“Do or do not. There is no try.”
Today we sit down with one of the world’s foremost business growth experts, Kerwin Rae. Kerwin has amassed millions of followers with his raw, no-nonsense motivational style. In an extraordinary career, he’s helped more than 100,000 businesses in 150+ different industries, in more than a dozen countries, to achieve better results. He is also host of the Unstoppable with Kerwin Rae podcast.
But Kerwin certainly had to attend the school of hard knocks to get where he is today. At 7 years old, he was diagnosed with dyslexia, ADHD, and other learning difficulties. At 15, he had the first of seven near-death experiences. And at 19, he became addicted to drugs.
It looked like the stars simply wouldn’t align for his life, and he hadn’t even read a book in full until he was 23 – which is coincidentally the same year he started his first business.
Then, a series of transformational moments occurred that made Kerwin realize he had FAR more potential than he ever thought possible. At that point, he realized that his rollercoaster journey – through difficult lessons and significant hardships – had actually equipped him with an unparalleled ability to help others succeed. And he’s been kicking massive goals ever since.
Incredibly, he was one of the few people on the entire planet to properly foresee how dramatically things were going to change as a result of covid, and he pivoted his business accordingly.
In this interview, Kerwin and I talk about:
- The most transformational moments that took him from believing he was ‘stupid’ to feeling superhuman.
- How to meditate in a 200km/h skydiving freefall.
- The exact methods he uses to improve his own performance each day.
- How he read the tea leaves for the pandemic and was able to use it to his advantage.
- The parenting style he has with his six-year-old son, Noah, and the relationship with his ex-wife.
- How to balance hunger for future achievements with happiness in the present.
- And a whole lot more!
You’ll certainly be ready to Win the Day after this episode.
You’re known for your amazing energy and larger than life presence – whether it's on stage or in the office. Who were you before the bulletproof Kerwin Rae that we see today?
Probably the Swiss cheese version of Kerwin Rae – full of holes. I wouldn't say I'm bulletproof. But I'd certainly say that yes, I've always had a certain aspect of my personality that is quite persistent. And I think that's played out through my life in a number of different ways. But it's hard to say. Like anyone mate, we've all been through so many different experiences in life, and I can honestly say, I've probably lived four or five different lives in the lifetime that I've had.
So it's like asking me who was I before this version? Or who was I before the version before that? But I guess you could say, I've always been someone who’s really enjoyed helping people. I'm someone who natively likes to help and support others – it’s just something I do instinctively – and I think that's played out in a range of different ways. It's been able to support me and many other people in the process.
You and I are acutely aware of the power of the mind. It's what we do with our work and we both love helping people. We know that just as we can think and grow rich, we can also think and grow poor. When you were diagnosed at the age of seven with things like ADHD, and told that you had learning difficulties, dyslexia, and all these different things, how did those labels shape your younger years? And how do you feel about putting labels, good or bad, on children these days?
At the time, I don't think I gave much credence to the labels. It was more the description and how I was treated as a result. I didn't understand ADHD and dyslexia. I just knew that I found it really difficult to learn at school, and I found it very difficult to concentrate. The teachers often made a point of making it known that I was different from everyone else in that capacity.
At a very early age, as far back as I can remember, there was a suggestion given to me by an immediate family member that I was ‘stupid.’ In many respects, I grabbed onto it – that label of being stupid. And then I started to manifest that in a whole range of different ways. And a lot of that, the ADHD and dyslexia, was ultimately the experience of really struggling in the learning space.
Can you take us into the moment of when you shifted your mindset away from feeling stupid to feeling like you had power – the moment when, for the first time, your destiny was potentially much brighter than what you’d been told to that point?
That's a good question. I actually remember where I was. I was in Carindale in Brisbane [Australia]. I was managing a fitness equipment store at the time, and I was reading a book by Dr. David Schwartz called The Magic of Thinking Big. I remember reading that book because it was given to me by someone I knew. And as I read that book, which I read feverishly – and I never read anything feverishly because I always struggled to read. Like, I had never even read the newspaper up until this point. I didn't read anything. I don’t think, until that point, I’d even read a book cover to cover before.
