“My biggest fear is that when I die the person I am meets the person I could have become.”

Author Unknown

Our guest today is a truly extraordinary individual and one of the world’s leading wilderness experts. Bruce Kirkby grew up in Toronto as an engineering physicist by trade, but he had that itch that there was more to life than simply going through the same boring motions each day.

Despite almost failing English in high school, Bruce became a wilderness writer and adventure photographer, and today he’s visited 80+ countries and is renowned for connecting wild places with contemporary issues.

Some of his most notable accomplishments include the first modern crossing of Arabia’s Empty Quarter by camel, a descent of Ethiopia’s Blue Nile Gorge by raft, a sea kayak traverse of Borneo’s northern coast, and a coast-to-coast Icelandic trek.

Bruce is the author of three bestselling books, winner of multiple National Magazine Awards, and has been featured in The New York Times. His TV show Big Crazy Family Adventure was released by the Travel Channel in 2015 and followed Bruce’s journey with his wife and two young children from their home in Canada to India with one condition – the only mode of transportation they couldn’t use was airplanes.

In this interview, we'll look at:

Perhaps the best lesson from this interview is how to reconnect with what it means to be human.

Bruce has an incredible energy, some amazing stories, and I know you’re going to love this episode!

For the video interview, click here.

Resources / links mentioned:

📷 Bruce Kirkby on Instagram

Bruce Kirkby website

🌎 Big Crazy Family Adventure on the Travel Channel

📚 Bruce’s brand-new book Blue Sky Kingdom: An Epic Family Journey to the Heart of the Himalaya

💚 Blue Sky Kingdom trailer

🎙️ We Are Podcast: Learn how to make money from your podcast

“I’m in a battle every single day. A war. People who succeed have the burning desire to win, and the persistence to get up and fight every day.”

Brandon T. Adams

Welcome back to Win the Day! If you’re watching this on YouTube, you might notice some changes. We’re not in my regular home studio setup. In fact, we’re in a professional recording studio for the first time ever.

Our guest today has fit a LOT into his 30 years and has a truly eclectic background. Brandon T. Adams grew up in rural Iowa helping out with his father’s packaged ice business. That job taught him the value of hard work and an honest buck, but he didn’t share similar enthusiasm for his academic work. On the brink of flunking out of college, Brandon was given a book that completely changed his trajectory and became the foundation to everything he’s achieved today.

Since that defining moment, Brandon has become a podcaster, speaker, inventor, and business adviser. His work as a crowdfunding expert has raised more than $35 million and led to him working with high profile clients such as Kevin Harrington (from hit TV show Shark Tank), Jeff Hoffman (billionaire founder of Priceline), John Lee Dumas (from award-winning Entrepreneurs on Fire), and the renowned non-profit XPRIZE.

As a serial entrepreneur, Brandon owns a stake in more than a dozen businesses. He’s been featured on the cover of Investors Digest magazine, led one of the largest campaigns for a book in crowdfunding history, and was featured as the youngest cast member in Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy, which was the project where we first met.

Most recently, Brandon became the Emmy® Award-winning producer and host of TV show Success in Your City, which you can check out now on Amazon. I am extremely grateful to be featured in a few of those episodes.

Brandon and I immediately got along like a house on fire and he’s now one of my closest friends. And, fun fact, I was actually the officiant at Brandon’s wedding in Nashville where he married his wonderful wife Sam two years ago today!

In this interview, we talk about Brandon's darkest days where he faced depression, loneliness, and bankruptcy. We'll also go through:

Brandon holds nothing back in this interview. If you want both the motivation to succeed and the blueprint on how to do it, this is the episode for you.

James Whittaker:
How are you my friend?

Brandon T. Adams:
Good! It's great to be here in the studio with you, man. It's always a pleasure being in your presence.

To kick things off, tell us about what it was like growing up in rural Iowa.

Well, it's funny, you've been to Iowa, so you know what it's like. I grew up in a town of 700 people: Garnavillo, Iowa. My whole life, I was an entrepreneur. I worked with my dad in the ice business. I remember I was selling all the time, knocking on doors. Just selling anything I could. I was big into fundraising too. I remember doing the St. Jude's Bikeathon and the Boy Scouts Popcorn.

