Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary. Miss a meal, but don’t miss a book.”

Jim Rohn

Welcome to my fifth annual holiday gift guide! 

Each year, I share the items that have made the biggest impact on my life throughout the year, and I know they’ll do the same for you or for someone else if you’re giving it as a gift.

If you’re new to the holiday gift guide, it always revolves around books. 

Why?

Because most people buy some crappy thing that ends up in the trash shortly after, and there’s a massive deficit of people accessing things that are truly going to change their life forever.

If you have developed the habit of reading – and implementing what you learn from that reading – you’ve got one of the greatest competitive advantages you could ever hope for. When I read, I do a combination of physical books, audiobooks, and ebooks, because each has their own time and place.

I read the physical books before I go to bed or before I start work in the morning; I listen to audiobooks when I’m driving or on the go; and I read ebooks when I need a fast ingestion of the book because I’m on a time crunch or I’ve read it before.

So, when it comes to your reading, find what works for you and stick with it. But don’t feel like you need to memorize every word. The goal is to think about what you want to get from reading the book and how you’re going to put that into action. Get through the book as fast as you can so that result is achieved, because you can always revisit things that stood out or that you want a recap on later. Finish your book and keep that momentum by diving into another book you’re excited about.

If you’re looking at a gift for someone other than yourself, a hardcover book is generally better.

Even though I love audiobooks, anytime I find a book that really speaks to me, I am sure to grab a copy of the hardcover version too so I can use it as a quick reference point whenever I need it.

Without further ado, here are the books that I think would make the best gifts this holiday season, for you, a friend or a loved one.

Before we dive into the good stuff, let’s reflect on today’s quote, which comes from personal development icon – and one of my great mentors – Jim Rohn:

“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary. Miss a meal, but don’t miss a book.”

Let’s get into our ultimate holiday gift guide for 2022!

Best book overall:

Break Point by Ollie Ollerton

This is an incredible book that takes us straight into not only the special forces mindset, but the person behind the special forces operator. And that person was a boy growing up in the UK who was almost killed by a chimp at a traveling circus. That was just one moment in a wild teenage phase, a lot of which Ollie describes in great detail, before he became a Royal Marine Commando at the age of 18.

What I love about Ollie is how big his heart is. He’s so upfront with his vulnerabilities and tells the stories in a way that you feel like you’re there.

And when he talks about ‘break - point’, he’s referring to those moments of self-doubt that force you to step up and be the best you can be. Ollie reveals the biggest breakpoints he’s faced throughout his life, that took him from a boy who almost died after the savage attack, to becoming one of the most elite soldiers – and now business people – on the planet.

This book is for anyone who wants some motivation to step up what you’re doing, who’s in a dark place right now, or simply wants an exhilarating ride through a book that’s equal parts adventurous novel and personal development. 

It gets a perfect 10/10 rating from me. I couldn’t put it down. It’s also got more than 4,000 5-star ratings on Amazon and is the best book I’ve read in 2022.

Best book on relationships:

Beyond Mars and Venus by Dr John Gray

John Gray is an absolute master at his craft. I had the opportunity to spend a full day with him before we did the interview for the Win the Day podcast, and I was in awe of everything he shared. If you want to know how to take your romantic relationship to the next level, he is the man to guide you and this is the book to show you.

I’ve learnt so much in such a short period of time about how to improve the relationship I have with my wife Jenn. John helped me realize how often men butt in with solutions rather than asking more questions and listening, which is what women want. He also shares a lot of tips on the flipside so women can strengthen the connection they have with their partner.

The podcast episode I did with John is the most listened to episode of the Win the Day podcast ever, so check that out too. 

Beyond Mars and Venus is a modern vision of his seminal book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to improve your marriage, gain more awareness on how your actions are hindering your happiness, and for a fundamental overview of effective communication.

Best book on business:

$100M Offers by Alex Hormozi

This is really a book on sales – it shows you how to start charging a lot more for your product or service while also being able to deliver more of what your client or customer needs to get the result they want. Alex also talks about the importance of targeting the right people with your offer, who you can think of as the starving crowd.

The whole premise of this book is that you need to move away from a commoditized offer to what Alex calls a grand slam offer. When you have a commoditized offer, people can compare what you’re selling with a whole bunch of other providers – and when that happens it’s simply a race to the bottom on price. And you definitely don’t want to be in that game.

On the other hand, when you have a grand slam offer, you have something that cannot be compared to any other product or service. That includes things like stronger promotion, an unmatched value proposition, a premium price, and an unbeatable price guarantee. If something is so valuable, people won’t be able to benchmark it against others and will feel confident making the decision to give you their business. It’s a win:win for everybody.

$100M Offers is the best book on sales I’ve ever read. Get it for someone who has their own business or is looking to start their own business, or someone who is in professional services.

Best book on personal finance:

10 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom by Noel Whittaker

A lot of you, especially in Australia, know that Noel’s my dad. I interviewed him on the Win the Day podcast in Episode 87. His entire life has been about helping young people with financial literacy so they can achieve financial freedom. 

Now that he has 13 grandchildren – of which I only contribute two (my brother with seven kids and my sister with four kids have done most of the heavy lifting) – he’s been thinking about how he can communicate the necessary steps and habits so his grandchildren can take charge of their financial future as quickly as possible. But once he got started on the project, he realized it would be a great resource for others to be able to give their kids and grandkids. 

The book just came out last month and has sold tens of thousands of copies – without even being in the bookstores yet! But you can grab it online through his website and have it delivered to you before Christmas if you get in fast.

For some background, Noel is the author of 23 bestselling books, including Making Money Made Simple that sold more than two million copies. 

So if there’s a teenager or young adult who you want to motivate, get them this book. It’s an easy read and they can start making their own money so they don’t need to spend yours!

Best book on sleep:

Energize by Dr. Michael Breus and Stacey Griffith

Dr. Michael Breus is known as The Sleep Doctor and is the only person who has come on to the Win the Day podcast twice! He’s the personal sleep doctor to some of the most well known CEOs and entertainers on the planet. The two podcast episodes we did together are both in the top five most popular I’ve ever released.

Michael’s latest book Energize provides a practical and detailed guide to having more energy each day. Co-authored with Stacey Griffith, who is one of the founding instructors of Soul Cycle, they talk about the importance of understanding your sleep chronotype so you know the best time of day to do literally everything. Then they delve into what the right exercise for you should be so you can move better, feel better, and sleep better – and how sleep and exercise go hand in hand. 

Michael is a great guy and has become a close friend. He put a lot of effort into this book and it shows. Get this for someone who feels flat or wants to upgrade their performance, or for someone who wants to optimize their sleep so they can get more out of each day.

Best book on professional relationships:

You know how much I love talking about relationships, and there are actually two books I want to include in this category:

What’s in it for Them? by Joe Polish

Joe Polish is one of the most connected people on the planet and runs Genius Network, which is one of the top masterminds for entrepreneurs. 

His goal with What’s In it For Them? was to expand on the teachings of Dale Carnegie who wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People. Not only does Joe share a lot of stories from his own life, he also includes practical steps to help you upgrade your network. 

The premise of the book is that you need to ask the question of, “How are they suffering, and how can I help?” When you know who you want to connect with, and you start asking yourself that question, your network will expand like wildfire.

Go for Stupid by Steve Sims

We’ve actually got Steve coming on the podcast soon. He’s mates with Elon Musk, Elton John, Richard Branson, and a bunch of other A-listers. Steve’s entire career has been forged in providing unique and unforgettable experiences for people and he shares the what and the how in this book.

The whole idea is that you should actually lean in to stupid decisions because you might be the only one who’s been brave enough to pull it off. That all comes back to the mentality that “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” as Wayne Gretzky famously said, which is one of my favorite all time quotes.

Steve also shares a lot of the special ways he gets connected and stays connected with influential people, and some of the out of the box ideas that he’s used to strengthen the relationships he has with clients.

Best book on mindset:

The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer

I discovered this book a little while ago when I was looking through the directory for the Pathfinder Mastermind that I attend in Texas every year. The directory includes a lot of personal info, but also the favorite book from the 50 people who attend the mastermind, who are always really interesting and successful people from around the world.

One of the most popular books listed in that directory was The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer, so I knew I had to check it out.

Straightway, I could see why it has resonated with so many people. The idea is that the only problem in life that you will ever face is your inner voice. Once you get good at observing that inner voice and how it operates, you can make it a person who is responsible for those thoughts. 

I almost always have a lot of thoughts racing through my head, which can be tough – especially when you’re trying to go to sleep – but I was able to create a person who was responsible for those thoughts. So, when I get ready to go to sleep, I tell this person thanks for today, let’s catch up tomorrow, and I visualize that person walking away. Almost immediately, my mind becomes still and I enter a deep sleep. 

If you know of someone who has a tough time with negative self-talk, or quieting their mind, or who has even been through significant trauma, this book will be lifechanging for them.

Best action:

Unsolicited heartfelt apology

When he came on the podcast for Episode 109, Dr. Mark Goulston mentioned that there is great power in an unsolicited heartfelt apology. 

If you’ve been hanging on to something that you think about often – maybe it’s a conversation you need to have or an action you took that you regret – one of the fastest ways to rectify that is see the person face to face and lead with the unsolicited heartfelt apology.

That vulnerability encourages the other person to drop their guard, and you almost instantly might be able to connect better than you ever have before. This could be a conversation with a friend, a parent, a child, a business partner, a work colleague. Whoever it is, free yourself of the burden and strengthen the connection between the two of you by leading with the unsolicited heartfelt apology.

No podcast episode has impacted me more deeply than that one with Dr. Mark Goulston, so I strongly encourage you to check it out – especially if you, or someone close to you, has been dealing with some mental health challenges.

Best gift (or accompaniment) for everyone:

The final recommendation on this list, which is the best gift (or gift accompaniment) for everyone, is a letter or card – handwritten if your legibility allows – to acknowledge the recipient for all the loving and selfless actions they have taken to brighten your world and illuminate your spirit.

Expressing our gratitude to one another in the long form written medium has become a lost art, but that just means your opportunity to make an impression will be even more powerful.

You've heard me say many times before that the best way to get is to give first. This holiday season, give someone a piece of your heart, and watch the way your life changes as a result.


I hope you enjoyed our fifth holiday gift guide! Remember, giving someone the ability to help themselves can be the best gift.

Share a comment on the YouTube version of this episode with your favorite out of all these options or if any of these already hold a place in your heart.

Until next time, get out there and Win the Day — perhaps by helping someone else win their day.

Onward and upward always,

James Whittaker


Resources / links mentioned:

📚 Break Point by Ollie Ollerton

💕 Beyond Mars and Venus by Dr John Gray

💸 $100M Offers by Alex Hormozi

📈 10 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom by Noel Whittaker

🏋️‍♂️ Energize by Dr Michael Breus and Stacey Griffith

🤔 What’s in it for Them? by Joe Polish

😜 Go for Stupid by Steve Sims

🕊️ The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer

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Join the Win the Day Facebook group

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The most difficult thing is the decision to act; the rest is merely tenacity.”

Amelia Earhart

If you’re a parent, you’ll know how difficult it can be to get healthy food for your children, especially with so much deception in the food industry.

But what you may not know is that scientists consider nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life to be the most important environmental factor in human development.

Pregnant with her second child — and unhappy with the food options available for her first baby — Angela Sutherland and her co-founder, Evelyn Rusli, set out to do something about it. In 2015, they launched Yumi with a mission to build a healthier generation.

Today, Yumi has become one of the fastest-growing kids nutrition companies with more than 10 million meals delivered.

They’ve raised more than $70 million in funding and their investors include the founders of Uber, Harry’s, and Warby Parker, as well as such celebrities as Snoop Dogg and Gabrielle Union. Focused on empowering women, Yumi’s Series B funding round also brought in 70 new women investors and women-led firms. Public fans of Yumi include Jessica Alba, Gigi Hadid, and Molly Sims.

Prior to her entrepreneurial journey, Angela was a director at a private equity firm and an investment banker at Goldman Sachs. Her mother was a refugee of the Vietnam War, moving to America in 1975. 

In this episode:

Let’s WIN THE DAY with Angela Sutherland!

James Whittaker:
Angela, great to see you! What an amazing journey you've had. 

You were born in the US but your mum was a refugee of the Vietnam War. How open was she with you about the struggles that she had to overcome? And are there any specific lessons or stories she shared with you that you remember today?

Angela Sutherland:
That's a great question. Who I am today is absolutely because of what she went through. She was probably the strongest person I have ever met. One of the things that we talked about was just how much you can overcome – so how much the world can throw at you and you don't let that stop you from life. 

We really actually never got into details of the war until I was maybe in my 20s. I think it was something we never really talked about because it was too close, too soon, too painful. But one of the things that she instilled in me was how much you can do with your life and how you should never let anything get you down and hold you back. 

Never let anything get you down and hold you back.

I carry that forward today, the sense of unbridled optimism: “It's okay. Shake it off. The world's going to be great. Everything's going to be okay.” Feeling that way allows me to get through really tough decisions and really tough times. Because if you let the world weigh you down, it will. 

There's a lot of things in this world that are unfair or scary. That’s why you need to be optimistic that the world is better and will be better, and that mindset allowed me to push further in my career and take bigger risks.

So that's the lesson that she imparted to me.

Your mum went on to eventually have a lot of success in her own right, owning the largest minority owned auto supplier in the US. Was she a business mentor to you specifically or was it more of a traditional mother-daughter relationship?

She wasn't a business mentor per se.

The company really started right after she passed away. But my whole life was surrounded by business. From as young as I can remember, around the dinner table, I'd listen to conversations about streamlining supply chains. So, by proxy, you're around it all the time. You hear it all the time. A great mentorship can come from seeing struggle and success.
When we talk about mentorship or when I talk about it broadly, I actually think the best mentors – or people that you should look for as mentors – are not necessarily the ones that can teach you the most specifically about an assignment or your job, but rather can teach you the most about yourself. You need to find someone who believes in you and allows you to believe in yourself.

A great mentorship can come from seeing struggle and success.

That relationship can build confidence and resilience because you feel like, “Hey, this mentor believes in me. This older smart person believes in me. And if that's true, I should probably believe in myself too.”

To me, that’s what good mentorship is. So in that sense, she has absolutely been a mentor to me because she always gave me that.

What are you focused on as your kids get older to make sure that they're strong, resilient, and resourceful?

My kids right now are six and eight and so it's actually a really good time to have conversations at dinnertime around a variety of concepts. We talk about resilience and optimism. We talk about not letting something bother you.

You can see it in early ages when kids get very frustrated. They can't finish an assignment. They get something wrong and they get very angry. And it's just about taking a deep breath, thinking about what to do, and focusing on how you can fix it.

There's no such thing as a problem, it's just a way to find a solution. Nothing should stop you here.

We talk about how there's no such thing as a problem, it's just a way to find a solution. Nothing should stop you here. Or it's little things, like there's no losing – there's winning and learning. There's little things that we try to talk about so that way they see that life is a long journey. 

There's no moment in time. So today you might not have done as well as you thought, but you can learn from that and then you can still win.

Yeah, that love of learning is such an important thing to instill. 

What about your time in private equity and investment banking? Did you reach a point where you just said, enough is enough, I need to get out of here and do my own thing or did you just feel like that it was a natural evolution for you to go and tread your own path?

I actually loved both of those experiences. So it wouldn't be because I hated it that I had to get out of it!

I was on the side where you're actually the interim CRO or CFO to multiple companies. So I was already on the operations side. I always wanted to start something, take over something, operate. 

it just became a natural evolution because a problem presented itself that I was really passionate about. And I think that's a good path. Either you could be frustrated with what your life is and do something, but for me I was very excited about an opportunity.

Was there anything you saw in the companies that you worked with where you were like, "If I ever have my own company, I would never ever do this"!?

Certainly. I was doing distress debt, so we were turning around companies – and there were a lot of learnings there. 

For me, it broke down that all companies are inherently the same. Learning that was a really great gift because a lot of people think they have one singular expertise, “I'm really good at this job. I'm in this field. I'd be scared to switch sectors.”

Private equity is across all sectors. All companies are inherently the same: they need to make money, there are a lot of expenses, they can lose money. The age old problem is how do you reduce expenses and make more money? It’s the problem across every single industry.

So your skill set probably will apply in any other sector. Again, that was a gift because it made me less scared to start something. Because people often ask, "Did you have any experience in food?" I was like, "Not particularly."

But it didn't matter because it was a problem that I'd seen before and I could solve.

What was the problem that you wanted to solve with Yumi? And why did it fall on your shoulders to do it?

I'm a big nerd and so I do a lot of late night research into clinical trials and weird studies. 

When I was pregnant and when I had a baby, I started realizing that a lot of the work for parenting fell on the shoulders of a mother. There are decisions around anything that they consumed, what they were doing, what they're going to learn – all of these were problems that fell on a mother. 

Plus, I was working really long hours, I was in private equity and what to feed my baby fell on me. So I started doing research around this. And I've always been fascinated with long term sectors, and one of them has always been healthcare. With metabolic disease, aging population, that entire sector I think is interesting and will change. Also with food, obviously I eat! But I've always been interested in how the agricultural system will change and what's going to happen there.

When I started researching around childhood nutrition, I was gobsmacked that early childhood nutrition is a period that is actually epigenetic, meaning it alters the expression of your genes. So people are like, “Oh, they're born this way.” Actually nutrition in this period can alter that.

Early childhood nutrition is a period that is actually epigenetic, meaning it alters the expression of your genes.

An easy example of that is if you don't get enough vitamin D or calcium, you get rickets. You're born, you can't grow as much. There are tons of examples around that, but it's actually true across all vitamins and minerals. So if you don't get enough iron, your brain doesn't have enough to make neural development, so it can stunt your IQ. 

Knowing this really started opening my eyes to growing disparities between affluent cultures, between places in the world where people live. But if you don't have access to the right nutrition, it can actually change your trajectory.

When it comes to feeding your kid, a lot of people don't have a choice. They have to buy commercially made food. They don't have the time or the resources to make everything at home. 

If you take a step back on who that affects, it often affects working parents, it affects people that aren't as affluent. So for me, making a commercially available option for baby food was both a calling on I think the greater health and potential for children, but also on parenting. It's like can you offer a better solution for parents so they don't feel bad that they have to work all the time, they don't feel guilty for making these choices. 

And the first thousand days there, it's not the thousand days from when they're born, it's actually the thousand days that you are talking about in that example is in utero?

Yes, in utero.

And if you think about it, that makes so much sense. That is why your doctor prescribes prenatal vitamins. It is the actual nutrition that you're getting. And if you don't get enough, you don't take prenatal vitamins, your baby leeches it from your body. 

This is always really fascinating to me, but if you're not getting enough calcium, your baby will actually take it from a mother's bones.

Wow.

So it's so important. And that's why it's important to know all of these things, like how much your baby needs it. They're growing at an exponential rate. Of course they're going to need an exponential amount of these things to make that happen.

There are products that have been sitting on the shelf for five years, with 30 grams of sugar per serving. Parents have the best of intentions but the food industry is so misleading and deceptive. Words like ‘natural’ mean nothing.

That's right. And I think what's really a shame is that as a parent you make a thousand decisions. You make so many decisions in a day and you would love to be able to say I just trust this to be good. But because of all the deceptive marketing, because there's hidden things and you don't know what's right, you just end up going with something that other people have used or looks seemingly healthy enough.

If you're not getting enough calcium, your baby will actually take it from a mother's bones.

So at Yumi we focused on making a brand that was better, that did all of the tests, and was very transparent. And so that as we launch new things, people know and believe that our brand is better for you.

To me, that’s what’s been missing in this space.

We have a lot of Win the Day podcast listeners who are mums and either have, or want to have, their own business. And you mentioned a lot of the research that you’ve done.

How does someone go about finding studies and what are the best things to look up? 

I don't think everyone that starts a business has to go deep into clinical research.

I look at PubMed a lot. It depends what you're into. I was doing scientific research, which is not every business. I think that from a research perspective, if you're going to try to start a company though there's a lot out there on business plans and how do you start to make a deck, how do you start to formulate the concept of this company. 

One of the best things is actually putting it on paper. Can you pitch a friend? Can you pitch a parent? Because those are the hard ones because those are embarrassing! But if you can convince people, actual people, there's no reason why that doesn't translate to convincing the nation.

So it starts with the little things.

Did you have a hard time convincing friends? I feel like it would've been an absolute slam dunk. If I was in that room I would've said take my money!

The funny thing is how hesitant a lot of people are in general. People are very risk averse by nature. 

Yes, I have very supportive friends and family, but I also have people who were like “this exists already” or “good luck.” And I think that's actually a really good lesson too, is that you're going to have a lot of nos and a lot of people in this world that are going to be just more risk averse than you are. And I think you shouldn't let that stop you.

You have to believe in what you're doing and if you believe it enough and you're optimistic enough, you'll work past all of that.

Yeah. And sometimes the people who care about you most can say no. It's only when they see the momentum that you've been able to build externally that they come back on board and say “wow, it's interesting!”

Yes. Exactly. 

They think they're doing you a service by being so pessimistic. They think that they're protecting you in some ways. So I wouldn't even take that to heart. It is just how people are.

How difficult was the decision to start your business while being pregnant with your second child and obviously having to deal with the chaos of an existing toddler in the house!?

It was very difficult to make a leap during a time of change already. I already knew there was going to be a lot of work.

It also gave me strength to do it because after the first one you realize how fundamentally different your life is. And it already is different and it already is chaotic. So adding in some more chaos I felt was a cherry on top.

How has your mindset evolved since becoming a parent? Is there anything that you've taken from parenting that you’ve applied to business?

Being a parent adds a lot to my perspective around life and business. I think that it makes me much more of a long term thinker. I always joke about the longest long game is a child! Because you think you're doing these things and you're like, "Okay, I'm going to sleep train or not sleep train." You have no idea the effect of that until they're 18. I have no idea if this messed you up at all!

So it takes you out of the momentary gain to think more long term, which I think is very helpful. In the same way, it’s why I started the company, and it throws you into chaos. I'm very type A still, but I used to be very type A, organized, plans, and you realize with children you cannot do that. There's no plan that goes exactly to plan with children. So I think it makes you a little bit more flexible.

Everyone has a plan until the toddler turns up!

That's right.

Was there a business milestone that you hit where you were like, "Wow. This is just awesome. It's like a dream come true"?

Along the way there's always been a bunch of milestones that make me really proud. 

Even the first moment of quitting my job was a big moment. It was like, wow, I can't believe we're doing this. It was very exciting. And then the first time we raised money was again like, wow, we're doing this.

But really when we started hitting escape velocity. So when we started feeding 2%, 3%, 4% of babies born in America, you start realizing the impact that you have and how many people's lives are changing and how real this thing is. 

Then when we got into retail, it was actually this other pinch me moment this is nationwide. You can find it in every Target. This is the dream.

How did you balance exclusivity with Target versus distribution with a whole bunch of other stores?

We thought for a long time about who we should go with.

But for a couple reasons, we chose Target. One, 95% of our customers were actually also shopping at Target.

The mums love Target!

Yeah, mums love Target. So already, you have a great overlap of customer base. But on top of that everyone shops at Target. So you can be very, very wealthy, you can be taking food stamps and they accept it across the board. 

So you're getting broad exposure and it goes back to our mission of wanting to feed more people. We want to have health and nutrition available to more people. So it was a great overlap on the purpose that we wanted. 

When we started feeding 2%, 3%, 4% of babies born in America, you start realizing the impact and how many people's lives are changing.

And then I guess the third reason, which is not to diminish how good of a reason it is, but they're great partners. They're excellent partners to launch with. They work with a lot of startup companies and that allowed us to really see what it could look like at retail.

Have you been able to expand internationally or is that something on the horizon?

International is on the horizon. There’s so much demand for this worldwide.

I guess having Target as your partner gives you strong distribution channels all over the world. It’s got be a huge advantage when you do want to take that leap.

Yeah. Absolutely.

Again, that's a big consideration.Your partners need to be able to take you somewhere else.

You've had some incredible founders invest in your company, the likes of Warby Parker, Harry's, Uber. Even artists like Snoop Dog are involved.

How does it feel to have these people supporting you and your mission?

That's another milestone. It was pinch me moments every time. 

It gives you this confidence that what you're building is worthwhile. One, it's worthwhile from an investment perspective, but these are people and it's their personal money. And so when people part with personal money you know that they really believe in it. So it became this amazing, I guess, badge of honor to have these founders of very successful companies and brands and consumer goods take a look at it and say, "I love that. That needs to exist. I want to do that."

And a big part of what you wanted to do with your mission was to get more women to support you on the mission, which you’ve done so well.

Can you tell us a little bit about that decision and how important that is to you?

Absolutely.

We had someone who came to work with us for a period of time that I absolutely love, Sarah Marie Martin. She came from Goldman Sachs and she came in, looked at our cap table and she said, "It's a shame you have this product that's meant primarily for women and it's mostly men in your cap table. We should fix this."

She brought that to our attention and we went out specifically to then raise money from women. 

She brought that to our attention and we went out specifically to then raise money from women. Because women are often left out on the investment side. Women either don't have access to certain investments or they're more risk averse sometimes. But they're often left out and that's a huge asset class to be left out.

And so we're like, this should be something for women. Give access specifically to women. And so we went out and raised from women and amazing women joined in that.

Is there a particularly challenging day that you've had along this journey where you were like, "Oh my God. Is this journey even worth it? Are we going to be able to get unstuck?"

That's usually not my mindset. I generally don't think that there's anything that you can't get out of. So there's no quagmire that is too sticky. My general mindset is we'll figure this out.

Have there been times where that has gone on a long time? Absolutely. This is a very big one. But I think that my mindset is always we will find a way out of them.

I messaged a few friends of mine who are mums who have their own business and this was the common question that came back:

“Was there a specific moment when you felt a lot of doubt or overwhelm and how did you maintain that perseverance and that resilience?”

Yeah. I think most of the doubt comes before you make the leap. So there's so much self-doubt, there's so much, ‘what about’ kind of questions. Should I do something else? Is this the right thing? Just so many questions will come. 

But after you make the leap, there is no turning back. There is no, should I have done something else? You can't ask that question. You are here and you are going to make it work. And so I'd say the doubt happened much before that.

After you make the leap, there is no turning back. 

I have a really amazing co-founder, Evelyn. She compliments me in all the other ways. I'm a math person, she's an English person. But one of the things that she's very great at and I admire very much is that when she makes a decision, she goes for it and it helped me get out of that doubt.

So her being so certain about it helped me become certain of it. I think that’s true across a lot of co-founders. Finding someone who also believes in it can help you. Whether that's a partner, an actual co-founder or that's a spouse or somebody that's like, let's do this, you can do this, and then you make the jump.

Then, once you make the jump, you're already there.

If you were a professor and you were teaching a class on Business 101, you had to write a few key lessons or principles on the board, what would you write?

I've touched on it a lot, but I'd say that the number one thing is optimism. Attitude is everything. 

Doubt will seep in. This negativity can seep in. That negativity breeds more negativity. So I really think the number one thing you can do is believe in what you’re doing. Be optimistic, believe in it. It will work. And if you do, you'll find a solution.

So there's this level of perseverance, which comes from optimism, and it's the number one thing you should adopt in your life. A little bit of grit, keep going and it'll get everyone further than you ever imagined you would.

The second thing is to learn a little bit of the jargon. The fact that I used to work at Goldman Sachs and I used to be an investment banker and then was in private equity means that I had this jargon. I knew how to pitch and I knew what people were looking for and the metrics they were going to look at. So when I help people create their business plans, people that have never done that before, I try to give that a little bit into the deck and they've always said that that's the most helpful part.

The number one thing you can do is believe in what you’re doing. Be optimistic, believe in it. And if you do, you'll find a solution.

So reading other decks or seeing other things out there I think is very helpful. You learn the way that the system works and what you're supposed to say. And so I think jargon learning is important.

Then the third thing is to surround yourself with really good people. And it maybe feeds into the first one, but attitude is everything. So find people who are excited to work with it, work with you, work on the project, are passionate about something, because that becomes the momentum builder.

The early days, it's not like you're going to go poach someone who works at a huge tech company. The point is actually can you build momentum? Can you catapult yourself from stage one to two? Even the stage zero to one. 

Find people who are excited and motivated and everyone can work together and push you along, it’s such a big part of it. And to think that you should do it alone is a mistake because it's very hard to always self-motivate every day. In the same way it's hard to work out every day. Getting people to help build with you is such a big part of company building.

You mentioned you got the technical side and the jargon from your career. 

Where did the optimism, grit, and the growth mindset come from? Were there any specific books that helped shape that mindset for you?

Yeah, I've read all the growth mindset books. I actually started reading that only after I had kids though because it was for my children. But the obvious books are Grit [by Angela Duckworth] and Shoe Dog [by Phil Knight].

For me, it was more a collection, a compendium of advice and a compendium of books that led to this belief. But I'd say that pretty much every executive book out there will probably touch on similar topics. The overwhelming advice though was get through it, persevere.

How do you balance success with who you are as an individual, with success in the home, with success in the business? How do you balance all those things day to day and figure out what to prioritize on any given day?

That's a good question. I'm going to take that in a different way, which is how do I forgive myself sometimes with not being successful in certain ways? 

I was at a conference where Jeff Bezos said that he looks for what he's giving energy to. So sometimes in his life what's giving him the most energy is his family. And so he'll end work a little bit early, go home and spend time with his family or take his kids to school in the morning because that's giving the most energy. 
Then sometimes it's work that's giving him the most energy and he goes to work and he will work until 9:00 - 10:00 PM. because if he focused on energy more, it actually made him better in both settings.

If my kids can see me energized, happy, and excited, they're going to forgive me for not always being there when they get home or not doing everything for them at all times. 

So if he was at work and that was giving the most energy, then when he was with his kids, he was very present and excited because he was so excited about life. And if it was with his kids and he would go to work and he'd be giving it his all because he just had all this great time with his kids. 

To answer that question, I take that advice and I think for me it was about what do I want to give work and what do I want to give my kids? And if my kids can see me energized, happy, and excited every day, then they're going to forgive me for not always being there when they get home or not doing everything for them at all times. 

Same thing with work. If I can be more present at work – and be excited and be the leader that people want me to be –, that's going to pay more dividends than me just showing up and being in a bad mood or being not completely present.

Something I've written about before is you can't be productive without being present. A lot of stress and heartache seems to come when you're on your phone doing work stuff when you've got kids there or you're trying to focus on work stuff while kids are running around – all of the different derivatives of that. 

Intersecting worlds lead to bad outcomes.

I absolutely agree with that and I think that the pandemic really changed that for a lot of people. And it changed it for me too. Just anecdotally, I think it's really interesting because I really believe that's true. Having the ability to compartmentalize allows you to be present. 

When things get really muddled is when you have a lack of real presence and real present moment thinking.

On your best day, what's an affirmation that you would write on a flashcard that you could show yourself on your worst day?

One of my college advisors told me that showing up is 90% of life. And sometimes on your worst day you think, “I don't even want to go. I'd rather just not do something.” But if you just show up, good things will come out of that. 

So you never know. It’s advice that I still need to this day. On my worst day I still have those thoughts, but showing up is 90% of life.

Just show up.

Exactly.

That's what I say every time I go and do a fitness class. The goal isn't to do a great workout. The goal is to show up. They're going to kick your ass when you get there!

That's right. Just show up and big things will happen.

Final question, what's one thing you do to Win the Day?

Every day I try to be as optimistic as I can about the day itself, what I'm accomplishing and the goals that we're trying to set.

The Win the Day mentality. I love it! Angela, thanks so much for coming on the show.

Thank you so much for having me.


Final steps to Win the Day...

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James Whittaker

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“Champions don't show up to get everything they want; they show up to give everything they have.”

Alexander den Heijer

After fearing for their lives during the Iranian Revolution of 1978, Shaahin Cheyene’s family fled the country – leaving everything behind – and eventually found a new home in Los Angeles, California.

At 15 years old, Shaahin left home with nothing but the clothes on his back. A few short years later, he kickstarted the “smart drug” movement and was at the helm of a business empire that spanned the globe and would bring in more than $1 billion in revenue.

The product? “Herbal Ecstacy”, a LEGAL party drug, that took the music world by storm – and caught the fierce attention of disgruntled drug dealers, big pharma, and of course federal authorities.

Today, he is the Founder / CEO of Accelerated Intelligence, which provides supplements, nutrition, and research to support optimal brain health and well-being. 

He’s also a major ‘Fulfillment by Amazon’ seller, the lead coach at Amazon Mastery where he teaches entrepreneurs how to crush it on the Amazon platform, and is regarded as one of the leading global minds on what’s next in e-commerce, Amazon, and the internet.

Outside of those ventures, he’s the founder of podcast booking agency PodcastCola and host of the Hack and Grow Rich Podcast.

In this episode:

Let’s WIN THE DAY with Shaahin Cheyene!

James Whittaker:
Shaahin, great to see you! Thanks for coming on the show.

Shaahin Cheyene:
Thanks for having me on! I'm psyched.

You've had an incredible journey. What was your earliest childhood memory? And how often do you think about that today?

Man, my earliest childhood memory was probably in Iran. And I grew up in Tehran, my family, we were immigrants coming to the United States. But when we were in Iran, I remember being a little kid and at five years old, just being able to walk out into the street, go to the store and buy stuff. Iran's very safe as far as crime goes so there are kids who roam the streets all the time. So I remember doing that and having a little gang and feeling like, "Man, I'm at the top of the heap here."

And then shortly thereafter, the Iranian Revolution happened, my parents being Iranian Jews were like, "We've seen this happen before, we'd better get out in case something happens." So we moved to the United States as immigrants, as refugees, and then being in a new country where I didn't speak the language, I didn't understand the culture.

It was a pretty rough time back then, it was the Iran–Contra, we weren't exactly the favorite people of America. So it was a very difficult transition from being top of the heap where my family were solid middle class, being in a very good place, coming to America where I don't speak the language and we're poor and looked down upon.

So you're an outcast in the land of opportunity?

Exactly.

At the age of 15, you left home. What was the reasoning behind that decision? And how do you feel about that decision today, now that you're a parent?

So I looked around me at that time – we're talking about the 1980s, early 1990s – and I saw a lot of wealth. We moved into this up-and-coming part of town that hadn't been gentrified yet, this part called Pacific Palisades, I'm sure you know it. But back then it wasn't all that and my parents managed to buy a house, they bought it from some hippie and they had to fix it up and it was a whole story. 

And all around us started popping up all this wealth. The guy next door got a Porsche. There were all these big houses popping up. I noticed all this wealth, but there was none for me. I kept thinking, what's the path to this?

So I asked my folks, "Hey, I want the Porsche and the beautiful blonde sitting next to me driving down PCH, how do I get that?" And they were like, "Well, you have to become a doctor."

Because for immigrant families, the pinnacle of success is to be a doctor. So they really wanted me to do that and I looked around and I was like, "Fuck man, I've got to go talk to someone who's a doctor."

I noticed all this wealth, but there was none for me. 

So I went next door and I was like, "All right, I'm going to go talk to that dude and see what it's like to be a doctor." So I walked in, dude looked 60, he was probably in his forties now in retrospect. And he was fat and bald, the wife was fat and bald, the kids were fat and bald, everybody was fat and fucking bald. And they were all just grumpy. 

I talked to him, but he's like, "I can't talk." He always had to go. So he had the nice car and the nice house, but his life was hell. He didn't own his time. So I realized, man, I'd rather just go sleep on the beach. I don't want that. So that's literally what I did. I was like, "I don't know what I'm going to do." 

I remember reading Think and Grow Rich as a kid. It was the first big self-help book of that era. I mean, you didn't really have many choices of things to read when you were looking for personal development that was wealth-encouraging.

I remember I had that book highlighted so many times that I had highlights over highlights. Almost every word in that book was highlighted. And I remember thinking to myself, there's got to be a better way. I'm out. 

So I just bailed. I knew also that if I had a comfort zone to come back to that I would probably return. So I had enough knowledge about myself to know that I had to burn my ships, and that's what I did. I cut all ties and I took off and I just left. And I was like, "All right, now I'm going to figure it out."

What was your first thing that you would classify as a business that you were involved in?

I had a bunch of really dead-end jobs, and it was anywhere from making copies at copy shops, something I have to explain to young people now! Because people don't understand what that is. You say, "We used to make copies." They're like, "Of what? Why didn't you just fucking email it?" I'm like, "No, no. You go to a place, and you pay. And they take the paper, and they make a copy." And they're like, "And that's a job!?"

So I had a bunch of shitty jobs, the shittiest jobs possible. From there I realized that you are never going to get rich working for somebody else, so I needed to find something to do on my own. 

Then I found a mentor and I got involved in the electronic music scene, the rave scene, which was booming at the time, and I started doing raves. So that was really my first business venture was doing raves and underground parties and learning about how that whole thing worked.

But as I did those parties and the more and more successful I got, and throwing these underground parties, I started realizing that the DJs made no money. Nobody appreciated electronic music, especially guys that play other people's music, which it was at those times, the people throwing the parties. We didn't make any money. So I’m like, "Who's making the money at these parties!?"

I realized that you are never going to get rich working for somebody else, so I needed to find something to do on my own. 

So I started looking around and I knew that someone had to making money off it. I looked around and there were guys that were always there. They drove nice cars, they had nice looking girlfriends, nice clothes. And I realized the drug dealers were the ones who were making the money. 

I was like, "Perfect! That fits all the criteria that I need.” I want to get rich. I want to do it quick. I have no resources. That'll be ideal. 

Then I looked back to my youth coming to America, and I realized that I was really bad at crime. I had a little miniature crime ring as a child where I would sell gum and glue and little bottles of liquor that we took from the liquor stores and nudie magazines.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Shaahin Cheyene 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. ????


Back then, you had to get porn from magazines, which was another mind-blowing thing. So we would sell this stuff, and the problem was we would always get caught. And I had recruited all the kids at the school that didn't belong. All the kids that were, as you said, who felt like outcasts in the land of opportunity. All the outcasts were working for me.

But the problem was we would always end up in detention. So now I'm like 15, 16. I'm at these clubs, I see this perfect opportunity, and thank God I thought to myself, "Dude, just don't do crime. You are bad at crime. 

But then it hit me: the number one drug at the time was Ecstasy, MDMA. And they were out of supply, which mostly came from England and Holland. It had completely dried up with the ‘Just say no’ campaigns and all this. And the government was actually trying to stop drugs. So these drug dealers didn't have supply. And I thought to myself, "Man, if I could come up with a natural version of this, a legal version of this, it could be big." 

Because I could sell it through the same distribution network – always figure out distribution first – and there would be no penalty for doing so.

In marketing, they talk about the importance of selling to the starving crowd. So even though you weren't a drug guy yourself, in terms of consumption, you recognized that there were people out there who were just ravenous. So if you could give them that solution in a way that was legal, that was your path to achieving those goals that you had?

Yeah, totally. 

So one of the things I write about in my book that one of my mentors taught me is always look at distribution first. The fool's way to sell something is to create a better mousetrap and hope that the world will find its way to your door. It's bullshit. Nobody cares. 

The correct way to do it is to find a market, find the distribution, and then to just give it what it needs. That's how you get rich because now you're just feeding the market what it already wants.

The fool's way to sell something is to create a better mousetrap and hope that the world will find its way to your door. It's bullshit. 

And all you have to do is tell a better story. All you have to do is provide value, provide excellence, and you're good to go. Educating a consumer is really the job of these big corporations with endless capital and public funds and that kind of thing. That is not the job of us as mid-level, high-level entrepreneurs. It's not our job to do that.

Our job is to make money. We do that by finding distribution, finding a market – like you said, that's hungry – and just feeding it what it wants.

So those distribution channels that you had, the local drug dealers who were, did they know it was legal?

Yeah. In retrospect, it was brilliant.

So I remember thinking, "All right, this is an untapped network. Why has nobody sold anything else through these guys?" Okay, well there's a danger element, right? They're probably not the most savory characters. Secondly, people probably don't want to be associated with that kind of illicit network. It wasn't a problem for me, I am I going to go to jail for it? No. So cool. And those were the main two blocks. 

And third, probably reliability as if you sell into brick and mortar or retail store, you probably have reliability and credit and whatever. But the more I looked at it, these guys dealt with cash all the time. They had to pay cash under penalty of, you know what. And so they were mostly on the up and up. So you would get pretty much no bullshit kind of guys. 

I went into the clubs and I started recruiting the drug dealers. I said, "Dude, you got no product to sell. You're probably going to end up in jail. Everybody before you has ended up in jail and you're not making a lot of money right now. Give my stuff a try."

And I was very persuasive. Now, I didn't have any money. I barely had food to eat. I barely had a place to stay. I didn't have any of that stuff. So failure for me was not an option when I stood in front of that guy who has definitely done some bad things. Dude has tattoos on his face, which in the '80s meant something totally different than now. 

I remember thinking to myself, I should have been scared. I wasn't scared. I was standing there right in front of them, and I was not going to leave until they did what I needed them to do.

So it was more naivety than courage?

I think it was being steadfast in my view of the world and creating a mindset that's unshakable. I did that partly out of necessity, but partly out of understanding that really failure was not an option. It was not a path that I was on. I was going to do whatever it took.

The ultimate secret to succeeding in any venture is you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to get there. And I was there, and I was also young, so I didn't have a family. I know you and I talked about having kids and having a family and lifestyle. So I really had nothing to lose. And that's when you're your strongest, they say, especially in the fighting world.

The ultimate secret to succeeding in any venture is you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to get there.

I do mixed martial arts now and I train Brazilian jujitsu. And one of the things when I love watching UFC, and I love watching Thai fighting and a lot of different fighting, is you never fight a guy who's got nothing to lose, because they're the most dangerous guys. And that's who I was in those days. And that's why I succeeded so hugely. 

In short, I got all these drug dealers to start selling my product, a legal product. A lot of them became legitimate. They started having, they're like, "We don't have to hide anymore." So they started legitimizing their businesses by starting booths, starting stalls. A lot of them started storefronts, a lot of them bought franchises. And pretty soon it went from a few hundred guys to a few thousand guys. 

And we were all over the world. Berlin, Russia, Japan. I mean anywhere you can imagine. We were following the music scene, but we were following any alternative culture scene that was out there. I mean, our product was sold in music stores, it was sold in sex shops, it was sold in smoke shops. It was sold in pretty much anywhere where you could find alternative culture happening.

Nobody was really servicing those industries. So I went in and I was like, "This is frigging awesome, let's do it." And pretty soon brick and mortar came to us. We started selling to Urban Outfitters to 7-Eleven, to GNC. And before I knew it, somewhere between my 18th and 20th birthday, I don't even remember right now. I walked into my office, I had 200 employees. All of Venice was mine. I mean everybody who could, if you could fog up a mirror in those days, we would hire you.

Because this was pre-internet. I needed people to answer the phones. We were producing this product, this alternative ecstasy called Herbal Ecstasy for 25 cents a unit. We were selling it for a minimum of $20 a unit. 95% of our business was cash. Imagine the margins. And as quickly as we could produce it, we were selling it.

Just before my 20th birthday, I walked into the office and found out that we’d sold $1 billion of this product.

We were talking about the starving crowd being the people that wanted the euphoria, they wanted that experience. Also the dealers, they were a starving crowd as well. So you had two starving crowd elements that were able to feed into create a stronger distribution plan.

Yeah, that's right.

At the time, we looked at the vulnerabilities in the marketplace. I looked at the other competitors in the marketplace. But primarily I looked at ‘what does the market need right now?’ They wanted ecstasy. They couldn't get ecstasy. They were out of it. And a lot of stuff going around with fake ecstasy. 

We came in and really filled that need.

And how important was the word ‘ecstasy’ in the title of the product?

It's interesting that you ask that. I think it was very important, and I'll tell you why. 

What Csikszentmihalyi wrote about in his book Flow, when you get into that optimal performance state and things seem to be going your way, it's no accident. And I really felt that way at that time.

I had worked hard, I had lived on ramen, I had done whatever I needed to do to succeed, and I was in that place where I could not fail. And opportunities came left and right. Finding the name for the product was like nothing. It was like, “Of course, this is what it is!”

Just before my 20th birthday, I walked into the office and found out that we’d sold $1 billion of this product.

