Texas real estate CEO, military veteran overcame car crash to achieve success
Evan MacDonald, Staff writer
June 9, 2022
Philip Jalufka could have allowed a serious car crash to derail his goal of attending the U.S. Military Academy. Instead, he used it as an opportunity to grow.
Jalufka was 16 years old and preparing to enter his senior year at Tomball High School when he was a passenger in a car that crashed into a tree. The crash left him with a dislocated shoulder, 26 stitches in his arm and a concussion. He also lost consciousness, which resulted in a two-year medical disqualification from enrolling at West Point.
Instead of giving up his dream, Jalufka decided to recommit, relying on the work ethic and attitude that had been instilled in him while growing up in Texas. He enrolled at West Point two years later and went on to serve with the U.S. Army Special Operations. He later embarked on a career in real estate, becoming founder and CEO of Legacy International, which is headquartered in Austin.
Jalufka’s book “Leading With Your Life Equation: How to Be Indestructible, Indispensable and Unstoppable,” offers advice on how to identify your purpose in life and the factors that will help you succeed. For Jalufka, those factors were a positive attitude, a strong work ethic and teammates who could support him along the way.
“I had a number of opportunities along the way where I had the opportunity to say, ‘you know, this challenge is just a little too much or I have other things that I can do,’” he said. “But no, we had laid out a plan that we decided to follow, and follow through.”
The Austin resident, 51, spoke with The Chronicle about his book, how he overcame challenges in his life and how others can take inspiration from his story to accomplish their goals.
Growing up in Texas
The core values Jalufka learned as a child shaped who he became as an adult. In Texas, that included a focus on pride, faith and traditions. He’s always put an emphasis on family and service, and the idea of “bigness” in Texas helped inform his business career.
Football taught him the value of being part of a team and working toward a shared goal, which was later reinforced during his time in the military.
Jalufka’s grandmother was the one who influenced many of his core values. She taught him hard work and respect, and how to focus on improving yourself each day, he said.
“She did that through conversations and through leading by example in the simple stuff,” he said.
Turning a challenge into an opportunity
The car crash was the first of several notable challenges Jalufka describes in his book. He says anyone’s life is a series of moments and challenges – the key is how you respond to them.
“You start to experience them early on. Some of us have more than others,” he said. “Some of them are positive and some of them are challenging.”
Jalufka had a plan to attend West Point. When his injuries triggered a two-year medical disqualification from enrolling, he opted to attend Marion Military Institute, a junior college in Alabama.
While at junior college, he had an opportunity to train for the Reserved Officers’ Training Corps. But when he showed up to boot camp at Fort Knox in Kentucky, he was informed that his medical disqualification meant he was ineligible for a scholarship or military pay.
Jalufka considered going home, but his father convinced him to stay and keep pursuing his plan. That moment was a crossroads where Jalufka’s “team” – in this case, his own family – supported him as he worked toward his goal.
“When it's hard to keep your chin up because there's a lot of challenges that are almost insurmountable … it's also this idea of having that teammate, if you truly want to follow through and persevere.”
Be ready for a curveball
Jalufka worked his way to West Point and went on to serve with the U.S. Army Special Operations Forces as a helicopter pilot and team leader. He made the decision to leave the military in 2000, when he and his wife learned they were expecting a second daughter.
Suddenly, Jalufka was without a plan for the first time in his adult life. He decided to take a friend’s advice and pursue a career in real estate, even though he had no experience. It was a risk, but Jalufka used the decision-making process he learned in the military to determine it was the right path for him.
“I'm not suggesting that's for everyone, but what I am suggesting is that you should look at every moment or choice as a process and evaluate the multiple courses of action,” he said. “They're going to all come with a different level of risk, and a different level of reward.”
There are times in life where taking risks is necessary, Jalufka said. The key is to have a team, or a support system, who can help you make the right decision.
“Find a teammate. Because you’re going to need them along the way, the riskier that decision is,” he said.
Developing a life equation
Jalufka offers the formula for his success as a “life equation” partly because he studied economics in college, and because his career in the military taught him the benefit of having checklists to accomplish a goal. But an equation is also a way to think differently, he said.
Every equation has two sides. In a life equation, one side is someone’s purpose, and the other is the components that help them to accomplish their goals. Jalufka recommends taking time out of each day to identify each of those components that can help you in your own life.
Jalufka’s own life equation took years to develop, and he’s still focused on improving it wherever he can. The key is to stick to your plan and keep working toward the goals you’ve set for yourself, he said.
“What's working and what's not probably will look much different a week, a month or even a year from now,” he said. “And that's OK.”