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From Navy SEAL to Coldwell Banker Sales Associate, David Mason Dives Right In

By Shaan Hassan
He was dead. Had to be. Over 10 times, he recalls. In the dead of night, he dives under a four-story Navy vessel to perform a classified operation. “That’s all I can mention about that,” he says in secrecy.
He’s now 40 feet deep. Knowing it is customary practice to make sure the intake valve is always turned off on a Navy ship, he quickly realizes that someone had mistakenly left it partially open.
In the blink of an eye, his body is sucked up as his face slams against the gate at the bottom of the ship like a bug splattered against a car windshield.
His regulator rips through the gate and is lost. So too is his mask.
He cannot breathe. Or see.
“I’m dead.”
He tries to pry his face off the gate, but can’t.
Trying again and again, he fails.
He still is unable to take any breath. Or see what’s in front of him.
He musters one last push before he drowns.
He breaks free. But not completely.
Forty feet under, he’s grasping for air. He has seconds left.
The regulator is no longer an option, but luckily the hose itself ripped loose. It contains deep pressure air, so he can’t put it directly in his mouth, because it will blow a hole right through his cheek and kill him.
He holds it six inches away from his face – blindly – hoping he doesn’t miss his mouth or the pressure will pop his eye out like a wine cork, also killing him.
With ice water in his veins – maybe literally considering the time of night and ocean depth – his aim is precise and he has enough air to swim to the surface.
Death averted.
Fast forward about 30 years to the present day and David J. Mason is now one of the top sales associates for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. Located in Laguna Beach office, he is far removed from the perilous adventures of the Navy Special Forces.
So how does he go from being a Navy SEAL to a sales associate? From diving under ships to driving down the coastline? From death-defying to door-knocking?
“With the economy the way it was, I needed a dependable job,” Mason said.
But it wasn’t easy.
Not when at 18 years of age and in the Navy you’re taking classes that maybe most colleges don’t offer.
He began jump school, then moved on to deep sea diving, hand-to-hand combat and then knife training.
Not exactly racquetball with a “drop class” option.
The Navy Special Forces was the only place that let him capitalize on his unique adrenaline drive. An excellent athlete, he earned a scholarship to play football at the University of New Mexico, but the Navy allows you to defer your football scholarship for five years if you join. So he did.
“I have a fascination with the water and they’re the best of the best,” Mason stated. “If I’m in the water, I might as well be in the Navy.”
He was a member of the first team ever to do a screw change in the middle of an ocean.
He had an eight-foot great white shark at his feet trying to grab a bag of fish he caught while spear fishing … the blood from the fish drawing the shark.
“I’ve escaped death quite a few times,” Mason said.
He was called in at two in the morning to be in the water within one hour as a rescue diver, hours after having his wisdom teeth removed.
“It’s the ‘Need of the Navy.’” If they need you, you go.”
As a result, he needed a trip to the hospital with a dry socket in his mouth.
He’s been to the Philippines, Australia, Hong Kong and Japan, just to name a few places.
“The training was a lot harder than I anticipated, but we traveled so much,” Mason said. “I enjoyed the heck out of it.”
So much so that when the five years were up, he had withdrawals.
He never suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, unlike many former members of the military, but he did have issues with something else.
“There was a let down from adrenaline,” he said.
Imagine sprinting down a 45-degree slope only to be told you had to stop on a dime. Momentum nudges you forward, but it completely hurled him. Needing any type of outlet, he was putting himself in danger.
“I was doing lots of stuff and taking chances that I shouldn’t,” Mason admitted.
This included owning a special type of motorcycle that allowed him to drive 180 miles per hour. “I like fun, fast stuff.”
He went cliff jumping on skis and cave diving.
“My kids had to draw me back.”
After going back to New Mexico at age 23 to play football and then graduating with a degree in business, it was real estate – believe it or not – that provided the perfect compromise between rush and reality.
“Real estate you can do anywhere,” he said.
And he did.
He sold a Balboa Island property for $3.5 million while 21,000 feet atop Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa.
When you pride yourself on telling clients you are available 24/7, you better be sure to fulfill your end of the deal.
“I’m running in the L.A. Marathon and this developer I was trying to convince to be my client calls me,” Mason said. “So I answer the call and he asks, ‘Why are you out of breath?’ I told him I was running the L.A. Marathon.”
Client’s response? “He told me, ‘Call me Monday. You’re hired.’”
Mason thanks Coldwell Banker’s program, LeadRouter™, which notifies the agent almost immediately via cell phone when someone inquires about a property, for giving him the opportunity to make such deals.
With a career that doesn’t require being handcuffed to a desk, his business card could very easily read: Adrenaline Junkie.
When his son turned 13 years old, he promised him a new adventure every year – a win-win. From running with the bulls in Pamplona to visiting the Panama Canal, he brings his son along for every journey. Even during Mason’s infamous 21,000-foot sell, there was his son beside him as the third youngest person to ever scale Mount Kilimanjaro.
This June, they are planning to canoe down the Amazon River.
Mason has competed in the Ironman Triathlon and various adventure races. A day prior to this interview, he just got back from the Palm Springs Century – a 100-mile bike race in which he finished in the top five percent. Not bad for a 52-year-old.
He also participated in the 9th Annual AIDS/LifeCycle Ride from San Francisco down to Los Angeles, entailing seven days and 625 miles on his bike, raising $5,100 towards the cause.
He even takes his wife skydiving.
In real estate for 18 years now, and with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage for eight of them, he’s learned to translate his real life experience into real estate knowledge.
Because when death is nipping at your nose, sharks are swimming at your feet and you’re on call with the Navy Special Forces, what’s a failed escrow or two?
“I have a sense of calm before the storm,” he said. “When I’m overwhelmed at work, I make a list and just start chipping away. You don’t cry and go home.”
It’s this philosophy that has led Mason to become one of the top sales associates for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. In his rookie year in 2002, he was No. 10 on the company’s list of its top 50 Orange County sales associates. He was No. 5 in 2003, No. 14 in 2004, No. 5 again in 2005, No. 8 in 2006, and No. 18 in 2009. He’s won the “Society of Excellence” award, given to agents who earn $1 million for the year … three years in a row.
He also ranks first in his office in terms of stories told.
“Besides his high production standard, Dave brings to the office a certain level of excitement and entertainment,” said Noel Johnson, branch manager of the Laguna Beach office. “Everyone marvels at his love for life.”
Much to no one’s surprise, the name of Mason’s team is “High Energy,” which includes an assistant and one other sales associate – but probably to everyone’s surprise – he prefers fewer listings at a time.
While most sales associates employ a quantitative search for listings – grabbing as many as possible – Mason ensures he has no more than 10 listings during any period, allowing him to offer personalized customer service to those select clients.
“Most people think I’m crazy, but my phone still rings in a bad market because they like how I do business,” he said.
Crazy or calculated, Mason knows exactly what method of operation works best for him and his passion for thrills parallels his dedication to clients.
“His consistent high production comes from the loyalty his clients have to him and his ability to ‘get the job done,’” Johnson said. “His love of sports carries over to his commitment to his clients.”
Already this year, Mason has had several properties in escrow. Over $10 million, he recalls.
“There’s nothing you can’t do if you keep trying,” Mason said. “I’ve seen it all before.”
Reach David Mason at Coldwell Banker Previews International,
Shaan Hassan is the advertising coordinator at Coldwell Banker Previews International.


