“Each day, if you do not make the decision to win, you have automatically made the decision to lose.”
Welcome to Win the Day and today is a special one – this is Episode 50!
Before we dive into all the good stuff for today, I just want to say an enormous THANK YOU for listening to this podcast, watching it on YouTube, and sharing it with friends. Your support means the world to me, and we’ve got some seriously kickass episodes coming up! So if you haven’t already, hit subscribe on YouTube or follow on Spotify. Together, let’s bring more and more positive energy into the world.
Because this show is about growth. It’s about recognizing that, while we might’ve faced adversity, challenges – even serious trauma – in our past, all that matters is what we decide to do from here. That’s why to truly win the day, we must begin every morning with an acknowledgement that the day – THIS day – is there to be won.
When I’m bringing these guests on the show – who are some of the most accomplished individuals on the planet – I’m trying to hone in on what they’ve done different:
With that information, I can learn, you can learn, and together we can inspire others through our example. That’s growth. Every day, we get better and better, so we can make the world – and everyone in it – a better place.
But this show is nothing without ACTION, so make sure with every episode you think about what 2-3 things you’re going to do as a result of what you’ve learned. As Napoleon Hill said, “Action is the real measure of intelligence.”
Today, in honor of our 50th episode, I’m going to share with you my 12 most memorable takeaways from the guests’ we’ve had on the show. These are the value bombs that have stood out to me the most, and I know will be enormously impactful for you too.
The quote for this episode is one I put up at every speech:
“Each day, if you do not make the decision to win, you have automatically made the decision to lose.”
If you can figure that quote out, and turn that into a habit, the rest is easy.
In fact, I started saying “Win the day” because I wanted something more succinct from that sentence that I could use for my podcast. And the rest is history! Here we are, 50 episodes in, and you and I are still making the decision to win because the alternative, which is slowly losing every day, eroding our progress, and sabotaging our dreams, is not something we can tolerate. We’ve got ONE life to live and we’re going to unlock every little particle of potential inside us so our time on the earth is well spent.
So are you ready to win? I hope so! And if there’s a friend or loved one who wants to join us, share this episode with them right now.
In honor of our 50th episode, here are the 12 best tips to win the day, every day. Welcome to the Win the Day All-Star Edition.
I’ve noticed that the word “gratitude” has become hijacked lately, a little bit like the “self-love” movement. People talk a big gratitude game and post their fancy snaps on Instagram, but what Gabby Reece shared during Episode 43 of the show is that the best way to show you’re grateful for something is to actually take care of it.
That means, behind closed doors, when the phone’s away, you’re looking after the things you’re grateful for – whether that’s your physical health, your mental health, or the most important people in your life.
Here’s what Gabby shared:
“I don't need to lose my health to covet it.
The other thing I'm doing is I'm practicing. When people talk about gratitude, the best way I can show that, "Hey, I'm really grateful for my health," is to take care of it. That's ultimately what I'm doing.
The other side of that is it's a level of sanity. I am a better functioning organism if I can also take care of the physical avatar to the best of my ability. It's a law of the universe. It's the truth, and so I don't need to keep relearning that lesson. I know what the lesson is, and I'm just ahead with it.”
So if, like me, you’ve been bitten by the gratitude bug, that’s awesome! Just make sure you’re doing the reps behind the scenes. Those daily reps add up to massive results over time.
If there’s one thing the covid pandemic has emphasized in bold, italic, and underline, it’s that the world is shifting faster than ever before – but, most importantly, it’s going to keep getting faster and faster, as George Chanos reminded us in Episode 27.
When the covid pandemic started, there was an entrepreneur in Australia who saw it coming months ahead of time, and that was Kerwin Rae.
In Episode 31 Kerwin came on the show to reveal those insights with us, but what I found most impactful was his emphasis on pursuing calm at all costs. As the world is getting faster, more chaotic, more transactional, more automated, and more digital, we’re faced with sensory stimulation like we’ve never even imagined – and that’s an absolute recipe for disaster where our mental health is concerned.
Yet, Kerwin reminds us that we need to shift away from passive sensory overload, and instead shift to more proactively putting ourselves in situations that get us out of our comfort zone in a good way. And if we can do that regularly, and train ourselves to be effective and calm in complete chaos, we will not only be extremely well positioned to benefit from the rapidly changing world but we'll also insulate ourselves from failure that could be completely demobilizing for most people.
Here’s what Kerwin said:
“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 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 multi-billion-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.”
Most people recognize the importance of proper goal-setting in achieving what they want. (And to start practicing what I believe is the most effective goal-setting system available, download my Success Plan. Free instant download; no opt-in required). But when it comes to your financial goals, the secret sauce is how you tie them into your definite major purpose.
Your definite major purpose is the core goal you have that most of your other sub-goals stem from.
Anyone can put “$1 million” on a goal sheet, but tying it into your definite major purpose, backing it by emotion, and then outlining the steps you need to take to get there and how that will impact the world is going to make it 100x more likely for you to achieve that goal.
In Episode 38, personal finance expert Adam Carroll shared this with us:
“My parents were very positive-minded and they talked about opportunity a lot. My dad was big into Deepak Chopra back in the day. And he would tell me growing up that I was a wizard, and I didn't really understand what he was telling me at the time. I had visions of Harry Potter-esque kind of wizards.
But what he was telling me, I believe, is that I could create whatever environment I wanted to create; that I had the ability to manifest my own desires. And so when I read Think and Grow Rich the first time – which you are obviously well-versed in – I realized how important the messages of definiteness of purpose, and of focus and attention, were. I have a saying up on my door up here and it says “The definiteness of purpose for acquiring wealth is necessary for its acquisition.”
And I kept reading that over and over and over again. Think and Grow Rich was one of the first books that got me on the path. Then I went down this unbelievable rabbit hole of finding all of the quantum physics and law of attraction books that were out there. I realized that we are all constantly, consciously or unconsciously, creating our own environment.”
Remember, Adam is the guy whose TED Talk on playing Monopoly with real money has 6+ million views. So if you’ve got big financial goals – and you should because the more resources you have at your disposal the more you can contribute to the causes you care about the most – you need to tie it into a higher purpose or mission that you have for your life.
If we’ve been brought up in an environment that doesn’t reward creativity, growth or love, we might feel that we’re doomed to continue that cycle. Or worse, we might never recognize that a problem even exists because it seems “normal” to us.
But in Episode 37, Dr Sonja Stribling – who’s one of the toughest and most resilient people I’ve ever met – stated:
“When you hear me say that 'If you didn't come from a wealthy family, let a wealthy family come from you,' it empowers you to realize that just because you came from nothing doesn't mean your family has to carry on that tradition. It means you get to create whatever lifestyle you want. That's just been my mantra. I don't want my children to suffer the way I did or the way my mother did.
And it's not just about the money. Being rich is more about teaching different ways that your children don't have to always go get a 9:00am to 5:00pm job and always have to go to school because school is not for everyone. There are other means to create wealth. You just need to know where to find those ideas and the strategies and the tips and tools to do so.”
While, at times, you might feel that your future is pre-destined because of the circumstances where you grew up, it’s never too late to be what you want to be, lead by example, and inspire future generations to take ownership of their lives. And while the goal of flipping the script of generational poverty in your family and turning it to generational wealth might be great financially, never forget that it’s the lessons, the relationships, and the attitude to handling adversity that are the most important things.
This might seem harsh, but I’ve interviewed enough people now who have overcome the most horrific circumstances imaginable and gone on to incredible success. To see firsthand what they’ve been able to do with their lives but, more importantly, how grateful they are for that adversity, has been the biggest blessing I've had on this journey. In some of their deepest pain, they were able to use those experiences as fuel to live a life of compassion, meaning, and impact.
Some of those people are Janine Shepherd, who I mentioned in chapter one of Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy. Her story as a walking paraplegic is extraordinary. Remember, she had qualified for the Olympic Games, only to have her athletic dreams and physical being completely destroyed through no fault of her own.
There’s Jim Stovall who, at 18, went totally and permanently blind, before going on to write 30 bestselling books and become the founder of the Narrative Television Network – while blind. Todd Love, who became a triple amputee at 18 years old after being blown up by an IED in Afghanistan; Todd views the explosion as a “gift” and has since completed the Spartan Race on numerous occasions to inspire others.
Or Sonja Stribling, who we just mentioned in the last tip, who was born into a family as the youngest of 12 children, to parents who only had a second-grade education. At age 15, she gave birth to her first child. And just two years later, at 17 years old, she was raped and left for dead in a field. Sonja is now an internationally regarded female empowerment coach who helps millions of people around the world.
There are too many examples of this.
Make no mistake, how you respond to adversity when it INEVITABLY strikes is what separates ordinary people from extraordinary achievers.
And in Episode 30, #1 NY Times bestselling author Keith Ferrazzi shared a very succinct approach for those who want to become extraordinary:
“There is no excuse for you to remain mediocre. If you want to be extraordinary, you chart your path. If you hold onto your individual title, you'll never have enough resources under your control to really break through. You need to go to Peter Diamandis, you need to go to Jim Kwik, you need to get James Whittaker who knows everything about podcasts to teach you about podcasts, right?
You need to expand your view of team. If you don't redefine your view of team, you will remain mediocre with mediocre resources.”
So think about what you can do to turn your individual mission into a shared mission.
There is no excuse for you to remain mediocre. If you want to be extraordinary, you chart your path and build the team to get you there. That’s it. It’s so empowering.
Rather than dwell on our misfortune, or people who’ve wronged us, or whatever it might be, we instead need to channel that energy into constructive means so we can create the very circumstances we want.
That all starts with a recognition that a better life awaits (irrespective of what has happened to us in the past), followed by a focus on detailed plans to make it happen, then a commitment to seeing it through with the right people around us.
Like most of these tips, the real growth comes when you can turn them into a habit – that way, when the voice of doubt kicks in, it’s quickly overridden by habit and you do what needs to be done.
One of the best habits to have is waking up and recognizing today as a clean slate, which means you leave any drama, frustration, or stress in the past where it belongs. And you wake up excited for another opportunity to do exactly what you want to do.
In Episode 42, ultra athlete Marcus Smith, who was almost killed after being hit by a vehicle while cycling, shared this:
“We ALL have tough days. We ALL get overwhelmed and we have to be honest with ourselves on that. But I think what the difference is from what you said and from what I see in my life is that no matter how bad today is I'll wake up tomorrow and it's a new day, and I'm ready to dominate and you're ready to win the day.
If I can just encourage people that every time you go to bed, when you get up the next day, you've been just gifted this unique opportunity to do amazing things. You've got a fresh mind. And if you start the day with this great positive mindset that you're going to have an awesome life, you can just rinse and repeat that. It's beautiful.”
And there’s a level of peace that you can see in these people. They’re at peace with themselves and what has happened to them, and they’re even at peace with the people who were responsible for their most brutal pain.
But more than peace, they also know exactly who they are, what they’re capable of, and how they will inch closer toward their mission.
There’s been many moments in my life – too many to name – where I’ve reached a pretty dark place and felt overwhelmed and frustrated, and the negative self-talk got noisier and noisier.
Inevitably, in every one of those instances, it was because I either did not know about the daily rituals for success, or I had become so overwhelmed with work that I neglected those daily rituals of success.
If we fall out of alignment, that’s when those dark feelings emerge, and it’s a horrible feeling to find yourself in a situation where you’re saying, “How did I get here AGAIN?”
It can be a difficult road to come back from.
In Episode 48, Rob Angel – who was the creator of the world’s bestselling board game, Pictionary – mentioned how he had to take a leave of absence from his own business because he was totally out of alignment:
“As entrepreneurs, they say you've got to push hard and make sure you're working 24/7, and you've got to push, push, push. Well, that's what I wound up doing. And about 5-6 years in, I changed my mission from giving Pictionary to the world and people having fun, to how do I make more money and push this game.
It wasn't just burnout. It was complete and total anxiety. I wasn't comfortable with myself. My authentic self had left and I was so off balance. I was so out of alignment. But I didn't know how to deal with it. So for a couple of years, I was getting in fights with my partners over nothing.
And I wouldn't show up for work periodically and it just became untenable. So I took a leave of absence. That's all I could do. I had to remove myself and recalibrate and took about six months. I came back to the business and the partners accepted me and took up the slack. But you don't have to do that. You can pre-warn.
Make sure you take an hour for yourself every day. Whether it's meditation, watching television, working out, or whatever it might be, where you don't think about your business. Because guess what? If you're not there for 20 minutes, it's going to be there when you get back. It's not like it'll fail if you take time for yourself.
I do believe in meditation. But if that just sounds so woo-hoo and off the wall, take a walk, anything, but you've got to take care of yourself mentally, spiritually, and physically to be more productive and make more money and be more successful. You have to.”
So make sure you stay in alignment. And the best way to do to that is: to always have an idea of what success looks like to you in ALL areas; and, second, make sure your own cup is full at all times, because the more you have the more you have to give.
A surprising theme I noted from most of the people who’ve come on the show is that a deliberate break has been the springboard to their greatest achievement. In Episode 26, Australian entrepreneur Michael Fox (founder of Fable Food Co) shared how he raised more than US $30 million for an exciting business venture that was backed by some of the most established retailers and venture capital firms in the world.
But after losing everything – his business, the $30 million in investor money, 10 years of his life, and even his marriage – Michael took six months off in Europe where he allowed his intellectual curiosity to go where it wanted to go.
In that moment of massive internal transition, which didn’t have any boundaries or time constraints around it (like he’d had with the rigorous demands of running his own business), Michael became drawn to one particular topic, which became the foundation of his new mission: to end industrial agriculture.
Michael went all-in on that mission, and in a few short years has created a high-end meat alternative that uses mushrooms, which is now available in more than 1,000 supermarkets and has partnered with people like acclaimed chef Heston Blumenthal.
Here’s what Michael had to say:
“My wife and I, with our one-and-a-half-year-old, went to Denmark. For me, it was a great period to have a reset – I didn't have any pressure to find a job or figure out what I was going to do next. I just knew, okay, there's six months, I can focus on being a dad and do whatever I feel like doing.
I ended up reading a lot of books. And because I've been vegetarian for four and a half years, I just ended up reading more about industrial animal agriculture. There were other areas that I was really passionate about and started exploring too, like community living and some different areas like that. But I just ended up reading all these different areas that I was passionate about.
Then towards the end of the six months, I started thinking, “Well, there's two or three areas I'm deeply passionate about, is there a business model or something that I could do?” Well, actually, I didn't even want to start a new business. I was thinking that maybe I could work for someone else in in the meat alternative space because it’s a space that's been growing really quickly.
That six months allowed me to explore whatever I wanted to, wherever my intellectual curiosity took me. That really helped me narrow in on what my passion was and what industry I might like to enter. We added lifestyle decisions around that, and got to work."
So if you’ve gone through a very difficult period, make sure you take a defined period of time – without any boundaries, constraints, or pressure – to allow your intellectual curiosity to go wherever it wants to go. You’ll likely find answers to what you want with much more clarity than you’ve experienced ever before, which could be the perfect springboard to your next chapter.
All those who do great things have one fundamental attribute: unwavering self-belief. In a world, where haters come with the territory, and everything we see comes with a like, share, and comment button, it’s more important than ever to recognize that there’s only ONE opinion that really matters and it’s how you feel about yourself.
In Episode 32, a truly unique guy, Coss Marte, came on the show to share his story. Coss was brought up in very difficult circumstances, before finding massive success on the wrong side of the law. As one of New York’s most prominent drug dealers, Coss was earning more than $5 million a year at 21 years old and needed eight mobile phones just to store the sheer number of customer contacts. Eventually, he was sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence, but was able to use his time inside to start a new career as a fitness entrepreneur.
There was one quote that stood out to me during our conversation: “My mentality was nothing is going to stop me.” Even in a prison cell, Coss was going to turn his dream into a reality, and I would never bet against someone with that level of faith in themselves.
Here’s how Coss describes what happened next:
“I started realizing that I was affecting not only the thousands of people that I sold drugs to, but I started thinking about their families. I started thinking about my family. I started thinking about this web of destruction that I'd created, and I felt so much regret. I said, “I want to give back in some sort of way.”
I came up with the idea of ConBody in that cell. Then, I lost 70 pounds in six months, while helping 20 other inmates lose more than 1,000 pounds combined. So, I started this whole workout program in the prison yard. I knew then that it’s what I wanted to do when I came home: a prison-style bootcamp. In my cell, I wrote a mini-business plan and a 90-day workout plan.
I said to myself that I would do what I wrote, and I did.
About a year later, I came home and put it into action. I started training classes in the park, then rented out studios, then eventually opened up my own studio. It escalated to building an online workout platform where I now train thousands of people all over the world. Today, we've trained more than 50,000 people. But the most beautiful thing is that we've hired over 40 people coming out of the prison system, and none of them have come back into the system.”
So next time you’re faced with an opinion about what you’re not capable of, whether it’s from a family member, a friend, or a total stranger, remember that those comments are based on THEIR limitations. The most important opinion is how you feel about yourself, so take action on your dreams and what you know you're capable of.
That might sound a little woo-woo, but what Emily Fletcher shared in Episode 29 blew me away. Emily is the world’s leader in meditation for high performance, and one of the most valuable takeaways I got from her episode was that the mind doesn’t know the difference between imagined memories we create for the future and actual memories from our past.
So if we’re serious about creating a life we love, a powerful method is to consciously remind ourselves of the outcomes we want and have the discipline to do it every day. We literally visualize an important moment – whether it’s a client meeting, a keynote presentation, a guest appearance on a podcast – and play out the entire event in our most optimal state.
That way, when it happens in real time, we’ve already trained our subconscious to deliver at the highest possible level and made sure we’re perfectly prepared for that opportunity.
Emily uses a combination of meditation and manifestation to reduce the impact of previous trauma while empowering us to get the absolute best result from important events we have coming up in the future:
“Mindfulness is really good at dealing with your stress in the now. And then the manifesting piece is all about dealing with your dreams for the future. So it sounds a little hippy-dippy. It sounds a little woo-woo. Maybe not to you or your audience!
But I would define manifesting as consciously creating a life you love. It is reminding yourself of your dreams. And what I've found is that the combination – and this might really be the thing that keeps you committed to meditation – the combination of meditation and manifesting is so much more powerful than either one alone. Because you could meditate all day, but if you're not clear about what it is that you want it's very hard for nature to give you the thing.
And conversely, you could manifest all day, lining your walls with vision boards, but if you're not meditating and your nervous system is riddled with stress and trauma, and limiting beliefs that you can't even see, then again it's going to be a lot harder for you to achieve your dreams. But when you do them together, you get rid of the stress in your body, you peel away these subconscious limiting beliefs, and you remind yourself of your dreams every day, twice a day, and things start to show up a lot more quickly.”
It’s one hell of a bio-hack, yet so few people do it. If now is the time to massively level-up with what you’re doing, create imagined memories for future events to manifest your ideal outcomes.
This has been a lesson I learned the hard way. Naively, I thought I could help everyone, and you might have felt – or still feel – the same way. But if we try to lift people up who don’t even want to be lifted, not only are we NOT going to be able to lift them up but they’ll likely end up pulling us down to their level.
But in Episode 33, mindset expert John Assaraf mentioned:
“On many occasions I’ve worked harder at helping somebody achieve their goal than they have. But that brings me back to a couple of things that I've discovered over the years. First and foremost, help the people who want the help, not the people who need the help.
Number two, don't be in the convincing business, because if you've got to convince somebody, then they're not sold on themselves doing it.
Number three, every person I work with I ask the question, “Are you interested or are you committed?” And if they tell me they're committed, and they're willing to do whatever it takes, and be radically honest with themselves, and radically honest with what they do, or don't do, then I'm willing to help you.
But anybody else, I have no interest in helping. I don't want to spend my time trying to talk somebody into what they should be doing.”
Powerful, right!? And I’ll never forget it. John shared a TON of gold in that episode.
There’s a quote we mentioned at the start of this episode from Napoleon Hill: “Action is the real measure of intelligence.” Hill also mentioned “It doesn’t matter what you know; it matters what you DO with what you know.”
And when Brandon T. Adams came on the show in Episode 35, he said this:
“Action is what gets results. The number one thing holding people back is they think about something and they strategize all day. At the end of the day, an idea is shit unless you actually take action towards it, and that's what I learned in Think and Grow Rich. You've got to take daily action, even if it's one thing you do every day, every single day, just one thing you accomplish. It'll build up, it's the compound effect. It'll slowly build up over time, and eventually, get you your bigger opportunity.
If you take action, get outside your comfort zone, and become comfortable being uncomfortable, you will find opportunity. And then follow up on the opportunity; don't just get it and then let it go. You have to follow up and keep taking action, every single day.”
And that’s success in a nutshell. Eventually, you have to get your hands dirty. You’ve got to get out of your comfort zone. You’ve got to take action. So a question I want you to ask yourself right now is:
Who do I need to become to succeed in this rapidly changing world?
There might be skills you need to get, relationships you have to establish, limiting beliefs you need to overcome. The world is changing faster than ever, so it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re clear on who you need to become so you can figure out what action you need to take.
I hope you’ve enjoyed those 12 tips to win the day every day! If you wanted to dive into those in more detail, you can check out the full episodes, available in video on YouTube and in audio on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, Amazon, and everywhere you listen to podcasts.
What was your favorite tip? Let me know in either the comments on the YouTube video or in a review on Apple Podcasts. We’ll then pick out THREE lucky people to receive a signed copy of Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy delivered to wherever you are in the world for free.
Is there someone in your life who needs some help winning the day? Share this episode with them now. They’ll thank you for it later, I promise.
To finish, I want to leave you with the quote for today’s episode:
“Each day if you do not make the decision to win you have automatically made the decision to lose.”
Imprint that on your mind so nothing can knock you off course ever again.
That’s all, folks! Remember, to get out there and win the day. And think about how strong you'll be when we hit 100 episodes 😉
Onwards and upwards always,
Resources / links mentioned:
⚡ Success Plan.
“No matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.”
Dr Carol Dweck
Nick Shaw is the co-founder of Renaissance Periodization (RP), a multi-million-dollar health and fitness company that has improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of clients around the world. Through its leading programs, technologies, and team of PhDs on staff, RP gives its subscribers an easy to follow nutrition plan that fits neatly into your schedule so you can achieve your health / fitness goals.
Over the years, the RP team has sold hundreds of thousands of books to help people with their nutrition, training, and recovery, and to help create healthy habits. Nick has also personally coached numerous world-class athletes including CrossFit Games champions, international weightlifters, UFC fighters, Navy SEALs, and Olympians.
Last year, Forbes published a feature story that documented Nick’s journey and RP’s meteoric rise from a small business into an influential tech company with an industry-leading mobile app available on both Apple and Google.
However, tragedy struck in January 2020 when Nick’s wife, Lori Shaw, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Lori is not just the mother to their two children, but also an instrumental part of the RP business.
Shortly after the diagnosis, the COVID pandemic swept the world, forcing the Shaw family to juggle homeschooling, chemotherapy treatments, and navigating the business landscape in the most uncertain time our generation has faced.
In November 2020, Nick published Fit for Success, a book that outlines the seven foundational habits for achievement to help anyone, irrespective of background, chart their path to success. It also delves into some of his favorite books, most valuable takeaways, and key lessons from his rollercoaster journey, to complement the insights gained from working closely with the most accomplished individuals on the planet.
Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Nick Shaw does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give his 18-year-old self, the one thing on his bucket list, and a whole lot more. 🚀
In this episode, we’ll go through:
Before we begin, remember that the right bit of inspiration can completely change the trajectory of someone’s life, so if there’s a friend or loved one who needs to hear this episode, share it with them right now.
Let’s WIN THE DAY with Nick Shaw!
What was 'success' to you when you were a teenager? And when did the possibility of owning your own business first come on your radar?
I was really into sports and anything fitness-centric. Although, I will say the one thing that I realized pretty early on that has always stuck with me — which is really important in fitness — there's never a place that you arrive at. You're always just doing it because you like it, there's always a little bit more you can strive for, and you can work really hard.
Typically, if you work really hard (like with fitness), results come. So I guess those were two really good things to be drilled in my brain early on. And they've always stuck with me because there are so many similarities between business and fitness, and I love seeing how those they're alike.
You're right, people get way too focused on a quick destination, rather than the journey. If they carry that attitude to multiple areas, their life can quickly become a mess.
Totally. It will. I can give you a great fitness example. A lot of people, they get so stuck on a set number, "Hey, I want to lose 20 pounds." And then they get those 20 pounds off, but then what? Or they don't develop those good habits because they are so focused on the outcome. What they need to focus is on is setting good habits.
They don't develop those good habits because they are so focused on the outcome.
If you focus on setting good habits, you're eventually going to get to a good outcome, but maybe that good outcome is you lose 15 pounds, but you don't have to do anything super crazy at the end. And, for most people, that's probably a better trade-off.
You need to love the process, rather than being so focused on the outcome.
What was the gap in the market that you saw for Renaissance Periodization (RP) and how were you able to assemble this amazing team of 20+ PhDs and eight registered dietitians to help make your vision a reality?
My buddy who started RP with me was always really smart guy. I met him in college. And he went on to get his masters and later he got his PhD in sport physiology, essentially studying how do you make athletes as best as they can be. That research requires you to take a look at a lot of finer details.
And so, we started out working with a lot of athletes. You would see some folks that could just skate by with genetics, but maybe the stuff that they were doing wasn't really the best. But if you have really good genetics, you can do that; you can skate by. But if you take someone with really good genetics, and then on top of that, you combine an evidence-based program that has the best methodology behind it, you get some really crazy outcomes.
Think of someone people like Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, who are very genetically gifted, of course, but they are also just tenacious hard workers — probably some of the hardest workers of all time. If you combine genetic gifts with a tenacious work ethic, you get the best athletes of all time. So, that's really what we were just trying to combine. If you have just one or the other, that's okay. But if you combine both of them together, then you really have something. So, that's really what the gap was in the market about a decade ago.
What is an 'evidence-based approach' to nutrition and training for people who don't know?
You can find one study out there that can say pretty much anything, right? And so, if you only go by one study, you could be really led astray if you only go by that. But an evidence-based approach looks at all the combined evidence out there. You take a look at a meta analysis. You take a look at literature reviews, which can combine hundreds and hundreds of studies.
So, when you have hundreds of studies and it starts pointing you in one direction, you know that you're probably on the right track. Yet, if you only rely on one study, you may be heading in the wrong direction. And so, when you pool everything together, it just helps point you in the right direction. That's really what evidence-based is about.
In 2015, your wife Lori quit her successful corporate job to support you at RP. I'm married, you're married, so we know that marriages can be tough without the added complexity of working together at the same time! What did you focus on as a collective to make both your business and your marriage a success?
We were just really struggling in terms of the help we needed. You know how it is as a one-person business early on, where you have to do everything. I didn't know what it looked like, but I knew I needed help. Over time what we did, because as you said it can be tricky working with a spouse, right!? We focused on how we could compartmentalize things where Lori could do the things she wanted to do and is great at.
Because she left a fantastic corporate job and is a super, super smart, incredibly accomplished woman. We said, "You specialize in what you want to specialize because you're fantastic at doing that." And that's what led her into doing all of our cookbooks and recipes, and all that stuff, because she's a phenomenal cook, top-notch, and I'm very thankful for that, of course. Our approach was to give her a couple of areas that were all hers.
Yeah, the importance of having that discipline around each other's lane, so you can each focus on having the impact you want to have without feeling like you're stepping on each other's toes.
That's a real good summary. Because I mean, it is just another normal work setting, where sometimes you have to tell people what to do a little bit here and there. And if you mix that in with a spouse, you can carry over when the "work day" ends. So, it can be a little bit of a slippery slope, and that's why we wanted to segment things as best we could.
Well, it's a testament to both of your characters that you're still able to create such a successful business and have a great family at the same time. So, well done on keeping all of that together.
2020 was a year of enormous transition for the whole world, but in January 2020 your family was facing a lot more than the pandemic. Can you take us into that difficult time for your family, and perhaps what your mindset was like when you first received the news about Lori?
First of all, I'll say she's doing great now, a year and a half later, which is phenomenal news. In January 2020 she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, just five days before my son's eighth birthday. And then she had surgery in February. In March, she started chemo.
And then what happens in March 2020? COVID, the pandemic, and everything hit. And we had to take it incredibly serious because she's gone through chemo and was immune compromised to basically the highest level you can be. So we had to be really, really careful.
We're just not the type of people who are going to sit around and let life dictate what we're going to do. We don't want to sit around and be victims or whatever. So, we were just like, "Well, how do we make the most of this?" And we focused on things that we could control.
We're just not the type of people who are going to sit around and let life dictate what we're going to do.
We looked at the handful of things that you can do each and every single day that you have control and impact over. And that's what we did. That's what we focused on. And ultimately, that's what led to me writing the book Fit for Success because I was like, "I'm not going anywhere for the next three or four months. Literally, I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to take this time, I think I have some know talking points to put in the book."
I created the Success Pyramid. And everything just came together from there.
There's a mental health pandemic happening behind the scenes right now, and a lot of people are really struggling. On this show, we like to try and keep it as raw as possible from that mental health perspective to give people those insights. And totally feel free not to answer this question, if you don't feel comfortable doing so. Is there a particularly dark day or dark moment that stands out in the last year or two that you can think of?
I think just the day that my wife found out, because really it's one of these things where you just... I mean, my wife is a healthier person than I am — and I run fitness company. So, that just gives you some perspective as to just how luck, genetics, or whatever it is can play a role there. But instantly overnight, it literally just changes everything.
What I like to tell people is, it's entirely different when you're just thinking about these things. And then when you're truly thrust into having to put them into action every single day for months, if not a year on end. That was a big turning point where I was like, "It is really time to put all of these things in the practice more than I've ever done before."
That was even before COVID hit. Then you throw in COVID on top of that, and now it was like this just complete windfall of things.
Perhaps the second day was March 12th, and funny enough where we live here in North Carolina, my kids didn't go to school that day, because there was some weird water boil thing. I was driving my buddy to the airport because he was in town to visit, and that's when everything unraveled that day, and I'm just like, "Holy crap." We have all this stuff going on, of course going through chemo and all of that, that's enough.
Now, you throw in all of this!? It was a recognition that there was no time to mess around and feel sorry for yourself. It was about getting back to, "What can we control? Our kids are going to be homeschooled now, what can we do? What are the things that we can do each and every single day that are going to turn this around, so it's not just this really rough year?" And I think, knock on wood, we were able to make the most of it.
What one or two books have contributed most to the mindset that you've got today?
So, the first one that jumps out at me is called The Slight Edge. And ironically, it did not make it in the book, because I had my draft and everything completed. But this is one of the books that, when I read it, it was life-changing. Nothing in there is new or crazy, but you see that these little incremental things each and every single day — if you are consistent and disciplined with them — add up over time and you just get this snowball effect eventually.
That was when I started writing down a handful of things that I would do every single day, no matter what's going on.
And I love reading. I don't know about you, but I actually get really physically excited. Sometimes I'm like, "Oh my gosh, I got a new book here! I can't wait to read it." I know that's a total nerd thing to say, but do you get that at all?
I do. And literally every single book that I've read has changed my life in some capacity — every single one. If you just get one ideas, insight, or solution, as a result of reading that book, it can change everything for you.
Do you do audio books or hardcover?
I'm a little bit of both. So, actually I have to make a road trip tomorrow, which is a five hour drive. I was actually really excited because I have 10 hours of audio books. I know that that's probably going to cover me all the way there and probably back too, so I'm really excited for that. So, I do audiobooks if I have road trips.
When I'm done with a book, any book, I write down what I believe is the primary concept from the book. It doesn't have to be pages and pages of notes. I ask myself, "What would the author think is probably one of the most important points here in this book?" And I try to just make a list of those. Every now and again, I'll just flip back through it. And so, this is a really long-winded answer, if we circle back to you had mentioned two books.
The other book that has made a big difference for me in terms of my mindset is Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink. When you think about it, anything that happens is on you. And when you think about it that way, it doesn't matter if someone is five levels below you in an organization, if they mess up, it's on you because you should have taught them better. At the end of the day, all roads lead back to you, the choices you make, and how accountable you are.
At the end of the day, all roads lead back to you, the choices you make, and how accountable you are.
So, if mistakes are made, don't blame other people. This is something that my kids tried doing and I'm like, "No, no, no, no, no. We're not going to blame other people." They're nine and seven years old, so, maybe it'll sink in eventually! Or maybe I repeat it enough that they do get it. Hopefully one day they'll catch themselves and think, "Oh, I'm not going to complain. I'm not going to blame other people. What can I do to fix the issue?"