Check out the YouTube or podcast or YouTube version where Kerwin does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give her 18-year-old self, his favorite book, and a whole lot more 🚀
And this book kind of attuned me into the possibility that maybe there was more potential out there, that there was a possibility of some form of growth and personal development. I read the book over three days, got to the end – which, first of all, was a serious feat because it was the first time I’d read a book cover to cover. But then I remember getting to the end of the book, looking at the back cover and thinking, “Huh, I actually fucking remember what's inside.”
Then I thought to myself, “Maybe I’m not stupid after all.” I remember thinking that exact thought.
Then I thought to myself, “Maybe I’m not stupid after all.” I remember thinking that exact thought.
From there, I just made it a practice to start reading news I was interested in. I even started buying newspapers, not because I was interested in the news, but I'd flick through the newspapers until I found a headline that caught my attention, and then I would start reading. To me, that was just a form of practice.
Wow, what an interesting catalyst.
You know, I actually grew up in Carindale for the first 15 years of my life!
There you go! I actually remember your dad.
We lived in the middle of nowhere, before all the residential developments. There was a neighboring house, but no one else around for about a 10-minute drive. So, one of my greatest athletic feats was at about the age of 12 trying to get to the corner store that was about a five-kilometer bike ride away!
I’m sure the experiences you’ve been through, like what you just mentioned, help you in the career you’ve got now where you help so many people. That story reminds me of the quote “When the student is ready, the master will appear” because you always had the ability. But it was specific resource that was able to completely change your trajectory.
Every day, I think about the sliding door moments from my own life and how they can be created for other people. Is a big part of the work that you do today to help other people create those sliding door moments that can massively change their belief of what’s possible and life trajectory?
Everyone's got their own story, and I'm not trying to put myself above or below anyone. But what I do know is I've come from a pretty interesting background where I've had a vast range of experiences that could be labeled as severe traumas. And as a result, that created a whole bunch of situations, contexts, and feelings within me. Some of those were given labels and diagnoses. But it just required a disproportionate amount of work.
I've seen the amount of work that I've had to do to get to the person I am today – and it hasn't been an easy journey by any stretch of the imagination. But that's given me a really solid set of tools because I'm one of these people who is relentless, but I'm relentless from the perspective of sustainability. I don't just want to learn how to do something once. I want to learn how to do something over and over and over again.
And through this process of learning how to develop and grow myself, I'm equipped with tools that are incredibly powerful so when I look at anyone – and it's hard to look at anyone as anything other than what they are, which is an individual with their own experiences – but knowing where I've come from, I haven't met anyone to this day that I can't look at them and believe, “There’s still hope for you.”
That’s the beautiful thing about being human. We all have this capability to grow. We all have this capability to change and transform. But it's just getting people to that point where they can see that.
Many people out there feel like they don't have a good story. Brendon Burchard talks about his car accident. Janine Shepherd, a good mutual friend of ours, was literally hit by a truck. A lot of people out there feel that they’re not good enough because they don’t have a momentous story like that. But I think there's a huge market that you're serving of people who may not have a moment of great trauma from their lives. Although, I should clarify here that I believe everyone who has reached the age of 30 has overcome significant adversity and hardship in one way or another.
You've had a bunch of near-death experiences, business challenges, and personal challenges. Was there one of those challenges in particular that stands out where you were able to identify an equivalent benefit or advantage from?
One of the biggest challenges I’ve ever had to go through was probably the separation from my wife about three and a half years ago. That was mainly because I grew up in a single-parent household and I had these dreams and ambitions of creating a family-like environment in my own house. And when that didn’t come to fruition…
I feel very grateful that my ex-wife Kristen is an incredible human being. We’ve separated incredibly consciously, but at the time I was having this massive ideal shattered. This ideal of a mum and a dad, and a family that were going to have these big Christmases and these lives together. And when that started to come undone, from the perspective of the ideal, it required an enormous amount of work for me to balance the perspective and say, “Where’s the benefit in this? How is this serving me?”