I'd be on a train, a first-class train in Paris and some guy would open up a newspaper and there'd be a picture of me in the background. And then he would take a look and I would sit next to him. Turns out he owned 5,000 retail stores in Paris. And I would sit down with the guy, and we'd make a deal before the train arrived at its location. And that was my distributor there. “Of course, that's my distributor.”

That kind of stuff happened every day, all the time, because I was in this flow state of things happening very quickly. And you can get in that. Through my Amazon Mastery course, I teach my students how to do that. And you can do that, but you have to be in the right mindset for it. And that's going to be different for everybody.

I was reading something recently that spoke about the tendency for some second and third generation Americans or Australians who can become lazy and take their life for granted. 

But that immigrant mentality seemed like a big thing for you – the desire not to waste the opportunity your family had provided. Is there some other part of the immigrant mentality that enabled you to have that drive to do what it takes?

Yeah, we're fucking relentless, man. You look at immigrants from any culture, and I have so much respect for Koreans, for Persians, for Armenians and I've thought about this a lot. So this is really interesting. 

I'm a huge fan of history. I'm absolutely addicted to history podcasts. I listen to all of the different history podcasts, and I read up a lot on history. So you look at ancient cultures, ancient civilizations, and this is something right now that's missing from this experiment of America that I think immigrants have and why they're so valuable in this country and every country that they come to. 

You look at someone like King Tut, a fairly minor Pharaoh Tutankhamun. They find this guy, this guy's buried in this vault, and the vault has gold chariots and gold chairs. And then they find the sarcophagus.

But it's not one sarcophagus, it's four sarcophagus and one's made out of solid gold and the other one's like plated with all the jewels. You're thinking, all right, this was thousands of years ago that they did this. Why did they do this? Why? I mean, this guy had the run of the place. He had everything that he wanted. He had wives, he had food, he was living in abundance. Why spend time doing that for when you die? Why spent resources on that? Resources were scarce during those times. 
This is why – because legacy mattered to them. So the Egyptians said, “You die twice. Once when you stop breathing. And the second, a bit later on, when somebody mentions your name for the last time.” That's it. And that's how they're thinking.

So the Egyptians said, “You die twice. Once when you stop breathing. And the second, a bit later on, when somebody mentions your name for the last time.”

They're thinking about legacy. They're thinking about the future. They're thinking thousands of years from now, that somebody's going to mention my name. And that's why they built that. And then when you look at the immigrant mentality in the United States coming to all these other places, they're thinking about their ancestors.

When I worked with indigenous people, when I worked with native people through a big part of my life, the thing that I noticed is through their oral traditions, what they like to share is the story of their ancestors. Just the most important thing. Why? Because of legacy.

So why is that important? It’s because you operate from a different mindset. You operate from a different framework. This guy's worried about what's going to happen 2,000 years from now, how people are going to see him. So how is he going to act today? He's going to do big things.

That's so interesting. 

Can you teach resourcefulness and that growth mindset in people? Or are some people born with it and others just don't have it?

You can't teach hunger. You’ve got to be hungry.

So you can get there. You can find the thing that motivates you. You can find your fascination. But it's like the problem with millennials, nobody fucking stands for anything. They don't believe in anything. There is this constant bombardment of social media, TikTok, swipe right, swipe left. They're dating, both swipes. There's very little meaningful human interaction that's real. 

Not only that, the fact is that the hunger is gone because they know they can always return to a base level of comfort. The most dangerous thing isn't poverty or being on the street. The most dangerous thing is being comfortable enough. Because if you're just comfortable enough, you might not ever rise out of that if you don't know yourself.

The most dangerous thing isn't poverty or being on the street. The most dangerous thing is being comfortable enough.

So the trick is to do things that are uncomfortable, to seek discomfort, to take that ice bath, to do the hour long sauna. I'm not a doctor, so don't do it without your doctor's advice! But ultimately, you've got to find the thing that puts you outside your comfort zone and constantly be seeking that. You have to constantly be walking on the edge and you have to do it intelligently. 

It doesn't mean make stupid decisions, it doesn't mean do things that are harmful to you or other people. But it means maybe you're uncomfortable public speaking, go on a public speaking tour. Maybe you're uncomfortable in social circumstances. Go out there and meet as many people as you want and be rejected a thousand times. Maybe you're uncomfortable with sales. "Oh my God, how many millennials are uncomfortable with sales?" If you tell them, go out there and sell like, oh, it's like, no, you have to test your comfort levels.

And the people who I coach, and I mentor who I see are successful are either hungry, they're born hungry, or they've trained themselves to be hungry through discomfort, through challenging situations in their lives. They come out of it.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Shaahin Cheyene 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. ????


It's not the easy things that make us into who we are. It's the hard things. It's the challenges and being able to overcome those challenges in life.

With the business journey that you were talking about before, when did it was time to let go of that and move on to the next chapter of your life?

So I own Herbal Ecstasy once again. There was a period of time where it was sold. And so I do own Herbal Ecstasy again, so that is in my possession, but there was a time where it was more work than it was worth. 

I had made my money from it. I had achieved my 15 minutes of fame. I mean, I'd been on all the TV shows. We mentioned two covers of Newsweek, one Observer, LA Times, New York Times everywhere was talking about us.

So I had that moment and I had the money and it just became a pain in the ass, as the government started cracking down more and more on natural herbal medicine, and we kind of lost relevance at a certain point, the culture started moving away from electronic music culture. 

Now, it's back because everything comes back. And I thought, "Hey, I want to move on." And I moved on to inventing vaporization, digital vaporization technology, which now you see everybody is vaping.

How do you feel about vaping as a trend now?

When I was young, it was things like smoking cigarettes in high school, that was the big thing. And I’m told now that vaping has become the thing that people are worried about at schools.

I'll start out by saying this. If you're somebody who wants to be an entrepreneur and you're not quite there yet – and I'll get a lot of hate mail about this – but I don't feel that doing any kind of drugs makes you a better entrepreneur, honestly. And you're talking to somebody who's been in the jungle. I've done ayahuasca with the cannibals in the Amazon, and I've done all of that stuff. 

I was friends with Terence McKenna, and I knew Timothy Leary and I've been in that world. I don't think it makes you a better entrepreneur. Just my personal opinion. There's people that'll argue with me. There's Silicon Valley people that are microdosing. I think there's a lot quicker ways to make money and get better at making money than taking any of that stuff.

You can't teach hunger. You’ve got to be hungry.

I don't think it improves your life. As far as vaping goes to your question, I think that it can be very dangerous. The technology that I built was digital vaporization. Back in the day, you had no options. You could smoke and that was pretty much it. So what I came up with was a technology where we would heat up the active element. So whatever it was, the cannabinoids, cannabis or tobacco or herbs. And you would get the active element, but it wouldn't heat it up enough to burn it. The technology stemmed from that. 

We got that from being the size of a ketchup bottle to smaller to the size of a cigar, to finally the size of a cigarette. And that's kind of what you see around now.

And was the basis of the research that it's the smoke specifically that's doing the damage – so if you can stay one rung below that, then you alleviate 80% or so of problems?

Three elements that you worry about is smoke, tar, and carbon monoxide. They're the three carcinogens, meaning cancer causing elements of smoking. If you could eliminate those three things, then presumably smoking would be healthier. That's what science told us at that time.

So we started building this technology where you could heat up the plant just enough to release what you want, but not enough to burn it so you're not getting all that other bad stuff. That was the foundation of the Vapir, the company that I founded and subsequently went public. 

Now, I don't think anything belongs in your lungs rather than clean, pure, fresh air. Two things can't occupy the same place at the same time, if you're taking something into your lungs, you may have a problem.

I don't think anything belongs in your lungs rather than clean, pure, fresh air.

The problem with vapes, from what I understand is that in order to get the active elements out of those plants, they have to convert it to a liquid. Okay, fair enough. So you extract it somehow, you get into a liquid now for that liquid to aerosolize to look like smoke, to actually get to steam, they have to mix it with something. And that stuff is not tested, glycerin, whatever it is, they mix that with, that's what the problem is with. 

So the plant matter, sure. If you're getting a little bit of cannabis, a little bit of THC, I don't know how harmful it is. Again, I'm not a doctor, I'm not a scientist. I can't give anybody health advice, but I suspect for me that wouldn't be that harmful. But what may be harmful is what they mix it with to make it more palatable in the human body and to make it more look like a cigarette. So I don't think anybody should do it. 

Now, the problem where things really get tricky is that it's a much better experience than smoking. It's just clean, it's easy, it's friendly. They taste like fruit flavors. So what ended up happening when they introduced filter cigarettes and when they introduced menthol cigarettes is that people think it's better for you, so they consume 10 times as much.

And especially fucking Americans, we can't do anything in moderation, right? They're like, "Weed is legal. All of a sudden there's like people smoking." I'm like, "Really?" Do you need to have five vapes right now? I know it's legal, but-

It's like I'll drink six Diet Cokes instead of one Coke!

That's what it is! So Americans can't do anything in moderation. Unfortunately, we can't.

So I think that's the problem with vaping, and I don't recommend it. And I would be disappointed if I caught my kids doing it, but we got to look at it as a measure of relative risk.

You've done a lot of work on nootropics. What does your daily routine look like to get in your optimal brain function every single day? 

Yeah, that's a really good question. This might surprise you. I believe in routines, but I also believe in breaking routines.

I think it's great to try all that stuff. All that stuff is fun. I've met Dave Asprey, I was at his Bulletproof Labs. I love all that stuff because it's fun and I've got an ice bath at my house, and I've done cryotherapy and I've got an infrared sauna and red lights and all that. And I do that when I feel like it.

Ultimately, most days I fast, but not every day. Some days I have a really good high fat breakfast. Most days I eat low carb. But occasionally I'll have a pasta because I think probably the most dangerous thing for me personally is to get into the dogma of anything. I believe in discipline, but I don't believe in dogma. 

People think it's better for you, so they consume 10 times as much.

Usually, when I wake up in the morning, the first and best thing that I do, if my kid's up is I play with my kid. It's the best thing in the world. I know you're a father and that's the greatest thing ever. So I do that. I stop whatever I'm doing and maybe I'll have a cup of matcha tea. We produce some of the best matcha tea in the world, Matcha DNA if anyone's interested.

And I'll have a cup of matcha tea, and I'll hang out with my kid and it's whatever he wants to do. If he wants to play with his fishing stuff, he wants to build Legos, whatever he wants to do. Then the next thing I do after the kid's out and the wife's out of the house and everything is, I'll see how I feel.

I'll do a quick ice bath or a quick swim or both. I could go in the sauna for 30 minutes or so. I do a little bit of red light and while I'm listening to history podcasts, which I fucking love. Then I'll intermittent fast for most of the day. 

Three days a week I'll go to Brazilian jujitsu, and I'll train for two hours fasted. Somebody in my class taught me. Because I was doing intermittent fasting, but I would never do it when I was training. And then he said, "Yeah, I trained fasted." I'm like, "Never thought about that. Sounds really hard." Because it's 11:00 when I go to my class, I'm not out until 2:00.

Something happens in the body when you're training that all the adrenaline kicks up. You don't even think about food. The best time to train is when you're fasted. I didn't even think about this. And then when I'm out of class at two, I'm not even hungry anymore.

I feel the same experience if I go surfing in the morning. You can be out there for three hours, you don't think about it. But if you're sitting at home, in 10 minutes you’re like “I feel like I need to eat something!”

Yeah. Isn't that interesting? 

Because we also eat a lot out of boredom and being sedentary. It makes us think, "Man, we need more energy from food so I can have enough energy to work out." But it's the opposite effect. You get more energy by going out there and working out or surfing or doing something like that. So I'll do that. 

Then the workday starts. I just GTD: I get things done. I have a process where I attend to things and things work out pretty well for me. And that's the day.

A big part of your success has been about spotting trends before they happen so you can leverage that.

Do you have a formula to identify trends?

Yeah, there is.

So I'm a big fan of Steven Kotler. He talks about finding your fascination. I think there's three steps to spotting trends.

First, make sure you're in flow. The most important thing is being in that flow state, having clear space, not having a million things on your calendar, a million things overwhelming you during the day. Overwhelm is the death of flow. So in order to do that, you just need to have blank space. You need to have quiet space, space where you can slow the world down, take that time and focus on what really matters. That's when you get in the flow state.

Second, Kotler talks about finding your fascination. Find stuff that you’re really fucking interested in. Stuff that fascinates you, because you don't know what you stand for until you know what's out there to stand for. Start learning about shit. There's so much interesting shit in the world. 

There's an endless list of stuff that fascinates me that I'm interested in. I'm interested in how you're doing this podcast and how you're doing this stuff. I'm interested in cars, I'm interested in kids, I'm interested in all types of different areas of life, of how things work, how development works in children.

I've got my eight-year-old boy now who's developing, and I'm fascinated by how things work in his brain and how he builds stuff. And so there's so much stuff to do. So you find your fascination and what you're interested in. Find interest in stuff that has nothing to do with making money, nothing to do with business.

Overwhelm is the death of flow.

When you're in that state, things come to you. To see those opportunities and then to seize those opportunities is where it's at. And when that happens, it's not like, "Man, what do we name this thing?" It's like, of course it's called Herbal Ecstasy, of course it's called Vapir. You just move forward. Things happen so smoothly, the person you need to meet is sitting right there next to you. Things happen in that way. And I don't know how to explain it. I'm a science-based guy. I don't know why things work that way, but I feel like that's the key.

It's synchronicity, its intuition, and it's being in the flow. And I'm sure one day someone's going to figure out how to quantify it and work it out and stuff. But right now, I just know what works because when you're in that phase, you'll hear that voice that says go left. You're at a crossroads and you hear the voice, and it says, go left. And of course, you're going to go left, and you go left and there's everybody waiting for you going, where the have you been all this time? We've been waiting for you. Where have you been? Come on in. Here's all, here's all your money, here's all your accolades, here's all the things that you wanted.

For sure. 

I think when you have an open calendar and you're in that flow state, you have an intuition – almost an expectation – that things are going to work out for you. 

When you adopt a completely different mindset and expect good things to happen, they usually do.

To some extent, it's whatever you want to make it.

So people always ask me, how do I get this? How do I do that? I'm like, "It's whatever you want. You going to have to fucking work for it." People feel like they don't have to work for it. You got to go out there and work for it. And you got to be willing to do whatever it takes.

Can you work smarter? Yeah. Can you add efficiencies? Can you optimize? Yeah. How do you do that? You build your network.

Speaking of working smarter, you're doing a lot of work with Amazon.

Jeff Bezos, who gets a lot of hate, has discreetly created thousands – maybe tens of thousands of millionaires – through the platform that he has created. When did Amazon first come on your radar?

So I started selling on Amazon in the very early days. I think it was somewhere around 2009-2010 when Bezos opened up the platform to third-party sellers. 

Bezos in his infinite wisdom was like, "Hey, let's open up the platform and let third-party sellers sell on our platform and we'll charge them a commission." So we started doing that, and the second I started doing that, I was like, "Wow, this guy knows what he's doing, and this could be one of the biggest companies in the world." So I put all my eggs in the Amazon basket at that time, and I was like, "Let's see where this goes."

I learned how to speak the language of Amazon, how to sell on Amazon, and I had several products that were doing multiple millions of dollars on there in a very short period of time. And in that time, I've learned how to do it. 

One of the things that I do is I teach others how to create predictable recurring revenue on Amazon – and it can be taught to anybody. You need very little resources. If you were like, "Hey, Shaahin, I want to open up a restaurant." I'd be like, "Fuck man, you need a few hundred grand and your chances of success are so low."

You can open up an Amazon business with product and start selling it, and very feasibly make a few thousand dollars a month. It happens all the time to people making a few hundred thousand bucks a month, a million bucks a month in a very short period of time. So selling on Amazon is very low risk, very high profit potential. 

Any business isn't without its problems, but it's the brilliance of what Bezos has created. Love him or hate him, like you said, anytime I think you achieve that level of wealth, there'll be problems.

There'll be people who’ll hate on the guy. There'll be people who are jealous. There'll be people who don't feel that they're worthy of it, so they hate on him. And there'll be people that have legitimate qualms, like they say, "Hey, maybe the workers aren't getting the right benefits or whatever." 

But it's much like governance – everybody's good their first day in office, and then once they start governing, you're like, "Oh man, well these people are displaced, but those people are being unfairly compensated and those people have this." So it creates that kind of an ecosphere. And Amazon is one of those. It's got it bad parts. It's got its good parts, but it doesn't mean that you and me can't get really rich selling on there.

If you were working with someone who wanted to dominate Amazon but had no background in it, what steps would you take them through?

One of the common things that everybody should know is with TikTok and Instagram and all these channels popping up, everybody jumped on the bandwagon of being an Amazon guru. Everybody's like, “Drop ship. All you got to do is find a product that's sold on Amazon for $20 and you buy it for $1, and then you get that person to ship and you're making millions.” 

The problem is that teaching that to 10,000 other people and 10 other guys are teaching that 10,000 other people and it doesn't work. Who it works for is these guys selling their courses. We don't teach that. If someone's interested in that, it's not what I teach because it doesn't work. 

I teach sustained recurring, predictable revenue streams by creating excellent products. So what I teach people to do is go out there and find a vulnerability in the market, find a market that is starving for something. 

And now we're going to go to China, we are going to have them produce that product force, we're going to brand it, we're going to tell a better story, we're going to create added value to the product. Maybe our battery lasts longer, maybe our quality is going to be better, maybe our packaging is better. Maybe we include something extra in there. Maybe you have some information that other people don't so you can have better information that goes along with your product. 

Then we're going to use these algorithms, these systems that I've built over the course of the last 10 years from selling on Amazon, and we're going to use that to create recurring revenue. You're not going to get rich overnight. It's going to take time and you might fail once. You might fail twice, but eventually you will succeed. I've got a hundred percent success rate with the people that have followed my system to do this.

And then what happens is you create a business and guess what? You're going to have to work at it, but you get to create a system of revenue, a form of revenue where you don't have to go into a job where you don't have to answer to anyone else, where most importantly, you don't have to sell your hours for money. 

You create these predictable revenue streams, and maybe this is one of many. Maybe you do this, maybe you start buying some stocks, maybe you start investing in real estate and you start creating this really nice financial plan and outlook for yourself so that you just can't have a bad day. 

You come in and the stock market's down. That's cool. You got your real estate business, real estate business down. Well, Amazon always seems to be doing well. So you've got this well rounded foundational type of thinking. And that's really what I teach. Those are the people that I want to encourage to succeed are the people who want this kind of foundational thinking and are looking to get rich slowly.

Yeah, it's a refreshing change for the get rich quick schemes that you just get hammered with on non-TikTok and Instagram. 

Is that why now on Amazon there seems to be the emergence of more of these new brands? It's like these products that rate really well and appear in the first page of the search results on Amazon, but from brands that you've never even heard of.

A lot of those are our students. 

Amazon is the great equalizer. Back in the day, we had what Seth Godin calls disruption marketing. You're watching the Super Bowl? Knock, knock buddy you want a beer? Like, "No, I'm good." Knock, knock. You want a beer, you want a beer? Do you want a beer? That was how they marketed effectively. That's it. They just interrupt every few seconds pounded into your head until you buy it – and it cost millions of millions of dollars. And we're not sure how great it worked.

What happened is that things changed, and permission marketing came in. Amazon fed off that momentum. They created this amazing platform, right about the time where the internet and ecommerce was at its height and Amazon said, “Disruption marketing doesn't matter here.”

Sure, you've got the big brands that always sell, Tide will always sell Tide pods, right? People will always buy that. But if you've got a laundry detergent that's 20% cheaper, that looks cooler, that tells the story better on Amazon.

Amazon is the great equalizer. 

If you know the right algorithms and systems, you can compete with that Fortune 50, Fortune 500 company and do really freaking well and take up a big piece of their market share. And that's exactly why a lot of these big CPG consumer product goods companies are rolling up Amazon firms. Because what they realize is that companies started by people just like my students have gone in and taken a big chunk of their market share because they now realize that they can compete with these companies. If before you wanted to compete with a company like Tide or a company like Coca-Cola, you would have no hope that you would make any impact in the marketplace. 

Getting distribution is an old boys club. You'd have to know people, you'd have to have millions and millions of dollars to do that. But on Amazon, you don't need 10 grand and the momentum to get out there and just some good ideas and somebody to coach you. You can start that company and you can compete with those brands.

What we've seen happen is a lot of these companies are being bought out for seven figures, eight figures, a few of them for nine figures where they came out of nowhere and in two years, three years created these brands and companies on Amazon, like you said, that no one's ever heard of before and sold. And now those brands are owned by these big Fortune 50, Fortune 500 companies.

I know you're a fan of Influence by Dr. Robert Cialdini, one of my favorite all time books. What are the biggest business or marketing lessons that you have learned from this journey that you've been on?

First and foremost is what we talked about – sell to a starving audience. Always start distribution first. It’s one of the key things that I talk about in my book Billion: How I Became King of The Thrill Pill Cult

Second, just to recap, is that being in a flow state is one of the key elements. Being able to get yourself in that flow state should be a priority for any entrepreneur because you think clearer. When you think clearer, you’re in a better place. We know not to drive when you're tired, don't fight when you're tired. Don't make any huge life decisions when you're exhausted. Similarly, you should make those decisions when you're in that flow state. And knowing how to turn that on and off is critical. 

The other thing is, it's so important to somebody who is where you want to be and utilize their mistakes, their lessons, which is why I talk about mentorship, which is why I teach an Amazon course. Which by the way, for anybody watching this, I'm happy to give them my one-hour course for free. So we can share that with everybody in the show notes or whatever [note: link to Shaahin’s course – free for the Win the Day community – is available in the shownotes below].


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Shaahin Cheyene 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. ????


The final thing is to know yourself.The Temple of Delphi, they had a few things inscribed on the walls, and one of them was ‘know yourself.’ You got to know your strengths, but equally as important, you got to know your weaknesses. You got to know if you've got a bag of cookies in the jar right in front of you, you're probably going to be eating cookies. So don't have that jar of cookies in front of you. Similarly, you need to set your world up to be a decision architect so that at the end of the day you win.

You're a dad. And the trick to kids isn't pounding it into their heads. "You got to do this, you got to become a doctor, you got to do that." The trick is to trick them into doing what's best for them. You become until they're of age, until they're 18, a decision architect where you build an ecosystem where somehow, they're just making the right decisions and winning and going, "Dad, look at this great decision I made, I won." 

And you're like, "Yeah, that's interesting!” But it's because you put them around the right people and the right environments. The right books just seemed to show up in the house. They see you leading by example, working with integrity, teaching with integrity. So they make the right decisions, but you were the decision architect.

So similarly, in your own life, you want to become the decision architect.

The Bradley Cooper film Limitless featured a fictional nootropic drug NZT-48 that offered significant cognitive enhancements. 

Do you think we’ll see something like that anytime soon?

I don't think so. 

The way that the human brain works is that it's a marathon and not a sprint.

And anything that it adds now, you will have to be forced to take away later.

There's a price to pay.

Look, there's amazing technology out there, and it’s constantly improving. Medicine is improving exponentially. There's going to be amazing things out there. 

Ideally, we would all like a pill to get younger. We would all like a pill to get smarter. But eating right, exercising, clean food, clean living, clean air, good connections with people. Good friends, time with family and friends. These things aren't sexy. There's no book in that! That's why diet books are so popular.

The fact is, you might do great on eating a little bit of meat and then maybe being vegetarian once a week, you might do great doing a certain kind of workout, another workout another day, and something that might work for you today might not work for you tomorrow. There's no book in that. There's no product to sell in that. And that's what people don't want to tell you. 

The most important thing is having discipline, but being able to break dogma and doing it without breaking the bank and just being stupid.

On your best day, what's an affirmation that you would write on a flashcard to show yourself on your worst day?

I love change.

Final question, what's one thing you do to Win the Day?

Outside of this podcast, it's an awesome podcast by the way!

One thing I'm going to do to Win the Day is to make a sale. But the most essential part of my daily routine is being with my kid. It's the best thing in the world.

But these things aren't sexy, these things don't sell books. People want you to take this pill, do this bio-hack, like this crazy thing, and all that stuff's fun, yeah, do it all, try it all, it's all fucking great, but the really basic shit is free. 

The really great stuff, you don't need to read a book. You know how to cuddle with your kids. You know how to go out there on a walk and just let the sun beat down on your face and be like, "Fuck man, that feels good." You know how to do all that. You don't need a book. You don't need a product for it.

And the lessons that you can learn just from watching your kids interact with the world and grow, teaches you so much about yourself and life.

It's amazing You get to be a kid all over again, and it's absolutely remarkable.

Thank you, my friend, for coming on the show today.

Thanks buddy, I appreciate you having me.


Final steps to Win the Day...

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Onward and upward always,

James Whittaker

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Resources / links mentioned:

⚡ Shaahin Cheyene website.

📷 Shaahin Cheyene Instagram.

📚 ‘Billion: How I Became King of the Thrill Pill Cult‘ by Shaahin Cheyene.

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A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

Jackie Robinson

Joshua Kalinowski is a former pro baseball player who empowers people to live a life of exceptional impact, influence, and faith.

His athletic career, which culminated in playing for the Colorado Rockies MLB team, taught him how taking risks, being disciplined, and committing to a larger vision all helped overcome short-term adversity and make incremental progress on your dreams.

Today, Josh is the CEO of Man-Made, where he helps ambitious men rise to their potential and thrive in the five core areas of their lives (faith, family, fitness, finance, future). He is also a business coach, bestselling author, motivational speaker, podcast host, and CEO of eight companies.

When he’s not changing the world, he’s being a committed husband and father to four children.

Josh has built a reputation for making the most of every day, and that’s why he’s here to help us Win the Day!

In this episode:

Before we begin, 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 or could use some help to Win the Day, share it with them right now.

Let’s WIN THE DAY with Josh Kalinowski!

James Whittaker:
Josh, great to have you in the studio!

Joshua Kalinowski:
James, it’s a pleasure to be here, brother!

When did you adopt a growth mindset for the first time (rather than a fixed mindset) and how did your life change as a result?

At the very beginning stages of my life, I knew that I was going to be an athlete. I knew I was going to either play baseball or chase that football dream. I had an internal scoreboard of who I was going to become before I was even able to step into that arena. 

As things changed, as life changed – and the devastation of not being able to fulfill what I thought at that time was my purpose – really led me down a path of self-discovery. There have been a lot of internal conversations, a lot of overcoming self-doubt, fears, and all the things that happen when devastation hits you.

It's that journey that helped me find what I was meant for and that greater purpose in my life. 

When you were an aspiring baseball player, what were some of the ups and downs you went through that people might not know about?

A lot of people know from an early age that they want to do something and that there's something greater in life. A lot of it is like, "Well, I want to be president of the United States at one point," "I want to be an astronaut," "I want to be a fireman." For me, from a very early stage, I knew that I was going to be an athlete. 

One of my heroes was Bo Jackson because he was a two-sport athlete. He had no limitations. For me, a small kid in Wyoming, as a big fish in a small pond, I had this dream of becoming this professional football player and professional baseball player. My father really instilled in me that I could do anything that I wanted to do. So I got to chase that for so long.

But life changes. When that jersey came off, I had to figure out what I was meant for because my identity was so wrapped up into that jersey and that profession. Since then, it's been a challenge for me to really own who I am, try to rediscover that guy again.

When that jersey came off, I had to figure out what I was meant for because my identity was so wrapped up into that jersey and that profession. 

Most people never ask the right questions. They never take time to step back and say, "Okay, if this is the direction of life – and now I'm going in this direction – what am I truly meant for? And why did this have to happen in order for me to open up that next chapter?" 

We look at  it as a defeat. We look at that as a failure. And you well know because you've interviewed so many people who have been able to overcome that failure by a lot of internal health and a lot of internal reflection in their lives and motivating themselves to really step into that greatest chapter.


A lot of the conversations that I have with clients – and people, more generally – who are treading water or feel like they’re not living with purpose or passion, it comes down to two things: they're not clear on who they are, and they're not clear on where they want to go.

Have you got a process that you use to help people that you work with understand those two things?

What you said is perfect.

In fact, my newest book, which is titled Nice Guys Failed: Good Men Need to Do Great Things Again, includes the idea of, "What does it take to be a good man?" Even though I know that we're talking to a lot of women as well, my focus with Man-Made and my passion is really helping men become men again.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Joshua Kalinowski 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. ????


There's three things that every man needs to have in order to be a good man. One is that they need to have humility in their life, right? They need to understand where they're at in life. They need to understand their purpose in life, and then they need to take action. 

So through the process, what we do is we expose men to the elements of nature. It’s absolutely imperative for men to get back to nature, to be rewilded again because there's something inside of us that we feel like we're being held back.

It’s absolutely imperative for men to get back to nature, to be rewilded again.

There's this missing piece in all of us men that we feel like we need to go out and have that adventure again, right? We need to get our testosterone again. We need to feel fear to a certain point again because when we do that, we feel alive. When we do that, we feel like we're stepping into the greatness that we potentially can have. 

A number of us just went on an epic trip and climbed The Grand in Jackson Hole Wyoming. Now, it's one of the tallest peaks in the state, but it is most certainly the most famous peak in our great state. We didn't know what we were getting into. None of us are climbers.

I've got our mutual friend, William Branum [26-year Navy SEAL], who’s been on the show and just an awesome guy.

If there’s anyone you want on the mountain with you, it’s him!

Yeah, exactly. Obviously he’s a retired Navy SEAL. 

We have Jimmy Kleager, who is another one of our gentlemen in Man-Made. He's a 20-year veteran. He's an Army Ranger who retired as a lieutenant colonel, too. You can't get any better than that. 

You're in good company. 

I've got my brother and I. So we're the odd men out on this whole thing! But we've got an amazing, world-renowned guide. 

What we got to do was experience, first of all, the fear of death. We really got to experience that for the first time in my life. It's this fear of the point of no return – where you need to be solely focused on the next step. Oftentimes, as we know, the one thing that paralyzes us is that we're so focused on the ‘way in the future me’, the guy that I want to be in 10 years or 15 years or 20 years, and we forget the moment. We forget the next step. We forget the next place where we should be putting our hand, right?

For us, it really set us back to realize, "Okay. I'm not going to be focused on that. I'm not looking down either because looking down is paralyzing. I got to be focused on where I'm putting my next threshold on my foot, and where am I grabbing for my next handhold so that I can get through the moment.”

Oftentimes, we’re paralyzed because we’re so focused on the person that I want to be in the future, and we forget the moment. We forget the next step.

It was such a great opportunity for us to just be present, be in that moment to come together as men, to do something scary as crap as men, but then to be able, first and foremost, to talk about it, to experience it, and then to reflect on it. 

The growth that happened in that 18 hours of tracking 20 miles, 13,775 feet up in the air, the 5,000 calories that we burned, the 41,000 steps that we did, all of that was great, but the power came in the reflection of it. The power came and we were all sitting around a table – we had a cigar, we had a glass of whiskey, and we started one by one going, "What was it that we learned? What was it that you were empowered by and then how are you going to take action on it in your life going forward?"

In your baseball career, did you observe that a lot of men – perhaps yourself included – were lost, even though from the outside looking in it looked like they had a lot of great things going on?

Yeah, there's no doubt about it. 

In any athletic sport, we live within a world within a world. Military men do the same thing. The outside world really doesn't have permission to go into that, nor can they relate to that.

One of the biggest challenges that we face, and the reason why Man-Made was created, is because when I took the jersey off, I got on the other side of the sidelines, and that's a really hard transition to make. William Branum talked about it on your podcast

The best analogy that I can come up with is when Thanos snapped his fingers and everybody disappeared around him. That's what it's like to get into that next chapter of life oftentimes, whether it's because you retired from a sport, because you retired from the military, maybe you got divorced, maybe you had a complete career change, because of the last couple years that had happened with COVID or something that happened in economy that just it wasn't something that you wanted to do, you were forced into it. You end up finding yourself all alone. 

When your uniform comes off – whether that’s from a career, a marriage, or any number of things – your entire identity goes with it. So you've got to recreate the man again. So it's really important for people, first of all, to understand that – but then you have to walk through that. You have to be willing to embrace that.

You have to be willing to get the scars from that and help you as you proceed into the next chapter of greatness.

In your awesome book Strike Three, you mentioned that “statistics are everything to a player” and how every athlete is ultimately reduced to a collection of statistics based on how they’ve performed historically on a certain tasks.

Metrics of success are very important, but what strengths did you have in your baseball career that weren't captured in the statistics? 

Well, first of all, I really believe that everybody has a uniqueness inside of them. We often talk about, "Well, you've got greatness inside of you." As a man of faith, I believe that we have greatness because of God. I believe that there's greatness in it because we were created by the greatest. 

Unfortunately, the word ‘greatness’ paralyzes people way too much. If you talk to your kids, and say, "You got greatness in you," they’re like, "Dad, I struggle to brush my teeth." They can't relate to that.

But when we can say, "Hey, listen, you've got a uniqueness about you that you can hone, that you can practice, that you can work on, and you can turn it into your greatness," well, now we have a chance. Now we can have some direction.

Now we can say, "Okay. I get it. You're right, dad, I am unique," or "Yeah, you're right, I am unique. There's something unique about me that's just a little bit different than everybody else. I'm uniquely and wonderfully made and I can turn that into greatness." 

You've got a uniqueness about you that you can hone and turn it into your greatness.

Baseball was that for me. I had this uniqueness about me. I was, once again, a big fish in a very small pond. Well, that was a blessing because if I would've been in California, Texas, Colorado, I wouldn't have been nearly as big and the pond would've been a lot bigger. So I was able to stand out. I was tall, I was lanky, I was lefthanded, I could throw hard, I could hit a baseball. It all made sense to me.

But what I did with relentless pursuit was I perfected that. I turned that into my greatness, and because of that, I got to chase my dream for so much longer than anybody else. I got to chase that dream not as long as I wanted to or I had envisioned, but it was still an amazing ride now that I look back on it, and I'm so grateful for that opportunity because those lessons I learned have helped me and pushed me so that I never gave up on myself.

Even though there were times or moments that I most certainly did, I never truly gave up on myself completely. I always had just this little shimmer of hope that there was something more.

The life of a pro athlete is a road paved with good intentions but littered with broken dreams. How do you reconcile that journey today when you look back at it?

Yeah, man. I tell you what, well, I didn't ever go to therapy, but I had to go through a lot of self-discovery, and I think a lot of people, a lot of men in particular, we have a hard time with our emotions. We just bury them and bury them and bury them, right?

Then of course, what ends up happening, they manifest themselves in so many areas of our life, drugs and alcohol, depression, divorce, all of these things that I've seen so many of my fellow men experience in their lives, but we're so good at blanketing all that and saying that we're okay. We're so good at just trying to move on with life burying in and going, "Hey, listen. We don't need to talk about it. That's fine. You know what? That was a chapter in my life. There was one point in my life I was meant for greatness, but life is good now."

I was searching for a brotherhood. I was searching for a locker room of guys again. 

So for me, I wasn't satisfied with that. I just couldn't do that, whether it was because my father had instilled in me that, "You were meant for more," or the fact that I just innately, just somewhere deep inside of me there was just this little flicker of fire telling me, "You got to do something greater. You were meant for so much more."

I look back at my career and there were many moments where I was like, "When I made that decision, was that the downward decision of my career? When I did that, did that lead to the eventual dismissal or the retirement? I retired, but it was because I was broken. Was that the decision that led me down the path of either failure or retirement in that career?" 

So eventually, what I ended having to do is I had to do a lot of soul searching, but I had to do that with other men. So I was searching for other groups. I was searching for a brotherhood. I was searching for a locker room of guys again.

That eventually led me to so many different weekends, whether it was an organization that was strictly putting me through hell, whether it was an organization that was putting me through the spiritual realm of life. All of these things eventually led me down to, "We got to create Man-Made. We got to create Man-Made because there's so many men out there who have so much potential. They just don't know where to turn."

In the book that you're writing at the moment, you mentioned the eight attributes to empower every man to do great things. What are the most important qualities that stand out from that list? 

Two of them really stand out.

The first, good men need scars. There's a great story about this. One of the things I loved about writing this book was just doing the research of good men. What did good men look like back in the day? 

There's a boxer named Gentleman Jim. His name was James Corbett, but they nicknamed him Gentleman Jim. In 1892, he was set to face a guy John Sullivan. Now, John Sullivan was the man. He was the greatest fighter to that day. He had a reputation. This was back in the day when they had bare knuckle fights as well too, so he was set to fight him in the world championship. 

Now, when he stepped into the ring, he knew exactly who he was facing. He looked at his opponent and he saw the scars. John Sullivan, who was really nicknamed The Man – and also nicknamed The Boston Strong Man. You don't get a name like that for being a weak dude!

There was a fight that he had that went 61 rounds. Finally, the cornerman had to stop the fight because both he and his opponent were so bloodied and beaten that neither one of them could lift their arms. 

He also had another one. He was fighting this guy named Killian, and this was actually a bare knuckle fight. He was in France where it was highly illegal, so they had to go to the secret place. On the 44th round, it looked like John was going to lose his fight. He goes to the corner, he throws up, he gets himself repositioned again, and he went 31 rounds. Killian's cornerman had to stop the fight because of the brutal beating that John had put on him. 

This is all well known. So when Corbett got into the ring, he knew that that's the guy that he was facing. Now, Corbett at that time in his career had not fought a lot of fights. John Sullivan had fought 454 fights in his career. They'd fight hundreds of fights a year.

But Corbett had not done that, although he’d had a lot of success. He was 30 pounds lighter than John, and he was also shorter than him too. So he knew he had this uphill climb, but he knew that he had scars because he had got himself to this position to become a world champion.

So when they both got into this ring, I got to imagine that both of them knew not only did they have scars personally, but the scars that the other man brought to the table too. What it did is it gave them this sense that defeat is not impossible, but it's going to be so worth it, right?


As the men stepped into that arena, they went back and forth, and it was an awesome fight. I mean, just punches and knockdowns, punches and knockdowns. Finally in the 21st round, Corbett landed a vicious left hook, knocked down Sullivan who never got up, and he won the championship, and the fight was later punned, "The day The Man beat The Man." 

So there's always somebody that we're fighting as men, but are we willing to get the scars? Are we willing to go out there and get the scars?

We think about these internal scars that we have to deal with, but I will say that it's also the exterior scars. On the trip when we climbed The Grand, I was waiting for an opportunity to get a scar because I wanted to be able to say, "Yeah, you see that scar right there on my forearm right there? That was when a rock came down and it got me!" I was looking for an opportunity to get an exterior scar so we could talk about it.

Ancient Greeks were the ones who created the gym, and the Latin word for ‘gymnasium’ is gymnos. Well, gymnos is defined as naked. So when Greeks would go to the gym, you had to come naked.

Going to the gym was not only about becoming physical, but it was also about exposing the scars so that others could see the scars.

We know that Greeks loved the physique of the body, both male and female, and it was very important to them. Going to the gym was not only about becoming physical, but it was also about exposing the scars so that others could see the scars. Young men could see the scars of the old men to know that they did something in their lives.

It was with a badge of honor that these men came to the gym so that they could show the young men what they had done in battle or what they stood for.

Men today need to look for scars. We need to look for opportunities to get those scars. We need to stop the atrophy in our life.

With Man-Made, we help men go get scars. We help them and put them in environments where they can go out there and do the things that make them feel alive, and now they got stories to tell. That's one of the greatest things about this book that I've discovered is just this opportunity for men to realize how important scars are again. 

Especially the fact that the wound is where the light enters you as well, which I think is particularly important when you're going through different phases of your life.

That's great. I love that, dude.

The other thing is that I think good men need to embrace. They need to embrace the moment that they're in right now.

Listen, we don't always like the chapter of life that we're in. For me, a lot of my chapter was spent in regret, in fear, that I thought I destroyed everything in my life, that I was never going to find fulfillment, that I was going to be a dad. 

I love my wife. My wife is amazing. She's been a rockstar for me and who I am as a man today. She's helped me become a better father, all these things. I had a really good life, but I wanted so much more. I thought I was meant for so much more. 

Men today need to look for scars. We need to look for opportunities to get those scars. We need to stop the atrophy in our life.

The thing is that for me, I didn't embrace that chapter of my life. I didn't embrace the opportunities that were really lying before me. So a man needs to embrace that chapter of their life. They need to embrace their purpose. They need to embrace their calling. They need to embrace the difficulties that they're faced with. 

There's a guy named Raymund Kolbe who was born in Poland. At the age of 20, he saw his father arrested by German soldiers. Now, you got to imagine this time of that era, Hitler was coming to rise and there was a lot of things going on in Germany. His father gets arrested and he doesn't go to trial. He doesn't even go to jail. He gets arrested because he is outspoken, because he is talking about freedom. He's talking about the things that are going on that are right and the things that are going on wrong, and what Germany is doing to the Polish people. 

They take him to the center courts and they hang him, and they leave him there for days. As I think about that, I'm like, "Man, when I was 20 years old, what would I have done?" What would you have done as a man watching your father being hung and there's nothing you can do about it? 

Raymund knew from a very early age prior to that that there was something in his life that he was meant to do. He knew this and he was following. He went to a school that was across the border, which was illegal for them to go over. Him and his brother did this, but they did this in order to pursue what they knew that they needed to do in life. 

Instead of it distracting him that his father got hung, instead of it making so that he felt worthless, something tragic that happened in his life, how many times does that happen to us as men that we stand back on that and go, "Okay. Now, I get to play the victim now," right? He didn't play the victim. It actually built that resilience in him, and he knew with even more conviction that he was supposed to do what he was doing. 

From then on, he went on to do some amazing things. He went to Japan. Now, when White people would go to Japan at that time, if they found that you were doing something that they didn't like, they would capture you and then they would skin you alive. This was a regular habit of what happened over there to people who were going over there. Christians went over there to preach the gospel and for missionary work, and it happened to them, but Raymund still went knowing that death was highly probable.

He goes over there to Japan, and he puts a printing press together. He starts distributing millions of copies of things that he's been working on, literature that he had written, and he starts creating a movement over there. 

Then he's listening to this inner voice, which is super important for us to do this. He's listening to this inner voice that says that he needs to build a monastery on the side of this mountain, and he’s like, "Why would I build a monastery on the side of the mountain? This just makes no sense. This is the worst place I should be building this. This doesn't make any sense," but he listens to that inner voice and he does it. 

Well, this is a pivotal moment too because this is right outside of Hiroshima. Later, when the atomic bomb was dropped, everything was devastated in that region except for that monastery because it was protected by the side of that mountain. Unbelievable story. 

But he gets sick because he had some ailments internally from some other wounds that he had been dealing with since he was a young boy. He goes back to Poland because of his health. Of course, now, Germany is in full force. Hitler is in power and he's trying to take over the region. 

Raymund starts harboring Jews. The Gestapo comes and arrests him. He goes to a prison in Poland, next to Auschwitz. It's one of the worst prisons that are out there. They starve people to death. The conditions are horrible because of the cold and the bitterness. They don't sleep inside. They sleep outside exposed to all the elements. He stays there for a couple months. Then he gets transferred to Auschwitz.

Now, we all know that is literally a death sentence. 10% of people that went into the Auschwitz camps came out alive. Everybody else obviously perished. He gets over there and he gets commissioned with a general over there named The Bloody Knot. Now, I don't know about you, but anybody that's got a nickname The Bloody Knot, I don't want him anywhere near close to me, right!? I mean, this is the worst scenario that you can get. This guy was notorious for his brutality and he had this obsession. He had this really weird obsession with blood. 

He saw Raymund when he came in and he picked him out. He knew there was something weird about this guy. He knew there was something different about this guy. So he made it a point to be even extra brutal on him. In fact, one time he made him carry the heaviest log that they had had. They were going back and forth and carrying these logs, and that's what the German army would do is that they would have this monotonous thing that they would make people do, dig ditches, fill them back in, dig ditches, fill them back in. He made Raymund carry this overwhelmingly heavy board.

When he collapsed, he brutalized him, just beat him to a pulp, left him there for dead. Raymund would've died if it wasn't for the fact that the rest of his inmates carried him back to the infirmary. He spent two weeks there and recovered. At one point, they thought three of the inmates had escaped, so the guard made 10 of them die. Basically got to the point where 10 of them had to come out. They said, "You're going to starve to death. You go down the bunker.”

We're afraid to do the thing that we know potentially could break us through that next great moment in our life because we're going to have to go through something painful. 