But I called myself the 'Spartan entrepreneur' and I got to see what it was like at a young age to work with my father in the ice business. I didn't play baseball, I didn't do the summer sports. I worked in the ice business. And so I always had the entrepreneurial bug in terms of lifestyle. I mean, small town, my parents have timber land and a cabin that you've been to. And it's 10 miles outside of town, middle of nowhere.

So growing up, I got to shoot guns. I got to just experience life and see what it's like in a small town area. But the one thing I think about looking back on it is when you're in a small town, you only know what you know. I never thought I was going to leave Iowa or even Clayton County, which has no stoplights in it.

Once you get opened up to the world and what's possible, and you see what other people are doing, you have a different perspective. Being in the ice business, that's all I knew and I thought that I would do that for the rest of my life. Once I got different perspectives on life, it changed how I thought and who I surrounded myself with, but it all started in a small town in Iowa.

Often you don't realize how much of a bubble you're in until you leave that bubble. I had a similar experience when I moved to Boston at the age of 28, about as far away from my home town of Brisbane as you could get, where I was surrounded by entrepreneurs for the first time. And when you're in a new city, it forces you to get out of your comfort zone and step up.

What career opportunities did you feel were available to you growing up in rural Iowa?

I always knew I wanted to sell. I was obsessed with getting sales and making money. And so the ice business was how I did that, but I always wanted to try different things. When I was a kid, I always knew I wanted to do something big. I didn't think I was going to do TV shows or public speaking, but I knew I wanted to do something.

The big setback I had as a kid was a speech impediment, a lisp. I couldn't communicate and that bothered me. I remember people bullying me. I remember avoiding the S words and I realized, "Okay, if I want to be the best at sales, I have to be a great communicator." At age 10, I was in front of the mirror at night, practicing my S's, practicing my speaking: "I am a great speaker. I am a great salesman." Over and over again.

That persistence to overcome adversity is one of the things that you would read in Think and Grow Rich, but I didn't read the book at that time. I just knew that if I kept practicing, eventually I would get better. People would come up to me and say, "Oh, do you have a speech impediment?" I'm like, "No, what are you talking about!?" And eventually it was built in my subconscious.

By the time I got to high school, I no longer had a speech impediment. I started putting myself in front of audiences. I remember I was scared shitless to speak in front of people, but I would volunteer to speak in front of a group of 20 people.

And then I remember the first time in high school, I spoke in front of 100 people. That was a big deal. So I kept pushing myself outside my comfort zone because I wanted to be a great public speaker; I wanted to be great at communication for selling. And the reason for that was so I could use it in the ice business. It always was that. It was only when I got to college that I realized I was going to do something other than sell frozen water for the rest of my life.

That forced repetition of getting out of your comfort zone and exposing yourself to those situations has been such a big key to your success. Before we get into all of that, tell us about Brandon T. Adams, the college student.

My brother is 39, my sister is 37, so growing up as a kid, I would get to hang out with them. I remember when I got to go visit my brother in college, he was in Cedar Rapids at Kirkwood College but we call it 'Keg-wood' because all they did there was drink. I remember going out to hang out with my brother and thought it was cool. I was at the party as a 10-year-old and hanging out with them. Shortly after, I realized, "Okay, I like beer." I was drinking in high school at that.

It was only when I got to college that I realized I was going to do something other than sell frozen water for the rest of my life.

I was drinking beer in cornfields and when I got to college, I just let loose. I was an alcoholic. I was drinking every single night. I stopped going to class because in high school I got a 3.8 GPA, and so school was easy for me. I got to college and I realized, "Oh, I have to study now. I need to go to class."

I had a roommate, his name was Brandon too. We were called “B-squared.” And we would go out all the time. We partied, we had fun. I did some drugs. None of the people in the dorm rooms were 21, so I start making homemade Apple Pie Moonshine. It's Everclear [up to 95% alcohol volume], there's a whole formula. I made it really well and I would make it in bulk and sell it in Gatorade bottles to other people in the dorm rooms.

So, as you can see, the start of my college career wasn't the best. Needless to say, my first semester, I got a 1.68 GPA. I took the finals of my econ class and I remember failing it and I tried to convince them to let me pass, which I tried to do a lot.

I said to the professor, "What do I have to do? Can I do extra credit? Can you let me pass?" And this is what he said, I'll never forget this. He said, "Brandon, you know there's been studies done where monkeys at random pick different choices for the answers. The score that you got in your test is worse than what a monkey would get on average."

I thought to myself, "You could have just told me I failed, instead of saying I'm like a monkey." And I'll never forget that, so that was horrible. Then, towards the end of the second semester in freshman year, I was fighting. I remember getting in a brawl and I got kicked out of the dorm rooms and I had to go sleep on the couch at my buddy's house.

The professor told me, "The score that you got in your test is worse than what a monkey would get on average."

My first semester of college was a complete shit-show. I was lost. I thought to myself, "Brandon, am I going to drop out and then go home and work in the family ice business, only for everyone to say, 'Oh, you couldn't make it through college. And then your daddy just gave you the business'?" And I told myself I wasn't going to do that. So I had to make a pivot because I definitely was going down the wrong path.

In high school, students are told that the metric of success is just to get good grades so they can into a good college program. And then once they're in the college program, you're told to just secure that degree, which will then get you a good job. But anyone who's remotely entrepreneurial, or just not ready, can be crippled by that process.

I had a very similar experience when I first started university where I just felt like I was not ready to learn. And as a result of that, you're not willing to understand the systems and do what it takes to succeed in those areas. Just like that quote: "When the student is ready, the master will appear."

Also, in college, they have electives you need to take. I fucking hated econ. I didn't care about econ. And chemistry... I hated the three-hour lab! So how I pass is I would flirt with girls who were smart and have them help me do my homework, but it just was boring. I think people go to college for the wrong reasons. They go to get the degree. I get that. But if you don't know what you want to do, and you're spending $20,000 - $50,000 a year, and building up debt, and you don't know what the fuck you're going to do, don't waste your money.

My first two years of college study were purely doing things that I didn't want to do, but I did them because that's what I had to do to get my degree. Once I got to my junior year, I actually got to take things I enjoyed, I got to make contacts, I got to do small business classes, I got to do communication. All these different things. And that's where I started taking college seriously. The first couple of years I was doing something I really didn't care about. All I enjoyed was partying. The school part, I only did to get that piece of paper.

I guess one good thing about bad grades was that it gave both you and I a kick up the ass that we needed to get things into gear!

A wake-up call, yeah.

And life has certainly changed for you since then. You've got this awesome new book, The Road to Success out now in book stores all around the country. You've got the TV show Success In Your City, available now online.

Let's start with the TV show. Tell us about the premise for that and what motivated you to get the show done?

First, let's step back. When I was in my third year of college, I read this book Think and Grow Rich. While I read that book, I realized that if I wanted something in life, I could achieve it if I went after it, surrounded myself with the right people, and followed the 13 principles. And so that's what I ultimately went after.

I remember having Cactus Jack Barringer, who became my mentor and was the guy who led me to the book. He opened my mind outside of what it was like in a small town, Garnaville. I realized I could do more with the world. I could become very wealthy. I could go do different things.

And so how I first got into the TV space was through an invention I made, the Arctic Stick. I invented the product, it never really made a lot of money, but I had to raise money for it. I did a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. While doing that, I found out that there was a need in the market to become a crowdfunding expert, so I started building my brand around crowdfunding.

I found out that there was a need in the market to become a crowdfunding expert, so I started building my brand around crowdfunding.

While doing that, one of the key components of crowdfunding was video. So creating a video that told a story, introduced your product / service, captured their attention, and included a call to action, which in this case was to donate or pledge money or invest. Once I start doing more of that, I realized, "Okay, crowdfunding, I'm good at this, but I really enjoy the video stuff."

So I started really focusing more on video. I remember taking acting classes. I ended doing commercials. I had agents, I was creating my own videos. My first opportunity in TV was from a guy who sponsored my event, Greg Rollett. While we were at the event, he said, "Hey, I got this pilot for a TV show called Ambitious Adventures. If you help me crowdfund it, I'll make you my co-host."

Instantly, I said yes because I always wanted to be in front of the camera. We ultimately made the show and it's on Amazon Prime. But that led to me doing another show, and then it led me to doing Success in Your City. And that's how I got in the TV space.

In 2017, I was in Puerto Rico with my girlfriend at the time, now wife, Samantha. We were sitting on the beach having a pina colada. The best ideas sometimes come from a drink, right!? And I said, "What are we going to do next? Let's do something crazy. Let's do something fun." We were living at Florida at the time. And I had always had this idea. I remember telling John Lee Dumas this idea. He was the first person I ever told about it. I said, "Hey John, what do you think of this idea of me living in 12 cities in 12 months?" He's like, "Man, you're going to have to do a lot of preparation for that."

So I went back said to Sam, "Why don't we live in 12 cities in 2018? Live in different cities, learn from people and just enjoy life. Why don't we film a TV series on it?" Because I was finished with the show Ambitious Adventures and the one feedback was that our show would have been better if it was a male and female co-host, and what could be better than having a couple? So I somehow convinced Samantha to be my co-host. And that's where the concept for Success in Your City came from.

When we flew back from Puerto Rico, we started picking out all the cities we wanted and writing down our contacts. We were brainstorming, masterminding, looking at budget costs. We actually thought about having a cameraman live with us for the whole year. But we realized that was going to be very inefficient, costly, and we wouldn't know how that would work out because they would have to always be with us.

So we decided that we were going to travel the country and look for the true meaning of 'success.' We wanted to learn what success meant from other people through their eyes, in different cities around the country. And do it before we got married that year. Because I proposed to her on October 13th, 2017, literally the night before the Think and Grow Rich premiere. We wanted to figure out what success meant — that was the whole concept of the show.

We left Iowa on December 27th, 2017, we got to Scottsdale and within three weeks, we filmed our first episode with Shea Hillenbrand, the baseball player. We'd go to the city, live there for four to six weeks, find scenes, find the talent... we'd have to find everything. We would be on calls with our scriptwriter, because they would create scenes and different parts for the show, and then we would fly out our film crew. We'd have a four or five person film crew with us for four to five days straight.

We would set this all up, film nonstop, and then they'd fly out, and then we'd go to the next city. So that was the concept of the show, and that's ultimately where it led to us, doing a book on it, but it was a crazy journey.

Amazing. So you were in Massachusetts, Texas, Arizona — everywhere. What story in particular, or what location, stands out as the most inspiring or where you enjoyed yourself the most?

Every city was unique, and it was like different chapters of our lives in that year. So we ultimately set off for 12 cities, but we ended up getting six cities and filming five episodes. After the first city, we realized, wow, we're basically self-funding this, we're doing all this, it wasn't going to be feasible. Scottsdale was amazing and we had great support from the community. We got to do events and fundraisers; we raised about $40,000 for the Boys and Girls Club while we were there, so that was a cool experience. And we learned more about who we are as people, as we were learning from Shea.

When we went to Texas, for one, I wasn't thinking, South by Southwest was on during our time there, so we couldn't find a feasible place to stay. We lived in a hotel for a month, which didn't go over well with Sam. And we hit rock bottom because I was going through a buyout of a business partner. I had just got done with an event that I spent a lot of money on that you were a speaker at, but the fires were that week, so my attendance was one-third of what it was going to be. We were planning on doing a lot of revenue at that event and it didn't turn out to to be the case, so all these things hit me at one point, and I remember, I was negative thousands in the bank. I was broke, and you knew me back then, but I didn't show it to the world. I had to keep this strong mindset, even though I was literally at rock bottom.

Sam wasn't talking to me, and we were in the same hotel room. She was dealing with depression because we didn't have any money. She felt like nobody cared about what we were doing. I even questioned, "Is anybody going to watch this fucking show? Does anybody give a shit?" And I think we all have that moment as entrepreneurs where we wonder whether people care about what we're doing.

The people we featured from Austin was a real estate couple, Ricky and KodiKay Cain, and they said, "Hey, why don't you come to our church? It's called Riverbend." And we went to it, and I'll never forget this... we were sitting down and the priest, Dave Haney, said, "Some of you are here and you don't know why you're here, but you're here for a reason." Instantly, it spoke to us.

After that happened, we went back to our hotel room and we felt at peace for the first time in a while. I remember literally a week after that experience, I had a business deal go through that made me more money in that deal than everything from the previous year. So I went from rock bottom, with no money, to a lot of money. All of a sudden, my life changed again, so that was a positive experience.

Then, once we got to Boston, it was the quickest turnaround. We got there May 1st and we left May 31st. In that time, we had to find the talent, scenes, everything, and fly our film crew in, live there and film. We were in downtown Boston, which if you ever film in Boston, you know that you pay a shit-ton for a furnished apartment for a month.

Ultimately we learned that you don't need a lot of material things. Our feature in Boston was a guy who was homeless at one point. And after that episode, we went home, we sold our home and 99% of our things. I was in conversations with selling my event business, Young Entrepreneur Convention, which I did, and I had the first conversation with my father that I was going to sell the family ice business that I bought from him. So Boston made me realize, you have to do what means the most to you. Don't do it for the money. Material things don't really mean anything.

You have to do what means the most to you. Don't do it for the money.

Them we went to Denver. My wife told her story, we enjoyed a good time in Denver, and then our last one was Nashville, which was my favorite city. I love Nashville and I think I'll eventually move there. That one was cool because we got married there, and you're in the finale episode!

So each episode and city was its own experience, and what's really cool is we can relive it now. We can watch it, and say, "Oh, that happened." It's like you have this picture book for your memories. We have a show and we can look back, and that was our experience. So it was a crazy journey, man. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

It was difficult, but I think the part that we really emphasize in the book is what we learned along the way and how hard it was. As I said earlier, Sam was dealing with depression, we almost went bankrupt — all these different things. Most people don't talk about that. We live in a society where it's an Instagram perfect picture and everything's all right. But people always have their own shit going on, so why not share what's really happening? Why not share what it really takes to become successful?

One of the things I love most about the book is that it’s so real and raw – not just about the experiences that you went through at the time, but also the background that you and Sam had individually and then together.

Tell us about you and Sam as a couple. You obviously have such an amazing bond and I'm grateful to have spent so much time with the two of you. What do you each bring to the relationship that makes it such a strong union?

We're totally different. If there were two people like me, it would probably not be good! I'm very outgoing, sometimes very over the top, and she's more behind the scenes. She has always been very supportive of me, and that works well for us. Just doing this book tour, she did the first event, and the rest, she's like, "You go ahead, do it. You'll have more fun without me." Because she doesn't care to do the interviews.

Honestly, if someone requested her for a media or podcast interview, unless it was from you, she would probably say no because she doesn't care to do that. On camera she would turn it on, but it was more to support what I was doing. Her thing is fitness, personal training, empowering women, helping them, and she's helped a lot of women. She is a very old and smart soul, and I think it's really great to have that collaboration.

Like with you and your wife, you both have things that supplement each other. Sam is more laid back and gives a different approach. I'm like, go, go, go, go, and get up in front of the camera. And sometimes she grounds me and says, "Hey, Brandon, maybe you're getting a little ego." You know what I mean? She'll pull me back.

One trait about both of our wives is they're never afraid to tell it how it is!

Yes, they pull us back and humble us, and we need that. We need somebody to wake our ass up because we all go through that. If you're in front of the camera, or you have an audience, or you start reaching a level of success, you're obviously going to have fans and followers, and you can't let that get to your head, because if you do, it will destroy you.

Just like a really negative mindset can destroy you at the same time. What I feel like both of our wives are very good at doing is building us up when they know we're in the dark days on the entrepreneurial rollercoaster.

You and I both need our wives to support us, because we're not always at this high peak level. We have our moments too, and they pick us up, and vice versa.

One of the things I love most about you, if not my favorite thing about you, is that 'get up and go' spirit. It's amazing. You've got this energy on tap. What are the opportunities that attitude has given you?

So many, man. I'm the kind of guy who'll shoot, shoot, shoot, then aim later. I just go. But I've honed in more, now. I think a little bit longer before I take action.

Action is what gets results. The number one thing holding people back is they think about something and they strategize all day. At the end of the day, an idea is shit unless you actually take action towards it, and that's what I learned in Think and Grow Rich. You've got to take daily action, even if it's one thing you do every day, every single day, just one thing you accomplish. It'll build up, it's the compound effect. It'll slowly build up over time, and eventually, get you your bigger opportunity.

At the end of the day, an idea is shit unless you actually take action towards it.

And you don't know where it's going to happen. I've traveled the country, I've interviewed hundreds of people, I've failed many times, I've tried endeavors that didn't work. When I started in 2015, I started a podcast show, which at the time was called the University of Young Entrepreneurs, now called the Live to Grind podcast. I was traveling around the country and learning from people.

I'd drive my F-150 across the country, whether it was California, Ohio or Georgia, and I would meet with people in person. My podcast show was the way to get that connection, versus saying, "Hey, can I pick your brain?" or "Will you mentor me?" I used my show to interview people. At the time, I didn't have much money. I bought the Blue mics and I had the setup with the headphones and everything, and I would set up in people's offices.

Sometimes they didn't realize that I was traveling all around the country just to have that 45 minute interview. And that, for most people, is crazy. They think, "You're going to pay on your own dime, you're going to travel around the country, and you're going to interview these people. How are you making money?" I wasn't. I was sleeping in my truck, I remember in 2015, I think I slept in my truck 40-50 nights. Once did a trip from Des Moines, Iowa, to LA and back, I was going on TV and interviewing people, I did it for $800. Most of that was spent on fuel. I ate canned food, I had $5 footlongs sometimes.

I slept in the parking lot, the LA Fitness Center off Vine Street. I was doing an event, so I convinced LA Fitness to give me a free pass for the week. I parked my truck on the third level and I would sleep in my truck overnight. In the morning, I'd wake up early, I'd go work out there on a free pass, I would shower there, get ready, go to my conference for the day, and eat the food they had. At night, I would come back to my truck, edit my podcast, so if you look at early episodes, you'd probably hear the outside noise. I would do it in my truck and then I would go to sleep, and then I'd wake up and do it again. That is pure persistence.

People would make fun of me. They thought I was fucking nuts. My girlfriend, now wife, she's like, "Why are you doing that?" She was worried that somebody would kill me. But that was action. Most people think of all the reasons why they can't do something. Yet, I figured how I could make it possible.

Ultimately, I made a lot of connections around the country and I started doing events. My best deals and opportunities happened when I was out in the field meeting people. Sometimes my best opportunity came from a 100 - 500 person event. Other times it came from a three-person meetup.

If you take action, get outside your comfort zone, and become comfortable being uncomfortable, you will find opportunity. And then follow up on the opportunity; don't just get it and then let it go. You have to follow up and keep taking action, every single day.

You actually did it rather than talk about it.

I fucking hate it when people talk. People will promise me something and never deliver. You need to under-promise and over-deliver. I would never ask anything of anybody that I wouldn't do it myself.

Really over-deliver, and if you prove to somebody that you're a reliable person, they will never forget that and they will help you. Always over-deliver.

Video content has been a big focus for you. How do you feel when you look back at the really early videos that you did when you were just getting into the video and the branding side?

When I first started, I knew nothing about video. And to give you some perspective, I once created a video for an apprentice competition. I was selling real estate at the time, and in the video I said, "Maybe you know me for selling real estate." And I was showing all the things I did. Then I had an ice cooler and bags of ice, so I threw a ice bag and said, "You may know me from selling ice." In the video, I went through my house, and if you look at the video there is shit everywhere. It was a catastrophe, a full bachelor house. And then I said, "Maybe you know me for my invention."

At the end of the video, I kicked the bag in my basement. And I don't know why I kicked the bag. I looked ridiculous. But, see, I started.

When it comes to creating video content, people care what other people think. They're worried they're going to say the wrong thing and people are going to give them shit. But who cares!? And no matter what, those people are still going to give you shit. So I just became fearless in creating content.

With crowdfunding, I saw the power of what video did for fundraising, so I just started creating more content. And now the fact that we have this thing called a phone, there's no excuse. I create 99% of my content on my iPhone. And I bring people into my life. I share who I am. I share how I help people. And I share great knowledge and tips in my area of expertise.

I create 99% of my content on my iPhone.

That results in more followers, more people watching inside your life, more trust they build with you, and it ultimately leads to more sales. And I think video content and video marketing is the most powerful thing we have right now. And that's why I'm all in on it.

So people who don't take the action of creating video content can't really blame themselves for lack of prospects coming into the pipeline?

They're missing out. Think about it. Every video you create, it helps with SEO. People can Google my name "Brandon T. