From Battlefield to Boardroom: A Billionaire’s Story of Trauma, Resilience, & Healing


Episode 239

Bob Parsons

In this episode, Paul F. Austin is joined by entrepreneur Bob Parsons for a candid dive into his journey healing war trauma with psychedelics.

Bob Parsons, American entrepreneur and philanthropist, shares his journey from failing the fifth grade to becoming a billionaire. He discusses his challenges in school and how the Marine Corps helped him develop discipline and a sense of accomplishment. Parsons also opens up about his psychedelic experiences to heal war trauma and the profound impact they had on his life.

Bob shares about the ongoing psychedelic research he supports through his philanthropic foundation and concludes by discussing his new book, Fire in the Hole, which candidly explores his life and experiences.

This conversation touches on the transformative power of psychedelics to foster deep healing and catalyze significant life changes.

Bob Parsons, best-known as the founder of GoDaddy, is widely recognized for his entrepreneurial and philanthropic efforts. Currently, Bob is the CEO and founder of YAM Worldwide.

Bob is a U.S. Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and a recipient of the Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, and Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He attended college at the University of Baltimore on the G.I. Bill and graduated magna cum laude. His alma mater presented him with an honorary doctorate in 2008 and named him Distinguished Entrepreneur in 2010.

In 2012, Bob founded YAM Worldwide, which is home to his entrepreneurial ventures in the fields of motorcycles, golf, real estate, finance, marketing, innovation and philanthropy.

Over the years, three of Bob’s entrepreneurial ventures—Parsons Technology, GoDaddy, and now PXG (Parsons Xtreme Golf) have been recognized by Inc Magazine as being among America’s fastest growing privately-held companies.

Along with Renee, his wife and PXG President of Apparel, Bob started The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation in 2012 to reach marginalized populations and causes often underfunded by mainstream philanthropy. The Foundation provides transformational grants to nonprofit organizations successfully working in the areas of homelessness, medical care, LGBTQ youth, education and the needs of wounded veterans and military families.


Podcast Highlights

  • Failing the fifth grade and challenges in early life
  • Enlisting in the marine corps and serving in Vietnam
  • Returning home as a Vietnam War vet
  • Transition to entrepreneurship
  • Finding psychedelics to treat war trauma
  • Philanthropic efforts in the psychedelic space
  • Bob’s new book, “Fire in the Hole!”

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Podcast Transcript

0:00:00.4 Paul F. Austin: Welcome back to The Psychedelic Podcast by Third Wave, where we explore how the safe and responsible use of psychedelic medicine catalyzes individual and collective transformation. This is your host, Paul F. Austin, and today I am speaking with an entrepreneur and philanthropist, Bob Parsons.

0:00:18.1 Bob Parsons: After the experience that I had, I can find no better way than psychedelics to help. It is like what a difference it makes, in a week you can pretty much cure PTSD, I mean, holy smokes. If we are open-minded enough and we have enough in the way of a therapist, I mean, Lord Almighty, what can we do?

0:00:45.8 Paul F. Austin: Welcome to The Psychedelic Podcast by Third Wave audio mycelium, connecting you to the luminaries and thought leaders of the psychedelic renaissance. We bring you illuminating conversations with scientists, therapists, entrepreneurs, coaches, doctors, and shamanic practitioners, exploring how we can best use psychedelic medicine to accelerate personal healing, peak performance, and collective transformation.

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0:02:17.8 Paul F. Austin: Hey listeners, this is Paul F. Austin founder and CEO of Third Wave, and today I bring you a candid dive into a billionaire's story, healing his own war trauma with psychedelics and how he gave back through supporting psychedelic research and so much more. My guest today is Bob Parsons. Bob is best known as the founder of GoDaddy and is widely recognized for his entrepreneurial and philanthropic efforts. Currently, he is the CEO and founder of YAM Worldwide. Bob is a US Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and a recipient of the Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He attended college at the University of Baltimore on the GI Bill and graduated Magna cum laude. His alma mantra presented him with an honorary doctorate in 2008 and named him a distinguished entrepreneur in 2010. In 2012, Bob founded YAM Worldwide, which is home to his entrepreneurial ventures in the fields of motorcycles, golf, real estate, finance, marketing, innovation, and philanthropy.

0:03:23.8 Paul F. Austin: Over the years, three of Bob's entrepreneurial ventures, Parsons Technology, GoDaddy, and now PXG, have been recognized by Inc. Magazine as being among America's fastest growing privately held companies. Along with Renee, his wife, Bob started the Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation in 2012 to reach marginalized populations and causes that are often underfunded by mainstream philanthropy. The foundation provides transformational grants to non-profit organizations successfully working in the areas of homelessness, medical care, LGBTQ youth, education, and the needs of wounded veterans and military families.

0:04:02.9 Paul F. Austin: Now, in our conversation together, with Bob shares his journey from failing the fifth grade to becoming a billionaire. He discusses the challenges he faced in school and how the Marine Corps helped him develop discipline and a sense of accomplishment. Parsons also opens up about his psychedelic experiences that help to heal his war trauma and the profound impact that psychedelics have had on his life.

0:04:24.1 Paul F. Austin: Bob also shares about the ongoing psychedelic research that he supports through his philanthropic foundation, and concludes by discussing his new book, Fire in the Hole! Which candidly explores his life and experiences. This conversation touches on the transformative power of psychedelics to foster deep healing and catalyze significant change in one's life. Now, I first met Bob at a conference in Phoenix, just under a year ago. We shared the stage together where I had the honor to interview Bob for the psychedelic conference, and naturally I reached out afterwards and I was like, Bob, I would love to capture a similar conversation for our audience at Third Wave because I think they would just be so moved by your story. And so I invited Bob in the podcast and our conversation is the one that you are about to hear.

0:05:14.4 Paul F. Austin: It's really rich. Bob is hilarious. Great sense of humor and he has really had his life changed and impacted by psychedelics over the last few years. He has not invested whatsoever in the psychedelic space. His efforts have been purely philanthropic because he believes that these medicines should be accessible and available to everyone. So before we dive in, just a quick reminder to follow The Psychedelic Podcast so that you never miss an episode. And of course, if this conversation resonates with you, please share it with anyone in your life that you think could benefit from our conversation. Alright, that's it for now. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Bob Parsons.

0:05:53.3 Paul F. Austin: Hey, listeners, welcome back to The Psychedelic Podcast. Today we have have Bob Parsons, American entrepreneur, billionaire, and philanthropist. Bob, it's great to see you again. Thanks for joining us for the podcast.

0:06:05.8 Bob Parsons: Well, it's nice to be here, Paul, and you left one thing out, and I always put this in any bio, short little bio I do. I failed the fifth grade and I'm telling you, nobody can take that away from me.

0:06:21.3 Paul F. Austin: It means something. It's a...

0:06:23.9 Bob Parsons: It means something to me.

0:06:24.0 Paul F. Austin: It's a medal that you wear.

0:06:27.0 Bob Parsons: Yeah. An accomplishment...

0:06:29.9 Paul F. Austin: Well, it's good to have that as it grounds a little bit. It grounds you a little bit.

0:06:31.3 Bob Parsons: Yeah. Well, I mean, it was me and two other dumbbells. Nobody...

[overlapping conversation]

0:06:41.7 Paul F. Austin: What were their names?

0:06:42.6 Bob Parsons: Oh, those guys. And one guy's name was Frankie and the other guy was Anthony. And...

0:06:47.4 Paul F. Austin: All right. What happened in fifth grade, Bob? Tell us what happened in fifth grade?

0:06:51.8 Bob Parsons: The class, when they were standing up in line and holding their report cards, waiting to march out and meet their parents, us three were just sitting there and they wouldn't even make eye contact with us. You think they... If they looked at us, they'd fail.

0:07:07.6 Paul F. Austin: And what happened? I mean, did you fail? Did you... You seem to have made it reasonably far. Did you end up graduating from the fifth grade and get moved along or what happened there?

0:07:22.8 Bob Parsons: Well, here's the thing, well, it's kind of a crazy story. What happened was I was in a Catholic school and I was really looking forward to a nun-free summer. And the nun that I had that year was sister Brenda and she was not a... Well, she didn't like me much. So she kept me after school all but about five days, all year. And when she handed out report cards, of course, I didn't get one. And so anyhow, so she takes some marches, tells us, you three, wait here for me to come back and I'm going to take the class out. And then when I come back out we'll take care of business.

0:08:07.7 Bob Parsons: Well, I knew what the hell that meant. And so when the class left, I mean, they weren't gone, but two minutes, I left. So I ran out, ran down a hall and ran around a whole building. And see, one of the things I noticed, this sister, sister Brenda, was a very lazy nun. And when she... It was time for her to walk... Typically, the nuns would walk to class past the convent entrance, down a long block, and then across the street to where the parents were. Well, I ran around and I beat the class to where before they went by the convent, I was against the wall waiting for the line to come by.

0:09:03.9 Bob Parsons: So I hit the convent and she breaks off right away. And she went back, she was going to crucify the unholy threesome. And so I get across the street, my dad always picked us up on the last day of school. And so he's holding my brother's report card and he says to me, "Hi, Robert, where's your report card?" And I said, "Sister didn't give me one." And he said, "Why not?" And I said, and here's what I said, I said, "Dad, if you pass this year, you're going to get a report card." And he said, he looked at me, he's looked at me like a dog that heard a strange noise.

0:09:55.3 Bob Parsons: So he goes, he had flipped this cigarette as Terry did in the street. He goes, whatever, get in the car. And I said, okay. So off we went. Same thing with my mother at home. And I told my mother, my mother's going, I've never heard of such a thing. And I said, call sister, mom. And of course, she never called, never, my mother never called, they never called. And so I spent all summer long, it was the longest summer of my life. I'd wake up every morning and I'd feel good, no school. And then it would wash over me, I'm on death row. I got like eight more weeks till I die. And so I go to school on the first day of school. And I get in line with the sixth graders.

0:10:52.3 Bob Parsons: And my two buddies are in... They're in the fifth grade line again. And they're waving to me, hey, Bob, come on. And I’m going “Get out of here.” I didn't want to make eye contact with them. And so anyhow, so the lines went in, the kindergarten went in first, first grade, second grades then my buddies in the fifth grade. And then when the sixth grade line went in, the nun, her name was sister St. Thomas, she pulled me out of line. And at this time, I don't even know what's going on. I'm in a sixth grade line, and I know I don't belong there. She pulls me out of line and she says to me, and I mean, and her nose is not even an inch from mine. She said, Sister Brenda told me what she did. She told me, you failed. And you didn't wait around for her to take care of it, this, that and the other thing.

0:11:51.6 Bob Parsons: She didn't know what to do. And then I heard these magic words. So she passed you. And then she says, you give me any trouble. I'll send you right back to the fifth grade. And I said, I won't, Sister. And I wish I could tell you, I did a lot better. I did a little bit better. But it was enough to get me through there. And I remember when I came home, and I had my sixth grade report card, and I gave it to my mother. And she's looking at it, she looks at the report card, she goes, this is nothing to be proud of. But at least you passed. And I said, yeah. And she goes, and I like it when you get a report card. I go, "So do I, Mom." So there you go.

0:12:27.0 Paul F. Austin: Why was it, Bob, that... Why was it that school was pretty difficult for you? Why was it not a great... 'Cause you've become very successful. And we'll get into the Marine Corps, we'll get into some of your entrepreneurship background. Why wasn't... Why was school difficult?

0:12:42.9 Bob Parsons: Well, there was a lot of trouble going on at my house during this time. My father's business, he had a small business, little convenience store, went bankrupt, he went broke. Him and my mother, both gamblers never, never any money. And bill collectors are ringing the family and two screaming at each other. They never did abuse me directly, but they went out at hammering tongs with each other and yeah, it just was, took a toll on me. So I had a hard time during those early years focusing in school really on anything for that matter. So you can see the way my dad took the report card, didn't fucking matter. You're fine in the car. Alright, pop.

0:13:42.5 Paul F. Austin: And yet you've gone on to... You sold the company for what, 4 billion? $3-$4 billion. GoDaddy was the company that you...

0:13:53.0 Bob Parsons: No, I made about 3 billion on the deal.

0:13:58.1 Paul F. Austin: Okay. All right. Which is phenomenal. So to go from failing the fifth grade and even deeper than that, growing up in a troubled home, growing up in probably a challenging environment to serving in Vietnam, which I want to start to unpack a little bit to becoming one of the wealthiest men in the world. That's an interesting story. There's an interesting trajectory there. And at some point along the way, more recently, psychedelics came into the picture, which I'm happy to unpack. But bring us a little bit into the '70s when you choose and decide to enroll in the Marine Corps, what inspired that decision? Why'd you do it? And as much as you're willing to share, what was that like?

0:14:49.3 Bob Parsons: Well, it was 1968 and I was a senior in high school, and I was like normal, failing most subjects. And you can always... You could always count on me, Paul. [laughter] So I was always failing in a lot of subjects. And I had two buddies come to me and say, Hey, Bob, we're gonna go down. This was in gym while we're getting dressed after gym. He says, "We're going down to the Marine, see the Marine Corps recruiter down in on Conklin Street. You want to go with us?" And I said, "Sure, I'll go." So I went down there with him. This guy had us, I never... He had us all pumped up and what we're going to see and what it means to be a Marine and this, that, and the other thing. And so the three of us joined, those two were able to join because, they were 18 and me, I was 17. I had to get my mother to sign the papers. And she did. And so...

0:16:00.2 Paul F. Austin: Oh, she did. You didn't fake that signature, that was a real...

0:16:03.1 Bob Parsons: No. No. No. No. No. She did. She wasn't too thrilled about it, but she did. And after she signed and I went through processing and so forth by the military and got my orders to report to Paris and I went in August, I showed all my teachers my orders, and they all passed me. I mean, it was a pity pass, but I mean, hey, that worked for me. So that's how I graduated. And then it was after we enlisted, six months after we enlisted, we were in Vietnam carrying rifles. My one buddy Aggie I grew up in East Baltimore, tough town. He boot leave, he was stabbed to death, so he didn't even make it to Vietnam. And Charlie and I both made it over there. He was in first Marines. I was in 26 Marines. He eventually was hurt. He lost both his legs, one of his arms, lives down in South Carolina now, and believe it or not you wouldn't think this happiest guy you ever wanna meet, so.

0:17:22.2 Paul F. Austin: Oh wow. Fantastic.

0:17:23.8 Bob Parsons: Yeah. So he turned that right around. And then, I was with the 26 Marines on a place called Hell 190 and when Hell 190, it was right on the edge of this mountains and jungles. And it was just before all these rice paddies as far as you could see. And what our job was, is to go down there in amongst those rice paddy reeds and areas at night and set up ambush and ambush North Vietnamese troops that are coming down there to terrorize the villagers and to get their rice to feed their troops.

0:18:10.0 Bob Parsons: And we did a pretty good job of it. But it was a little hair raising 'cause they always returned to favor the other side. When I got to my squad, the Marine Corps Rifle Squad usually has about 10, 12 guys in it. The senior guy in the squad had been there six weeks. The squad was ambushed maybe a week before I got there. And they had five casualties all severe, four of them were fatal and it was all the senior guys. And so the next senior guy had been there six weeks. He became the squad leader and he turned out to be, didn't know it at the time, but he turned out to be a fantastic guy. And so there you go. So we got all suited up, went out my first night at ambush. I seen my first... I wasn't with him four hours when I seen my first combat. And you have people that say, man, I can't wait till I see combat. And that is until they get it. It is one gruesome, gruesome thing.

0:19:24.0 Bob Parsons: So anyhow, I've seen it most nights, not every night, but most nights. And I was there for a month and was walking through a village at night. And the point man who I was on the point team, Marine Corps Rifle Squad, has two man point team. And the first man who's stepped over a tripwire. Now, he didn't know it was there 'cause you couldn't even see it. And of course, I hit it and I was wounded both my legs and my left elbow. And then I was medevaced all the way out to Japan Naval Hospital there. And I took me a couple of months or so to recover. Then I got in the Marine Corps. God bless them. They sent me right back, [laughter] came back to the bush. Yeah.

0:20:25.7 Paul F. Austin: What was that experience of pain like? Was it just unimaginable in terms of the the process and the medevacing and like just... Yeah. How did it feel for you to go through?

0:20:39.4 Bob Parsons: The initial pain was a bit of a thump, but I hardly I mean, I'm not sure if I even felt it because I know when it happened, when you have something explode real close to you, we all know what it's like to be too close to a firecracker. Your ears just range. You don't really hear it. Well, take that times five hundred. So it's just unbelievable. So everything lit up. It was just like this thump. And then I couldn't hear it. You didn't hear it. And I was thinking somebody's hurt. Well, it turned out to be me. [laughter] Yeah. And it didn't take me but a few seconds to figure out it was me. But at first, I didn't know it. And then what happens is then it starts to maybe, the corpsman came over to me and injected me with morphine. And so I'm not sure if there was a big pain of that, but it was something.

0:21:49.5 Paul F. Austin: Yeah, I'm sorry you went through that.

0:21:54.6 Bob Parsons: Well, you know what? It's life. Life, life, life. Yeah. So anyhow, that was Vietnam. When I came home from the war, I was a different guy than the guy that went. And I was different. And keep in mind, we weren't welcomed home. We were the only troops that ever fought for this country that were not welcomed home. Now, we came home and we thought we did something, something really good. And of course, a lot of the people back home didn't feel that way. And most of us, we didn't get a hero's welcome or any welcome at all, for that matter. And all too many of us were met by protesters throwing shit, hollering names and all that kind of stuff. So and the ones that didn't experience it right there when they got out, seen it on television. So had the same impact. But anyhow, so when I got home, I was a different guy in good ways and bad. First, the good ways, the Marine Corps taught me some things I just never knew that they didn't... They taught me that responsibility is sacred. You have a job to do. You got to be serious about it. You got to do your job, whatever that is.

0:23:29.2 Bob Parsons: And they taught me discipline, discipline not in the form of punishment, although there was plenty of that, but discipline in the sense that, you might not feel like doing something, but you do it anyhow. It might not feel good, but you still do it. That sort of thing. And they taught me that I could accomplish more than I ever imagined I could. And they taught me that I had a right to be proud. And using all that, when I came home, I took a week where I drinking with my buddies and all that kind of stuff. And then I got a job in a steel mill as a laborer. I was one of these guys that jumped down in these big pits, underneath these leaves where they shear off the... When they mill it down all these, they're making these big turrets, these propeller shafts for ocean corn liners.

0:24:39.8 Bob Parsons: And so they had to mill these big steel beams down. And so what it does, all this hot, red hot, blue hot chips go down in a pit. And guys like me jumped down here, shoveled them out. And I did that for a while. And then I decided I'd go to college. So I went to the University of Baltimore. I studied accounting 'cause it was the first major in the book. And yeah, literally, that's how I went in, I didn't even know you needed a major. I said, you want to go to college, right? 'Cause they had a deal where you didn't have to... Your grades didn't matter.

0:25:23.3 Paul F. Austin: The GI Bill.

0:25:24.7 Bob Parsons: No. GI Bill...

0:25:26.9 Paul F. Austin: Was that part of the GI Bill then or...

0:25:27.0 Bob Parsons: No, GI Bill order that. Yeah. And so your grades in high school didn't matter as long as you graduated. And you don't have to take any entrance exams. See, that was made for me. That's my kind of school. All right. And then, as long as you got a check for the tuition and GI Bill reimburse you later. So my cousin lent me the money. So I went down and registered. And so when I'm at the registrar's office, the guy says, well, what is your major? I said, what's a major? As far as I know, a major was a little more than a captain not quite a colonel.