Upon that, one of the guys screamed out loud and said, "I've got children. I've got a wife. You can't do this to me." Of course, obviously, the German guards don't really care about this at all. Raymund raised his hand and took the man's place. Now, this is absolutely uncharacteristic of a guard to do this and say, "Yeah, absolutely. Go ahead and do that." I mean, they would never allow that, but for some reason, for some really interesting reason, the guard said, "Yeah, you can take his place." 

So as I think about the story, it's just I constantly keep thinking about Raymund after all this suffering that he'd been through, after being spat on, after being beaten, after being made ridiculed verbally by all these guards, he's at this point in his life where he's had so much success, he's made so much impact, and if he just shut his mouth, he'd probably survive. 

There's a good chance he might survive this somehow, right? He raised his hand and he embraced the moment. He embraced that chapter of his life that nobody wants to go into that. This is a death sentence. He's literally going to walk to his death by starvation, and he does it. He takes the place of this man.

They put him down into this infirmary or this bunker and he lasts two weeks. Everybody else dies except for Raymund. Finally, the guards got sick and tired of having to go down there and check on him. They actually killed him by lethal injection.

I say this story because I know that there's so many of us who are afraid to embrace this chapter in our life. We're afraid to do the thing that we know potentially could break us through that next great moment in our life because we're going to have to go through something painful. We're going to have to make a hard decision.

Raymund made the hardest decision of his life because he took the place with another man knowing that it was going to lead to death. I thought about this too because one of the things that is so remarkable is that there was no guarantee that that man that he took the place for wasn't going to die the next day. It wasn't like, "Hey, you're free. Go home. Go see your children. Go see your wife." He took the place of that dude in that moment for that moment, and we're not willing to do that as men oftentimes because we're too far looking down the future of our life and we miss the moment.

So it was just another great lesson for me. As a good man, we need to embrace the moments in our lives even if they are painful. Raymund Kolbe became Maximilian Kolbe. He was a priest. Decades later, he was canonized, and at his canonization was the man that he took his place for and his wife and his family. That guy from that point on went on a mission to make known what Maximilian had done in his life. Maximilian Kolbe is known as one of the greatest saints that ever lived, but only because he embraced the moment because he knew who he was and he was willing to pay the price.

People watching or listening to this might be thinking, "It's all right for Josh, former pro athlete," or "It's all right for these other people who might have had a better upbringing or married someone else or didn't have these things happen to them." How can people rise out of that feeling of victimhood and that ‘woe is me’ attitude to step into something greater when they feel like they just don't have any motivation for it? 

That's a great question. 

I don't know if there's an easy answer for that, but I will tell you this. You have to surround yourself with other people. It is just so imperative. When I tried to do life alone, it was impossible. I was broken. I mean, I never fulfilled my dream. I was chasing that dream to become a professional athlete. 

I was chasing that dream to become a hall of fame athlete. Then it was taken away from me. I never got to achieve that. So there was this huge hole in my heart. There was a huge hole in me, but it wasn't until I started to surround myself with other men or other great quality people for that matter. I felt like I was on an island by myself. I think people, unfortunately, feel like they're the only ones going through what they're going through and no one else knows how to relate.

So you have to be willing to share. You have to be willing to raise your hand and say, "Okay, I need some help. I need somebody to breathe life into me. I need somebody I can talk to."

We believe in three things about men. They need to be: pushed, as in the physical things that we were just talking about; heard, because there's things that are going on inside of them that they don't feel comfortable expressing to people – and it's amazing when you get to talk to a man how much they will open up about the things that are going on in life, when you just allow them to do it; and appreciated.

People feel like they're the only ones going through what they're going through and that no one else knows how to relate.

If you look at a successful man for the most part, one that is happy, one that comes in the room and they're living life right and things are really, truly good in them, you're like, "I'm attracted to that dude. There's something awesome and powerful about him." Well, it's because he's been pushed, it's because he's been heard, but most importantly, it's because he's been appreciated as well too, right? He's got other people in his life that are appreciating him for the things that he's doing or the things that he's choosing not to do, the sacrifices that he's making, things that he's saying no to in his life. 

So as somebody that's going through a challenge, you have to find that circle. You have to find that table of people who are going to help push you, who are going to listen to you, but they're also going to appreciate you as well.

We think so much of like, "Well, I don't know what to do," and then there gets to a point where we're like, "Okay. Well, I know what to do."

Then you get to that point too and it's like, "Well, who do I need to surround myself with? Who do I need to know in my life that's going to make me better?" I think people miss that step. They know what to do, they do it, but then they have to get to that point eventually where you're like, "All right. So who do I need to involve my life with?"

You do a fantastic job. I love your Win the Day podcast. The people that you have on it – I’ve listened to so many episodes – it's awesome because I grow through that, and because I grow through that, then I can share with other people in my life and help them grow through that as well too. 

You're based in Wyoming. It's not like you're sitting in New York City around millions and millions of people! I grew up in Brisbane, Australia, and I moved to America where I didn't know anyone. 

It should be a lesson to everyone out there that there is no excuse for you not to connect, especially with what's happened in the pandemic. A lot of people are using Zoom and catching up virtually. You can really get access to anyone you want over time with the right plan and the right focus. 

Well, I think it's great that you said that because I did for many of my years felt like I had just settled by going back home. I felt like I had put my tail between my legs and this was the only result or the only place I could go. I played the victim. No doubt about it. I played the victim for many years in my life and I looked at it as, "Well, heck, if I was in California, I'd be this much bigger. I'd have that much more money or I'd be doing this many more things."

Eventually, I had to look at this and just embrace the moment. I had to embrace where I was at and say, "No, no, no. I'm exactly where I need to be for this moment in my life. There's something that's supposed to happen here. Something is supposed to happen and I'm supposed to figure that out." 

That's exactly what I'm doing right now. I will tell you, over the last three years with the pandemic that has hit us as an entire world, I truly believe that there is probably no greater place than to be in the great state of Wyoming. We did not see the impact like so many other people. Our lives did not get turned upside down like so many people did. We were still able to send our kids to school. We were still able to get outdoors. We were still able to do so many things that I know really hurt, especially Americans, especially people like yourself out here in California. 

Life was disrupted, but it wasn't destroyed.

Earlier you mentioned climbing The Grand, 14,000 feet. Amazing. Summiting a peak is such a powerful metaphor, but so many people reach one height and they immediately seek something else. 

Admittedly, I'm horrible at stopping to smell the roses or enjoying the view from the top of the mountain. How do you help people balance that hunger for future achievements with happiness in the present?

Well, so much of it goes back to the foundations that we talked about. Whether you're a man or a woman, it doesn't matter. These foundations are still so important and imperative in your life. 

So we talk about faith, faith not only in the spiritual aspect of life, but also faith within yourself because if you don't have either one of those, you have no foundation. 

Family, how important is that? Family might just be the dog that you have right now. It doesn't have to be necessarily that you have a spouse or that you have children yet, but more importantly, if you do have those, how important those are. 

The thing is is that what I've discovered is that when I was trying to become the best version of myself, when I was trying to find who I really could be, I followed so many guys that were one dimensional, so many guys that were just absolutely amazing men of financial reward. But I come to find out, research them, they're divorced three times, they don't know their kids, they're overweight, they're all of these things. It's just like, "Okay, but that doesn't seem congruent to me. Why can't I be the best dad? Why can't I be the best husband? Why can't I be the best businessman? Why can't I be in great shape? I just don't understand why." 

So I kept on searching for these three dimensional guys, as I would say. I did find some, but there's not a lot of men out there that are three dimensional, that are at least worthy of admiring and following in a sense. There's a lot of great dudes out there, don't get me wrong, but I just couldn't find them at that time. 

As I was discovering these five foundations, it was also in that order too because a lot of the times it's, "Well, hey, listen, finances are important, and then fitness is really important. Then maybe your faith is important or maybe your family's important." So it was all just jacked up. They were all messed up. 

I truly believe that there's a very specific order that if you want to live a life on fire, if you want to find fulfillment in your life, you not only have to have these five foundations, but you have to have them in that order: 

1. Faith. Faith in yourself, faith in the spiritual aspect.

2. Family. Super important. I've never met a guy on his deathbed that has ever said, "I should have spent more time making money. I should have spent more time in the gym. I should have spent more time worrying about the future." It's always about, "I should have spent more time with my family. I should have created more memories. I should have seen what was more important." 

It's the reason why it's number two, but if you don't have faith in yourself to do that, then you can never truly become that in which you seek.

3. Fitness. I don't want to die young. Nobody wants to die young. How many people do we see that are, especially as men, we're having heart attacks at such a young age, have diabetes at such a young age. 

My dad, who's now recently retired, just turned 70, he's got all of these ailments because he didn't take care of himself, and he's not ready to go. He's in the greatest chapter of his life. He's got grandkids. He's retired now. He's worked his butt off to be in this part of his life, but unfortunately, his health is failing him. So we as men need to understand that our fitness is absolutely imperative to the longevity of our life and the happiness of our life as well too. 

4. Finances. You should look at how you can be wealthy. You should look at how you can do great things with money. We have this rep, especially if you're on the spiritual side of it, how money's evil. But it’s the love of money that’s evil. Money is great and you can do great things with it if you're responsible with it.

5. Future. Why are you working so hard in the moment? What are you planning? What are you doing? When your oldest is 21, what are you doing now for the future son that you have or the future daughter that you're going to have? What are you doing to instill that greatness and their uniqueness and turning that into their greatness? What are you doing now? 

So I think all five of those foundations are important. So if you're struggling in life, you just have to simply look at it and say, "Man, I'm kicking butt. My finances, my fitness is doing awesome, but man, I'm a horrible dad and I'm not spending time with my kids." 

In fact, my wife and I were just talking about this last night and she's like, "I think that you need to go and spend some time with the boys," and I'm like, "You're absolutely right," because I've been busy. I've been in a certain season in my life, and it's time for me to go back and step into that time with my boys intentionally, but you got to have people around you that say, "Hey, I think you need a little bit of this. I think you need to go in this direction."

I'd love for you to mention if there's any secrets or anything like that that you can share in terms of how you keep the family thing on track or what you can do to prioritize the family and all grow together while you're all being supportive of individual journeys at the same time?

Sure. Well, first of all, I mean, it just has to be a priority. My wife has made a commitment. She stays at home. We made a commitment together, but she's made a personal commitment that her job is focused on the children. Her job is focused on the household.

So just as I come in and give the financial report or I talk about the businesses or what we're doing in life and the future of life and what we're doing to prepare for a great future as much as we can. She does the same thing where she says, "Hey, listen, I'm preparing for this with the family. I'm preparing these things and making sure kids get to their events and their soccer games and baseball games, but I'm also making sure that you stay on track with what your responsibilities are as a father." 

I always love my time with my wife. I'm a super selfish husband. I'm not going to lie about that! Everywhere that I go, I want my wife to go with me because I know how much better of a trip it is. Just like here when we came out for this podcast, I was like, "You're going to go. We're going to figure this out." We love making time for ourselves. 

You need to put key people in charge of certain areas. You have to have a board. You have to have a board, and at your table, who's your CEO? Who's your CFO? Who are the board members that are making sure that certain areas and aspects of your life are in check? Because one person can't be all, right? Your spiritual advisor is probably not your financial advisor.

So I put Kate at certain positions in our table that I know that she excels in and she makes me better in those areas.

What about the connection you have with your kids? Is there anything in particular that you're focused on to raise them, to make sure that they're strong, resilient, and prepared for their own life to be successful?

Yeah. I mean, there's just so much intentionality behind it.

I look at our children individually and collectively. I pray for them collectively. I always pray for their spouses as well. I think that is so important. One of the greatest gifts that my father gave us, my mom and dad did, is that they were constantly praying for the spouses, and each one of the siblings that I have, I come from a family of seven, and we all have amazing spouses. I don't think that was just coincidence, by the way. We're all married. None of us are divorced. My folks are not divorced.

So I think that there's that intentionality behind it. That is so important as well too. My relationship with the kids, I have individual relationships with them too. So the girls, I take them out on dates. With the boys, I knew that I had to make a commitment to areas of their life that they loved and they had a passion in. It wasn't about my passion. So I wasn't going to take them-

"Here's a baseball mitt and a baseball bat."

Exactly!

I love the fact that they love sports, don't get me wrong, and it's in my lane. So that's also awesome as well too, but I made a commitment and one of the reasons why I continued to, I knew I had to grow the company so that I could start to step away from my companies in order for me to become the dad that I wanted to be. So I saw that in the future. I started planning that I needed to get more of my time. 

I was a real estate agent. Man, I was working seven days a week, 24 hours a day. I remember the day my son was born. This is how bad it got in my life. I remember the day my son was born. He was born in the early early morning hours. My wife had gone in labor for, oh, it seemed forever, and probably for her is way longer than what I remember, but Caden was born in the morning, and by 10:00 that next morning, I was gone on an appointment to show a property. I couldn't even stay the entire day when my son was born in his first day. 


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Joshua Kalinowski 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. 🚀


It wasn't because I was selfish because what it was was I thought I was being the man. I thought I was being the provider. I thought I was doing what was important, and what was important was to be with my wife. What was important was for me to be with my son, right? 

So to be able to step away from that and say, "Okay. I know better now," because I've had men in my life correct me. I've had men in my life inspire me and men have given me examples of what it meant to be a great father. I know that I had to be in the moments with my kids. I'm going to be their coach.

Is it convenient? Not necessarily. Is it always something I want to do? No, not really, but because they mean so much for me, I'm willing to embrace, which is uncomfortable and which is not necessarily always something I want to do, but because it's a priority, and I try to find those situations throughout each and every one of their lives.

Because you've made it a priority, it dictates the standards, which dictates the decisions that you can make much easier to say, "I'm going to be here and be present rather than something else." It's huge.

Tell us about your daily PILL.

Yeah, the daily PILL, my man. That was actually a really good segue into this.

One of the things that we realized is that when we're going and trying to achieve greatness in our life, we're going out there and like, "I want to do something great with my life. I know I'm meant for more." I think everybody that's listening to your podcast, they're all in that mindset, which is phenomenal. Each and every one of us have an opportunity to create greatness in our life. 

The daily PILL is something that I discovered that I needed to do because I found myself so often unfulfilled at the end of the day. I found myself just exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally, completely drained. As I reflected on it going, "I don't think I did anything today. I don't think that I moved forward in any of my businesses. I don't think I accomplished anything. I know I didn't accomplish anything great. I think I was just putting out fires every day," and I know so many people find themselves in that.

So how do we be proactive? We play defense all day. How do we play offense? So the daily PILL is this. You're going to take a pill no matter what, right? We all take a health pill. We all take certain pills throughout the day that help us give us energy, that help us in our diabetes, that help us so that we stay mentally clear.

The daily PILL is something you have to take every single day:

Painful:

Start your day with something painful, something painful. Now, don't hurt yourself. I'm not asking you to go out there and literally sprain an ankle or pull a hamstring, but do something painful that you don't necessarily want to do. 

For me for the longest period, it's been the ice bath. I don't want to do this, but I know I'm so much better because of it. The health benefits because of taking an ice bath are so good, but the mental benefits of stepping into that freezing water every single morning allows me to do simply one of the toughest things I have to do all day. 

Painful is so important. We do not choose pain. We avoid pain. We know the brain deviates us away from pain in our day. You have to choose to do the painful thing. You have to choose to do the hard thing in your life. 

Intentional:

Every single day, do something intentional. Write the note to your wife. Send the text to your kids. Send the message to somebody. Do something intentional that you want to do for somebody else. So important. When you do that, what ends up happening is it not only is that life-giving to them, but it's also life-giving to you.

Lazy:

Do something you're lazy at, right? We are so good at becoming lazy in the areas of our lives. I will say, I hate doing the dishes. I hate taking the trash out. My boys are old enough. They can start doing both, which is awesome, but I know that when I do those types of things, my wife appreciates it. Our relationship is better from it. She'll want to do things that I like that she doesn't necessarily like because of the things that I do first.

Do the lazy thing that you keep avoiding, but you know that you'll either close the loop on it or you're going to make somebody else happy with it or you're going to find yourself happy because you did it, right? 

Love:

The last thing is do something you love every single day. If you want to live on purpose, if you want to live with a purpose, you have to do things on a daily basis that you love doing. We avoid that at all costs because we don't love taking care of ourselves. We say, "Ah, man, everybody else needs my attention. Everybody else needs my time, but I'm not going to spend time on myself or with myself." So this forces you to do something every single day that you love. Go on a walk. 

For me, it's the noon workout. I don't do lunch. Keeps me away from the French fries, the burgers. It keeps me away from those long business luncheons as well too. There's a huge benefit to that I think as well, but it also, as I do my workout at noon, which I absolutely love to do, it fills my cup, it gives me energy, it gets me motivation, it helps me believe in myself because I'm building myself. I'm constantly taking care of myself. Do something every day that you love. 

One thing I would say to this is don't do it because you feel like somebody else loves it. I had a great gal in my life that she was asking about it too and she felt guilty about watching Netflix. I'm like, "Well, do you love it?" and she's like, "Yeah, I love it." 

I go, "Well, is it out of control? Do you just do it way too much?" 

"No, no. I only do it on Saturdays." 

"Well, then do it. Do it." 

"Well, that's not what great leaders do." 

I'm like, "No, no, no, no. That's what you think other people don't do. You love doing that. It brings life to you. It fills your cup. It gives you energy. It gives you satisfaction. Do it. You love it. Why else would you not want to do that other than what you think other people will think? Don't worry about that. Don't worry about them. This is about you and you taking your daily PILL."

What book contributed most to the mindset you have today?

Play the Man by Mark Batterson. I was turning 40 years old, and for me, 40 was a significant time in my life. It's so funny as I went into it. I was 39 years old. What ended up happening is I said, "When I turn 40, I'm going to be a man." There's something significant for me about turning 40.

When I turned 30, that was when I had that moment in my life that I will never ever step another foot on the diamond as a pitcher. That was the funeral for me. It was the hardest birthday I've ever had. But 40 was probably the greatest birthday that I've had because it allowed me to step into the responsibilities and the opportunities as a man.

I happened to be reading Play the Man. It was such an unbelievably great calling in my life. It gave me permission again. It helped me bring authority back in my life. It gave me a vision for who I could be. It gave me confidence in the areas of my life that I felt the weakest at, and it gave me direction. I read it every single year just to get reminded of why I'm doing what I'm doing.

On your best day, what's an affirmation that you would write on a flashcard to show yourself on your worst day?

Boy, that is a really good question.

Well, I would say this and it's something that my wife says often to me is, "You are loved way more than you know." I need to hear that in those moments of weakness because typically what ends up happening is because someone did something that took away my joy, someone did something to take away my confidence, someone did something that took away who I thought I was supposed to become and all that, so for me to know that I'm loved by other people helps me get through that day.

Final question, what's one thing you do to Win the Day?

My morning routine is absolutely critical, but one thing that I have to say every day or I have to listen to – because you talk about this a lot – is saying that the day's going to be a good day and you're going to tackle today.

For me, I didn't have the confidence in myself enough so I had to hear it. For me, there's a spiritual aspect of it, but to hear that today is going to be a great day because I didn't have faith in myself, but I definitely had faith in the person that was saying it. 

Brother, thanks so much for coming on the show.

It's been a pleasure, brother. Thank you.


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I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

Michelangelo

To me, the real pandemic is mental health. It's a war that's been raging for a long time — and we're losing.

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death and we need more decisive action to protect our families from going through this devastation...

I recently sat down with Dr. Mark Goulston who is a 25-year professor of psychiatry, a hostage negotiation trainer for the FBI, and regarded as one of the world’s top communication experts. His expertise has been forged and proven in the crucible of real-life, high stakes situations.

Throughout our conversation, Dr. Goulston details a blueprint — including the exact words — you can use to have a difficult but important conversation with your children, your spouse, and your loved ones.

Why is that so critical? Because a single conversation could completely change the trajectory of someone's life — perhaps even save a life.

Dr. Goulston is also a corporate consultant for some of the world’s most renowned organizations – including Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Disney, and the FBI; a contributor to the Harvard Business Review; and author of nine books that have been translated into 20+ languages.

He’s been named one of America's top psychiatrists and has appeared on OprahCNN, and The Today Show.

Dr. Goulston's top-rated podcast My Wakeup Call has featured guests such as Dr. Jordan Peterson, Lori Gottlieb, and Steven Kotler. He kindly featured me in Episode 405 (just released) where we went deep on the biggest turning point in my life — an experience that led to a lot of shame and negative self-talk that he leverages his psychiatry background to resolve in real time! I highly recommend you check it out as soon as you're done with his Win the Day episode.

In this episode:

Remember, 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 – there will be at least 3-4 people you need to pass this on to – share it with them right now.

Let’s WIN THE DAY with Dr. Mark Goulston!

James Whittaker:
Mark, great to see you! Thanks for coming on the Win the Day Show.

Mark Goulston:
That intro is a lot to live up to!

You think you're up for the challenge!? We'll see…

I'm saying, "Who is he talking about!?"

You've had such an amazing career. I first want to acknowledge you for all the people that you've been able to help and everything that you've done to advance the literature on mental health. 

The reason this interview is so important to me is because of what's at stake for the individuals who are watching and listening to this show and all the people that they're connected to.

And what's at stake is, hopefully, preventing the insurmountable pain that people experience from something that we need to do a much better job at understanding.

To kick things off, would you be open to sharing some of the biggest mental health challenges that you personally have gone through?

Well, there's always a backstory to people's front story. 

One of the greatest personal accomplishments I've had is I dropped out of medical school twice and I finished. I didn't drop out to see the world. I dropped out probably for untreated depression. I was highlighting all my books, they were all yellow, and I could follow what I was reading, but I couldn't hold on to it.

So I took a leave of absence, worked in a blue collar job which, to this day, I romanticized, "Oh, life was so simple. You're finished at 5, you're done. You don't have to worry about anything!" I still dream about it. And then, I came back and then six months later it happened again.

And so, I sought to take another leave of absence. I met with the dean of the school and he was worried that I would do something self-destructive – and I don't know that I would've, but I might have – when he communicated that the school wanted to kick me out. 

So, I get a call from the Dean of Students who cares about people, students more than finances, and he said, "You better come in here because we have a letter from the main dean." I go in there and the letter from the main dean says, "I met with Mr. Goulston. We talked about other careers and I'm advising the promotions committee that he be asked to withdraw," because I was still passing everything.

And I was at a low point. I come from a background where you're only worth what you can do. That's not that unusual with Depression-age parents, and even younger parents, you're only worth what you do, that people evaluate you on your performance. And I said, "What does that mean?" He said, "You're being kicked out." 

I'm not a religious person, but it's like I caved in and I felt something wet on my cheeks. I thought I was bleeding. I just kept looking at my hands because I just didn't know what it was. And it was tears from the body blow.

I come from a background where you're only worth what you can do.

Given that I come from the background that you're only worth what you can do, imagine you're feeling that, imagine that you're feeling pretty worthless. And he said to me, "Mark, you didn't mess up because you're passing everything. But you are messed up. But if you got un-messed up, I think the school would be glad they gave you a second chance."

So, the tears from the body blow turn into tears of, what's he doing? He's being compassionate. And then, he said, "And even if you don't get unmessed up, even if you don't become a doctor, even if you don't do anything with the rest of your life, I'd be proud to know you."

So then, I'm just sobbing like, "What is he saying?"

So he's seeing the potential in you perhaps more than you could see yourself.

Oh yeah.

Then he said, "And even if you don't do anything, the reason I'd be proud to know you is because you have some goodness in you, a kindness that the world needs. And we don't grade that in medical school, maybe we should. You won't know how much the world needs that until you're 35." 

I'm looking away. I can hardly look into your eyes as I recall this. And then he says, "Look at me." He points his finger at me, and he says, "You deserve to be on this planet and you're going to let me help you."

I think if he had said, "If I can help you, give me a call," I would have gone back to my apartment and I might not be here.

And so what happened is I picked up what I call the trifecta of hope. You're worthwhile even if you don't do anything. If there's something decent in you or good in you, you deserve to be here. So, he saw an unconditional value in me that I didn't have to earn or perform. He saw a future for me that I didn't see, 35 years from now, the world's going to need you. 

Third, he went to bat for me. He stood up to the medical school and said, "We're going to give this guy a second chance." And he arranged where I would meet with the promotions committee. And I guess they were able to see something in me that I couldn't see.

But what happened is I took that second time off and I went to the famous psychiatric foundation in America called the Menninger Foundation. Back then it was in Topeka, Kansas. Now it's in Houston. I grew up in Boston, went to undergraduate school in Berkeley, California, went to medical school back in Boston. I just wanted to get away from everybody telling me what I should do. And I didn't want to go to a place where I had to learn another language. So I went to Topeka, Kansas.

And I remember working at Topeka State Hospital. I grew up in a suburb of Boston, but here I was now connecting with schizophrenic farm boys. And I asked the psychiatrist on staff there, "Is this legitimate? I mean, this is not like anything in medical school." And they said, "Yeah. And you've got a gift."

I'll share one anecdote if we have the time?

Of course.

So there was one young man I was seeing who was mostly catatonic. And, in those days, a catatonic person could stand up in the day area of a state hospital and just stand and not move their arms. 

Of course, he really didn't talk, and I was seeing him in one of the consulting rooms. I don't know what there is about state hospitals in America, but the floors look harder than concrete, they must put something in the linoleum. So, I had this crazy idea, I don't know where it came from, I said, "Oh, let's try something," since he wasn't talking. But he was compliant. He didn't resist. He was just stiff.

Anxious people are already overwhelmed. If you say anything to them, they don't have room for it.

I said, "We're going to try something. I'm going to get behind you. And you are going to fall and I'm going to catch you. And so, I got behind him and I said, "I'm right here." And I had my hands up to his shoulders. And he let himself go and he fell. And I caught him. And then I went a little further back a couple feet. And then, he fell and I caught him. 

Then, I had this crazy idea, and this was where the linoleum comes in. I said to myself, "I've got to now let him catch me." I mean, it was inescapable. Again, this is a fellow who had his arms by his side. 

I'm standing in front of him, his arms are next to his side. I said to myself, "You're going to die. You're going to fall back. And you're going to crack your head on the linoleum, but you've got to do it." And so, I'm there, I'm standing. I close my eyes. And then I just fall backwards. Remember, he's someone who doesn't lift his arms.

He lifts his arms up and he catches me. I don't think I dropped more than four inches. I opened my eyes, looked into his eyes, and I saw life. I saw a sparkle of life.

That's incredible.

And I want to say something about listening because I've been thinking about it and why it's so important – and it's not because I wrote a book on it. But what I realized is when you are with anxious people, they're already overwhelmed. If you say anything to them, or you instruct them, they don't have room for it because they're anxious. They're just trying to manage their anxiety. And when you check off a list, they'll be compliant because you're the doctor, you're the psychologist. So, they don't have room for you when you're talking to them. 

Then, a person who's depressed it's not so much that they don't have room, but they're stuck in, "nothing's going to work, nothing's going to work. No matter what you say, nothing's going to to work. I'm locked in here." If you can listen to them, if you can get them to open up, it creates space in their mind for you.

I heard a voice as clear as yours saying, "Maybe he needed something else."

And I mentioned something before we started, I had three anecdotes I wanted to share: listening into someone's spirit (and I'm not spiritual); listening into someone's eyes; and listening into someone's soul.

When I came back from Topeka, I started back at medical school. And we were on rounds at a veteran's hospital in Boston. We were outside someone's room I'll call Mr. Smith, I don't remember his name. And everybody's bantering with, "Mr. Smith needs surgery. Mr. Smith needs chemo. Mr. Smith needs more tests. And I'm just watching, saying, "Wow, I hope I can last now in medical school. I mean, I know I'm going to be a psychiatrist, but this is overwhelming." 

They're all bantering outside the room in this veteran's hospital. And the nurse comes over to our group and says, "Didn't you hear? Mr. Smith jumped from the roof last night. And he's in the morgue." They all go quiet. They didn't know what to say. And here's the listening into spirit, I heard a voice as clear as yours saying, "Maybe he needed something else."

The second anecdote occurred towards the end of my training at UCLA. I was called upon to visit a patient who had his arms and legs in restraints because he was pulling at his IVs. He was kicking the bed. He had a respirator tube down his throat. He was pulling at that. And his doctors paged me and said, "We put his arms and legs down and you need to go up and okay the order for the tranquilizer."

So I go in there and we'll call him Mr. Jones. And his eyes were as wide as saucers. And he had the respiratory tube in his mouth, so he couldn't speak and he's muttering. I'm thinking, "What is he talking about?" And I said, "What is it?" And then, I put a pencil in his hand, which was in restraints. And I said, "Write it down." 

He just scribbled, I couldn't read it. And I thought, "Well, maybe they're right. Maybe he's just hallucinating, he's psychotic." And I said, "Mr. Smith, we had to put your arms and legs down because you were pulling at the IVs. You were kicking to get off the bed, and you were pulling at the respirator. I've okayed an order for a tranquilizer and you'll calm down. And when you calm down, we'll take everything off." And he's still looking at me with those eyes, as I left the room.

And then, a day later I get paged. They say, "Mr. Jones, he's up, he's off the respirator. He's off his restraints. He's seeing up in bed. And he told us to page you." So I go up there, I go into the room – and his eyes are not wide as saucers, but his eyes were looking into my eyes. 

He grabbed onto my eyes with his eyes and he said, "Pull up a chair." And he seated me with his eyes. I couldn't unlock from his eyes. He said to me, "What I was trying to tell you is a piece of the respirator tube had broken off and was stuck in my throat. And you do know I will kill myself before I go back to that. Do you understand me?" 

He just kept looking at me. I couldn't pull away. And I said, "I'm so, sorry. I understand." So, that was listening into someone's eyes.

And then the third, one of my focuses was suicide prevention because I've been blessed to have eight mentors, they've all passed away. And the first one was the Dean of Students. And the second one was in my training at UCLA, a fellow named Dr. Ed Shneidman. And he was one of the pioneers in suicide prevention.

If you look up his name and his Wikipedia, he was one of the leaders in the field. And he would see suicidal patients who were still in UCLA, and they needed to be discharged, but they were still suicidal, and the residents didn't want to see them.

“I will kill myself before I go back to that. Do you understand me?”

And so, he'd go up do a consultation, he'd call me. And it was always the same call, "Mark, this is Ed. I'm with this handsome young man... I'm with this lovely young woman. They're in a lot of pain, Mark. You can help them, see them." And then he'd put them on the phone. And then they could be discharged.

So, one of these people, I'll call Nancy, she made three suicide attempts in the previous several years, and she'd been in hospitals every year. Back then, you could stay for six weeks – it wasn't the way it is now. I was seeing her as an outpatient for about six months, and I didn't think I was helping her. I was seeing her a couple times a week. But that was the longest she'd gone without a suicide attempt, or going into a hospital, but I didn't think I was helping her.

One Monday, I was about to see her. The weekend prior to that, I was moonlighting at a state hospital in Los Angeles, a metropolitan state hospital, where I would cover for other psychiatrists. And sometimes you're up 24 hours. You're just covering, you're admitting patients. You're putting out figurative and sometimes literal fires on the inpatient wards.

So, I had been up about 24 hours or maybe longer by the time I got in with Nancy. And Nancy never made eye contact. She wasn't catatonic like the person in Topeka State Hospital, but she was always looking a little bit to the left or right like this. 

As I was looking at her, all the color in the room went away, and it turned to black and white. I felt this cold chill go through me. I thought I was having a stroke or seizure. So, she's not looking at me, it's not rude, and so I did a neurologic examination on myself. I'm tapping my knees, I'm tapping my elbows, I'm looking at my finger to see if I have double vision. And I just thought, I'm all here, I'm not having a stroke or seizure.

Then, I had this crazy idea that I was somehow looking at the world feeling what it felt like to her. And I guess, because I'm a little curious, as I was at the state hospital, I just leaned into it, and it got colder and colder, and bleaker and bleaker. Because I was sleep deprived, I shared something where normally I wouldn't. I said, "Nancy, I didn't know it was so bad – and I can't help you kill yourself. But if you do, I will still think well of you. I'll miss you. And maybe I'll understand why you had to, to get out of the pain."

And I thought to myself, "Did I think that, or did I say that?" I closed my eyes, and thought, "I just gave her permission." That was the first time she looked at me, and she kind of haltingly looked at me. She grabbed onto my eyes, kind of like those other patients. And I said, "What are you thinking?" I thought she was going to say, "Thank you. I'm overdue." She looked at me and said, "If you can really understand why I might have to kill myself to get out of the pain, maybe I won't need to." Then, she smiled.

I reached into her eyes and I said, "Here's what we're going to do. I'm not going to throw treatments at you, unless you say, maybe we should try something because none of them have really worked. Would that be okay?" And she nodded like, "Keep talking, keep talking." 

Then I leaned in and I grabbed onto her eyes and I said, "What I'm going to do instead is I'm going to find you wherever you are. And I'm going to keep you company there as long as it takes, because I don't want you to be alone there anymore. Would that be okay?" And then, her eyes got a little watery.

She looked at me and said, "If you can really understand why I might have to kill myself to get out of the pain, maybe I won't need to." Then, she smiled.

I think all of these, especially the Nancy episode, was the beginning of my work with suicidal patients. And I'm humbled that none of them killed themselves in 25 years. I've given it a name in a recent book that I coauthored during the pandemic called, ‘Why Cope When You Can Heal?’ The name I've given it is surgical empathy. 

We're talking about mental health. And one of the things that I learned about with people who are suicidal – and, if you're suicidal, you'll understand what I'm about to say – is you don't necessarily kill yourself from depression, loss of a job, loss of a marriage. It contributes to it, but there's hundreds of billions of people where that happens and they don't kill themselves.

But in my work with patients, what I discovered is at the end, they all feel despair. And if you break up the word despair into ‘des-pair’, they feel unpaired with reasons to live. No future. Hopeless, helpless, powerless, worthless, useless, meaningless, purposeless. And, when they all line up in some dark slot machine, pointless. 

Then they pair with death to take the pain away. Like the sirens calling out to the sailors, "I'll take your pain away, just sail close to the island." So, death offers them relief from their pain because death feels their pain and says, "I'll take it away."

Are they seeing meaning in that as an option? Do they find meaning in death?

No, I think what they find is comfort, because they're all feeling alone. 

Surgical empathy is, when people feel that way, they form psychological adhesions to death. So, an adhesion is not like an attachment. You can reason with an attachment, you can give insight. But an adhesion is like when you do surgery on someone and you save their life, their organs can form adhesions. And sometimes you have to go back in and cut the adhesions. 

So, surgical empathy goes in and uses something we're calling radical attunement. Radical attunement, which means causing them to feel felt. And when they feel felt, they feel less alone. And when they feel less alone, suffering that they can't live with becomes pain that they can. And they may reach out to that.

If you remember the anecdote with the Dean of Students, when he said, "You're going to let me help you." And he pointed his finger at me, something I didn't say when I shared the story is I meekly looked and I reached out towards his finger. And I said, "I think I'd like that." So, he went in and he applied surgical empathy.

Death offers them relief from their pain because death feels their pain and says, "I'll take it away."

And thank you for giving me a long leash, but something I want to give to your listeners because they probably want something practical, if they're worried about a teenager, especially, or worried about a spouse, it's something we call the four prompts. And these are surgical empathy tactics.

So, if you have a teenager you're worried about, do this while you're doing an activity. Do not initiate a heart to heart talk, eye to eye talk, with your teenager unless they initiate it. They hate heart to heart talks. But if you're doing an activity, especially when you're driving, and you're both slightly relaxed, what you can say to your teenager is:

"All of us parents are a little worried about our kids. Worried how this pandemic, the school, the masking, the out of school, the in school and all that. And I'm one of those parents.Can I just run a few things by you?"

Hopefully, your teenager will say, "Okay, dad. Okay, mom." I'm not sure they'd say no, but I think you might get a mildly begrudging, okay. 

Here's the first prompt, "When you are feeling your most awful about yourself or your life, how awful does that feel?" "Pretty awful, dad." Here's surgical empathy, "Pretty awful or very awful?" "Okay, very awful."

Second prompt, "When you're feeling that, how alone do you feel with it?" "Pretty alone." "Pretty alone or all alone?" "Okay, all alone." But hopefully you will have earned the eye contact.

Then the third prompt is, "Take me to the last time you felt it." "What or WTF?" Could say, "Yeah. Was it 2:30 in the morning? A few nights ago, we heard you walking around your room and we heard you keep walking, but when was the last time you felt it?" 

When you get someone to tell you something so clearly that you see it with your eyes, they re-feel it. If it's general, "Oh yeah. I had trouble going to sleep," they don't re-feel it, but if you get them to talk it out, "What was going on at 2:30 AM?" "I couldn't get to sleep." "Yeah. We heard that. What was going on?" "Well, I was getting a little frustrated." "And we figured that too, what happened?" "I didn't know whether to punch the wall or kick the wall. I just couldn't get to sleep." "And what'd you do next? I kept looking for cough medicine, maybe something that could knock me out. I couldn't find any. I kept looking for some of your sleeping pills, mom. You have them hidden, couldn't find them." "Then what happened?" "The sun rose."

Then the fourth prompt is, "I have a favor to ask you," and you're looking them right in their eyes. You say, "When you're feeling that way or you're even getting close to feeling that way, I want you to do whatever it takes to get your mom or your dad or my undivided attention because we got a million things in our mind and we are distracted, but there is nothing more important to either of us than helping you feel less alone when you feel that awful. Will you do that please?"

I felt like we were here for a live reading of an audiobook. This was amazing.

Did you see a piece of yourself in the patients that you mentioned in those anecdotes and, perhaps, some of the other people that you've seen over the years?

Yeah, absolutely. 

I think there was a part of me growing up that felt like an outlier. I still feel like an outlier because I would see things, to me, that was the elephant in the room and that was so obvious, but other people would say, "What are you wasting your time on that? We don't see that." 

In fact, I'll give you a quippy response, and this is also if you're listening or watching, write this down. When someone says no to you in life, it doesn't mean you're wrong or you shouldn't do something. It just means they won't help you.

Are there any statistics or insights you can share to help people grasp the severity of th suicide epidemic or anything that you know the general public would be shocked to know about suicide?

Again, I'm not a researcher, but the statistics are quite high.

Maybe the way to put it in context, if you can imagine a moment in your life that you didn't think you were going to get through, that was really painful and you just wanted the pain to stop, and it didn't. And if you can imagine something like that going on mentally, and it doesn't just happen occasionally, it happens daily or it happens a significant part of the day.

Something I'm very excited about, and I can give you an advanced preview although this is going to be very private. Someone who's become like a brother to me, a really good friend, Jason Reed, he's a serial entrepreneur, and his 14 year old son died by suicide about four years ago. And he felt he missed it, and some of the things that he learned is, since he didn't suffer from depression, what he learned is he gave solutions because he didn't suffer from depression.

When you get someone to tell you something so clearly that you see it with your eyes, they re-feel it.

And what he realized is, you have to go where they're at. They can't come to where you are at, and he shared this that I thought was poignant. He said, "When you ask your teenager, how are you doing? And they say, they're great, they're usually good. But when they say I'm fine, they're not," and so he feels he blew it, and one of the notes that his son left behind, Ryan, was, tell my story.

So he put over $200,000 of his own money into a documentary called, Tell My Story. It's on Amazon Prime. It's heart wrenching, and really he went up and down the West Coast of the United States and spoke to parents, he spoke to kids who had been suicidal. He spoke to treatment centers. In the last 10 minutes of the documentary he talked to me at one of the top suicide prevention centers in the country, Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center here in Los Angeles city, and that's where we got to know each other.

You have to go where they're at. They can't come to where you are at.

But one of the things he realized is first of all, suicide is too scary to talk about, so we've done presentations to YPO Global, Young President's Organization, Entrepreneurial Organization, but it's too scary. And so what he realized is, we need to just talk about mental health because it's too scary to talk about suicide.

When he reviewed the documentary, he said, "The most compelling part of it was less than five to 10 minutes of the whole documentary when teenagers who had felt that way were talking about their pain." I mean, it was riveting, and he realized that was the most powerful part of it, so he created a new documentary which he's tentatively calling, What I Wish My Parents Knew, and he interviewed about 10 teenagers, I think ranging from 12 to 18, and it's mesmerizing.

They talk about what they wouldn't share with anyone, but they definitely wouldn't share with their parents, and they were all basically feeling good. He said, "Well, talk to me about when you didn't feel good." 

And the plan is, it's not going to go to Netflix. It's not going to go to YouTube. One of the reason is because there's a lot of haters in the world, and these are courageous teenagers, and if you're a parent, who's worried about your teenager, you'll be hypnotized.

When someone says no to you in life, it doesn't mean you're wrong or you shouldn't do something. It just means they won't help you.

So the plan is to distribute it to high schools and only to high schools where there's control of it, and parents will come in and watch it. It's 45 minutes, and then there'll be 45 minutes of local experts coming in to talk about resources.

I've shared it with some parents already, and what will happen is, you'll watch it, you'll go home, you'll look at your teenager and you'll start to cry, and your teenager's going to say, "What's the matter mom? What's the matter dad?"

And what you're going to say to them is, "I just realized how much I love you." What you're thinking about is, "I don't know what I'd do if you were gone, and also when you're silent or you're in your room, I didn't realize it... I thought you were just being stubborn, you're in a lot of pain." 

I’ve been in this field a long time, Jason's only been in it for four years since his son died by suicide, but I think it's a game changer.

How do you discern between the boy who cried wolf type thing, where people are doing it for attention claiming they need help, versus people who are actually suicidal?

There's a book that I'm promoting by Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Bruce Perry, it's called, What Happened to You? And the basis of something that Dr. Bruce Perry is most well known for is called trauma informed therapy, and their view is that whatever you're doing right now that's destructive, self-defeating or destructive to others, you weren't born that way. So their idea is, what happened to you that's resulted in what's going on right now? 

My approach would be whether they're trying to get attention or whether they really mean it, something happened to them that landed them in that. And if you can have a real belief that close to 100% of people are born innocent, I mean, there may be some people that 50 years ago, there was a fair amount of attention paid to men who had XYY chromosome. It was called Jordan's syndrome, and it was associated with criminality and impulsivity, but I think it's so politically incorrect, they wouldn't touch it right now.

So there may be 0.01% of people who are born destructive, but the vast majority of us are born innocent, powerless and dependent, and dependent on what the world pours into us. So imagine this, before you're born, you're omnipotent. Your wish is your mom's command, "Oh, I'm hungry, I don't have to cry. I need to be warm. Oh, this is cozy." And you're just flipping around as a fetus, popping the remote control there, and then suddenly you pop out.

When they feel less alone, suffering that they can't live with becomes pain that they can.

And I have a feeling that one of the reasons we cry is we think, “I'm totally powerless about everything. I mean, what the heck just happened? You're glad I was born. I want to go back!” But then what happens is we develop this dance where we're dependent on our parents, and there's a term that used to be used a lot called ‘good enough parenting.’

So you don't have to be a perfect parent, but ‘good enough parenting’ means, if your child is six months old or in a crib and they're crying. You may not have to go in within five or 10 minutes, and if it's time for them to learn to sleep through the night, you may bite your nails and say, "We're going to let them cry it out." And then they cry it out, but they've developed enough independence to be able to manage it.

But still for a long time, imagine that what you're being fed from the outside world is either abuse or neglect or in this day and age you're being overly indulged. The problem with overly indulging kids is, the world's not going to do that, so if you overly indulge them because you can't stand their having any pain and you rush in, well, that's okay when they're an infant. 

There was a book, The Beauty of a Skinned Knee, and it basically said, let your kid skin their knee, it's not the end of the world. Let them learn to be able to deal with it.

In Australia, there's a movement that's raised awareness of mental health called, R U OK? 

But if I was in a dark mental place, which I certainly have been in my life many times, someone asking “Are you okay?” would not have been enough for me to open up. I would've probably said something like, "Of course, I'm okay," and deep down I'm thinking, "Just shut up. I want to move on."

You raise an interesting point. Here's the difference between professional, clinical... I don't even know if it's empathy, but it's being responsible and surgical empathy.

There you are in that dark place, and you go to see a professional. You don't want to be there, you’d really like your parents to be able to do this, but they don't know what to do, so they send you to the professional and you feel resentful of it, "I'm not going to talk to a stranger."

But that stranger, especially now with electronic record keeping, is often talking to you while typing because they don't want to have too much paperwork. So they're saying, "Have you been depressed?" "Yeah." "How long have you been depressed? Have you ever thought of hurting yourself?" "Okay, yeah." "Do you have a means to hurt yourself?" "Yeah."

The problem with overly indulging kids is, the world's not going to do that.

So that's very professional. They cover their responsibility. They do the record keeping, so that's professional responsibility, maybe a little empathy.

But what's the difference between if someone says to you, "Are you okay?" And they're looking at you and saying, "You're not okay, are you?" And, "You know what? You're not okay, and you're not okay in a big way sometimes. Is that true? And there are times when you're not okay where it scares the heck out of you, and if you let anyone else know it would scare the hell out of them. And there's sometimes when you don't know how you're going to make it through the next hour, you've had some of those times, haven't you?"

And you want that lead in, you're almost desperate to talk about it, but you just need the right opening, the right set of circumstances to happen. 

What can people who are watching this or listening to this do to have those conversations with their friends to be able to do that? 

Look, I've got 50 years doing this, and so it's natural for me. 

When you say, "Are you okay?", a lot of times you don't want to have them tell you they're not. What I would say to you is if you are aware that some of your friends or people you care about might be in a bad place, check out local resources because if you get them to open up and you don't know what to do, and you're in over your head, you're going to get too anxious. Well, "I'm sorry you feel that way," and then if you say, "Well, just hang in there, it'll get better." They're going to feel like, thanks for nothing.

So if you care about some of your friends, just check out local resources. In America, you can call 988 and say, "I'm not suicidal, but I have some friends that might be and I'm trying to figure out the best way to get them to call you," so check out resources and say, "Any suggestions about what I could say or how I could say it?" 

If you're able to open up one of your friends and you get a sense that they're feeling relief, you can even say, "Our talking like this is not making it worse, is that true?" "Yeah." "It may not be making it better, but it's not making it worse, is that true?" "Yeah."

"Is saying some of the things that you've said, and I'm not jumping down your throat and telling you not to feel that way. Is there anything about that, that's helping you feel a little better, a little less alone?" "Aha." You could say, "I'm getting close to the limits of my ability to do this, but I think what you're telling me is, it helps. And I care about you or else I wouldn't have had this conversation, and I've even checked places... And don't worry, they're not going to throw the cops at you and whatever, but I've even checked some places where I'd like you to make a call. 

In fact, I'll even stay here or stay on the line and just call 988 or whatever, and this is what they told me. They're trained, they're skilled, they're wonderful listeners. Now, some of them may be checking the boxes, but they wouldn't be doing it, most of them are volunteers."

Towards the end of my practice I was thinking, it's okay to keep records just to stay on top of the treatment or if they're taking medication, but if I'm keeping in the record that they're suicidal or they're thinking of hurting someone else or whatever, what I realized is anybody else who wanted those records, it was not in the patient's favor, but that was some years ago.

I came up with something called The Seven Words. So picture this, and if you're listening in and you have a company that's really stressed, you can do it in your company. I can talk to your HR director or you can call me in although I'm a little bit overwhelmed with what the world has coming at me to do, but I want to share this anecdote.

There was a company called Ink Global, and I coached the CEO of it. A wonderful Brit named Simon Leslie, and I had done a presentation to his people. Ink Global used to publish 80% of the inflight magazines, and so those magazines went away with the pandemic. No one's going to touch a magazine that's filthy or contaminated, so it's gone digital, and they've been able to pivot, and they own a lot of the airport monitors in America, 2,500 monitors. So they're pivoting.

But there was a point in which they were in a bad place because the main form of income was advertising in those magazines. And they have offices in London, Miami, and I think, Shanghai or Singapore. And the CEO said, "Mark, can you do anything with my people, help them get through this," and again, I guess, going back to that fellow in Topeka State Hospital, you don't want to ask me, can you do anything? Because I am slightly creative in this area!

So there's 150 people on a Zoom call, so it's five or six screens, and I had done a presentation before, so they knew of me, but they also knew that I was a little bit creative, that's a euphemism for what it is.

They're all looking on the screen and I said, "I'm going to try and experiment. I want you to think of the worst moment you've had, not presently, but the worst moment you've had in the last couple of weeks and raise your hand when you're there." And they're like deers in the headlights, and then one by one, they raise their hands.

As you see the hands go up, you can feel a shift emotionally, and then I say, "In the chat area, I want you to write down the word that most closely connects with how you felt: anxious, angry, depressed, frustrated, overwhelmed, numb, embarrassed, shame, alone, lonely.” There's a whole bunch of words.

And again, there's a pause, and then it starts to trickle in. Joan, afraid. Andy, angry. Frank, overwhelmed. And it floods, and as it floods and you look in the Zoom screen, people lower their hands and they're crying, and then we get through it. They're crying with a relief, and then we get through it. 

I said, "How many of you feel better because of that?" And it was about 70, 80%. "How many of you feel worse?" Nobody. "How many of you feel no change?" 20%. And then I said, "How many of you feel that you're in a group of very special people?" Close to 100%. 

I said, "You're not any more special than you were a half an hour ago. What happened is you shared a special moment and you realized that you were with a group of really good, strong people trying to make it through a tough time, and we just flooded you with something called oxytocin, and oxytocin is the hormone connected to emotional connection, and you cried with relief."

And here's the embarrassing thing, so if you go to markgoulston.com you’ll see a testimonial from Simon Leslie, I love this guy we're like brothers. He sends me the first video testimonial I've ever receive. He was saying, “I don't know what to say, that was amazing. I love you.”

I said, “Can I put this up on YouTube?” He said, “Well, I do sound drunk. I wasn't!” He said, nah, go ahead. I mean, he has a great sense of humor. So I put that up and now I've got over 30 video testimonials on my website. And anytime I'm feeling like the imposter syndrome, have I done enough in the world? Maybe I haven't done enough. Like Schindler said, I could have saved more. But when I go into that thing where, have I done anything good? I'll sometimes go visit that page. And it was almost like your introduction of me. I don't know who they're talking about, but whoever they're talking about, they like this guy.

A lot of clients that I've worked with, middle aged, one of the toughest things they're going through personally is children of theirs who are young adults who don't seem to be motivated to want to grow. The parents don't know how hard to push them or whether to take a step back.

How do we stimulate that desire in people to want to take ownership of their life? Particularly at that younger age, being like a young adult. And how do parents know how hard to push or pull?

There is an incredible power to an unsolicited, heartfelt apology.

What I might say to those parents, especially if those parents saw the video of those teens, because those teens said they couldn't talk to their parents. What I would say those parents is, see if they'll go on a walk with you.

There is an incredible power to an unsolicited, heartfelt apology.

I'd say to my teen, my young adult, I need your help with something. Yeah. Let's go for a walk. But no, no, I don't have cancer. I'm not getting a divorce. We're not bankrupt, but I need your help with something.

And then as you're walking, say:

“What's this about? I hate to fail – and I failed you. I don't think you're lazy. I think you're scared. And I think I messed up because I don't think we could ever have a conversation like we're having right now. Because if you told me you were scared, I'd either sort of just say, oh, that's just being a kid. You'll outgrow it. Or I'd find some way to mess it up if you opened up. 

So I think you just thought opening up was not an option. And I love you. I'm sorry.”

Just leave it open. See what happens.

Interesting.

So much of what you're talking about seems to be about establishing that connection. Not being afraid to lead with vulnerability, which is something our mutual friend, Keith Ferrazzi, talks about a lot as well?

When you spend a lot of time seeing people depressed or suicidal, you learn a lot about humanity. 

I remember I asked one young man, I said, well, this seems to be helping. What helps? Why does this help? I'm curious, because it seems to be helping. Maybe I can recreate it. And he looked at me. He said, “Before I started seeing you, I was convinced that I was a burden to everyone.”

Teenagers don't want advice, they want comfort. But a lot of parents, especially younger parents, don't know how to comfort because they weren't comforted. And so you give them advice, and they don't want advice. They want to feel better first before they try a solution. But you don't know how to get close to them emotionally because you don't know how to get close to anyone emotionally, including yourself.

And so you give them advice and they don't want unsolicited advice because if they don't follow it, they feel like they're being stubborn. And you're afraid when you ask them, well, did you follow it? No, I didn't do any of that. Why not? And they don't know how to say because I want comfort and mom, dad, you don't do comfort.

Teenagers don't want advice, they want comfort. 

So I asked this, I said, so what he helped? He said, “Before I saw you, I was a burden to everyone. I think I scared my parents. My brothers and sisters saw me as manipulative. And man, I think that's pretty true. And given how my life is, I'm a burden to myself. So one of the reasons I wanted to die is why don't I just relieve everyone of the burden. And I don't care what anyone would say to me. I'm a burden. But when I started seeing you, you had this smile that was glad to see me.”

And it was kind of like the Dean of Students seeing goodness in me and I didn't have to perform. It was an exact replay of that.

“When I saw you, doc, I thought you were crazy. You were smiling like an idiot. And you were just glad to see me.” And it had nothing to do with checking boxes. Well, let's make sure you're following your medicine, how is it working for you? And he said, “I left thinking you were crazy, but I wasn't a burden to you. And it was like a little oasis. And I would leave thinking, is he crazy? What is wrong with him? Why does he like seeing me? It became a little bit like an oasis.”

So you see what we're getting at, and I'm guessing that that unmotivated teenager, young adult, I'm guessing they feel like a burden. A disappointment. Frustration. Wish you didn't have me. And you talk about my brothers and sisters who are more motivated and even they don't get me. What is your problem? You're so lazy. You're so blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. 

But the change is you go there and you give them the unsolicited apology. You look in their eyes, and I'm telling you if this teenage video goes to all the high schools, there's going to be a lot of parents who, when they go home and they see that unmotivated kid, they're just going to start crying.

What about for someone, maybe a parent who had a child take their own life, or sibling or a friend or something like that, how do people feel like it wasn't their fault when that has happened? 

And how does someone whose parent might have taken their own life, how do they move on without feeling like it's the family curse and that's their destiny?

Well, I think the most important thing is find people who have gone through the same thing. Because if you're talking to someone who didn't go through the same thing, no matter what they say, you're going to say, “It's easy for you to say.”

I had a patient and her daughter was viciously killed by a man. By viciously, he used a shotgun and her head landed in a tree. And this was her only daughter, her only child. And she was in a bad state. She was referred to me by Dr. Schneidman. And I didn't think I was helping her. 

One of the things she shared is she said, “I can't go anywhere. I can't go in a supermarket and think that I have this secret that nobody else has. And then if someone says, oh, do you have any kids?”

I'm guessing that that unmotivated teenager, young adult, I'm guessing they feel like a burden. A disappointment.

And I said, there is a group called Parents of Murdered Children. And the Los Angeles chapter was led by Doris Tate. And that was Sharon Tate's mother, who was killed by Charles Manson. And I said, I'm going to take you there because you're not going to be able to listen to anyone unless they've had a child who's been murdered. 

She fought it and said, “I don't want to hear other people's problems.” I said, “Well, look, I'm glad you haven't gone off the deep end, but we're going to go.” And so I got her to start going. And what happened is younger mothers, a number of them from the ghetto, would start joining the group. 

She said, there is no word for a parent who's lost a child. You can be a widow if you've lost a husband, but there's not an English word for what to call if you've lost a child, I'm not aware of it. Survivor. They talk about, oh, I'm a survivor. But what happened is these young women adopted her, and she found a purpose and it saved her life. 

About five years ago, I got some announcement that I didn't know, that she was reasonably wealthy, but she donated a lot to a trauma center at UCLA. And there was an announcement and a little thing she said, oh, and many thanks to Dr. Mark Goulston. Wow.

Here's something else that she and I came up with. She said, look, when people ask me, do you have any kids? And then I tell them, well, I once did. And then they're curious, they're rubbernecking. She says, what do I say? It's so awkward. And one of the things we worked out, and this was after she was much better. 

She said that what she worked out is that when someone said do you have any children? And she said, “Well, I once had one.” And then when I tell them what happened, what she learned to do, because they would be stunned, what she learned to do, what I told her to do is, take your right hand, put it on their shoulder and say, “It's okay. If I was you, I wouldn't know what to say either.”

And what happened is it just alleviated the conversation.

Reading people has been an important superpower of yours in your career. It's essential in your work as a psychiatrist and your work in law enforcement.

Is it more of an empathic tendency that you have, or is there a very specific process that you have to be able to read people?

I spoke in Moscow three or four years ago with a Nobel Prize winner, Daniel Kahneman. He wrote a book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. And four or five of my books are best sellers in Russia, so they had me there. 

If you can do this every day, once a day for a week, it will change your life. What I said in Russia is that underneath people listening to you, they're always listening for something. And if you can know that's always happening and be curious as to what they’re listening for – without judgment, without an agenda, without selling them.

So for instance, we'll do an experiment and tell me what you feel inside. And I'm taking a chance. I don't want to blow it now, we've done okay! So underneath you listening to me, I think what you're listening for is that people's trust and confidence in you to bring them value is hugely important to them. And you want to honor people who trust and have confidence in you. You want to honor them by not wasting their time.

Underneath people listening to you, they're always listening for something.

The last thing you want to do is waste of viewer or listeners' time. And so what you're listening for are guests that can bring them value, that can inspire them, change their life, give them a tip that they can use. Something that's doable by them.

And I think you're listening for that with your guests. I'm guessing with a little humor that you may have some guests who are best selling authors, but they're awful. They're arrogant, they're stiffs, they're condescending, they're convoluted, and you're smiling. And you're saying, I can't post this! I don't know what I'm going to tell them, but I'll try and be honest. 

But because you want to honor people trusting and having confidence in you, you both are looking for people that can give them immense value, and you're also wanting to protect them from people that would waste their time. So is any of that true?

Absolutely, it's true. And even a step further than that, anything that is super valuable, I want it to be emphasized. I don't want people to glaze over something that can literally change their life or change their mindset or something like that.

And that's why, when people go and watch the YouTube version of this episode, they can see the breakout quotes and things that appear. They’re the things that need to be reinforced, at least in my opinion. 

That's why we put so much time into the show notes, the videos, and all the different clips that appear.

And I'm going to do something, since we're buddies now!

So if you're listening and watching this, whenever you're in a conversation and it's going sideways, instead of getting agitated, if you can drop your agenda – and this can be also in business, but also personally – and you can say:

“When we started talking, you were looking for or listening for something and we didn't do it. In fact, we got further away. So can you tell me what you were looking for or listening for? It may not be too late to save the day. Or maybe there's someone that if what you're listening for or looking for, I can introduce you to.”

And so it's a way of flipping a conversation.

Huge.

But the thing that, it will mildly embarrass you, but I'm going to give you a little coaching.

So there's an exercise that I have developed called the HUVA exercise. And it's an exercise if you want to be 100% present with another person. And by present, it's from their point of view. And what you do is you decide, I want to be totally present with this, and this is how you build the muscle. So it's an exercise that you build muscle.

After the conversation, you rate yourself from their point of view. And the H is how much do they feel heard out by me? The U is how much do they feel understood by me, scale of one to 10? And you show understanding by say more about that. Yeah, elaborate on that. Dig into that. How much do they feel valued by me? Which is you're genuinely pausing and seeing the application of what they're doing or understanding it and going, wow, oh, that's going to save a few lives. And then the final A is how much did they feel that you added value to them? This thing that you're doing?

And I would rate you as 9, 10, 10, 10. You're not a perfect 10 on the heard out because there's a part of you that's thinking about the next question. And that's fine, and you can get to the next question, and then you're going to use up your electricity bill here.

But do you follow me? It's breaking presence a little bit. On the other hand, if you know your audience and the questions are what they want to get answers to, then it's important to interrupt someone like me, who's a bit long winded.

And as an interviewer it can be hard to have that balance. 

After all the podcasts and things that you have appeared on, how would you rate them on an average on that HUVA scale there? 

I've been on hundreds of podcasts as well. I know for the most part, at least in my experience, people don't really listen that well. They're so busy thinking about the next question or they haven't taken the time to research and understand their guest. But your material, I think, lends itself to probably a deeper conversation, perhaps.

I've been on over 300 podcasts. 

A lot of people don't know that I'm going to be this runaway train. And when we get into it, it seems to have a life of its own. There are some people who will just go with it, like, wow, I don't know what he's talking about, but I'm engaged. The hell with my listeners, but I'm engaged. Tell me more. So I think I don't do it on purpose, it's just my nature.

But I can understand that people, especially when there's people who have a 20 minute thing, we have a 20 minute thing, we have a hard stop, we want to cover these things, and la, da da, da, da.

And to be honest, and some of those people are very successful, they have big audiences, they're more transactional. They also have audiences where they're selling stuff. They're selling a lot of product. So there is a kind of an agenda that we do a podcast and we bring on guests, but every five or 10 minutes, they say “Don't forget that you can take our course. And for the next 24 hours, it's a $997 value for $99 and it's going away!”

So look, I'm naive. I had a guest on my podcast the other day, Jeff Hoffman, one of the founders of Priceline. Love Jeff. And the reason I had him on is I heard him speak and how he pivoted to philanthropy. He does tons of philanthropy and he's wonderful.

But in this interview, in a very entrepreneurial setting, it was much more about how to be successful. But he did throw in, he said, on one of my trips, I saw a sign that says, “Yeah, you're successful, but have you ever done anything that matters?” And he said, it just blew him away. 

When I spoke to him on the podcast, I said, I wanted to thank you because I don't know that I've been that successful, but everything I do matters, that's what I focus on. But when you said that, I felt, oh. You were talking to an entrepreneurial audience in which I feel less successful than most of them. Although they give me a compliment. They say, you're the wise elder that we should listen to, that we don't!

For someone who wants to get a yes in a very potentially life changing conversation for them, like a promotion or funding for a business, what can they do?

Something I've discovered is that 90% of the world have a reverse cognitive bias, and 10%, or maybe even 5%, have a forward cognitive bias.

People like Elon Musk and Steve Jobs, they have a forward cognitive bias, meaning they look into the unknown and see it as an adventure to be lived. But 95% of the world sees the unknown as a danger to be avoided. And so given that many people are like that, one of the ways you can try and get a yes is... So the reverse cognitive bias would be, and you have to develop it so it's naturally.

People like Elon Musk and Steve Jobs, they have a forward cognitive bias, meaning they look into the unknown and see it as an adventure to be lived.

But if you're meeting with someone, say you're selling something, and you could say:

“Can I ask you a hypothetical question? Would that be okay? I'd like you to imagine that after we have a conversation, you go to your boss and you say, I think we need to go with this guy. I think we need to invest in this. I think you need to come to my next conversation with him. So I'd like you to imagine that we haven't talked about things, but you leave and you have those thoughts. So what is it that we solve? What do we talk about? What would cause you to leave thinking that? I could just tell my boss, who I spoke to you about.”

So that's the reverse cognitive bias. Here's another way to use it for meetings, because most people hate meetings because they think they're a waste of time. You say to your executive team:

"By the clock, we're going to be done in 60 minutes and I'd like us to have a hard stop then, because that's what was scheduled, and some of you have emergencies and I have emergencies. So, I want to do an exercise. I'd like you to imagine that the meeting is over and you're going back to your day and you each say, 'That was the best, most productive meeting we have had in six months.'"

"What happens so that you leave? And no finger pointing. We're not here to personally blame people. I prefer you're not leaving saying, 'Well that was a waste of time. I had better things to do.'" 

And something you can do if people are just too paranoid is you say, "Okay, you can't finger point, but here, Post-it notes. Here's an index card, I'll shuffle them, and you don't have to put your name. Let's keep to our agenda, let's not get distracted."

So, it's preferred to be private as well, rather than said publicly?

Well, it depends how open your group is, and my guess is they're not that open. But the point is you surface it and you read all of them. You say, "Wow, this is really good."

How has being a father, and separately a husband, separately impacted your work?

I love my family. I have a little quip that I say about my wife. I say, "Being tolerated can really hurt when you get that from your partner, until you realize what a piece of work you are. And then it's a gift!" 

I adore my wife, my children. I have three grandchildren, three and a half and under, and I get to see them every day.

I'll share something with you. It just came to me. Having dropped out of medical school twice, even when it looked like I was going to make it through and maybe have a career, I was still haunted by, "Well, are you going to drop out again?"

I didn't know whether they'd be proud of me, but I just wanted them to grow up and not be embarrassed by me.

I remember when I finally dropped out for the second time and I came back, I not only finished medical school and finished psychiatry training, I went eight years without taking a sick day because I was afraid if I canceled a day, I would become a dropout again. I was seeing patients with a 104 temperature [40 degrees celsius], vomiting between them, because I didn't want to take a chance.

But I remember when we had our first child, I thought to myself, "I just want them to grow up and not be embarrassed by their dad." I didn't know whether they'd be proud of me, but I just wanted them to grow up and not be embarrassed by me, because there was still that part of me that was embarrassed. It makes for a nice story, but there's still the part of me that's embarrassed that I dropped out twice.

And my oldest daughter is now 40 and my kids are great, and what's even great is they have each other's backs. My wife gets most of the credit, because a lot of that is details, and you can tell I'm all over the place.

It was interesting, I remember looking into my oldest daughter's eyes when she was about seven months or something, and she's really making eye contact, so she's not just a blob. She's like, "Oh, hi." And I looked into her eyes and it was a truth detector. What she was saying to me is, "When I grow up to be 18, do not be anyone that I'm ashamed of or embarrassed by." That's what her eyes were telling me.

So, I've done my best to live that.

Knowing that you've got grandchildren now, what can we do to make sure these kids never reach that point where they feel like they're so disconnected or in that state of despair?

Well, here's something that's interesting.

I wasn't close to my grandparents geographically, so something I've done with my grandchildren is when I'm with them, I want to bathe them in something Erik Erikson called ‘basic trust.’ He came up with seven or eight stages of psychosocial development, and the first one is, do you trust the world or do you distrust it? Albert Einstein said the biggest decision you'll ever make in life is whether the world is safe or not.

So, my children, they're busy, they're working, they're juggling, they're wanting to make sure the basics are being taken care of. But as a grandparent, I don't have to do that. So, there will be times when I'm with my grandchildren, and I'll look into their eyes like I'm looking into your eyes.

My message to them is, "Do you know how amazed I am that you're my life? Do you know how glad I am that you're born?" And I imagine they're saying, "Am I going to have a good life?" If I have anything to do about it. "Am I going to have a career?" We'll work on that.

But what I'm doing is, rather than having to run, are they fed, do we change them, I’m focused on something completely different. I’m just trying to be 100% present. And I wasn't that present with my kids. I was a psychiatrist, but I'd run off to see patients. They had a nickname for me, which is very funny, but it's not funny. Their nickname for me was "Hi, kids, bye, kids, love you, kids."

You keep that one off the official bio!

Well, you heard it first here on Win the Day!

On your best day, what's an affirmation that you would write on a flash card that you could show yourself on your worst day?

All your eight mentors, who didn't suffer fools gladly, believed in you. Remember that.

Love it. 

Final question, what's one thing you do to Win the Day?

I'm a learn-it-all, even though I come off as a know-it-all in these podcasts. But every day I wake up and I'm excited. I say, "I can hardly wait to find out what I learn today."

And at the end of the day, I ask myself, "What did you learn today that you didn't know?" That's one of the reasons I have a podcast. I'm using the podcast, and we'll have you on it, but it's in the top 0.5%, which is pretty good; zero social media. I don't have a team.

I get 25 requests to be on it a week, and I learn from people, and the range of people is everyone from Larry King to Jordan Peterson to Susan Kane to James Whittaker, a future podcast guest!

So, just every day I learn something.

This has been absolutely incredible. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate all of the insightful and candid things that you have shared. I have no doubt that we will change many lives around the world from this conversation. So, thank you.

Well, thank you for the beginning of a friendship.


Final steps to Win the Day...

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Until next time…

Onward and upward always,

James Whittaker

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Resources / links mentioned:

🎧 My Wakeup Call podcast with Dr. Mark Goulston.

⚡ Dr. Mark Goulston website.

📷 Dr. Mark Goulston Instagram.

📚 Dr. Mark Goulston books on Amazon.

🎬 ‘Tell My Story’ documentary film.

🎤 TEDx Talk ‘What Made You Smile Today?’ by Mark Goulston.

 🧠 ‘What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience,

and Healing’ by Oprah Winfrey and Bruce D. Perry.

🏎 ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman.

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Change is painful, but nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don't belong.

Mandy Hale

There’s been a lot of hype in the last few years about the metaverse and Web 3.0. A lot of confusion, misconceptions, and misinformation. Our guest today is here to help us navigate all that – and then some. 

Kirin Sinha is the Founder and CEO of Illumix, one of the world's leading augmented reality (AR) companies.

From a young age, through a background in dancing, Kirin developed the confidence to follow what she loved and understood how consistent work led to better performance, irrespective of field. Her other great passion was mathematics, and you’ll see how these two areas have followed her along the entrepreneurial journey.

In 2012, Kirin launched non-profit SHINE (Supporting, Harnessing, Inspiring, Nurturing, and Empowering), a unique after-school program to empower young women to value their own potential and capabilities within the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

Kirin has degrees in electrical engineering, computer science, and mathematics from MIT, as well as advanced degrees in mathematics, statistics, and business from the University of Cambridge, London School of Economics, and Stanford.

She was listed as Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2022, and was honored as one of Variety's “10 Innovators to Watch'' in 2021.

Today, her big focus is Illumix. Since launching in 2017, Illumix has powered digital-physical experiences across the metaverse, ranging from entertainment to commerce, and bridges the 2D and 3D world through their breakthrough technology. 

Illumix has been recognized by Fast Company and Google and secured $13 million in venture capital funding. As a woman of Indian descent, she is one of Silicon Valley’s few minority female founders and CEOs with a technical background. 

If, like me, you have a lot of questions about how emerging technology will shape our world, you’ll love this conversation.

In this episode:

Before we begin, 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 or could use some help to Win the Day, share it with them right now.

Let’s WIN THE DAY with Kirin Sinha!

James Whittaker:
Kirin, it's so great to see you. Thanks for coming on the Win the Day show.

Kirin Sinha:
Thank you so much for having me.

Well, I'd love you just to set the table. What are we talking about when we talk about metaverse, augmented reality and those types of things?

Absolutely. So the metaverse is getting a lot of attention today. And really all we're talking about when we talk about the ‘metaverse’ is what the next form of the internet is. How will people participate in the digital world in the future?

Today, a lot of how we participate in the digital world is behind screens, on Instagram or TikTok, maybe you're on Zooms as frequently as I am! That's really how we engage with our world today.

The idea with the metaverse is that it will become more immersive, more 3D, more interactive, where instead of sitting in one place and staring at a screen, we might actually be moving around and have digital content around us.

We might be in a fully digital world, but I think it's really about freeing ourselves from some of the constructs technology has put around us that have given us so many opportunities and so much connection, but in some ways have also really limited us in its current iteration.

Is everyone going to be walking around with giant headsets? Or in the future, is it going to be without those things to make it more accessible and more comfortable?

With augmented reality (AR) in particular, whenever you're talking about combining digital and physical, there has to be a lens of some kind. Today, a lot of the lenses are really clunky and big and really more targeted at a virtual reality (VR) audience.

VR might be something that would replace the personal computer, so it's something you might have at home; you maybe do work or gaming and really things that are more targeted at staying still in one location. In contrast, AR might be the future of something like the mobile device, where it's something that you have with you that's lightweight, that allows you to constantly be connected to a digital world.

So eventually, I think the way augmented reality will go is more lightweight glasses or a contact lens, something like that, as we move into the future.

Doing some research on you before our interview today, to me, you really are the epitome of the quote, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

Where did that confidence, strength, and ambition that you have today all come from?

You spoke a little bit earlier about how dance has always been a huge part of my life from the time I was very, very young. I was a hugely dorky child, and could barely walk in a straight line! 

My parents, who were rightfully concerned about my ability to make friends and stand in a classroom, stuck me in dance classes. I loved it. This music and movement became a huge part of my childhood and my expression. 

Through that process, I learned a lot about confidence and how it's a skill that you work at. Everyone really, if you're competitively dancing, is looking to stand out. And that's really different than how I think a lot of girls are taught to behave inside the context of a classroom. Many young girls don't want to stand out necessarily, right? You want to fit in. It's the opposite. You were taught to fit in.

In the environment I grew up in, she never once suggested to me that I couldn't do something.

And in fact, if you stand out, often you're bullied, or that's not a positive thing in society today. But in the world of dance, it was. I think it was through that. 

I have to give a lot of credit to my mother. In the environment I grew up in, she never once suggested to me that I couldn't do something. There was always a lot of support and confidence around supporting whatever it is that I really wanted to do. 

From the time I was very young, I was very motivated to push and work really hard to be great at it. I used to want to stay home and practice and not go to birthday parties! That was just the kid that I was.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Kirin Sinha 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. 🚀


Map out the path if you never developed that confidence – where do you think you would've ended up?

It's so difficult to say.

A lot of what shaped who I was in my trajectory when I think about math, which has really been a huge part of my life and was the foundation for engineering, STEM, and everything that I've built my entire career on today. I don't think any of that would've happened. 

I was accelerated as a child in math, so I was a sixth grader in calculus and high school classes with kids who were much, much larger than me. Yeah, I was a small dorky kid, no matter how you look at it!

I'm sure they were frustrated because you just kicked their ass in a math problem!

I would have never agreed or put myself in that position if I didn't have that confidence built up. 

You're naturally going to stand out and be a little uncomfortable and awkward in those settings. If I hadn't developed that confidence at a young age, I don't think I could have ever done that. I would've said, "I'm just going to follow the path and stay as under the radar as possible,” which is how I was in my other day to day schooling.

I was definitely always uncomfortable and never felt like I totally fit in. And so, one of two ways to handle that.

In the intro we mentioned how a lot of the things that we would talk about would inspire people to realize and ignite their own potential, and that's it.

The reason I have the Win the Day podcast and do what I do – and it sounds like a big part of what you do too – is because there is so much wasted potential out there in the world.

Yet, the right mentorship and the right environment can completely explode your growth, happiness, and meaning every day.

Absolutely. 

People have so much potential. I firmly believe that. Everyone is on this earth to make an impact and has a purpose and can access that. But I think a lot of times you want to go with the flow and you are just floating through life.

One of the things I try and think about every day is: how did I show up today? Am I proud of how I showed up today? I feel like that word ‘proud’ often is something I reflect on in the evening of, "Do I feel proud of who I was today?"

A lot of being great at anything – and you learn that certainly dancing where you would spend hours on maybe a five second segment or playing piano or any of those types of things – is practice. It's doing something that's probably very boring, but doing it for an abnormally long period of time, and never giving up.

One of the things I try and think about every day is: how did I show up today? Am I proud of how I showed up today?

I think that that's 95% of the equation there. And if you live your everyday life like that, how different might your life be? Imagine if you showed up at every meeting and you were 100% present, you wanted to show up and give everything you had at every single meeting, how different might your life be?

How different would you show up? How different would you feel about yourself – and how might that impact the people around you, perceiving how much you care? It takes one person to really care and be passionate for that to spread and create incredible impact around what you do.

Absolutely huge.

When did you feel comfortable being the odd one out?

Comfortable, I would say it came much later in life.

I embraced it when I was young and it was something I sort of tolerated and accepted. I think my headspace when I was growing up was I have one of two choices – either to just not do this thing that I love at all, or I accept that I'm going to be the odd one out and I'm just going to embrace it because I'm here and I want to be seen and heard and give back to the world around me.
I think about this analogy of being a large tree – you want to take up space and be present, but at the same time, you're giving back to the environment around you at any given time. I think about that a lot. It wasn't really until I started the company, so way after my academic career, where I leaned in and really felt comfortable being different because I realized that was a strength.

You might have touched on it there, but I was wondering, was there a single purpose that carried you through your childhood, through SHINE, and through Illumix and the things you're doing today?

I don't know if it was a single continuous purpose.

I knew from a young age I loved math. There was a very clear connection for me there of how simple and beautiful it could be to break down highly complex topics and how the most simple things were actually the most complex to solve. Or prove this idea of a universal truth and the currency that rings through everything was something I just thought was so beautiful.

A lot of my youth was following those passions. When you feel a connection to something, that's when you pursue it, even if you don't know exactly how that will manifest. It was only when I was at Stanford, maybe seven years ago, when I realized that was the toolkit for me to actually unleash creativity. That's really where my passion and purpose lies – in how we use technology and enable people to live and experience life the way you were when you were uninhibited.

Think about children running around and the way they see the world and their imagination, that all kind goes out of us at some point. And I love, love things like Harry Potter and Star Wars and all of that. I'm a huge nerd in case it's not wildly obvious from the story already! But I loved all of that stuff, as well as the idea of being part of those stories.

A lot of being great is about doing something that's probably very boring, but doing it for an abnormally long period of time, and never giving up.

Everyone is telling a story, whether you're a brand or you're a person, an entertainment company, it doesn't matter. Stories are all around us. It's what makes us human at a fundamental level.

I really feel that a lot of the way technology has evolved today has actually broken that down and put it in a very specific format. You're staring at a screen. You're just totally inert. How do we break free from that and do something that's going to be more natural and make people feel more engaged and fulfilled on a day to day basis?

So it really wasn't until seven years ago that I even realized media and entertainment was a real field I could get into.

It sounds like when you went to MIT, that was the first time you were in the environment where you had that peer support and found your tribe for the first time.

Who were you going into MIT and who were you afterwards?

Ironically, much the same person. A lot of my journey at MIT was a circle of going in and being this out-of-place math nerd, but I was potentially, I think, less confident. 

I had felt going into college that I was a product of the things around me and not that I was choosing to be that person. I was the misfit math nerd, I didn't have a group. And that didn't feel like something I had as a choice, more as that was my reality. 

So when I went into MIT for the first time, I had this incredible group of peers. We're all really excited and passionate about something, and it's what I loved about the school. It feels almost like tangible electricity when everyone around you is there for a purpose. It's the first time I'd experienced that when everyone was really there to pursue a passion or do research or push the boundary in some kind of way.

That was incredibly intoxicating to me. I felt like I had finally found my people who understood me and got me.

Through the process of going through college and finding a group and then realizing it probably still isn't exactly a perfect fit and then feeling out of place once more, by the time I left college, what I had realized was you can have these very deep connections with lots of people and be inspired by them, but it was never going to be, I think, my place to fit in with a specific group or be a specific type of person.

It was really more about me being able to form friendships across different groups and interests. And I felt like for the first time I had chosen for myself. This is what I want to do and this is what I want to be and I actually don't care at all about fitting in or having a group or anything like that. The stuff just doesn't matter.

So empowering.

Yeah, it was a very empowering experience.

From there is really when I started to feel comfortable charting my own path and doing a very different type of career than what I think I would've always expected for myself.

I should say that in Australia we say ‘maths’, whereas in the US, you say ‘math’ in case you’re wondering what I’m talking about!

With SHINE, when did you go from identifying that as a problem to being like, "I'm going to be the person to do something about it."

I've always been very passionate about getting more women into STEM. It's something I've always had a lot of exposure to, even at MIT which is a 50/50 gender ratio. In the hardcore maths and physics and electrical engineering, it is nowhere close to 50/50. It's an incredible minority of women.

When you think about that problem holistically, to me, it has to start from the pipeline. There have to be more girls at a young age who are interested in pursuing this, who will go to high school math and then potentially pursue it in college. Otherwise, you can't address this much larger problem that has a huge impact.

When you feel a connection to something, that's when you pursue it, even if you don't know exactly how that will manifest.

Technology is a sector that has a very wide impact on how we live our lives on a day to day basis and women's voices should be represented there. I think we will land in a better place as a society when that is true.

So I started just tutoring and teaching in the Cambridge public school system when I was at MIT. What I really noticed was that girls used very different language to describe what they struggled with than what boys did.

They would say things like, "I can't get fractions," not "I don't get fractions." And that word can't versus don't, it means something completely different. Can't implies you don't think you have the potential to do something. Don't means "I just don't get it right now." But can't means "I don't think I'll ever be able to get this. It's not who I am. I'm not a math person."

There was this huge amount of identity that was associated or disassociated with STEM that I think doesn't hold in a lot of other cases. When I really thought about my own personal journey and what changed that for me as we spoke about earlier, it was dance. And so it was a wacky experiment of, "Can I get girls to sign up for an after school dance program that's secretly teaching them math?" And the answer was yes!

Being in a different environment can make all the difference. When you're not sitting in a classroom where you might already have preconceived notions about who you are and what your capabilities are, you're in a totally new space, you're maybe experiencing joy, and I think dance and math are actually very interesting pair because it gives a physicality to something that's usually very abstract, so when you can start to tie those things together, it gave a lot of these young girls the space to have that aha moment of "I can do this."

All it takes is one moment of realizing "I can do this" to change everything. It changes how they show up in the classroom, how they show up in school, how they show up after school. It really has a profound impact.

We had girls who, for the first time in their lives, were raising their hands in classes. That's really significant when we're talking about a fifth, sixth grade girl where that's going to change potentially how her future unfolds.

And so for me, it was just something I wanted to try. It was in no way supposed to be a business or a huge franchise or anything like that! I just wanted to help the group of, I think it was like 11 girls that we started with. 

I wanted to see if they could see what I could see in them. Because I could look at them and say, "I know you can do this. I know it looking at you," but they didn't know it yet.

Developing that habit at a young age, which then impacts the millions of other decisions they're going to make from there completely changes their evolution.

It's small changes, right? 

It's usually not huge moments and big things that I think change the trajectory of your life or create impact. It's small changes, small moments that build up over a long period of time. It's a compounding effect.

You've studied at a whole bunch of educational institutions that we mentioned earlier. Did you do that because you wanted to go and learn more?

Were you getting more practical skills with each one that you went to? Or was there some other type of opportunity like relationships, or something else that you were trying to aim for?

Well, it was really interesting to be both in the US schooling system and in the British one which approach education and learning very differently. That was an incredible experience for me because I thought I was going to be a professor! So I did want a little bit of that exposure to a different way of thinking.

MIT, Cambridge, and Stanford all in particular do that very differently. And so I thought that was an interesting high level experience. But really there's less of a plan than I think people think.

All it takes is one moment of realizing "I can do this" to change everything.

A lot of times when we look back at our lives, you can create the thread and create the story, but a lot of how I've focused my life is just when you have an opportunity that feels aligned with something that you feel genuine excitement and passionate about, just say yes.

I had the opportunity to go abroad and study at Cambridge and I just said yes, because that sounded like something that would help me grow as a person and push me and make me a good cocktail of discomfort and excitement. 

I think that's almost always an indication that you should do it.

Have you heard the Steve Jobs quote, "You can only connect the dots looking back, not forward"?

Yes, I have.

I often think about that in my own life, just all the different things that we do. Down the track, people are like, "Oh wow, what an amazing plan, that straight line that you've been on." 

It was actually like a stock market chart. It was the complete opposite!

Yeah. And it's totally natural, I think to go back and do that and make sense of it, but I think it can also be isolating when you feel lost in your life and you feel like everyone else had this path and this plan and they knew what they were going to accomplish from day one.

Maybe someone else out there doesn't feel that way and doesn't know where they're going in the path. It's easier than that in some ways. Like rip that all apart and say, "What excites you the most when you're doing it?" Where do you feel joy? Not happiness, but joy.

Every single day, I try to have one moment of pure unadulterated joy.

Every single day, I try to have one moment of pure unadulterated joy. It's something that a lot of times I'm lucky in that that's in my work. Sometimes it's a one minute dance party or a really delicious bite of food or something like that. 

If you’re really connecting to joy: a) You never get burnt out. I believe that; and b) It's almost this incredible compass that points you towards what you care about and what you like to do. Where does that joy come from for you? If you push towards that, I think you're going to accomplish incredible things.

When does joy become dangerous? 

And in the joy that you are talking about here in terms of you being able to be happy and avoid burnout, what are some examples or things that people should look out for so they can maintain it, but not fall off the tightrope?

Joy is always a complex topic because it's very different than happiness and very different than pleasure. So I would question if someone is eating three bowls of ice cream, is that pleasure or is that true joy? 

Joy is more existential. I feel the most joy when I see something that I've been picturing in my head actually come to life. That to me is pure, like an unadulterated source of joy when I'm imagining "Wouldn't it be great if one day this character could be here and actually talk to me in real life? What would that be like? Wouldn't it be great if this whole environment around me were actually something totally different?" 

When you actually see that occur for me, it's this incredible moment of joy. I think joy ultimately connects us to our purpose. A lot of times you can feel happiness and pleasure and things like that, but it may not really be connected to our purpose. 

I work pretty long hours and I have for quite a while, so I get asked about burnout a lot, and I don't think it's about doing less. Everyone's like, "You need a break. You look like you're getting burnt out." And I completely disagree with that. 

You need to do more of what genuinely connects you to your joy and to your purpose. If you focus more on why you do what you do, maybe it's because you believe that these kinds of fantasy worlds are really inspiring to you. Maybe it's because you think that technology is super exciting.

I'm obviously talking about my world [Illumix], but for anyone out there, why is it that you originally did what you do every day? What do you spend your time on that you care about? And if you can go back to that source, I think you never get burnt out.

What does your daily routine look like? And what do you mean by long hours?

I've cut back! I'm living a more balanced lifestyle now. It's really a marathon, not a sprint. 

But I started waking up between 4:00 AM – 5:00 AM when I was 14 to start work. And for me, when I was dancing seriously, I'd have to do all my homework in the mornings basically, because after school I'd be in rehearsals until late and then you go to sleep and you have to wake up and do all your work.

If you’re feeling burnt out, do more of what genuinely connects you to your joy and to your purpose.

So I wake up quite early. I do my first work session somewhere between 4:30 AM – 6:30 AM. I work out for about an hour, get ready, have breakfast. And then I hop into meetings by maybe 8:00, 8:30. And then basically work on and off without a break – apart from a walk in the afternoon – until 9:00 PM.

On your afternoon walk, do you have headphones in and try to listen to podcasts or audiobooks? Or is that just to be connected to the environment and specifically not have any external stimulus?

Usually I try to not have too much external stimulus. Sometimes music. But I try not to listen to podcasts at that time. I listen to a lot of podcasts in the morning when I'm getting ready. That's my time to do that.

We go to the beach a lot as a family. I love the beach so much. It's my happy place. It's where I get centered and relaxed.

And inevitably, someone rocks up with this really loud speaker, cranking out this horrible music that destroys the serenity. You're there to be with nature! Not to listen to whatever this guy is blaring.

It's very easy to have that obligation or that sensation that we always need to be connected to something.

I agree. I think everyone does feel that they need to be connected. And to the point at which they're disconnected with the world, I actually feel this is the problem with how we live life right now.

How many times are you out in an environment, at a dinner at the beach and actually what you're doing is you're staring at this tiny little screen in your pocket and you're not engaged and present with the world around you? To me, the purpose of technology is to better connect us with the world and the people around us. At some point, we've lost sight of that a little bit and it's actually disconnecting us.

To me, the purpose of technology is to better connect us with the world and the people around us. 

That's where I think augmented reality has such power because while we might not have to be completely disconnected, it's actually about us being fully present in our environment. To me, that is empowering people to be more connected, more present, more constantly kind of heads up.

Heads down is very concerning to me. When you look around, you look at the bus, you look at people at dinners, everyone is heads down looking at their phone and disconnected. I think during the pandemic we actually experience that that's not what makes people happy.

Are we at the worst point in technology before all these other improvements, like you’re working on with Illumix, can get us back on track in terms of quality of life?

I do think it's going to be getting better soon.

There are always cycles in technology and we're towards the end of our current cycle, whether you want to call that Web 2.0 or pick anything, this is probably that moment where there's enough dissatisfaction happening. 

That's why we're seeing a revolution right now with metaverse and Web 3.0 of a lot of people saying, "Current state is not great. How do we make this better? What does the next version of this world look like?" And I think that's actually the moment in time we're experiencing.

With Illumix specifically, what was the problem that you wanted to solve and why did it fall on your shoulders to do it?

When I started Illumix, it wasn't so much that I woke up one day and said, “I want to be a CEO” or “I want to be an entrepreneur.” I don't think I've ever thought that necessarily. 

I really wanted this world to exist. I really wanted content to break free from screens. And I really believe that we had finally hit a moment in time where we have super computers and cameras and are on our person at all given times to engage with the world in a new way. 

I believed that was possible and that would be how we share experiences in the future. When I looked around, no one was doing it. If someone was doing it, I probably would've joined them and been like, "This is great. I would love to be a part of this!" But no one was really doing it.