Especially considering a significant body of my work is around relationship dynamics, and I’m now going through my own relationship breakdown. So, for me, it was beautiful and I’m so grateful. But I’m one of those people that whenever I experience challenge, I just embrace it really strongly. I love challenge. I love doing things that are hard. And when we went through that period, it was very difficult, but it was very easy to see the benefits when you’re looking for them.
Whenever I experience challenge, I just embrace it really strongly.
One of the most incredible benefits that I received was all of a sudden I became a full-time dad 50% of the time, instead of a part-time dad 100% of the time, and that was absolutely transformational for me. It changed my life in every single way, shape and form, to the point where I look at that one aspect and say, “It’s in balance. I’m good. It’s all good. I’ve got nothing to regret and everything to be grateful for.”
Absolutely. What has happened in your life, or what have you done, that now enables you to stay so calm in highly stressful situations?
A disproportionate amount of fucking meditation and all sorts of other gizmos and gimmicks! But you've also got to understand my origins, mate. I was undiagnosed SPD. And what that means is I've got family who are on the spectrum. I'm on the spectrum myself. And SPD means I have a sensory processing disorder, but it's not really a disorder – it's more like an upgrade. All of my senses are heightened. So my sense of smell, taste, touch, everything is turned up.
Now everyone might go, “Oh, that's amazing,” but it's not amazing when you give that to a child who is evolving in an environment that is quite noisy and frenetic and hasn’t demonstrated how to regulate in a healthy and functional way. So for me, growing up, I didn't know anything other than feeling stressed because I was constantly under the bombardment of amplified information, whether it be a sound, sight, you name it. Going into a shopping center was a very different experience compared to most other kids.
As a result, I think it was only a few months ago where I came to this conclusion, that I've literally gone through almost every system in my body, learning how to regulate it consciously, just to try and feel normal. But in the process, I've developed an incredible set of tools that are being used by the military, by business, by mums, by dads, by anyone to regulate stress and stay calm and cool.
People look at me and might think, “Man, how is it that you're so calm?” Well, it’s because I spent decades as a very wound up anxious little child who didn't want to be that way. And I used to look at everyone around me as a kid and go, “Why does everyone look so fucking relaxed? I feel like I'm wound up like a spring here.”
So it’s all been about the pursuit of calm. And even to give you context, there are only two base fears that we have: the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. I went straight for those two. Once I identified I had a fear of heights, I did 200 skydives in 12 months. I did 60 skydives in very quick succession where I threw a heart rate monitor on and meditated in free fall with the aim of getting under 80 beats per minute and maintaining that. Now that’s not normal by any stretch of the imagination, but you've got to understand, if you can learn to meditate in freefall – you know, flying through the air at more than 200 kilometers an hour – you can fucking meditate anywhere.
I did 60 skydives in very quick succession where I threw a heart rate monitor on and meditated in free fall with the aim of getting under 80 beats per minute and maintaining that.
One of the reasons why I pursued training with weapons and why I’ve trained with special forces — and I'm very lucky to have trained with some of the Navy SEALs and European special forces groups. When I do this training, people think, “Oh, it must be mad you know, running and jumping and climbing through the mountain.”
But I'm like, “No, dude, I don't get my hands fucking dirty in the mud. I play with the guns.”
The reason I like to play with the guns is because you're working in an environment that has a very loud percussion that activates the autonomic nervous system instantaneously if you don't know how to regulate.
And if you have to execute a series of 73 moves in the next three minutes and you're activated, you can't do that. You're fucked. But by virtue of exposing yourself to those stresses consistently – whether falling out of the sky, or loud noises as part of a complex range of sequences that can get someone or yourself killed – it forces you into a new zone where you are very clear on who you have to be. But, more importantly, you understand the value of calm.