You touched on the victim mindset, which greatly undermines any ability people have to be able to create whatever circumstances that they want. What do you do from a practical perspective to help get people out of that victim mindset and into more of a success or growth mindset?
This goes back to the second principle in my book, which is the 'internal locus of control.' So, if you have an external locus of control, you tend to be more of that victim mentality where things are happening to you and there's nothing that you can do. I just, I don't agree with that. I mean, I don't care what your circumstances are — and I definitely understand and have lots of empathy for people who are in bad situations — but if you take that external locus of control, it does not lead to good outcomes in terms of your mental health, physical health, and all this stuff. It just doesn't. And this has been proven time and time again in all sorts of studies.
So, you have to look inside and be like, "Okay, whatever's happening, it might be objectively bad, but what can I do about it? There has to be something that I can do." And maybe it's really small, but even those really small things starts to put you back on the right track. If you can do those little things, probably gain a little bit of momentum, probably start to feel a little bit better about yourself, probably become a bit more hopeful, because now you know that what you do really matters, and now you're on the better track. So, that's really, I think just the biggest key, if I had to give one that would be it, hands down.
You've worked with UFC fighters, Navy SEALs, Olympic athletes, a whole bunch of different people. What is the common trait that the top 1% of people have and how coachable is that trait?
They are tenacious hard workers. And I like to think that I'm a hard worker, but being around some of these folks is another level.
Tomorrow my road trip is to visit Rich Froning, who's like the Michael Jordan of CrossFit. The amount of work he puts in puts me to shame. So, we mentioned earlier, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, and it's like that with Rich Froning because he trains literally 4-5 hours a day, pretty much every single day.
They know what it takes to be the best, so they just always put in that work.
And if you really stop and think about it, if you work out an hour a day, you're doing well, multiply that by three or four, and it just, I mean, it's crazy, not to mention just how disciplined they are.
They know what it takes to be the best, so they just always put in that work. And it really doesn't matter how they're feeling, they just do it anyways.
You talk a lot about the importance of self-belief in your book. What role does environment, like where you live, where you work, and the people you hang around, play in that self-belief?
Yeah, it definitely plays a role. And if you're in a bad environment, it's going to be tougher. The odds are stacked against you. Now, we can acknowledge that. But at the same time, there are things that you can do. Again, this goes back to the internal locus of control. I guarantee there's little things that you can do to start to fix that. It may be that the odds feel overwhelming against you, but then it goes back to The Slight Edge principle — just start doing the little things.
It's going to seem like you're probably not getting anywhere, but if you have a long-term time horizon — and you're prepared to just do these little things each and every single day — you're going to be better off. And I'm not guaranteeing success of course, because we can't do that. But if you approach it the right way, your odds of beating those circumstances are going to go up exponentially.
What about your own process for setting goals personally or for your business? Is there a certain system or structure that you use to set those goals?
With your business, we have a roadmap of what we need to get done and the North Star we're aiming towards. We then break that up into chunks of what needs to be done in a given month and quarter to get there. We also implement feedback we can see in real time on the app store for our mobile app based on what our users are telling us.
On the personal side, it's a mix of short and long goals. Usually on the physical side, I'll need something to train for. On Memorial Day, there's a workout called "Murph". That's my couple month thing that I've been training for, just so I have something. After that, it's like, "Hey, how fast can I run a mile?" Just something to guide me on that right track. Because if you don't have any specific goals, it's easy to get lost — a day goes by, a week goes by, a month goes by. So I really think goals are helpful on the business and personal side.
For entrepreneurs, the ability to duplicate themselves seems to be the difference between average entrepreneurs (who are always on the brink of burnout) versus those super high achieving entrepreneurs. What was the biggest step that you took to be able to duplicate your own expertise so the company could grow without hitting a ceiling?
Well, I was definitely guilty of what you said, of not knowing what to do early on, and that's where we got to the point about burning out, because we thought that we had to do everything ourselves. One of the biggest things was realizing that we know a little bit about a couple of things, but there's so much we don't know, so let's bring in some other people — other experts — because that's what they specialize in, that's what they're good at, and that was really the biggest change.
The other thing would be some automation stuff that opened up our world to being able to focus on other things. And it just became this snowball effect that once we had more time, we're able to better focus our efforts elsewhere. And that's a great thing to do all around.
Yeah, to help make you redundant, so you can take some time off if need be.
Absolutely. I would agree with that a hundred percent.
Fitness often talks about a 'recovery phase' but many people people — especially entrepreneurs — very rarely do a good job of incorporating a phase of recharge and recovery in their regular routine. What does recovery look like in a business sense? Have you ever implemented something like a de-load or recharge phase for you as an entrepreneur?
If we go back to 2015 and 2016, our kids were pretty young. And if you have kids, you understand that's a full-time job, having small kids. They take up a lot of time and energy. So, if you factor in that with trying to train and trying to grow your business, and we were teetering definitely on the point of burnout. We needed constant help because it just seemed like we were always so busy. And by 'busy' I don't necessarily mean in a great way, but just busy. Whether it was customer service, or little things here and there, and we had to really fix that.
Once we were able to fix that, I looked back and I thought about where I'd been the last couple of years. And it's like, "I have this." And I think this is the end goal for a lot of entrepreneurs. Not that this is an end goal for me, of course, there's always more to achieve and strive for, but at the same time, I just have a lot more flexibility and freedom over my own time.
Before this podcast, I was picking up my kids from school at 2:00PM. I was sitting in the carpool line for literally 30 minutes. Before that, I was reading. It's like you have that freedom. That's my downtime, I make sure I have that time every day where I can read and do these things. I make sure I workout every single day.
For entrepreneurs, and I understand, it's a really delicate balance — because in the beginning you have to go, go, go, go, go, if you want to be successful. You have to put in that work to create that initial momentum and success. I get it. Been there, done that.
But at the same time, you eventually realize that if you don't take some of that time off and step back a little bit, your output goes down. You're not putting out very high quality work. And if you, instead of just cramming the night before and skipping on sleep and all that stuff, if you maybe just got the sleep and relaxed a little bit, you wake up in the morning and the amount and quality of work that you can now do is better. And it's a hard thing to learn. I did it wrong a million times and probably still do, of course. But once I started to realize that a little bit, I was like, "Wow, this is where I'd probably need to try to trend towards."
Let's now switch gears and focus on the health and the nutrition side. What are the biggest myths about health and nutrition that need to be busted in 2021?
Do you have six hours!? No, it's alright. So, we want to talk about, I guess a couple of main ones. One would be the idea that carbs are bad. They're not really inherently bad. In fact, there are very few foods out there that you could classify as "bad". Trans fats are an example of something that is probably very, very bad for you. Other than that, it's this balance and moderation thing. And if you understand that, everything else is so much simpler.
Because the nutrition industry is crazy. I'm telling you, it's crazy. People love this dogma, and they just get in these camps and they're not willing to change their mind or anything. And it's like, "No, I'm keto. And if you're not keto, you are a bad person." It's like, "Oh, okay."
So, if people ask me, "Hey, what do you think of keto?" we start by talking about the good. We might mention how, because it's low carb, it's probably helpful in that it will make you feel more full, because you're eating more proteins and more fats, and you'd probably be still eating a good amount of veggies. So, these are great things.
It's not that carbs are inherently bad, but guess what? Most things that taste really good have a lot of carbs, have a lot of sugar and salt, and usually have a lot of fat. Think about donuts and pizza, and ice cream. It's not that carbs are necessarily the fault behind them, it's just that they are very calorically dense, which means they're very easy to overeat because they taste delicious. Our brains are wired that way and we want to keep doing it.
The best way to be healthy — and have a normal, healthy body weight — is to eat high quality foods.
And so, that's probably the biggest one, because people like to say that, "Oh, calories don't matter." I mean, calories do matter. At the end of the day, it's probably the biggest chunk of the puzzle. But the best way to be healthy — and have a normal, healthy body weight — is to eat high quality foods. And if you do that, you don't have to get crazy restrictive. You can follow the 80 / 20 rule. And again, if you do that, you eat mostly higher quality foods. I always do air quotes around "good foods" — lean proteins, fruits and veggies, healthy fats, things like nuts, avocados and healthy carbs, rice and sweet potatoes. If you eat mostly those things, it is almost impossible to over eat.
Some of those fad diets that seem to pop up every year, would they be an example of something that would not be as evidenced-based as what you just mentioned there?
Typically, here's how something like that works. You can find some studies on some of these things, or maybe there's some evidence that points towards that they might do something, but people love to extrapolate these things to the nth degree. And they're like, "Oh, well, if it showed this tiny promise of evidence approved then, well, obviously that is the main thing that you must be doing, and you must fast for 24 hours. That is the magic key to everything in the world." And I go, "Okay, maybe."
Here's the good thing about fasting. When do most people tend to overeat? Usually it's later on at night. You're out with friends, family, or you're sitting down and watching Netflix or whatever. And all of a sudden, a bag of chips has gone before you even realize it because you just watched two hours of TV.
Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Nick Shaw does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give his 18-year-old self, the one thing on his bucket list, and a whole lot more. 🚀
Again, there's nothing really magical about fasting. It's just, does it help you stay on track? Does it help you stay more compliant? And if the answer is yes, then great, it's an awesome strategy for you.
But again, it goes back to these diet camps that people love to get in and someone's like, "Oh, well, I did fasting and had these awesome results. You must do this now." You're like, "Well, what if I really like eating breakfast?" They're like, "No, no, that's stupid. It doesn't matter." And you're like, "Well, don't we have some wiggle room in there to meet people where they're at?"
The health and fitness space is just crazy at times, man. It's crazy.
In your book you mentioned how beneficial it can be to find a healthy activity that you love. For me, I love nothing more than going surfing or having a hit of tennis. We can burn through a whole ton of cals, and it's actually really fun. You're not forcing me to go and do something that I hate. So, as a result, you can stay fairly fit by doing some of those endeavors.
So, what type of exercise should people be doing when it comes to health goals?
Yeah, you nailed it. This book is more intended for people who are not your hardcore fitness folks. So, if I were to have written in this book, you must lift weights and you must do these things, people are going to say, "Look at that advice from Nick, that's stupid." I don't even like doing that. I don't like being in the gym.
If someone liked doing tennis and surfing, I would say, "Hey, that's awesome." Because you can do those things, and you can be in really good physical shape because they're very active, and that's a fantastic thing. So again, really, it's finding what you like to do. Because if you said, "Hey, Nick, do you want to go play tennis? And then go surfing." I'm going to be like, "I've played tennis one time in my entire life and I've never surfed." So for me, that's going to be a terrible day! "But hey, I'll meet you in the gym and we can go pump some iron." That's my idea of fun. So, we are two different things, right? You like different things. So, it'd be silly for me to say, you must do this.
Now, on the flip side of that, I would say, if you wanted to give some bare bones advice, try to lift weights at least twice a week. It doesn't have to be crazy heavy or anything like that. And then, just try to find some activities that you like, whether it's sports, hiking; all that stuff is great. There's no kind of one thing for every person.
I would suggest the lifting because I just think there's so many benefits around it, but again, you also have to realize not everyone likes it. For example, my sister doesn't really like lifting weights. She prefers to go run. I'm like, "Okay, cool." I have no issues with that. I'm not going to tell someone that it's mandatory to lift weights, but I think there's a lot of benefits that come from lifting weights.
Is there any technology or research that's come out in the last year or two that really excites you in terms of human performance?
There's just, there's a lot of that stuff coming out now. It seems like everyone's focusing on that. There's this rise of home gym stuff, and you have things like the Mirror or the Tonal.
I've been getting hammered by Facebook ads for the Tonal!
You and me both. I don't think I'm their target market, but I'm getting those every single day. Listen, I think something like that would be great for people. And here's the thing, a lot of people are scared to go back to the gym. I have a home gym, so it's totally different. I might be maybe a little skeptical of going back into the gym. I understand that. So, I think that's a really cool trend that Peloton and companies like that have done. You connect and you join these online classes, and it gives you that sense of community.
We work with a lot of CrossFitters. And the cool thing about CrossFit is they just have this really tight knit community behind them. My mom had never worked out for her first 60 years of her life. And I said to her, "Mom, why don't you go try CrossFit? I'll buy you a membership at the gym." It's 20 minutes away. And she loved it, because she could go and she could socialize a little bit. Of course, this was before COVID. It's been a little tricky to get her back in there. But it's one of these things where you're going to get some lifting, and you're going to get a lot of cardio. If you're moderately interested in those things, it might be worth checking out.
What are you focused on as a parent to ensure your kids grow up motivated, happy, healthy, and adaptable?
So, I consider myself extremely, extremely fortunate, because my kids love to read. And I don't know if they got that from me. My son could read at age four. I mean, it was phenomenal. I can't take much credit for that. I wish that I could!
My wife was out of town and I took my kids to Target. I told them, "You can pick out whatever book you want." And I knew they would be excited by that, but also they can have a book, and they'll sit and read it for like an hour or maybe even longer. And I think that's probably the coolest thing that I could possibly hope for. My son almost has never really played video games and he's like nine. So, I'm just super fortunate about some of that stuff that they love to read.
Other than that, I try to just make sure that they're active a little bit.
So, the one thing that actually, so this goes back to the whole control thing, when COVID hit, I had them trained in jujutsu, just because I think it's such a good skill to learn, self-defense for life and it just builds confidence. It helps develop that discipline of just being a good person. If you're going to train jujutsu, chances are, you're probably a pretty good person, because if you're not, you're going to get choked out a lot at your gym or whatever. So, we made it a thing. We tried to train... No, I'm not going to say every single day, but we kept training. And I just want him to be active. And if they read beyond that, I think that's pretty good start.
Final question: what's one thing you do to Win the Day?
Read, every single day.
Resources / links mentioned:
📙 Fit for Success by Nick Shaw.
📝 Renaissance Periodization on Facebook.
📷 Renaissance Periodization on Instagram.
🧭 Nick Shaw on Instagram.
⚡ Renaissance Periodization website.
📚 The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.
🎖️ Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.
🎙️ Have a podcast of your own and want to learn how to monetize it? Learn more about We Are Members, the world's #1 community for podcasters who want to generate attention, engagement, and sales for their podcast.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
Our guest today changed the world by bringing together fun, family, and friendship, in a product that has become a true household name.
In 1985, Rob Angel was in his mid-twenties and working in Seattle as a waiter, earning $2/hour plus tips. With no business experience, plan, or money, Rob created the phenomenally successful and iconic board game Pictionary®.
Remember, this was pre-internet, so Rob had to harness his intuition, resourcefulness, and work ethic, because he didn’t even know what steps to take, let alone how to take them. After assembling the first 1,000 games by hand in his tiny apartment, Rob met the existing gaming conglomerates head-on and turned Pictionary into a global powerhouse.
Within four years, and with only two employees, Pictionary became the biggest selling board game in the world.
For the next 15 years, Rob shepherded Pictionary to worldwide sales of more than 38 million games in over 60 countries and 45 languages. It had also appeared in blockbuster films like When Harry Met Sally and TV shows like Friends, not to mention the countless licensing deals with brands such as The Simpsons and Austin Powers.
In 2001, Rob said goodbye to his baby, selling the phenomenally successful Pictionary to toy giant Mattel.
Since then, in addition to spending time with his family, Rob has kept busy as an investor, philanthropist, and mentor to aspiring entrepreneurs.
Recently, Rob released Game Changer, which is a Wall Street Journal bestselling book that reveals the dizzying highs and crushing lows of his Pictionary adventure. And if you want a roadmap to success on your own terms, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Rob Angel does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give his 18-year-old self, the one thing on his bucket list, and a whole lot more. 🚀
In this interview, we’ll go through:
Let’s WIN THE DAY with Rob Angel.
Rob, great to see you my friend. For the one person out there who doesn't know what Pictionary is, can you give a quick overview of the game and take us into the aha moment when you first created it?
Thanks for having me. Pictionary is a super simple game. It's drawing pictures to your teammates and having them guess the word. That's it. If you do enough words, guess enough words, you win the game. So it's super easy concept to understand, which I think is one of the main benefits and reason it was successful. And it started just as a hobby, just as an idea.
I graduated from college, Western Washington University in Bellingham, and I moved in with three buddies. I was a typical 22 year old, with no real prospects. I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up, and certainly didn't have a plan. But I always knew I was going to be an entrepreneur or do my own thing. And, as a result, I was going to be open, present, and aware. Basically, that just means when the opportunity came to me, I'd be ready for it.
One night my roommate says, "Hey, you want to play this new game I learned in college? It's like Charades on paper." .
Now I didn't know my life was about to change. It was like, okay, let's play. It was a typical night. And we got a dictionary and just started sketching words out of the dictionary. And then we did it the next night, and the next night, and the next night. It was like, "Holy crap." And this is 1982, so there were no distractions. There was no YouTube or video games. And I just thought, "This would make a great board game. I've got to do something with this."
This would make a great board game. I've got to do something with this.
It wasn't an aha moment, but it was an "I've got to share this with the world" moment. And that was just my original intention. It wasn't, "I'm going to make a business and make a million dollars." It wasn't, "I'm going to be rich." It was, how do I share this fun with the world? And that's what kind of got me started thinking about it.
You've had so many amazing memories from playing board games with friends, family, and even with complete strangers, which you detail in your incredible book, Game Changer. What is the inherent power of a board game?
Escape. It's like going to a movie, playing a game, or watching TV. It's escapism. So, for those moments you're playing the game and you're playing Pictionary, really nothing else exists. You're in the moment, you're in the present. When you're watching a movie, it's the same thing. And I think that's one of the super powers of games is that, and I've discovered with Pictionary in the long run is that people just were in that second and were able to communicate and have fun in collaboration.
And I kind of look at like a rock concert, like you're in that moment. You may not remember the words, but you remember the emotion.
What I love about your journey is that you were always so open to whatever the universe was going to throw at you.
So you had this thing that you were passionate about, but people get passionate about a whole bunch of different things. How do you take something from passion to business? And when do you know that it's a good fit?
Generally, you don't. I think following your passion doesn't always work. I think it's misnomer, follow your passion, and whoever they are that tell you to follow your passion, they don't tell you how to find that passion. They just assume you'll stumble into it. But I think you have to ask yourself three questions:
1) Are you in love with this idea? So I loved Pictionary. I wasn't thinking in the future, "Is it going to be a great business? Am I going to make money?" It was like, "I love this idea!" So do you love the idea?
2) Two, do a little research. Nowadays you can see if somebody else has done it. It doesn't mean you can't, but I play-tested the game, and people liked it, so I knew I wasn't the only potential customer for it.
3) Finally, are you willing to do the work? People sometimes forget that there's actual jobs to do and partners to find. So you have to be willing to do the work and make the sacrifices. And if you're willing to do those things and verbalize them, you have something at least to get started.
Yeah, a big part of it is motivating yourself to do the grunt work and doing those reps that others don't want to do.
They don't tell you that in entrepreneurial school. And it's kind of boring sometimes on your own. I didn't have a lot of people saying, "Rob, you can't do it" so there wasn't this motivation for people to show them wrong, but it was like I had to do it. I had to be there by myself many, many days. And that was enough motivation to see it through. But you got to motivate yourself somehow.
Within four years, Pictionary, your creation, had become the biggest selling board game in the world, which probably feels a little bit surreal for you to even hear today! Once you recognized that this fun game of yours had significant commercial appeal, how did you know what to do next?
I had no idea! But I think when I came up with it and I saw the idea, the opportunity, I think I did what a lot of people do. I procrastinated, I did nothing, because I wasn't ready and had all this self-doubt of how I could even get started. Because it was such a freaking mystery on what to do. I was a waiter — I knew nothing about business plans, marketing plans, or anything like that.
So I just bummed around for three years, basically. But I couldn't stop thinking about the idea. It never left my consciousness, and I kind of liken it to when you're in the shower and you have this amazing ideas when you're washing your hair, but by the time you're out of the shower, drying your hair, you forgot. But that wasn't me. I couldn't get rid of it. My brain was just overtaken. So I was waiting for the opportunity or the lightning bolt.
I was a waiter — I knew nothing about business plans, marketing plans, or anything like that.
And I was looking at Trivial Pursuit and I knew that the words, by the way, were the things that people would buy. You have to sell something. So I was selling convenience in a package, but the words, that was the linchpin. And so I see Trivial Pursuit and I look at the card and then I turn it over for the answer and I go, "Holy shit." I put the words on cards. It was literally that the problem I'm solving was how to put words into the game. I literally said F it, then I went in the backyard, opened up a dictionary, and started the word list.
And I wrote down the first word: "Aardvark." That was it. I got started. And that was the beginning of Pictionary.
There's a quote I want to mention to you from your book, where you said: "Working with limited resources fostered our creativity and innovation."
And that stood out to me because I heard Steve Wozniak, the Apple co-founder, say something similar about what made Apple so successful early on when they were trying to compete with all the big dogs.
I think it's really important for people to understand that that scarcity of resources can foster imagination and innovation and actually be a really good thing. Can you share more about that and what that looked like in a practical sense in your journey?
When you have too much information, you're not creative, so I looked at the not knowing and the unknown as a positive. I love not knowing what was going to happen next! I love not knowing how to market. So I had to figure it out as I went along. Just manufacturing the board game. There's no manufacturers that we knew of that could manufacture the game. So limited resources. We couldn't find somebody or more importantly, we couldn't pay anybody.
So we had to manufacturer the first 1,000 games by hand, nine different companies, in my apartment by hand. When it came to marketing, our marketing budget was zero. Zero. We had no money, so we had to be creative. At some point, you have to trust your instinct. You just got to go for it. And that's what we did day after day. It was a blast.
You had to use some guerrilla marketing strategies to get the word out there when you have a marketing budget of literally zero!
They say, break the rules. Well, I forgot to ask what the rules were! So I just kind of made my own. Every day was an adventure for my partners and I. Literally I was like Prairie dog. Every day, wake up and I go, "Okay, what are we going to do today? What are we going to sell? How are we going to market? I don't know. Let's just try something." I absolutely love those early days when the not knowing. That was the best part.
One big theme I felt from your book Game Changer was that you never left the key to your happiness in someone else's pocket. You hit the pavement, you closed the deals yourself, you ensured quality control, you kept the team tight and committed. How important was doing the reps yourself and the quality control attitude that you maintained for the scale of what Pictionary became?
Without it, we wouldn't have scaled. So, the scaling part is a whole different ball of wax. But in the beginning, having only two partners, the three of us, we had to control everything. The last thing we needed was one of those 1,000 games to go somewhere that we didn't know what was going to happen. Maybe it would go in somebody's warehouse and never see the light of day. We needed those games out in public — it was sampling.
All we were doing was test marketing those games to see how the public would react. My philosophy was, if I couldn't drive the games and deliver them myself, we didn't take the order. That way, we could demonstrate, promote, and market the books. We had to make noise in a small geographic area, because the technology that exists today didn't exist back then.
Today, influencers can blast things out and see what lands. But I literally had to control, physically control, where those went and that's why we made noise. That's why people paid attention. It was easier to go to the Seattle newspaper (which is the city where we launched) and say, "Hey, I'm a local guy. Do you want to do an article?" It wasn't going to happen in Chicago. So keeping it local and keeping tight control over everything was key to our success.
In the digital age, people want a magic bullet to success. They think all of these sales are going to happen automatically, and in doing so they really underestimate that the key is to get out there and do that legwork yourself to put the product in the hands of as many people as possible.
And I think that's one of the big problems, if you will, with Kickstarter, is exactly that reason. People have an idea. And I love the fact that people get their products made. But people don't realize there's work to be done in just making and getting your friends to buy in. And now you've got 1,000 games and you need to market those.
And the other thing that people kind of forget is that it needs to be a good product. This is that passion thing. I play-tested Pictionary because I thought it was fun, but what if it was just because of the beer we were drinking? We drank a lot of beer back there, let's be honest! And so maybe it was just the beer.
You've got to remember there's a business there. And that's that sacrifice part. I hear stories all the time that the manufacturing on Kickstarter took too long or cost too much, then the people couldn't even afford to ship the game. So you got to make sure you're paying attention.
I always ask people, what's your motivation? What's your intention?
For me, my intention of Pictionary was to share it with the world. That was my intention. What is your intention? If it's to make money at a game without knowing your product, I wouldn't do it because there's not a lot of money. If it's to create a job for yourself, which is also fine, maybe, but you got to make sure you market. And if it's just to say you did it, just check to see if it's worth your time. Is your energy really served by doing that?
And it's a hard call, man. This is not like, "Well, Rob, I really like this product." Well, then do it. Really understand why you're doing it and say it out loud. I think this is the one thing that people neglect. Say "This is a good idea!" out loud and see how you feel. See how it resonates. And if it does, go for it.
There's a mantra you repeated along your journey: "We take care of Pictionary and Pictionary will take care of us." Can you take us into what that means specifically and how it aided your decision-making along the way?
It goes back to, again, the same thing is the intention. As long as we are true to that game, our baby, we treated it like a baby. It wasn't a game. The first time I looked at it, it was like, "Oh, you're so sweet." I'm holding it in my arms. And I'm like, seriously, that first game that came off the production line. I'm going to do my best not to get choked up now after 35 years, it was a huge deal, with a huge emotional attachment.
But our mission was to keep the game the way it was because we knew what people enjoyed. We thought of what was best for our consumer. Not what's best for us, not the money. We thought about what was best for our consumer. That game was perfect the way it was. So when people wanted to change the packaging, which becomes a big issue later we can talk about, we said no.
We thought of what was best for our consumer. Not what's best for us, not the money.
But when somebody wanted to change out some of the graphics, somebody wanted to maybe do something else, we've always said no. Or it was a marketing idea that didn't meet the family values of Pictionary. So we never went for the money, so it kept Pictionary or your product or whatever you're trying to sell to what really its core was. And if it's going to be successful, then it will be successful, but don't fuck with it. And that's what we did.
We turned down so many deals and so much money over the years because it didn't serve the product, which in turn served us. It was selfish. Let's be honest — we wanted to make it successful so we'd be successful.
Yeah, you had that long-term success that would be impossible to understand for someone who doesn't know the DNA of the brand or product. You certainly wouldn't want someone to make decisions on the future of the product without properly understanding it.
Yeah, what you just said, long-term versus short-term, that was huge. If we were in it for the money short-term, I wouldn't be sitting here. Pictionary would have died out years ago, but I saw the golden goose. I saw what it could do and I wasn't going to give that up.
People have exits now and they're serial entrepreneurs. I love that by the way, but that's not me. Man, I was selling millions. I've got a golden goose. Why would I give that up?
With Pictionary, I was making money and I was having fun, so for literally 20 years of my life, I nurtured that thing.
Sharon Lechter [5x NY Times bestselling author and co-founder of Rich Dad Poor Dad brand / series] mentioned to me once that her favorite money was royalty / licensing money because it arrives while you sleep. There was a point in your life where some of the biggest companies in the world were knocking down your door and throwing money at you to basically license their products. After earning licensing money for many years, you ended up selling Pictionary for a substantial sum.
So what I wanted to ask you was what's better money — licensing money or selling the company money!?
I've never been asked that question! The answer is, we made a lot more money on the licensing than we did selling. And it was a big number when we sold, it's in the public record. So the money was great and it's mailbox money. However, we worked our asses off for those extra 17 years.
We were at a point where we had done all these things in Seattle, became very successful, sold 8,600 games, which doesn't seem like a lot, but it was huge for an independent company and we couldn't scale. So we had to figure out how to get on a national audience, and we just didn't have the financing. Typical start up. So licensing became our option, which is where basically somebody would do the manufacturing and distribution for us and give us a royalty. It sounded perfect to us!
So we had a meeting with a high profile brand and the deal didn't work out. But I learned a huge lesson. One of the most valuable lessons I ever learned was: it's not what you make, it's what you keep. And that was the beauty of licensing. When I started, when we got into it, I was going to have employees. I was going to have offices, be Rob Angel, Mr. Pictionary. No. We decided to license so we could keep more money. We had two employees, Mile and Brat.
Then the biggest game company in the world comes to us with a deal and we're talking it all through. And they promised us all these things, and packaging as we talked about earlier and whatnot. The deal comes, contract comes. I'm 26 years old. I'm making $500 a month and have a 10 year old beat-up car. Contract comes. First thing in the contract was a royalty rate.
One of the most valuable lessons I ever learned was: it's not what you make, it's what you keep.
Now again, money, that was the biggest royalty rate they'd ever given an independent game company ever. Ever. It was about $5 million to me over time. And I'm like, as I go to Costco, I was thinking of buying things I never even knew I needed, as you're going through the isles. I'm buying cars. I've got a second home. I'm in the Bahamas. I'm on a beach. This is awesome. This is going to work out great.
Then the marketing spend was there, but the last thing they didn't put in because we couldn't find it was that they wouldn't touch the surface packaging without our approval. Now on the surface, it's more than just packaging. They weren't men of their word. They told us they would put it in the contract because it was very important to us. So here I am, pen in hand and I'm thinking, "Sign the contract. You're ready."
But integrity is more important to me than the money. It really is. So I knew that if I couldn't trust them, I couldn't do business with them. So we said, "No" and we didn't have a Plan B. I was willing to go back to waiting tables rather than give up my principles. It sounds romantic, but I was dead serious. It was that important to do business with people we trust.
However, because of that everybody now knew we were in play. And a joint venture formed with all the guys who manufactured Trivial Pursuit and they gave us more money as well as all the guarantees we wanted, and we never looked back. It was a much better deal for us and they had integrity. The Universe was speaking and doing its magic.
With your business partners specifically, what did you do to maintain the integrity of that relationship to keep it together over the long term?
Well, I knew they had integrity, but it was never put to the test. In the beginning, we had some manufacturing problems and we were supposed to sort the first 500, assuming 1,000 games had 500 cards each, that's half a million game cards. Long story short, the printer couldn't sort them for us, and we'd already sent out the invitations for the launch. We're under the gun, we've got eight days. And so I threw a tantrum.
Okay. I admit this. It's the only time where I took it personally. I learned in business, don't take things personally. It wasn't like the printer was sitting in his office going, "How can I screw with Rob today? How can I make his day miserable?" No. It just happened. The facts don't change. But this terrible thing happens, so my partners and I did it by hand, and it was a terrible job, but it bonded us.
We got to communicate, we knew we could count on each other, and that set us up for those challenges. If things never go bad, you probably goofed up somewhere because something's going to go wrong. And because it did, it cemented our relationship, our friendship, and our business. So it turned into a very big positive.
Yeah, it's like how you respond to adversity when it inevitably strikes is what separates the real achievers.
And it's going to strike, so it's how you respond to it. I hate to be cliché. Every book you read and every social media post says, "It's how you respond." Well, it's true!
On the road to success, don't take things personal. Instead, think "How do we fix this?"
The mental health aspect of entrepreneurship is something that you and I are both passionate about spreading awareness of. You experienced self-doubt, negative self-talk, imposter syndrome, depression, all of those things and more along the journey. Is there a particularly dark day that stands out on the entrepreneurial journey for you? And if so, what did you do to get back on track mentally?
Yes. I'm glad you brought it up because it's a little secret they don't tell you in entrepreneurial school. They say you've got to push hard and make sure you're working 24/7, and you've got to push, push, push. Well, that's what I wound up doing. And about 5-6 years in, I changed my mission from giving Pictionary to the world and people having fun, to how do I make more money and push this game.
It wasn't burnout. It was complete and total anxiety. I wasn't comfortable with myself. My authentic self had left and I was so off balanced. I was so out of alignment. And back then, we're talking early '90s before. Now we all know I was moody. But I didn't know how to deal with it. So for a couple of years, I was getting in fights with my partners over nothing.
And I wouldn't show up for work periodically and it just became untenable. So I took a leave of absence. That's all I could do. I had to remove myself and recalibrate and took about six months. And I came back to the business and the partners accepted me and took up the slack. But you don't have to do that. You can pre-warn.
Make sure you take an hour for yourself every day.
Make sure you take an hour for yourself every day. Whether it's meditation, watching television, working out, or whatever it might be, but don't think about your business, because guess what? If you're not there for 20 minutes, it's going to be there when you get back. It's not like it'll fail if you take time for yourself.
I do believe in meditation. But if that just sounds so woo-hoo and off the wall, take a walk, anything, but you've got to take care of yourself mentally, spiritually, and physically to be more productive and make more money and be more successful. You have to.