I was completely consumed by this concept. I felt like I was on fire every day of "This needs to exist, I want to experience this." I think other people will want to experience this and I really believe that the future is going to be more immersive and more interactive and just put us in a position of power. 

So much content today is passive. We're sitting there, it's happening. We're bingeing, we're scrolling. I don't think that that's the future. In the future, we're much more in control of that. And we're starting to see that come into play with gaming and TikTok and some of these new things that have gained huge consumer traction.

And it just didn't exist. It just didn't exist. Sometimes you build something because you believe it will exist – and should exist – and you want to be a part of shaping that.

The best way to predict the future is to create it.

Exactly.

Give us an example of what that looks like from a practical sense. What's available right now in terms of an experience using AR or the metaverse?

There's a lot. 

What Illumix specifically does is we kind of think about it as when the internet came around. Everyone knew this was going to be important, but didn't know how to engage with it. How do you create a presence on the internet? How do you connect with consumers? And that's where companies like Squarespace or WordPress came into play, where they solved a lot of the technical problems and they made it easy for anyone to tell their story and create a presence.

That's really what Illumix is doing in the world of the metaverse. We're sort of what Squarespace or WordPress did, which is we've solved all the nasty tech bits and infrastructure bits that you probably never want to look at and we're just giving you the tools to easily create that kind of content.

Things are flying in the air and there's magic all around you.

So that could be everything from going to a theme park today and actually seeing these fantastical things that might not be possible. Things are flying in the air and there's magic all around you. It could be something like that, all the way to shopping online.

Think about how we do online shopping right now. The process is, you buy stuff, you try it on, you send it back, which is, one, incredibly inefficient, and two, horrific for the planet. And doing that differently and saying, "Well, if I'm looking at a necklace, I should just be able to see what that looks like on me. Why not? We have a camera there. We have connectivity there. Why is that not the case?" 

So that's another example of something that Illumix is enabling.

What about 10-15 years into the future? Do you dare even think about some of those things and what would that look like?

Oh, I think every entrepreneur should dare. I think that when you're forming a company or forming a pitch deck, the first thing that you need to really have clarity on is in 10 years or 50 years, the world looks like X. 

I think about this all the time. In 10 to 15 years, I think there will be a kind of head worn device, contacts, glasses – probably a blend of the two. We'll be in a place where people are constantly able to engage in the world around them, where I don't see the kind of horrible dystopian future of there's ads everywhere and all we see is digital content. 

But I think it's one of those things where we can actually be heads up and walking on the beach and not worried about what's happening in my pocket. Why do I need to look down to see something? It could be something where we're walking along the beach and if you want to hear music or if you don't, you could just say out loud "Play Queen" or whatever it is that you're into.

"Turn off the other guy's music!"

Yeah, "Turn off the other guy's music!"

And you'd be able to live in that world and share your world with others. That's a really important thing. Being able to share the version of the world you experience with others is an incredibly powerful part of what the metaverse will be.

How far away are we from not having devices anymore in terms of things like iPhones?

I think we're several years away from that. My suspicion is that we'll still be a part of the infrastructure for the next few years. It will just be almost more like having the computer battery pack around you, but you'll have another way of experiencing and engaging with the information.

What about dangers? There's a lot of chatter about how AI in particular can destroy the world hypothetically. Where do you sit in terms of the dangers of emerging technologies?

There is always an obligation to think very deeply about the ethics of anything that has the ability to make choices for itself, right? So there's a lot of bias that we can put in that, which is part of why I feel so passionately about having other representation out there, because you're going to see things differently and realize where some of that bias might come in when you're programming. Whether it's AI or just even traditional algorithms, there needs to be a lot of thought put into that. 

On the AI is going to take over the world with robots that destroy us component, I have very little worry about that right now. We are just nowhere close to that. That's called generalized AI. We are a long, long ways off from that – if we ever get there. That's one of those red herrings that people talk too much about, that ‘sexy robots kill us’ example and not enough about the practicality of the AI that's actually impacting our lives every day and making choices for us.

There's a lot of bias that we can put in that, which is part of why I feel so passionately about having other representation out there.

If the government is using AI in a certain way to identify people or something that seems more intense and like that, all the way to something about how Google might represent your choices and show you different types of information, that all needs to be thought of very deeply. What data is being fed in? Is that an unbiased data set? Is it going to ultimately make us more separated and create a world that we don't feel safe living in versus something that I think can and has been used to make our lives much better and easier? 

In some ways, AI is really just an evolution of algorithms and technology that have been around. I think it gets a worse wrap because people don't understand. Most of how companies use AI is basically a linear interpolation of a straight line like this data.

Most companies who are AI are not doing a lot. There's obviously some exceptions there that are doing very deep research and work, but usually it's, I think, not as harmful as people think.

As we adopt some of these immersive technologies here, are there any challenges with people having a difficult switching off and rejoining the real world, which might be far more mundane by comparison?

Yeah, sure. I think the example you're talking about is really the purely virtual world of where we're living and we're working in this incredible place, like a Ready Player One style environment and then we go back to our real lives and feel a huge disconnect. 

I really believe that the future is actually about, this is why I like augmented reality, where these two things are constantly blended so you never feel that disconnect. In some ways, I actually think the scenario described is not super far from the way we're living today.

If you look on Instagram or TikTok, you might be seeing a very different version of the world where your life looks a lot less fulfilling and exciting in comparison because you're basically comparing something that doesn't exist to something that does exist, right? That's still what's happening in a lot of the digital world today.

But I honestly believe because that makes people unhappy, it's specifically because that is the case, that that will not be the future. Because ultimately, people will go, I think, for things that make them feel more complete. And we see this happening, right? There's already a huge backlash against this sort of fake overly perfect world or these worlds that don't make us feel good to something that feels more representative of the real world.

The real world is gaining some sexiness back of being authentic in yourself and not embellishing. And that's where augmented reality in the metaverse is ultimately going to take us.

You're five years into the Illumix journey. What was the moment when you were like, "Wow, I think we're onto a winner here"?

There are a few moments along the journey where you really think there might be something incredible here. And I think a lot of it comes down to how consumers react to your product, or whoever your target audience is. There has to be that product market fit of, you might think it's really cool and I've always thought it was really cool, but do other people really want this?

I think the first time we play/tested our first game, which was Five Nights at Freddy's, we brought in a bunch of Stanford students and basically randos off the street and said, "Hey, we want you to try this and see how you feel about it."

You might think it's really cool and I've always thought it was really cool, but do other people really want this?

Watching them actually engage in AR for the first time, and this was a horror title, but we saw people, it's just their little phones basically, backing up into corners and being really scared and really screaming. A lot of people moved up against the wall and we were like, "That is a visceral reaction to something that does not exist right now." 

But people felt it was really real! And that's when we realized we really were stitching together imagination and this kind of digital content with what reality was for people in a way that I think hadn't been done before.

It must be incredible to watch that just unfold before your eyes for the first time.

It was really incredible to see it happen and to get the feedback. When people have moments where they feel like their own imagination and creativity has come to life, it's something people automatically connect to because it's human.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Kirin Sinha 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. 🚀


Everyone imagines the world a certain way or has imagined the world a certain way. When you get to see things that you didn't think were possible actually unfold before your eyes, it's a pure magic moment. You see it in everyone's eyes. Everyone's eyes get wide and you have a real reaction as though that thing was actually sitting in front of you.

Are there any particularly rough days on this journey that stand out? We've mentioned joy. We've mentioned all the good times.

Especially since it’s been such a wild few years for the world more broadly.

Oh, constantly. As a founder, you’re probably some combination of exhausted, terrified, and nauseous. 

But I mean, if we're being honest, that's what a lot of it is. A lot of my personal journey as a founder has been learning how to emotionally regulate through that and how to not be so impacted by the bumps along the road. There have been a few tools that I've kind of gathered through the years that I think have helped me with that. 

One of the big realizations for me is that you never actually know what ends up being good or bad. There are times where there were deals that we didn't get and I was devastated because you've worked so hard towards an outcome.

You really want something to happen and it doesn't work out. And then you look back and you say that was absolutely the right call. I think almost exclusively, the best moments come after the worst moments.

You never actually know what ends up being good or bad.

And so you go through some really tough times where you think, "This is never going to work. This is never going to launch. We're going to run out of money. No one's ever going to agree to fund us." 

There's constantly moments of doubt of "What am I doing with my life and how do I continue to do it and justify it if no one else believes in me?" Fundraising, I think, is always some of the toughest times for founders for that reason, because you're really putting yourself on the line. 

And it is personal. It should be personal in some ways, right? Not the rejection component, but this is your life's work. This is what you wake up and fall asleep and think about 24/7. If someone says, "Oh, I don't think it's going anywhere," you're, of course, going to take that personally. 

So learning that resilience and that ability to keep an eye on the larger picture has been a really important part of the journey.

Is there anything specifically you do to enable that?

Or even self care, in terms of what helps you stay focused, committed, and productive?

There's a few things I do.

Focusing on the big picture is an important one. That's when it can become really dark as an entrepreneur, when you get really stuck in the day to day and you don't see the bigger vision and picture anymore. 

So I journal every night, kind of stream-of-consciousness style. And that helps just remove everything from my brain that might be there. So I think that's very important. In the mornings, I meditate. I think that helps me focus. 

And I also literally have a Google Calendar invite at least once a week. Sometimes it's every morning, it's called ‘Big Picture Thinking.’ It's just a reminder for myself to say, "Okay, where are we going? Where is the company going? Is everything we're doing still aligned with that? And how is it that I'm showing up today to support that big picture goal?" Because otherwise, you can do a lot of work and miss the boat on what really matters.

Where are we going? Is everything we're doing still aligned with that?

So I literally have a Google Calendar invite that reminds me to focus on that every day and at least think about that every day. I think all of those things have very much helped me.

And you just reframe your attitude towards ‘no’ – that’s been so important. You hear no a lot, especially as an early startup, right? And certainly when you're fundraising. You need to realize that failure in some ways is not an end state, it's just a stepping stone on the way to get to a yes. It's the stepping stone on the way to success. 

I had heard at one point, "How would you feel about no if I told you there was only two more nos until you got to yes? You would be running at those nos, you'd be like, "Yes, let's do this asap!"

"Thank you so much!"

Exactly! “I cannot wait to get through those two nos because I know that yes is on the other side.” 

That is the reality. There is always a yes on the other side and there is a finite number of nos. And so you have to kind of run into the wall knowing “I just need to get through the nos and the bad fits and the people that are probably not going to be the right ones for my journey anyway. And that no is actually just a path on the way to yes.”

It really reframes how you think about things. There is always a yes there if you keep going. It's a perseverance game.

You mentioned the stream of consciousness journaling. 

Do you write something down or are these just thoughts that you just have going through your head mentally? What's that process?

I write things down. So I used to hand write them. Sometimes I type them now because there's such a lot of thoughts and limited time and I can type very quickly relative to how quickly I can write. I use Day One.

Yeah, me too. The Day One journal app?

Yeah. Day One. 

It's amazing because sometimes in between meetings I have things on my mind that I need to feel clear out before I get to my other meeting and I can, in an Uber ride or something, just type it out. It's an incredible app for journaling, and kind of keeping track of your emotional status and regulation.

There is always a yes on the other side and there is a finite number of nos.

I started journaling when I was at MIT actually and things were very stressful. Again, it's a good opportunity to get things out of your head, to focus on gratefulness. I put prompts in mine on things I'm grateful for on things I'm inspired by on something I could do better for the next day. 

So in case you can't tell, I like structure! I like structure and everything I do. So even my stream of conscious journaling has some structure to it. And that's how I do it every night.

So my Day One journal, I created a Win the Day template to include a daily recap of the last 24 hours, gratitude acknowledgement, three things to Win the Day, daily affirmation / intention, and then a lesson that will help me reflect and learn. 

Oh, that's a great idea.

That's sort of the way I've been doing it now 420 days in a row.

That's amazing. I don't know what my streak is, but it's pretty high as well. I think the three things in the morning is also so important. I tie that into my big picture thinking of, what are the three things that I'm doing to make that big picture or vision a reality every day?

What gives you the confidence to keep raising the bar and just have that energy every single day in terms of this massive, massive vision? Are there other people in your network that you have to have conversations with on a regular basis? 

I know a big part of your success is being very intentional about how you approach building your network, finding out the best performers in their different fields and meeting up with those people to find out who they know.

Yes. So when I think about, this was I think in reference to hiring, early on of how did I get into a field I really didn't know anything about, it's taking one person who will talk to you. It might take a while to find that first person. I cold emailed a lot of people, and taking that and showing up, being present, being really engaged and then asking them who are the top three people that they've ever worked with and do think they would speak to me.

By doing that, you get exposed to some incredible talent and different ways of thinking. And as your environment shifts, you grow and shift along with it. 

I think a lot of the confidence comes from doing the work, right? I mean, some of it is a headspace thing, but some of it is I don't stress as much when I go into high intensity meetings compared to other people or when I'm giving talks in front of a lot of people. Because at the end of the day, I know every single day I have worked my butt off to be the expert in my field.

I know every single day I have worked my butt off to be the expert in my field.

I've read every article. I've done all the studies and all the technology pieces, I've worked really hard to stay up to date on that. There's nothing someone else could throw at me that I haven't already thought about. And if they have, then that's great and that's an incredible learning opportunity for me to grow and continue to think about something in a new way.

So for me, this is always kind of a win-win of either I have the opportunity to grow in this space, or there's no reason to be stressed because it's an exchange of ideas or just a conversation. What's the worst that can really happen?

I think people really overemphasize all this negative components of what could happen, "Oh, I could sound silly. Oh, I could be embarrassed." They really underestimate all the good things that can come out of that. You could meet someone that's really inspiring, you could find someone who's going to be our COO. There's incredible things that can come out of every interaction because everyone has something to offer.

I really approach everything in that headspace. It takes a lot of stress off. I think a lot about how you can show up and be better every day as a part of the journaling, as part of my weekly routine of how is it that I'm growing and being better, constantly learning, by no means stops when you're outside of school.

There's so many different axes on which to grow outside of just education, which I think a lot of people focus on. But how you fill your time, I think a lot about my "diet..." I say diet in quotes here because when people say diet, they think about what you're eating and what you're putting in your body. But your diet is, to me, everything you consume. 

What are you watching? What are you listening to? Who are around you? You're consuming things constantly. And what's around you, just like your physical diet will change what your body is like, your environmental, psychological diet will really change how you show up and you feel.

So if you're watching a lot of TV or hanging around people who are really negative, there's all kinds of different inputs that might be there, it's going to change how you feel about yourself and how you show up whether you can see it as clearly as gaining weight or losing weight or being muscular or not. 

That's all a part of who you are, how you show up, and it impacts your performance the same way a meal would. That is something I think a lot about is, what has my diet been, basically. Who have I spent time with and has this been something positive for me or negative for me?

It's like catching up with someone for coffee and all they do is complain, complain, complain. At the end of an hour, they've just ripped your ear off about how bad their life is and all this complaining. 

Then you meet someone who's gone through things that are 1,000 times more difficult, yet they're always looking for the gift in this and they're positive. You leave in a completely different headspace.

It's a completely different headspace. And so much of it is the lens of what you're looking for. It's the, when you buy a car and you see that car everywhere all of a sudden. That happened to me recently. And I was like, "My God, there are a lot of white cars out here!" 

But that's the same thing with life. If you're really going around and you're looking for something positive, if you're looking for signs that this is working out for you, you're going to see them. When you go in and you think, "I'm not going to win today," or if you go in with a negative headspace, that's what you're going to see. And it's a snowball effect.

On your best day, what's an affirmation that you would write on a flashcard that you could show yourself on your worst day?

I love Post-its so I have Post-its all over my apartment at all times! I have them with me all the time. I think they're an incredible business tool because you have to distill thoughts in a very clean and concise way.

The Post-it I currently have on my desktop screen and the quote that most inspires me right now is, "Champions don't show up to get everything they want. They show up to give everything they have." And that is something that's giving me a lot of energy right now – on your best day or your worst day, it's really a question of, did you give everything that you have? All you can do is show up every day and give everything you have.

Champions don't show up to get everything they want. They show up to give everything they have.

And to me, that's regardless of the type, what happens, what you get out of that, that could be bad, that could be good, that's not always in your control. But if you show up and you give everything you have and you think about your life from that impact driven mindset, you will, I think, feel more fulfilled.

You’ll actually achieve more towards your goals than any other headspace.

What are you most excited for with the future of Illumix?

Oh, it's an exciting time right now across the board. I am really excited over the next year as you start to see more of these digital physical interactions and what you interact with daily. Whether it's how you're shopping, how you're gaming, how you're walking around and experiencing the world, that is actually at a bit of a tipping point right now where we're really going to start to see interactive 3D becoming a part of our everyday life versus static 2D.

Final question, what's one thing you do to Win the Day?

I'm going to name finding that moment of joy and kind of using that as your beacon for finding your purpose.

Kirin, thank you so much for sharing all your amazing wisdom today. It's been such a great chat.

Thank you so much for having me.


Final steps to Win the Day...

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James Whittaker

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Resources / links mentioned:

💎 Illumix website.

📷 Illumix Instagram.

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🌎 Kirin Sinha Twitter.

🗺️ ‘Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration’ by Ed Catmull.

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If you are going through hell, keep going.”

Winston Churchill

Heard of 007?

Well, today we get to sit down with a real life ‘00’. 

Ollie Ollerton is a UK Special Forces operative, four-time bestselling author, and star of hit television series’ SAS: Who Dares Wins and SAS Australia

Ollie’s military career began at the age of 18 when he joined the Royal Marine Commandos and toured operationally in Northern Ireland and Iraq for Operation Desert Storm. After five years as a Commando, Ollie was recommended for SAS Special Forces Selection. Only a handful of the 250 candidates made it through the grueling six-month selection process. 

Ollie then spent six years in the Special Boat Service – the SBS – where he undertook high profile missions in counter narcotics, counter terrorism, homeland security, and humanitarian work.

After leaving the special forces, Ollie held roles as a private security contractor in Iraq, project manager for major infrastructure projects in the Middle East (where he also trained a 2,000-strong Iraqi guard force), and as a bodyguard instructor for private projects and government officials. In addition, Ollie infiltrated child sex trafficking rings in southeast Asia.

Today, he is the founder of BreakPoint, where he provides leadership and development courses to the corporate and public sector that leverages the special forces mindset. Ollie is also the author of four critically-rated books and founder of supplement brand Battle Ready Fuel.

In this episode:

Before we begin, 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 or could use some help to Win the Day, share it with them right now.

Let’s WIN THE DAY with Ollie Ollerton!

James Whittaker:
Ollie, so great to see you mate! Thanks for coming on the Win the Day show.

Ollie Ollerton:
Mate, it's an absolute pleasure. I've been looking forward to this day for a long time, and I am winning the day by doing this!

To kick things off, what is the mission that you're on today that you're most excited about?

My mission, if I had to define it – which is the mission that's on the wall as you walk in this office – is to create a globally identified brand recognized for the positive growth and development of others.

At the end of the day we [BreakPoint] are a business that is dedicated to the service of others, which I think is such a powerful thing to wake up and feel that you are doing every day. And I'm pretty sure it's a similar kind of ethos for you.

Absolutely, and with great power comes great responsibility!

In your books, you talk about the importance of standards and constantly being around positive people who inspire you. It's such a motivating force, just as when you're around people who don't deliver that, it can be extremely debilitating.

What I love about the impact you continue to have today, and all the achievements you’ve had, is as a result of being around the right people who believe in you – and can see your potential when perhaps you can’t see it yourself. 

I actually think about this a lot. You've got to be so mindful of the people that you surround yourself with. If you look at the people that you surround yourself with, you should admire the qualities they possess.

If you look at the people that you surround yourself with, you should admire the qualities they possess.

Obviously it shouldn't be about envy, it shouldn't be about jealousy. You should look at them and think, “I really respect that quality that person has.” Because if you can't come up with anything good for the people around you, then they shouldn't be around you.

What is the most vivid memory that you've got from your childhood and how did that shape the man you are today?

It's my first memory of my entry to this planet, and that is the chimp story.

We were going swimming in my hometown. I was 10 years old and we stumbled across the circus. They were just setting up, and I found myself in a private little area that I shouldn't have been in where I came across a baby chimp. And I was absolutely in love with the program Tarzan at the time, so for me seeing that baby chimp, it was a little piece of Hollywood. I was compelled.

I went toward the animal, we started to engage. It was this unbelievable moment of connection between man and beast. And when I say that, I wasn't much bigger really… I was 10 years old, so it was more like two chimps communicating.

And then this chimp started to feed me. It was passing me food. I wasn't eating it, I was pretending to eat it. All of a sudden there was this scream that I'll never forget, as the chimp’s mummy or daddy saw what was going on – saw me as an immediate threat – and came on the warpath.

The blue sky turned to black very quickly as this thing pounced through the air and landed on my chest, pinned me to the floor and started absolutely going crazy. The first fist that came down knocked everything out of me. I didn't think I had anything left.

It was like a drummer in a rock band, which I think is a great description of what was going on. But a big, hairy one! Then blood started flying around, the thing was starting to bite me, and my life flashed in front of me. It didn't take long because I was 10, very quick.

In that moment, I managed to summon enough courage to do something about it. I managed to get my knee up to my chest and I kicked the chimp as hard as possible. It went to the floor, which gave me a few seconds to get out of there.

Then blood started flying around, the thing was starting to bite me, and my life flashed in front of me.

The chimp got to its feet. It was angrier than ever this time, and it came at me at Mach 20 and I just lay there waiting for the inevitable. And just before it got to me – it was an inch away – the chain caught it around the neck and it didn't get to me.

And that for me really helps me to define what ‘break point’ is. This was my first break point. It wouldn't be my last, but your break point is when you take that short-term step into discomfort for long-term gain. Short term discomfort was me at 10 years old, fighting a 50 kilogram chimp. I didn't get a chance to weigh it by the way, but it felt heavy.

The long-term gain of that is the fact I'm here to tell the story, but that was a defining moment. It was an experience that would really affect my life moving forward. And it had a very negative effect on my life, because there's a lot of questions I ask about that, like “How would my life be different if I didn't get attacked by the chimp?” 

It’s a great question. I don't know the answer to it but, if you're looking at any kind of positives, perhaps I never would’ve made it through special forces selection, 

It gave me a burning desire for survival, I guess.

Do you think about it as a metaphor of how crazy traumatic experiences in life can appear at any moment?

We've had people on the show who have been hit by trucks while they're out riding bikes, all these different things, as evidence that can just completely derail you in the worst way when you least expect it.

Yeah, 100%. 

At the end of the day as well, every experience that we have in life, you shouldn't brush it away. You shouldn't try and forget it. You should try and think of what you've taken from that experience.

For me, I look back on that experience. It gave me a lot of trauma, but the things I took from it... It sounds weird, but I'm almost grateful for getting attacked by the chimp that day.

In my most negative experiences is where I've grown the most.

Although on that day I wasn't feeling that way! But hindsight's a wonderful thing. It never won any wars, but it's great for reflection.

In my most negative experiences is where I've grown the most.

In your book, you mention ‘the urge to live’ and how the chimp experience gave you the urge to live for the first time.

How can people develop that urge to live without having to go through a potentially life or death situation?

Yeah, you don't need to go and find a circus! You don't need to find a chimp to beckon and attack.

At the end of the day, you have got to understand it. People are so confined through society and so confined in their limiting belief systems. We need to understand that we are infinite. We are absolutely infinite. Sometimes it takes a very traumatic event for you to start to understand that.

But regardless of the traumatic event being there or not, that doesn't change you. That event doesn't make you a superman or a superwoman, but it can give you a zest for life – and help you appreciate that. It's almost like that brush so close to death made me want to embrace life 100% more.

Your break point is when you take that short-term step into discomfort for long-term gain.

And really it's a tough question. A lot of the stuff we do as a company at BreakPoint, we use a special forces kind of format but we're not trying to train people to be special forces soldiers. At the end of the day, when we were out on operations and doing things, there was a lot at stake. People could die. It's hard to replicate that kind of feeling. It's very hard to replicate that.

We try to push across to people the importance of having goals, a mission statement, and all that kind of thing. The fact of the matter is, we're only here once…apparently. We've got to make the most of it. We've got to do what we can in this short amount of time, because time is running out. We're all going in the same direction.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Ollie Ollerton 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. 🚀


At the age of 18 you joined the Royal Marine Commandos, and after five years you were then selected for special forces selection, which you went through twice.

How would you describe the other candidates who were with you for the special forces training?

Very intimidating.

I looked around, I looked at them, and I felt like a boy in a man's world. I had immediate self-doubt and lack of confidence. Looking at them and how they looked, and how I perceived them, made me feel extremely weak. 

At that time I can remember, I got off the bus to start the first climb of the mountain, which was the start of a six month process, which essentially is nine with continuation training. And I can remember getting off the bus and thinking, “No, you're making a mistake. You are setting yourself up for failure by being here.”

There was a little voice in my head at that point that just said, “Ollie, just do today.” So I did just today. 

When I look at it, we talk about ‘ego’, and sometimes I think, “Well, why is the bloody ego invented? No one's got a good word to say about it!” But at that point for me it was ego that kept me from getting back on the bus.

There was a little voice in my head at that point that just said, “Ollie, just do today.”

I preferred to have failed on the mountain when no one was looking instead of having 280 people see me just get back on the bus. So that was a good thing. Ego stopped me from doing that. Just do today. The day went really well for me. I came back off the mountain in the top five. A lot of people went home.

And that's how I did that course, James. I did every day with the “just do today” mentality.

When it went to the interrogation phase at the end, which was absolutely horrible, it was just do this second. I think that's a really important message for a lot of people. Your goals should scare you but excite you at the same time, because nothing was ever great unless at some point you doubted your ability to achieve it. 

When the pressure's on, that goal starts to dissolve. Because your brain can't see the path to the goal it disregards it can be done, or it starts to reject the fact it can be done. And in those moments, just do today. Just do the next second, just do the next hour.

But keep moving forward. Don't stay still. Because like water, you'll become stagnant.

It's such an important point.

People reach out to me and they say, "You've written a lot of books. How can I write a book?" And it seems like such an insurmountable goal. But just focusing on your version of ‘just do today’.

For me, when I wrote Think and Grow: The Legacy, it was just to do the best interview I can. Or if it was a day of preparation, just do today by doing the preparation. And eventually all of those days, which really comes into the Win the Day mentality as well, all of those things add up over time.

Like a compound interest graph, you start to get exponential rewards the longer you are consistent with just doing today.

Yeah, 100%.

Going back to that point, at that moment of pressure, there were loads of people who wanted the same as me. If I focused then on that really big ambitious goal of being one of the few percent, that out of that group of 250 people, only five would pass, that I'd be one of them. For me to think about that in the moment became so unrealistic.

So don't think about it. Think about your momentum – you moving forward in that very moment. That's all you've got to do. And as soon as I got onto that mountain, I started passing people straight away. Those were milestones of growth. Every person I passed was a milestone of growth. Just get that momentum, just move forward.

Nothing was ever great unless at some point you doubted your ability to achieve it. 

Another exercise from the special forces is the idea of one meter square. When all around you is falling apart or becoming overwhelming, bring everything back to one meter square. Focus on your immediate environment, and keep the momentum moving forward. Triage that situation.

Look at the things you can't control and just focus on the things you can, because they're the only things that matter in that moment.

In special forces training, it looks like it's a real mental and physical battle to find out the people who want it the most.

At what stage do they go away from that mental and physical test to actually teaching you training and practical skills that you can take into combat?

Your first phase is the hills phase, which is a real grunt. True grit, determination, lot of physical ability. People often ask me what percentage is mental vs physical, but I don't see it like that. Everything starts in the mind – everything.

But it's so important to understand that the brain gives up way before the body, because it's a self-preservation system. And once you understand that you've got a lot more potential. 

The first phase is to weed out those people who really haven't got that sort of mental robustness to get through that grunt stage. So that's two weeks on the mountains. You lose a lot of people on that. You lose probably 60% of the course on those two weeks.

Think about your momentum – you moving forward in that very moment. That's all you've got to do.

Then, should you be successful from that, you go away to the jungle for six weeks. Four weeks of that you are fully immersed for 28 days right in the jungle. Your flesh starts to rot. You get trench foot. The only luxury you really have is a toothbrush. And then you have all your fighting kit, your weapon and everything else.

The jungle is trying to kill you. The directing staff are trying to kill you. It's such a battle.

And it's such an amazing environment to test the skills of a soldier, because before you can even start to think about the tactics of soldiering you have to make sure that your personal admin – whether that's yourself and your kit, your weapon and everything else – you have to take care of that before you even think about soldiering. And it's a brilliant environment to test that self-admin, if you want to call it that.

Once you pass the jungle, they know that there's an 80% chance of you passing that course. And at that point they start to invest in you as a person. At that point they start to train you in skills, preparing you to fit into your team. 

Special forces selection doesn't train you to be a special forces soldier per se. It trains you to be able to fit into your team to then start the real training as a special forces operator.

At the jungle phase, you've then started doing all your building assault skills, helicopter skills, demolition skills, radio communication or morse code, medical – everything, the whole lot.

Then the last phase, which is the hardest phase of all, I thought, is escape and evasion. That is the final test of a man's mental robustness, I suppose.

The brain gives up way before the body, because it's a self-preservation system.

You can't predict anything, because you don't know what's going on in here at the end of the day until that very point where 36 hours of… I'm not going to call it torture, it's mental torture. It's not physical torture as such, but it is the hardest thing. 

People say, "Oh well, it's not real." But there's a lot at stake. And when you've had that sleep deprivation, you can say one wrong word and everything you've trained up to that point is just gone. They can say no at that point.

It looks like the special forces is comprised of individuals who don't fit into the traditional military. From what you’ve said, it’s like they nurture that individual creativity and then show them how to thrive in a team environment with other misfits.

Is it challenging to take an individual with that personality, to then mold them into being an essential part of a small team?

This is a really good question, James.

A lot of times I get called to corporate events and everything else. They want to talk leadership, it's always leadership, leadership.

First of all, leadership is about leadership of self. There's plenty of people out there in leadership roles that can't even lead themselves, and that's where it should start. I truly believe that special forces operators are more like a group of leaders who adapt to working as a team, as opposed to a load of team players where one of them steps outside to be the team leader.

We are a group of leaders, and you've only got to look at lads that leave the special forces. We're very much the lone survivor kind of mentality when we leave, we go on our own path.

So I was also very much spoiled, when it comes to leadership I was spoiled. Because I worked with a highly trained group of leaders. It was more a group of leaders than it was a team, that there was one individual that was responsible for that team.

Leadership is about leadership of self.

At the end of the day, it's essential you get that person. They're not just leaders, they're pioneers who are prepared to carve their own path – rather than just follow someone else's footprints. When you look at the special forces, they were laughed out of White Chapel when the concept was introduced. 

It’s interesting to think about why they were so successful with limited resources and assets, but caused so much more damage? And that's really because they were given the autonomy and the responsibility to get the job done at any cost. They didn't have to seek a high command to take the shot. 

That's what made them so different. A group of pioneers put together, a group of leaders put together, with their ‘get the job done whatever’ attitude. Obviously enough rope to hang yourself! But at the end of the day it was the fact that we don't have to seek a high command to get the job done. We take the shot.

When you look at the corporate relevance of that, there's a lot of people in corporate structures who haven't got that autonomy. They're scared to take the shot. And then before you know it they've missed the opportunity because they've got to make a phone call before they can make a decision.

So that's one of the things we really put across in our leadership training: you have to give people the autonomy and responsibility to be able to take the shot.

You went on to then join the Special Boat Service [SBS]. How did you feel ahead of your first operation as part of the SBS compared to your first one as part of the Royal Marine Commandos?

Yeah, what a different world. It was such a different world, and it was everything I dreamed of.

When I was 10, when I got attacked by the chimp, that was the same year that they stormed the Iranian embassy in London. So it was a big year for me, 1980, the chimp, the significance of that attack, which the whole world saw on TV. And I feel that was the one thing that really captured me as a kid. Seeing the Iranian embassy operation planted a seed so deep within my subconscious.

And then my first operation with the SBS was exactly the same, not exactly the same operation but it was exactly that look. The balaclavas, the black kit, the small submachine guns, it was that moment. I joined the Royal Marines for that feeling, that experience, that sense of that brotherhood. I didn't get that there, so that's why I went for special forces selection.

You have to give people the autonomy and responsibility to be able to take the shot.

I remember that day when we were going out of camp, going home. We had pagers, and all of a sudden the pager went off. Now a lot of times they would just do it as a comms check, and everyone would check in.

But this time the code came up, which meant this is a real one. And it was just like, “Wow, it's happening. It's happening!” A lot of times we used to go off and you'd sit out in a forward operating base for weeks, sometimes out at sea on a ship waiting for the job to go down. But this job went in, straight away we were flown to a forward operating base.

The job went down that night. It happened all over night. We were back lifting the boats out the water as the sun came up the next morning, it was just phenomenal. And that was the difference. Wow, what a difference.

And the Iranian embassy incident that you mentioned before, that was the very first time that the SAS had been seen in public, wasn't it? And even publicly acknowledged?

Yeah, 100%.

Margaret Thatcher was in power at the time, and she wanted to send a message to the world not to mess with our assets and not to mess with our special forces.

Usually what you do in those situations, you will blanket the whole front off so that the media can't see anything, they can't film anything. But Margaret Thatcher wanted to show the world what we had. And what a significant attack that was, what a significant rescue that was, which is still talked about and renowned all over the world.

The SBS motto, “By strength and by guile,” how would that be revealed in a practical sense during missions?

At the end of the day, it’s not just by strength, it's about skill … and tactics and everything else. So really what that displays for me is really it's about this up here [mindset]. Your mind is the best weapon you've got.

And really the thinking soldier, it's not just about grunt and blood, sweat, and tears. It's about how we can use this.

So that motto really displays that sort of mental strength and the thinking soldier.

So rather than a level playing field, it's what can you do to win in the most efficient way possible?

Yeah, it's thinking outside of the box, being totally dynamic, and not being so addicted to structure so that when it falls down, you fall down. If there's anything I took from the special forces there's a couple of things. First of all, it was the power of process. And secondly, it was the ability to understand that no plan survives first contact.

Mike Tyson said that a little bit more succinctly, “Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the mouth.” When it comes to the corporate world, another thing we teach is that no plan survives first contact.

Remain totally dynamic and understand that any sort of progress towards a goal is never linear.

People in the US hear a lot about Navy Seals, Delta Force, etc. but a lot of them were modeled on the SAS and SBS. It was really the British special forces that created all of these other special forces units around the world in a modern sense.

What is the skillset of the SAS and the SBS? How capable are they on the battlefield and how devastating would they be against a regular force?

We always laugh at this. At the end of the day, I'm a little bit biased because I was part of the best special forces military in the whole world!

But why are the UK special forces so good? First of all, we have the heritage and the knowledge. 

Secondly, I know this is a bit of a funny one, it comes down to money. At the end of the day, we haven't got the money, so it's all about being the jack of all trades, master of none. At the end of the day, the Americans have got so much money. They've got someone to hold the weapon and they'll bring in a number two to pull the trigger!

It's like in the NFL where you’ve got the offense, defense, and special teams.

Exactly.

Also the harshness of the environment that we train in, which really at the end of the day, builds mental robustness and resilience. We train in so many different theaters of combat, whether that's in the desert, in the Arctic, the jungle, everything.

So really for us, again, it's all about being the jack of all trade, master of none. We have to be that sort of universal soldier. The amount of skills and the amount of weapon systems and everything else you have to have the knowledge on, it just gives you a lot more bandwidth as a special forces soldier.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Ollie Ollerton 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. 🚀


You mentioned earlier when you were in special forces training how apprehensive you were and that feeling of wanting to get back on the bus.

What was the moment when you recognized that “Yes I belong, and yes I'm elite”?

Going through that selection course was such a massive step in my development as an individual. When I was thinking about leaving the military, going to be a civilian or go to special forces, it was actually my officer who was the one that made me make that decision.

He had more belief in me than I had in myself. I almost did selection because I felt I had a duty to honor his confidence in me. Up until that point, I went to Northern Ireland with him. I went to Operation Desert Storm in Iraq with him, and I actually thought he didn't value me as a soldier at all.

And then I randomly bumped into him sometime later down on the track, and I told him, "Look, I'm leaving." And he was like, "No way. Please don't do that. Because I believe you have the aptitude to be a special forces soldier and you'll regret that for the rest of your life if you don't do it."

He had more belief in me than I had in myself.

So I borrowed confidence off that man. And that's why it's so important. If you are a leader, the effects you can have on the people around you that look up to you. Any of those words of confidence have such a deep and meaningful effect on any individual, and it certainly did on me.

But really then pushing forward for special forces selection, that growth that I felt through that course. All my life I had given myself a hard time. It's like all my life, self-doubt self-criticism, and that's never gone away. But it's different levels of self-criticism and belief.

When it got to the end of that course, I was like, "Wow, I'm one of five out of that 250, or whatever the number was on that day, I must have something."

A lot of the special forces operators that I've spoken with have mentioned the camaraderie between different units.

Did you notice any common traits between the Delta operators, the SEALs, the British special forces, the Aussies, what were the common traits between the most elite soldiers from all around the world?

As a special forces soldier, we work with units all over the world. At the end of the day, there's no easy special forces selection. This is fact. There's never going to be an easy one where you say, “I'll go to them because that's an easy one.” They're all meant to be hard because of the environment they're training you for.

Now, it's not the same for every special forces unit. And certainly as a contractor as well – I spent a long time as a military contractor working with a lot of former special forces from all over the world – there's almost this sense of belief in someone else's abilities once you know they've done a special forces selection.

They were given the autonomy and the responsibility to get the job done at any cost. They didn't have to seek a high command to take the shot. 

How that plays out when you're working together is you know that that person has a strong belief in their own abilities. You know they're the kind of person who will get the job done whatever, they've got that ‘can do’ attitude. 

You know you're dealing with someone highly motivated, highly driven, and really that is for anyone who's done any kind of credible special forces selection process. So there's a certain set of skills, as Liam Neeson once said!

But the thing is it's your character. Forget these skills on a weapon system or whatever, it's your skills as a person, your ability as a person. We’ve got a lot of time for the Delta lads because we feel the Delta lads are more like the SBS than the Navy SEALs, but really it's understanding that it's that character of person. You can rely on that person 100%.

You often talk about breathe–recalibrate–deliver. Can you share an example of how someone could use that in a civilian setting?

One of my best mates, Foxy, who's also a former SBS operator. He's on the TV show. We sat down and we said, "How did we manage, throughout that time of absolute mayhem, to step outside of that mayhem, slow everything down to our speed so that we were in control?"

We put ourselves in the driving seat. But what did we do, and what was happening? So really let's look at what happens when you get into a very stressful situation. You don't even know you're doing it, but your breathing starts to become very erratic. What happens then cortisol levels start to increase.

Our brains can only handle five to nine bits of information at any one time. When we’re stressed, that goes down to one, maximum two. The only way you can alleviate that confusion through the rise of that cortisol is by breathing. That's not just in a special forces environment, when things start to go wrong, that could be a traffic incident or even an argument. It ramps up very quickly.

Your mind is the best weapon you've got.

Now, you can't allow yourself to get pulled along at that speed, because the situation will grab you around the neck and it will rag you around a little doll. So basically what you have to do in that moment, and it sounds like a long process but it doesn't have to be.

If you are going into a situation, you've got to control the cortisol. And the only way you can do that is by breathing. They teach it in yoga. People who do yoga will understand it. Breathe in for three to five seconds, hold for three to five, out for three to five seconds, hold for three to five. And control your pattern of breathing.

That lowers cortisol, and at that moment, that's what we call recalibration. Recalibration is about letting go of all the things that don't matter in that moment and focusing on the one to two things that do. And once you're in that emotional state, you then deliver the action.

Because if you don't control your faculties, your brain is just wired to go, “Get me out of here, whatever it takes!” It'll take the shortcut just to get out of that situation. Nine times out of 10, you will step into further danger or make a decision that you’re going to regret afterwards.

So just that simple process.

Don’t they say in scuba diving that you go through your oxygen tank twice as fast when you can’t regulate your breathing – often through fear?

Yeah, 100%. It is the same when you're above the surface.

This isn't just about being a special forces soldier and being shot at. This is about everything in your life. If you know you are going into a situation that is going to be stressful – it could be a negotiation, it could be speaking to your boss about a pay rise, whatever it is – control your breathing before you go in.

Recalibrate to let go of all the things that don't matter in that moment and focus on the one to two things that do.

Because if you go with that heightened sense of emotion, which is basically your fight or flight response, you are not going to make the right decision or take the right action. Also, if you suddenly find yourself in that situation, the first thing you should do is take a breath before you take action.

It can happen really quickly, really quickly. But yeah, breathe, recalibrate, deliver the action. And nine times out of 10, you'll make a decision that's based on clarity and not confusion.

Which can have a very big difference to sending an email that could ruin your career or relationship.

Yeah, absolutely.

Listen, we've all been in that situation, whether it's road rage, whether it's an argument with your partner, whether it's how you've reacted to your kids, we all do it. And then afterwards you go away, you go, "Why did I say that?"

Your face goes red. You feel like an idiot. You can avoid that from happening.

It's easier said than done, but if you can make that conscious effort not to react in that moment. Take a knee in the heat of battle and just go through that process very quickly, it makes all the difference.

And listen, I'm not perfect. I still react. I still get flared up in the car and stuff like that, but I'm extremely conscious of when that does happen.

Yeah, the quicker you can take that breath, the quicker you can get the situation back on track.

Exactly.

Are there any things that you do instinctively from all of your special forces training in life today?

Process, I understand how important process is.

When I get up, I have a very strict routine, and my best day is the best version or the best day. And I say my best day because every day is not like this! But I aim to do this every day. And that's get up very early in the summer, which can be as early as 4:30 AM. 

I get out of bed. I go downstairs. I go into my infrared sauna, I sit in there, I use YouTube for a guided meditation for about 20 minutes. I'll then come out of there, get the dog, go for a run. I put some clothes on first, by the way!

And then by the time I've got back to my home office, which is the only time I will turn my phone on, I'll take it off flight mode, I then can do probably an hour's work that would take me two hours to do later on during that day.

Now, the reason I've detailed that is because I don't want do that. At the end of the day, people go, "Oh, it's because you're an ex special forces soldier. You can do that." That's absolute rubbish, because I bleed and breathe just like everyone. I have the same things going on up here as everyone does. Or “You've worked hard enough, let's start on a Monday,” blah, blah, blah. This, that, and the other. Or you're tired.

All these range of things, because your brain is wired to take that creative procrastination. It will try. Your brain says, “Go check your phone, check your email.” It's looking to try and steer you in a path that's going to avoid the unknown stress that's about to happen. 

Process is what gets me through that. I've got to switch off the emotional messages going on in my brain and just follow process. I know at that point, I wake up. I don't need an alarm clock anymore because I'm so used to getting up at that time.

Process is so powerful. Don't expect to be motivated, because it comes and goes – no matter who you are.

So I wake up, I know straight away that I've got to get out of bed. And that's a process: “Get out of bed. Go downstairs, do the sauna.” Especially in the winter, after the sauna, what do you think my head's saying? “Stay in. The radiator's just come on. The coffee machine is there. The bean to cup coffee machine.  You worked hard yesterday, why don't you go for a run tomorrow?” All this stuff. 

But no. You follow the process. Put your trainers on, get the dog, take a step outside. As soon as you close that door, everything changes.

Now, if I have a bad day after that routine, I've won every day. I don't care how bad the day is, but if I've allowed my brain to combat me or dominate over me and I have a bad day, that day is something I prefer to forget. And you should never want to forget any days. Well, some days you've got no choice on that.

So really for me, it's about process. Process is so powerful. Don't expect to be motivated. It comes and goes. I don't care if you're an astronaut, special forces soldier, gold medalist, motivation comes and goes. It's not there all the time. 

That's where process really is important from A to B to C to D. Follow that process and you'll get there.

What if you're out of your environment, say you're hopping on a flight to Australia to go and film an episode of your epic show, SAS Australia, you've had zero sleep on the plane. You're in a hotel room, maybe there's construction next door. And you've got to rock up and deliver on camera. Everything's riding on you.