Lyle N


Hope that young guy can get it done.



Side note: THANK YOU to all my Hereos that have served. You are my Hero and i mean that. Thank you!



There's a guy in that picture who claimed his brother was a Commander ..OR "the" commander (can't remember, it's been decades) of SEAL Team 1
I remember his name. This was '84-'85.



Never touched a barbell in my life. This Budweiser's for you.




I have met lots of former military guys since I was U.S. Army in 1970-71. I have NEVER met a Seal. I have a good friend who was a Navy diver and met ONE guy who had been in BUDS but dropped out... I met him in the mid 1990's before the SEAL phonies became so common. But... NEVER met a SEAL. Real ones are RARE.



Don have you ever had a viewer actually enlist and earn a Trident ? just curious



glad to see new vids up don. anyone remember where I can find the footage of senior chief talking about eliminating targets and physiological reactions to killing as a SEAL? old stock footage from service i believe.



Don, I made E-5 in 3 years in the USAF. I couldn't sew on the stripes for a month because I didn't have enough time in grade. Sam Price

No Nick


It's sad to hear of young people getting lied to like that by people who should be old enough to know better.



Good Job Don..Wondering How Many Others That's Been In That Situation And Being Led On By Phony's?Get Up To A Certain Point And WTH Nobody Told Me This Or That..Great Job...


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