0:26:08.4 Bob Parsons: And so I told him I didn't know, he sent me to see this counselor, I went to see this counselor. Man, it was a line, it was so long, Paul, if I got in, and I just be getting to see him now. All right. So I went back. And I said, is there any way I can pick my own major? And he says, yeah. And so he gives me this book. And so I opened it up, first major in the book, accounting. And so I asked him, I said, "Well, what is accounting?" He said, "Well it's, are you interested in business?" I said, "Sure." He says, "You good with math?" And I said, "Sure." And there you go. I remember...

0:26:56.1 Paul F. Austin: Were you good at math, Bob?

0:26:58.8 Bob Parsons: Well, here's the deal. When I was a little kid, and I went to school, the first time, I went in, there was this big crucifix with an effigy of Jesus on it. Now, to me, to my little eyes, it looked like a guy nailed to a plus sign. And I thought these people are very serious about math. I always paid more attention in math. So I got to be a little better at it. So anyhow, I studied accounting, and it was a fortuitous choice because I loved it. I graduated magna cum laude.

0:27:47.3 Paul F. Austin: Wow.

0:27:47.3 Bob Parsons: Well, I'd have never done that without the Marine Corps. I took the CPA exam, passed it the first time and became a CPA. I was working as an accountant for this company that bought leasing companies, Control Data, commercial credit back in Baltimore. And they sent me on this job to look at this rental company, automobile rental company they wanted to buy. So I scheduled the assets and so forth.

0:28:21.3 Bob Parsons: When I finished, I had 12 hours left. I went over, bought a book at the Stanford bookstore, I mean, just happened to be there. And a book on programming, the basic computer language, read a lot of that during the layover and wrote my first program. And then when I went back, I was lucky enough that right in my office, and this is 1975, there was a dumb terminal that ran the basic computer language because we were owned by Control Data. So I took and finally got it running, it became a hobby, I got good at it. And I used that to start my first business, which was Parsons Technology. I invested $40 million, I mean, 40,000 in that, sold it for 64 million. And then GoDaddy later, almost went broke, but hung in there. And wound up making a couple billion dollars. And then you know my life now.

0:29:22.4 Paul F. Austin: It's not bad.

0:29:22.8 Bob Parsons: So it was a lot of luck, but a lot of hard work. People ask me now, they say, hey, Bob, where'd you learn to program? I ask them program a computer? I always tell them Stanford.

0:29:40.9 Paul F. Austin: Well, I think what strikes me most about you, Bob, having hung out, we did that event together in Phoenix maybe 10 months ago now. And this interview now is you're not the prototypical technology entrepreneur, right? When most people think of a technology entrepreneur, they think of Silicon Valley, they think of someone who is maybe vegan or vegetarian. They think of someone who even might be more, let's say, liberal, progressive, Democrat, left. They might think of someone who's just in their head a lot, not that funny, kind of super nerdy. You are none of those things. I think that's what I love and appreciate about you is there is really a realness. And even in your story, you're upbringing the way you were raised, sure, but the experience that you went through with the Marine Corps was so, what I'm hearing, so defining in terms of how it really helped you to, let's say, get your shit together. And that had this incredible impact on the rest of your life in terms of business and success and hard work and responsibility. And it's something that a lot of men today shy away from, I would even say. And so I think the fact that you did that and committed to that is really something to be applauded and acknowledged.

0:31:04.0 Bob Parsons: Well, first, I'll tell you this here. Yeah, they may shy away from it. Not if they grew up in East Baltimore, they don't, they better shy the other way. Everything I ever accomplished in my life, I owe to the Marine Corps, everything.

0:31:20.7 Paul F. Austin: Wow.

0:31:23.4 Bob Parsons: Now, when I came home from the war, there was other changes in me that weren't so good. I had a flash temper. I was more serious than I should have been. People would always say I was the most intense person they ever met. I had bouts of depression. I'd cry every now and then, not when I was around anybody. Nobody ever knew, even my wife never knew it. But that would happen. And I didn't like going to anywhere that involved a group of people. I never felt like I belonged or that even that I wanted to belong because everything that was in their mindset they were talking about was so different than what was in mine. I still had flashes from the war and shit like that. And you just can't control that, no matter how hard you try. And so anyhow, I was a difficult guy to be around. My first wife hung on as long as she could. Then I got the boot, same thing with my second wife.

0:32:43.2 Bob Parsons: And I don't blame them. God bless them. They're friends of mine to this day, but you can only endure so much, I suppose. I never... I was never violent with either one of them or anything like that. But I just was verbally and just not the warm, cuddly husband that they wanted. So anyhow, I got married again to my third wife, Renee, who, just hung in there with me. And in 2018, I read Michael Pollan's book, "How to Change Your Mind". And it was... That's treatise on plant medicine and psychedelics. And so I told my wife, this is something I want to try. And I had never done anything like that. Nothing like that. I was a whiskey man. And so, she had me hooked up in two weeks. Two weeks she had, and so...

0:33:56.8 Paul F. Austin: This is your wife? Your wife found... She found the spot, found the place, was kinda...

0:34:01.5 Bob Parsons: She did. Well, she didn't, the spot I've met these people in Hawaii. We just arranged the spot.

0:34:07.5 Paul F. Austin: Right, right.

0:34:08.7 Bob Parsons: And, so they came and I was treated with three forms of psychedelics, over four days. One was, first it started with Ayahuasca.

0:34:26.4 Paul F. Austin: Wow.

0:34:26.7 Bob Parsons: Where that is some nasty shit, isn't it?

0:34:30.7 Paul F. Austin: Oh, yeah.

0:34:32.6 Bob Parsons: Foul stuff.

0:34:33.8 Paul F. Austin: I'm just impressed that they started you on Ayahuasca, right? Like that is... It's courageous.

0:34:37.0 Bob Parsons: Well, they started me on Ayahuasca and I never really hallucinated, but I buzzed and we talked a lot and so forth, never purged on that. And then the second day we did mushrooms, psilocybin, and my guide said, Hey, I've made this pot of tea. It holds three cups, and I made it really strong, so you're only going to need one cup. And the reason he said that is 'cause he made it that strong, is because the Ayahuasca, it didn't seem like it was enough to get the job done first day. So anyhow, I wound up drinking all three, all three cups, and I ate the tea bags. And guide said to me, he goes, you like a bear. [laughter] So.

0:35:49.4 Paul F. Austin: And you look like a bear. For the listeners who are just listening to this, Bob is built like a bear. He is probably six feet and three inches, 250, he's...

0:36:03.7 Bob Parsons: So anyhow, we took and went through that. And I'm gonna tell you what, I was righteously stoned after that. And I would hallucinate in different ways, but never in like, out of body into a dream, nothing like that. And so I took in and after that episode, what's a guide, you're talking about the shit that bothers you, really bothers you, comes up and...

[overlapping conversation]

0:36:44.9 Paul F. Austin: Yeah. What happened for you in the experience? What did you process? What came up? And you drink three cups of mushroom tea. You eat the mushroom bags. Do you... Is it difficult? Is it challenging? Are you sweating? Are you processing?

0:37:06.6 Bob Parsons: Well, you know it is. The best example I can give you is I had something come up that I didn't even realize. I wasn't even thinking it was a problem. If you ask me about it, I wouldn't know. And what it involved is, when I was... The last part of my time overseas, I was in one Okinawa and troop processing, processing troops, putting them on flights from Okinawa to Vietnam, and then unit assignments, and then the same way from the guys going home, putting them on flights, coming, going home. All right?

0:38:00.4 Bob Parsons: And I had, at one period of time, I was the Marine Corps, just out of a fluke, put me on, assigned me to intelligence, Marine Corps intelligence as a courier and as a guy who would run this little printing press when I wasn't busy doing that. So because they must've checked my grades in high school and found that I was exactly the guy they were looking for. [laughter] Yeah, I know. Kind of nuts, isn't it? So...

0:38:40.0 Paul F. Austin: This is before you studied accounting, right? This is before the university.

0:38:46.0 Bob Parsons: There you go. So anyhow, I'm in there processing these troops and from being in intelligence, I got to know which units really were hammer and tong, right? And intelligence and had high, high, high casualty rate rates like Knights Marines was one of them. And I'd see these guys, these guys, I mean they were just like, just like me when I first came over and it looked so clean cut and they were a little excited and so forth. And I'd see where they were going. And I mean, Paul, it tore me up because it's like, I'm just... I know what's probably going to happen to them. And I remember how terrible I felt at the time when that would take place. And so when that...

0:39:41.5 Paul F. Austin: Would you ever say anything to them? Could you ever communicate anything or...

0:39:49.1 Bob Parsons: No.

0:39:49.2 Paul F. Austin: No.

0:39:50.7 Bob Parsons: No. I mean what would be the point? Couldn't do anything about it. Right?

0:39:55.2 Paul F. Austin: Yeah. Yeah. And that's interesting that it is like, and so much of the Marine Corp is relationships, right? It's the strength of the relationships. It's the brotherhood. It's what you do for each other. It's no man is left behind, right? And with psychedelic work, my experience has been that a lot of what comes up is relationships. Relationships to our parents, relationships to our spouses, relationships even in this way. So it's just interesting that that in this mushroom experience, that was something that happened 40 years ago, more than 40, almost 50 years ago. And it sort of arose and...

0:40:35.3 Bob Parsons: It was 49 years, 49 years. I cried when that memory came up. That's the hardest in my life I ever, I can imagine I ever cried. It just ran straight out of my soul. And then now, it's still, I find it not a not a pleasant thing. But I can talk about it and I know it's an issue and I deal with it. And I think that's what psychedelics do. They enable you to deal with it from an intelligence standpoint, and to decouple a lot of the debilitating emotions associated with it.

0:41:26.4 Paul F. Austin: Right.

0:41:28.4 Bob Parsons: So anyhow...

0:41:28.7 Paul F. Austin: Now, your third day you did LSD. Did you do LSD on the third day then? You said you've started with ayahuasca, you then went to mushrooms. And then if I remember the story, it was LSD and golf.

0:41:44.8 Bob Parsons: I took a day off.

0:41:48.1 Paul F. Austin: You took a day off. That's good.

0:41:49.0 Bob Parsons: I took a day off. And in Hawaii, where we were, it was a lot of foliage and so forth. I felt like I was one with the plants. I'm serious. It was like, they knew I was there. I knew that they were there. It just, I could just feel their aura. And my wife and I went to play golf. And this is a true story. It was like when I was on the green, putting, it's like the grass on the green would say, hit it here, Bobby. And I would, and I have never putted that good since, ever. And it might have been because I drank the three strong cups and ate the tea bags. Might've been what pushed me into that direction.

0:42:47.0 Paul F. Austin: It's the afterglow. Yeah. You were experiencing the afterglow, right? You're a little more open. You can hear things a little bit more. Professional athletes are finding out that psychedelics like microdosing can sometimes be helpful for certain things. So you just felt like you were in a good flow, right? Just felt like everything was flowing a little bit easier.

0:43:09.0 Bob Parsons: Yeah, exactly. The last day we took LSD. And I just remember that. And that had a good effect. And then after that, I was a different person. I was a totally different person. Me and my wife was the first one to notice it. People that I worked with really noticed it. It's like, where's Bob? Who is this guy? I mean, this guy is so nice. He's not intense. He's complimentary. He's relaxed. He's happy. He's a joy to work with. And even my son, my son told his wife, he goes, I think my father found out he's going to die soon. She goes, "Why?" And he goes, "He keeps calm and he's so nice. That's not him." And so I had to set that straight. But... So it was, oh, I felt so good. And I believe that that made a big difference in all that trauma from the war and what I had, the trauma I had from growing up. And if you just attributed to the war, it was... When I did that, had that experience, it had been 49 years since the war. And I finally came home, Paul.

0:45:00.1 Paul F. Austin: Wow. 49 years. But you were able to heal some of these aspects and now through your foundation, you're supporting others through that healing process as well. And in fact, just a week ago, I believe, the FDA announced that they have accepted MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD, the new drug application. We expect to hear about it, I believe, in August, and there's a very high likelihood that they will approve it. So I'd love to talk a little bit about your philanthropic, sorry, philanthropic efforts within the psychedelic space after you had this healing, these experiences. What then called you to support psychedelic research and support others to also have a healing experience with psychedelics?

0:45:57.8 Bob Parsons: Well, we had pretty active philanthropic efforts from our company, trying to help people in the local community as best we can and so forth. And after the experience that I had, I find... I can find no better way than psychedelics to help. For example, my God, it's like, what a difference it makes. In a week, you can pretty much cure PTSD. I mean, holy smokes. And for example, I mean, if we are open minded enough and we have enough in the way of therapists, Lord Almighty, what can we do? So, for example, like police have a harrowing job. Well, to do something like this every few years, the solution is not to defund them and get rid of them. The solution is...

0:47:11.9 Paul F. Austin: To support them.

0:47:13.8 Bob Parsons: To make them better.

0:47:14.2 Paul F. Austin: To support them.

0:47:15.0 Bob Parsons: To make them the great humans that we would want to be and that you would be if you don't have to go through the shit that they have to deal with.

0:47:23.9 Paul F. Austin: Exactly.

0:47:24.2 Bob Parsons: And if anybody deserves that, they do. And the same thing for firefighters, EMTs, all our first responders. One of the things I'm hoping to get going on is and we're doing, I think we've donated right now for psychedelics about 14 million.

0:47:45.9 Paul F. Austin: Wow, interesting.

0:47:47.0 Bob Parsons: We helped fund the third field trial for MDMA so that we could get that done. And the results of that were astounding. We're doing something different. We're helping at the University of California, Berkeley, funding research into general psychedelics, which are, they're looking at things like critical periods. You know what a critical period is?

0:48:15.3 Paul F. Austin: Like a critical period of burning or something like that?

0:48:18.7 Bob Parsons: No, I didn't. I didn't know it either. Okay? Or at least I'll admit to not knowing it. A critical period is, you know how when a child is at a certain age and what young age, right? If they're taught a language, foreign language, they pick it up. Bang. Right? Well, and then after they hit another age, it's not so easy anymore. Okay, and so that's a critical period. And another thing is where allergies. Allergies. Okay, we have during our early life, we have a critical period where if we are exposed to something and our body is familiar with it, it labels it a friend. If you expose to something after that critical period, there is a good likelihood it will be labeled an enemy. And then you have an immune response, right? So it is believed that psychedelics have the ability to open those windows and close them again.

0:49:27.7 Bob Parsons: Well, if that is true and we figure that out, it has an unbelievable impact on autoimmune diseases, inflammation. And all these sort of stuff where a body's not exactly working with us is working against us. Okay, so that's critical periods.

0:49:51.8 Paul F. Austin: Interesting.

0:49:51.9 Bob Parsons: And so we're funding money through different veterans administrations of Bronx, VA and one by Loma Linda University and providing treatment to veterans and doing trials with veterans. St. Jude's Psychedelic. No, no, it is the name of the hospital. Yeah, yeah. Shame on me but...