Have you got something that you do to make sure you can get in the zone and deliver the best in that moment?

Mate, that sounds very familiar! It sounds very familiar indeed.

I've been in that situation time and time again, but the thing is at the end of the day, I understand how my body works and I understand when I'm feeling tired. I understand why my mind's pretending that I'm tired to try and avoid something.

And I think understanding how I'm wired, understanding exactly what's going on. I'm very in touch with who I am. I think that helps me to understand the days when I do need to take a rest.

For me, again, getting up in the morning, I don't set the alarm. So if I sleep until 6 AM, my body needs it. And that's the way I run things. If I'm going overseas, I can't get that workout in. I can't do my routine.

No plan survives first contact. Remain totally dynamic and understand that any sort of progress towards a goal is never linear.

I don't give myself a hard time. Weekends, I don't do that routine. I give myself a break. I have a lie in, that's never really a lie in as such. 6 - 6:30 AM lie in. But really it's just understanding that, and I adapt.

A lot of times, in the morning, for instance, not tomorrow morning but this week I couldn't do my routine on Monday because I had to be on a train early to London. But I just understand that will be a day that I have to put stuff to one side, but at least I've got a good reason to do that.

So at the end of the day, you can't give yourself a hard time when you don't do it. As long as you've got a valid excuse and it's not just your mind doing that creative procrastination that it loves to do.

We’ve got some questions now from the Win the Day community:

How do you help people get really honest about what their personal mission is and what their true goals are?” – Nathan (Sydney, Australia)

There is a process around that. It's really important to understand that goal has to be extremely selfish. A goal is not about how it looks to the outside world, you have to be passionate about that. Because if you're not passionate about it, you're never going to achieve it. 

So really, the first thing to do with anyone that really wants to evolve in life is they have to be 100% honest with where they are right now.

You want to go somewhere, you need your GPS. If you don't know where you are right now, you're never going to find your destination. So it's 100% being totally honest with where you're at right now. 

I am getting so tired of people who are not authentic. You see it everywhere. Everyone is faking perfection, especially on Ego-Gram, which I call Instagram. Everyone's faking perfection. There's a lot of people out there painting this picture of perfection, and it's such a lie. It's such a lie.

Write down all your weaknesses, because if you can't expose your weaknesses you can't do anything about them.

Be absolutely honest with yourself. Write down all your weaknesses, because if you can't expose your weaknesses you can't do anything about them. It's like when I went through some mental health issues, I came back and basically I wanted to start this company called BreakPoint. BreakPoint is all about helping other people. And I was broken at the time I came up with that. How can I help other people if I'm broken?

If I didn't expose all of my weaknesses and do something about that, there's no way I could have achieved what I wanted to achieve. So really it's about being 100% honest with yourself. 

When it comes to your goals, once you've defined your weaknesses – that could be alcohol, it could be drugs – whatever it is, once you've addressed that and got yourself to a place where that is no longer evident, that is a much better standing point to state your goals. You've got a much better foundation for that.

And I want to acknowledge you for a moment with just how honest, vulnerable, and upfront you are with your books. If you haven't gone and grabbed a copy of Ollie's books, they’re amazing.

Thank you, mate. Thank you.

Is it true people in the SAS and SBS inflict pain on each other to keep from getting bored and to keep on edge?” – Tim (Gladstone, Australia)

I love that question!

I'll look for an element of truth in that. And probably mental torture, yeah. And it's always from a joking kind of nature, but we're just like a load of kids all together, practical jokes and everything else. So that's probably the only element. 

But you don't sit there and put a hot poker in the eye kind of thing just because you're bored! It doesn't happen.

How do you process some of the atrocities you went through in war? Do you have to replay them with a different mindset to come to terms with it?” – Brad (Vancouver, Canada)

I think you've got to understand it.

It's another great question, but I think you've got to understand it. You've got to take yourself out of that equation and not allow yourself to be the victim of the situation. You've got to understand, your power has to be the purpose of what you are doing.

It's like when I went across to Southeast Asia to handle child prostitution and slavery. I'd just come back from the UK, I'd reunited with my son. I'd not seen him for eight years before I did that. Seeing my son then, it was amazing to see him.

Then I went over to Southeast Asia, saw kids my son's age that were being sold into a life of child prostitution and slavery. Now, I could have looked at that and all kinds of mental trauma and everything that could have related to that.

Your power has to be the purpose of what you are doing.

But really when I then focused on them as opposed to me, and how my actions were helping to change the destiny of their lives, that became a lot more powerful than the atrocities that I was witnessing.

It took me out of being the victim, and knowing that everything that I was doing was for the greater good at helping them. So define your power away from yourself and don't allow yourself to be subject to being the victim.

Would you recommend your own children follow in your footsteps?” – Mary (Kelowna, Canada)

No, I would not. 

We were all put on this planet to find our own path in life. At the end of the day, if my son said to me one day, "Look, I'm joining the military" I'd support him 100%, but I wouldn't shoehorn him into it.

We are all here to find our own path in life, and I think we can support, but I wouldn't want to start shoehorning and start saying, “This is what you should do.” I know my son wouldn't do that anyway!

Actually my son just turned up about four weeks ago and now lives with me for the first time ever, so it's a good thing. 

At the end of the day I'd just like to say as well, I have a lot of different views nowadays about war itself. I look at the validity of some of these conflicts and some of these wars, and I don't have a lot of belief in the motive behind them. So I certainly wouldn't be pushing people to do the same.

Does the validity come from the costs of war?

The costs and also the motives, the motive at the end of the day then further amplify the cost. Because I know a lot of people who come back with missing limbs, but obviously not all scars are evident. The meaning behind the reason to go to war. And that's very apparent in this world today.

The world we experience on a daily basis as well. I think a lot of people are making decisions, and they’re writing paychecks for other people's lives, and I think it's a terrible thing.

As a soldier, did you ever put yourself in the other side's shoes where you feel empathy, sadness, or even not want to fight?” – Karen (Dublin, Ireland)

Yeah, 100%.

I can remember when I went to my first war – they call it a ‘conflict’, but if someone's trying to kill you I call it a ‘war’ – and that was in Northern Ireland.

I would put myself in their shoes, and I thought very much like we were fighting the IRA out there. And I said it on a daily basis, that if I was born in Ireland I would probably be in the IRA. And I've always held that thought. Whenever I go to any kind of war zone and have been anywhere, I always put myself in their shoes. I always put myself in their shoes.

It's like when I was in Iraq, I got attacked by the militia. I thought, well, I'd probably be in the militia. If I lived there, and the Americans moved in and everything else, how would I feel? How would I feel if that was my country? I would want to rebel. I want to be in the resistance or whatever.

What's the hardest thing that you've experienced as an elite soldier?” – Brett (Brisbane, Australia)

Selection was the hardest thing as an elite soldier.

One thing I'll say, look, I make no bones about this, is the fact that when I passed special forces selection, I expected to be at war every day. It's something that I wanted to be. That's where I wanted to be. That didn't happen for me. I wasn't around during the time of Iraq, because when I was in Iraq I’d left and was a military contractor.

When I passed special forces selection, I expected to be at war every day.

So really for me, and the reason for a lot of my frustration as a soldier, is because I wasn't at war every day. There wasn't loads going on. The hardest thing for me, I tell you what, and I know it's going to be a bit deflating for someone asking that question, is the fact I could not handle life as a peacetime soldier. That was the most frustrating thing for me. 

I wanted to be at war every day, and sitting there around camp training, training, training, that was the hardest thing for me.

So sorry there wasn't blood and guns and bullets in that answer, but that was it!

Let's switch gears now. So much of your journey has been inspired by that time after you left the military. And you did a lot of soul searching when you were in Australia and all of those different things before BreakPoint.

The structure of special forces was a big part of your discipline and desire to maintain that excellence. Why is it that so many people who are in the special forces struggle to maintain that discipline and that strength when they leave?

They lose their sense of purpose. If you want to relate it to someone who’s at the top of their game, like in football, any kind of Olympic medalist, or whatever, coming out of that and then all of a sudden seeing this massive void, and struggling to find purpose. 

I didn't understand what that word meant when I was serving. I didn't understand – it's nothing that ever came into my vocabulary. But I really did start to understand it afterwards.

I was bouncing around warzones, looking for this external fix that I thought was going to make me happy.

When I lost that sense of purpose I came outside, and I had no discipline as such because I was drinking heavily. I knew there were things I was doing wrong, but I was still doing them. But really I lost that sense of purpose, that enthusiasm for life.

I was bouncing around warzones, looking for this external fix that I thought was going to make me happy. It took me a long time to realize that there is no external fix. And it was only when I was forced to look within that I realized the answers were at, that's where the answers are all along.

Leadership starts with you, like you mentioned earlier?

100%. We are so much output, output, output, and we rarely think about input.

But I was forced into that. I was at my lowest ebb after 10 years after leaving, when I started thinking about suicide. I had just gone overseas to do that thing with helping the kids. Came back, that fell apart. And it was like my life just fell apart at that point.

That forced me to stop looking for the answers externally, and it forced me to look within. And you know what? My greatest obstacle was my greatest discovery. And that obstacle was really the fact that I was forced to look within. Looking within very quickly, the return on investment was absolutely unbelievable.

Was there a particularly dark day that stands out where you were at your lowest point that you remember?

I was living in Australia at the time. I stumbled across something overseas that just meant more to me than the military. It was that piece that had always been missing. And I just sat there thinking, “Wow, I felt I had the biggest sense of purpose I'd ever had.”

I just thought, “This is me for the rest of my life. I found it. I found it.” I stumbled across it – and that was the power of helping people, especially those less fortunate. I wasn't being paid for that. I was funding that myself.

And that all crumbled down and I ended up back in Australia. A short time after, there was a group of days when I actually started thinking about suicide. That was the point where I went, “Whoa, what are you doing?”

I don't know if I'd have attempted it. I never attempted it, but the fact I was there, that was a wake up call for me. That little voice I heard again that said, “Ollie, it does not end like this.” I heard that. And that voice, hearing that voice, I was like, “No, it doesn't.”

At that point, I started to realize that the more we focus on anything, the bigger it gets. That can be positive. But if it's a negative thing, for me, hating my environment, hating myself, the more I did that, the bigger that was going to become. So really it was about taking myself out of there, starting to visualize, and starting to project what I wanted to look like.

That little voice I heard again that said, “Ollie, it does not end like this.”

Once I could visualize what that looked like, I then add emotion to then create what that feels like, which is so important. That is what pulled me out of that darkness.

I want to make a point of this because I think it's really important. When it comes to mental health, I started to question myself. I sat there going, “I've got mates with legs that are blown off.” This, that, and da, da, da, da,da.

I started to compare myself to them, and wonder why I deserved to have mental health issues? I started to think there was some kind of criteria, some kind of checklist. The fact of the matter is it's relative to you. We are our own barometer.

Now, it's as simple as this. There's seven days in a week. If you are feeling bad five out of seven, you need to do something about it. If you are feeling bad four out of seven, you need to do something about it. At the end of the day, we have bad days, but we should be feeling good more so than not.

The military don't own PTSD. The military don't own mental health issues. You need to do something about it. And that's when I then reversed that.

The answer to our mental health is our mental wealth. The more we invest in ourselves, the better the return on investment.

How is PTSD handled in special forces? Do they assume because of your superior tactical training that you would be better equipped to handle something like PTSD?

I did hear a statistic recently that there are a lot less mental health issues and PTSD in the special forces than any other unit, but they still have their issues.

A lot's changed since I joined. I've been out a long time, James. Back in my day, it's shut up, have a beer, and get on with it. And I know that attitude. The more we can do to change that, the better. 

Looking back, I left with that mentality. Listen, I'm a big alpha male. I'm all for being alpha. I am an alpha male. But I came out with this sort of macho attitude that showing any kind of weakness or any kind of emotion is weak, and it should be hidden away.

The more we invest in ourselves, the better the return on investment.

I look back on that now and I think how weak I was for not being able to help myself, for not being able to take that help from other people who were there to support me. I look at that and I think how weak I was for that.

I sat there thinking, “I'm a former special forces soldier, I can't have mental health issues.” So you need to stop labeling yourself. At the end of day, it's simple. Are you feeling below par more so than not? If you are, do something about it. 

When I went to see a spiritual psychologist, everything started turning around for me. They're the ones who reversed the lens and told me to look within, and that was life changing.

Can you tell us more about what happened during that encounter?

I was in Brisbane at the time, and I’d come back from Iraq. 

I started to question a lot, looking back, and thinking, “Wow, this is not good.” It's probably the first time I'd actually sat there and thought about it. I was drinking too much. I was coming back from a war zone, and I do empathize with my partner at the time, Nat, who was a psychologist, thank God, because she saved me a fortune!

I started to think about the people around me and how I was affecting them. And it started to make me question myself a lot. At that point, I knew by going to a doctor that they would slide me across a load of pills and they were not going to help – I've had friends who have done that and then died shortly afterwards.

I started to think about the people around me and how I was affecting them.

I wanted to seek something alternative to that option. And I don't know, I just was almost drawn to this person who was a psychologist but in a more sort of holistic kind of way.

I did group meditations, and other things I would've never have done under my own steam. But him pushing me into that, that was life changing. That was unbelievable. So yeah, that was really the start of me starting to reflect and look inwards.

And in Battle Ready you said you were happier than ever because you found your inner purpose and you followed it. Was that the process there of all that that you just shared, or was it something else?

That's exactly as you just said, a bit more clarity.

Because later on down the track I was searching. I look back and I've had a great life. It's been amazing, but I've always had that ‘I'm not settled in my environment’ kind of feeling, and I'm not at home here, not right. I've always felt that.

After the spiritual psychologist, I went to Southeast Asia, stumbled across that experience, which was, again, something that was devastating for me. But look at the silver lining I took from that. I understood the power of helping other people. That was so powerful.

That would then be the heartbeat and DNA of starting my company BreakPoint. It's something I'd never considered before, a life in service of others. And I think it's a really good way for a lot of people to reflect. If you are feeling a bit like you are in this monotonous routine, life's a bit mundane. Life's a bit flat. Don't reflect on your job as just a means for paying your bills. Start to look at how your job is positively affecting the life of others.

And once you reflect on it like that, it gives you a greater sense of purpose than just paying for your car finance or for your kids' bills or whatever. A lot of time people can't just say, "Oh well, I'm going to change jobs. I'm going to do this." They can't do that. But you can reframe. It's a simple process to reframe exactly what you're doing. And that was a massive thing for me.

Start to look at how your job is positively affecting the life of others.

The thing that changed my life, when I came out of the military, all I thought about was money, money, money, money, money, where can I earn money? Oh, go to Iraq as a contractor, earn loads of money. It was all money. Money was in the driving seat. I was money's bitch. I was also alcohol's bitch. And basically that was in the driving seat. 

I learned so much from that operation in Thailand, because all of a sudden I had a greater passion that was far superior to the driving force for revenue. Finances became the byproduct, and that's why I'm the happiest I've ever been, because front and center is my passion and my mission for what I'm doing. It’s no longer about money.

Because when you've got that attitude – that money's in control, or anything, whether that's money, pornography, whether that's alcohol, whatever it is – you are never going to be satisfied. With the money thing, once you get to that next goal, whatever it is, you want the next, you want the next. It's never ending. You're never going to be happy.

But when your passion is driven by something more powerful than that, your sense of purpose, which it is for me now, the money's a byproduct.

Such an important distinction. So well said.

Through your TV shows and also your military career, you've trained so many people, thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Ollie Ollerton 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. 🚀


How quickly can you tell whether someone has what it takes to succeed, and what are the signs that you're looking for?

You can tell by their energy, by their commitment as well.

I deal with a lot of people. I do a lot of talks, and I’m often brought in to help companies evolve. But there's never a greater audience than the audience that is totally invested in developing themselves.

It's like when you've got an audience who are hungry for that content because they want to add that value to their own life. When you can see that in a person, and you can feel that, it's an energy exchange. 

In some environments, for example I might be doing a presentation, I feel like an energy bucket with a hole in it. It's just leaking out, pouring out. And the more you put in, it's just pouring out. But when I have an audience and people around me that you can feel that they are so invested in self-development, they're going to meet you halfway and then some. 

Money was in the driving seat. I was money's bitch. I was also alcohol's bitch. 

It becomes like this energy circuit, as opposed to just your energy pouring out and going nowhere. It becomes this energy exchange. And that's amazing. You can feel it and you can sense it, and that is just amazing.

I can sit here talking until I'm blue in the face about stuff, but if someone's not invested in taking on board what I'm saying, it's going to have a limit, a very short limit as well.

And speaking of great energy, shout out to Laura, Denny, Lisa and the BreakPoint team doing some amazing things. What are you working on now that you're most excited about with?

Yeah, we're looking to get everything online now. That's a passion for me. And I've got Denny and Lisa out here, they're pushing the events side of the business, so the front-facing side of the business, which has then given me and Laura the freedom to then branch away and start to really get the online program so we can reach a much bigger audience.

But that mission to create a globally identified brand recognized for the positive growth and development of others, the way we can do that is through our online and virtual programs. And then all of a sudden we find that we're moving, we've created this amazing space, but we've managed to find what we've been looking for a long time.

And that is a property where we can co-locate the business and everything. So we've got the business there, the house, the whole lot. So that is our next project and move into that, and I think that really is going to help us go to the next level.

But really just doing what we are doing on a bigger scale, that's the mission.

On your best day, what's an affirmation that you would write on a flashcard that you could show yourself on your worst day?

“I am willing to accept change. As difficult as it may seem, I know it's taking me to bigger and better things.”

That was the one affirmation when I was in Australia, and I knew something was changing. Everything was starting to fall apart. Pain screams the loudest when it's dying. It's the birth of something new. And I said that affirmation every day, and the more I said it, the more things started to change. 

As I looked around me, I started to realize as difficult as it may seem, it was falling apart, but it was the birth of something new. I always relate to a relationship because everyone's been in one of those. Everyone's been in a toxic relationship, especially people my age anyway, at some point. 

Pain screams the loudest when it's dying. It's the birth of something new. 

When things start to fall apart, it's because you can't fool the universe. Because your soul's not connected to that engagement, whatever it is, it starts to fall apart, but you have to surrender to it and if it feels painful, but you've just got to get through that and understand it's the birth of something new.

Like I just said before, pain screams the loudest when it's dying. You've got to allow it to scream. It will try and hold onto you and claw you back in, and it's easy to put that bandaid on, but you've got to let it go surrender because it's the birth of something new.

An increasing theme on this show from all the amazing people who have come on it, which you've just shared there, it's the idea of embracing and leaning into change rather than resisting it.

It's such an important thing to do.

Yeah, 100%.

Because naturally we're wired to avoid stress. We want to go the path of least resistance. And really what do we do at BreakPoint? We embrace short term discomfort for long term change, long term gain.

Final question, what's one thing you do to Win the Day?

What I do to Win the Day is I follow my morning routine religiously. I give myself something every day. That's in front of my wife, kids, anyone. It's about me being selfish, investing in myself before anyone else.

And the more I can do that to create the foundation of strength, I'll bear the storm.

Ollie, what an absolute pleasure, mate. Thanks so much for coming on the show.

Likewise mate, thank you very much.


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I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.

Oscar Wilde

My wife Jenn and I like to keep a pretty clean lifestyle, which becomes especially important when you have children who can start to reach for things in the fridge and the pantry!

We also hate the idea of handing people a drink with 40g of sugar or, on the flipside, a bland sparkling water.

Functional soda OLIPOP is the perfect middle ground, and we’ve been big fans of the brand (Jenn literally has a subscription) for over a year, well before the opportunity for today’s interview even arose.

In 2018, Ben Goodwin – alongside his business partner David Lester – launched OLIPOP as the world’s first clinically-validated soda that’s good for digestive health. Their brand has taken off, and they’re well on their way to evolving a soft drink industry that’s worth $40 billion in the US alone, toward not just a new product but a new category. 

Raised on the standard American diet, and enduring a traumatic childhood, Ben had an epiphany at 14 where he began focusing on exercise and nutrition for the first time. Through that process, he lost 50 pounds and developed a love for how the things we put in our bodies contribute to physical and mental health – especially the human microbiome.

Today, OLIPOP is available in more than 20,000 stores (including Whole Foods, Walmart and Target). It has attracted A-list celebrity investors — such as the Jonas Brothers, Camila Cabello, Priyanka Chopra, and Gwyneth Paltrow — and is valued at more than USD $200 million.

It’s been heralded as the most disruptive innovation in the soda category since Diet Coke in 1981.

Ben has dedicated countless hours aligning with academic researchers, medical professionals, dietitians, and other luminaries in their fields to make sure OLIPOP is the best product it can be. He’s also been developing digestive beverage products for more than a decade. Not bad for a college dropout.

In this episode:

Before we begin, 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 or could use some help to Win the Day, share it with them right now.

Let’s WIN THE DAY with Ben Goodwin!

James Whittaker:
Ben, great to see you! Thanks for coming on the show.

Ben Goodwin:
James, thanks for having me!

I’ve interviewed 300+ people, but this one was very important to my wife Jenn. OLIPOP is her favorite brand and we’re an OLIPOP household. Before I drove to the studio, she said to me, “Don’t you screw this up!”

How have you been able to create this magic that transcends households and established such a strong emotional connection with the brand? 

Well, thank you, A, obviously for having me on and, B, shout out to Jenn!

At the end of the day, there's a bunch of different conversion factors that are all piling together. One, soda has done a fantastic job. Products and brands can only be so powerful, right? You only have so deep of an attachment system to them. One of the things that soda has done so incredibly well is soda has found a way to shove itself into a much deeper attachment system for so many people.

We talk to customers all the time, and I go, "Tell me about your memories of soda," and there's always the backyard barbecue, my grandma's porch. Soda is a very, very powerful vehicle because it has attached with people so deeply in a way that's much more powerful than most brands or products ever could.

The problem, as everybody can guess, is that it's not particularly good for you, right? It's like liquid cake in a can. According to the CDC, almost 40% of Americans are diabetic or pre-diabetic. By 2050, the CDC projects that one in three Americans will be diabetic.

We know for a fact that sugar is one of the big things driving that, plus obviously a really inadequate fiber and prebiotics and nutritional diversity, which are all things that contribute to those bodily systems working correctly.

By 2050, the CDC projects that one in three Americans will be diabetic.

A lot of health products in general, they're led by founders who are just chasing a paycheck. Others are well intentioned, but they rejected the standard consumption system or the standard brand ecosystem, and so they're putting their alternative marketplace, but the challenge is that most people aren't there.

You can’t create a product that shames people and says, "Hey, remember these deep memories you have with your family? They're all stupid and you're stupid for drinking it." People will be like, "Okay, well, great job. See you later," because you're not really meeting people where they are. So that's what we try to do with OLIPOP, and that's a foundational part of its success.

That being said, you can't say that you're trying to replace that territory and not really walk the part. The good product has branding and flavor profiles that actually, to the point you made in the intro, are actually full flavored and actually meet that real need for many, many people. And I think that's at the core of the trajectory that we have.

It wasn't all smooth sailing for you. You had a particularly challenging childhood, and we like to keep it pretty real from a mental health perspective.

What were some of those experiences and how did that shape the man you are today?

It's interesting the way you phrased it. I was actually thinking about this on the Lyft ride over. At my core, one of those aspects is a really keen interest around innovation. Actually, my predilection for innovation saved my life, but that's a whole other meta narrative arc.

But one of the reasons why, through that lens, I became willing to commit myself to the path of entrepreneurialism, is because entrepreneurialism forces you to constantly grow, evolve, and adapt. In my case, the person that you become ends up being the most direct conduit to your success – or to your ability to be impactful – because you so often have to really reach deep within yourself and figure out who the fuck you actually are. Right?

My childhood was not great. My father died when I was very young [one year old]. We grew up really poor. Unfortunately, my mom didn't do well with my father's untimely death, which is not a surprise. She found herself in a very unhealthy relationship with an abusive drug addict. So those are the conditions I grew up under.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Ben Goodwin 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. 🚀


So sometimes it's a semi-sanitized version where I'm like, "Oh yeah, I grew up on a standard American diet, and we did grow up poor." And that's all true. Also, it turns out that chronic trauma will drive a lot of stress and cause a lot of negative health outcomes. I mean, arguably as much or more than things you're doing on the physical side. Basically, they work in concert with each other.

The nervous system takes information from how well you're treating your body with your exercise and your food, but it also takes information down from the brain and then tells your body how it's doing. So that combination did create the state of anxiety, insomnia, and weight gain and all those things in my teenage years. I mean, I don't know what happened.

Unfortunately, my mom didn't do well with my father's untimely death, which is not a surprise. She found herself in a very unhealthy relationship with an abusive drug addict.

I empirically have a weird brain that is something later in life I did find out. I actually had a 16-channel EEG brain scan, and I have empirically a weird brain. The brainwaves that I use to do my primary processing are extremely unusual. It's probably a portion of that's genetic. It's probably a portion of that's actually an adaptation to trauma. I'll never fully know.

In this case, it's about leveraging it so that it actually can help me to the point you made. Yeah. I was literally sitting there one day at 14, and things have obviously been building up for a while, this deep feeling of existential crisis.

That was the feeling that I wanted to ask you about because there's a quote from Jim Rohn that says, "Disgust is a powerful motivator." 

And the biggest turning point for me was when I literally couldn't stand what I saw in the mirror. I wasn’t 14, like you. It happened in my early 20s.

Was there an element of that disgust in your journey, or something else?

It's a fact that we move towards pleasure or things to help us survive, and move towards things that are destructive and painful. And yeah, I'm sure that without the chronic emotional pain, it would've impacted the motivation level, for sure. I've also found with my gas tank, I guess it can run on a handful of different things, but my gas tank really runs on inspiration. That's when I'm actually doing it.

There's neurological reasons for that, right? I know I'm tangenting, so if you need me to refocus, let me know! But basically, we've got our limbic system and neocortex in our brain. And they're connected to two different areas of our nervous system and nervous system states. One is your sympathetic nervous systems connect to your limbic system. That's your fight or flight.

And then, there's your prefrontal cortex, which is connected to your parasympathetic nervous system, that's your rest and digest. Kind of more complex, abstract, high-functioning, open-minded strategic thinking is attached to your neocortex.

My gas tank really runs on inspiration.

If you're chronically in fight or flight mode, which at this point most of the country is because we've got terrible health, and we are having divisive wedge issues shoved in our face all the time, that chronic fight or flight mode actually makes it very hard to think and calculate and strategize and get to know yourself.

I would say even the predominance of what's actually worked for me hasn't been about admiring or rejecting as much – because the thing that actually flipped me wasn't like, "Holy, this is hell." Because my life had been hell, right?

So what flipped me was actually a really simple thought, "This is not going to create a good life." And importantly, I want a good life.

Incredible maturity at the age of 14.

Yeah, and some people do it in the 30s to 40s, I'm really lucky. I'm incredibly lucky I was able to do it at that age. It is what it is. Apparently, I had to get busy doing something else, so that's what I'm focused on.

There is something you mentioned there that I wanted to key in on for the Win the Day community. You mentioned that inspiration is the big driver for you.

Yeah. And I think the hero narrative archetype structure is super, super useful. I think you got to be a little careful with it sometimes because there's a lot of insecurity. Even if you set your topic as like, "Okay. Hey, let's stop killing myself here. Let's stop being my worst enemy. Let's focus on being the hero, seeing myself in that phenomenal light," I think that's a phenomenal first step.

And then, the second step is, "Okay. Well then, there's the hero's journey to go on." And the potency of the hero's journey is all about rising, going through real challenges that test you to your core. Again, that ties itself into the entrepreneurial journey because it's packed with those if you're doing it right. So anticipating that those moments are going to be a part of it.

You don't just get to be the hero, and then all of a sudden you don't have to deal with stress and pain. Actually, the thing that crafts you from the conceptual hero into the actual hero is 100% the challenges that you are faced with and the soul searching that's part of that.

The thing that crafts you from the conceptual hero into the actual hero is 100% the challenges that you are faced with and the soul searching that's part of that.

And then, just as a part of that as well, just being like, "Yeah, I have X and Y insecurities. These are my weak points, these are my strength points, so I reinforce my weak points." Anyway, you probably don't need this pedantic lecture, but that's something I always recommend people combine with the hero's journeys or recognition is that's what the path looks like, and that's also just the maturation purpose.

For sure. It's recognizing that life is going to absolutely kick you on your ass.

True.

Everyone who has come on the show has been so open about  a lot of those things that they have gone through.

We had Dr Michael Gervais, who's one of the world's top researchers on elite performance – he works with CEOs and Olympic gold medalists and all these different things – and he talked about the idea of life is to slide into home base with a lot of bumps and bruises and a dirty uniform, rather than visualizing yourself sliding in completely clean.

Yeah. I think it just sets you up for biological reality.

I'm reading Antifragile right now, which is a great book. Actually, one of my staff members was reading it and then texted me and was like, "This sounds like a lot of the shit that you say!" And I was like, "Oh yeah, I've heard of that book. I should read it."

But yeah, it's a piece of the equation. I mean, things are disruptive all the time. How do you have a sense of self, a sense of direction, and allow yourself to adaptively respond to challenges? Then you grow through that process.

You mentioned therapy before. What were the biggest and most practical things that you have taken away from therapy, and how has that helped you?

I'm a big advocate of therapy, and we've implemented a personal development stipend in OLIPOP, and one of the things that you can pay for with it is therapy. And actually, it's funny when you say it out loud, but I think about 40% of the OLIPOP team is going to therapy or started at therapy the first time!

I tell that to some people and they're like, "What!? Are they traumatized from working with you?" Like, "No. I hope not!" We're trying to de-stigmatize the experience and provide access to create a positive environment.

Going to therapy should be like going to a gym for your emotions. Right?

For sure.

I think connection is the biggest thing missing nowadays and you go to therapy, you can connect with the therapist, you can connect with yourself, and it enables you to better connect with those around you, especially the team.

If they're upfront about the vulnerability, which they will be if a lot of them are doing it, you bring everyone up to the same level.

Also, it gets away from that constant American knee jerk of presenting perfection all the time. Anyway, I'm a big fan of therapy!

That being said, I'm also a little bit of a hard therapy patient, client, whatever you want to call it, because usually, I've done a lot of the thinking that can be addressed verbally with a therapist. So for some folks, they don't have that thought process. They need those new lenses and that can be game changing.

The thing that has been incredibly impactful for me is something called EMDR [Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing]. The idea is that we have an easier time accessing subconscious information in what is the brain equivalent of REM sleep, which is why when you have your REM sleep, you have your dreams, your dreams are your subconscious bubbling up.

So there are couple different inputs, so audio, visual, and tactile, and you can actually combine them in different ways. It basically stimulates it and trains your brain so that it thinks it's going into a REM state. What happens, and this is why it was so useful for me, happens with a lot of traumatic information, is you might cognitively understand it all day, but it's really hard to access and process emotionally.

We've implemented a personal development stipend in OLIPOP.

Especially earlier in my life, there's a really big disassociation component, right? And I use that to get me through, but I would disassociate, which means I wouldn't actually be able to access it emotionally to process it. Amazing about EMDR is that EMDR actually pulls that wall down. And then, in a therapeutic setting, you can actually access it emotionally.

And at the end of the day, the wounds are emotional. The emotional wounds generate the conceptual narrative structure, but just addressing it on the conceptual narrative level doesn't really hit the core wound. You actually have to get to it on an emotional level.

Our brains do this tricky little thing, and they think they're helping us, but our brains are like, "That was really intense. Let's split it up into a bunch of areas and make sure you don't access it ever again." But it's constantly this thorn.

It's a defense mechanism.

A hundred percent. Yeah.

So I'm a massive fan of EMDR. And I personally like combining the audio and the tactile. At the same time, I've never actually done the visual version, but that combination, I find trains me really well. Then, I can go through therapeutic process.

I've had hour-and-a-half sessions that were more potent than anything I could have gone to in five years back to back talk therapy. So combining modalities I think this was really useful.

We had a 26-year Navy SEAL veteran, William Branum, on the show, and he said the hardest thing out of his entire career was asking for help when he felt that he needed it.

Totally. Yeah.

The stuff that you've shared there, thank you so much. For anyone out there who's struggling with mental health, don't go through that alone. Be brave enough to share those thoughts and welcome someone in to share that with you and get help.

Ben, something you do that I love is you focus so much more on learning how to think rather than what to think. How can people understand and implement that mentality of learning how to think?

So, good research. 

I mean, that's basically the rationale because I'm a college dropout! And that's actually the rationale I gave behind it.

First of all, with the background of not having a lot of cash, like for example, my sister is a doctor. She got a PhD from Stanford. Love you, Megan, but I'm probably the one who's going to end up paying off for student loan debts, right? Because that's how the system is built. Unless you're hyper exceptional, if you don't come from the right family then, they'd make you a wage slave some other way.

You've got to be able to sniff out your own bullshit and you've got to be able to sniff out external bullshit.

Being able to use your mind dynamically and constantly peeking at things from different angles, that's what I think. Again, it's innovative thinking and not getting stuck into a given trap. Education is fantastic, so I'm not anti-education by any means, but I do think that there's a lot of people who become so attached to the piece of paper or what it means.

I find it really empowering the idea that I can wake up and use my brain and be very, very interested in things and take more holistic pictures. There's an empowerment component to that.

That being said, if that's more of the route you take, in addition to dynamic thinking, you also need a really robust bullshit filter. Because if you're going to open yourself up to a much broader stream of information, and try different tactics and perspectives, you've also got to be able to sniff out your own bullshit, you've got to be able to sniff out external bullshit.

I'm actually really, really skeptical even of myself, and that is a helpful counter to trying to be very open-minded and dynamic in my thinking approach. 

Take us into the origins of OLIPOP and how it all came together.

There's a consistent narrative arc basically from that moment when I was 14. 

What I was expecting out of that process was like, "Yes. Obviously, I wanted a life overhaul." I became super fascinated by nutrition at minimum because it helped me step into a little bit of a self-empowering paradigm of like, "Here's all these things I can do," because I get a job at like 14, so I could actually pay for the food I was eating and blah, blah blah.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Ben Goodwin 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. 🚀


I liked the self-empowerment aspect of it, but I also liked that if you really invest in good nutrition, you can viscerally feel the difference. And then, obviously, that also corresponded with weight loss and energy increase and those are those things.

However, the real impact moment I would actually say came four to six years later after I had started that journey where cumulatively, I was noting that it was not just affecting my energy level, but it was really affecting my cognitive functioning, my clarity of thinking, and my emotional stability, which was still hard for me to come by, to be honest. 

All that kind of stuff. Anxiety and so on. All of those different pieces, but also just for the first time in my life, I was starting to feel a little bit like, "Huh, maybe I'm all right." And of course there's all these different facets to it. 

I could definitely trace a lot of it to how I was changing what I was eating. That was the piece that I was like, "Wow, this is very powerful. This is something very tangibly that I can do that doesn't just affect my energy, which is important, but also affects clarity and emotional stability and all those types of things." As a byproduct, it was very powerful from a self-actualization, personal development lens.

Then, I went through the thing where I dropped out of college. It's a long story, but I was throwing raves and warehouse parties. Through that, I ended up meeting this guy, because my mentor is a civil rights activist, won a Supreme Court case by himself. That really was mind-opening for me. After spending some time there, that's when I had this shift around how to think versus what to think.

I dropped out of college. I was like, "All right, what do I do now? Well, I'm really into this health food thing. And I think it's really important for the world." And I actually helped a friend start a kombucha company and I was like, "Okay, I don't even know what kombucha is, but I am really interested in beverage for some arbitrary reason. I want to join and help out."

That's when I had this shift around how to think versus what to think.

And so I got a lot of really great introductory level experience through that, but also in researching what the hell is kombucha like, "What am I doing when I'm fermenting this thing? And why is it important?" I learned about the microbiome, and the microbiome is incredibly powerful. It affects so many different systems of the body. The one that stood out to me, the most though, was something called the brain-gut axis.

Actually, 80% of our serotonin in our bodies, in our digestive tract, all those microorganisms produce something called metabolites. Metabolites can then be repurposed into hormones and into peptides and into neurotransmitters. And then, I looked into the research. It's actually very, very compelling animal and human research that there's a very direct link between emotional stability and the ability to stay at a fight or flight when people have more well-regulated healthy, robust microbiomes.

Then, I was just like, "Okay. Fuck. Well, this is the thing, right?" Not only does it help with this brain and emotional functioning, it also assists with immunomodulation, healthy-functioning immune system, digestion, absorption of nutrients. It's very, very powerful.

So that's the thing I ended up, and I wanted to focus on. And then, after a couple years, did some freelance product development, learned a lot more there, eventually got bored selling esoteric high-end products to people who didn't need more esoteric high-end products, which as a guy living in California, who was pretty new-agey myself at that point, that's just what I fell into. And I was like, "I don't know, I'm not really doing enough with this. It's stupid. I'm making fine money, but it's whatever."

So then, I wanted to get back into beverage. I started working on something that we eventually called OB. Spent about four years doing the R&D for that, hundreds of different experiments with the microbiologist and organic chemists. That's where I started to get more serious about the science.

So you were pretty hands on at that point with formulation?

Very hands on.

Yeah, I've always been very hands on formulation side. And that's one of the things I discovered super early is that I definitely have a knack for it. I also now know that I'm a supertaster and a superhero. All my senses are turned up to 11, which is a blessing and a curse! That's why that Oscar Wilde quote you mentioned in the intro made me chuckle.

I thought you’d like that one!

It's really true.

I'm one of those personalities with the shit I don't like and fucking really don't like it, but I'm not a blanket curmudgeon. The stuff I really like, I can really appreciate and I really enjoy.

So we did that for a bunch of years. And then during that process, we were basically trying to figure out how to mutate our own water key for a culture bank and scale it, which is a really complicated process, which I won't brain numb you with. 

But then during that, near the end of it, I was like, "Why don't I just make this into a soda? Because everybody seems to really fucking love soda, and it seems to be causing a lot of harm. And what if I could take all the health benefits that are associated with this product to make it taste like a soda?"

Well, that turned out to be no simple task, but a year and a half later of just grinding out long, long hours in the lab, making my own custom sweetener solution, I felt like I got to a good place. And near the end of that, I met David Lester, who's my business partner. We're really fire and ice. We're very different personalities, but we have a lot of very overlapping values, which is the core of relationships and a very complementary skill. So we clicked, got some branding, raised some cash, launched that.

That's a bit of a long story that I'm also legally have some reconstrictions around what I can say, but I'll just go to the end, which is we exited that in 2016 and felt good about a lot of parts of it, had a really good relationship with our investors, had a great relationship with our supplier community and learned a ton, and also got really key insights around going into the, "Let's make a healthy soda."

We literally had board members who quit because they were like, "God has given you a gift and you are throwing it away by making this a soda?" And we were like, "No, we want to make a soda." I felt very confident about my idea.

Don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out!

Yeah. More or less, respectfully.

But a little bit in the back of our minds, we're like, "Well, we should probably test that if actually this does work." And we got some really good data signals during that process. But broadly speaking, that concept has legs and potential. 

And then, the other side of it, I was just degassing from that. Beverage businesses are incredibly intense under the best of conditions.

Because going up against Coca-Cola and Pepsi, I mean, these are some of the most, if not the most, iconic brands in the history of the world.

Yeah. I mean, so the stat, which I did not know getting into beverage, I know now that I'm arguably "successful", but the 2% of beverage brands make it to $2 million in revenue and then 2% of those make it past $10 million, so it's a Death Star shot.

It must have been tried. Like a healthy soda, it sounds so simple, but there must have been a lot of people who have tried in many different ways that have just been destroyed along the way?

Kind of.

There were some kombuchas that were going into the soda territory. There were some sodas that were, I guess, I could call them more health neutral, as in they weren't as harmful or the big innovation is cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup.

So either slightly less bad, which that's really not that much less bad or more neutral. I hadn't really seen many, if any, actually health forward sodas.

It was either that or just LaCroix and your basic sparkling soda?

Yeah. I mean, my best estimate at this one is probably sparkling water is a $4 billion category, and I would be willing to bet that half the people in sparkling water are actually just people trying to get away from soda.

And it's unsustainable because a lot of the people away who I talk to who consume sparkling water to get away from soda, don't really like the way sparkling water tastes, and it's really hard to retain a healthy habit if you enjoy it a lot less compared to the thing that you were trying to get away from.

Are you trying to pull soda drinkers or are you trying to pull sparkling water drinkers? What's the priority – or is it both?

The priority, at the end of the day, is the soda drinker, because it's the biggest bucket. It's where the most harm mitigation opportunity lies.

However, like everything else, you've got to earn your stripes, you've got to earn your way there. So that's why we started in the natural channel, which is typically a more early adopter consumer, a little bit less of a price-sensitive consumer because you need to build your brand up, build your revenue base.

Then, you have the data. If you're successful in validating the next level of customer, then you get that data. And then it's the next level of customer because, again, we're going up against something which I said on the outset is an incredibly deep emotional latch point for a lot of people. 

One story, I hope it's okay to share. We had a customer write into us. The customer wrote to us and her grandmother was dying of terminal stomach cancer in hospice and couldn't really eat or drink anything because stomach cancer is very painful. And when her grandma was just a little girl, she drank root beer all the time, and it was this very nostalgic thing for her.

It's really hard to retain a healthy habit if you enjoy it a lot less compared to the thing that you were trying to get away from.

This woman was bringing her grandmother OLIPOP root beers because she found that not only could she drink them and keep it down and was actually fine, but it was triggering that nostalgia for her. She wrote into us, "The only time I saw my grandmother smile the last couple months she was alive was when she was drinking your root beer and reminiscing on being a little girl drinking root beer, and then she passed away. And now, we all drink OLIPOP root beer to remember her by."

Whoa.

Bro. I mean...

Don't take that flavor off the shelf!

Well, obviously, I sat there and cried for 30 straight minutes because that is, I mean, just the layers to that. 

What it meant to the granddaughter, what it meant to a person who was exiting this world. Just all the layers to it, it's a lot.

I haven't had a soft drink in at least five years, and I haven’t been a regular soft drink drinker in maybe 12 years. But purely because I'm like, "I don't want to drink the sugar and all the crap that’s in there."

And I see people who start their day with these giant Mother Energy drinks, all these different things. I’m like, this is how you choose to start your day!?

Now, at the end of most days, we have a ritual where we share an OLIPOP and pour some for our daughter who loves being part of it. And knowing it’s something healthy makes all the difference, because I wouldn’t ever have soft drink at home for her to access.

Well, that's the thing. 

Again, this is something that I experience in my own journey, that own emotional self-reckoning. As you get to the point, we recognize that we're all just emotional creatures, right? So what's the emotional motivation for people to even be healthy? Well, okay. You want to be healthy so you can enjoy your life more.

What if we made the process of getting healthier intrinsically enjoyable? Okay. Well, that'd probably line up the emotional need sets, so yeah.

What if we made the process of getting healthier intrinsically enjoyable? 

But I think just to cap it off, the powerful story about the grandmother also just, again, goes to show how deep that relationship is. Well, some people come in and think like, "Oh, these people have a problem because they're drinking all this soda."

I almost approached it with almost a bit of reverence, which maybe a slightly heavy-handed way to say it. But I'm just like it's actually almost an honor that somebody would have such a deep relationship with something. And then in theory, be open to switching to something that allows them to keep that lineage alive but make a healthier choice for themselves and their family. 

Actually, it's a big deal. That's more of the angle we try to approach it from.

What was the moment for you, from a business perspective, where you were like, "Wow, we're onto a winner here"?

So I do this thing called a Hogan test, which is a whole long conversation, but there's a subscore and I call it accomplishment. And my accomplishment score is very low. Well, it basically means that even if I do something really hard and then I win – and this isn't like necessarily positive, because it's actually really important to celebrate wins – but I've always had this psychology where I'm like, "All right. Cool. We did that thing."

When I view where we are now, I'm definitely very grateful because given the Death Star shot that it is, it's way more often than not, it very much does not go this way. Simultaneously, when I think about the mission, this is the amount of momentum you need to make that even a possibility. So that's the target I look at and so this actually tracks alongside that target.

We've been really fortunate that since very early on in this company's life cycle, it's shown a lot of signals of demonstrable success. In beverage, surprise, surprise! The big thing that everybody's tracking is what's your velocity. So what's your sale rate of the can on the shelf, and ours have always been astronomical, right? And you need that data to prove out to retailers and stuff that you're worth bringing on.

When I think about the mission, this is the amount of momentum you need to make that even a possibility. 

I would say we did just have a pretty big moment – we just launched to 4,000 Walmarts and that was a relationship we'd been cultivating a little bit. They actually wanted us to come on earlier. And if you go into Walmart too early, it actually can be quite harmful for your business, so we held off for a while.

But getting to the point where we're actually I think it's still a test, fingers crossed, sweating bullets, but I think we're actually ready to check this out now.

Another thing that I actually came about recently is we did a lot of segmentation research, and we've been trying to figure out who are our customers and who's drinking soda and all that kind of stuff. And tracking our current customer patterns, we're actually over-indexing in the Midwest, which most health and wellness products over-index in terms... on the coast, right? LA, New York, etc., and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But if you're trying to disrupt soda, and you're trying to create something that actually locks in on a mainstream level, you want to hit the Midwest. Plus, if you're trying to, at some point actually make a dent in the south, which the average sugar consumption rates, something like 200 grams a day per person in the south, if you want to have any shot of actually making a dent there, you would need to prove that you can actually execute in the Midwest.

So the fact that we're doing really, really, really well in the Midwest and the Krogers and the Targets and the Walmarts, that's something where I stand back for a second ago like, "Okay, we're actually on track here. This is great."

Every time we go to Whole Foods to do our grocery shopping, it's like OLIPOP can't get enough shelf space.

I know. 

Every week, it's just a little bit more, a little bit more, a little bit more like. It's just doing so well. I look at the sparkling water aisle, and it just seems so boring and stale. A

Were there any guerrilla marketing tactics you used early on to establish that traction that's now got you into Target, Walmart, and Whole Foods?

There's never going to be something that makes up for if your product has intrinsic traction or not, which it sounds simple. You just have to have a white-hot product. And then, I guess everything else goes well. Unfortunately, that is the just solid truth.

I don't know there's a specific executional tactic like, "Hey, when we did..." I mean, there's cool stuff that we've done. Really early in the company history, we did a takeover of Grand Central Market in downtown LA, which was cool from a visibility standpoint. We were a really young brand at that point in time.

The more important piece of that was actually the belief it built inside of our ecosystem, actually being able to bring our team together to have that experience and many of our different investors for them to come down and even some buyers.

So we don't lean heavily into promotion, we don't lean heavily into trade spend. We have marketing, which is going through a really interesting overhaul – and I can't share too much about. So there's definitely tactics and strategies we use.

The thing that's infinitely more important to me is, A, are we tracking feedback from our customers? Are we listening to them? We're making sure that we're giving them what they actually want. Do we have the relationship?

And then B, what's the psychology of the people in our team who are out selling this product and dealing with people. In beverage, you've got a sales team, there's a lot of different layers to it. One of the more introductory layers is the ASM or the area sales manager. And there's so many different ways you and ASM can operate. 

A lot of buyers give us the feedback like, "Oh, we've got these ASMs, and they come into the store all the time, and they're just like, "What can you do for me?" And they're just like shoving themselves. And that's a lot of teams are trained up like that, to just be really aggressive. Well, it turns out that's a stupid fucking strategy!

Yeah, you need to build a relationship.

Yeah, that's right.

ASMs, I'm like, "Yeah, go in there. If you take a day off during the week, go back into the store on a Saturday, help that buyer throw a load, don't ask for anything. And if you do that enough, now all of a sudden it's like getting your shelf space expanded or doing whatever, that actually is a very, very easy thing that came up as a symptom of the relationship that you built.

That kind of training has always been much more important to us than the marketing gimmick or the tactic.

And it's even that way when you look at the construction of a successful business that has a product. There is no fudging the product market fit, so that has to happen. If that's there, then it's about actually building a business, so do you have margins? Do you have scalability? And then, it's about the team and the culture.

At the end of the day, especially as other things shift, that becomes where you end up putting the majority of your effort if you're smart, because the psychology that the team has, the cohesion that the team has, does the team understand the mission? Are they aligned for the mission? Is it putting some energy in their step every day? Are all those things really, really aligned and a highly cohesive high-trust organization is a strategic advantage.

It's a meaningful strategic advantage.

Why doesn't Coca-Cola just allocate every resource they have to destroying you? Do you worry about that?

I try to calculate to the best of my ability for as many probabilities as I can.

One layer is I'm sure it's a likely scenario that a number of these different businesses are very much interested in actually acquiring OLIPOP at some point, so I'm sure they've got to run a careful game around like, "Hey, do we put something out? Do we incubate it? Do we crush them? Do we buy them? I'm sure they're just doing their own calculus.

So the acquisition dollars could be smarter than the R&D to try and make their own?

Yeah. I mean, I'm no expert in super large scale corporate because I would actually self-emulate in that environment. It's just obviously not my zone.

But my perception is, especially with these bigger public companies, they're managing quarter to quarter. There's a lot of political machinations steeped into their cultures, which generates less innovative thinking, it generates less speed and efficacy, and that's why they have taken this strategy of buying interesting brands.

So that's actually even something we think about with OLIPOP. If we're going to, in theory, go through a strategic exit at some point, how do we actually build this thing now so that if that happens, the acquirer doesn't accidentally dismantle the things that are of core importance to the business in their attempt to integrate it into their business?

It's why I think something with Coca-Cola, the brand name could work against them. Because if I'm looking at a so-called health conscious product, and I see Coca-Cola on it, it will turn me off instantly.

Jenn and I have noticed recently that, even in products like chicken stock, these companies get bought and all of a sudden they start adding this crap in there – these filler ingredients.

Why not leave it the way it is and enjoy the continued success!?

They want to squeeze out another penny.

I know. And look, there's a bunch of things that you can do. I mean, that's why a lot of these CPG brands historically, over the last 10-20 years that have sold into strategic, they've had a certain... It's almost like flipping a house.

One of the common strategies that I see that I can't stand is the business actually gets built like pretty unsustainably. And then, they're like, "Oh, we're getting close to exit. And they're like, "All right, well, let's just fire all the 1099s, and let's massage this and drive trade span down."

If we have something that has gone through a lot of really legitimate scientific research, that research is part of the foundation of the brand. 

So now P&L looks fine, but that better looking P&L is not what built the business. And then, you've got all the problems. The more of those friction points you throw in intentionally or unintentionally during the whole exit process, the higher the likelihood that it's not going to go super well inside of that other business, and they're going to have to start making a bunch of changes.

If we have something that has gone through a lot of really legitimate scientific research, that research is part of the foundation of the brand. We've managed to put our sourcing together in a way where the margins actually work, and we have a profitable business.

You've done a great job of getting some really high profile investors on board. How did you go about getting that, and how validating is it to have that group of people on your side?

So I'm the least pop culture dude of all time! I'm not on TikTok. I only started an Instagram account because I needed to do Instagram lives occasionally. I'm on LinkedIn begrudgingly because it's useful, but it's not my jam. I listen to electronic music. I don't know who half these people are. I don't even own a TV, so I didn't do anything really!

I'll go have meetings with these celebrities, and I'll get on Zooms with them, and I'll talk through what we're doing and it's cool. And I'm also appreciative. We're appreciative that especially the ones that want to lean in and amplify the brand. I certainly appreciate it. I understand their time is valuable and their interest is rarefied.

What's super key is always doing your best to retain that connection with yourself – your intuition.

That being said, we didn't really go down, and we didn't really track down or knock on a bunch of doors to get the celebrities who have come in the brand. They are actually, by large, organic OLIPOP fans. And they'll find out that there's a round open, and they're people will get a hold of our people and be like X, Y, and Z is interested. 

There's also a bunch that we've looked at. We just haven't moved forward with because the deal mechanics weren't right or they actually wanted to invest more than we even have space for. And we're like, "This is just a lot to deal with all this!"

It's like what happened with Vital Proteins and Jennnifer Aniston. We had Kurt Seidensticker, the founder, on here and he said, Jen Aniston just happened to be a fan – and it led to everything else organically, which has got to be the best way to do it.

Yeah, I've heard stories of situations where it's hyper transactional. Even when it's not just transactional, it still can be really, really tricky to actually then utilize the celebrity and have the deal make sense.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Ben Goodwin 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. 🚀


I actually get a little more fanboy sometimes when I get a hold of a researcher that I have been following for a decade. And then, I got to be on a Zoom call or have a meeting with them, and I'm just like, "Ooh." I get more tongue-tied in that environment because I'm like, "Your work on fructose biosynthesis in the liver is incredible!" 

I love it.

What's next for OLIPOP that you're most excited about?

I just finished doing a lot of formulation. The first half of this year, I still do 100% of our formulation, which in addition to being a CEO and co-founder is a lot.

I'm just picturing you in a room somewhere, just mixing things, tasting things…

That's what's happening!

I bought a new house recently. I have a lab that's a dedicated room. It's really nice to have your own space in your house and some good equipment and it's fun. And I've got labs I can go to, I've got good relationships where if I need to drop it in a lab, I can.

But I spent a lot of time doing a lot of formulation on a handful of flavors that were very, very requested from our customers. And so there's going to be a lot of very happy people really in the next month or two here. And then again, early Q1, Q2 of next year. 

We've got over 10,000 customer flavor requests, and we have it all broken down by flavor, by ratio, so I know exactly what our customers are interested in. 

Actually, by the way, if you're an OLIPOP fan, if you have a flavor request, do let us know because we actually keep every single one in a database. We've got over 10,000 customer flavor requests, and we have it all broken down by flavor, by ratio, so I know exactly what our customers are interested in.

We went from about 9,000 doors end of last year. We're now in just north of 20,000 doors. There's some additional great accounts coming on that are going to increase accessibility for customers even more. And I'm really happy about how the Minions Banana Cream launch went, and there's some more stuff like that coming up.

I think it's going to be great. We're growing by 120%, 140% this year, and I've never actually felt better about the internal construction where all the different departments are at. I feel very good about where we are and where we're going to be moving into this next year.

What about the international focus?

For international, Canada's obviously a nearby target, ton of requests coming out of it. The problem with Canada is obviously for half the country or so, you have to have dual language packaging, so that adds some supply chain complexity, but we're looking at Canada.

The way I think about international broadly is it's similar to pipeline innovation. Well, first of all, we don't have a mandate, so we'll see what happens. If this is an astronomical opportunity, depending on what route we go as a business, this might not always be the case. But for right now, what we're thinking about is that it's probably important to prove out that the brand can be successful in a small handful of other countries.

But America is also very large as discussed, it's a $40 billion dollar market to go on, and we have just south of 2% household penetration.

It's a good market as your home market!

Yeah, there's a lot of work to do. I mean, traditional set is 97% household penetration, so within the next two decades we could focus on the United States and be just fine. That being said, I would expect at some point that we'll start poking around internationally.

On your best day, what's an affirmation that you would write on a flashcard to show yourself on your work day?

Oh, my God, I am not good at affirmations, man. It's not my strong point. I probably need to make myself more... I'm pretty hard of myself actually.

Maybe something really generic, like “Believe in yourself” or some shit like that. I do think it's important that you do have to have respect for what you have accomplished.

I've matured enough as a business professional that I now have been in enough environments where I have pretty good visibility on what specifically I bring to most situations that otherwise would not be present. And that's part of my unique contribution.

And so, constantly keeping in touch with that is important and so something that would keep redirecting me to that observation, which I think creates a combination of emotional stability and also knowing how I can be the most valuable to a given situation.

Final question, number 10, what's one thing you do to Win the Day?

There's a lot of trite shit that I can talk. Exercise is important. Sleep is important. Diet's important. Supplement regime is important. Stress management is important. 

The thing that I think all of the ladders up to is the thing that's most important, which is those physical primers are there to put you in the right emotional and cognitive space. Right?

What's super key is always doing your best to retain that connection with yourself – your intuition. But also, from a philosophical and a principle's perspective to always ask, "Why am I doing this? And then, if that ‘why’ were to express itself in an optimal way, how would it play out? And then, am I moving things in that direction or not?"

You focus on that all the time, you'll win that day.

So good and so refreshing, no pun intended! 

Thanks so much for coming on the show.

James, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.


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"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart."

Helen Keller

John Gray is the author of mega-bestseller, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. It’s been named one of the most influential books of all time and was the #1 best-selling hardcover book of the 1990s.

Dr. Gray is a prolific author, with more than 20 books available in 50 languages in 150+ countries, with sales of more than 50 million copies.

His work unites communication, nutrition, and health, to create the brain and body chemistry for lasting well-being, happiness, and romance. An advocate of health and optimal brain function, he also provides natural solutions for overcoming depression, anxiety, and stress to support increased energy, libido, hormonal balance, and better sleep. 

Dr. Gray has appeared repeatedly on Oprah, as well as on The Dr. Oz Show and Good Morning America. He’s also been featured in Time, Forbes, and USA Today, and was the subject of a three-hour special hosted by Barbara Walters.

His latest book is Beyond Mars and Venus where he shares relationship skills to thrive in today’s complex modern world.

Dr. Gray lives in Northern California where for 34 years he happily shared his life with his beautiful wife, Bonnie, until her passing in 2018. They have three grown daughters and four grandchildren. 

In this episode:

Before we begin, 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 or could use some help to Win the Day, share it with them right now.

Let’s WIN THE DAY with relationship expert, Dr. John Gray!

James Whittaker:
John, it’s so great to see you. Thanks for coming on the show.

Dr. John Gray:
It was a great intro! Thank you so much.

Congratulations on your enormous body of work. From the time we spent together on the weekend, it made me realize that despite my best efforts – and even naivete – I know nothing physiologically about the person [my wife, Jenn] that I've committed my life to! And she would probably say the same.

So what are the biological differences between us that those in relationships need to know about?

Well, when I wrote Men Are from Mars, the whole theme there was just my basic experience of counseling for 10 years at that point, and being married, having three daughters, and growing up with five brothers.

Guys are one way, and then suddenly I have daughters, and then 90% of the people I’m counseling are women. It's like, they're all complaining about the same guy, me! But when a woman expresses her complaints to a therapist, he doesn't take it personally. So you can actually hear it. 

When it happens over and over and over, you take note of how women tend to misunderstand men, and men tend to misunderstand women. We really have different priorities, quite often.

For example, one day, I must have seen four or five women on that day. A woman said, "The only time my husband touches me is when he wants sex." I say, "Tell me more" which is a therapy thing. 

Then that night I went up and I was giving my wife a hug in the kitchen. I just came up to give her a hug, because all these women were talking about hugs. So I thought, I'll go give her a hug. And then she stopped. She kind of froze. And she says, "You know John, the only time you touch me is when do want sex."

It was a very funny thing. So I had to look into, okay, what's the problem here? Because women need to be more in the mood for sexual touch, whereas men are almost always in the mood for sexual touch.

Women need to be more in the mood for sexual touch, whereas men are almost always in the mood for sexual touch.

So now, 30 years later, I was able to find all the biological reasons for this. And it's very timely because my new book Beyond Mars and Venus talks about how we're no longer in the traditional roles, but men are still men and women are still women.

We go, "Was this just made up?" In the universities they say “This is just social engineering that made us this way.” But actually it's biology that made us this way. And social engineering can help us maintain a healthy biology.

So when the Supreme Court nominee was asked, "How do you define a woman?" she says, "You have to talk to a biologist." Well, in my new book I share all about the biological differences of men and women. Ironically, they are all there to explain on a biological level.

The simple examples that I give in Men Are from Mars that, at the time, so many people related to – people were buying 50,000 - 80,000 copies a week of that book for such a long time, and that’s a lot of people who are in relationships relating to it. When you read it, you can easily apply it because they’re just insights that you're not really aware of if you don't understand how men and women are different.

But even then, a small percent of women, and now a lot of women, will say when they read Men Are from Mars, "I feel like I'm from Mars, and my husband's from Venus." And that is due to a biological change, which is happening. Because when women are more independent and they're making money, they're making more male hormones and they tend to make less female hormones.

And whenever her male hormones are dominant over her female hormones, she'll have higher stress levels – and that's measurable. For men, whenever a man is stressed, he's going to have lower male hormones and higher female hormones. And we'll go into the details of that today.

So the thrust of my work now is, for many people, when you're no longer doing more traditional roles for man as provider, woman as homemaker, and so forth. Now you've got women making more testosterone than they traditionally did and less estrogen, new challenges.

And so the second bit here is all about helping men understand their wives when they're stressed and need help – how can I help bring her back to her female side, and how can I produce more female hormones in her? And vice versa – what women can do to communicate new ways to a man, which bumps up his testosterone.

Your work is all about strengthening relationships. But to me, perhaps even more primarily, it strengthens the relationship that you have with yourself. The awareness that you have within is such a big part of that.

Out of four decades of counseling, was there a specific tip you gave that led to the most breakthroughs?

Oh my gosh. It's the one you talked about earlier today.

People recognize me, particularly in airports because I'm more accessible in airports. and people go, "That's the guy. That's the guy. He's the one who wrote the book." The only book they've read in 20 years! But the guy will come up to me.

The woman feels like she doesn't want to invade my space. But the guy, he knows I'll love it because he's only going to acknowledge that I helped him. Every man wants to feel you're successful, so guys will come up and they'll say, "Man, I just didn't know. I realize now she just needs to talk sometimes. And if I don't interrupt, she's really happy, and she's grateful."

The idea is that men particularly need to make male hormones, which are more important for a man's well-being than a woman's. Male hormones get produced when you feel confident in solving problems.

So if your wife's talking about problems, a man will want to interrupt and solve the problem, and that makes him feel good. But what makes her feel better than just solving problems – although that can feel good for a woman – is being heard, talking, and having somebody listen. And what's shocking for everybody is that talking about problems is actually a major estrogen producer.

What makes her feel better than just solving problems is being heard, talking, and having somebody listen.

I even witnessed it when I went down and started living with different primitive tribes that haven't been exposed to our social engineering. You see a picture emerging. A lot of pregnant women, babies, and women are all kind of tribal and take care of their children. Men do the jungle work, the dirty, difficult, dangerous stuff. And everybody's rather happy and peaceful. As long as nobody invades their tribe, but as a group, they're good.

Imagine at night she's getting water from the river and she sees a tiger in the woods. Now she's got a baby, she's very vulnerable. So what's her first reaction? She sees the tiger. She scuttles back very quietly, but she goes back to her home, the hut. And she has to tell somebody. Imagine how much stress she's going to feel in her body if she doesn't tell somebody about it. 

So she'll tell her husband, he'll get some guys together, and then they'll very quietly go and remove the tiger or do something. 


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where John Gray 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. 🚀


You don't hunt an animal making noise. But if you're a woman and you're in stress, you have to tell somebody. So you verbalize. And there's even biology to support that – under moderate stress, women have eight times more blood flow to the hippocampus, which is the emotional part of the brain.

For men, it stops. We become quiet. We become thoughtful. We mull over, “What am I going to do?” You have to think in your head, whereas she needs to communicate. Now, that still is in our biology, and so that's why we had this huge industry of counseling. There's more counselors than doctors and nurses. I mean, it's a big industry. And then coaching beyond that.

When it comes to counselors and therapists, 90% of the people who go are women. They literally want to pay somebody so they can talk. And most therapists will just ask questions, not giving so much advice.

I have to say, I wish they would give more advice after a woman feels heard, because the women I experience in my office and in my seminars, all around the world, they often feel that “I give and give and give and I don't get back.” That’s why, in their relationships, they feel like “I’m the good guy and he's the bad guy.” But they don't realize that what they're giving is what women would want and not what men want.

And men are over there thinking they're doing everything fine. And they actually have different ways of expressing this. We just don't understand why it's not landing. We're throwing a basketball and it just never hits the hoop. What's going on? Or throw a baseball, how do you throw one that's straight? You need a mentor. You need somebody to teach you and we need new skills for this.

So you were mentioning the big breakthrough for so many men, which is when she's talking, don't interrupt with solutions, but ask more questions. And as a tip for everybody who's listened to this podcast to here, when she's talking, you try not to say anything.

Then you can say things like, "Help me understand that better" and "Well, tell me more." And you make little noises. "I see. Yeah. Right." Don't suddenly take it back. And then when it seems like it's done say, "What else?" Because they're never done right away. 

When she's talking, don't interrupt with solutions. Instead, ask more questions.

There's like a spiral that women go through to great extent with their intimate relationships. And I don't want to imply that she's this way in the work world. In the work world, she's more like a man. She's to the point and uses communication to solve problems.

But they're two different worlds, work and intimacy. There's different rules that go with each. And if you're really good in the business world, usually you're not that good at the intimate world. So it's good to have both sides.

In communication and relationships more broadly, it's important to think about what the other person views as success, rather than making it so much about you.

If you had asked me two days ago, I would have said that I never butt in to solve problems and I’m a really good listener when my wife is talking. But from my conversations with you recently, I realized that I constantly butt in to try and solve the problem.

And as you said, my wife doesn't want me to solve the problem, she wants to feel heard. She wants to communicate and feel like she's got that out.

That simple understanding has already changed my life.

It's a huge thing.

And yet everything I teach has complications, because sometimes she does want you to solve the problem! But wait until she's talked about it and you get her to talk more. 

Quite often, in an intimate relationship, she's also talking about a problem that we need to find a solution for, and she's upset about it. If ever she's upset, that's where you first listen much, much longer. Because you have to know that any upset is going to cloud our ability to find harmony together. It will cloud a woman's ability to appreciate your point of view. 

Any upset is going to cloud our ability to find harmony together.

I learned that as a therapist, if I ever give a suggestion before 30 minutes, there's going to be a long line of, "Yes, but. Yes, but. Yes, but." However, if I can listen and understand better and really understand her point of view more, my solutions or suggestions will be better – but she will be willing to receive them.

It's literally like, she's got to get it out and then she can bring something in.

Like the Stephen Covey principle, "Seek first to understand, then be understood."

That's a good one. That is a wonderful principle. But let me add to that.

When women complain, you listen. A lot of men then say, "Okay, I understand this, and this, and this, and you're wrong. And now you should understand why you're wrong." That doesn't work. You just want to prevent escalation in relationships.

What I've seen again and again is women will say things that might be a little bothering to a guy, it's a minor thing. And what he'll do is he'll detach to think about it. It's like, “Is that really true?” She said, "Oh we never go out anymore. You're not the same guy." He's thinking, what does that mean? I mean, we went out last week. He's being very analytical about it, and detached.

Analysis, detachment, solving problems, these things make testosterone. And I'll mention it again because I keep coming back to testosterone, estrogen. There are a few other female hormones as well, but I'll simplify it with estrogen.

When a woman has well-being and is happy, her estrogen levels will be 10 times higher than the average man. And when a man has well-being, his testosterone levels will be 10 to 20 times higher than the average testosterone for a woman. These are key things. So then you look at that and you go, wow, any man who is depressed has low testosterone. Any man who's angry, his testosterone's going down and his estrogen's going up.

And so if I want to be like a man – and feel confident and strong and motivated, the best part of masculinity – I want to keep my testosterone up. One of the things that lowers it right away is if you get angry and start talking.

So, that's another takeaway. If you're starting to feel annoyed and irritated, as soon as you say something, it's like a landslide. The pebble's going and you'll get more and more angry and more and more upset. What men don't understand is, a man articulating anger to his wife, hits a nerve inside of her, which is thousands of years old, which is her life is in danger. So she's going to put up walls and she's not going to be able to hear what you say anyway.

Men need to understand that when they articulate anger to his wife, it hits a nerve inside of her that is thousands of years old, which is that her life is in danger.

You want to create safety for women. See, what I've done is just upregulated our job. We have policemen and government and divorce lawyers and everything that create safety for women, so what do they need us for!?

They need a lot of emotional safety. See, that's the thing. When Maslow talked about hierarchy of needs, the lower needs, when they're fulfilled, the higher needs come into play. And intimacy, making love. I teach around the world. I say, "Okay, let's look at all the options I can teach you about." Everybody wants me to talk about how to create lasting passion. We want to feel the juice.

And ironically, the juice is produced – that passionate feeling – when you're blending your masculine and feminine together. I mean, if you think about sex, what's happening is literally a man is slowing down to respect her. And eventually he's entering into her. He wants to get into her. That's the blending. Instead of becoming feminine himself, he joins with a woman who is feminine and then you can be both masculine and feminine at the same time.

If I just work on being feminine, I lose my masculinity. That's why relationships can be so powerful to find that balance. When you're listening, you're solving a problem. Now you have a new context for listening, I'm solving the big problem, which is helping women process their feelings, their thoughts.

And on a biological level, you're raising their estrogen. We just have to get when estrogen goes up in women, the things that were upsetting them are no longer going to upset them. It's going to become no big deal. No big deal.

That's another million dollar tip – if you are ever complaining to your husband, preface it with, "Just want to talk for a few minutes and it's no big deal." Then his blood pressure will go back down.

When you say to your husband, "We need to talk about something." Gabang. Stress levels go up. “Oh, what did I do? What's going on?”

He’s going to go on the attack?

Exactly.

So just say, "It's no big deal." Then he'll be able to listen because our man brain is always “How big a deal is this?” And when emotions are involved, if there's an emotional tone, he misinterprets her to think she's saying, "It's a big, big deal."

Because for men, little problems, you have no emotions. And for women, little problems, you actually have more emotions than big problems.

They're two different worlds – work and intimacy – and there's different rules that go with each.

When a woman has a big problem, she shuts down and she has no emotion. And a man when he has emotion, it's because he can't solve a problem. Because we get frustrated or angry or whatever. That means your testosterone's going down and your estrogen's going up.

But the experience for men is they only get emotional when the problem is big. I mean negative emotions here. The problem is big. Whereas women get emotional when it's just life going by, and they just want to talk about it. And that will lower their stress level by increasing estrogen. Being seen, being heard, knowing what she thinks without somebody minimizing her, or judging her.

You mentioned there that the role in a relationship is to prevent escalation. On Sunday, you mentioned to me that the role of the man is to protect his partner from the dragon within him. 

That really resonated with me because – full transparency with everyone watching and listening to this show – I feel like my biggest weakness as a husband is that during an argument with my wife (which is rare, thankfully!) I tend to lash out verbally and say something that I totally don't mean, which massively escalates it.

Then I slink off, and she's very frustrated, understandably. “That dragon in you,” that resonated with me so much.

And it takes maybe a couple days before your heart opens again, it's literally a shutdown. It could be a few hours, but it can also be several days. And then you’re like, “How do we get back together over here?”

When you said “the dragon thing,” that actually was my wife telling me that. Because another big takeaway of Men Are from Mars, that men love and women tell me about the most, they said, "Thank you for teaching me about a man's cave."
Now it's sort of every man has his cave, but it started with the Men Are from Mars book, which is helping women understand men's tendency as a general thing, as he goes to work, action, he needs to rest. He needs to do something that's not stimulating estrogen, but restimulating testosterone. Because when you're in stress during the day, you're making testosterone, but you're also running out of it.

If he's staying too long in the cave, you have to have skills to move him out.

The more you're stressed or frustrated whatever, you tend to go lower in your testosterone. So there's a recovery period that a man needs, which is, it's not about her. It's about, “I just need to have a hobby” or “I need to read the news” or “I need to go for a good workout.”

You see, there's a lot of different activities that stimulate the production of testosterone, but they're completely stress-free. That means you're not making money from it. You don't worry about it. You're fixing your car in the garage. Everybody's got crazy hobbies, that's men's thing. That's his thing he does by himself.

So a guy comes home and he's working in the garage or he's ignoring his wife. And she can feel like, "What did I do wrong?" Or, "He doesn't love me as much anymore." Then she wants to say, "What's bothering you?" Or she's searching to see if you're upset with her.

And what I explained is that “He's just in his cave.” And the cave is a place where it's non personal. Then he can rebuild his testosterone and come back into the personal world. It's not like he has to do it every day. Well, some men do. Some men do it longer than others. Some men get addicted to it.

So that's another dance, which is, if he's staying too long in the cave, you have to have skills to move him out. And the skills, one simple skill, you can't teach everything in a short interview, but this is a great one which is, if he's really got addicted to just sitting there watching TV or he's on his computer, you can say to him something, never judge him for it because he's doing what's instinctive.

But you say, "Oh honey, when you have a chance, I need your help. It will only take 10 minutes." And then let him pick his time. Usually he'll say, "Well, what is it? What is it?" And you say, "Well, I'll let you know when you're ready."

And then he might forget, because this is a new thing. But he's going to go to the bathroom at some point, say, "Oh, while you're up, I need your help. Would you... It'll just take a few minutes." And you draw him out of the cave because when something's feeling good, you just want to keep going.

So there's certain activities in the cave that can be unproductive and certain ones that are very productive. I'd say that the main one in the cave that's unproductive is too long in the cave or doing porn.

You open her heart by listening.

Porn is highly tempting for men because it's something that's unproductive that produces a lot of testosterone right away. Anytime you have an erection, your testosterone shoots up. But it goes right back down and you actually lose the potency that you could have had if you were doing something more constructive.

So when you invite him, "What help do you need?" Just 10 minute help. Then you make sure to appreciate him for it. The most powerful one is to use him when he comes out of the cave to help you become more feminine. Return to your feminine side.

And there's nothing more feminine right now in this age that we live in is when women are more on their male side, what can bring them back is to talk about the feelings that they experienced through the day that they suppressed.

See, when you're on your male side, you can't be in touch so much with your feelings. You're solving problems and solving problems over and over again. But the truth is every day there’s stress. They've measured women's stress levels in the workplace and they're twice as high as men. And they double again when they come home.

Women need to talk about what's going on inside because it’s an outlet. It's a hormone producer, and it's a connector. Women have many uses for language, and men can use some of them. But one of the uses is like a man who gathers information to solve problems. Talk about this.

Another one is just talking about what you feel, and it makes you more connected to your partner. That connection is estrogen producing. And that's the whole point with men – we’re not aware of how much we need connection because we don't need as much estrogen. Women need 10 times more than us.

Porn is highly tempting for men because it's something that's unproductive that produces a lot of testosterone right away.

To be romantic, and people want to feel the passion and the romance, they need 20 times more. In my book, we have all these tips of what men can do to help raise a woman's estrogen level so she feels more connection.

And she particularly needs it when you're in the cave, because when you're the cave you're disconnected, and men need that time. A lot of men today feel their wives will say, "Oh, you're spending too much time alone," and whatever. And maybe he really is, or maybe he just needs an hour in the cave, which is not too much time. It could be half an hour. It could be whatever. 

But even with that again, the "Yes, but," with that, it's not like I come home and ignore my wife. No, I'll come home and the first thing I do is I find her. My kids, when they were young, they would come at me and say, "Daddy, daddy" and the first thing they'll say now after I taught them this is, "Where's mom?" because my first question is always "Where's mom?" She's number one.

I go find her and I give her a good six-second non-sexual hug. It takes about six seconds and you can measure the hormone of oxytocin starts to go up. And that then opens the doorway for her estrogen levels to go up.

In a sense, estrogen goes up anytime you're feeling “I have a need and someone is there to support me.” The unfortunate thing today is that many women are not aware of their need to talk about their feelings. They'll go to a therapist, the ones who do, they realize that once you experience it, then you realize, "Gee, just talking about it, I'm suddenly in a better mood." And you can multiply that maybe even 10 times in terms of a better mood or shorter amount of talking, if she brings in her emotions.

My wife is number one. As soon as I get home, I go find her, and I give her a good six-second non-sexual hug.

Many women experience the world quite differently. So if she's complaining and "Oh, nobody appreciated me today. I did more work and they ignored me and they did this and this." I never experienced that in the workplace. That's not my pet peeve. But for women it's common.

They feel ignored. They feel excluded. They feel not acknowledged. They feel not appreciated. They feel overworked. They feel not seen, heard. And so if she's talking about those things, it's like I don't have that experience of being a woman and being in the workplace, which was built for men and not for women. It's slowly changing. But when she comes back, I can't really fully empathize with that unless, and this is the key, she brings some emotion in it. And she's "Oh, so frustrating…"

Instead of "Nobody appreciates me at work" it becomes "It's so frustrating. I do this and this and nobody even notices it. And I'm working really hard. I feel so disappointed. I thought this job was going to be so great. And now nobody's supporting me in this way. I'm concerned it's going to stay this way forever. And today I said something, I told so and so just a few details about her life. And I was so embarrassed, I thought I should have said it differently later."

See, that's vulnerability, revealing these emotions. But you first have to become aware of them because they just, they're right under the surface. When a woman can reveal emotions, not only does she produce more estrogen, but a man can actually empathize. 

Men experience frustration all the time. We experience disappointments and whatever. But we don't have the need to talk about it, and therefore we're not even so much conscious of it.

But when she's experiencing it, we can relate. And the thought that men don't have emotions, some people think that. It's because we don't talk about it. Watch any man watching a football game! It's like, "No, no, no. Yes, yes, yes."

Of course, we have emotions. We don't really have the great need that women have. And see, everything I've said is politically incorrect because we have social engineering saying we're all the same, and therefore we should all be women, yet all have jobs like men.

It's like, where are your feelings? So back to what you initially said about the cave and a man deescalating. Whenever you start to get angry, there's two steps. One is when you're angry in your man, you're out of control.

See, like right now we're having a very peaceful conversation. I know what I'm doing. I'm good at this. You're good at that. But if I wasn't good at this, I'd suddenly have some emotion of fear and whatever. So confidence for a man creates detachment from emotions. But it doesn't mean he can't feel other people's emotions. Detachment from any sort of anxiousness within himself. 

So you're having a conversation, the smiles on your face, your heart's open, you're listening to your partner, she's talking about her day. And if she brings a little emotion into it, you don't get tired real quick. If you can't relate to a woman talking, you just got to go, "Well, what am I doing here?" It just adds to it if women can reveal.

Because emotions is estrogen. And what men are looking for in their wives is to experience estrogen. And what women need but they might not know is more estrogen. And a man can provide that. And if you're providing what she needs, you're building your testosterone, and her estrogen is going up.

She doesn't need to ask you what's going on. But often women feel like, "Oh, I need to know what you're feeling," because they're afraid of sharing their feelings with you.

See the key is, you go into her and you open her heart by listening. If you listen to a man, you can actually encourage him too much to go to his female side. Do you remember at Ramy’s house during one of the small groups, I just asked the women, "When men start talking about their feelings and their complaints at work, how many of you feel disgusted?" And how they're like, "Yes."

When a woman can reveal emotions, not only does she produce more estrogen, but a man can actually empathize.

Because they feel guilty because they want you to be interested in their feelings. But when they're like, where's the man? It's like he's whining, he's complaining. He's whatever. And why is he in that place? Because we're told to be that way. And women are saying, "What are you feeling? What are you feeling?" And psychology saying you need to talk about your feelings, and how we abuse men by not letting them talk about their feelings.

No. We need to learn how to process our feelings first with our analysis that judge whether it is a big deal or not a big deal? There's no problem if it's a big deal to have emotions, without a doubt. 

There's an old Chinese phrase which is, "Men should not express negative emotion. Men should not cry unless their heart is broken." My wife died four years ago and I cried a lot. I've been defrauded a few times and cried a little bit. Big things, men appropriately become emotional. But the normal stuff in life is not to be talked about so much.

Some people get upset with me for saying that even so that you can come back to a nice harmonious place. If a woman is feeling more feminine than you, it's always fine to go to your female side. But if you go to your female side and she's not more on her female side, your relationship is going downhill. 

Another way of saying that is, if a woman feels she's not being heard and you want to be heard, it's the wrong direction. All I'm doing is pointing people in the right direction. If you need to be heard men, first hear her. It's like orgasm, always give the woman the orgasm first, the foreplay for her. If you just jump in and do what feels good to you, she's left in the cold. Instead, give her what she needs, open her up.

What I have found, if you learn how to share in a vulnerable way without attacking your partner – and that's a lesson women can learn, I'll get to that – but when she opens up and shares, because I relate to the frustrations and the disappointments, it makes me aware of what I'm frustrated and disappointed about, I don't need to talk. See, she's actually healing my female side by opening up and I'm healing her by being present for her. And when I say healing, I just mean stress levels are going down.

So I never finished that question you asked me about the dragon inside. So one time Bonnie and I were starting to escalate into an argument and I said, "Look, honey, I just need to think about this, and we'll talk some more." And went to my cave. 

It was like four hours because it didn't get escalated too much. The less you escalate, the more quickly men can open their heart again. And I came back and so the signal that I'm out of the cave is I'll come back and stand around her and stroke her hair and be a little affectionate. And she starts to go, "Okay, that angry guy is not here now."

But one day she said to me, she said, "John, thanks so much for going to your cave and protecting me from the dragon inside." I tell that story because it changed me, because I felt, “Oh now I'm not a bad person because I stepped out of the conversation.” For women, when you leave a conversation, they feel like you don't love them. As opposed to “Look, I'm protecting you from becoming angry.”

Now, there's a step before that. It's not like I have to do that all the time, because I regulate myself when I start to see escalation happening. And I basically back her up a little bit without her feeling like I'm stopping her by just saying, "Well, you just said this. Help me understand that better? I want to understand that more."
And as a man, if you're directing the conversation, you're making testosterone. Rather than resisting, you're now embracing, but it does give you more control within yourself to be directing the conversation, knowing I'm doing something productive here.

If men want to be heard, first hear her. It's like an orgasm – always give the woman the orgasm first.

Another thing is to imagine a big gold ribbon, first place, because if you can do this, you're like her hero, if you don't become reactive. Because the brain will become reactive. We're designed to, we have these mirror cells that kick into gear. If you're angry with me, I get angry with you. If you're not trusting me, I don't trust you. If you're resisting me, I resist you. 

That dramatically increases when you're in an intimate relationship. It's like those mirror cells just turn on. Because that's how children learn – they duplicate. 

When you're making love with your partner on a regular basis, you're constantly bringing in all your childhood issues. Because the only time in life we get naked with somebody who makes us feel really good, not sexually but naked, is children. And who is more dependent on someone than a child?

Well, part of a marriage is we are dependent on our partners for many things. But a healthy relationship, you're not dependent on your partner to be happy. You use your relationship to become happier. That's a healthy place.

It's called getting a life. Thinking of men, women, as dessert. This is like, I do all this stuff in my life and I'm happy and fulfilled. I might have children. I have pets. I have my relationship to the earth. I have my work. I have my friends. I have my spirituality. I have my health. I have my education. These are all needs that we have as human beings.

But as soon as we touch into sex, it's like the brain goes, “This is it!” And we get addicted to that. From my perspective, anytime you're unhappy in a relationship, it’s because you're prioritizing your partner more than yourself and your life. 

Think of your partner as dessert, rather than the main course.

How do relationships and marriages that are devoid of intimacy get things back on track?

Absolutely. It happens all the time.

Even at the airports where people come up to me, and usually when the man comes up and interrupts my space, it's because they were divorced and they got back together. Not to imply that everybody divorced was with the right person.

Sometimes it's just too much, people aren't motivated to work through the issues they have to work through. But there's so many people who just think, "We're just too different and we argue too much." And they read Men Are from Mars and go, "My gosh, I've been making all these mistakes all along."

It's not just men who realize this, women realize it too. Women are always asking me, "I ended a relationship. How do we get started again?" I said, "First thing you need to do is, and understanding these new ideas, reflect on your relationship and see that you're 50% of the problem. Then you can have confidence in picking the right man again."

So many women say, “I just don't trust that I can trust myself”. And women on average, after a divorce – this is an average, not every woman, but an average – nine years before they get involved again. They're just shell shocked. Because it's not so much him. It's just, "I thought he was the perfect one. And so how can I trust myself?" Whereas men, it's three years, and usually a few months he's out there having sex.

In a healthy relationship, you're not dependent on your partner to be happy. You use your relationship to become happier.

You might even look at that as another reason that sex tends to be so significant for men. And some women, it's just the same. But it's through sex you can feel your emotions more. Men have more muscle mass, they're born with 25% more DNA for muscles. And muscles are testosterone makers, which is the opposite of estrogen makers.

Softness, women have 25% more DNA for fat cells. Some have more, some have less, but way more than men, generally speaking. Now we can put on fat, but women are designed to have more fat because it allows them to produce more estrogen.

And often women who aren't having a lifestyle that promotes estrogen will put on a lot of weight. That's one of the reasons women gain weight is that if they're not making enough estrogen, your body says, “Okay, we need more fat cells to make estrogen.”

It's also why men retire. One aspect of a man's retirement, you'll see a lot of retired men with these bellies. And those bellies produce estrogen and they knock his testosterone down more. And now he's going to be more estrogen oriented, doing things that are estrogen producing. That's called retirement for a man.

It's through a lack of purpose that's provided from work?

Yes, work gives you meaning and direction.

Everybody needs it today because we all have access to our male and female side. But men need it more to keep their testosterone up. And some men need more testosterone for well-being than others.

When you see men with big shoulders who are born with lots of muscle mass, it takes a lot of testosterone to sustain that. And so that means they need a job that makes them feel more like a hero. So more of our heroes are going to be big muscular guys.

And guys in jail, I've taught prisoners in San Quentin. A lot of them, not all, but a lot of them are very, very muscular guys. And because they grew up in an environment where they didn't have mentors, male mentors to teach them how to be successful and so forth, which is very important for boys, to have those mentors around. They didn't have fathers. They didn't have functional relationships growing up. And they don't have jobs that make them feel successful.

Then they become very angry. They have no heart, and they disconnect from their ability to anticipate what somebody's going to feel. Somebody goes around stealing things, they don't have a heart. They can’t go, "Well, how's that person going to feel if you take that away from them?" They're just thinking about themselves. So they're the real narcissists.

Today, women throw it around all the time, "All the men I meet are narcissists." No, all the men you meet are men. And you train them to think about themselves more than you. Women don't realize that. We have a basic phenomena.

Before Men Are from Mars became a big, big seller book, what helped me understand women – besides 10 years of counseling women, being married and all that – was a book called Codependent No More. And to summarize ‘codependence', it's simply when you're making somebody else's needs more important than your own. And that tends to be what women do.

When you make a man's needs more important than yours, you're training him to make his needs more important than yours, which is a simple definition of narcissism. You've got to motivate men. And this is an unrealistic expectation. People don't understand our differences. 

Men typically are motivated, lots of motivation in the beginning. I mean he’s just got the energy to do it. And I'm sure everybody's had this experience where you have guests over for dinner and suddenly you have the motivation to clean up your house. It's just there, the motivation is there. That's because you don't want them to see this and this. But the energy's there. And it's also a little bit of a crisis, which stimulates dopamine.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where John Gray 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. 🚀


Newness in a relationship stimulates dopamine. Somebody's new, different. But what happens in a good relationship is familiarity sets in. You feel safe. You feel more serotonin gets produced. It's more relaxing. And that newness of dopamine in the beginning of relationship just raises women's estrogen so high and raises men's testosterone so high. 

So sex therapists will say, "You need to have little getaways. Go somewhere new and different, and be in a new and different bedroom, a hotel." So these are all good things, and these are little helpful things. But the reality is life starts to become very routine in relationships and it's very easy and comfortable. We get lazy. 

The laziness comes in because the newness isn't there. The reason that motivation is there and that happiness is in women is because when dopamine goes up, men's testosterone automatically goes up. Women's estrogen automatically goes up.

Anytime you're unhappy in a relationship, it’s likely because you're prioritizing your partner more than yourself and your life. 

So when you don't have dopamine stimulation all the time, you can still stimulate high testosterone in a man and high estrogen in a woman by the way you communicate with each other, and understanding that polarity.

When you're more masculine than her and she's more feminine than you, there's attraction. Women are turned on to you. They want to have sex with you. They can't wait to have sex with you. And what you see in marriages is men are having to negotiate and beg their wives and, "Why aren't we having more sex?" It's a sad story.

But she's not a bad person. She's lost interest because she can't feel interest until her estrogen levels hit over 10 times more than his, or sometimes 15 times more. It's got to get up to that point. And if it's not up, then any sexual thought even, is disgusting to her.

And that's where the non-sexual touch is important?

That, and listening to her, and planning dates and hearing her.

Hearing a woman is the most powerful estrogen stimulator. But non-sexual touch is also really, really good.

So here's a little system I've always done, which is I wake up in the morning, I find my wife, and I give her a six-second hug. I leave for work every day, I find my wife, and I give her a six-second hug. I come home from work, I find my wife, I give her a six-second hug. I'm going to go to bed or she's going to go bed before me, I run up after her, give her a six-second hug. Four hugs a day as a minimum. That's a really good one.

At least every day, some compliment or expression of, "I love you." And you can do that. It's kind of awkward for men when they're not turned on to feel their love. They love their partners, but because of our high testosterone or low testosterone, anyways, our bodies are built more testosterone oriented. The brain doesn't have a lot of connection between talking and feeling love.

You can stimulate high testosterone in a man and high estrogen in a woman by the way you communicate with each other, and understanding that polarity.

In the same way for men, the sex center and the brain is much bigger in us than in women. And the sex center is not located very close to the love center. Whereas for women, they're closer, but also women have, some researchers have pointed out, nine times more white matter in their brain. And white matter is connective tissue.

So they found this out when one study was strokes. If a man gets a stroke in the part of the brain that talks, he can't talk again. If a woman gets a stroke there, she has six other places where she can talk from. Talking is a major thing for women. 

But us problem-solvers who use language to solve problems, we're the worst at communicating with our wives because we spot a problem and, "Oh, you don't have to feel that way. Or don't worry about that. I'll handle that." "You're looking at it the wrong way."

And then even worse, if you go back to Freud back then, his common thing was every time a woman's upset to a great extent, "Honey, you're just overreacting. You're overreacting." That came from a misunderstanding of men and women. 

Yet, there is overreaction, but let's just say a woman is being a female in touch with her female. Little things make a big difference in terms of an emotional response. And for men, we don't notice little stuff. It's just, "What am I going to do to solve it?" Go right into testosterone. For women is, "What am I feeling inside? And let's talk about it."

And then men would think, "Well, why do we need to talk?" If she even says, "It's not really a big deal." He'll say, "Then we don't need to talk about it. What do we have to talk about?" And she says, "Because it feels good." So the women solve problems, they talk to feel good. They talk to balance their hormones, lower their stress levels. 

Sometimes they talk just to know what they're feeling. And that's what all therapy is about anyway, is that you talk about what's going on, talk about what's going, then you see the world in a different light.

For me as a writer, a lot of writers will say this, "I write to know what I think."

Yeah, I do that too!

And for me as well, I talk to know what I think. I talk to know what I know, actually. 

I walk around just thinking, I don't know anything except what I need to know in that moment. Then, suddenly, a book comes out. It's a journey.

I'll give a little tip here for guys. Everybody in America knows about The Great Houdini. At least they used to. And he had all these big challenges. But one of his challenges, that he was a magician and he could hang upside down. He could get out of any lock. He could get out of prisons. He was an amazing guy. 

These were his challenges. One of his challenges was that he could take any punch. So these big guys would line up and punch him. And he had abs, he'd strengthen his abs. Hard as steel abs.
But one time on Halloween evening, some college students said, "Is it really true you can take any punch?" And he said, "Yep." And he just gave him a jab, quick jab. And that killed Houdini. That's how he died. Because he wasn't prepared.

Women are like the weather, and you cannot control the weather. Men tend to be very interested and very attentive and then we just ignore our wives completely.

See, men, when they're not prepared, we get all bent out of shape with women. There's always going to be a surprise. If you just accept women are like the weather, you cannot control the weather. You could just control what you wear. If it's a hot day, take off your shirt. If it's raining, hold an umbrella. If it's cold, put on a jacket. This is what we have to do. Otherwise, we'll tend to feel like why is her mood here one day, and her mood is there another?

Moods are changing, just as women have to embrace our moods. Our moods don't tend to be, ‘life is great’ and crash down. Unless we're artistic, more on our female side. But men tend to be very interested and very attentive, and then we just ignore our wives completely.

We go back and forth, back and forth. They go up and down, up and down. It's a nice rhythm. It keeps us flexible. And when men go to their cave, women often say to me, "Well, what am I supposed to do when he goes to his cave?" That's called having a life.

A lot of people talk about the Five Love Languages:

1. Words of affirmation (compliments)

2. Quality time

3. Receiving gifts

4. Acts of service

5. Physical touch

How does your work intersect with the Five Love Languages?

Well first let me say Gary Chapman, I love him. I know him. He's a great man.

His message doesn't take into consideration that men and women are different. The bottom line is that every woman needs every one of those things. Those love languages all produce estrogen.

Now, we men like estrogen, but we become very lazy with estrogen. So I have a different version of love languages in terms of different forms of love that’s different from the way he looks at it…

There's appreciation, which is a form of love. Acceptance is a form of love. Trusting someone is a form of love. Caring about someone is a form of love. Listening and understanding where they're coming from in a nonjudgmental way is a form of love. Respecting someone, honoring them, putting them above you, serving them is respect – that's a form of love.

First of all, it took me a long time to figure these things out without the understanding of hormones. But now I can just say very simply, whenever you appreciate someone their testosterone goes up. Whenever you forgive someone and accept them just as they are – they don't have to be better, they're fine, acceptance – their testosterone goes up whether you're a man or woman.

What stimulates estrogen in women is demonstrating caring – when I'm caring for her, prioritizing her, hearing her, and doing things of consideration.

And if you're trusted, someone depends on you to get the job done... I come home, my wife, "Hey he's here. He's finally here. Great!" It's like man of the day. Someone's depending on you. That is testosterone going up.

Also, women get that experience. Why they can give so much to children is because children look to their mother as like a God. They’re trusting you so much. So women appreciate these forms of love too. But men need 10 times more trust, acceptance, appreciation, because they stimulate testosterone in our body.

What stimulates estrogen in women is demonstrating caring. When I'm caring for her, prioritizing her, hearing her, doing things of consideration, like opening a car door. And just with that one, I remember Bonnie, I opened the car door and one time she said, "I can do that." And I said, "Of course you can do that. But honey, you give so much to everybody. Let me just give to you tonight."

On a romantic day, always opening the door and going around and opening the door to get her out. Appreciation is testosterone. What I did by opening the car door, first of all, is respecting her and understanding she does so much for so many people. It's nice to have somebody take care of you and demonstrate that caring.

All the romantic rituals of the past, traditional romantic rituals, were social engineering so that men could raise women's estrogen twice as much. And men's testosterone goes up twice as much if he does something, provides something for her, and she appreciates it.

All the romantic rituals of the past were social engineering so that men could raise women's estrogen twice as much.

So I take my wife to the movies and she says, "Wow, that was an amazing movie." My testosterone's off the chart. I'm feeling, “Yeah, I wrote that movie, I produced that movie, I directed that movie – that's my movie!” And if the movie's bad, I'm like, “Oh my God.” And every man knows that feeling. 

Then we go to the movie, we're leaving. And I say, "Honey, did you like the movie?" She'll pause, and she says, "That sunset scene was really wonderful." And I go, “Yeah, I had nothing to do with the movie. I'm just the camera guy. I picked that scene!”

So be playful with each other. The same way like a woman says, "Do you see this cellulite, honey? Can you love that!?" I say, "Honey, I love you. I don't see cellulite. I don't even see it." There are times to be loving and generous with our love, and not dwell on the practicality of reality.

On your best day, what's an affirmation that you would write on a flashcard to show yourself on your worst day?

It's up on my mirror and it says, "Don't speak. Ask questions. Don't speak."

It reminds me that the most key thing is: don't let it escalate. Don't argue. You have to make decisions as couples, but you don't have to make them right away.

First you can take a long time to understand where she's coming from, and then you get fully understood. And now I've understood you, I just want to share with you some of the things that are going on inside of me.

As long as you're not feeling aggressive or judgmental or critical or defensive. Don't talk when you're feeling defensive.

What's one thing you do to Win the Day?

I'd come back to meditation, or making love.


Final steps to Win the Day...

💕 Share the love:

I hope you enjoyed that interview with John Gray!

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Also, the right bit of inspiration can completely change the trajectory of someone’s life, so if there’s a friend or loved one out there who needs to hear this episode – or could use some help to Win the Day – share it with them right now. 

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That’s all for this episode! Get out there and win the day.

Until next time…

Onward and upward always,

James Whittaker

PS - If you have a question and want it featured on the Win the Day podcast, email your question (in writing or as an audio message) to: info@jameswhitt.com


Resources / links mentioned:

John Gray website

📝 John Gray Facebook

📷 John Gray Instagram

📚 ‘Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus’ by John Gray

📙 ‘Beyond Mars and Venus: Relationship Skills for Today's Complex World’ by John Gray

🧭 ‘Codependent No More’ by Melody Beattie

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💕 Win the Day Facebook group

📝 Win the Day newsletter [weekly LinkedIn exclusive]

Each day, if you do not make the decision to win, you’ve automatically made the decision to lose.”

James Whittaker

Hey Winners,

Today is a special day…

After three and a half years, we made it to Episode 100 of the Win the Day podcast!

Hosting this show has changed my life, hopefully your life too, and I’m so grateful that you’ve been on this ride with me.

Truth be told, I'm not very good at stopping to smell the roses…

What I'd rather do is focus on thanking YOU – from my very grateful heart – for supporting the show and making this milestone possible.

The obligation to provide value to you is something I take very seriously…

That's why at the start of each episode, I mention that the right inspiration can change someone's day, week, and life — because those moments (and the right belief or action at the right time) can make all the difference.

In fact, what we've done with Episode 100 is share all the secrets of what has made the show successful so you can replicate that in your own way and see what insights have made the biggest difference in my life.

As of today, the Win the Day podcast has been listened to in 96 countries … and that means it's time to step up.

The mission now is to help 100 million people in 2023 to Win the Day.

To do that, the show needs more visibility — and that's where your help (for only a few seconds) can make all the difference…

If you can spare a moment to help:

  1. Give the show a 5-star rating on Apple Podcasts.
  2. Give the show a 5-star rating on Spotify.
  3. Subscribe to the Win the Day YouTube channel.
  4. Share an episode with a friend.

That simple gesture can save someone's life and help bring some much needed positivity to the world.

And if there's something you'd like me to cover on the show (e.g. a question you have), send me an email to info@jameswhitt.com and we'll answer it for you.

I asked the Win the Day group how we wanted to celebrate Episode 100, and the overwhelming response was to have me in the hot seat! To lead the conversation, I’ve asked my good friend Brandon T. Adams to join me in the studio so we can have some fun.

In this episode:

Let’s WIN THE DAY for Episode 100!

Brandon T. Adams:
I am super excited! What I love about you James is the fact that you care so much about people and you always go above and beyond. What you've done for me over the years is extraordinary.

All the success James continues to have is because he’s so focused on adding massive value to people. When you do that, good things come back to you – and, for James, deservedly so.

So James, how does it feel to be at episode 100!?

James Whittaker:
Triple figures – it feels great! And I'm really grateful to have you here today as well.

It wouldn’t be possible without the support of people in 96 countries who have supported the journey. I’m deeply grateful for everyone who's listened and supported the show, and I’m also immensely grateful to all those who have come on as guests. 

Many great opportunities and connections have been established organically from the podcast. And if we made it to 100, I think we can get to 200 just as easy!

When you were younger, what career path did you naturally just go towards?

Being a writer was a big thing for me. Writing is also something that has always just come very naturally to me.

When I left high school, I enrolled in a Bachelor of English and Writing at university. And I'll never forget my first class. The professor, a successful local author, said, "Put your hands up if you want to make money from writing." And everyone – 200-odd hands – went up. Then he said, "Let me be clear, you will not make any money from writing." 

I thought, “Wow, that's interesting.” And not the most motivating sentiment! Definitely not what I was expecting to hear from the professor. The next day I enrolled in a dual degree, which simply added a business focus to what I was already studying. My intention was that it would help me develop skills that would allow me to earn some money so I didn’t have to struggle so much like the broke authors from the first classroom!

Writing, fortunately, is something that I take great pride in. Hopefully people can see that in how the finished episodes of the Win the Day podcast appear on my website – I’ve always wanted it to appear like articles in a digital magazine, highly professional and engaging. 

That's how I’ve been able to leverage my writing background with some of the work I do today. I’ve also got three bestselling books available in, I think, 14 languages around the world. So writing has always been very, very close to my heart – and, frankly, it’s a handy and versatile skill to have.

It just took me a long time to figure out how I could use it most effectively in a business sense.

So many authors, even very successful authors like yourself, struggle with different parts of the writing process. What's been the struggle you've had to overcome?

I don't really get things like writer's block. I’ve gotten very good at balancing discipline and inspiration, which means I rarely, if ever, struggle to get words on the page. And when you're looking at writing anything, your number one goal is ‘words on the page.’ A messy draft is better than a blank screen.

For me, one of the biggest shifts was doing my most creative work in the morning – as the priority. I had to take a step back, look at when my 2-3 hyper-creative hours in the day were, audit how I was spending that time currently, and then reprioritize how I attacked those tasks on a given day. 

Most people wake up and they want to pick the low hanging fruit. They do things like email, but that’s simply someone else’s agenda rather than your own. Today, for the most part, I only do emails when I'm tired – which is usually between 3pm-5pm – when I can do things on autopilot. In my most creative hours [10am-12:30pm] I’ll very, very rarely schedule anything else in there because that’s my most creative and sacred time to do the creative work, not the busy work.

That’s been a huge shift for me.

I like that. 

What has been the single biggest decision that's made an impact in your career to date?

Probably the decision to get good at relationships. That has come through a big focus on communication, personal development, and having some type of specialized knowledge that I can use to help other people. It means the time is spent efficiently and the success journey is more linear.

Most people have the best of intentions and try to connect with as many people as they can, but if you don't have any type of value that you can provide them, or you don't have a platform to be able to access their genius, it's going to be much harder to do that.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where James Whittaker 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????


So in the early days, I focused on building my expertise. Today, I have expertise in a bunch of different areas. And having the podcast – which we’re here for Episode 100 – means that if I connect with someone who's really influential, which is only happening more frequently as my career progresses, then I can bring those people into the Win the Day podcast.

We can have an amazing conversation for one hour. We’ll likely get along really well, and that opens up a whole bunch of connections through them. I can give them video assets, which further reinforces my value and willingness to go above and beyond – and people want to be around other people who have those two attributes.

That’s when I can ask them for any similarly-minded people who could be a great fit for the show, but in many cases they’ll voluntarily make the introduction based on how well we’ve gotten along.

You're 100 episodes in and, as a podcaster myself, I know how hard that achievement is! What was your reasoning for starting the podcast? And what's kept you going to get to 100 episodes?

I don’t know the percentage but I’m sure it's like 0.01% that actually get to 100 episodes.

I have no doubt you’re right.

The Win the Day podcast started as the Win the Day newsletter. And then I realized that people just don't naturally gravitate towards long form written content like they used to. So I thought, if these people aren't going to read the newsletter, then I am going to read it to them! 

And that's what I did. I hit record on my phone and that was it. That was me reading the newsletter to them. Then I thought, wow, if I'm already writing it and I'm already reading it, I might as well put a video camera there and record it.

So it's basically the same amount of work, except I can have it in audio, video, and written content. That was the origins of the Win the Day podcast – it started as the Win the Day newsletter. 

After one episode I realized, oh my God, you've created a podcast and you didn't even realize it! So from episode two, that's where I started recording an intro and an outro and all of these different things and made it a lot more professional. 

A big thing that I've focused on over the years is what can I do to always level up the professionalism, the guests, the questions, the experience, the audience and community interaction, all of those different things have been an ongoing focus.

So it's crazy, man, just seeing your journey and the people you've interviewed. 

Let’s get tactical. How do you prepare for your podcast and create the best experience for the guests? I mean, people ask me all the time to come on their show, but you give the best experience for the guest.

Share a few secrets on how you prepare, how you make the guests feel really good on the show, and then how you follow-up to build and maintain that relationship.

Every interaction and every touchpoint that you have with someone is an opportunity to either build trust or lose it. That's the way that I think about it. 

If someone comes on my show, I need to respect them through my preparation, through knowing their body of work and what excites them most today. I'm always looking at what I can do to add value and show that person how much I respect them – the best way to do that is preparation.

So if someone's coming on the show, I will read at least their most recent book, and I will listen to at least two podcasts that they have been on. My aim is to make sure I'm not asking the same generic questions that everyone else asks them. Things like, “what inspired you to do this?” and “what inspired you to do that?”

Every interaction and every touchpoint that you have with someone is an opportunity to either build trust or lose it.

You could have a guest who wrote an amazing book 10 years ago, but they may not care about that anymore. If you’ve done your preparation, you’ll know if that work is no longer interesting or relevant for them. Another thing I do is review the social media content they’re putting out there to learn about their messaging, their mission, and what excites them most today.

So in addition to those things, getting an introduction through a mutual friend (rather than reaching out cold) instantly solidifies it, and providing amazing video assets afterwards, because so much of your work is video.

Everyone is after more good quality video that they can use. As a guest on someone’s show, that’s what I want too!

So through that process, at the end of every episode, all the guests inevitably say to me, “Wow, this is the best – if not one of the best – interviews I've ever done,” which opens the floodgate for me to say, cool, if there's anyone else you think could be a great guest on the show, let me know. 

That's how we're able to continue increasing the quality of the guests on the show.

Have you ever been over-prepared?

Yeah, I think in the earlier episodes, I was a little bit too rigid in how I prepared.

You naturally get better at your craft the more episodes you do, so I can prepare in a fraction of the time today and still get a great conversation – because I’ve done the reps.

If you’re pressed for time, going ‘off the cuff’ can be a great tactic. Focusing on being present, and backing your skills as an interviewer, will likely lead to a better result than trying to cram study someone's background. Being too over-prepared can be a weakness.

Another thing I do, as I'm driving to do an interview, I'll listen to that person being interviewed by someone else at normal playback speed. And to me it feels like we're already having a conversation before the interview even starts. When I get to the studio, I’m simply entering the conversation rather than trying to connect from scratch.

That’s so interesting because I was watching Larry King's documentary and he talked about how the thing that made him great was being so in that moment.

As you said, it's good to prepare, but not at the expense of being in the moment. 

It can go to great sporadic directions organically rather than you being so rigid and having already mapped out the entire story. The story you’ve mapped out is just based on your research, not on reality. 

There are a lot of things that you won’t be able to find in your research, which means you’ll need to entice and tease different tidbits out of your guest – like a boxing match or a dance. That all comes through asking really great questions, for example “Is there a particularly dark day that stands out for you?” or “On your best day, what's an affirmation that you would write on a flashcard to show yourself on your worst day?” or “What was the mindset around [your field of work] growing up?”

These are questions that I've realized get very good – and usually vulnerable – answers. And that's why they’re a regular presence in my interviews, even though I try to add in a lot of unique questions too.

And sometimes the best questions come from the question you ask that leads to a journey, then you ask questions to get into it deeper, right?

Exactly.

What does success look like to you with your Win the Day podcast? Is it downloads, money, guests, or something else?

Good question.

To touch on what you just said before, connecting with a lot of billion dollar founders and really influential successful people, they really love sitting down and having a great conversation. And if you can provide that to enough people, it doesn't matter what else happens – they will want to help you as much as possible, even if no one ever hears the interview, because they've really enjoyed that genuine sincere conversation.

A win for me is the messages and emails I receive, and they’re only getting more and more frequent. So, to me, the real metric of success is how many people are reaching out to say that they now are focused on winning the day and they have adopted the Win the Day mentality. And they're sharing the Win the Day spirit with their family and their business and their community. 

That's the only real metric that I care about because to me, it's real.

Things like download numbers, and of course, business growth and audience growth, these things are important metrics, but they pale significantly… they're a distant metric behind real impact from people whose lives have been changed through them implementing the lessons and channeling the inspiration that's provided on the show from the amazing guests we've had on here.

From 100 episodes, what are one or two different things that came to you as a result of podcasting that drove you down a path – whether starting a business or even something you've done in your personal life – that's affected in a better way?

I didn't realize the power of podcasting until I was speaking at your event in LA so many years ago. At that event, I saw people talking about the power of podcasting.

I'd never been on a single podcast show before, but leaving that event, I made the commitment to be featured on 100 podcasts in a single year. Even though I hadn’t been featured on a single show before it, I was able to get featured on more than 150 podcasts – simply as a result of having the right plan, having the right intention, and following that relentlessly through a focus of delivering value and relationships.

Leaving that event, I made the commitment to be featured on 100 podcasts in a single year. 

If you can do those things, the whole world opens up. So the biggest thing that I've learned is really the power of podcasting, but more conceptually than that, it's just the power of telling your story – and the idea that if you don't tell your story, no one else will.

Storytelling is powerful. I mean, that's why I love podcasting, because people share their story, where the listeners can relate and then do something with their life.

And you have to have it through video for the most part now, because you can extract the audio, you can create a transcript, and you can put that out there in as many different forms as possible.

Filming us right now, we have three video cameras. For people who don’t have access to a podcast studio, use your phone – it’s how I started, was using my own phone. It's very easy for people to be able to record video content. We could pick up our phones and start recording great video content now.

People are so worried about what other people are going to think. Instead, you need to change your mindset to think about all the people who won’t have a transformation in their life because you’re afraid to press a button on your phone. If you’re so focused on what people who won’t even watch your videos anyway are going to think, you need to shift your perspective.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where James Whittaker 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🚀


Produce content for people whose lives you want to help, rather than being so worried about what people in your rearview are going to think.

So true.

What you do very well with your guests is providing them great content, a professional blog, engaging video assets. Most podcasters don't do that – and that's why the guests don't share the episode. So if you can make your guest look like a superstar, they're going to share with their audience.

What's been the biggest success from creating valuable content for your guests, where they shared it and it helped you really drive a lot of traffic?

Inviting people as a collaborator on Instagram. While TikTok is by far the greatest organic social media growth tool right now, don't sleep on Instagram. That invite collaborator feature is legit. 

If you upload a video, I did one for Chris Voss – author of Never Split the Difference – and that video has now got more than 800,000 views across different platforms. On TikTok, it did really well, but the ‘invite collaborator’ feature on Instagram enabled Chris to be able to share that.

So if you go and look at a lot of the posts I've done, you can see which ones have the collaborator tag, and then you can go and look at their profiles, like Owen Roddy (coach of UFC star Conor McGregor). So you can go and see my posts on his Instagram page.

Of course, that was all through amazing content that he had provided on the show. Same with FBI negotiator Chris Voss. Same with Gabby Reece, Navy SEAL William Branum, all of these different people are now sharing the content that we created together because I went the extra mile by giving them amazing video assets that they could use afterwards.

So you have all these people – billion-dollar founders, #1 New York Times bestselling authors, Navy SEALS. How are you connecting with these people consistently? What is your secret to being able to connect with them and get them on your show?

It's very much a long game.

The first and most important one is to have a platform to access their genius. Now you could reach out and invite someone out for a coffee, but who has time for that? You don't have time for that. I don't have time for that. 

Yeah someone emailing you to say “Can I pick your brain for an hour?”

Horrible! But if you have a sincere mission and a platform to be able to access their genius, like a podcast, your relationship will progress much faster and much deeper.

People admire hustle and they admire heart. Through your podcast, you reveal exactly how much hustle and heart you have.

To break it right down, figure out the list of people who you want to have on your show. Once you’ve got that list of names, find a mutual connection. That mutual connection means a trusted third party can introduce you so you're not going in cold.
Next, be sincere and upfront about the mission and what it is that you do, and invite them into their movement. What are you going to do to further their mission rather than being so focused on yourself? If you can do those things – and give them an amazing experience – you’re on your way.

People admire hustle and they admire heart.

The best thing about video assets is that you also maintain an ongoing presence in their life. So I might have done an interview 18 months ago, 24 months ago, but I can still repurpose and publish content in a unique way from that, which means they're going to see it. They're going to respect it. They're going to re-share it or accept it as a collaborator. And that means I'm staying front of mind.

So when I can reach out to them and say, hey, I know that you are connected with this person or this person, the chances of getting a yes are 100 times more likely.

In addition to that, I also have built up a good network of really just great people who have influential guests or people with great stories who just reach out to me and say, look, here's a person that I really think you should have on the show. And if they're a great fit, we make it happen.

I have a list here of some of the top people you’ve interviewed, and I’d love to hear your favorite lesson or insight from each one – just whatever comes to mind. I'm really excited to hear what you say. 

Let’s do it.

So the first one is Barbara Corcoran from Shark Tank. That’s a good one to start because you and I have an epic photo with her from the red carpet for the premier of Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy, the film you and I produced. 

What was a lesson you took away from Barbara?

I love Barbara, and it’s amazing what she's been able to achieve.

The big one for her is that you don't need to know everything yourself. It's a bit like the Henry Ford story that on the condition that you have an idea of where it is that you want to go, and you're always focused on adding value to as many people as you can, that you can find someone – and surround yourself with people who have the answers – so you don't need to know everything yourself.

That was my favorite. Getting the right people in the place is huge. 

Next one, John Assaraf from The Secret.

The biggest one from him would be to help the people who want the help, not the people who need the help. 

Over the years, I've tried to help so many people. And what I realized along that way was that often when I would try to lift people up, sometimes they can end up pulling you down because they're not ready for the help.

I asked John Assaraf, what do you do in that situation? And he said, “I only help people who want the help, not the people who need the help.”

It's powerful.

Now there's a lot of people out there who need help, but not everyone wants the help. So once they're committed and they show through their actions that they are ready for the help, that's when I'll give them everything I've got.

Rob Dyrdek.

Amazing guy. I mean, a skateboarder turned media mogul with all of the different TV shows and  brands that he owns at the moment.

The biggest one for him was building an entire life – your calendar, your entire week – about actions and people that give you energy rather than take it away.

You can even color code all of the things that you've got in your calendar. So color code them all – red means it takes away energy, green means it gives you energy. If you've got a whole week, that's full of things that are red, then you've got to start moving those things around or not doing those things at all.

Next one is one of my favorites. He's a fellow Iowa boy, Chris Voss, the FBI negotiator. What did you learn from him?

The big one for him would be everyone gets hurt, but not everyone lives hurt. That's such a simple but impactful shift to make.

That's good.

Once you’ve been hurt, recognizing that it’s okay, we all get hurt – albeit some a lot more severely and frequently than others – but it's your choice to live hurt. Use that adversity as fuel to go and do something great.

Wow. I’m going back to this! For anyone listening to this podcast or watching it on YouTube, this is so good. 

Next one is Gabby Reece.

The biggest one for her would be the best way to show that you are grateful for something is to take care of it.

Now, a lot of people talk gratitude. It's gratitude this, gratitude that. But if you were really grateful about something, then you would prove your gratitude by taking care of it before you have the problem.

So if you're grateful for your body, look after your body. Like they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Love it. 

Next one, Canadian billionaire, Errol Abramson.

Errol has passed away, sadly. Barely a day goes by where I don't think about Errol. I was so grateful for all the conversations we were able to have.

Two actually big things come from Errol. He would always tell me, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” He would constantly reference that as the importance of going after what you really want, rather than waiting for things to fall in your lap. So if you want something bad enough, then you have to follow up and do the work. 

And another thing he shared with me was to think about what type of life you want to have and then create profit centers to be able to manifest that lifestyle. If you don't want a billion-dollar lifestyle, you don't need to create profit centers to do that, but figure out what lifestyle you want and create the profit centers to get there.

Next one, our mutual friend, Rob Angel who invented Pictionary.

From Rob it would be to say no more often to things that don't serve you.

I think we've all been guilty of saying yes to things like going out and drinking too much or partying too much, whatever it is. But making sure that we are aware of what it is that really serves us and is getting us to where we need to be, the direction that we want to go in that'll take us to that destination, and making sure that we're saying yes to things that get us there rather than pushing us in the opposite direction.

5x New York Times bestselling author Sharon Lechter [30 million copies sold].

One thing I love from Sharon is the best money is royalty money – where you can earn money while you're asleep. 

That's where things like book projects and scalable digital products are really great because you can earn money while you're sleeping. 

Kerwin Rae.

The biggest one from Kerwin would be the importance of being calm in the midst of absolute chaos. 

Kerwin has worked with a lot of special forces operators. And a big goal of mine for the last two years has been to get comfortable with special forces tactical training, because when you're in a war zone – which you can simulate through gunfire and those types of things – your body is at its most stress, your life is literally on the line, that's where you need to be calm in that complete chaos.

I haven’t been able to progress much on that goal due to covid and the challenges of having a young family, but I’ve got it on my list and will get there soon. 

But I want to get very good at being comfortable handling high-powered weapons and being in that environment. My hope is that it would teach me to be calm and respond, rather than be scared and react, which would be a very useful skill in the real world when your back is against the wall but you need to be calm and focused. 

As an Australian, quite candidly, guns terrify me. And getting more comfortable in the midst of complete chaos and that pursuit of calm is something that I want to have as a big focus. Otherwise the stress will compound. We get comfortable by repeatedly exposing ourselves to discomfort and, since I haven’t had much exposure to military scenarios, that is something I would love to simulate.

The next one, The Sleep Doctor Michael Breus.

The biggest one for him would be that not everyone needs to wake up at five in the morning.

There are way too many rah-rah lifestyle entrepreneurs who espouse – and insist – that everyone needs to get out of bed at 5:00 AM. I get out of bed at about 7:00 AM most days. And that's what suits me based on my chronotype.

So the people who say that everyone should get up first thing in the morning at 5:00 AM or earlier, they just don't know about sleep science. So that was huge.

The next one, Keith Ferrazzi.

There is no excuse for you to remain mediocre. 

I know that might seem harsh for people who are in tough situations. Keith has come from some very difficult situations, as have the hundreds of people who I have interviewed. As a result of those conversations, I’m certain that there is no excuse for you to remain mediocre. You just figure out what it is that you want and you chart your path – that's straight from Keith Ferrazzi.

Keith has been a big influence on my career, well before the podcast.

Amen. 

So the next one is a legend who recently passed us, Bob Proctor.

With Bob Proctor, it wasn't so much of a lesson – and of course I've learned so much from Bob through his books, videos, and interviews that you and I have been part of – but the biggest one for him was just the energy of our interview. It was like he just reached into your brain and had a hold of it. 

So I think for him, just the energy was extraordinary.

He's really in that moment. I remember interviewing on the red carpet, he just like, he stopped. I asked the question, he stopped, he paused and then he answered so flawlessly. It's crazy how that worked.

Janine Shepherd.

Janine said resilience is not a line that you cross, it's a decision that you make every single day.

One more. It's a tough one for you! What have you learned from Brandon T. Adams!?

That's an easy one actually!

And I did a post recently talking about how you're the most persistent person I know. 

The biggest one for you is something that you actually shared on this show where you said ideas are meaningless, action is everything. And it is, it's completely true. Action is the real measure of intelligence.

I think, if I remember correctly, I said, “Ideas are shit without action!”

That's exactly what you said. And it's so true.

There are so many great lessons you’ve shared already. I'm going to go back and listen to them again! Because if the people watching this episode, or listening to this episode, can just take two or three one-liners and implement that in your life, just think of that impact.

That's why I love these shows and sharing that inspiration for people, so they can take one thing away and implement.

What specific and practical things have you implemented after your interviews?

Probably the biggest one would be after interviewing John Lee Dumas from EO Fire, who's had more than 2,000 episodes of the Entrepreneur on Fire podcast and featured me on Episode 1998. He’s a good mutual friend of you and I, and he’s generated more than USD $20 million in revenue through having the first daily podcast show for entrepreneurs.

The biggest one for him was that energy shift of doing your life's work before your busy work. So doing your most creative work when you have the most energy and then doing those things that you can do on autopilot later in the day, that's the busy work.

Have you had many behind the scenes challenges or technical difficulties that you've had to handle?

There have been some as a result of using Zoom, or having dogs barking, or a guest with crappy audio.

If you're dealing with people who haven't podcasted before and they have a crappy mic or they're using the computer mic, which is totally fine, but it doesn't lend itself to the best quality interview in terms of the sound or the content, because the sound can detract from the quality of the interview.

And it's why we're here in the studio, and it's why almost exclusively now I'm doing these interviews here in the studio because it completely alleviates those technical challenges.

For somebody who wants to get into podcasting, do you think there's still opportunity or is it too crowded?

Now is absolutely the time. 

There's a tale of two shoe salesmen who went to a new region, and they noticed that no one there was wearing shoes. One salesman came back and said, “It's not a good market for us because no one wears shoes.”

And the other salesman said, “It's the perfect market for us because no one wears shoes!”

Everyone now is aware of podcasting. This is your opportunity. Tell your story or no one else will.

That's so good. I've never actually heard the shoe story before.

What are the biggest mistakes you see podcasters make?

Being under-prepared, and being too transactional with the way they approach the relationships on the show.

The reality is you get 10x the ROI on your show before anyone even hears the episode. And you do that through getting a connection through a mutual friend, to the right guest, preparing for that, delivering them an amazing experience, and then the video assets afterwards. If you do that, the yield that you will get back on your podcast almost immediately is incredible.

The reality is you get 10x the ROI on your show before anyone even hears the episode.

And to quantify what that could look like in five years, 10 years, look at the networks that you and I have been able to establish, not just with each other, but through the guests and through all the people that we've been able to interview over the years. 

What is that worth to us now? And what would that be worth in 20 years as we continue to stay connected with these people?

Absolutely huge.

So this will be a good question for you, and I'm curious. I'm huge on video and I multipurpose it, but where can audio differentiate itself from video and how that can be so powerful?

Audio is good, and it's easy to get up for audio because you don't need to worry about how you look and you’re not distracted by looking at yourself like you would on Zoom. So there's certainly a lot more effort required for video.

But the important thing to remember is that you cannot bring video in for an audio file. You can do stock footage, but it's not really worth it. So I prefer to record video and then you extract the audio from there.

Next, you extract the transcription from the audio so you can have long-form written content. And then you extract short-form content out of that.

When you do that, you can create a near infinite amount of content from a single one-hour video interview.

I love that. 

We're going to switch it up a little bit. If you were working with a frustrated entrepreneur who was desperate to get to that next level, what steps would you walk them through?

Good question.

It would be through the things that we've gone through today. It would be telling your story, like you think out of nowhere, all of these people are going to find you!? 

In business and life, I like to stack the deck as much as possible. Force opportunity, fate, and luck to come your way rather than waiting for it.

You can create a near infinite amount of content from a single one-hour video interview.

The way that I do that is putting myself out there, so as many people as possible know about me – not just in terms of viewers, listeners for a podcast show, or readers of a book – but relationships where people know my mission. They know who I help and how I can help them, and can get me to where I need to go.

So just getting access to as many people as possible through that and telling your story, I think is an absolute no brainer and unbelievably easy for everyone to do.

You always talk about winning the day, but do you ever lose the day? And if you do, how do you handle it?

One of my favorite quotes is, “Some days you’re the pigeon, some days you’re the statue.” 

So yes, I have days where I'm low on energy and different things happen. I used to find that immensely frustrating, and it still can be very frustrating when you have things to do. Anyone who's a parent knows how challenging it can be when you wake up with very little sleep or no sleep at all. 

Rather than running harder on the treadmill, I try and just take a moment to myself. I get outside, a bit of sunshine, maybe go to the beach, just have time to myself, get outdoors or go and do some exercise, and just be at peace.

A good friend of mine, Alethea Boon, who's a five-time CrossFit Games athlete, once said to me, “You don't need to set a world record every day. You just need to give the best energy that you've got on that day.” And I really like that.

So that's what I try to do.

That's really good.

Well, we're going to go to questions from the Win the Day community. Are you ready!?

Let's do it!

Mary from Canada asked, "If you were to start all over again from nothing, what would you do and why?"

If I were to start all over again from nothing, I would launch a podcast from my phone so I could do it quickly and without spending a cent. 
I would go to a cafe in an entrepreneurial-type area and just work there, get to know people, and have organic conversations. And I would be interested in other people. That's the best way to be interesting.

So good. 

Most people don’t do that. They’d rather talk about themselves for 20 minutes. 

You and I were at an event recently and someone did that, which immediately shifted the energy in the conversation – I know you felt it too. She might have had the best of intentions, and been well qualified, but it’s the wrong way to establish a relationship. And it can be extremely off-putting, especially if you’re in a room where most people are doing that. 

Instead, ask questions of other people. That's the best way to get them interested in you. So that's the focus that I would have. I would just try and build up my network by adding as much value as possible, whilst I documented the journey and put video content out there.

Brett in Brisbane asked, "What is the best piece of advice you've been offered during a podcast by a guest?"

I'm trying to think of something we haven't shared yet today. And all the ones I mentioned earlier have been enormously impactful on my life.

Episode 58 with Greg Connolly, who's the founder of the world’s largest organic meal delivery service, Trifecta Nutrition. He said that, "The best business model to build, a real scalable business can only come through a subscription model." And I love that.

So the clients like the predictability of knowing that their meals are going to rock up every single week and the business likes the predictability of cash flow, because they can invest in all the other types of things for the business.

Having a business with a subscription model is very, very smart. It's a small thing to say, but when you dive into that interview in terms of sheer business value, I think that might have been the best interview out of all of them.

Suzanne in Canada asked, “When you have experienced a failure in your life, what steps can you take to learn from the situation? And how can you change it to a learning situation instead of being a victim of the situation?”

Good question.

I’d start by developing the habit of always asking yourself, “What’s the gift in this?”

That's great.

It's such a simple reframe, and sometimes that can take a little bit of time.

There are a bunch of other quotes that I think are helpful, like “Instead of ‘why me’, start saying ‘try me.’”
But we can also reflect on the famous Napoleon Hill quote, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartbreak, carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” I go and look at the stories, all of the people included in Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy, like Janine Shepherd, Jim Stovall – people who have overcome unbelievable hardship – they focused on the gift. They also remembered that the most important opinion is how you feel about yourself.

If you hold on to hate, the only person who gets destroyed is you.

No matter what challenge you get hit with, reflect on the experience and find a lesson. What can you action and implement from that lesson? What did it teach you? How will it help you move forward? It can be tough, really tough, but that’s what’s necessary to be successful over the long-term.

I mean, at the end of the day, you've got to let these things go. If you hold on to hate, the only person who gets destroyed is you.

Andrew from the Gold Coast, asked, “How much of a role did Entourage play in you choosing the entrepreneur dream in the USA and who is your favorite character and why?”

I saw that question come through! Shout out Andrew Mackey.

Entourage, great show. My favorite character, probably Ari Gold. I think Ari Gold is hilarious. And I will admit it's pretty cool being based in LA where I've lived now for the last eight years, where that show is based. I find it inspiring to live here. 

Rose in Tasmania asked, “I'm in the process of starting an online radio station, any marketing tips?”

Building up your audience organically is a good way to do that. 

So I would not wait until you hit record, and then all of a sudden, you think there's going to be millions of people there. What are you going to do to stack the deck of success by creating awareness before the launch?

Raise awareness organically through the content that you're putting out now, building up to a countdown to the launch day, and thinking about what partners and relationships that you can activate. Once you have your ideal audience in droves, drive them at a specific day to that launch and then make your audience and your community part of the conversation.

That’s what I would do, albeit a simplified version – the one thing not captured there is the resourcefulness and resilience you need to make it a mega success.

Lauren in Brisbane asked, "What was a time in your life where you took your biggest risk? What did this moment teach you?"

The biggest risk for me was at the age of 28. 

I made the decision to leave the industry that I'd worked in pretty much my entire life and to leave the city that I had lived in for literally my entire life and moved to the other side of the world.

I went from Brisbane to Boston where I didn't know anyone. I just moved there with my girlfriend at the time and was in an MBA that was nine months in Boston, three months in Shanghai in China. Thinking back now, that was a substantial leap and definitely my biggest risk.

And I couldn't even fathom it at the time, how impactful that would be for me. The biggest lesson was that I didn't realize how much of a bubble that I had been in until I left that bubble.

Moving to Boston got me around entrepreneurs for the first time. In fact, I was pretty much exclusively surrounded by entrepreneurs. I was 28 and I saw people who were my age and younger who were raising money. They were pitching, they were doing all of these things to get partners and clients, and all of that.

It was the first time that I'd been exposed to that. And the moment I saw those people doing it, that is when I realized that I could do it too. Small shift, but a huge step.

I'm glad you came to the US!

I should say that having interviewed 300+ people now, and delving so much into the work on resourcefulness, resilience, and success more broadly, I think – given a long enough timeframe – I would be able to find the gift in anything I experienced.

Today, I can’t think about ‘risk’ without thinking about ‘victimhood,’ and I have no intention of being a victim to circumstances ever again. When there’s something I want, I’ll develop the right plan, get around the right people, and give it a red hot crack. If it fails, I’ll have a good lesson – or at least a funny story – to carry with me.

Love that.

Nathan in Sydney asked, "What's the best advice you can give to someone wanting to be their own boss and start their own business or businesses?"

The best leader was once the best follower.

So if you want to start your own business, find the best leaders that you know, if it's in the industry that you want to be in. Look at how they treat people, their daily routine, how they grow their business, what they do for self-care. Take pride in being a great follower.

Once you do that, and if you're in a position where you can be getting a lot of value from them and ideally a little bit of money, so you're not making a huge leap and working for nothing – because that financial hardship and pressure can be very real and very debilitating – that's your opportunity to think about the movement that you want to create.

The best leader was once the best follower.

What's the business that you want to create and what are the problems that you want to solve? Who has those problems? What are the solutions that you can introduce? How do you attract the right attention, and turn that attention into engagement, and turn that engagement into sales, to grow your business and give them the transformation along the way?

So the last question from the Win the Day community is from Haley in Townsville, who asked, "What are your positive learnings from recent years in COVID, things you've learned to do differently and for the better?"

Self-care would be the biggest one.

So for me, I have my morning journal time – that sets me up massively to win the day. I also try and get a good hit of sunshine every day, go on fast-paced walks (often carrying my toddler!), and attend at least one full-body fitness class per week. 

It's about as much as I can do at the moment. If you’ve been in the Win the Day community for a while, you’ll recall the challenges I’ve shared trying to manage two kids under three with two working parents – especially with our 7-month-old who still has a very disruptive sleep.

Parenting can be very, very tough. For me, it's a successful week when I can stay consistent with my journal – and I haven't missed a beat on that, as we just passed 370 consecutive days – and getting that fitness class done once a week. If I can do those things, and have some quality family time, the week is a huge win for me. 

What are you focused on as a parent to give your kids the best chance of success?

Henry's only seven months old, so he's a bit young for anything too specific.

With Sophie, who is three and a half, I'm focused on, of course, making sure that she always feels loved and happy, but anytime that she's upset or frustrated about something, I ask her, “What's the problem?” We won’t move on to anything else. We stop, and we calmly figure out what the specific problem is.

If she can't figure it out, I'll help her figure it out. But we look at defining the problem and, once we’ve done that, I ask her, “What do you think is a good solution?” Sometimes I need to guide her to that solution, but she’s picked it up pretty quickly. We speak calmly, openly, and respectfully.

The reason I’m focused on that is so, no matter what career she pursues or what relationships she has, she’ll always be good at identifying the problem, mapping out all the possible solutions, and picking the best one based on her values and where she wants to go. I want that to become second nature to her.

My hope is that it becomes an immensely valuable gift that will help her throughout her entire life.

On your best day, what's an affirmation that you would write down on a flashcard that could show yourself on your worst day?

That's a question I ask everyone on the show and it's a hard one to answer! It's a tough one. 

Probably that you are destined for unbelievably great things that will help change the lives of millions of people. Keep going.

I love that.

What's one thing you do to Win the Day?

It would be the morning routine, which is a few different phases.

The first part is the acknowledgement phase, where I acknowledge that the day is there to be won or lost, then I make the conscious decision to win.

Second is the sacrifice phase, which is the cold shower, to prove that I've turned up for the day. Third is the gratitude phase and what's unique about the last 24 hours, which I do in my morning journal. Finally, writing down what three things would make today a win.

And then as part of that, it'd just be getting some sunshine. The rays invigorate me.

As we wrap this up, I just want to acknowledge you for what you've done with this show. You are the epitome of showing people what podcasting should be about. You're providing so much value. You're bringing on great guests. You're putting so much time into your shows.

For all of you listening or watching, the best way to thank James is to give the show a 5-star rating (rate on Apple Podcasts / rate on Spotify) and hit that ‘subscribe’ button. It will only take a few seconds to do that and I know he’d really appreciate it.

So thank you, James, for all that you do. 

Thank you to our quest host Brandon! Also a big shout out to all of you for listening, watching, and supporting the show.

As always, take purposeful action and keep moving forward. 

That's it for episode 100 of the Win the Day podcast! Remember to get out there and Win the Day.

Until next time…

Onward and upward always,

James Whittaker


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That’s all for this episode! Get out there and win the day.

Until next time…

Onward and upward always,

James Whittaker

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