People almost drive themselves crazy trying to figure out what their passion is. Even I get asked that question constantly, almost every week, about "How do I find my passion?" Yet, no one talks about how do you find passion and inner peace at the same time.
When people are starting out, what is the role of passion and how can they harness inner peace so they can have that at the same time? Or is there just no real balance in the short-term if you're doing something like launching a product that could potentially change the world?
That's a long question to answer. I think you'll know. It's following your intuition. If you're off balance, you'll know, try to figure out how to get to center. If an idea that you have for a business, if it's not resonating, don't push it through, just pay attention to your gut, pay attention to what your brain and your heart. More importantly, I take that back, pay attention what your heart is saying, because your brain is going to override.
Human nature, physicality says, "Let me analyze this. Let me figure this out." But if this isn't working and it's not, "Am I in love" and all these things, you have to pay attention to your emotions and your feelings. And it's never going to end by the way, this whole conversation I've been doing it my whole life. With the spiritual journey, you're never done.
With the spiritual journey, you're never done.
You just can make accommodations as you go along, and do whatever works for you. That makes it all worthwhile. One of the things I say is nibble at the edges. For Pictionary, I waited for three years. Unless you try a lot of things, you're not going to know.
So nibble at the edges; you don't have to go all in right away. I play-tested a few times. I still really wasn't sure if I wanted to go all in with Pictionary, but the more I started doing it, the more confident I became. But I was doing other things as well. So nibble at the edges of a lot of different projects and ideas. When one comes to the forefront, then you go all in.
How did you reach the decision to sell Pictionary?
It was time. After 20 years with the product, our international license was becoming available and I'd had a family by then and I was just ready for a new adventure. I was ready to start something new and we'd made a lot of money, but we'd had a lot of fun doing it. It was just time.
How do you feel about digital games? Is that the type of thing that you would have gone down if you were launching Pictionary in 2021?
My guess is because now the culture is video games, I probably would have looked at that. I still am too, by the way, I'm not done creating. I love creating. So I'm not done, but it's a medium of the day. And the board game is what people played in 1985. And that's why it was the top of mind. That's why I went that direction.
There's an Albert Einstein quote I heard recently, I'd love to get your perspective on it: "A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness." How do you feel about that quote in terms of the whole mental health journey?
Yeah. It resonates. Completely. It's the being in lack, the restless of "I need more, I need to compete, I need to do what they're doing." Man, that's just human nature. But the awareness of it, of your triggers, of the problem, of the situation, that's the start. If you just keep going without stopping and reflecting, that's where the trouble starts. At least it did for me.
I just kept going and going and pushing and pushing. The restlessness comes from lack. The restless comes from outside influences and outside sources. For the last seven or eight years, I've gone on a spiritual journey. I hate the term, by the way. I hate the term "spiritual journey." It just conjures up all this, "I'm going to go find myself." No, but for me, it's a journey to self. I needed to be more heart-centered. And so this quote totally resonates because when I am heart-centered and it's a constant battle, if you will, it's a constant pursuit.
If you just keep going without stopping and reflecting, that's where the trouble starts.
I'm never quite there and that's okay. I like the journey. I like the trying. But once you're more happy, confident, secure in even small amounts, you'll be less restless, you'll be more confident, and you'll be more successful. That's the nature of what we're trying to get here to. And whatever success looks like, it doesn't have to be money. It doesn't have to be a game. The success could be joy. It could be a non-profit, giving back. It doesn't matter. It's not my job to tell you, but just articulate success, go inward, and you'll get there faster.
What I love so much about the things you've shared today is that it's looking after yourself first should be the number one priority. It's almost like before you focus on anything else, you need to make sure you're right internally, and have that intent for everything that you want to do, supported by daily practices to look after yourself. With that, you'll be in a lot more alignment for everything else you do.
And I got to say one other thing about that. When you don't do your daily practices, give yourself permission to say it's okay. Because I beat myself up all the time over what I'm not doing. "Oh crap. I missed my meditation today. Oh crap. I missed it for two days. Now, I'm going out." I'm all angst-driven. No, not anymore. It's like, "Okay. I missed it. I'll do it tomorrow."
Give yourself permission to not be perfect. Give yourself permission to say it's okay. And you'll get it tomorrow.
Stop beating yourself up, and that's a lesson I tell myself every day. That's not conjecture, that's not out of a book. That's something I constantly, constantly preach to myself.
Yeah. It's easy for us to be compassionate to other people but it's often very hard for us to have self-compassion.
Yeah. Be compassionate.
This spiritual journey that you've been on for the last seven or eight years, what are some highlights or lessons? I know you've been to Burning Man. Is there any stuff that you want to reveal for the first time today or what things come to mind!?
Wow. Yeah, no. I'm enjoying the journey. I've done some Ayahuasca. That was an interesting experience.
Where did you do it?
I did it in Peru. That was amazing. That was one of those skeptical things, because I'd heard about it but wasn't sure. Finally, I was called, if you will — again with that woo-hoo stuff. I got to tell you, in the eight years before II started this spiritual journey, I had a friend who kept telling me "You've got to surrender, be present, and hold space." And I was like, "Come on. This is ridiculous!" Well, finally I bought it. So, I'm doing that. So yeah, I'm trying to go on all the rides. I'm trying all new things just to see what works and what doesn't. Ayahuasca worked pretty well for me.
For entrepreneurs in particular, it's certainly becoming more and more popular. A lot of people I know are even doing Ayahuasca here in the US without having to go to South America or Central America. For those who don't know anything about it, what does it involve and how was your experience specifically?
Well, first thing I'll say, it's NOT for everybody. Don't try this at home. I am not the expert. I'm looking right into camera when I say this! This is not my job and I'm not promoting anything. That enough disclaimers!?
Oh my goodness.
No, it was a way for me to find out more of my triggers, to find out what made me tick, even though I'm doing all this spiritual work — here we go again with that term — which includes coaches and therapists, all these. So it just was a way to get more clear, if you will. And it's not for everybody, so if you're not called, it's a no-no. I'm going to keep qualifying that. But it was just another tool that I found really resourceful for me.
What about people who are in a negative mindset or brain fog — are there any tools you can share with people to help them shift their energy?
Yeah, so I'm a big fan of touchstones. And for me, that's something physical to remind me of something I'm doing or want to remember. What I do is if I've had a great conversation or I've had a great idea or something magical has happened, I'll pick up a stone or something small and to remember to hold it, and this is what you should do, or this is what I recommend.
If there's something you want to remember, and it could be as simple as something I've said today that's resonated or you've had an idea and you want to remember it, or there's some emotions, usually an emotion, I pick something up, I put it in my hand. So if you're sitting at home right now, do this. Pick something up. I put it in my hand, I hold it. And this is kind of a Joe Dispenza thing that I've kind of alliterated on.
And I hold my hand and I close my eyes. I think about what's in my hand, and I think what it represents, and then I attach this emotion to it. I just don't remember what it is. I remember how I feel. It's how you feel. That's the important thing. And so when I let go, it's right there in the palm of my hand and I put it on my desk and I've got these stones all over my house. I've got hundreds of these things.
I just don't remember what it is. I remember how I feel.
So next time, whatever you just held in your hand and you look at it, remember the emotion you felt with it. And that's the memory, that's the touchstone and do it time and time again if it resonates with you. It's just a remembrance of an emotion. And for me personally, I've found it super, super powerful because I forget visions. I forget things that I see. I forget the specific conversation. But when I've had this amazing heartfelt conversation with somebody, I know how it felt. I know the emotion, I remember the words and these touchstones remind me. And it's something I practice, I preach. I really think if you give it a try, it will work for you too.
So they bring you back into that feeling when you were there experiencing it?
That's exactly what it is. It's all about the feeling. So it's like Pictionary, going back to that. You don't remember the words of Pictionary. You may remember one or two of the sketches, but you remember how you felt, you remember the emotion, you remember who you were playing with. You remember the joy. That's what these touchstones are to me.
I'll just quickly say, it started when my father passed and his favorite color was yellow and I'm going through, and I'm sad, and I'm walking past a junk shop. And there were all these yellow stones, I'm crying. Dad was speaking to me, hello dad. He was there and I bought a bunch of these things and I gave one to everybody at the funeral. Everyone at the funeral. And to this day, I carry them with me in my travel bag. He's always with me. So they're powerful.
I love that. Thank you for sharing. It's really interesting. And I know there's a lot of people struggling right now, particularly with what's happened with COVID the last year and a half. Using something like touchstones seems to be a great way to help shift that energy and focus on the bigger picture when you don't feel like it.
In Game Changer, you mentioned that your intent with Pictionary was to create a game that was so entertaining, so fun, and so engaging. What experiences in your life today give you those same feelings?
Exploring. Yeah. I'm totally in exploration mode again. Well, the book for a while, writing a book was an interesting process. Oh my gosh. Just remembering everything was crazy to go through it and the stories and calling the people who were involved. They remembered things differently than me. That was interesting as well, but it's my book! So whatever's in there is how I remember it.
So right now, I'm exploring and I'm looking at turning the book into a docu-series, that's kind of keeping my attention these days and just trying new things. I still love travel, meeting new people, new experiences that way. That's really one of my joy is that new experience, new people, new events.
How do you balance the hunger for future achievements with all the amazing things you've done with retaining happiness in the present?
It's hard. It's hard. I'd love to say I'm perfect. And, "Oh my gosh, look at me, my life's perfect." No. I was going to say it's a daily struggle, but it's not a daily struggle. Struggle is not the right word. It's a daily pursuit. It's my daily pursuit. My girlfriend calls it the daily pursuit of not stressing. So the more stressed I am, the less creative I am. So that's my daily pursuit.
If things stress me, I try desperately to not be there, to not go in that direction. And it's a hard balance, but I really like the trying now. This journey that I'm on, the tools I've learned have really given me almost a hope for the future. My future is not so bad. My present is not so bad, but it's a daily pursuit.
It's hard, isn't it? You can feel parts of your brain want you to push, push, push, but if you succumbed to that all the time you'd be massively out of sync with your daily practices. Before you know it, something has happened, and you're saying to yourself, "Wow, how did I get here again?" So being true to those daily practices seems to be incredibly important, I've found.
100%. And for the record, I don't have a lot of daily practices. I know you're supposed to meditate every day and you're supposed to wake up at the same time. I do my best. And when I do it, I feel great. When I don't, it's okay.
A big part of what you're doing now is helping aspiring entrepreneurs find their aardvark and get their business off the ground. Is there a specific blueprint that you'd like to take them through or are there certain questions that you like to ask them to make sure that they're clear on their idea or to help figure out if their idea actually has legs? What do you mainly focus on when you're working with aspiring entrepreneurs?
It goes back to what I said earlier: what is your intention? And it doesn't have to be just a game or anything else. Why do you want to do this? Because to be honest, just because you want to be an entrepreneur doesn't mean you should be an entrepreneur. Some people are just always meant to be working for somebody else and they work well in that environment. And that's okay. I'm not saying one's better than the other. It doesn't matter.
I talked to a CEO of a large corporation recently. I don't want to mention his name, but it was someone whose name you would recognize. And I said, "Are you an entrepreneur or worker bee?" And he goes, without hesitation, "I'm a worker bee. I don't have a creative bone in my body, but I can make things happen. I can hire the right talent."
Just because you want to be an entrepreneur doesn't mean you should be an entrepreneur.
So it's not an either or.
And I ask them, why do you want to be an entrepreneur? Check in with yourself, articulate that. And as I said earlier, are you willing to do the work? And most of the time, the answer is yes. And great. And then we just start diving into it, fleshing out the idea, coming up with different ways to look at their idea and helping them that way.
Yeah, for those who want to be entrepreneurs for the first time, not properly recognizing the complexity that can bring into your life, especially if you're not in a position financially, to be able to have that. It's like imagine having something occupying your mind seven days a week that's taking you away from your kids and your friends, all of those different things. It's tough.
You and I had such a great conversation at dinner the other night, particularly about parenting. What do you do specifically on the parenting side to make sure that you maintain a good relationship with your kids and support them in their journeys?
I make sure they're heard and I make sure they feel loved. And what I was doing without knowing is I was making them a part of the journey because I didn't know what I was doing. They don't give you a manual!
It sounds very much like when you started Pictionary!
Exactly. But parenting is a tough job. And so just keep the lines of communication open. This is another one of those do as I say, not as I do. You've got to be the parent, not their friend. A lot of times I was their friend, and it backfired. But I've an amazing relationship with my kids. And it's really my legacy. Pictionary, the book for me, great. But everything is my relationship with my children.
And when they call and we talk all the time, that's what brings me joy. I just had a conversation with let's say one of my children about something that's been bothering them for years. But I wasn't hearing what was bothering them, and I kept answering the same way. So finally, with my own found knowledge, I thought "What am I missing?" So I went at it a different way and it just opened up the flood gates in a really positive way of conversation.
So just don't be afraid to have a conversation at any age with your kids. And it just pays dividends, I'll tell you.
Really powerful stuff. Was there anything specifically that you learned on your business journey with Pictionary that helped shaped the way that you parent? Obviously you had the freedom to spend with them, which I think is great.
I'm thinking that one through. The first thing that came to mind was being adaptable. So for Pictionary, considering we didn't know what we're doing half the time, which was fun, we had to be profoundly flexible in everything we did. Now they call it adapting and pivoting. You just have to be flexible because we didn't know what we're doing.
And if something didn't work, we'd have to immediately change directions. And that's just true in business all the time. That's not a new concept, but we were willing to make the change. And so with my kids, now that I'm being asked the question, thank you, you had to be profoundly flexible because they're changing every fricking day, hormones kick in and then they get a girlfriend or a boyfriend. All these things are going crazy. So I don't know what I'm doing half the time.
You just have to be flexible with how they're growing and hopefully you're growing at the same time.
Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Rob Angel does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give his 18-year-old self, the one thing on his bucket list, and a whole lot more. 🚀
Final question: what's one thing you do to win the day?
I give myself grace to not be perfect. When I start going crazy with my inner dialogue, I give myself grace, I take a breath, I chill, and then I can move forward.
Resources / links mentioned:
📙 Game Changer by Rob Angel:
📝 Rob Angel on Facebook.
📷 Rob Angel on Instagram.
⚡ Rob Angel website.
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“Certain things catch your eye, but pursue only those that capture your heart.”
Native American proverb
Our guest today is an NFL legend, but what you’ll find most impactful about him is how committed he is to making our world a better place, while helping those who need it most.
The best part? He leads by example EVERY step of the way.
Nick Lowery is a Hall of Fame athlete who became the all-time leading points scorer for the Kansas City Chiefs, but his entry into the NFL was anything but smooth. After being released or rejected 11 times by eight NFL teams, Nick was finally given a chance by the Chiefs who, as history proves, made a hell of a return on their investment.
Retiring after 18 seasons in the NFL (where he was selected to the Pro Bowl three times), Nick is widely regarded as the most valuable kicker of all time, achieving records for: most field goals in NFL history; most accurate field-goal kicker in NFL history – despite kicking, on average, from farther away; and all-time leading point scorer for the Chiefs.
Nick is far from the athlete stereotype you might imagine. He attended Harvard University where he graduated with a Masters degree from the Kennedy School of Government. Among his extraordinary list of accomplishments, Nick has:
Among his philanthropic endeavors, Nick is founder of Champions for the Homeless, the Nick Lowery Youth Foundation, and has run leadership programs for Native American youth for 20+ years. In addition, Nick is the national spokesman for Kannaway, which is one of the foremost CBD companies in the world and is undertaking extensive research on how CBD can improve neuroplasticity for dementia, trauma, and athletes with brain damage.
In recognition of his efforts, Nick has been featured in The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and on David Letterman (twice!), and in two feature films including Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy.
Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Nick Lowery does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give his 18-year-old self, the one thing on his bucket list, and more 🚀
We’re going to cover a lot of ground in this episode. Nick will share:
Let’s WIN THE DAY with Nick Lowery.
Great to see you my friend! Thanks for coming on Win the Day show.
Thank you. You know how much I love your accent!
Well to kick things off, no pun intended, I want you to take us right into a moment in your NFL career when everything's on the line, win or lose, it's all on your shoulders. There are tens of thousands of people cheering and screaming at the ground. There's millions of people watching on TV. What's going through your head? And what are you saying internally to give yourself the best opportunity of kicking that game winning goal?
"Oh my god" or "I don't believe this!" I mean, this is not a question of whether there's a voice. There are many voices. There's the voice of fear. There's the voice that this is the single most ridiculously pressured position in sport — maybe with the exception of a goalkeeper, or players in the shootout in soccer — but the kicker has 1.25 seconds and the ball is actually caught after being snapped back 24 feet, eight yards, caught, put down, and the laces are spun (if they have time), and kicked in 1.25 seconds. The ball's not spinning for under two hundredths of a second.
At the same time, you have 11 very large, very talented, highly trained athletes who are paid millions of dollar a year to block your kick. So it's managing all those things.
What it comes down to, which my friend Dr. John Eliot wrote in a book, Overachievement, it's preparation. When you break it down, it's the opposite of what you think nerves are. When you're giving your book report in second grade and Betty Sue's in the front row, and you're nervous and you don't do well, you think it's because of the nerves when it was really because you'd never given a book report before, let alone had something in front of Betty Sue. It's about maturation and polishing of your skills, combined with preparation.
It's about maturation and polishing of your skills, combined with preparation.
When that happens, you can override those voices saying, "Oh my god, I can't believe this is my job." And you trust it, so you have to trust yourself. In the end, it's really a very powerful character-building litmus test for anyone, because you have to in the end, believe in yourself.
You have to believe that you deserve to be that focal point, which is essentially what I call my office: 8 yards x 4 yards. That's my office. If I control that area, which is really only four yards square between me and the holder, in front of 80,000 people, maybe 20-30 million people watching on television, if I can control my thoughts, my emotions, and my focus, I can achieve great things.
That was learned through 11 rejections by eight NFL teams. It was learned by made field goals and it was absolutely improved by making mistakes and missing field goals. As with any skill, it's about learning earning how to manage yourself.
That preparation piece is so important, but our instinct for anything that we suck at or fail at is to say that we're simply not good at that activity, when all it comes back to are those elements you mentioned. It's not just the will to win. It's the will to prepare to win.
Since you've done the work and you're in that intense environment during the game, how jittery are you feeling? Are you actually calm and focusing on just your body and mind doing what it's been prepared to do for so long?
You know, the truth is every single day of our lives and every single game we play has its own unique qualities. The preparation helps it become more consistent, but every day is a little bit different. I'll never forget being "in the flow", one of the great terms that we use today — "in the zone" is another concept — in Joe Montana's first game for us on national TV, a Monday Night game in September 1993, and it's against John Elway on the Broncos, two legends, and in the end, I kicked all our points, we were up 15-0 on a 52 yarder, 45 yarder, 41 yarder, 38 yarder and 25 yarder, something like that.
I'm running back to the sidelines and there is Joe Montana's friend, Huey Lewis the singer, standing next to the net where I'm kicking and as I'm coming back after my fourth field goal, Huey looks at me like, "Man, this is easy for you."
And I love that because that's a performer who has to get on stage and hit his notes. The difference is there's a natural flow because there's a melody, there's a bass line, there's a combination of instruments that sort of bring you into that flow, even if you don't want to, in music. But you have to create your own music as an athlete. So you had to rehearse that music in the cacophony, in the chaos of practice.
You have to create chaos in practice. What I call pressure, but not neurotic pressure. So that when you get to the game, you literally say, "I'm just back at practice. I'm back in James Whittaker's living room having tea." And practicing that so that you can bring it back, so then it comes back to, in essence, being a life actor and in the practice and rehearsal, bringing in all the components and dimensions. Literally, your smell, your sight, your hearing, your touch and using those references to project yourself into those moments when you have to kick the game winning field goal.
You have to create chaos in practice.
And by the way, the game winning field goal might be the 25 yard gimme field goal in the first quarter and you win by three points because you were focused, even though some people might have said, "Of course I'm going to make that." That's what I love is the preparation and if you come to love the preparation, what I noticed today James, when I train, I get the same sort of intensity.
The role of the ego versus the role of the spirit is everything. But in those workouts today, I still get pumped up. I still bring myself into that place of battle, that intensity. So when I try to train others, I have to de-crescendo that because they feel it and it's not their level of commitment yet perhaps. Some of them love it. Some of them are a little bit disconcerted by it, but that's a lifelong skill.
It's about believing that you're here, that God has put you here with unique gifts. [Points to shirt] This stands for GG2G, god given. My friend Todd, who's from Hawaii, is one of the top scouts for the Texas Rangers. When they evaluate a player, they say, "James Whittaker has two G. He's got god given ability to throw the ball, to hit the ball, he's an athlete." But guess what? That's the beginning. Our will takes us to another level of polish and skill.
The next significant piece is to be able to manage your success by divorcing your achievements from your ego and focusing on "What are those things from this stage that are building my soul as well?"
You look at the greatest athletes of all time, they did that internal work. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar evolved deeply into a man of soul. Russell Wilson, whose father was my teammate at Dartmouth College, wonderful human being who founded the African American Sports Hall of Fame; Russell was the NFL Man of the Year this year. Steve Largent, ironically hall of famer also with the Seattle Seahawks, a soulful human being.
That means that I can have a tremendous will, but I also know that I can prevent it from dominating me so much that I think I'm all that. Then I stop being motivated. I stop being consistent. I stop being responsible to others. I stop being empathetic to my teammates.
Yeah, there's so much good stuff there and so many parallels to just every other aspect of life.
One thing I wanted to quickly mention while we're still here on the football side is that football is a great metaphor for life. We all go through failure. The nature of life and the nature of field goals is that you can never get 100%. You can never win 100% every single day, even though you retired as the most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history, so I feel like you've got that better than most!
Do you have a process to move on from failure without letting it affect the rest of your game?
As we learn psychology, we know that everybody is either enabled by their references to trauma or, more commonly, held back by them. I remember missing a 44 yard field goal that just went over the left upright and they called it no good in a windy Arrowhead Stadium. I was just devastated. I remember waking up 10-20 times that night literally dreaming the ball through: "Please go through, please go through."
It's a little bit like a death, you know? If you care about what you do, if you care about the person you've lost, you're going to feel pain. But the beauty of pain is that it can motivate you to dig deeper, to stimulate that will, to lift up your spirit to say, "I can be even better." And use those unique gifts you've been given.
But the beauty of pain is that it can motivate you to dig deeper, to stimulate that will, to lift up your spirit to say, "I can be even better." And use those unique gifts you've been given.
So there's no process initially. I will say there's a great process Tony Robbins once shared with me, which I'd like to share with you because I know you know him well. I had my worst game against the Cleveland Browns and there's an irony to it because you don't make excuses. But I made a 41 yarder to tie the game and it was the worst field conditions ever, but nobody cares, right? But I made it, it was an ugly kick but it went through and then I missed a 45 yarder at the end of regulation.
They were offside, so that meant I got another shot from 40. It didn't go through again. It was weird, they both hooked left and then in overtime, I had a 48 yarder and that was the worst kick in history. The next day, half page ad in the Kansas City Star with a picture of my head in a clown box spring exploding out of my head.
What a lesson from the most accurate kicker in NFL history to become a laughing stock, at least temporarily. Now that season, I came back and kicked a 41 yard field goal with Joe Namath announcing the game against the Miami Dolphins, which probably kept my job. That probably would have ended my career in Kansas City, if I hadn't made that.
So now in the off season, I'm thinking through all these things and I just dedicated myself to get better. Tony Robbins gave me something I'd like to share, which is how you essentially scratch up the old plastic records. Essentially, you visualize the worst thing that's ever traumatized you: perhaps you've been assaulted, given a bad speech, a time when you were badly hurt. It could be a missed field goal. And Tony said, "Visualize that." So I did.
He said, "Now, get the most ridiculous sound in your head." Because music is always our ally in grounded the cellular memory, or reprogramming it. He said, "Play Looney Tunes music." And play that memory, not forwards, but backwards. So suddenly I had to envision the field goal, not going from my kick, but from missing the goal post, all the way back in slow motion with the music playing, to when I kicked it. And do that over and over again, and what that does and what that did was interrupt my memory.
You see the smile come on my face! It's just impossible to think of it quite the same way. Does it still bother me? Yes. But guess what? The next year, I led the NFL in scoring. I was first team All Pro, I had 24 field goals in a row. I set a team record with the best percentage ever and, the next year after that, I had 21 more field goals in a row. The next year after that, I was All Pro.
I just made the decision that I was never going to allow that feeling to happen ever again. After that, I kicked it 86% the rest of my career. So all of us can take the worst parts of our careers and turn them into something that takes us to a new level.
We never stop making mistakes. We're human. And the more we seek to be great, and I like think, continuing with that theme of will, ego, achievement and then spiritual development, what I call the art of being soulfish, it's not like we stop making mistakes. It's that we are still eager and young in spirit to keep learning and keep growing, and making more and more of a contribution.
You and I surround ourselves with great people because it raises our game and our consciousness. It's essentially the art of mentoring ourselves and taking our game to a new level.
I just made the decision that I was never going to allow that feeling to happen ever again.
I look at you that way my friend. You put out such good energy in the midst of all the insanity we've gone through the past year.
You've worked with and continue to work with a lot of kids and young adults who come from difficult backgrounds. What has American Football, or sports more broadly, given those individuals off the field who may have come from some very difficult backgrounds?
Football has given them structure. It's given them attention. People look at them. They follow them. They give them feedback. It's given them the challenge to manage their success.
Football enables them to deal with loss. To have worked your tail off and still lost. To have done everything you thought you could and still miss the field goal, still made a mistake, still lost. To have done your job and be part of that team and live with the loss, even though you did your job. To still be part of that team and own that loss together.
It's something that's missing today. We have these wars fought in Afghanistan and Iraq and no one knows what sacrifices were made by those soldiers. But in World War II, everybody had to pitch in against the common enemy. Everyone was doing something and it was a clear cause. Maybe today's causes are more difficult, but in the end, everybody knew what sacrifice was.
Going back to football, it's about teaching you to be part of a team, to care about the team and also recognize that you represent a community. Football, perhaps unlike some other individual sports, requires you to represent Kansas City. To represent the National Football League, yes, but also unlike some sports and certainly with actors who I... I love actors and I love musicians, but they don't tend to always be connected with a particular city.
So football teaches you there's a responsibility that comes with being part of a team and it's sacrifice, it's conflict resolution skills. Working with somebody on the team or a coach that you don't like, or that doesn't like you.
It's a reminder to control what you do. That office in our lives all of us have that we can take control of, our emotions, what we perceive and just take care of this, because in the end, all we can do is do our best. That's it.
You've done a lot of work with Native American communities. When did you realize for the first time that you were able to make such a big impact in those communities specifically?
First of all, you're really good at this! Everybody watching or listening, tell people about this Win the Day podcast because James is really good. I've done a lot of these and you are really good.
Life is often not a straight road, so here's the interesting thing. I went to Dartmouth College, originally the Eleazar Wheelock School for Native Americans that was founded with him and the Earl of Dartmouth, very British Native American school. Nothing, I had no real significant role or awareness of what to do, or what I could do to help Native Americans.
The Kansas City Chiefs obviously has Native American symbology, nothing. Then my best friend from college, Steve, became Dr. Steve at Johns Hopkins and a world leading expert on prostate cancer and his wife, Allison Barlow, who had been an athlete of the year 10 years after we'd gone there at Dartmouth had begun as the program director for Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health. And at their wedding night, sitting next to them at their wedding table, she said, "Would you start a football camp for Native Americans?"
I remember getting off the bus in Chinle, Arizona on the Navajo Reservation and it was definitely... it was a god moment. It was like there are no trees here. It's all sand. It's all red rock and there are these 90 kids from 10 tribes and I got 10 of my NFL friends to join us. I just knew I had to do this. I felt this resonance with being an orphan. Being an orphan, being ripped out of your family and your community.
You can see, I feel it now. I love the work I do because it's been reaffirmed 10,000 times, but I'm so glad I had that reference. So I just knew I had to do that work and went back to Harvard and after four years, because you know this with tribes, there's so many issues with teenage suicide and really, two to three times worse than any of the worst ghettos in America, teenage pregnancy, alcoholism and drug abuse, et cetera, gangs and yet, there are answers that are there that they know, but why aren't they finding a way to turn this around?
So at Harvard, I studied the idea of how do we rebuild social capital? Which is the deepest values that go way beyond words. How do we rebuild that in a land and in a culture where it has been raped. When they have had their history torn from them.
Even Abraham Lincoln... I watched the movie Lincoln with Daniel Day Lewis just last week. An incredible man, incredible performance, one of the people kept our union together. Yet that man, who was fighting literally every day he could to keep the union together because of this commitment for equality of all human beings, sent battle-hardened union troops to wipe out the Plains Indians so that our railroad and our westward expansion could continue.
So it's never a clear thing. The heroes out there, guess what? They're human too. I'm human, you're human and... but I just love this work James, because in the end, all of us have had some sense of disability in our lives, whether it's cerebral palsy or whether it's spiritual, inability to see and feel.
This work, Native American kids are the same as any kids. Structure, consistency, love, encouragement and preparation, right? They are the same. If they have those tools and those mentors to surround them and encourage them, they know they're loved and beautiful things happen. It is without question, the most unfinished chapter in American history.
Yeah, it gives me chills just listening to you talk about that. There's something I wanted to mention here for people who don't know. The Native American youth living on reservations today suffer the poorest health, socioeconomic, and educational status of any racial or ethnic group in the US — with the highest rates of suicide, obesity, diabetes, high school drop out, substance abuse, and poverty.
So I wanted to just acknowledge you my friend for all the work you do because, as I've mentioned several times already, it's quite extraordinary.
There are people who clearly need a lot of help, and I think it's a reminder for all of us that we all have an opportunity, and I believe an obligation, to be able to help those less fortunate, whether it's awareness or being able to understand the story, or start to make some proactive change to help these people.
Thank you, brother. Well the other point of that is in the work and you see the poverty, and you see the pain and you see the suffering, but you also begin to see people that have found a way out and that appreciate and know. I have people come back 10-20 years later, out of nowhere and they thank me. It's so beautiful.
All the kids who were 16 when we started it in 1996, they're 41 now. They have one, two, three, four, five, six kids. They have their own careers — and maybe, just maybe, one or two of them are more confident, more able to believe in themselves, just like that first question you had when I'm running on the field, the fear. What's going through my head. They've created that new music and conversation going through their head. That they matter, that they can make a difference and that they are making a difference.
So I love this, and I get these tears in my eyes all the time because I just know it's because, back to Think and Grow Rich, I'm doing what I was intended to do. I'm doing what god made me here to do and it's beautiful because my intuition, my skills, my ability to do it, as we'll do on Sunday with our Champions for the Homeless. Our 54th Champions for the Homeless at St. Vincent de Paul on Sunday.
It just gets better and better, and to see somebody who's homeless, another example, who's been told or just ignored for year upon year, day after day and to see it in their eyes that they feel better about themselves. Gosh, that makes Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and we're doing it eight times this year, not our normal five because we want to do more during COVID. It's a beautiful thing, so I'm rewarded all the time and I get to meet great people like you.
What initially drew you to the homeless situation and what can be done to both get people back on their feet and stop the steady rise of homelessness?
Well first of all, there's more than a 22% increase in shelterless homelessness in this country, and so I see it firsthand. In Phoenix, what they've had to do, for instance, just to get specific because the angels are also in the details, not just the devil. When you see at St. Vincent de Paul that there used to be 225 beds and now there are only 75. So they've put tape around a six feet by four feet area and then they've spaced everybody out. So now two-thirds of the people or more, can't be housed. So there are all these tent looking like refugee cities downtown within a couple of blocks of St. Vincent de Paul.
Why do I do it? It all connects. They're all human. We are all human and the interesting thing also is the humanity means you see a real person. So you don't see just a drug addict, because there aren't nearly as many drug addicts as they say there are. They are there, absolutely. Mentally ill, there's a percentage that are mentally ill, but not nearly... you can reach that real person inside the person that's encaged themselves, to protect themselves with some form of mental illness. You see that in there if you look deeply enough.
Now there's some that it takes longer to do that, but for the most part, just the humanity. And once again, it's me learning because we come from such a narcissistic culture and it's getting worse with professional athletes, frankly. That doesn't mean there aren't great professional athletes, I'm just saying the social media climate and all the "You're great, you're great, you're great" it becomes such an enabling culture.
Now you're seeing with one of the most popular players in the NFL, Deshaun Watson being accused by 19 women of sexual abuse of some form. I don't know how much of that, or any of that, is true, but that's the climate that you're in. Where if you're not aware of how you conduct yourselves and you think you're all that and more, the pied piper will come back and he will visit you.
