I was a hard charging executive and then when I got what I wanted, I found out it really wasn’t what I wanted or what we are put on this earth to do,” MIles said in a recent interview in a St. Pete coffee shop. “Instead of going after what lights me up inside, I went for the money, the big title and the big house.” 

“But,” Miles adds, referring back to the experience with the post-gym gunman, “I learned it’s never too late to start over.” 

Pinball wizard

It took a few twists, but starting over led Miles, now 53, to Passion Struck. 

Passion Struck is Miles’ concept on how leaders, in business and beyond, can transform their lives from limiting beliefs to an “existence without boundaries.” The ideals behind Passion Struck are based on Miles’ own life experiences and conversations with top-flight leaders, from astronauts to military generals to billion-dollar CEOs.

Passion Struck is also a brand. It includes a podcast, under the Passion Struck name, downloaded 20 million times since MIles launched it in February 2021. Recent episodes include interviews with BJ Fogg, author of “Tiny Habits” and a Stanford behavioral scientist; Amy Morin, author of “13 Things Mentally Strong Couples Don’t Do,” and a psychotherapist; and TV personality and wellness expert Maria Menounos. There's additional Passion Struck content on multiple social media channels and in a weekly newsletter, and Miles also gives keynote presentations, speaks at conferences and consults with organizations on the topic. 

And, most recently, Miles published a book, “Passion Struck: Twelve Powerful Principles to Unlock Your Purpose and Ignite Your Most Intentional Life.” The book was named to the The Next Big Idea Club’s February 2024 Must-Read Books list, among other early accolades. 

The book, and the Passion Struck concept, says Miles, includes pieces of Angela Duckworth’s Grit and James Clear’s Atomic Habits. A key takeaway? You don’t have to have a pinball life, Miles says, “where you’re constantly owned by the pinball machine bouncing around. You could have a life of intention and purpose.” 

He cites an iconic figure to prove his point: Abraham Lincoln. The 16th U.S. President worked for a riverboat company and ran a general store, among other jobs, before he ran for a seat in the Illinois General Assembly — and lost — in his 20s. That's why Lincoln famously said he was “a piece of floating driftwood” while a young man. “He eventually found his passion in life,” says Miles, “and it was to end slavery in America.” 

While your goals will be different, the Passion Struck concept remains the same. 

“It doesn’t matter if you’re 20 or 70,” Miles says, “you could make these changes in your life.”

Get amped

An integral part of the Passion Struck system, and the book, is how to get unstuck in reaching your full potential. “Our world is inherently binary,” writes Miles, “with two distinct states: those who choose growth, altruism and creativity and those who settle for survival mode, ego and self-absorption.”

Getting to the growth side, a group Miles calls “creative amplifiers” is a core goal of Passion Struck. Getting there, from the survival mode sector, a group Miles calls “subsisters,” requires grit, small but significant habit changes and a mindset shift, among other behavioral changes. A deeper look at Passion Struck’s development stages, and goals to climb for, include: 

The subsister: Indifferent and self-centered. Gripped by fear of change. Would rather embrace the status quo. 

The imitator: Self-absorbed and conforming. Driven by ego and the need to fit in. 

The vanquisher: Ambitious. Relentless. Conqueror of obstacles and striver for personal success. 

The orchestrator: Balanced and visionary with a managed ego. Has a genuine concern for the world, Seeks systemic change and progress. 

Creative amplifier: Conscious. Humble. Engaged in a world-centric perspective. Resilient when confronted with challenges. 

Miles writes that about 5% to 7% of the population resides in the amplifier stage, while 15% to 20% are in the subsiter stage. The book aims to increase the percentage of the former, and decrease the percentage of the latter. 

Miles turns to another famous American, who lived a generation after Lincoln — author Mark Twain — to illustrate the point, and value, in chasing life as a creative amplifier. “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do,” Miles quotes Twain as saying. “So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” 



Mark Gordon

Mark Gordon is the managing editor of the Business Observer. He has worked for the Business Observer since 2005. He previously worked for newspapers and magazines in upstate New York, suburban Philadelphia and Jacksonville.

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