One of the reasons that people aren't calm is they don't see the value of it. When you are calm, you have this massive objectivity to be able to make multiple decisions at any one time that most people can't make, because they're stressed and they're activated. There's a lot of value in calm once you start playing in that space.
For most people, jumping out of an airplane is probably stressful enough. But you're taking that to another level of constant growth around pushing the boundary at the furthermost point, which is the meditation in freefall thing, which is incredible.
Recently I had Emily Fletcher [Ziva Meditation] on the show, and we spoke about how 80% of doctor's visits are related to stress. Yet, the people who feel the most stress often aren’t taking the daily steps to improve themselves or get out of their comfort zone.
You’ve worked with hundreds of thousands of business leaders all around the world. Is stress an underlying factor for all those people? Maybe they're too busy working in their business rather than on the business. How much of a factor is stress, and how do you help people get through that?
Look, I would say it's a massive factor, and that's one of the reasons I think that we are so successful in what we do. When we work with business owners, the clients that we work with over a long period of time, there's about one in three or one in four that will 2X to 10X in the first 18 months to two years. We teach very solid business, marketing, leadership and scaling principles, yes. But the one thing that makes us different that really sets us apart is the psychological conditioning component that we teach. And a big part of that is learning how to deal with stress. Because here's what we know about stress: stress is the number one killer of the 21st century, and it’s a multi-billion-dollar issue in the workforce.
When we have stress activated in the body, our autonomic nervous system is activated, and we go into fight or flight. Adrenaline and cortisol start flooding the system and we lose within seven minutes about 50% of our intelligence. So when stress goes up, intelligence goes down. And to me it's a valuable question to ask, “Okay, what are the situations I'm in most that have the highest level of value that requires the greatest level of calm, that if I'm stressed most situations can cause me significant consequence?” And that is in your job, in your business, in your relationship, in those moments that really count.
And so, for me, there's an absolute clear correlation that if you're going to be alive, you're going to experience a level of stress. But if you're going to be an entrepreneur – and stress is a spectrum, right? You are going to significantly start to push yourself up that spectrum of experiencing stress. And the more you can regulate stress in a healthy way, at levels that other people can't, the more you’ll enable yourself to go further than anyone else can.
That’s the beautiful thing about being human. We all have this capability to grow. We all have this capability to change and transform.
The only difference between someone who plays here and someone who plays here is not necessarily their smarts. It's their ability to expose themselves to information, in some cases, stress, at a level that they can regulate in a healthy way. That's why not everyone's going to be able to build a multibillion-dollar company because not everyone could cope with the mental stress of even considering working with those denominations and those values. And that's why you'll always find where your limit is, and wherever that limit is you'll be constrained by some level of fear that triggers a level of stress.
The more we can interpersonally learn how to regulate the systems within our body consciously, based on the recognition of that being required, then the further we can go.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, once said in a letter to shareholders, “I've made billions of failures at Amazon literally.” That’s one of the wealthiest people who ever lived actively seeking out ways that he can get out of his comfort zone because he knows that the more he can expose his company to those environments, the more comfortable it will be. Which creates that sensory awareness around bringing something quickly to market that might resonate, in contrast to your traditional bureaucracy (e.g. banks, government organizations, etc.) that moves so slowly.
You had a two-year career break around the age of 33 when you were between business ventures where you were trying to figure out your next move. What did you do during that time which enabled you to find the business and path you’re on today that you’re so passionate about?
At the age of 32 or 33, I did what I probably should have done at 18 or 19. I took some time off because I went straight out of school and was working multiple jobs, which I had been doing since grade 10 or earlier. From the moment I could work, I was working multiple jobs. And so I never took any time off. At 32, I just got out of a venture, I had some money in my pocket, and I was like, “You know what, I'm going to take some time off.” And I did, and I took some time off living on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.