You're doing a lot of work on the CBD side at the moment. More and more research has come out on that CBD side talking about how it improves neuroplasticity. Is CBD really the thing that could help stop brain damage in athletes? And what most excites you about some of this research that's coming out?
Well it just continues. In fact, in your neck of the woods, right there in the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Dr. David Schubert, there's all this research they're doing just by themselves about neuroplasticity and about the ability of neurons to regenerate. We did not know that 25 years ago. Now we're pretty clear that we can do that.
We can also help others work through their traumas, so there are ways to heal that we didn't realize was possible before. The beta amyloids in the brain, which are these clumps of neurons that have collapsed and lost their definition and their robust qualities, and have collapsed into each other, those clumps of cells can be ameliorated with CBD. It's really important to make the distinction: quality, pure CBD with really carefully calibrated volume.
In fact, there's another product now coming out with Kannaway that we open literally tomorrow in Mexico, ironically, and it's called CBG. CBG binds to the neural receptors. Stanford University has done research on where they identified a CB1 and a CB2 receptor in the body. CB1 being neural receptors all the way down the brain stem. CB2 in your gut and CBG binds with those neural receptors more effectively than CBD. So that's a new development as well, but there are more than 30,000 papers out there. We have created echoconnection.org and under 'Education' we list 200+ conditions, from arthritis to dementia to cancer, and on and on.
There are many papers with cancer, there are probably 50 that you can read about. These are the real legitimate white papers, medical white papers. Over the last five years, I've enjoyed being interviewed by journalists who were not negative but healthy in their skepticism for the first 2-3 years. Now, they're just giving more and more. Because you can quote real research, for instance, UCLA Torrance study, 446 traffic accident victims with traumatic brain injuries, of those that had any CBD in their system, they were five times less likely to die of a traumatic brain injury.
So one of my passions is because I've seen with CTE or chronic traumatic encephalopathy with Dr. Bennett Omalu's work, which is featured by Will Smith in the movie Concussion. We're seeing tremendous impact in the ability to turn these neurons to give them five or even 10 times the ability to be neural plastic. That means that they can withstand impact. That's much more important than any helmet. The helmets can reduce things. They've been proved. They can reduce the chances of a concussion by 10, 20, 30, 40, 50%. But what if you can improve it by 500%?
So that's really important and by the way, for those of you that still don't know this, the US government patent 6630507, by Dr. Julius Axelrod, Nobel Prize winner, and it's called cannabinoids as neural protectants and antioxidants. So yes, CBD absolutely should be part of the daily diet. For people under 40, probably 40 to 50 milligrams, 30 to 50 milligrams or more. And the people over 40, I'd recommend 75 and then if you have a serious condition, somewhere 100 and up.
You've worked with three separate US presidents on drug policy. You've also been in the trenches with people who have got the drug abuse challenges that we mentioned earlier through homelessness work. Now you're the national spokesperson for this company Kannaway.
Can you clear up any misconceptions that there might be around general drug abuse? Or drug abuse versus CBD? What misconceptions need to be cleared up?
Well number one, marijuana's really good for fighting pain, chronic pain, absolutely. And THC is very powerful. But please, there is a distinction between hemp and marijuana. They're two different plants. Hemp is 15 to 20 feet tall and literally 100 days, it will grow 15 to 20 feet. Not a lot of leaves and by law, the most THC that can be a hemp based product is 0.3% or less. That is barely 1% of a marijuana cigarette. Barely 1%, that means barely 100, maybe one sixtieth, one seventieth and it may be raised to 1% THC. That means that the government finally has realized that THC below 1% is not a significant factor.
THC has great benefits. I believe there are some things that need to be looked at, in terms of addiction, in terms of motivation, in terms of all the other potential side effects. But THC, when managed can be very good for you and when you compare it to opioids, it's a joke that we even have this discussion anymore. Opioids kill 100,000 people each of the last two years. 500,000 in the last seven to eight years and with COVID, with all due respect to COVID and it's seriousness, here we've got something we can control and do something about and people go to sleep at night raking in dollars for prescribing opioids, which have killed and maimed thousands and thousands of veterans.
I hosted, James, the first... one of the first two town halls on veteran suicide with Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, who was President Trump's director of the PREVENTS task force. Wonderful woman who oversaw this cabinet level task force to reduce suicide among veterans, which most people know now officially it's 22 suicides a day.
Well in September of 2019, we had this event here, the Franciscan Renewal Center, we had so many experts, the Arizona Coalition for Military Families is extraordinary. A lot of the answers are out there, but it's not 22. Back then, it was probably more like 27. Suicide has raised another 20% or more in the country and maybe 30%. This is on I think ABC News about three months ago, among Army veterans. So it's about 30 suicides a day now. 30 suicides a day, not three.
So for those who even think about opioids anymore as the only choice, we are in deep illusion if we're allowing others that are supposedly healers, that have sworn by the Hippocratic Oath, to actually convince us that there aren't other options we should first, second and third try before we go to the opioids.
Lately, a lot of people have lost their jobs, marriages, even loved ones as a result of what's happened in the pandemic. How can people find the inspiration to move forward when they feel like all hope is lost?
Well, I'm very proud to say that my foundation made Phoenix the first city in the country in late April to provide free COVID rapid tests, and we provided free tests for the homeless. I'm very proud of that.
But how to stay positive? Well the ingenuity of the American people. The most important thing is I'm not very positive about network news because none of them ever, ever, ever seem to want to do anything about immunity and do stories about natural and basic and human immunity like D3, elderberry, nitrous oxide, zinc, about 100 milligrams a day of zinc, copper, and moderate exercise, sunlight, fresh air.
So the way to stay positive is that 90% - 95% of all of this is based on a healthy immune system. If you have a healthy immune system, you're not going to need to go to the hospital most of the time. Getting back to Native Americans, diabetes and obesity, I was talking with the head of the fire department and EMTs from Tombstone, Arizona, Wyatt Earp's country and they said 90% of the people that they're getting on ventilators and they're close to death, if they don't die are obese and have diabetes. The Salt River Tribe and Gila River Tribe right here in Arizona, right in the Phoenix area have the two highest rates of diabetes in the world. So those people are vulnerable. Let's be intelligent about who's vulnerable and make sure we provide extra sources for them.
Let's be intelligent about who's vulnerable and make sure we provide extra sources for them.
The elderly, those with lung issues, heart issues, etc., but there are lots of things now. There is information. Unfortunately, you tend to have to look for it because our wonderful friends in the news want to tell us who's dying, how many cases there are, but not so much about immunity.
So when those numbers get thrown at you, we have to, like Think and Grow Rich, take control of our minds, be rational, get more information, and be able to hold two truths: one, it's dangerous and potentially fatal; and two, it's not dangerous and fatal to the great majority of people if we take care of ourselves and don't do stupid things.
Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Nick Lowery does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give his 18-year-old self, the one thing on his bucket list, and more 🚀
Final question: what's one thing you do to win the day?
Get up, get your butt up and just get moving because every day above ground is a day to make ourselves better. How do we define better? Better is growing in heart, mind, and spirit. So keep filling that up and that's what I call being soulfish. Don't let people guilt you into thinking because I was being devoted to my podcast, to my book, to this or that, somehow that was selfish. If it means you abandoned relationships and commitments to your loved ones and your marriage, et cetera, there's a way to find the balance.
But always expanding your capacity to be soulful, to be able to help others, to be more aware of others, to be more aware of yourself first and to have those values align so clearly. You can get away from those guilt trips that people put you on and love the idea of expanding every day.
Nick Lowery, thanks so much for coming on the show!
Listen, if you haven't noticed it, James Whittaker has a pure soul. He has a great quality about him and it's not normal. he has a rare quality about him and that's why I had to come on this show, because he's a good man and he has balance in his life, and we can learn from him. I'm so honored to be your friend.
I appreciate it my friend, likewise.
Resources / links mentioned:
⚡ Nick Lowery website.
📷 Nick Lowery Instagram.
📙 A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle.
🚀 Think & Grow Rich: The Legacy by James Whittaker.
🗝️ Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.
🎙️ Have a podcast of your own and want to learn how to monetize it? Join us at We Are Podcast, the world's #1 live and interactive event for podcasters. For 35% off ANY ticket, use promo code: WINTHEDAY
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
As Helen Keller reminds us, looking at life as a daring adventure can create opportunities we otherwise never would have imagined and even help us change the world — and our guest today is doing just that.
Laura Latimer is an international speaker, a leader in healthcare tech, and a pioneer in the no-code / low-code movement of entrepreneurship. Her heart beats for empowering women and improving the lives of travel healthcare workers.
Laura started her company, Nomadicare, without the usual resources people have. She had barely any experience, no training, and certainly no external funding.
But the one thing she did have was a lot of heart. And if you’ve read any of my books, you’ll know that the right attitude makes all the difference.
While working in the healthcare industry, Laura experienced a problem firsthand and said to herself, “You know what? I’m going to be the one to fix this!”
In that pivotal moment, her mission to revolutionize travel healthcare was born.
Today Laura is part of the 2% of women entrepreneurs who generate over USD $1 million of annual revenue but, more importantly, she makes an enormous impact on the world.
In this interview, we’ll go through:
Let’s WIN THE DAY with Laura Latimer!
To kick things off, can you take us into what your life was like growing up?
Growing up, I had a really amazing family. I was a middle child, so I get teased right now from some of my friends who are like, “Man, did you grow up!?” We were the cliché sweet middle-class family who lived in this beautiful bubble of a life. And I was involved in a ton of stuff and my family was very supportive of me. But I think what is really funny is people will tell parents today, "Hey, don't worry too much, because at the end of it, your kid's going to want therapy for it no matter what you do!"
For me, the part that I didn't get as much of in my childhood that I ended up getting to develop in adulthood was my ability to think for myself. When you’re young, there are often such blessings in adversity that really help you think about the world in a different way. And I grew up in such a beautiful childhood where things were handed to me and I was like, “Oh, this is what life is supposed to be. Cool. Done. Figured it out.” Then later in life, so much else changed. That helped me think about my childhood in a bit of a different way.
As a teenager, what did ‘success’ look like to you? And when did having your own business first come on your radar?
As a teenager, many people in Texas – especially back then – ‘success’ meant one thing to us: getting married and having babies. And I was right in line with that being a success; we were very much along the line of, okay, you go to college, you fall in love, you have your kids, you'll have some kind of career, you might decide to stay at home, or you get a house.
All the way, probably even into undergrad, that was my definition of success. But, looking back, that was my definition of success because that was all of my friends’ definitions of success. And one thing that I know you know, James, and I think anybody who's really into entrepreneurship knows, is you become the people you surround yourself with pretty much inevitably. So we all had the same kind of viewpoints back then, and that is what I defined as success.
You become the people you surround yourself with pretty much inevitably.
Now, looking back, I love the thought that who I am today is completely by luck of me not getting what I thought I wanted. There's been so many things I didn't get that I thought I wanted that I am so grateful for now. By the time I was getting out of school, I wasn't in love, or even in a relationship, so I had to figure out what to do next. And at that point for me, it wasn't entrepreneurship, it was travel.
One thing I realized when I was getting out of occupational therapy school is I could, with my occupational therapy degree, move to Australia and get a job there. To me, that was the wildest thing I could possibly do. And I did it! I booked flight, a one-way ticket to Australia. I sold everything I had. I didn't know anybody there. At the time, that was a crazy decision!
Literally my favorite all-time memory is the day the plane was landing in Australia. I didn't know a single person, everything I owned was on my back, I didn't have a job yet, I had a few thousand dollars, and I had a degree to hopefully find a job. That feeling in my heart that it was just me, solo in this new country, is my favorite feeling I've ever had. From there though, as I’m sure we’ll get in to, my business has a lot to do with traveling. And so travel became a huge part of my life.
In Australia, to my parents’ worst fear, I met a guy. It was nothing romantic; he was a little bit more ambitious and a more seasoned traveler than I was. He told me it was a $45 flight from Australia to Southeast Asia, so I did it. I booked the flight after doing just a few weeks in Australia and meeting other backpackers in Australia, just starting to open my mind to travel as a growth concept. It was travel as a way to learn more things. It was the first thing I ever did in my life that my parents straight up told me not to do. But I did it anyway.
It was the first thing I ever did in my life that my parents straight up told me not to do. But I did it anyway.
I ended up going to Indonesia and all over Southeast Asia. Travelers know Southeast Asia is a well-worn backpackers’ path – you can go to all these different places – but in my dad's head, all he could hear was, “My daughter's going to Vietnam!” All he knew was the Vietnam War. He thought I was going to die, literally. He took out life insurance on me and thought I was going to die. And I did it anyway. And I did most of that trip solo.
That trip was probably the most impactful, impulse decision I ever made because in doing that trip, it was the first time in my life that I had been exposed to other religions, cultures, and poverty levels – as well as other perspectives of what success, happiness, or impact was. Even meeting people in the hostels was huge; meeting people from Sweden, Germany, and New Zealand totally changed the way I saw the world.
But the biggest thing I got out of that trip was that it changed my relationship with truth. From there, I stopped believing in truth as a prescription that there was a right way and a wrong way to do life. In breaking up with that definition, I felt so free to define my own life. It was liberating to see people pick truths based on their location, what felt good, and who they were around. Above all, that you could think for yourself. I was 24 years old, and it was the best thing I’d ever done.
People hear a lot about solo travel, but it sounds so intimidating for those who haven't done it. Was there anything that solo travel specifically did to help you change your perspective either of who you were or the world around you?
Yes, 100%. So solo travel, versus travelling with other people, it gives you 100% control and freedom for everything you do. When you're with someone else, you just go back and forth on, “What should we do today?” and it's also much harder to be approached by others.
I have a distinct memory in college of me and a group of friends saying, "Oh my God, I would never go to the movies by myself!" And me being like, “Oh, I know. Me either!” Now, I can't even imagine me thinking that, but it's so amazing. Being able to trust yourself and realize that you can make decisions based on what makes you happy that day, too. It gives you courage when you realize inside of you that you can approach people, try new things on your own, listen to stories from strangers, and care so much about them … you just gain confidence very quickly when you’re traveling solo.
As far as the stereotypes of dangerous places, once you get there you usually realize that it isn’t really that dangerous. There's common sense to be had, of course, like the same common sense we have at home, but I got to develop the belief that people are, by and large, so good around the world. And it does give you that confidence of safety of the world, and humanity a little bit more too.
So true. I've been in many places that were documented as being among the most dangerous places on Earth, but when you're there, for the most part, you feel totally fine. With solo travel, it sounds like it gave you more than confidence – like a deep sense of inner peace and harmony that had eluded you previously.
On one end of the spectrum, there are people who spend so much of their life gallivanting around the world and seemingly can't sit still. Yet, on the other side, there are people who grow up and they stay in the same town that they're in. Of course, there's no right or wrong, but did you identify any unifying bond or common traits of all those people who were traveling? Was there an itch that they were trying to scratch, or were they trying to find out their purpose or their place in the world?
That's a good question. I think if there was one word that I feel like was unifying about the travelers I met, it would be curiosity. Travelers are craving and seeking something that is different than what they know. They're intentionally staying in hostels, they’re in their young 20s, and in a room of like eight beds, all bunk beds that are super uncomfortable, with the tiny locker. Nothing is comfortable per se about traveling, especially when you have no money. So you're doing it the rugged way, which is my favorite way, but everyone is seeking to experience something that is not what they knew.
Everyone is seeking to experience something that is not what they knew.
There's this craving for experiences and it's a craving to learn. With that comes open-mindedness. If you are in something that you're comfortable in and you've done over and over, you might start feeling like you're an expert. But when you're in a culture where you know nothing, you might not even know the language, you might not know what currency translates to, you are now back in this childlike state of figuring stuff out constantly. The bond comes from two (or more) people who feel like fish out of water. The unifying thing is a sense that we’re here to learn and dive in to these new experiences, rather than judge what we’re seeing.
Aside from international travel, you've also lived in a bunch of different places in the US. What are the pros and cons that has given you?
Well, it’s similar in that it always keeps me humble. It keeps me uncomfortable-ish. I traveled so much inside the US too because for a long time I was a travel occupational therapist. So that's like a healthcare career choice where you can go around to different cities and states, and help places that need healthcare. That is why I was traveling so much mostly.
Then sometimes it was because I just wanted to. As a traveler, I was constantly still in a new culture, like Berkeley, California, and Manhattan, New York are not similar. They're so different. And then to go straight into the hub of San Francisco and dive into the tech world when I was learning technology for Nomadicare, or when I was in San Diego with the beaches. It just keeps me curious, which is my favorite value, for me personally. Anytime I kept moving around, you can't really get too sure of yourself, which I think can be a really good thing.
Plus it gives you access to so many different relationships too.
Well, let's switch gears and delve into the Nomadicare side. Can you give us a quick overview of your business, Nomadicare, for those who don't know anything about it?
Nomadicare is in healthcare and is a very mission-based business. First, for anyone who's listening / reading, there's travel healthcare where nurses and therapists, radiologists and sonographers, we can travel to places that are underserved or to hospitals that need help. That's the backbone of my industry.
Now, what happened, was one day when I was a travel OT, I excitedly walked into a job on the first day and met the other person who was starting the same day as me. We had the exact same profession in the exact same company, and she was getting paid $400 more a week than I was. That’s almost $2,000 more per month in the same company for the same job. And we just had different recruiters.
It was literally the first time in my whole career that it even crossed my mind that I was supposed to negotiate pay, or that this was a business, or that the people I was talking to maybe were not my friends – maybe they were salespeople pitching me a job, and their role was to make their company more profits.
And I can't stress enough why this is an even bigger deal in this industry. In this industry, it's 80% women who are caregivers and they go to school to learn how to serve, how to have relationships, and heal. But in school we do not learn our worth, how to negotiate, or anything to do with the business side of having a career as a provider of healthcare.
Now, on the other side, there are salespeople who are hired to be salespeople. They literally went to school or had experiences that taught them how to use persuasion and amazing skill sets, but in order to, in this case, underpay a healthcare worker to make their company more profits. And to me, that was extremely unfair. I also didn't like that it was mostly impacting women who were such relationship-based women, but of course, I really didn't like it when it happened to me.
That night, I went out with my best girlfriend and I was frustrated and venting, but I didn't know what to do. Of course, some of the best ideas are made over margaritas, and we were having some margaritas that night! We started talking and we came up with this idea of Nomadicare. We didn't have a pen or paper, so the waitress came over and gave us a pen and napkins. We wrote out an entire business model on these napkins. I wish so much I still had those napkins!
We wrote out an entire business model on these napkins.
And for me, the idea latched on. It stuck. I have this belief that ideas sometimes choose people because there's a million things my heart cares about, but this one chose me, where it didn't let go of my heart or my head. I was like, "I'm going to solve this. This one's mine to do."
So it was born from this unfairness. What it's become has been a really big movement in the industry, a huge community behind Nomadicare that are called the Empowered Travelers, a huge movement in the healthcare staffing agencies that are also moving in that same direction, bringing them together. We've built a ton of technologies. And technology can always increase the quality because it's data. Since that day five years ago, we’ve done a lot to transform the industry, but it started with seeing a problem and choosing to do something about it – even when I knew nothing about business.
What were the biggest things that you have done that have made your business Nomadicare as successful as it is today?
So anyone who is listening to this who does have an idea and is where I was (i.e. no connections or any skills at all in business), then you might realize it's really hard sometimes to know what's that very next step to take. For me, what ended up being so impactful was that I surrounded myself with a community of entrepreneurs right away. And life can be serendipitous, but I think it's serendipitous for everyone, if you open your eyes to it, you always see the opportunities.
For me, what ended up being so impactful was that I surrounded myself with a community of entrepreneurs right away.
At the time, I was living in Boston and there was this really cool thing called CrashPad, and I moved into it just a few months after wanting to do Nomadicare. It was 18 entrepreneurs living together in a three-story house, and we all co-worked together on the second floor. If you lived there, you weren't allowed to have another job. You were supposed to be 100% dedicated to your startup and 100% dedicated to giving and being in service to each other to grow.
I went in having the least amount of skillset out of anybody there, but I did have a camera and I was a professional photographer then too. So I was like, "Look, I'll take pictures of all your products. I'll do every headshot. That is what I can contribute." But then someone else over here could contribute web design, someone else over here knew marketing. And it was like an introduction that I needed to just learn some basic first steps.
The other thing I had was I think the superpower of not knowing anything yet. And what I mean by that is everything I launched that year was objectively terrible. The website was horrible and the pictures I had up were sized all wrong and nothing was mobile-friendly. Everything I did was bad, but I didn't know anything. So I didn't know that anything was bad.
I think that's cool because I put everything out with so much pride and excitement. I think also the community latched on to that mission and that excitement that I was putting out because I was constantly putting stuff out. And in my head, it was the best. Looking back, I'm like, "Oh my God, Laura!" So don't be afraid of not knowing stuff, don't be afraid of it being so imperfect at first because it is for everybody. At first, it's crucial to go through that.
You took action, and over time you were able to refine and make improvements. So many people who have that perfectionist mentality at the start, or who are so captive over their own idea, fail to recognize that your idea means nothing. It’s how well you execute. You were so good at consistently taking that action.
Thank you. I'm more of a perfectionist now than I was back then, because I see things different. The first year is cool when you don't have that because exciting. So don't be afraid of that stage when launching your business.
I love that mastermind community you were in. Literally, living together with a whole bunch of people who are all in on what they loved.
Is there a day that stands out as particularly satisfying on your entrepreneurial journey?
The journey has been so fun. There is a moment that stands out to me, and it speaks a lot to where the biggest joys usually come from – which is usually after a hell lot of hard work leading up to it. The moment I’m referring to was extra satisfying because I was fresh out of a breakup that hit me harder than other breakups for whatever reason. Therefore, all my life plans just stopped, not necessarily with Nomadicare, but with my life. I was like, "Okay, I need to make a decision." It was around year three, where I didn’t have much money. The business didn’t become very profitable until the year after that.
I was back in New England, and my amazing brother let me move into his basement because I didn't really have money for both rent and an office. I really wanted to hire people because I was at a point where we could grow and it was more than I could do on my own. So I got to live with my brother and his wife for free for a year in their basement, which gave me money to pay for this office. Now I couldn’t afford much. It was about $600 a month and walking distance from my brother's house. It was so old and the wallpaper's falling off of it. The landlord was like, "Okay, you can get it and you can renovate it if you want."
In the weeks leading up to that, I was there till 4:00 AM scraping wallpaper, learning DIY paintings. I printed every office decoration myself. I found donations for desks and tried to refurbish them to make them decent. I hired my first few people. So I put everything into the business again in year three. On day one, it was my first day being a boss, so I had little gifts for them!
That day, I remember them coming to work for the first time and walking into the office and me just getting to be in that role. When they left at the end of the day, I just remember sitting down on the floor of that office and I was like, "Oh my God. Oh my God, I'm a boss! What has happened?" And it felt so hard and so exciting.
And I mean, that's what it takes sometimes – living in the basement, scraping the wallpaper, and realizing the dream. It felt amazing.
You're driven by a bigger mission, and you touched on a few of the dark moments already. I like to chat with entrepreneurs about the really dark side of entrepreneurship. People see the glamor, they see the wins, but they never see the struggles and the pains that goes on behind the scenes. Can you take us into a particularly dark day or moment along your entrepreneurial journey?
When I was first coming up, it felt like the whole industry was on board and excited. It got to a point where Nomadicare was developing a name in the industry, and it was the first time I started getting personally attacked online. And it's so crazy how much that can hurt, especially the first time it's happening. The personal attacks were complete lies because my service is free to the travelers.
There were all these false implications of why it's unethical and why you shouldn’t use it. None of what they said was true. I felt helpless and didn’t know how to defend it without looking defensive and them attacking me. That was really hard. And I think that lasted a few months that I literally struggled emotionally with getting attacked because you grow that emotional resilience over time, but when it first happens, it kicks you.
Also, the first time I had to fire someone; I lost many nights of sleep over that. It's very hard firing someone. They say, “Hire slow and fire fast” but it’s so hard in reality, even when it's the right decision to do.
Then the last one – and you know how hard of a decision this one was for me – but I left Nomadicare for six months to go to a job that I thought was this incredible opportunity because it was in San Francisco. It was a tech company that had raised multiple, multiple millions of dollars. And the founders with the best intentions talked me into believing that I really needed this experience to learn and how great it would be for me. But when I got there and I left Nomadicare, which was not that long ago so Nomadicare was doing well, it really was the hardest thing ever to go back to, I think, a corporate job and realize it's because I thought I wasn't ready for the next step, but I was. I had talked myself into thinking I needed this and I didn't. So coming back to Nomadicare was amazing, but that was super hard as well.
Thank you so much for sharing those moments. I often talk to my wife about this, but I have no idea how people with 5 million or 50 million followers can possibly handle online trolls. I really appreciate you sharing that because, at the end of the day, if we don't have our mindset right, we’re in big trouble.
In Episode 45, we had Dr Steve Sudell on the show who was a renowned inventor that had big success on Kickstarter. But he had a big problem with counterfeiters who saw his online success and would manufacture his product quicker than he could even bring it to market. He said the most damaging aspect was not the financial side, but that it damaged his mojo, so it was much harder to motivate yourself.
When that starts to chip away at you and things begin to fall apart, that’s when I believe entrepreneurs can develop a degree of PTSD from what they go through.
Yeah, 100% it is. I don't know how it's so unexpected when it first starts happening, but it feels so personal. Over time, you do develop emotional strength, but the first few months you're like, "What's wrong with me? How could they say this about me?" And then after a while, you're like, "Oh, they don't know and they don't care about you. They don't know anything about you. It's just online." But you don't think that the first day.
And when you’ve got enough good people around you, that can make a big difference too.
On your best day, what's an affirmation that you would write on a flashcard that you would be able to show yourself on your worst day?
Oh, wow. What an interesting one. On my worst days, I think the thoughts that come up are that you can’t do it or it’s not worth it, or the imposter syndrome creeps in where you feel that you’ve only made it out of a fluke.
So I think the affirmation would be like, “Girl, you were made for this! You are a creator, you are worthy, and you are doing so much good. I love you and I got you.”
That grace and compassion from myself helps me a lot too. I have this relationship with myself where sometimes I'm outside myself, like I have talks with future Laura sometimes, or even younger Laura sometimes. So a lot of the times it is like a future me being like, girl, I got your back. It's okay. It's okay. You're having a bad day. And I think that helps me a lot to relieve the pressure, just knowing it's all okay, good days, bad days, but then circling back to the bigger mission. I like that I'm up to something that helps people, and that helps me want to keep going.
In Episode 29, I interviewed Emily Fletcher who's the founder of Ziva Meditation. In one of her meditations, she talks about what if everything that you are going through at the moment (and that you’ve been through) is preparing you for this moment of greatness that you're going to have in the future. If we can constantly keep that in mind, and view adversity through a proactive and productive lens, it frees us up to trust the process.
I like that so much.
What do you do as part of your daily routine to manage self-care and bring the energy you need for all the high-level things you’re doing?
I figured myself out a little bit. One, I am highly motivated by not letting other people down and that's going to be part of my personality. So I love getting up early and I love having a morning movement to move my body, shake the energy off from the night before and get into the right mindset.
I have a really good friend, and every morning, Monday through Friday, we get up really early together and we start our days on Zoom where we do a workout together. We also do gratitude and affirmations together. Once upon a time, I read Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod and it super inspired me.
On a side note, once I had a job where I had to get up at 5:00 AM to get stuff done before work. Well, again, since I don't like letting people down, I would set an alarm clock in my room for 4:58 AM. I'd set a second alarm clock by my roommate's bedroom door upstairs for a few minutes later. So I had to get up and go upstairs to get the alarm clock to not wake her up because I knew I would get up if it was going to wake her up and then I would stay up and do my morning thing! So, getting up early is big for me, plus mindset and exercise in the morning too.
The other thing is eating. One of the things that's hard for me is eating throughout the day when my mind is focused in it. So learning how to meal prep and making myself eat throughout the day has been huge for my energy and my mood throughout the day and getting outside at least once a day. I mean now, I'm really big on that one too. You got to get some sunshine in your life as you can. It helps a lot.
The last year and a half has involved massive transition for the world. There's a lot of companies that have gone under, but also a lot of companies and individuals who have found a great deal of opportunity in what has transpired. What was your mindset when the pandemic first hit? And how has your life changed in the last year and a half?
Massively. So one of the interesting things that not everyone knows, because COVID was a healthcare issue, obviously, that it seems like the healthcare industry would have just grown through that, but in reality, it only grew if you were an ICU nurse or a respiratory therapist for my industry. We lost 80% of our job orders almost overnight and for four months. And job orders is the way, not just my company runs, but every staffing agency, every partner I have too. And so in our industry as a whole, it was really hard, the travelers now had no jobs. The travel nurses, even the ICU nurses now, all of a sudden were super in demand.
And there were many news stories at the beginning that New York was really bad at the beginning of COVID, so they would fly all these travel nurses there to help at these huge bill rates, which means high pay packages. They would arrive, only to realize they didn't need them all, so they just get canceled and had to go back home. And so even though it sounded like it was good for them, most of them lost their jobs. It was really hard for a few months.
Where Nomadicare was very lucky is we were lean, as in we didn't have many overhead costs at that time. We were in a stage of technology development, so we got to take that time, but it was slower to put our heads down to build the stuff that we knew we needed for the coming months. A lot of my friends in the industry lost their jobs. A lot of staffing agencies shut down. It was hard. But now it's come back and now we're probably at like 70%.
But one interesting thing at Nomadicare is we've never done strike work before. And with all of the stuff that went on with the nurses not having appropriate masks and PPE, there's going to be an increase in strikes. It was also a crash course in helping staff strikes. And that was one of the craziest whirlwind things I've ever done in my whole life. So there was some of that kind of energy of “pivot and pivot” and find things you can help with that you would have in any year that your industry is the one that's drastically impacted.
It was a whirlwind, but we came out with amazing technology built that we hadn't had yet. And I learnt a lot about a whole new industry and now job orders are back, so we're moving forward in a good way.
You’re part of the 2% of women entrepreneurs who generate more than $1 million dollars in revenue from your business. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who thinking about launching a business for the first time, or even more specifically for women entrepreneurs who are thinking about giving it a shot?
Well, for sure, if you're thinking about doing it, do it. It's so worth doing, for the people you'll meet. Your circles of people elevates, who you become elevates, and your self-awareness elevates. For someone who is growth minded, I think it’s great, so freaking do it. Don't think twice, get in there and do it, take the next step. Let's be friends – I’m here to help! Entrepreneurship is very worthy if your heart feels called to it.
In addition, in the first few years for me – which was a huge part of my success – is that it wasn’t about the money. I literally was doing it to change an industry. I was out to do something. And then it almost came by surprise when money started coming in and that it could be full-time, then I could hire some people and all of that, but really I have always stayed focused on what I'm up to in the industry. And it really means a lot to me.
So I would say, if you're wanting to get into something, find a problem you're excited to solve, a problem that you are excited to do grunt work for. It’s often not very glamorous, but you want that problem to be solved and you want to be the one to be a part of solving it. Make sure there is a group of people who want you to solve it (i.e. market fit).
Do something because it means something to you because there's many ways in this world that you can ultimately make an income or find financial freedom, but the first thing is to find the right fit for your heart and your life because it's hard work, no matter what you pick. And there's no such thing as get rich schemes. So ignore anybody that says you can make great money in a few months. At least for me, I haven't seen it. It's just hard work.
Focus on the mission, not the money. I think that’s a wonderful message.
What's the biggest highlight of your career if you think about all the cool things that you've done and the change you've been able to make?
The highlights of my career literally come consistently; there's not a moment that I'm like that one thing happened and that was the pinnacle. That's why I know I'm doing the right thing for me because the highlights came last week when I get a thoughtful message of how Nomadicare impacted someone positively, or that without it they couldn’t have done what they really wanted to do. Those things still spark so much inside of me.
I've had moments on stage that I just want to pinch myself, which really fill me up. I've had such cool experiences, but there's no pinnacle for me. I still get goosebumps from thank you notes. I just know I'm up to the right thing because I still love the impact as we get to the big impact. Now the big impact to the industry is that it’s going to be transformed, and we're going to use a lot of technology to help do that. The industry will look very different. On the other side, we still have big things we're up to, but I get little pieces of my pinnacle in my why I think at least once a week, and it's very fulfilling for me.
Final question. What's one thing you do to win the day?
Stay alive. Some days I'm not perfect with my morning routine, and other days I am. Some days, I crushed it and I'm like, "Yo, I rocked it today." And some days, I'm like, "Did I just run in circles?" But the thing is, on the days I remember that being alive is winning the day and how incredible it is to still be alive, that is winning the day for me. So I guess it's probably more like gratitude.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
We've got an entrepreneurial superstar joining us on the show today! Our guest will reveal his secrets to:
That's right, he's done a LOT, despite still only being in his 30s.
Dr. Steve Sudell received his doctorate in Physical Therapy in 2009, and in an accomplished career he’s made it his mission to find non-invasive solutions to get people back to doing what they love.
In 2013, he opened Prehab2Perform, a sports clinic that bridges the gap between physical therapy and performance training. Since then, he’s helped (and continues to help) thousands of athletes and active adults get out of pain and get back in the game.
Just two years later, in 2015, he co-founded StretchLab, a revolutionary, assisted-stretching facility that helps individuals improve their overall flexibility and well-being through stretching. Steve created the full range of stretching protocols that are still in use today, and also trained hundreds of practitioners – known as “flexologists” – in the process.
With Steve’s expertise, StretchLab went from one location to more than 200 in less than four years. In 2019, Steve exited the company in a seven-figure deal.
Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Dr. Steve Sudell does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give his 18-year-old self, the one thing on his bucket list, and a whole lot more 🚀
Despite these wins, Steve wasn’t done. After watching his younger sister battle leukemia and suffer from extreme pain, he knew there were a lot more people who needed help. In 2017, to help the millions of people who suffer from chronic neck pain, he created the Neck Hammock. It arrived as the most affordable, portable, and effective ‘at home’ neck pain solution on the market.
To fund the project, he launched two crowdfunding campaigns simultaneously that raised USD $1.6 million from 20,000+ backers, and landed in the top 1% of all Kickstarter campaigns. Since then, the Neck Hammock has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, The Today Show, Forbes, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop.
After grossing more than USD $20 million in sales, Steve had another seven-figure exit in January 2021.
We cover a lot of ground in this episode! In addition to some extraordinary business lessons, you'll learn how to make your health a priority (no matter how hectic your schedule is), when it's time to exit your passion project, and exactly what it takes to run a successful business in 2021.
And remember, a little inspiration at the right time can completely change the trajectory of someone’s life, so if there’s a friend who needs to check out this interview, share it with them now.
Let’s WIN THE DAY with Dr. Steve Sudell!
Steve, great to see you and good to have you on the show.
Dr. Steve Sudell:
Great to be here, really excited.
To kick things off, why don’t you share a little bit about what your life was growing up and what career opportunities you felt were available to you at a young age?
I grew up in a pretty humble life. I feel fortunate in that I grew up on some land, so I got to spend a lot of time in my yard, which ignited that creativity and imagination. Growing up, I've always had this need to make things easier and better. Maybe that's my laziness kicking in, but there was always something that I wanted to do, to find different ideas and random solutions. While I did that at a very young age, it was only after I graduated college when I realized that I actually could put my ideas to work. The small town I grew up in was Jupiter, Florida, which isn't so small anymore.
I also played a lot of sports, like football, which would tie into some other products I would create later because I developed neck pain. I was very lucky to grow up as an active kid and I saw at a young age how much better that made me feel very early on. I had a ton of problems with allergies and I was given every single pharmaceutical under the sun. I was on antibiotics ever since at very young age. Now, I am pretty much immune to any allergy medication.
I realized that the solution was actually exercise.
I realized that the solution was actually exercise. Whenever I would exercise, that would completely eliminate all of my allergies. And so, at 15 years old, I realized how much movement is medicine, and that's what got me interested in pursuing things like athletic training, physical therapy, and personal training, because I really believe that by taking care of our bodies, we can have a really big impact on our overall quality of life.
You mentioned football. Were there any other sports that laid the foundation the physical training you do today?
Absolutely. So pre-football, I played a lot of soccer and baseball. So I would do baseball in the fall and soccer in the spring, and I got very lucky doing the two sports because both helped each other. I would develop speed from soccer and I would develop a little bit of hand-eye coordination from baseball. Then, when I got old enough, that's when my parents allowed me to play tackle football, but I was always pretty involved in anything. I was very lucky that my grandfather taught me how to play golf at a young age.
All of my hobbies revolved around recreation. I just remember that whenever I was playing sports, my grades were always better. I was always in obviously much better shape, and it just laid the foundation of how important that is.
Does it feel weird to hear people describe you as an ‘inventor’!? Is it a label you’re comfortable with?
It's a lot more comfortable now. At first, it was a little funky, but I actually had two inventions before Neck Hammock, and I'm very grateful that neither of them worked out, but they got me to start thinking very early on the process of creating a patent and what you actually need to do to sell the product. If I had the idea for Neck Hammock first, I don't think it would have been nearly as successful as it is today, and it may not even be around today.
With the earlier projects, I got to work out some of the kinks. Now, the hard part is limiting my ideas to things that can actually scale, because I have ideas left and right on how to make things better and easier, but you have to focus your attention on one thing at a time.
How did you end up in LA after growing up in Florida?
I spent my first 27 years in Florida, and I just felt like it's Groundhog Day. Every weekend was the same, every week was the same, and Florida is great, but there wasn't much variety like there is in California. My parents actually lived in California when I was born, and they would always talk about how great it was.
My wife is from farm country, Pennsylvania, in a town of 500 people. We both had talked about making the trip to the west coast. Three years into our working world, we took advantage of travel therapy jobs, and we found ourselves in LA. We've been here for nine years now.
I was about the same age. At 28 years old, I left my hometown to move to Boston – on the complete other side of the world, where I didn’t know a single person – and then to LA not long after that. It was the decision to move somewhere completely new, exposing me to so much, that I realized how much of a bubble I had been in. All the people from my hometown were amazing, but it was so comfortable, and there was an itch deep down that needed to be scratched.
How much has the environment of LA, including the people, spring-boarded your idea of what's possible for your life?
100%. For as many flaws as LA has, the one thing that I'd never been exposed to was the creative energy that's in LA, where there's so many people trying to do things. There's so much creativity, and there's just so many go-getters that it’s unlike any place I've ever been. Where I come from, everyone has a 9:00 to 5:00 job, which is fine, but in LA people are always thinking about what's the next best thing that you can do, and I was very lucky that I opened my physical therapy clinic in LA in 2013.
I would work very closely with people and have conversations, develop relationships, and the people that I met at my physical therapy clinic are the people who helped shape me as an entrepreneur and created connections and gave me ideas.
Had I just been a physical therapist in Florida, I don't think I would have accomplished anything close to what I've accomplished now, purely from the environment. So getting out of that bubble and into a new environment, was really, really important for me and crucial to the success that I've had.
Your mission is to find non-invasive solutions to get people back to doing what they love, which is great because it gets people away from using things like surgery as a first resort. After all, that magic bullet rarely (if ever) fixes the underlying issues.
Tell us about that mission and why it's so important to you.
People highly underestimate how intelligent the human body is and when you give it the right tools to succeed, it can absolutely thrive. In modern medicine we think that we're smarter than our bodies. But our bodies are such delicate ecosystems that we don't truly understand the impact of pharmaceuticals, or surgery, or all these things that can have really severe consequences. But if you focus on giving your body things like exercise, proper nutrition, sleep, water, and vitamin D, it absolutely can thrive.
In modern medicine we think that we're smarter than our bodies.
My mission is to basically create things to facilitate non-invasive solutions, because something like the Neck Hammock, for example, all it essentially does is create cervical traction, which takes the pressure off of your neck. The risk-versus-reward of using that, the risk is extremely low and the reward is extremely high, versus if you were to go get a cervical disc operation; you can have permanent consequences from that. Most decisions that I make in my life are doing that balance of risk versus reward, so that also ties into my mission of non-invasive.
We're in a TikTok world now where, if something doesn’t cure you in one-tenth of a second, people bounce to something else. Is it becoming more and more of a problem with people wanting things like surgery and tablets to fix this stuff, rather than seeing the right professionals who can get you thinking and moving so the human body can fix itself?
Totally, it's a really big problem. It's a problem that really concerns me because people just want things done yesterday, and dealing with any sort of pain or dysfunction, they immediately want a pill or a procedure. You really just have to give your body a little bit of patience and, again, give it the right tools to succeed.
All these invasive solutions have consequences.
One of the blessings of me having taken antibiotics at such a young age is that it basically destroyed my gut. So now every day I have to take probiotics and whatnot, but it also helped me learn solutions that I can take. For example, oregano oil, it's fantastic for sinus infections. As a kid, I would have sinus infections all the time, and the more antibiotics I took, I'm dealing with those consequences later on in life. Contrast that with a good holistic solution where you don't need pharmaceuticals to help you (A) get rid of the infection, and (B) keep you really healthy in the long run.
That's what people don't understand. All these invasive solutions have consequences. They have side effects, and we may not even completely understand them now. They may come out 5-10 years down the road, but they all have consequences. And really if people were just a little bit more patient and focused on the basics, a lot of those problems can go away.
You and your wife, Lindsay, have worked with so many different people, of all walks of life, from regular folks to celebrities, entertainers, and athletes. Is there a particular transformation from your work that you're most proud of?
Luckily for me, there's so many cool transformations, but I remember in particular there was a gentleman who came to me, his daughter-in-law actually brought him. He was an old Chinese man. He spoke like 10 words in English, but he couldn't get out of the car and he was having a lot of issues like falling on the ground.
I worked with him twice a week for about six months, and at the end of the six months of working with him, we were doing full depth squats with a barbell on his back with 65 pounds on the bar in chains. He was doing sets of 10 reps. And he was so into it; he would always arrive early. The transformation of not being able to get out of a car to squatting full depth at 86 years old, no one can believe that's actually possible until they see it happen.
That was from seeing him twice a week. He wasn't really doing anything else besides coming in. Just that little bit of work, and focusing on what he really needs and those foundational movements – like a squat – it's extremely transformational. There are so many other stories just like it, but that's one that I'll always cherish.
You’re in a financial position now where you don’t need to continue the clinical side. Why do you continue to do it? Is it because of the satisfaction that comes from transformations like the one you just mentioned?
Yeah, I'm super passionate about my job. I know the ‘passion’ word gets thrown out there a lot, but it is something that every day I look forward to doing my job because every day I'm presented with a new challenge. And it's people like Mr. Chang, they just get you to think outside the box and constantly stay creative to grow.
It’s those growth opportunities that often lead to other opportunities. Things that I see in the clinic gives me ideas to create other things. Every successful project that I've worked on has come from me being an active physical therapist and doing things in the clinic. So, the longer I stay in the clinic doing what I love, the more ideas I’ll breed in the future.
Yeah, it's classic. It's like the CEO of a business who thinks that they can create the entire company strategy without talking to the people who are boots on the ground, right?
Exactly. You need to get your hands dirty and keep doing that grind every day to stay involved with what's going on.
You and I have both launched so many companies and products, and we’ve spoken privately many times about our entrepreneurial frustrations. To me, entrepreneurship is a constant tightrope between impact and burnout. I think about that every single day.
You seem to have more balance than most, but people don't see the frustrations, stress, and the very real costs that occur behind the scenes. What goes through your mind when I describe entrepreneurship as a constant tightrope between and impact? Is that something that you agree with?
That's spot on. And right now I'm much less stressed and I have much more balance because I did sell my other businesses. But when I was in the thick of running those different operations, along with my physical therapy clinic, I mean, I was teetering on the line of burnout all the time. And I probably did burnout a few times, and it takes a really long time to recover. That's part of the reason why I haven't jumped right into another project yet, because I still have a bit of a hangover from those other two things – as exciting and rewarding and as fun as they were.
In order to be really successful as an entrepreneur, you have to be all in with whatever you're doing.
In my opinion, in order to be really successful as an entrepreneur, you have to be all in with whatever you're doing. That requires sacrifice in other areas of your life. But in your head, you need to know that can't last forever. You can't sprint forever. It's more of a marathon, and eventually you have to add balance to the other aspects of your life. Otherwise burnout happens, and then that thing that you're working on becomes unsuccessful anyways.
Yeah, if people aren't looking after themselves in the process, they often begin to resent the very thing that they created in the first place because they were so passionate about it.
You're a super fit dude. You've competed at the CrossFit games, which is about as tough as a physical event can possibly be. You still train five days a week, which is amazing. How do you structure your day so you can make sure you get that training in five times a week?
It really has to do with discipline. I make it a priority to where I put my workouts into my schedule. When I was, again, more in depth in some of these other projects, I would let part of work take over to where it would impact my workouts. And I always found that I was far less productive when I was not working out. That sense of burnout came much faster when I was not focusing on the physical side of things.
For me, exercise is a keystone habit. When you do it, it makes everything else better. It makes your eating better, it makes your sleeping better, it makes your mental focus better. As a result, not doing that makes everything else harder. For me, it's so important to do that very early on in the day because it makes the rest of the day, no matter whatever happens, feel accomplished.
That’s why I train five days a week as an absolute priority, but I also give myself two rest days because you don't want to burn out on the physical side either.
Is there anything you do outside of physical training that's an essential part of your daily routine?
One of my favorite things is to take my dogs for a long walk where I wear a 30-pound weight vest, and I usually listen to audiobooks at the same time. I'm definitely an addict when it comes to that, but on my days off, I don't listen to anything and I just try to take in all of the environment, pay attention to them, and it's a really special moment for me to decompress and just think about my week that just happened, upcoming weeks. I think that moment of reflection, combined with a little bit of light exercise, is very important for me.
Is there anything that you do struggle to get done, even though you know you really need to do it? And, if so, how do you handle it?
I think in the area of sleep, that's really hard because I start at 7:00 – 7:30 AM, and then I don't finish until 7:00 PM. So when you get home, you'd have dinner and you want to do a certain degree of decompressing which might involve watching TV, and that pushes my sleep time back a little bit. My wife is also a night owl, so she keeps me usually a little bit longer than I want to be, but again, we don't get to spend much time with each other except for those small periods. So I think I have to do that.
But I usually will make up for it with 20-minute naps. I have lunch at midday and then force myself to either go in the bedroom or lie in the Neck Hammock for 20 minutes with an eye mask on. I don't do the typical meditation as most people prescribe, but just complete silence for 20-30 minutes a day really helps to recharge my batteries and get back after it. On the day days that I don't do that, I feel a huge impact to where I just don't think the same way, my head isn't as clear. I don't have as much energy to finish. So that's something that I don't always do well, but I really try to make it a priority.
You've had some amazing wins in the business world, so I'm excited to dig into all of that now. Let's start with Prehab 2 Perform. When you started the business, were you focus on applying what you learned as a physical therapist, or were you always focusing on the bigger picture, as in thinking about some unmet needs that you could possibly bring in as solutions for those people who you were working with?
When I first started my physical therapy career, I started in a physical therapy clinic that was insurance-based. I was seeing three to four people an hour and I burnt out after about a year-and-a-half because I felt so guilty because I loved my patients, but you can't possibly give them quality care when you're running around patient to patient every 15 minutes, like within the hour time. So I just felt really guilty about that and I promised myself that I would never work as a physical therapist unless I'm one-on-one again. So when I started Prehab 2 Perform back in 2013, I decided that I didn't want to deal with insurance and I was only going to see people one-on-one.
It took me a while to build that business up because it's an atypical model, but I wanted to focus on, again, giving people my one-on-one attention, but I also wanted to focus on not just physical therapy, but also athletic performance, because really the two are tied together. Not just getting people to get rid of their shoulder pain that they're coming in for, but also teaching them how to squat, teaching them how to do a deadlift.
I created this niche that I never really expected to where now, most of the people who come in and see me, they don't see me even for physical therapy. They see me for more personal training through the eyes of a physical therapist so that they don't get re-injured, but to keep excelling for the rest of their lives. I mean, I look at exercise, PT, and prehab as basically like brushing your teeth. It's just something you have to do every day for the rest of your life, and your body will be much happier for it.
Two years after you started Prehab 2 Perform, you co-founded StretchLab. Did you feel that that was a particularly big gamble at the time, and when did you know you were onto a winner?
Yeah, at first, I mean, my two partners, we had no idea what the hell we were doing. We just knew that we had this idea that no one had really tapped into before. And stretching is one of those things that people, they know that they need to do it and they always say that they're going to do it after the workout and they never do, which leads to like a lot of injuries and whatnot. So we're like, "Well, why don't we just do this for people?" After they go to the gym, they can just come here. They can just lie down and we do all the stretching for them, and then they're on with their day.
When we first started, I mean, it's comical. We trained people in physical therapy while the actual first location was being worked on. The people who I was training were hairstylists, bartenders, people who had no experience in that field at all. Because anyone who did have experience who was a massage therapist or healthcare practitioner, physical therapist, they didn't want to touch it because they didn't think that this was actually going to be successful. So we had to just take whoever we could.
As a result, when I created the stretching programs, I had to keep that in mind: how can I make these stretches simple enough that anyone can learn them, and do them at a level to where people want to actually pay for that service and continue to pay for the service?
It was a huge learning curve for me, to try and figure out all those intricacies. Were there better stretches that I could do for people? Maybe. But finding the balance of creating that simplicity where both the flexologist can do it really well – and the person who's actually getting the stretch gets a really good experience – so people want to come back. So it was a huge gamble, but we really believe that it could be something really big. I had no idea that it'd be as big as it is today.
What was the price point per hour when you first launched?
We had a few different tiers. I believe we had 30 minutes. We've changed so many times, but a 30-minute stretch was like $25, then a 45-minute stretch was maybe $45. So super low price point, just enough to basically pay the bills. Then as our people got better, we progressively increased the price point, and we increased the time domains because there were some people who wanted a 90-minute stretch. We adapted along the way, but luckily we had a very good baseline to start with.
At StretchLab you had business partners, investors, hundreds of physical locations, thousands of staff to train, and so many moving parts. How challenging was it to manage your stress levels with all of those dynamics in play?
Extremely challenging. Time management just became extremely crucial. I had to put everything into the calendar and check it every single day, and the day before, to make sure that things synced up perfectly. Many times they didn't, and many times I was really stressed out and I overextended myself, but I was lucky to have done this in my 20s and early 30s where I had energy to do that. I think when pursuing these types of things, it’s really important to do it as early as you can so you can bring that energy.
It was certainly a learning experience in figuring out how to balance everything. There's a quote that I like, "If you need something done, give it to the busiest person that you know." When you get in that groove and you get in that cycle, you're basically working all day, but you don't think about it. It's just okay, onto the next, onto the next, onto the next. You're not worried about what you have to do. You just do it.
Yeah. It's so true. You eventually exited StretchLab in a seven-figure deal. How did you know it was time to move on from something that was obviously such a big part of your life and something that you'd put so much work and effort into?
It just got to a point where the partners who basically purchased a large percentage of the business at the time, we just began to have differences of opinions on where we wanted the business to go and how we wanted it to operate. And sales were really good – they were selling franchises like crazy. We just felt it was a good opportunity to exit on top because we didn't know what the market would look like in the next few years. Thank goodness we did because we sold basically a few months before this virus hit and it would have been absolutely catastrophic for us.
Yeah, a physical contact business during a pandemic. Maybe not the most profitable business to run!
Yeah, so to hold all those leases and whatnot, it would have been just really terrible, so we got really lucky. And another quote that I really like, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." When we had a good enough offer to where it certainly could change our lives, why not take it? It also gave me another opportunity to work on my next thing.
In 2017, your life changed again when you invented the Neck Hammock. What was the process of taking that from idea to prototype?
One day I was working out in the gym and I tweaked my neck doing handstand push-ups. I was extremely frustrated because this has happened multiple times before. And the one thing that I learned in physical therapy school was cervical traction. Whenever my neck would hurt, cervical traction would always help me, but the machines were always big and bulky and super expensive. So in my head I was like, "Well, how can I recreate the cervical traction right now that I don't need a machine?"
I just grabbed a thick resistance band, wrapped around a pole, wrapped around the back of my head, and I lay down. Ten minutes later, my neck pain was gone. I knew then that I was onto something, but I had to find an industrial designer – and thank goodness for the internet to let me know that that's what I needed! A guy who I worked with on a project in Florida for other inventions that I started already had a contact, so I basically gave him my general ideas.
Going back to the environment thing, a buddy of mine introduced me to another guy in town who had hookups with suppliers and other industrial designers that he swore by. It was just this slow process over time where we started with an idea and test / retest, test / retest. Again, as a physical therapist, with every single one of my patients, at the end of their session I would say, "Oh, I just created this thing. Why don't you try it out for 10 minutes and let me know what you think?"
So I had hundreds of data of feedback on: "The foam is too uncomfortable” and “The bands are too flexible," that type of thing. I had all this data that was coming in from people who luckily were very honest with me. I just kept making changes based on all those things. And so it was a process that took much, much longer than I ever thought it would, but it ended up working out.
Yeah, the research you did yourself was much better than any focus group that you could pay to go and get it done with a bunch of randoms!
The crowdfunding campaign was obviously instrumental in your success. What were the two or three main things that you did to make sure all those crowdfunding campaigns were so successful?
There's a guy Perry Marshall who became a mentor to me. I went to a conference of his and we sat down for lunch, and I had just had the idea of the Neck Hammock. He told me the most important thing that you can do is create a video where, in 10 seconds, the user completely understands what you've created, how it can bring them value, and why they should buy it – all within 10 seconds. Something that would create an emotional response. Even if you saw it and you didn't exactly know what the product does or why it works, but you knew that you liked it.
So for me, creating a really good video for the Neck Hammock was imperative, and I was a huge stickler on it. I hated the first few iterations of it and it was fairly low quality type video, but the great irony is the video clips that we still use in ads today are the worst quality! Like filmed on this disgusting carpet, but it demonstrated the value of people using it and feeling good. So having a really good video was number one.
Number two was having a really good unique selling proposition. The finally creating a price point to where it was almost an impulse purchase, so people would say, "Yeah, I'll give this thing a try. It's worth it. It's a whole lot cheaper than me going to see my physio, the doctor's office or getting surgery.” Those three things combined is what I think made it a truly a large success.
Is that how you came up with a pricing strategy, by evaluating the alternative solutions that people might pursue for their problem?
That, plus I did a lot of research, which I highly recommend to anyone who launches any product. You need to do months, if not years, of research on other similar products – or even products that aren't necessarily similar, but would be about same price point – because through my research and seeing other products, other neck-type products, posture-type products, I saw what they priced it at and I saw who was the most successful doing it.
Based on that data and research, that's what helped mold our specific price points for what we wanted to sell.
If you didn't have the resources at your disposal right now, all you had was your knowledge, and you were able to invent a new device, would you still go down the crowdfunding route in 2021? And what are the biggest reasons that crowdfunds fail today?
The number one problem that I ran into very early with crowdfunding was, two weeks in, I started seeing videos of my product on other websites knocking me off. The great thing about crowdfunding is it creates a lot of attention. The bad thing about crowdfunding is it creates a lot of attention from bad players.
There's a lot of people now in other countries who have businesses where that's all they do – they wait for the next Kickstarter to blow up, and immediately knock it off and start selling counterfeit products. It's one of those things that if you have a product that's very simple, like mine was, and it's very, very easy for someone to see it and immediately knock it off, then I don't know that crowdfunding is the way to go.
The great thing about crowdfunding is it creates a lot of attention. The bad thing about crowdfunding is it creates a lot of attention from bad players.
However, if you have something that's a little bit more complex that someone would not be able to just look at it and replicate it, then crowdfunding probably is the way to go. Because nowadays, with Instagram advertising, Google, you can bootstrap it and create ads at a very low level and it gives you a great way to test what videos work, don't work, and you can tweak and refine at a very low level and then ramp up when you have that down.
With Kickstarter, you're really taking a gamble. If you don't have the right images, the right creatives, the right video, and you spend all this money to create a good Kickstarter campaign, it may fail. And it may fail not because it's bad product, but because everything else was just not ready yet.
So people have lack a little bit of patience in that they want to have that million-dollar campaign. They want to raise all this money. But the other thing is that you got to have that product ready to ship pretty soon after you're done, because those backers they get pretty impatient. And if you don't actually have a ready product in like three to six months, they're going to start asking for their money back and that's also not a fun process to go through.
Do the crowdfunding campaigns honor that request if they do want to refund?
So it's tricky. Kickstarter will refund them their money if they request it. And luckily, most people who are on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, they're pretty cool about that. They'll give you a little bit leeway, but if you tell them that you're going to ship the product in three to six months, and that product is not shipped in three to six months, they get very antsy and then they start looking elsewhere.
Then again, it goes with the whole counterfeiting issue where if the counterfeiter takes your product, they immediately sell it on Amazon or on their website, the person will cancel the order with you and go buy the knock-off. So it's this delicate balance of needing to have a business ready too, not just the idea.
Was there a specific moment with Neck Hammock where you thought, "Wow, this thing is going to be huge"?
Yeah, on the first day that we launched, we hit all of our backers and we raised, I think, $50,000, and I was like, "Holy crap!" The fact that someone wants to buy my product. It's a really special feeling that you've created something that people want. But then we went a few days where then it dropped down to $3,000 a day in sales and I was like, "Okay, maybe people don't want this."
What happened is that my videos got picked up by news outlets and they went viral. I mean, there was one video that had 20+ million views on it. So our sales just completely skyrocketed where it was like 50,000 a day every day for a few weeks. That's when I knew, "Okay, if this many people see it and they like it, I think I'm on to something."
Especially when you're getting picked up by Dr. Oz, Forbes, Gwyneth Paltrow and everything else!
There was a period that you and I have spoken constantly where I would see in my social media newsfeeds “Neck Hammock, Neck Hammock, Neck Hammock.” And it never occurred to me that these were rip-off companies that had stolen your brand and essentially your business. Then they would put millions of dollars behind social media ads, blatantly copying your exact product, branding – even the name – and entice people to buy their counterfeit equivalent.
Were you aware that would happen? And how did that affect your mindset seeing that happen over and over again?
I thought it was something that could potentially happen months down the road, but I never anticipated that it would happen as fast as it did and then the scale that it did. I mean, it was overwhelming how many people were knocking it off and it's not like you can just call the police and be like, "Hey they're stealing my idea." Who do you call!? Who do you contact?
Again, through the environment thing, I would put messages out on Facebook. I'd reach out to people who were in the tech world on what I could do. I learned about DMCA take down, but for the most part it’s extremely time intensive and inefficient. So then I basically had to find intellectual property police out there who would find these knockoffs and do the take-downs for me. Thank God I had patents, copyrights, and trademarks, because had I not had all that they could just sell away and then Shopify and Facebook wouldn't do anything about it.
There was a podcast that I used to listen to all the time called ‘How I Built This.’ A buddy sent me this very specific episode (because he knew what I was going through) and it was with the TRX guy who dealt with massive knockoff issues. What resonated with me the most is that they're stealing your mojo because you're doing everything in your power to make a really kick-ass product. You've done all the right things, and these counterfeiters just completely steal that mojo from you because you just feel completely helpless. You feel like there's nothing that you can do to resolve the problem.
I knew there was going to be problems. I knew there's going to be competition along the way. I had no idea that it was going to be this type of problem, so that was something I had to adapt with.
Knowing what you know, how can the little guy protect themselves against some of these shady companies when you have things like very expensive legal fees to get rid of these companies, and how can you even be aware of these companies!? You were only aware because your product was such a big hit that it blanketed social media everywhere. There might be companies out there that founders just never even see.
The cheapest way to protect yourself on the internet is getting a trademark and copyrights on all the videos, photos, and things like that. It costs like $25 to copyright an image. To get a patent, you're talking a few thousand dollars and patents are arguable. Unless what they're selling looks identical to the design patent that you have, utility patents only work when it comes to DMC takedowns. So if you're going to do something, it has to be a design patent to use as ammunition against people like Amazon.
You can't be completely ready for the knockoffs, because you have to have a successful product first.
But trademarks and copyrights, those are the easiest first two things that you can do. It's like this delicate balance though, because you got to make sure that you have enough money to put in the product to market it. You can't be completely ready for the knockoffs, because you have to have a successful product first.
Then once you have a successful product, then you need to invest in the IP. Because the other thing about IP is that it doesn't police itself. You have to spend money on litigation to then go after these people. So it's not just the patent itself that's enough. Look at triple, quadruple the costs to get a legal team to then hunt these people down and bring them to court if that's where you decided to go. With anything, start small and then grow it from there, but just always in the back of your head, be prepared for that next level of protection.
Yeah. you don't want to have $20 million in sales and $30 million in legal fees.
So are you saying you had to go and copyright every single video and image that you were posting on social media?
Wow, that's crazy.
Again, getting $25 copyrights for pictures and videos is not nearly as expensive as getting a bunch of design and utility patents. It's a super cheap way that you can really protect yourself.
Manufacturing can be one of the toughest things to set up, since you’ve got minim order quantities, foreign countries, and cashflow dangers. How smooth was your experience on the manufacturing side?
It was tough at first because who the hell do you know that has factories in China!? And how do you know that they're not ripping you off?
Yeah, the whole experience would make you super paranoid about everything.
Exactly. You're just paranoid about everything. It started with word of mouth that brought me one guy who would go over to China and he'd find different factories and figure out who could source it. Once we had the first iterations of the Neck Hammock, it would cost me anywhere between $9 - $10 per unit to manufacture. And then again, through word of mouth, I found someone else who got it down to $7.
Then, one of Lindsay's clients was actually friends with a woman who was on Shark Tank. And I asked if I could be introduced, because I was a huge fan. After speaking with her, she introduced me to a guy who she worked with to help source, and he absolutely was a game changer for Neck Hammock.
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There was multiple times where I thought I was going to go bankrupt where I was going to have to close up shop and it wasn't going to work. And he helped me bring the cost of goods down. He had relationships over there so he brought the cost of goods down from $10 to $5 per unit, and that's a big deal.
But he also created these other relationships that I had no idea who to even talk too. He introduced me to my legal team that I use today who are absolute rock stars; they saved me a lot of money and also are great on the enforcement side. Having the right people in your corner is so incredibly important. And you're probably not going to find them in the first or second or even third time. But when you get that right person, you just hang onto them forever.
Was there a particularly dark day along that entrepreneurial journey that stands out to you?
Yeah, I mean, there were a few dark days where I remember sitting on the floor in my bathroom, thinking, "How am I going to tell my wife that I lost all the money with this and we're going to go out of business?"
There were a few times where I had ordered too much inventory because I was expecting a lot of sales and then all of a sudden sales completely plummeted, or Facebook changed their algorithm to where they were making it really hard for health and wellness brands. So we went from getting $500K a month in sales down to like $50K. And so I'm like, "What am I going to do with all this inventory? How am I going to afford to pay these different people?" They're expecting to get paid.
I remember sitting on the floor in my bathroom, thinking, "How am I going to tell my wife that I lost all the money with this and we're going to go out of business?"
Somehow, some way, I found a way to scratch my way out of the bottom and figure it out. But you just have all these different moving pieces going on and you feel like you're in it all alone. That there were so many of those dark days where I just didn't sleep, but you somehow figure it out. Just keep working, just keep moving forward.
I like to think that on our strongest days – when we're at our happiest and our most productive selves – there could be a note, a reminder, that we could observe on our darkest days to keep us moving forward and put things into perspective. Thinking to your strongest day, what message would you write on a flashcard to show yourself on your darkest day?
Keep moving forward. Just keep moving. The second you stop and you start sulking and you start feeling bad about yourself, that's when you're in big trouble. If there's one thing I always did that sometimes got me in trouble with my relationship, it would be using work as my way to get out of things. I could always just get up early, answer emails, answer customer service, and just figure out a way to keep moving.
When you keep moving, it creates momentum. And so I think on the card, I would say, “Just keep moving.”
In January 2021, you exited Neck Hammock, which was your second seven figure exit. How did you know that that was the right time to exit the business?
Covid was a really good year for us, believe it or not, because a lot of people were at home, and a lot of businesses stopped advertising on Instagram and Facebook, which brought the overall costs of advertising way down. We were really able to capitalize on that and we had really strong sales as a result.
Like with the StretchLab exit, it just felt really good to be proud of something and to actually get paid for it. For me, while sales are really good, I would like to exit on top. It’s a buy low / sell high type mentality so that I then could take advantage of any other opportunities that would manifest, whether it's this year or next year, I can be ready for them.
For many years I haven't really had the cash available to take advantage of certain opportunities, but that's what I wanted was to now be ready for the next stage of my life – to go from inventor to investor.
You have had so many different experiences, you've worked with tens of thousands of people now through StretchLab, through Prehab 2 Perform, through the Neck Hammock. Are there any lessons that stand out on consumer behavior that you will take forward with future business endeavors?
People just want to feel good. Ultimately, at the end of the day, people just want to feel good and if you provide that to them, you're always going to have some sort of success. And the way that I make people feel good is actually making them work. With StretchLab that was a bit different. But with what I do now it’s making people feel good about themselves when they look in the mirror. That's what brings people back in. And so if you want to keep it simple, it's just that.
What part of your career are you most proud of? Would it be the transformations that you have in the clinic day-to-day? Would it be the big business success that you've had playing on the world stage?
Honestly, I think that with the Neck Hammock, one thing that really stands out is a lot of the testimonials that I've received, from people who were in debilitating pain, and they wrote me just thanking me from the bottom of their heart on how the Neck Hammock helped get them out of a migraine to where they couldn't eat for two days or they couldn't sleep, or this or that.
And knowing that of the hundreds of thousands of units we've shipped, that we're able to make such an impact on people at a large scale and make their lives better, for me, that's something I'm really proud of. I feel like everyone wants to figure out how they can leave this world a better place. Even something as simple as the Neck Hammock, a simple solution to your neck pain without drugs. That's one of my ways to give back.
It must be surreal reading those messages, but obviously very well deserved for all the effort and work that you've put into it in the first place.
Final question, what's one thing you do to win the day?
Win the morning.
Resources / links mentioned:
⚡ Prehab 2 Perform website.
📷 Prehab 2 Perform on Instagram.
📝 Prehab 2 Perform on Facebook.
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“No day is so bad it can’t be fixed with a nap.”
Today, we sit down with the world’s foremost authority on sleep for high performance.
Dr Michael Breus is a three-time bestselling author, clinical psychologist, and sleep educator. He has appeared all over television, including Oprah, The Today Show, and on The Dr Oz show more than 40 times. Dr Breus is also a regular contributor to major publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.
When he’s not doing media appearances, Dr Breus works with some of the most successful individuals on the planet who want to perform at their peak with as little sleep as possible.
In this interview, we’ll go through:
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As we get started, remember the right bit of inspiration can completely transform someone’s life, so if there’s someone you know who needs to hear this – and I’m sure there is, since lack of quality sleep is a dangerous side effect of the stressful world we’re in today – share it with them right now.
Let’s WIN THE DAY with Dr Michael Breus!
Great to see you my friend. Thanks so much for being on the Win the Day show.
Dr. Michael Breus:
I am excited to be here. Thank you for having me.
To kick things off, is there a story from your childhood that encapsulates what life was like for you growing up?
That's a good question. So, I had a very interesting upbringing, which – now that you're making me think about it – has a lot to do with how I became the guy that I am. My parents were separated when I was nine, and I'm 53 years old now. Back in those days, very few kids ended up with their fathers, and my father ended up having full-time custody of me. It was just he and I against the world for a very long period of time.
I've played that role as the sleep doctor: I was the very first sleep blogger on the Huffington Post; I was one of the first clinical psychologists to take and pass the Sleep Medicine Boards; things of that nature. I'm very comfortable being the lone wolf – not to mention that I am a wolf chronotype, which we'll talk about in a moment. But that's a lot of who I am. I'm pretty confident and I feel comfortable in my own skin for sure.
Can you take us into the moment when you realized that you weren't just going to be a regular health professional – that you were going to actually drive the industry forward and change the lives of millions of people in the process?
It was interesting, the very first time I was on television, I walked off and it was like electric. It was one of the first appearances that I made, and I was so in the zone that I didn't even see the audience. I was so focused, I delivered this great information, and I just became so comfortable out there. It was like, "This is exactly where I need to be."
I don't know. Maybe I've got enough ego to pull it off! But I like getting in front of people, I like talking about sleep, I like mixing it up, I like controversial ideas surrounding sleep and sleep science.
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Here's the thing that's cool for me as a topic. My wife says it all the time. She's like, "Honey, you wouldn't be nearly as interesting if you were a cardiologist." No disrespect to the cardio guys, I have one myself, but sleep is such an interesting topic, and it draws people in because one of the things we know is that, when you change your sleep, you change your life, right? So, if you have bad sleep and I'm able to give you some information, or lead you on a path that can help you with your sleep, I feel confident that I've changed your life in a positive way. Honestly, dude, that feels good, I just like doing that.
Early in my career, people would come and they would be so excited to tell me how much I had changed their lives. After a while, every single day, there would be five people, 10 people, 15 people, and I kind of said, " You know? I want to get the message out bigger." Because at the time I was practicing, you could only see about 30 patients in a day. I mean, let's be fair. I was seeing 30 patients a day, five days a week. and I was crushing through 150 people, good care of medicine, making sure that everybody's well treated, but it wasn't where I wanted to be or where I thought the world needed to hear.
When you change somebody's sleep, you literally change their life.
Oddly enough, one of my best friends got a vice-president job at a company that, at the time, was called Medscape. He turned it into this big old company called WebMD. He was like, "Hey Michael, have you checked out WebMD?" So I went on it and they didn't have anything about sleep on there. Being my lone wolf self, I decided to create a document that had all the places on the website where they needed to have more sleep information, and I sent it to my buddy, who apparently sent it to his boss. His boss then said, "Go hire that guy!"
That was how I became the WebMD sleep specialist. I was the WebMD sleep specialist from the time they launched for 15 years. That's a big audience, and it was so much fun. You remember back in the day when they had chat boards? I would answer questions live on chat boards in WebMD about sleep. We counted, I think, over 5,000 questions that I answered at one time. It's like I just feel the need to educate, and people are so receptive because it's just not an area where people get a chance to meet folks like me.
Again, not breaking my arm patting myself on the back, but I will say that I feel like I have a purpose, and I feel like I have a passion. For me, the point where purpose and passion hit was sleep, and that's what drives me in that direction.
It sounds like facilitating these transformations for others actually gives you a lot of energy along the way, too. Now that you've worked with regular folks right through to the celebrities at the highest level, is there a particular transformation that you're most proud of?
Oh, wow. There's a few actually. There's quite a few cases that were really ... there's some sad cases for sure, but there are quite a few cases that were pretty amazing. One of the more famous cases that I've worked on is Carson Daly from The Today Show. I was on The Today Show talking about time change or sleep or something like that, and Carson pulled me over to the side – we weren't on camera – and he was like, "Dude, I'm exhausted." And I was like, "Okay, let's hold tight."
We did the segment and I came back afterwards and we went over to his dressing room and I'm like, "Tell me what's going on?" He said he had gained a little bit of weight over the years but, and people don't know this, he's on The Today Show and he's the executive producer of The Voice at the same time. He flies every single week back and forth across the country.
Not only was he exhausted, but we could potentially have jet lag issues. There's all kinds of stuff that could be going on. So I dug in and it turned out he had sleep apnea. We worked with his doctor, got him sleep testing, the whole thing. Now we've got him on a solution that helps him sleep, and he's losing weight, he has more energy. He was really concerned about what he called his shelf life, as many people who are on television are.
I think now he can be on for quite a bit longer. I'm telling you something, dude, when you change somebody's sleep, you literally change their life.
Amazing, and thank you for sharing that.
In the peak performance realm, we often hear people talk about nutrition and fitness, yet there is so much misinformation out there on those two areas. We also spend one-third of our lives sleeping, so that definitely needs to be in the peak performance equation. Are there just as many misconceptions about sleep as there is for nutrition and fitness? And, if so, what are the biggest myths that need to be busted?
Yes, there are a ton of misconceptions about sleep. Some of the bigger myths, and we can even include nutrition in this, is things like, "Oh, turkey makes me feel sleepy because there's tryptophan in it,” or “Warm milk makes me feel sleepy." So, just to be clear, you'd have to eat a 40-pound turkey to get enough tryptophan to actually make it worth your while. It doesn't work well in the presence of protein anyway. So, I really wouldn't go for that one. And I think it's about a gallon and a half of milk to get enough tryptophan, so we're not even going to go there.
Also, there’s a lot of misinformation out there about melatonin, which a lot of people take. But what most people don't understand is melatonin is not a sleeping pill. Melatonin is a sleep regulator, not a sleep initiator. Melatonin doesn't make you sleepy. What melatonin does is it helps your brain think that it's bedtime from a circadian rhythm perspective.
We talked about Carson Daly already, so I'll give you another great example. If you're familiar with electronic dance music, you’ll know a DJ named Steve Aoki. He does almost 200 shows a year in different countries. His jet lag is unparalleled. But when we're talking about something like this, what we're looking at is scheduling, how to schedule flights, working through some of those different issues, and then trying to understand what to do. Well, melatonin is very, very helpful in that process of getting people adjusted to a new time zone, because it tells your brain it's bedtime when your brain didn't think that it was bedtime before.
That's great when you're Steve Aoki and your jet lag is all over the place, or you’re Carson Daly flying back and forth across the US. But when you're not crossing time zones and you're lying in bed not sleeping, you probably shouldn't be taking melatonin because that's not really what it's there for. So, that's a myth or misunderstanding that we see that can be very harmful to folks.
Then what happens is, if one doesn't work, they take two, and if two don't work, they take four. I mean, we were talking about WebMD, when I was on WebMD answering those questions, once a month, literally once a month, I got the question, "Is it okay to take a box of Benadryl a night?" 20, 10 milligram tabs? The answer is “No, it’s not okay!”
But, people are desperate, man. When you don't sleep, it hits you to your core. You turn into somebody who you don't like, and nobody around you is particularly thrilled with you either, so it's hard to not have sleep. Those who don't suffer from sleep problems, they really don't understand it. They're like, "What are you talking about? Close your eyes, just go to bed, come on. It's easy." Honestly, dude, people are tortured with some of their sleep related issues. Right now, when we're talking about the pandemic and what's going on in the universe, this is arguably the most stressful time any of us have ever had, and it's not stress that we're used to.
This is arguably the most stressful time any of us have ever had, and it's not stress that we're used to.
You and I were talking before we started. We live here in Los Angeles, and a big stress here in Los Angeles is traffic. But traffic doesn't mean crap compared to a pandemic. I'm worried about things like my entire family's health. Like my grandparents, my parents, my kids, my wife, my extended family. I've never had to worry about everybody all at the same time. I've had to worry about certain people here and there of course, as anyone would, but this is a different kind of worry. There’s also financial stress, because so many people are suffering incredibly financially right now.
What kind of weight does that put on your brain before you're getting in bed at night? Does that cause insomnia? You bet it causes insomnia. So, I would say that right now, if people turn to me and say, "Hey, Michael, I'm sleeping great." I'd be like, "What's your trick dude? Because nobody's sleeping great right now." We all have issues. I mean, I'm the sleep doctor, and let me tell you something, when the pandemic first hit, I didn't sleep so great. That's okay. The message here is, is that we're all humans. And sleep is a reaction for us.
Think about it like this. If you notice that your sleep is not so great, it could be a window into your health. It could be giving you clues about something that's going on for your mental health or physical health. But to be clear, if you're healthy, both mentally and physically, you should sleep pretty well, generally speaking.
What are some simple things that anyone watching this or listening to the podcast can do right now to improve the quality of their sleep?
Oh, this is an easy one, and it's not going to cost you anything! I got a five-step program. It's super simple, people are going to love it. Step one is to wake up at the same time every single day, including the weekends. I know that sucks for most people because they're like, "Oh, I want to catch up on my sleep on the weekends, Michael, come on." Here's the deal, if you wake up at the exact same time every single day, what will happen is that the quality of your sleep will improve because your circadian rhythm is consistent. Because remember, when you wake up, that's the reopening of the package. So, the new day comes, sunlight comes in, and then all of your hormones kick off and go into gear.
If you do that at the same time, every single day, your brain knows what's coming, it can prepare for it, and it's much more efficient. Also, by the way, if you wake up at the exact same time, every single day, what you will find is that the amount of sleep that you require begins to shrink. I did this experiment on myself. I'm a night owl, what I call a Wolf chronotype, and I go to bed around midnight every single night. That's just what I do. I really can't get in bed before midnight. That's just me. So, I got in bed at midnight and I woke up around 7:40am, after about a month of it, I was waking up at 7:20am. After another month of it, it was 7:00am.
If you wake up at the exact same time, every single day, what you will find is that the amount of sleep that you require begins to shrink.
I wake up now at 6:13am almost every single day. I'm not sure why it's 6:13am, people will always ask. I always look at the clock and I say, "Oh my God, it's 6:13." But my entire sleep cycle shrank by almost a full 90-minute cycle. I get six hours and 13 minutes of sleep, and I've looked at it on trackers, and my sleep is fantastic. What's happened is, the consolidation has occurred because of the consistency. That’s why step one is to wake up at the same time every single day. You will get higher quality sleep and you will probably need less of it, unless you have an underlying sleep disorder.
Step two has to do with caffeine. We already know that caffeine is a problem because it’s a stimulant. But what we know is, it's got a half-life of about six to eight hours. So, with a half-life like that, what we do is, we say stop caffeine by 2:00pm, and eight hours later it’s 10:00pm which is where most people in North America tend to go to bed. So that's the reasoning behind the recommendation.
Now I guarantee you there's a listener or a watcher out there who is thinking, "Huh! Sleep doctor? He doesn't know what he's talking about! I can have a cup of coffee, an espresso, or a cappuccino minutes before going to sleep and I can fall asleep, no problem."
I think I've said that before!
See, there you go! Let's bust that myth. Here's what's interesting, it turns out that people have different caffeine sensitivities. I had one patient who honestly could drink a pot of coffee and go to sleep, and I had another one who could eat a square piece of a chocolate bar and be up for days. So, that's the first thing. But here's the other thing, for my patient who could drink a pot of coffee and go to sleep, if you stick electrodes on somebody's head, caffeine is a stimulant, you can't stop the fact that it is stimulating, and what it does is it almost completely obliterates stage three/four sleep.
For folks out there who don't know, stage three/four sleep is your physical restoration. That is your wake up and feel great sleep. You do not want anything messing with that. And right now during COVID, I'll tell you why, even more importantly, during stages three/four sleep is where growth hormone is emitted, and this is where your killer T cells are produced. Killer T cells are what fight viral infection. Hello! We want as much stage three/four sleep as we can possibly get right now. So please, please, please slow down your caffeine, and if you could eliminate it altogether, that would be great.
Don't do it cold turkey. I had two patients end up in the ER, believe it or not, going cold turkey off of caffeine. One of them had a seizure and one of them just couldn't stop puking. It was a mess. So, if you're a heavy, heavy caffeine drinker, slow it down over the course of time. But if you can, stop caffeine by 2:00pm.
Step three has to do with alcohol. There's a really big difference, dude, between going to sleep and passing out, okay? People don't seem to understand that sometimes. It takes the average human approximately one hour to digest one alcoholic beverage. The data would suggest that the time between the last sip and when you close your eyes, that gap, is the most important amount of time when looking at alcohol's effects on your sleep.
If you notice that your sleep is not so great, it could be a window into your health.
Remember, alcohol is a depressant, so it will make you feel sleepy up until about two to three drinks. Once you get past the third drink, unfortunately it has a tendency to energize people or make them aggressive, so you really don't want to go over two drinks if you possibly can. That time period is very important. If it takes the average human one hour to digest one alcoholic beverage, here's how I run it: if you're going to have a glass or two of wine with dinner, let's say you finished by 7:00pm and you had two glasses of wine, then you would be able to go to sleep by 9:00pm.
Do me a favor, for every glass of wine, drink one glass of water. If you had two glasses of wine, drink two glasses of water, wait two hours. It's really very simple. It's the one-to-one-to-one rule. I found this to be very, very effective for people.
Also, let's be honest. If you're using alcohol as a sedative, you have a problem. Talk to your doctor. There are much better ways of helping you get a good night’s sleep than drinking yourself there. And you're not alone, since alcohol is the number one sleep aid in the world. More people use alcohol to make themselves fall asleep. Once again, you don't get that deep sleep. Just like with what caffeine does to stage three/four sleep, alcohol does the same thing, but it also screws up your REM sleep as well, which is why your memory is all messed up after a heavy night of drinking. So, if you can, stop alcohol three hours before bed.
Onto the more positive side of things! Exercising daily is incredibly important, and I would argue, especially during the pandemic, this is one of our biggest issues. I'm a huge fan of exercise, but the good news is, you don't have to run a marathon. Remember guys, sleep is recovery. If you do not do anything to recover from, your body is not going to sleep as deeply. It just doesn't work that way. So, get your butt outside. Sunlight is an important and good thing, so is fresh air, and so is exercise.
But if you're going to do your workouts, which I want you to do, you need to be careful, because remember, sleep follows the core body temperature cycle. As you fall asleep, your core body temperature begins to drop. Unfortunately, exercise raises our core body temperature, which is why we sweat. So, step four is to exercise daily, but stop exercise four hours before bed.
Finally, step five, is for waking up. When we wake up in the mornings, what we really want to make sure of is that we can clear the brain fog and get ourselves moving. Do not drink coffee as the first thing that you drink. Most people don't realize it, but sleep in and of itself is a dehydrative event; from the humidity in our breath, we lose almost a full liter of water every night. Sitting by your bedside, you should have about 20 to 30 ounces [600 ml to 900 ml] of room temperature water in a refillable glass or jug. Every single night, you should put one of those there.
When you wake up in the morning, take 5-10 deep breaths just to activate your respiratory system and orient yourself to space. Sit on the side of your bed, grab your water, walk to the window and get 15 minutes of sunlight. "Michael, why sunlight?" So the data would suggest that, blue light hits a particular cell in your eye called a melanopsin cell, which sends a signal to your brain to turn off the melatonin faucet in your head. We want the melatonin off when we wake up. This is why we like blue light in the morning, but why we don't really like blue light at night, because it suppresses melatonin as well.
Do me a favor, if you've gotten out of bed, grabbed your water and walked over to the window to get your sunlight, put on a robe! I'm just saying. I'm just saying, put on a robe.
So many amazing things to unpack there. You mentioned marathons. If someone does a marathon, or some other type of unusual event where they’re physically exhausted, should they set an alarm for their usual wake up time so they get up, or is it better to give the body one day off to sleep as long as it wants?
I would give your body one day off to sleep from a marathon because it's such an extended type of thing. When I work with professional athletes, usually the day after the game, contest, or race, we let them sleep in. Also, depending upon the competitive nature of it, they end up doing a lot of damage to their bodies and you know in marathon work, everybody gets hurt by the end of the marathon.
I’ve heard a lot of people talk about waking up and having lemon juice first thing. Can a tablespoon or two of lemon juice do anything!? Is that a myth that needs to be busted right here right now?
I've never heard of lemon juice being particularly effective in the morning. I will tell you though, that the vitamin C from lemons in the citrus actually has been shown to be helpful for keeping circadian rhythms in line. People ask me all the time about supplementation and vitamins, minerals, things like that. That's the only thing I could think of from a lemon juice perspective. I tried doing that apple cider vinegar in the mornings, and I almost puked!
You mentioned waking up and getting sunlight as soon as you can. If it's 5:00am in the middle of winter, with no sun to be found, is turning on a light a good substitute?
I've found even having something like a cold shower, which I do every single morning, does a good job of giving me an energy jolt. Plus, I’ve been trying to do what you recommend and wait 90 minutes or longer before having my coffee!
In the absence of sunlight, is there something else that can fill in?
There are commercially available light boxes, believe it or not. So you could go onto Amazon, and Phillips makes one called the GoLite. I think it's 90 bucks. I have one in my suitcase because I use it for jet lag when I travel. Because you can forward your circadian rhythm using light, caffeine, and melatonin, and sleep in particular patterns. That's how we work with people like Steve Aoki and Carson Daly, we mess with all of those things. We have an algorithm, it's actually pretty cool.
But when you look at those things, light is certainly one thing that would be helpful in the morning. The temperature challenge is definitely helpful in the morning. I do a temperature challenge most mornings. I don't do it for my entire shower, I do it for like the last 30 seconds type of thing. I don't have a cold plunge at my house, although I'd like one, it's a cool idea. It's definitely alerting, I can assure you of that.
Sleep is recovery. If you do not do anything to recover from, your body is not going to sleep as deeply.
For healthy ways to wake up in the morning, I also think that breathwork is something that I've personally found to be very helpful. I have a men's group that I meet with every morning on Zoom, and we do Wim Hof breathing together, followed by a small meditation of gratitude, and that's how I start my day. Honestly, I'm awake and alert and present. It's awesome.
Are there really people on this planet who wake up with immediate hits of energy and motivation!?
Based on the chronotype, yeah! So, I mean, we haven't really talked about chronotypes. I came up with this categorization of chronotypes. To be clear, there were chronotypes long before I came up with it. I ended up finding the fourth one. We used chronotypes, so things like early bird, night owl, people in the middle, and that's what we've been bantering back and forth about. About 15% of the population love getting up in the morning.
Honestly, dude, the only thing I hate more than mornings are morning people, right!? They’re so damn chipper. Even though I wake up at 6:13am, I don't want to talk to anybody, that's for sure.
How true is it that we all need eight hours of sleep a night?
Total horseshit. The math doesn't even work. The average sleep cycle is 90 minutes long, and the average human has five of them. So, five times 90 is 450 minutes, which is only seven and a half hours. The math doesn't even work on average to get you there.
I think the original recommendation came from a study done at Stanford in the 50s, where they put people in these self-contained chambers. What happened was, their sleep amount went up and then eventually came back down and their bodies would no longer allow them to sleep any longer than, I think it was like, eight hours and 13 minutes. So, I think that's where the recommendation of eight hours originally came from.
But to be fair, that's not a smart way of trying to figure that idea out. Number one, I think it was an all-male study. By the way, sleep has changed a lot since the 50s. Even thinking about it philosophically as a concept, remember – well, you’re young – but in the 50s, people slept in separate beds, and it was a whole different universe for sleep back then. Whereas now people have televisions in their bedrooms, they have video games, I mean, it's a whole different universe. Sleep has evolved.
So, as it continues to do so, and with these levels of stress that we're all experiencing, and with some of the environmental insanity that's going. There’s lights here, kids playing video games until 4:00am, and all that kind of stuff, so we’re going to see some sleep consequences for sure.
For a long time, studying peak performance has been a big part of my work. Several years ago, I downloaded a top-rated sleep tracker app on my iPhone, and I woke up the next day and felt pretty good. Then I looked at my phone, and it said that I had shitty sleep, which completely shifted my mood. Then the next day I woke up and I felt miserable, but when I looked at the app it said I had an amazing sleep, so I felt like crap anyway. I haven’t used a sleep tracker since.
Here's the thing about sleep trackers, it’s like the best of the worst. When you look at the history of sleep tracking, here's what we've discovered: people were tracking activity before they were tracking sleep. It's not too hard to measure steps. My daughter, she's 17 years old, she's pretty good at math. If I know the length of your leg and your gait, that's a calculus problem. I can figure out how to track your steps.
But if I'm going to track your sleep, what do I measure? How quickly you fell asleep? Is it how quickly you get to stage three/four? Is it how quickly you get to REM? Is it the number of REM periods? Is it your number of awakenings? Dude, I can go on for 30 or 40 more variables if you want me to. It's a complicated process. Thinking that a wristband, a ring, a pad, is going to do a great job of truly measuring our sleep is probably a fallacy at this point in time.
Will we see it in the future with a high level of accuracy? I think we will. How far is that future? I think it's less than 18-24 months away. I think we will get much, much better at this much, much faster. As machine learning, AI, and algorithms start to get more involved in crunching, some of those big data sets, I think we'll start to learn a whole lot more.
But here's what I tell people, if you've got a sleep tracker, it's still useful, and I'll explain to you how. Don't look at the absolute data, look at the relative data. So, if my sleep tracker says that I have 13 minutes of stage three/four sleep, every single night, I know that's inaccurate, but it's consistently inaccurate. However, if I got 13 minutes, one night and 407, 612, the next I want to know what's happening relatively speaking. Don't get caught up in the what it should be. Compare it to yourself.
You are your best scientist, so when you wake up in the morning, however you perceive you slept, it's probably pretty accurate. Sleep is a perception. There's a physical state of unconsciousness where lots of cool shit happens. But when you wake up in the morning, how you think you slept, I would argue, is probably the best marker of how you actually did sleep.
You are your best scientist.
So, trackers or no trackers, there's lots of things that we can do to improve our sleep and our performance. I would argue that consistency is certainly the biggest one. I have a high-performance sleep coaching practice here in Los Angeles, as you know. One of the things that we do is, we evaluate people right when they walk through the door.
A lot of people come to me, they're like, "Hey, Michael, I know I need eight hours and I only have six. What can you do?" Believe it or not, I can actually fix that problem. Like I was telling you earlier, it's learning what their chronotype is, getting them more consistent, and then I actually run blood work on people. I look at things like iron, magnesium, vitamin D, melatonin. All of those are things that, if you're deficient in them, are going to have a really big effect on your sleep.
Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Dr Michael Breus does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give his 18-year-old self, the one thing on his bucket list, and a whole lot more 🚀
We want to make sure that we're starting out at good levels, and then if everything looks good there, I do a full genetic screen. So, I take their DNA from a 23andme, ancestry.com, something like that. I run it through an algorithm with 74 different sleep markers, and I get a roadmap of what your sleep is going to look like now and what it's going to look like in the future. Then we taper to the future.
As an example, I had one fellow, a prominent CEO here in Los Angeles, and we discovered that he had a genetic propensity for sleep apnea. He's a lean guy, not somebody who you would ever expect to have sleep apnea. So what we do now is, we contacted his physician and at all of his appointments, we measure his neck size, because one of the big markers for sleep apnea is neck size. Anybody who has over a 17-and-a-half-inch neck has something like an 80% chance of having sleep apnea.
If I now monitor his neck and if he goes a bigger collar size, we get on it real quick, and we make sure that things are copacetic because we don't want him to get that sleep apnea. We had another one with somebody with restless legs, same thing, had the propensity, didn't have the symptomatology, make sure that we avoided in the future. That kind of stuff is pretty cool.
If you get someone who comes in who has PTSD, depression, or some type of other severe condition, do you change your approach or is it pretty similar to what you just outlined?
I do change my approach, especially with people who have PTSD. I did a lot of work with patients with PTSD during my residency at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi. I'll be honest with you, I'm going to say something that's a little on the controversial side, so I hope that's okay. One of the only things I was able to find for my veterans to help them sleep after they had been in an active theater of war was cannabis. We live in California, it's legal here, it's recreational here, and it's literally the only thing I've ever found that worked in my PTSD patients in particular.
There's this hypervigilant switch that pops in these folks. If you've been in an active theater of war, your head's on a swivel, you're making sure that you're okay at all times. That just doesn't turn off when you come home. I'm not suggesting everybody goes out and smokes weed to sleep. But what I am saying is, there's something there. There are lots of sleep related products in the dispensaries. Most of them, to be fair, don't work particularly well. I do believe that THC is an important component in reduction of anxiety. I believe that CBN, which is one of the cannabinoids, can be very important in helping with sleep. There's some interesting data to suggest that.
One of the only things I was able to find for my veterans to help them sleep after they had been in an active theater of war was cannabis.
Unfortunately, with CBD, you'd have to have a tremendous amount of it as far as the data is concerned for it to be really effective. But for PTSD, I think we're close. I'm excited to see some of those cannabis studies come out.
Depression is a whole different ball game. In my mind, I think of PTSD as more on the anxiety side of things. Depression in and of itself is very interesting when you look at it. For example, most people, you don't see REM sleep approach until about 80 minutes into the cycle. For people with depression, they're in REM sleep 30 minutes in.
Sometimes when we're in the sleep lab, we can identify somebody with depression before they even know they have it, which is an interesting concept. It's a biomarker, if you will, for depression, which I think is in and of itself, quite interesting as well. Again, there's lots of different ways to approach all of these different things. Obviously, it's all about good medicine and good science.
Is the delivery method of cannabis important?
Yes, great question. I would argue that the preferred administration method would probably be a tincture, like a dropper with a liquid that you could put underneath your tongue. Because for sleep, we have to get it up and into your brain fairly quickly. And so, if it's a gummy, you got to eat it, it's got to go down to your belly, it's got to mix around, it's got to get back up there. You're talking about 90 minutes or so.
I'd love to see a tincture that would work a little bit faster. Things of that nature, I think, would make sense.
For those who work late at night in front of a computer, is it the light of the computer (or whatever device they’re using) that’s keeping them awake? Or is it their brain being an absolute beehive of activity?
Dude, it's both. It's a two-factor thing here. So, I'm the only sleep doctor, I think, in the universe who says it's okay to fall asleep with the television on, because it's passive content. You're lying back, and content is just flowing over you.
You're watching an old episode of Seinfeld, you close your eyes, you're barely listening, and you fall asleep. That's very different than trying to get your high score on Candy Crush or get through as many work things as you can. That's an active engagement that I think we want to say “No thank you” too. It's both the blue light and the active brain.
Final question, what’s one thing you do to Win the Day?
Show up. I show up positive, and that's been a struggle for me for a long time, but that's really what I do every single day. I wear a bracelet and it's got ‘Positivity’ and ‘Patience’ on it. I think about those two things every day. If I can do those two things, I am good to go.
Resources / Links Mentioned:
📙 The Sleep Doctor blog.
📝 The Sleep Doctor Facebook.
📚 The Power of When by Dr Michael Breus.
💡 Philips SmartSleep Wake-up Light.
🧘 The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday.
👟 Shoe Dog by Phil Knight.
💚 Have a podcast of your own and want to monetize it? Join us at We Are Podcast.
“No matter how often you are defeated, you are born to victory.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Welcome to Win the Day with James Whittaker! If this is your first time here, we sit down with some of the world’s true legends to help you take ownership of your financial, physical and mental health.
And our guest today is the perfect intersection of those three areas.
Gabby Reece is a volleyball legend, an entrepreneur, a keynote speaker, a mum, a wife, fitness coach, host of The Gabby Reece Show, and a New York Times bestselling author. She’s been featured on Dr Oz, The Today Show, and the Joe Rogan podcast, and was the first female spokeswoman for Nike.
In September 2020, Gabby and her husband — big wave surfer Laird Hamilton — listed their plant-based food company Laird Superfood on the New York Stock Exchange, just five years after they launched it.
Gabby and Laird are also the founders of Extreme Performance Training (known as XPT), designed to stimulate growth in all aspects of human performance through exposure to a variety of natural elements and environments. Essentially, they kick your ass through breath optimization, functional movement, and recovery techniques like ice baths and hot saunas.
Like all of us, Gabby’s journey has had its ups and downs, which we’ll get into — but what I love most about her is her hunger to gain new perspectives, while keeping it real at the same time.
In this interview with Gabby, we’re going to talk about:
Let’s win the day with Gabby Reece!
Gabby, great to see you. Thanks for coming on the show.
Thank you for coming to my house and hanging out with me!
You had situations when you were young that forced you to grow up very fast. When did you feel like you developed a growth mindset for the first time?
I don't know if that's ever a conscious thing. I'm always nervous when people make the conscious effort like, "I'm going to have a growth mindset." I think it's something that some people are born with, and then I think some people realize, "Hey, I'm going along, and this doesn't seem to be working. Maybe I could do that differently. That seems like a good reason."
For me, it was a survival reaction. It was scanning ahead to try to anticipate so that I could not only land someplace that I wanted to but that was going to be essential to my survival too. When you do that long enough, and then combine it with athletics – because the thing about athletics, your goal is to always improve. So why not take that focus of continuous improvement off the court and do that as a human being? Because we spend a lot more time away from athletics living as people.
We always say there's a difference between ‘winners’ and ‘champions’. I was always more interested in trying to continue to develop as a human being. Also, when you have the opportunity to express yourself – or have your life reflect you – you start to recognize, hopefully, that it's a gift. Then you want to participate in not only maintaining it, but then seeing if you can continue to expand that.
What helped you learn effectively when you were young? Was it the athletic pursuits that gave you that structure and a finish line to set your sights on? Or were there any books that helped in your journey, too?
A friend gave me Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged when I was 15, and I was around adults who were not modeling certain things. I was looking for that structure, so I self-inflicted it. By nature, I have a little bit of a rigidity that I was born with. Then it got, I think, accentuated by my environment. Once I became involved in sports, I realized that progress is about systematizing certain things and having a practice. Everything is about practice. If you ask me now at this time of my life, I would say to people, "We have all the information. We just have to practice."
Everything is about practice.
All of those elements really helped me continue to do that, so you're also quick to understand, "What can I participate in, and what am I in control of?” and “I can't control that” or “I have to get up.” It's helped me pull the cord when I needed to and just move on. I think that you learn to do that quickly, too.
As you said, people usually know what they need to do. But it's that discipline, every single day, to just get it done.
Yes, but personal accountability and truthfulness are so important. One thing I did love about sports is I always felt really honest, and you couldn't hide. Let's say, for example, I was having a bad game, but my teammates are playing well. You would learn how to tuck in behind that. You could still come away winning even if you didn't perform well. But within that, you’re being honest with yourself and saying, "Hey, I didn't play my best” or “I didn't participate as much” or what have you.
It’s about always having that honest check in, "Maybe I don't feel like it” or “I want to be angry” or “I want to exercise my ego and let that person know I want to exert force.” It's just being that honest all the time in all the scenarios as much as you can.
That athletic background seems to be such a great foundation for people who are able to use those principles later in life. Obviously, you're still very actively involved in fitness and holistic health. Today, when you’re not training for a gold medal or a finish line, where does that motivation to get up and give it your best every single day come from?
My middle daughter who's 17, we talk about this a lot. In the last few years, I’ve really identified that there's a part of me who’s a very blue-collar person in certain ways. Also, I don't need to lose my health. I've had enough athletic surgeries and things like that. I don't need to lose my health to covet it and to understand – besides my family and my friends – that it is truly the greatest asset that I have. Houses and cars, I don't get distracted in that.
I don't need to lose my health to covet it.
The other thing I'm doing is I'm practicing. When people talk about gratitude, the best way I can show that, "Hey, I'm really grateful for my health," is to take care of it. That's ultimately what I'm doing.
The other side of that is it's a level of sanity. I mean, I am a better functioning organism if I can also take care of the physical avatar to the best of my ability. It's a law of the universe. It's the truth, and so I don't need to keep relearning that lesson. I know what the lesson is, and I'm just ahead with it.
How often do you define and redefine what success is to you personally? Are you always acutely aware of having a definition of what is important to you or what success looks like to you?
Absolutely. Well, there's parts where I'm already clear about what success is, like keeping my family in as much of a loving environment as possible. That's not always... I don't always do that myself. It's just not always practical. And being in a relationship where I'm here to serve the relationship, and hopefully, my husband's on the same page, because I can't make him do anything.
Then there’s my physical health, as well as continuous environments to continue to learn and improve, be it in really small ways. I know at my core if it feels successful to me. Then I enjoy setting new external goals, such as in business. In 2020, for example, like you stated earlier, “We're going to run this over the goal line and take this company public” which, to be clear, was after having many failures. So, I think you've got your foundation that you're always going to stick to, and then you're expanding in your external goals of what success is.
Actually, the big thing for me is figuring out how I can strip everything down and keep simplifying as I get older. Let's say our businesses are growing and expanding, but even within that, how do I simplify and keep simplifying, because the thing I'm really drawn to is that essentialism. It’s not about parties and boats and stuff. Drilling down to simplify, that’s always part of it.
Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Gabby Reece does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about her favorite quote, what advice she’d give her 18-year-old self, the one thing on her bucket list, and a whole lot more 🚀
You’re at a time of your life now where you’ve got many options and different things to do. It sounds like that focus and simplicity can help you move forward effectively, rather than get distracted and ultimately be ineffective in a whole bunch of different areas.
I’m really happy you brought up the failures you’ve had too, because people from the outside looking in might think, “Gabby Reece has this perfect life,” but of course, we all have these struggles behind the scenes. Your entire life has been about peak performance, physical fitness, and mental health. What have you incorporated into your daily routine today as a result of a lifetime of that pursuit?
First, it's the easy practice of going to bed early. Listen, let's be really clear about something. I have a built-in person in my home who also makes this a lot easier, because he's even more disciplined than I am. It's obnoxious, but he is in a pursuit.
Of course, we all know it, but food is the thing. It's the medicine that can put you in an energetic mood or it can put you in a funk. With exercise, it's about consistency, so I'll do pool training or land training, but there's plenty of days I don't actually have time to train. I just try to support my wellbeing through these other practices – good sleep, good relationships, and clear communication.
A big thing is, I avoid drama. I don't move towards things that I know piss me off. If I see a scenario personally or with friends, and it's not for me to work out, I just stay away. I think it's all of these things. Having a practice also goes back to keeping it simple, where I'm trying to not onload extra crap. I'm trying to figure out how to offload, rather than, "Can you believe they said that?" It's like, "They said it. I didn't like it. Why would I continue to repeat that and keep that story going, versus finding the place within me to work it out?"
I don't move towards things that I know piss me off.
That’s the other great thing. I can say, "Hey, I want to talk about something that really pissed me off and got me going today," even in that bratty way, where I responded with my ego and just totally identify it and then let it go. It’s about having these practices where you know yourself and you can move towards the place that you say you want to be. That all comes from practice.
There’s so much to unpack in all that. I love that it's more a pursuit of simplicity and the lifestyle that you want to live – a lifestyle that gives you energy – rather than it being the summit of some type of mountain or an achievement over the horizon.
Given how focused you are on the health / fitness side, what's an average menu look like in the Gabby Reece household!?
It's just anything with real food. You just heard my daughter complain, "There's no snacks!" Of course, there's weird funky food, because I don't want to make this an issue for my kids. This is our lifestyle. They will make their choices.
However, when we make dinner, it's high-quality animal protein, just a little bit, which usually means humanely killed, and vegetables. It's just real food; it's really not complicated. I try to be careful about what oils we eat, so I stay towards coconut oil, avocado oil and olive oil, and also try to find the good stuff, because even a lot of olive oils have sunflower and safflower oil to make it more affordable. Our health is important to us so we aim for high quality ingredients.
People have to realize a lot of the reason, other than emotional reasons, that we overeat is because we're not getting the nutrients that we need – the macronutrients, the micronutrients, the good fats – so we overeat. If we’re eating food that doesn't have nutritional stuff in it, our body will be like, "Well, I'm not full, so I need to keep eating." What people have to realize too is that if you eat a lot of the good stuff, because it is more costly, and I'm sensitive to that, is you do need less of it.
If you're eating for other reasons besides being hungry, it's also taking a look at why that is. When I have stress in my life, believe me – we were talking earlier about your chocolate that you love [here it is if you’re interested; be warned ... it's addictive!] – I'm looking for it. I'm looking to medicate, right? I think it's always about being aware of those relationships, and then be like, "You know what, I am eating this chip because I hate everyone in my house right now!” But at least I know why I'm eating. I'm not doing it mindlessly, and it’s not all the time.
For me, I usually skip breakfast. I have a very big coffee, with tons of fat. I train. I might eat my biggest meal at lunch, depending on how I'm feeling. If I'm very active, I will eat two decent-sized meals at lunch and dinner. If I'm medium active, lunch usually gets to be the big one, maybe not dinner at all, or maybe something light, and that's it. Again, it's not really complicated, very simple things, very few ingredients.
Have you got the kids to work in the kitchen yet!?
Yes, my older two daughters are great cooks! Laird has other things that are his strong suit, so this one is more in my lane. It's the common joke of, "What's for dinner?" But that's the thing you realize, too, is that you have to model to your kids what they should be eating to be healthy. It's food and fun, and they always come back to it.
As teenagers, they want to eat weird non-food, and you just have to let them. Let them. You don't have to stock it in the house, but if they go and eat whatever, let them, and then they're always going to come back to the real food because also they feel better, and they know it. The funny thing is we don't have a microwave oven in our home, so you have to make the effort.
Yeah, so you probably enjoy it more too.
Yeah, and I think getting away from that convenience. I think we need to cherish ourselves enough, even if it takes a few minutes to notice what we're eating and how to prepare it. I just think that that's an important thing.
You've done so much in your life and are still doing so much. How do you balance that hunger for future achievements with happiness and peace in the present?
One great thing about accomplishment is that you realize it isn’t the answer. Accomplishment is just a marker that you had an instinct about something, or a passion for something, and the accomplishment is a validation. I even look at money that way. It's just an indication like, "Oh, that worked out, right?" You realize that it's unsustainable, so if you don't have a relationship with having a sense of fulfillment and connection with the people in your life, and a real life, you're going to be looking and chasing those external accomplishments forever.
You can be a champion one day, but the next day there’s someone else. For me, it's saying, "Hey, I'm going to pursue things that I believe in; that I'm willing to wake up for when it sucks, and that I feel proud to be connected with, whether it’s a message or a product.” It’s about doing it for real reasons, and, yes, being strategic about it – sometimes to a point that you can’t even see.
It seems disingenuous, but I've gotten good enough at certain things that it's blurred. It's all very genuine and authentic. But believe me, it's very strategic. It doesn't mean I'm lying. It just means I've learned how to put it all together. It's that pursuit for that challenge, because I need to keep myself busy and occupied, but that it's always having a level of feeling about myself, and my value has to be based on me. It can’t be based on this week’s success and opportunity, because next week might suck and there might be no opportunity, and you'll die with that attitude.
What in life gives you the most peace? And what advice do you have for others who feel that life is a bit too hectic?
That's the thing. It's on us, and it's nothing from the external. Anytime I take myself really seriously, I quickly realize I'm a grain of sand. I think when you can always have this perspective, you get a more realistic look at things and your responses to things.
Laird says it all the time that you can't put your happiness in other people's hands. That's why I train. That's why I try to go to bed early, so I feel good. That's why I'm trying to be as kind and loving in my relationships as I can be, because that's all I'm in charge of.
I'm going to pursue things that I believe in; that I'm willing to wake up for when it sucks, and that I feel proud to be connected with.
If there's something that I need to do, or I need an external validation, then I need to take a look at that, because that's my ego. Listen, ego is important. You need it to go, but you can’t let it drive the vehicle. I think if people are feeling restless, you need to survey all the corners of your life, starting with your relationship with yourself and your health, then go from there to those most intimate relationships.
Then, look at your work. If you fricking hate your job, what is the strategy to find the next thing? Don't be an idiot. Don't just be like, "I'm out of here." It's like, "Okay, wait a second. What’s the plan I can create to get me where I want to be?” I have a friend, Neil Strauss, who said it’s like being on parallel trains. It's never going to be easy to make change, but if you're really doing something that you absolutely can't stand, figure it out.
Yeah, and get on the front foot. Any plan is better than a prayer, rather than thinking that a lightning bolt is going to hit you and all of a sudden you’re going to be happy in a role you’ve hated for 40 years.
I am of the belief of always focusing, and I don't always do it. I'm just of the belief, but it's part of my practice. It's not about what I don't want. It's about continuing to focus and look at, "What do I want? What am I interested and working really hard at?" Just the pursuit would be a success, right, because we cannot control outcome. I think that's a really important thing if the energy is about, "Where am I going? What do I want? Who do I want to be with? Who do I want to be?" Rather than, "Well, I don't want to do that. I don't want to fail. I can't stand my..."
Be clear on what you want and put your energy into that. It means also that you have to be a grown up, and everything you do, everything you say, everything you eat, everything that you read, unless it's guilty pleasures, needs to support that thing that you say you want. If they're in conflict, it's never going to happen.
You mentioned people feeling restless. We know that 2020 has been a year of massive transition for the entire world. How did your life change in 2020?
Obviously with the kids being around, and we haven't traveled that much, I'm going to say that we're really on the good end of this as far as we live in a place with space, because we're entrepreneurs. We've always worked from home. Now, we don't fly to meetings; we're on Zoom like everyone else.
I stopped watching the news many, many months ago. Energetically, I feel that there's a weird divisiveness going on. It's stating the obvious, but what I really want to do is keep focusing on participating in the energy of being calm and loving, because I think that there are forces right now that are trying to make us all feel like we don't trust each other and that we don't love each other. We can't come to some mutual agreement, even when we don't agree. See, that's the thing. We're in a democracy, so we have to figure out how to work it out.
Yes, there are certainly a lot of companies and individuals who benefit from division.
I don't want to participate in that game. I recognize that I can't get to the bottom of a lot of things. I won't know what the truth is, and so rather than being all perplexed or stressed out about it, I am going to be like, "Well, what do I want to be?" I just practice that and fortify myself.
Be clear on what you want and put your energy into that.
Going back to COVID, we've been really fortunate. It has made me look at how the world shifted quickly in business and in technology, so that was an interesting thing. You're always adapting and adjusting. Because I am older, these certain things are not intuitive, so if you're talking about business, it's really paying attention to where's the soul heading, and finding the right people to get informed by or who to work with, because you can't possibly adjust as quickly as it's adjusted.
Another thing, if I talk about my business, there are opportunities to think, "Oh, I'm going to evaluate this because there’s an area where I probably need to brush up on and get re-educated."
This year, 2021, continues to be really interesting for the world. There are a lot of people who are having a pity party and feeling sorry for themselves, but if there's one thing I do know about success, it's that how you respond to adversity when it inevitably strikes is what separates ordinary people from extraordinary achievers. What's the biggest adversity that you have faced that you have been able to identify an equivalent benefit from?
Like I said, I've had failed businesses, but nothing really is that apparent. You think, "Oh, I'm going to show up the best way that I can, and I'm going to do the very best I can, and really be alert and try to do all these things." But what happens is inevitably, your children or child – and every kid’s different – will say to you, "Oh, by the way, that thing you were doing for five years, I hated that, and that was the worst for me. I was actually quietly suffering over here, and you didn't even notice."
Business failure, it's only going to come in so deep on me. But my family and especially parenting, what you learn is you can crawl up in a ball. You can say, "Well, this is how I do it, so when you get out in your life, you'll do it your way." There are certain things that are true to that, like how clean you keep your house.
But when you're talking about the emotional stuff, what you actually have to do as a parent is so fricking uncomfortable, because you have to say, "Alright, I'm going to take a look at that, and maybe I need to make a change." That's a change when you're 100% well intended, and it’s really important for people to know that you can be in a relationship, or you can be a parent, and you have the best intentions in the world, and still be wrong. Even within that, you have to take a look at it, because usually, we say, "I'm well intended. I'm here, and that should be enough." But that's sometimes not the case. Those have been the most difficult changes for me, especially when a lot of that stuff worked in my life.
I wanted to bring up parenting with you because one of the things I love about you is that you never romanticize parenting, relationships, or anything like that. You always keep it very real. What is the biggest fear you have for your children as they grow up?
For example, having a 20-month-old daughter, my biggest fear for her is that one day she's going to wake up and realize that the world is a very big, dark, scary place. How I gently usher her in to be resilient enough to handle that is something I think about every day, and will constantly be on my mind as she gets older. What's the biggest fear you have for your children?
My kids are a little more formed because they’re aged 12, 17 and 25, so you get a sense of them. It's hard when they're 20 months old. I have a lot of confidence in who they will be and who they are as people, even though it can be a bumpy ride. It's like having a vehicle where you're on a really radical road, but you're like, "No, the tires are going to stay on. We'll make it."
Technology is really interesting. Before, I'd be like, "Oh, I hope they have a job, and they find someone they love and who loves them back." Now, I just hope that they survive technology. That they have the ability to connect, to focus, to not compare, and also their relationship to the environment.
Worrying about it probably doesn't do any good, so I just continue to have those conversations with them. I apologize when I blow it. If I don't understand, I tell them, "I don't really understand." That's another thing. When I said to my parents, "You don't understand," my parents better understood what I was going through than what I understand about what my kids are going through, because they're growing up with devices. I don't understand, and so I've really said, "Okay, I'm going to look at it." I don't use the metrics of how I grew up in the '80s to what they're going through today.
By the way, yeah, we work hard at it. The Gordon Gekko type style, that attitude doesn't work. It's also having some malleability. In certain ways, I feel like, "Oh, they're all soft and a bunch of complainers," but the way we did it didn't work, so let's see what happens.
Sure. This generation cops a bad rap for not being as tough as the previous generations. In many ways, I feel like it would be extremely tough to grow up today, where every single thing that you write or every picture that you send is out there in the public domain, and you never know when something like that is going to come back to haunt you.
Think about their ability, their emotional awareness. Sometimes for me, it goes too far. For example, when people say, "Oh, the way you're talking offends me." It's like, "Stop it. Figure out how to protect yourself." However, within that middle, somewhere in there, there's an opportunity to really have better conversations, so I think we can learn from them, of course.
I worry about technology. I worry that our humanity and technology and biology is not how we can find that harmony, because technology also is such a valuable industry, and what they monetize on is often not what supports humanity and our biology. How then do we figure that out?
Where do you interject between that freedom of letting your children experience life – which is, probably, the best teacher, if they can go through these experiences themselves – versus having that feeling deep down that they are going down a wrong route, whether it's spending too much money that they don't have on a credit card, or hanging around people who might not have their best interests at heart?
Well, the people thing is, it's their journey. I mean, obviously, if it's really radical, you'd step in. I would send Laird, quite frankly. My kids are pretty tough, so it's more about trying to get them to self-regulate. Somebody corrected me once. I said it’s about getting them to self-control themselves, and I had a woman named Dr. Sarah Sarkis go, "A better expression is self-regulate, because control has a whole other set of things, right?"
For me, it's just about, "Here's the world, and these are some things you have to look out for. And trust your instincts. Don't lose those."
Get your kids to do all the weird stuff when they're living at home.
One of my daughters was really interested in being with a bunch of popular girls. Well, let me tell you, when she made a mistake, they were gone. That's an uncomfortable lesson, but it was also like, "That's a reflection of who you were being."
And without using, "I told you so," because you can't do that. I don't think you can protect them too much; I don't think that's a good idea. Also, I would say to people, get your kids to do all the weird stuff when they're living at home. Hopefully, don't send them into the world unprepared and then you're not really there to help them out. At least if they fall in their face, which we all do, you can be around.
You and Laird do such a great job of being supportive of each other's individual dreams. How do you retain that shared bond as a couple, while giving yourself the freedom to be yourself and do what you got to do in the world?
Well, Laird certainly more than I am, but Laird is really not to be contained as a person. Laird's here because he chooses to be here. When I met Laird, he was obviously surfing. That is a part of who Laird is, so if you want to be with Laird, it be a good idea to support that.
Also, I benefit so greatly from who Laird is because of that pursuit – his rawness, his presence, his capacity, all the things that he's quite talented at – I reap the benefits of that pursuit. And it's a pursuit I admire, "Oh, you want to go into nature and challenge yourself? I can support that." It's not like, "Hey, I want to smash this company and take this one over." It's pretty pure. Both of us came into it as individual people, so what we've decided is that there's parts in here that we would like to be together.
Couples make a huge mistake where all of a sudden they start trying to change the other person. I think it's more natural for women to do this, because we're mothers, so we mother everybody. It's really important, I believe, for us to all adapt and change. Let's say I'm in a conversation with Laird, and I make a reasonable point about wanting maybe something, and it seems reasonable to him, then make the change. But I'm not there to be Laird’s mom. I'm Laird's partner. When I understood that really clearly, that was made very clear by Laird, it liberated me from having that approach.
Also, if I don't defend my real estate as a wife and a mother, I'm going to be really pissed when this is all over, and they don't talk to you about that, but I knew that going in. I would always encourage, especially women who are pursuing business, you have to find a way to defend your real estate because your kids aren't going to say, "Mom, I'm going to take less of your time. Mom, you know what, you look tired. I'll tell you what, I'll unload the dishwasher." They're just not going to do that. That's not their job, and your partner isn't typically going to make it really clear, right?
Couples make a huge mistake where all of a sudden they start trying to change the other person.
Women have a tendency, not all, there's always exceptions, to anticipate everybody. Like, "Oh, he needs to go on a little adventure. Look at him. He's so domesticated and restless. Oh, the kids look like they haven't gone outside enough," but really, as a female, I think that's important to defend that for yourself. That sounds selfish and harsh, but I think it's realistic. I've been doing this for 25 years, and it seems to be what I see over and over.
The idea would be join the relationship to enhance. Come with the objective to enhance the situation and enhance your partner's life. Hopefully, your partner is on the same page. If after a while, they're not, that's on them, and that's on you to decide what you want to do. Then it is your responsibility to care for your own personal voice.
It changes when you have a little baby. I used to say you blow on the fire. Just try to keep the fire alive a little. As they get older and they're more independent, you can let the flame blaze up again. Again, it's assessing, checking in, noticing, and seeing when things start getting out of whack.
Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Gabby Reece does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about her favorite quote, what advice she’d give her 18-year-old self, the one thing on her bucket list, and a whole lot more 🚀
Yeah, and staying true to yourself. If your partner is about to have some freedom individually but you're pissed off at each other, they can’t enjoy their time away, and when they come back you still hate each other. Therefore, the time away never accomplished what it needed to.
Laird jokes that we’re in the Cold War, him and I, because we have a very peaceful relationship. There’s a lot we don’t do. We don't do fighting or bickering or whatever. Really, it's probably because we're both too mean, so we don't even know.
Also, let's say he's in a bad mood, I am way more effective. I don't go, "Why are you in a bad mood?" I elevate my behavior, and sure enough, it pulls him up. Same with me. If I'm down and out and funky, and I watch Laird, and he's staying in his best self, I'm reminded like, "Oh, that's the standard. That's what we're doing.” We're not going to make anybody do anything. The idea of being in relationship where you don't want to try to make it better for your partner, at some point, it's like, "Why bother?"
Final question, what's one thing you do to Win the Day?
I show up every day to do my best and create value. If it requires 20, I'll always do 22.
And I try really hard to not allow my ego to be in charge. I save myself a lot of hassle when I can just look at things reasonably, process them, and make decisions from that attitude — be it in business or personal. It seems to be more effective in the long run.
Resources / Links Mentioned:
📝 Gabrielle Reece on Facebook.
📷 Gabby Reece on Instagram.
⚡ Gabrielle Reece website.
📙 Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.
“The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.”
On this show I like to bring you the real mindset masters, and today we’ve got an absolute superstar, Marcus Smith, who’s been through more wars than most. Marcus is an entrepreneur, an extreme athlete, and a performance coach. Based in Dubai, he’s the founder of InnerFight, which helps everyone – from kids to corporate clients – unlock their peak performance, as well as owner of Smith St Paleo, which provides paleo food offerings to help people make better nutrition decisions.
Marcus is fit, and I mean FIT. At age 18, he started playing professional rugby, making it to the 2009 Rugby Sevens World Cup. Since then, he’s completed pretty much anything with “ultra” in its name, including:
In February 2018, while training to set a world record in ultra-cycling, Marcus was hit by a truck, with the impact smashing him into a brick wall. But he stared death right in the face and said, “Not today.” Rather than focus on what he lost, Marcus decided to create a documentary ‘Fight for Every Breath’ where he details his experience and his journey back to full health.
Just nine months after the accident, Marcus completed not one, not two, but 30 marathons, in 30 days!
In this episode, we’re going to talk with Marcus about:
Strap yourself in. Let’s WIN THE DAY with Marcus Smith!
What was it like growing up in Dubai? Can you also take us into a bit of an overview of the city for those who haven't been there?
To be honest, it's almost like shatters to dream because when I came here, when I was four, there was nothing; there was no lights, there was no highways, there was no buildings. And I think that's kind of what I love still about the places I see it quite, if you'd like, quite naked. I see it for what it is for the culture, which now it's a lot different. There's obviously a lot of stuff that's maybe a little bit more, make sure we say it, let's be honest, it's quite plastic. And a lot of it is not very real at all, but I've got friends here that have been here forever and Dubai's kind of been home for the last coming up 40 years, then I say, "That's a long time."
What's it like geographically? Is it a lot of the sand like you would imagine being in the Middle East or is there bits of greenery and things around too?
There's a lot of green, James, and that's what the government has done super nice. But from my house, I'm literally in the middle of the desert within 20 minutes, which I absolutely love. And mate, next week we've got some public holidays coming up and I'm an hour from the mountains and I'll be there for about three or four days that public holiday so I can get away from it. And this is one of the things, people come as tourists to this country, and it's like, "Oh, it's malls and it's buildings." There's a lot more, if you like sand. If you don't like sand, don't come here, mate. That's quite a lot.
And you and your wife have a paleo food company, don't you? What's it like getting fresh produce and things in Dubai?
That's all good. Yeah, we set up Smith St Paleo in 2016. My wife's from Australia and she was actually an air hostess with Emirates for 13 years where we met, mate, imagine that on an airplane. And we set up the paleo food business basically based on the back of her suffering a lot of inflammation when she was traveling and she just started cooking paleo food.
So getting good food back in the day, when I first got here, I can't imagine what it'd been like when my mom was trying to cook for us as kids, but now everything's available. We've got a lot of home grown organic food. So yeah, it's super good. But mate, I think we have probably on par with America, if I'm allowed to say it, the number of burger joints per capita is probably some of the highest in the universe. We're trying to do a good thing, but a lot of the time burgers win basically for a lot of people.
You met your wife on an airplane. Tell us about the pickup line you used!
It's not even good, mate! I was fast asleep and, she’ll tell this story, she's like, "He looked okay and he was a nice sleeper." So I'm there with my mouth shut. We didn't really speak much on the plane. We ran into each other in a bar here in Dubai. One of my mates was over from Australia going back. And I said, "Mate, if we're not going to see each other for six months or so, let's go out for a couple of quiet beers."
And we walked into this bar and Holly was in there. I was like, "I know you." And we've literally been together ever since. I went back to live in Australia because I was playing rugby down there. I'm about to live there and she sort of was flying in and out. Then I was like, "This is the one" and I moved back to Dubai.
And in end of 2004, I moved back here full-time and it's amazing. We have a great life, and one day we'll be back in Australia and very happy. Well, we're very happy now, I mean, but I think she definitely didn't take much persuading to say that we'll spend the rest of our life in Australia. I was like, "Yeah, I'm in for that."
One of the most amazing things about your background is your career as an extreme athlete and we'll get into the accident and those elements that have really defined a big chapter of your life shortly, but where did this love of extreme sports come from – the ultra-running, ultra-cycling, and all those types of things?
Honestly, it's the environment that you're brought up in. I'm not blaming it on my parents, but they did such an amazing job of making sports such a big part of my life. And I'm eternally grateful to them. I see a lot of my habits were their habits – it's incredible. They'd have people running from the house, they'd be off at triathlons. Mum would be winning running races here in Dubai. And I would just be begging the whole time from like four or five years old to go out and go running with them.
As I got a little bit older, I was allowed to run a little bit further down the street with them and then they'd be like, "Right, you've got to go home now." I do believe, James, you are a massive product of your environment and I feel a little bit sometimes not super comfortable saying that because I know people didn't have such fortunate upbringings that I had, but I know that people had perhaps more fortunate upbringing than I have, and haven't done much with it.
You are a massive product of your environment.
But endurance sport was in my blood, I think, from the start. Dad has cycled the length of New Zealand, he's cycled the length of England. He cycled pretty much halfway across America so that's really where it comes from. And even to this day, my dad's pressing 74, 75. I was speaking to him the other day, he's out on his bike and mum's doing workouts in the garden and it's amazing. I love my parents so much and they've given me so much.
Yeah, you need to catch up! It's a good benchmark of fitness and adventure for your life.
Yeah, absolutely. It really is.
You've done ultra-marathons through the Sahara Desert and had some other incredible experiences. Was there a particular moment where you felt like maybe you'd bitten off more than you can chew?
No, absolutely not. The Sahara was the moment where a lot of things came clear, mate. I was running 250 kilometers across the Sahara self-supported and honestly, I have a picture of it just before it happened, it just so happened that one of my friends took a picture and about 50 meters from where this picture is taken, I stopped and the sand, it was almost like a salt flat and the earth had almost parted. And there was just this big line of runners. And I was like, "Wow, I'm in the middle of the Sahara Desert." We hadn't seen any other civilization since we'd been there for like five days.
And I just thought to myself, "This is amazing that we, as human beings are allowed to pass on this earth." And from that, I always had a massive appreciation for nature and for the outdoors. I spent a lot of time when I was young in boarding school, in the UK, outside. But on that moment, I think a lot of things changed. Since then, all I've wanted to do is cross landscapes on foot and walk and hike and run and cycle. Holly was probably going, "Yeah, this is where it all went wrong. I let you go to the Sahara!"
But yeah, I just had this almost epiphany, if you want, and reflection, I'm huge on, James. And the more I think about it every time I sort of tell that story, the closer I come to it. Yeah, there's tough times, mate, don't get me wrong. It's brutal. Ultramarathons, endurance sports are I call them the wildest rollercoaster ride you'll ever go on because you are literally, you have these moments and you're invincible, no one can touch you.
You're running through the Sahara and it's just amazing. And a few hours later, the sun goes down and you're like, "Why the hell am I here? Why do I even exist as a human being?" And that's what's so amazing that you have these ultimate highs and lows, which allows you to come back into life.
You're running through the Sahara and it's just amazing. And a few hours later, the sun goes down and you're like, "Why the hell am I here? Why do I even exist as a human being?"
And when you come back, I believe you live on a different level. Again, it's no better or no worse than anyone else. But for me, it's elevated my game in a number of areas, family, business, a number of different areas. So yeah, the Sahara was very special.
I often think about those sliding door moments about one decision you made. When I first moved to LA in 2013, there was a barbecue that I went to in the afternoon which became the foundation of so many friendships, which has led to so many other amazing things. For you, the one decision of doing the Sahara Desert has helped you with a whole heap of inspiration.
For those who don't know, can you take us into the specifics of running through the Sahara Desert? Is it soft sand? Is it hard sand? Is it super hot? Are you wearing shoes? What's the deal!?
That's a great question. Marathon des Sables, it was the second big ultra that I did, is quite famous. It's a 250 kilometer race. You carry everything you're going to need for those six days on your back. You only get given water along the way and you wear normal trainers. And we stitch in what's called a sand gator to stop the sand from coming in. Despite people thinking the Sahara is all sand, it's not all sand, but a shit ton of it is sand! You get sand everywhere.
I was going to ask how effective the gators were. Sand is like water. It's sort of hard to get out if you're right in the thick of it!
I mean, they're good, but you get sand everywhere. And a lot of places, it's like a clay sand. So at the end of it, you're like, "Is this a real sun tan?" And then you have a shower and all comes off. But mountains in the day, it's super hot. In the night, it gets really cold. And that's why it's such a brutal race, that particular one, because a lot of races, like you'll have a race in a country that's quite hot most of the time.
I was in Kenya last year and that race is quite warm the whole time. You'll have races in the Arctic, there's an ultra where it's just freezing cold all the time. Whereas the Sahara, it can get down to about 6-8 degrees Celsius at night, but up to 45 degrees Celsius in the day. So you get these massive swings and it sounds quite straightforward, you're going to put everything on your back and you're going to run, but that pack shouldn't weigh really more than about nine kilograms.
So you're eating dehydrated food, which after a few days, obviously does quite funky stuff to your digestive system. For some people, it completely blocks them. Other people are literally just diarrhea the whole way through, so those problems are real.
And then we've got hygiene issues as well. You're not able to wash properly because you only get enough water to drink. So literally you're starting to come out with rash on your armpit because you're just sweating so much. And I don't need to go on about how your private parts will look, but you can imagine that as well, it's carnage.
I train a lot of people. I've taken over 20 people through that race now, and people will come and see me and I'd be like, "Tell me what it's about." And I just I'll say, "Listen, this race is nothing about running. This race, like life, is about all the other stuff. If you get all of your little admin bits in place, if you control the controllables, we've heard it like three million times in the year of COVID mate. But if you can focus and control on what you control, then you actually have a great time."
And it's mental, we're over 1,300 people running through the Sahara. So as you can imagine, we’re all absolute fruit loops!
Is everyone setting up their own tents or how does that work? Where do you sleep?
They put together this absolute token shelter that most nights just falls down, and you've got eight blokes laying literally like sardines. And when it falls down, no one can be bothered putting it back up because everyone's so tired. People just sleep under the stars, on rocks, you don't sleep properly for the seven days. That’s just the nature of ultra races.
This is what really takes people down because you've got lot of people who are very good runners, but if they can't manage stinking, I'm very good about washing in normal life, but when I'm in the bush or in an endurance event, you've got to deal with that and you don't have enough water and you won't have enough sleep – and eating dehydrated food the whole time is not like eating fresh paleo food, for example – and it's all these things that just start to chip away at people slowly.
And most people, you can move forward. And this is one of the biggest learnings I've got from ultra-running and from endurance sports is that you can keep moving forward. But when you're moving forward to another camp that you don't have anything to look forward to, it's quite a difficult argument to sell to yourself in a way. It's not like, "Mate, you finished this, we're at the pub. We're going to have a countertop meal and we're going to have a schooner."