0:50:18.8 Paul F. Austin: Is that Mount Sinai or something like that. Yeah. So these critical periods of learning, it's interesting because when we work with psychedelics neurologically, it returns our brain to what they call a childlike state. And so what you're talking about is if there's a way that we can actually intentionally leverage that to potentially learn new languages or better learn instruments, but also more importantly, to help with autoimmune conditions, to help with certain allergies, to help with Lyme disease potentially. These sort of emerging aspects of research around psychedelics are really exciting because we've done quite a bit. There's still more to be done, but we've done quite a bit on PTSD, depression, addiction and alcoholism. And there's so many other things that are chronic diseases that we perceive as untreatable, that there's a lot of anecdotal stories of people who have been helped and healed through psychedelic work. And so...

0:51:14.8 Bob Parsons: Exactly.

0:51:16.1 Paul F. Austin: I think it's really interesting to be able to explore that.

0:51:19.3 Bob Parsons: So there you go.

0:51:23.0 Paul F. Austin: See, you got a full... I mean, you got a full thing. You got a full stack. You have the foundation and you're working on a new book that will be published by...

0:51:30.1 Bob Parsons: No, that book is done. Book is done, baby.

0:51:32.7 Paul F. Austin: The book is done. It'll be published in May. Tell us a little bit about why write a book? Why now for you to...

0:51:41.6 Bob Parsons: Well, for a couple reasons. First of all, I was told again and again and again and again, you should write a book, you should write a book, you should write a book. And I never... I just said, you know what, I'm writing a fucking book. And so then I got to think, well, it'd be good for my family to know and as people are born to know what the old man did. And so that's the thing that really pushed me over the deal. But also it was a pretty good reflection on my life. And it was a lot of work, but I enjoyed the process. And I will tell you, I know you're not going to be surprised by this, but the contents are pretty raw. So I tell the reader how to cow eat the cabbage. And early readers like it plenty.

0:52:49.3 Paul F. Austin: So you bear it all in the book, it's really...

0:52:51.7 Bob Parsons: Yeah, I do. I do. And I don't talk about anything that is going to be detrimental to somebody that's alive, right? And even people that have moved on now, as far as detrimental to me, wide open.

0:53:10.5 Paul F. Austin: Okay And the name of the book, tell us the name of the book, Bob...

0:53:14.1 Bob Parsons: The name of the book is Fire in the Hole! With an exclamation mark.

0:53:19.1 Paul F. Austin: Well, if I could get a signed copy of Fire in the Hole! That would be pretty...

0:53:24.9 Bob Parsons: Oh, you got it. You got it. And the reason for the title is Fire in the Hole! Is a term that is used when there's an imminent explosion in a confined space. Like, for example, coal miners. Now I come from coal miners in Northeast Pennsylvania. And when they blow one of those, fire in the hole, boom. And then when I was in Vietnam, when we would discover an enemy tunnel, your risks are there's going to be booby traps in there. And there's going to be soldiers down there waiting with rifles to send you to Jesus the moment you don't have a chance. So what we would do, is we would take plastic explosives, big baseball sized piece, and on a long piece of detonate wire, we throw it into the tunnel, go fire in the hole and boom. And what it would do, it would clear that tunnel out totally.

0:54:31.5 Paul F. Austin: Okay.

0:54:32.1 Bob Parsons: So it's fire in the hole. And then if you look at the way my kind of life just exploded and things went well after after the military, fire in the hole is a very appropriate term.

0:54:46.9 Paul F. Austin: Even with psychedelics, they can be a fire in the hole at times, they can go in and blow some shit up. And it's not always easy, but it's often worth it.

0:55:02.4 Bob Parsons: Well, you drink three cups and eat the tea bags, you probably should scream fire in the hole because you're going to be sitting on a roof.

0:55:13.4 Paul F. Austin: Yes, you are. Well, Bob, thank you. Thank you for your time. And thanks for joining us on The Psychedelic Podcast. If folks want to learn more, I know Fire in the Hole! Is the book that will be out early May. If they want to learn more about your foundation or some of the work that you're up to, is it The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation? Is that the name?

0:55:36.3 Bob Parsons: Correct. Yeah.

0:55:37.6 Paul F. Austin: Okay, okay, fantastic. Any final words, any last shares that you want to send our audience off with before we wrap up the podcast episode today?

0:55:51.4 Bob Parsons: Well, I'll tell you what, it was good hanging around with you again, Paul, even if it wasn't on Zoom.

0:55:57.3 Paul F. Austin: All right. Thanks, Bob. This is fun.

0:55:57.4 Bob Parsons: All right. Bye now.

0:56:01.5 Paul F. Austin: Hey, listeners, Paul here. I hope you enjoyed our episode today with Bob Parsons. As always, check out the link in the description to go deeper into this episode with full show notes, transcripts, and any links that we mentioned in this conversation. And if you want to continue this conversation with us, you can do so at Third Wave's community, where you can sign up for free at What did you think of the conversation? Did it bring any questions up for you? What were your thoughts and perspectives? Let us know in Third Wave's community. Not only can you engage with us about each podcast episode, but you'll also find support, meaningful discussions, high quality education, trustworthy resources, and vetted providers across our global ecosystem. You can sign up for free at

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