I just took enough time – and I think this is critical, I think this is something that everyone should be open to – I took the time to get bored. And the reason I think that's important is because it's not until we get bored that we get really curious. As I said, I've lived many different iterations of my life and my life is very full, and very rarely does it ever get boring. But this is one stage of my life that I got to where I'd basically done everything I wanted to do from a financial perspective.
I thought, “Well, maybe I want to retire now.” I took that time out. And then I started looking at who I was surrounding myself with in that phase. I was playing golf a couple of times a week with 74-year-old men who would sometimes accidentally piss their pants when they hit a good drive. And I thought, “Fuck, these guys aren’t exactly inspiring me to stay retired.”
I had to get to the point where I was so bored that I thought, “Right, I’ve got to do something. I'm going out of my fucking mind here. I’ve got to do something.” But I didn’t need to, so I put myself in a situation where I had to. After two years, I got to the point where I'd spent all my liquid capital, and if I wanted to keep living, I had to start selling assets. And I was like, “Yeah, fuck that.”
I sat down on the beach with a notepad and my cat. I had a bengal, and he's like a little leopard that thinks he's a dog. And I just started writing down what I love to do, and I kept coming back to teaching, I love teaching, I love speaking. But I was quite jaded, because when I'd come out of the industry two years previous, I'd worked in a range of different businesses, and I'd seen quite a different perspective. Like yourself, James, I'd been exposed to both sides of the seminar industry and I was just like, “I have no interest in coming back to the seminar industry.”
But I sat down to identify what I really loved to do: I love to teach, I love to help, I love to serve. Then I thought, “Well, I do that greatest when I'm speaking.” But I’d said I'd never do that again. In that moment, and I remember it was a Tuesday afternoon on that beach, it was a little bit overcast, the waves were pumping, and I made the choice that I was only going to take the stage if I would talk about something I was actually doing.
I gave myself a little bit of leeway, a 95% congruency. But with that 5%, they still needed to be things that I was going to do. The important message for myself at the time was don't talk about it unless you're fucking doing it. Don't talk to it unless you've got experience. Otherwise make it clear that you are going to do it. And that’s become a big part of our brand and making sure we’re genuine and authentic in what we do.
And I think that really comes across in everything you do. It reminds me of what you said at our event for podcasters a few months back that “Leadership is not a badge, it’s a behavior.” It’s about leading by example and taking that time to explore your intellectual curiosity.
I've got to connect you with a friend of mine, Michael Fox, who had a company called Shoes of Prey, which was the world’s first custom women’s shoe company. After a 10-year rollercoaster journey, he lost USD $25 million of investor’s money and his marriage broke up. He then took six months to explore his intellectual curiosity, and that's what led him to that mission of wanting to end industrial agriculture. And now he's created a new business called Fable Food Co that just launched in 600+ Woolworths stores, with partners like Heston Blumenthal, and they’re absolutely crushing it.
That’s great. I love that.
Once you’ve been an entrepreneur, it’s extremely hard to stop working or switch off. But big results if you can manage it properly.
I actually got the idea from David Deida in one of his books, I think it was The Way of The Superior Man. He spoke about how oftentimes what men will do is they'll keep themselves distracted, which will prevent them from discovering their purpose when they stumble upon it. And that's why I'd recommend this to a lot of people to take extended periods of time just to do nothing, just to get bored.
And we see it with kids. A big part of the Montessori method that we do with our son Noah is the importance of getting kids bored because that’s when their imaginations fire up the most.
From all the businesses and individuals that you've worked with and been able to help, is there one transformation in particular that you're most proud of or that stands out?
Yeah, there is actually. I know it might sound arrogant but my own. I feel like it’s a P.Diddy moment, “I'd like to thank me!” [laughs]
Look, it's hard. I don't know anyone as well as I know myself, so that's an honest answer. I've seen where I've come from and what I’ve gone through to get to where I am today – it's been a phenomenal transformation.
But if there's one other transformation that really stands out in my mind right now, it's Mattias, my filmmaker. When he came to me, I still remember his interview, his hair was shaking in the Skype interview and he was very mild. But the transformation, four or five years later, he's now probably one of the strongest leaders in our organization and he's got a great head on his shoulders.