You can keep moving forward.
But it's like, "Yeah, we're going to get to this other shit camp site where you won't be able to wash, you'll have to cook your food which tastes like crap anyway. And then you'll sleep on a rock. Do you want to go?"
It's like, "No, I don't really want to go there."
Yeah, exactly! So these are the challenges, but that's what makes it absolutely incredible.
How do you feel at the start line of these things now that you have done so many of them – do you feel nervous, or have you gone through it that much now that you're just prepared, you understand the process, and you just got to focus on putting one foot in front of the other?
Yes, to all of the above, but I still get a bit nervous, mate, in a way that, when I go to these races, most of them now I want to try and push a little bit. We're on a journey of self-discovery. We all are, we're expressing that in different ways. So I want to see where my limits are. I want to sort of start to push it.
And I also love it, because I've been to a lot of races and the pre, the day before everyone gathers, and then we start the race the next day, I love just listening to people, listening to stories. If it's their first race, people talking about their shoes, their equipment, and just sitting back and listening and taking it all in.
I want to see where my limits are.
And you meet some people that generally, and this is what we always say that endurance sports brings together people that, we wouldn't be friends. This is the one thing that brings us together. We don't have anything else in common. We don't like the same music, but through this crazy sport of suffering, we all come together and you make some amazing, amazing friends. Like all of my good friends now I sort of know through endurance sports, it's gone from rugby mates to endurance mates. And they're both a crazy bunch.
The way you talk about it is the way that people talk about Burning Man and Ayahuasca, it's like this experience of self-discovery that people go through. It's really interesting.
Yeah. It is that James, that's a very good way of putting it together.
Obviously, you have a competitive spirit and somewhat of an obsessive nature to do the work behind the scenes to get this done. Are you very competitive and obsessive about all other areas of your life too?
Yes. What do I say!? No, mate, I'm totally chilled out. I'm really relaxed. I'm very OCD on a number of levels. Without this sounding wrong, that's one of the reasons why I love my wife so much because she puts up with it. Everything is like bang, bang. My diary is just so strictly done. My training is strictly done. And because when I was playing sport, when I was playing rugby competitively, and then when I moved into ultras, you're going to be in a remote place in an ultra. If you're not OCD, you could've left one thing that could just ruin your whole experience.
And that for me is sad because you might have to pull out the race because one of the guys rocked up to one of the races that I've been in and he didn't have his insoles in his shoes. So his race is destroyed. He'd washed them the day before and forgot to put them back in. So yeah, I'm pretty OCD in pretty much every area of my life. I'm very routine driven, which again, you wouldn't be surprised comes from my dad. It's like every single Sunday we do this, Monday, we do this, it is bang like that. And that's how I work really well.
I have my whole work life. I run two businesses. I do all this training and I try and spend as much time with my wife as I can, I have to live in these buckets. So Sunday's for this, Monday's for this. And I try not to tell Holly that, "Okay, I'm home now, we've got two hours make the best of it," sort of thing.
We did take as much holidays as we could. We try and get away four or five times a year. Obviously, COVID made that quite difficult. But I think that downtime is really important as well, because a lot of people would say, "Yeah, you're really intense." And when I'm here, I'm just on. Like this morning I was up before 4am and I was riding my bike at 4:30am and then bang, bang, bang the whole day.
And just literally an hour ago, I got home for my sister because it was her birthday. And now we're having this chat. So it's banging, but I love it. And I think that's what helps me as well. It's not for everyone, but it's just the way it's what works for me.
Yeah, the more prepared you are, the more you allow yourself that luxury of surrender. There's an old quote that's taken so many different forms. It says, “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” It's like people in the UFC, they talk about “The more you sweat in the gym, the less you bleed in the octagon.” Clearly you have no troubles putting in this work behind the scenes. What is that secret to the daily motivation? Is it just something that's instilled in you as a kid from your parents, as you mentioned earlier, or is there actually something going through your head every single day?
Like I talk about a lot about the “Win the Day” mentality. So I literally have that in my head as I step into the cold shower in the morning, it's “Win the Day”. My alarm says “Win the Day”, it's like a little mantra that helps me move forward. Have you got something like that to inspire that daily motivation and enable that consistency?
Yeah, I do James, and it's not dissimilar. My alarm's called “Dominate”. When I'm waking up to dominate, which is most days, I'm waking up to dominate. It's funny, because when I'm waking up to teach people, my alarm's called “Make people better at life”. So when I'm teaching first thing in the morning, when that's my first appointment, it's that.
But I get up every morning, as we all do, and I look in the mirror and I say, "Literally, this is it. I'm excited. I want to do this." And I try and carry that attitude.
Mate, I'm not full of crap, some days are shit; not every day is amazing. But I look in the mirror every morning and say, "This is going to be the best day of my life. This is really it."
And then one thing that I think is super, super healthy – and Holly and I have done it since we've been together 17 years – whenever we've been in each other's company is we sit down at the dinner table every night. You'll laugh at this, there's one month of the year or three weeks of the year where I have a screen on, which is when the Tour de France is on. She lets me watch it. It's wild because the finish of the Tour de France is like five o'clock in France, seven o'clock Dubai time. So I'm like, "It's live, I've got to watch it." And she bought into this years ago.
Mate, I'm not full of crap, some days are shit; not every day is amazing. But I look in the mirror every morning and say, "This is going to be the best day of my life. This is really it."
But the point is we sit down, no devices, nothing except those three weeks of the year. And we'll debrief the day, not formally. It's not like, "Oh, what did you love about today?" I'm not really like, can I say airy-fairy like that. We're pretty straight forward, "Now, how did it go? What went on?"
And I think we spend more time talking, like we never watched TV. I can't watch Netflix. I hate it. And this is also because of the way that I was brought up in boarding school, discipline was huge, but I think those things really help you, or they really helped me. And the way that I live is the way that I live. I don't think it's for everyone, but the same that you wake up with an attitude to win the day. I don't get why people don't try and wake up with that attitude.
I know some days you wake up and I know there's things on your agenda that you're not 100% looking forward to, but when you switch that attitude on, I'm going to win this day. Even if this thing that I have to deal with this shit, I'm going to win at it. Then you're going into it in such a positive way with such a beautiful mindset that you're actually going to turn that bad experience into a good one and have an awesome day. And we can all do that. I really believe that we can.
Yeah, it's an opportunity each day to also do something that your future self will thank you for.
You're very big on people finding the right training and the right nutrition and the right routine that suits them, rather than just trying to go on and get a downloaded a template version of the internet. When everyone wants that magic bullet for perfect abs, rather than finding out what’s going to fire them up and keep them consistent.
I think that's the key. Everyone's always worried about what everyone else is doing. And no one else is living your life. You're living your life. You've got to deal with your problems. You've got to get out of your bed and look at your face in your mirror.
So we need to go inwards to figure out what works, to get different ideas from here and there, listen to your Win the Day show. I was listening to it earlier today when I was riding my bike; it’s a beautiful show, with a very, very inspiring lady who you had on. And I got some ideas, but then I have to take them in to figure out what I'm going to do with them.
I think that's super important. Taking different ways of training, different ways of meditation, different ways of approaching life – it’s different for everyone. If someone's listening to this show and they get fired up and they go and try and live the way I live, it won't work for you. It will not work for you. You need to take small bits, and they might start to work and then we can start to develop change, but we have to figure out what works.
But I don't know what you think, James, that's the hard bit. And that's the bit where we have to look deep into ourselves to figure out what we are, who we are and how we are going to live. And I think it's easy to go, "Oh yeah, James is saying live like this. I'll do that." And it will give us happiness, but it will only last for a certain period of time because it has to come from within. And that's tough.
For sure, the win starts within. And I think that's where having the right friends is important. I was speaking at an event last night and I was asked by someone in the audience, “How do you get away from toxic people?” Which is so important, because you need to protect your energy source at all costs.
I just don't have any negative people in my life at the moment, I just don't. We’ve only got X amount of energy each day so we need to allocate that to people who give us energy.
Yeah, I think that's super important. It was funny, I was just with my sister and we were talking about that. Actually the scenario we're talking about was, if you pass someone in a supermarket that you don't really like, but you kind of know, would you stop? And I'm like, “No, of course I won't stop!”
I don't need to stop, because I’d rather spend 30 seconds calling someone I really care about to try and change their life in those 30 seconds. And she's like, "No, no, you've got to stop." And I'm like, "No, I'm not stopping!"
Your accident has so many parallels with the Janine Shepherd story. A big theme from both of you is that we can be on what we believe is the right path and everything might be looking good for us, but completely out of left field – through no fault of our own – something massive life-changing shifts our trajectory forever.
Can you take us into that day of the accident and exactly what happened?
Yeah, of course I can, like you rightly said, I was just on a completely different path. I was actually training on my bike, I was going to try and set an ultra-cycling world record. We were about two weeks out from the first race, and I was in the mountains about an hour or so from my house. I was riding with three other friends and I was hit by a truck at just over 55 – 60 kilometers an hour. And that truck pushed me on to a brick wall, which I then hit at 54 kilometers an hour, which is a little bit problematic being an 88 kilogram human, traveling at 54 kilometers an hour, going into a brick wall.
There's so many crazy things about this story, but in this split second, I dropped my shoulder. Like I would have done in rugby, and it took all the impact. So on impact, I broke my scapular and seven ribs. Without sounding too blasé about it, bones are not really that much of a problem. But I realized very fast that it was almost like I'd been winded and I couldn't breathe very well.
Then I started trying to figure out why I couldn't breathe. There was a lot of blood coming out of my mouth, and I remember having thinking to myself that in movies, when the guy gets shot, the blood comes out of his mouth, and next thing the guy's dead. So I knew I was in big trouble.
And one of the things through ultras and this thing I talk about the ultra mindset is if you have a problem, you have to admit you have a problem. You can't just deny it.
On impact, I broke my scapular and seven ribs.
And I couldn't deny it. There was blood coming out of my mouth. I couldn't breathe. And I'm like, "Shit, I've got a problem." What had happened was, on impact with the wall, my left lung had essentially almost exploded, like a beach ball. And that makes breathing incredibly hard because you're breathing essentially with the lung on the right side, although they're both together. It took almost two hours to get an ambulance because we're in the mountains, so I was just lying there. And so many amazing things happened.
Thank you for asking me the question, because this is part of my therapy. The more I reflect on it, the more I know in that moment that my body and my mind were detached, my soul left and I saw something different and a lot of people are listening and going, "Wow, this is going to be crazy." But in that moment that I was out of my body, all of the pain stopped, I could breathe again and everything was totally normal.
I thought to myself, "You're in a bit of a bad situation. Well, what's the options here?" And essentially there were two options. One was just give up. I thought to myself, James, I was like, "I love my life. I'm doing something I love, I'm with my mates. My wife's at home. No, that's NOT an option.”
There was only one option, and that was to fight for every single breath.
When I decided to take that option, I couldn't breathe again. I was back in my body and I was just trying to draw this breath. And it was just wild. It was just such an amazing experience to reflect on the power of choice, the amount of choice that we have in the world these days. And then when that choice is removed and you have to put all of your energy into something that is just so, so simple for us, which was breathing. And I made it through; the long and short of it. Obviously, I'm here.
I spent three days in intensive care, which is really awful because no one really knows what’s going on. You want an answer, but no one has the answer. You're like, "Am I okay? Am I going to live?" You're conscious, and they’re saying, "Yeah, we're hoping your lungs going to open.”
You're like, "What do you mean, you're hoping!? Is that not going to happen?"
And they're like, "Well, we'll send someone else in to see."
And you're in this weird, weird time. But again, mate, it was just an amazing time to reflect, to think, to listen to others. Then when I was moved to the main ward, I was able to answer people's questions, probably not with quite as much energy as I've got right now, but I was like, "I'm okay." Because you just literally. People would be making me laugh. I'm like, "Can you please not make me laugh."
This is what I believe life gives. It’s these unique moments and super unique opportunities where we're asked to respond and we're asked to make decisions. Those decisions almost define us, and they prepare us for what else is coming in life. The decisions that I made during the recovery of my crash has prepared me for things that I'm facing now.
I was never aggressive but I'm so much calmer now than I was before. And I'm just happy to sit back, listen, take stuff in, and I'm comfortable to say, "Thank you, James, let me come back to you on that." Whereas I remember before I'd be like, "No, James. We got to do it like this. Let's finish it right now, right now, me and you," you know what I mean? And now I'm just like, "Yeah, it's cool."
And because lungs need time to heal, you can't rush it. I always used to want to rush things, even until I was 40, I was going always super fast. And I was like, my accident and reflection has just told me you can slow down and it's okay to say nothing. And it's okay to say to someone, "Thank you so much. I'll come back to you tomorrow." That's cool.
We're in this world now where if you don't reply to WhatsApp within like 3.5 seconds, you're not a nice person. That's bullshit, mate.
We're in this world now where if you don't reply to WhatsApp within like 3.5 seconds, you're not a nice person. That's bullshit, mate. We don't need to live like that. And we're forced to live like that often by the system and we just don't need to. So yeah, it was a wild year. 2018 was just the best. Honestly, I mean it from my heart, it was amazing.
When did you realize the severity of the situation? The big problem that I have with doctors and psychologists – who do great work, don't get me wrong – but it's when we put a label on someone that can force them to say, "Oh, you know what? That is the reason why I shouldn't do X, Y, and Z” rather than giving them the motivation and opportunity to go out there and actually make something happen.
Because most doctors have got to err on the side of caution. When I was in Boston, about eight years ago, I had a Grade III shoulder separation where you get this little bump on your shoulder, after the ligament has ripped clean off the collar bone. And I remember the doctor telling me I would never be able to do some things that I loved to do. He was an expert so I believed him.
I went home with the bottles of painkillers that I’d been given. Combine strong painkillers with doctor’s severely constraining your idea of what’s possible for you, and it’s a path to suicide. It really is. I remember moments standing in the shower in tears, before I threw them all out and swore I’d never take a painkiller ever again.
Yeah. I had something similar when they sent me from hospital, I was taking these painkillers and I was losing it. And literally, I came downstairs one morning and I took the bag and I went out to the garbage and I just threw them all away. I said I'm not having more painkillers. The funny thing is, mate, and folks that I tell this often, anytime anyone asks me, go back on my Instagram the day before my crash which was on like the 9th of February, crashed on the 10th of February, I posted a picture that said, “Everything happens for a reason.” And the next day this happens.
On that theme, the doctors that I had were incredible. They never made me feel like I was going to be unable to do something. And I remember, and I'm forever thankful for this guy. The physio came in to my room when I got moved to the main ward. Well, there was three really cool things. One, the guy in the emergency room was just totally calm, super calm and so nice; softly spoken. And that made me feel comfortable.
Then I went to see the surgeon, he was a South African guy. And he said, "Listen, your shoulders in so many pieces, I wouldn't know where to start putting it back together. So I'm not going to bother operating. See you later." And I was like, "Yes, that's the best news ever!"
Then I got moved to the main ward. A physio came in and this was a real turning point for me, James, , I'd been in intensive care for three days, and it was like the second day in the ward. So I hadn't moved from the bed for almost five days.
And he was an English guy and he looked at me and he goes, "How are you feeling mate?" And I went, "Actually, I feel pretty good mate." It was morning. And I'm looking in the mirror and I'm feeling good and I'm doing what I said earlier. And he goes, "Do you want to go for a walk?" And then my face must've just dropped. I suddenly wasn't feeling so good." I was absolutely petrified. And I went to him, "Are you serious?" And he went, "Yeah, you can go for a walk if you want." I was like, "Mate, I would love to."
I was going to say, as long as it's an ultra-walk! Is that what you were thinking!?
Well, That's the thing, James, it literally was! It took me over 10 minutes to sit upright in bed. At this point, I had a pipe coming out from my lungs, draining the blood off. I had a pee bag in, I had a catheter in and he just grabbed these two and he clipped them on his belt as I stood up and he said, "Come on then mate, let's go for a walk." And it was like, I was reborn.
At five days, I didn't know whether I'd make it through. I was fighting for my life on the side of the road. I had no idea whether I'd make it through. And I started shuffling out of the hospital room down the ward, and I was just I had this grin on my face. I was holding my left arm because everything here is broken. I was almost crying. And I was like "This is amazing, this is amazing."
You could see the look on his face – he was so happy for me, and I felt just superhuman. But at the same time, my piss bag was on one clip on his belt, my blood bag on the other, and my hospital gown at the back was fully open. I'm cut to shreds and I'm having the best moment of my life. And I'm like "Wow, this is just so, so surreal. And no doctor is going to tell me I can't because I'm going to do this. And I'm going to recreate this feeling as often as I can."
I only had one more physio session after that, and I did all of my own rehab on my shoulder. I woke up every morning at 4:30am, went to my gym and started training. I got in that environment.
And the first week, when Holly was cooking dinner, I'd sneak out the house, get in my car, and I'd drive to my gym. She called me she goes, "Where are you?" I'm like "I'm at the gym." I just wanted to be there, mate, because of this environment of people. And I knew the power of the energy to heal me was going to be something amazing. And it did. I did it for a week.
Then when I could start training, I started training, and I just asked myself every day – it goes back to what we were talking about to “Win the Day.” I said, "What can I do today just to get better?" When you're really buckled, progress is super small but also super big, like to be able to lift my hand in line with my shoulder, it's like nothing really. When you think about it, like you're so far from being able to lift up a bottle of water or anything, because all you can do is get it to here.
But three weeks before I couldn't even lift barely my hand off my leg. So your whole perspective on things just starts to change. And that's when you realize that the human body and the human mind, they are incredible. For the amount of time that we disconnect them. we talk about mental and physical. We're one being, we are a human being and we're an amazing piece of machinery. It's incredible. It really is.
I love it. There's a part of your bio which is crazy, 30 marathons in 30 days within nine months of the accident. I want to ask you a question. There's a story about Bear Grylls, former British SAS who was in Africa and he jumped out of the plane, had an issue with his parachute, and ended up breaking his back. Lying in hospital, he had a picture of Mount Everest that he put at the wall at the end of his hospital bed.
The nurse came in and said, "Why have you got a picture of Mount Everest there?" And he said, "Because when I get out of hospital I'm going to climb Mount Everest." The nurse replied, "The only thing you're going to be climbing in and out of is a wheelchair."
Sure enough, I forget the timeframe, but he went and climbed Mount Everest, after he had a broken back. You had 30 marathons in 30 days within nine months of your accident. Where did the idea for that first come from?
It's very similar to that story, James. I was in the hospital bed and I was fortunate to get such amazing support in hospital, so it was one of the rare times I was alone. And I had this thought because my whole life had been about this ultra-cycling world record. And I was like "That's gone."
I had to make peace with it being gone. Then I had this thought of, "Well, if I can't ride my bike I can definitely run." And I sent a message to one of my friends, Rob, who now works with me. It's almost like a romantic love story. I sent him the route in Corsica that someone had sent me before. And it's basically crossing the Island of Corsica from the top left-hand corner to the bottom right corner; 195 kilometers, 10,000 meters elevation.
And I told Rob, who was a schoolteacher at the time, "Tell me what date you finish school because the following Monday we're going to run this."
He just wrote back "Mate, leave it, get better speak to me in a few weeks."
When I was training for that, I actually picked up the Dean Karnazes book about him running 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days.
In 2018, I turned 40, and thought, "Bike crash near death in February. Turning 40 in December. I need to do something pretty special in between." And there's the Dubai Fitness Challenge which is a 30 day challenge. I called up the organizers and I said "You guys have got this challenge?" And they're like, "Yeah, 30 minutes a day for 30 days." I said, "I'm just about to blow it out the water."
The guy said, "what are you talking about?" And I go "Well, mate, I'm going to run a marathon every day for 30 days." And he's just like, "No." I was like "No, no, no. You don't understand." He's like "Mate, this is for sedentary people to get them moving for 30 minutes, it's too extreme."
And I'm on the other end of the phone going, "Yeah, exactly. If I do something that's absolutely so stupid, then everyone will just go, "Well, if that moron can do this..."
I had this sales pitch, James!
You’re a man of the people trying to get everyone’s averages up!
Yeah! He’s just going "No."
Anyway, few more phone calls and I got it through and that's really where it came from. I was just like, "You know what, my motivation for doing it was super clear in that I wanted to see where I could push myself too, physically and mentally, because that's what the ultra-cycling would have done."
I wanted to test my potential. In the process of that, I want to inspire a lot of people as well. I thought, "I live in Dubai. Dubai has been my home for a number of years. If I can run into schools, that'll be something absolutely amazing."
So I finished about 16 of the 30 days in a school. Some days I had 2,500 kids trying to race me around a 400-meter track which, when you've already run 42 kilometers that day and you've run 10 or 15 of these things, and you’re absolutely smoked, the kids are trying to run like three and a half minute Ks because they're running with the marathon man.
But we were able to create an amazing impact. And it's so ironic that it's actually the day that we're recording this, 24th, it's two years ago to this day that I finished my 30th marathon. So it was wild. It was just … you learn so much, mate. I got to meet so many amazing people, again, the energy just feeding off people. I'd have people that just get up 4:00am, drive to where I was, start running with me. I had 40 or 50 people that ran a full marathon of which 30 had never run a marathon before, I was literally only on my own for like three hours of the whole month.
I downloaded 20 audiobooks, and I didn't even listen to one! I'm like "At the end of it, what am I going to do with all these audio books that I had?" It was wild. A lot of these things it's so much fun.
There is nothing we can't do. We just got to figure out how to do it.
And thank you for the great questions, mate. It's fun to talk about them and to continue the reflection but a lot of them are just, honestly, they're quite surreal. Sometimes I'm just like "Did this stuff happened?" Is this me, is this life, and then you realize, "Yeah, it did. And this is life and it is amazing."
Because on February the 10th, I'm in intensive care and on November the 24th I had just run my 30th marathon. There is nothing we can't do. We just got to figure out how to do it.
That legacy is going to live on for a long, long time, in all the different people who you helped with your story. You're a super positive and inspiring guy. High energy. Was there a particularly dark day that stood out in that recovery period between the accident and the marathon?
Yeah. There were tough days. There were really tough days. The first week that I went home was brutal because you can't sleep, and sleep deprivation is really tough. I'm okay with pain but when you can't sleep, I'd say to Holly, "I just want it to go away. I just want it to end. I just want this pain to end."
You laugh too hard, a rib pops. You roll over in bed, a rib pops. And you're just like "Oh my God." But when you're committed, like you are, to wake up every day and to say I'm going to win the day, that starts a programming in your subconscious, and you do it now subconsciously. So it's going to take a lot for that dark moment in the night where I'm almost in tears because I'm in so much pain and I've thrown the damn painkillers away because they’re giving me nightmares and stuff.
All of that's forgotten when you've programmed your subconscious, but it was brutal. And a lot of people will say to me, "Oh, Marcus, this is amazing, you recovered so fast." And in that same tone that I said before, I just look at them and go, "Yeah, bro I recovered fast." You don’t know the half of it. And I never would say that to people because people are just trying to be polite. And I just appreciate that they say nice things to me.
But when you do the first month of my training, I would just make it simple because when life is hectic training should be simple. I would just do 100 rounds of Tabata every morning; 20 on, 10 off, for 100 rounds. And it's still set up like that in my phone, 100 rounds. When people come to train with me, they're like, "You've got it saying 100 rounds, are you really going to go 100 rounds of Tabata?"
I'm like, "We'll see how it goes, bro."
And so yes, there are a lot of challenges. There are a lot of tough times. And I think that's one thing that people who listen to shows like yours, mate, you have very inspiring guests on; you give off a lot of great energy.
I think for people to think that we don't have tough days that we don't just look at it and go, "Oh my God," or get overwhelmed. We ALL get overwhelmed and we have to be honest with ourselves on that. But I think what the difference is from what you said and from what I see in my life is that no matter how bad today is I'll wake up tomorrow and it's a new day, then I'm ready to dominate and you're ready to win the day.
If I can just encourage people that every time you go to bed when you get up the next day, you've been just gifted this unique opportunity to do amazing things. And you've got a fresh mind. And if you come with it with this great positive mindset you're going to have an awesome life and you just rinse and repeat that. And it's beautiful.
Yeah, it's so true. There's an old saying it says "A happy person wants 10,000 things. A sick person wants just one thing." What did facing death head-on teach you about life?"
To live every single day. Don't waste time because it's brutal. It nearly ended. And it's hard for me when I look back at it, when I think about, it's very, very emotional mate. And wouldn't it just be a waste, how close was I? You could say very, very close. I was very close and I'm here. So I'll live. And that is something that is easy to say, but I think it's challenging and it's tough. Some days are very tough but that's what I learned from it.
Goal setting is a big part of what you do by the sound of it. You're always focused on a big achievement in the future. How do you balance that hunger for future achievements with your happiness in the present?
Because the goal is just where you're headed to. The goal for me is important, but the process is my love. Holly will tell you, "You only sign up for these races so you can buy new stuff." And for me, often the end goal running across the Sahara, running in Kenya, all of these places I was in Sri Lanka last year, amazing, amazing. But the training, the waking up tomorrow morning at 4:30am, it’s dark and cold, but I’m going out and do something, eating well the whole time, being hydrated, sleeping eight hours a night. That is what I love.
The goal is just like the icing on the cake. It's good for the selfies and stuff, you know what I mean? It's at the end. That's why I think people struggle a little bit sometimes because they're so focused on the end goal that they forget that the process is life and it has to be part of your life, this end goal, you have to enjoy.
When life is hectic training should be simple.
There's no point in dreaming about climbing Everest, you have to dream about cold adaptation training. You have to dream about wearing big down jackets and you have to be in love with that. You can't just dream about taking the picture on the top of Everest. That's not it, it's the process, because that process is life.
Otherwise, you just go from one six-month goal or race to another, and that would be awful. I get people that come to me for endurance coaching, and they've just had awful experience, they hate it. And I'm like, "Wow, you spend 16 hours a week doing the sport that you hate. This is ridiculous."
I love the process mate, again, do I love every single minute of training? I try to, because I always make it fun. And I'm at a stage now where I’m 42 and this is what I've chosen to do. Is it my calling in life, if that's what you want to say? Yeah, it is. And I absolutely love it. I love every minute of it. I really do.
Life is too short to do what you hate. And it's not necessarily the will to win, it's the will to prepare to win, which I really I feel like is a big theme from you.
Final question. What's one thing you do to win the day?
I wake up one minute before everyone else. I never set my alarm at 4:30am, I set it at 4:29am. I would never set it for 5:00am, I set it at 4:59am. I've done it for a while now, and I feel that gives me the edge and I never ever, ever press snooze … and nor should you.
“It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goals to reach.”
Benjamin E. Mays
I always start each year supremely confident, and 2021 is no exception. In fact, despite everything going on in the world, I am more confident this year than ever before. That’s because I’ve spent years (what feels like a lifetime) learning, applying and refining what I believe is the most effective goal-setting system available.
But most people fail because they don't even know where to start.
Last week, for the first time ever, I ran two 90-minute goal-setting workshops so I could walk people through the exact process I use to set goals that work, so they could also start the year full of confidence and know exactly what they needed to do to realize their big dreams in 2021.
The response was huge – people from 10+ countries registered – and we had people in the hot-seat so they could action things in real time and implement the system that all but guarantees their success. Which, if done correctly, is something that can be replicated year after year.
For those of you who missed the workshop, unfortunately there isn’t a replay, but you can download your free Success Plan here:
When you download it, you’ll find two tabs:
It’s simple to complete your Success Plan – I’ve done the heavy lifting for you. The hard part is having the discipline to sit down and actually do it, and that’s the one thing I can’t help you with.
The reason most people fail in life is because they don’t know what they want. Over time, that reactive personality means they’re exposed to distraction and procrastination and forced to accept whatever fate hands them.
And the reason most people don’t know what they want is because they don’t know who they are.
With all my clients, the first thing we do is find out exactly who you are – and then create a bulletproof plan to make sure you can be proactive about your life. This ensure you're clear on: your mission, what values determine your daily actions, and what you need to do TODAY to get you where you need to be.
That's how you create freedom, in every sense of the word.
So, now we know that most people don’t even set goals. In fact, most people spend more time planning their social lives than they do their actual life. And when you add in that most people don’t know who they are, that’s mistake 1 and 2 – both of which are fatal mistakes.
There’s a statistic I share at every speech I do and that’s by the second week of February, out of everyone who has set goals (or new years resolutions) for the year, 80% of people have already give up on the year. That’s right, only 1 in 5 of those people who actually set goals in the first place – which is a minority percentage to begin with – is still focused on achieving those goals, just SIX weeks after they were set.
Right now, I want you to stop reading, go to whatever calendar you use (e.g. Google Calendar), and create a new entry for Monday, 8th February at 7am. In capital letters, write “WIN THE DAY” followed by some emojis that will make it stand out.
When that calendar notification goes off, I want you to go extra hard that day. Let it be your motivation that on the one day when almost everyone else has quit, you’re the exception to the rule – you’re setting the example of what an inspired life looks like.
And if you want to know how to do that, just imagine there’s a film crew following you around and creating a movie about your life – and on that day, Monday, 8th February, they’re with you from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep on that day. Show them how deserving you are of everything that will come into your life with this plan you’ve created.
Now, there's one goal that always eluded me and that's meditating consistently. We're all aware of the benefits of meditation, but I’ve never been able to stick with meditation for long enough to experience those benefits.
So I bought what’s called a ‘hundred board’ – less than $10 on Amazon for a whole bunch of them. Basically, each row has 10 numbers, so the whole board is numbered 1 to 100. Each day, when I do a meditation, I draw a big red "X" over the number. And guess what? I haven’t missed a single meditation since I started it over a month ago.
It’s a simple idea: no one wants to break the chain once it’s started, so I just leave the hundred board on my keyboard so I can’t start week each day until I’ve done the meditation. It’s quite satisfying to draw the red "X" each morning, and it’s also broken down the more challenging goal of 100 daily meditations in a row into one simple task each day.
There’s nothing that can happen in my day that would stop my from getting this done – it unlocks that competitive fire within.
It doesn’t matter what your goal is. If there’s something you struggle with, get a hundred board and get moving with your red crosses. I’m looking forward to having a hundred board for other areas very soon, too.
This is the exact process that Jerry Seinfeld used to write better jokes when he was an aspiring comedian. Seinfeld knew that the best way to become a renowned comedian was to tell better jokes, and the best way to tell better jokes was to write every day. He used this red "X" system to ensure that every day he was getting words on a page that became the foundation of the comedy career he built, which led to shows like Seinfeld – regarded as one of the best shows of all time (and one of my personal favorites) – that made Jerry Seinfeld a billionaire.
On this goal setting process, Seinfeld said: "After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain. Don't break the chain."
Very wise words from a true legend.
While there’s no replay of our goal-setting workshop, I’ve got a big announcement to make! On the 22nd of February I’ll be running The Day Won Mastermind for 12 lucky people who are going to get access to experiences you can’t get anywhere else. For three months, I’ll be working closely with you to get crystal clear on what you want in life and then give you a bulletproof plan to achieve it.
Who is The Day Won Mastermind for? It’s for you if you want to significantly boost your income, establish relationships at the highest level, and position yourself as an authority in your industry. Because that’s what I do best.
In the last 12 months alone, I've worked with people in more than a dozen countries to achieve massive results. In that time, my clients have:
And that's just what they achieved with their business.
The truth is that the right blueprint will transform literally EVERY part of your life.
But it’s not just me, and the other participants, who will be helping you on The Day Won Mastermind. I'll also be bringing in some of the most successful entrepreneurs on the planet LIVE to help you action things in real time and give you all the answers and support you need.
How would your life change if you had:
They’re just some of the people who will be available live to help YOU blast through your obstacles, map out your path to financial freedom, and grow your business.
So if you have your own business or you’re in professional services (e.g. perhaps you’re a consultant, real estate agent, financial planner, podcaster, speaker), The Day Won Mastermind will transform your life like nothing you’ve seen before. And it even comes with a 100% moneyback guarantee, so there’s literally zero risk.
The people who join The Day Won Mastermind become part of my inner circle and friends for life. It’s that simple. If you’ve ever wanted me to help you personally, there’s not better option than this.
AND there's $2,000+ in exclusive bonuses.
But, to make sure I can allocate enough time to each of you, there are only 12 spots available and, like last year, all of them will be taken. So if you’re interested click here and together (along with the special guests I’ll be bringing along) we’ll make 2021 your best year yet, guaranteed.
Onwards and upwards always,