He’s got his own story growing up and losing his mum at an early age. And the more I got to know him, the more I saw where he was from his journey. It’s a beautiful thing about working with a filmmaker, especially Mattias, because he's with me all the time. So you can't help but get to know him and find out more and more about each other. He's definitely one of the most phenomenal transformations I've seen.
Earlier you mentioned your six-year-old son, Noah. What do you do differently as a parent compared to how you see other people raise their kids?
I don't know because I don't look at what other people do with their kids, unless it’s in the line at Woolies [supermarket] or something.
Look, I’m like most other dads. I raise my voice every now and then. But the difference is, and this is probably the key difference, when I do I apologize straightaway. I'm human and can get a little bit on edge and lash out. I'll often say, “Buddy, I'm sorry for raising my voice. I'm not sorry for what I said, but I shouldn't raise my voice.” Then we can chat about the issue and bring it to an end that way.
So he sees me own my shit on the regular. Like, he really does see me own my shit on the regular! Which is something I hold very near and dear. But we also spend a lot of time together. I wouldn't say I’m anti-social but I'm not a massively social person. And one of the things I realized that up until the beginning in a new relationship about five or six months ago now, outside of work, 98% of my socialization was with my son, Noah.
And so I guess what that means is we spend a lot of time together. We hang out a lot, and we play cars, but one of the things we do on a very regular basis is we'll just hang out on a beanbag hugging and just talking. We will sometimes talk for hours. And I talk with him like he's a real human being and I talk with him at a high level, and I treat him with an enormous level of respect. I treat him as a human being, as an age-appropriate human being, but that comes with an incredible level of respect for the potential that he holds.
It’s up to everyone to parent their kids however they see fit based on their own experiences, but I see so many people who are quick to dictate to children how the world is. In contrast, I love asking children questions so they can tell me how the world is. I just love letting them talk and listening to their observations.
What is the biggest fear that you have for Noah as he gets older, and how are you equipping him to handle that?
I wouldn't say I have any big fears, outside of losing the little guy – that would absolutely destroy me. But I guess what I'm equipping him for is a very strong mental game. He gets some of the world's greatest coaching in some of the most important situations of his life. He really does. I look at him as, like myself, as probably one of the greatest clients I'm ever going to have. And I don't mean that in a commercial way, I just mean that in a way of service.
I'm just equipping him with a very strong mental game with a really strong focus on leadership and teamwork. Like, a disproportionate amount of our communication is around working as a team – working together, helping each other, being of service, helping people, and that kind of plays out in every context.
The other day, someone asked me, “How do you know you're successful?”
And I thought, “Okay, that's a good question.”
And I answered it honestly. I said I look at my son. I look at how he behaves in public. And that's not to say that every now and then he's not a bit of a cheeky monkey like other kids can be. He can be. But I look at the way that he treats a stranger, I look at the way that he treats the wait staff, I look at the way that he treats someone busking on the street. And he's the most polite, gentle, kind, loving human being I've ever fucking met in my life. And so that, to me, is success.
Now, I’ve just got to hold the standard for another 15 years to get him well on his way. But that's important to me. And I think that's a big part of why I do what I do. But I do an enormous, a disproportionate level, of socialization with my son.
Have you got anything that you focus on in particular to make sure that you're entirely present with him, such as switching your phone to airplane mode?
He's really good. If he's getting jacked off with the phone, he'll just give it to me straight. And we have a bit of a deal that if dad is distracted, he'll put the phone down. But also, if he has to get an important call, he can take it.
But this is one of the things that I do with my son that is maybe a little bit different as well. Yes, I give him an enormous level of presence. But I actually include him a lot of my business. You know, he sits in on a range of different meetings. He's been in planning meetings, sales calls, consulting calls, client meetings.
If he's around, he's welcome to come into the meeting, and he knows he's just got to be quiet. And so yes, that's something that I enjoy exposing him to as well.
With a 15-month-old daughter, I am astounded at how much she actually remembers and picks up. But I can't imagine the six-year-old level of consciousness. He’s going to learn so much more than what other people might actually think from participating in those situations.
And it's hilarious to see him in a meeting. In early February, I was in a meeting in the office giving someone some coaching. Noah turned to me and said, “Dad, just be nice to them. They’re new.”
Then I was like, “Oh, my God, this is hilarious.” So yeah, he's a pretty funny character. And that's why I look at how he behaves and him sitting in on these meetings and being involved in these meetings like you said, they hear everything, and they echo it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he's running the company in the next six years!
There's a poem that John Wooden used to have up in his office, and it was called ‘A Little Fellow Follows Me.’ I'll send it to you afterward, it’s incredible.
I love the sound of that.
It talks about how we’ve got a little companion who will always mimic what we do, good or bad – that whatever we do is handed down, whether we like it or not.
To switch gears for a second, you always talk about bigger, faster, stronger. How do you balance that hunger with enjoying happiness in the present?
I think it’s a practice. You don't just get happy by accident; you don't just get healthy by accident. Some people are naturally wired that way, maybe. But I think happiness is something that everybody needs to work on with a level of consciousness to be aware of how much they’re experiencing their life. And I'm no different to anybody else – I get obsessed with business performance and with everything moving so quickly, but sometimes I do forget to slow down and enjoy more.
And that's where the last few months have been quite special for me. I've now entered a new relationship for the first time, almost four years since the separation. And I've been spending more time in a family environment and bathing in a sea of happiness that is inspired by a different value to the business at a higher level. I've always bathed in the family value with my son, but to be putting myself back into the context of a family unit, it’s brought an enormous amount of happiness to me and awareness to the importance of managing that balance moving forward.
When covid hit, you were able to connect the dots quicker than anyone I’ve seen. How were you able to read the tea leaves of what was coming with covid, and how did you change your business as it was all unfolding? People might forget the uncertainty, but it was shifting wildly every day and it seemed that no one had any idea what was going on.
I guess you could say it was one-part luck, one-part smarts, and one-part timing. I'm someone who naturally gathers information every day. I use a range of different sources and look at a range of different data, depending on what's on my dashboard at the time. And somehow corona got on my dashboard on 7th January. When I read it, I thought, “Well, this is interesting.”
And I remember doing a little bit more research and thinking, “Fuck, there's something going on here.”
But then the very next day, 9th January, I jumped back on and it was media silence. And I remember thinking it was a bit strange. It went from outbreak in China to no talk at all. After about a 24-hour blackout, it was on the news again. And I just I couldn't shake it. Every day, I just kept gathering data.
So when the China outbreak happened, I was on it. When Spain, Italy, and France went up, I was on it. I ordered the first set of protective gear for our team on 18th January. We created our first biothreat response plan with the team on 24th January.
We had a 13-city tour that was scheduled for February, where I was going to be on 30 planes in 30 days, and I wanted to make sure that myself and the team were protected. A lot of people say, “Oh, it was a good intuition,” but it was just good foresight, combined with a solid intuition, and just looking at the data points.
In early January, I was literally saying on film, “Why the fuck is no one talking about this? This covid thing is taking off and no one’s talking about it.”
By 27th January I was saying, “China's been shut down for 3-4 weeks now. Everyone ships out of China, but no one is talking about this. What's going on?” When it hit, I thought, “Finally, someone's fucking paying attention,” because I'd been talking about it for seven weeks, heavily. As a result, my clients and our business were well insulated.
And it's so funny, because when I first went to my team and said, “Oh, this event will get canceled,” they were fighting it. They said it won’t be cancelled. And not only did that event get canceled, we ended up shutting down the event that we were just about to go into, like two weeks later, we shut it down halfway through. And I had team members arguing with me saying “No, that's not going to happen, it will never happen. That's impossible.” And I was like, “Oh, it's not impossible. It's going to fucking happen. Everyone needs to get their head around it now.”
For some context for those who don’t know, when you ordered all that protective equipment, that was seven weeks before the US stopped the first flights from Europe. And it was also five weeks before Nancy Pelosi held a press conference in San Francisco’s Chinatown district to reassure people that everything was fine and that they should continue their lives as normal. To make that call many weeks before those things happened is incredible.
It's kind of birthed a new division in the company. We now have, I guess you could say, a small intelligence division in the company that just gathers data. And it gathers data at whatever we point it at, which is very helpful. We’re going to explore that more moving forward.
A lot of people these days want the instant monetization strategies, the magic bullets. But for me, and I suspect you too, relationships have been by far the most valuable asset and the most valuable weapon in the arsenal. How have relationships played a role in the success that you have today?
Massively. A relationship is a dynamic that's also on a spectrum, and we're all involved in them. It just depends on what types of relationships, whether they be relationships with our family, our team, our audience, our clients. And so, as someone who is a massive introvert, it's been a real journey. Because I wanted to be like, “Okay, I just want to help people and make money, but I don't want to talk to anybody!”
It’s interesting because I see that playing out with a lot of our clients who say, “Well, I'm not really a people person.” I go, “Well, neither was I. I had to fucking learn!”
If you want to do anything well, you're going to require a team. And if we're going to have a team, there's going to be relationship dynamics at play. And fundamentally, what determines the performance of those dynamics is your communication strategy and how well you communicate. It ultimately determines the level of trust or connection that you have, which ultimately determines the quality of the collaboration.
And that collaboration might be your wife or husband. Again, that might sound cold, but it’s the reality. It's an intimate collaboration, whether its collaboration with your kid when you’re parenting, or collaboration with your team member when you are trying to lead.
As humans, we are built to collaborate. But not all of us got the best instructions on how to do that effectively.
I just had Keith Ferrazzi on the show who’s the #1 New York Times bestselling author of books like Never Eat Alone. During our interview he mentioned that the next romantic partner he wants to have will be his partner not just on the relationship side but to co-elevate with. To lift each other higher.
In a relationship that involves kids, they allocate so much meaning to the relationship the parents have with each other. Is that a big focus for you and your ex-partner – making sure the relationship you have with Noah’s mum is one he admires and respects?
As parents, we need to swallow a pill, take a step back, and start to really become aware, because a lot of parents look at the relationship dynamics of their children and say, “Well, I don’t know where that comes from.” I’ll tell you right now, there is a very high probability it came from you. Whenever Cesar Millan works with a dog, he goes, “I rehabilitate the dog and I train the human.” It’s the same thing with kids. As parents, we’ve got to be very careful with the blueprint that we demonstrate because that ultimately become the foundational operating system of how they relate in a different context.
And that can be at an intimate level. One of the biggest fallacies that we tell our kids is that if someone is mean to you, it means they like you. What does that tell a six-year-old girl or a six-year-old boy?
“Oh, that boy is bullying me.”
“He doesn't not like you. He likes you, but he just doesn’t know how to tell you.”
And so now we start building this whole model of people treating you poorly, which you interpret as them meaning they love you. Or they start looking at the dynamics they have with their mom or their dad, and their communications strategy, and they don’t understand why their communications strategy keeps playing out in their intimate lives when they move forward.
As parents, we have a lot to answer for, but we also have a lot to be responsible for and a lot to be grateful for, if we are conscious of what we demonstrate.
Check out the YouTube or podcast or YouTube version where Kerwin does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give her 18-year-old self, his favorite book, and a whole lot more 🚀
Final question, what's one thing you do to Win the Day?
I just get it done. To me, when you know yourself well enough, you just know what buttons to push and you can do anything, in most cases, regardless of context.
Always great to see you! Thanks for coming on the show.
Absolute pleasure, James. See you, next time buddy.
Resources / links mentioned:
🔥 Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink
🧭 Unstoppable with Kerwin Rae podcast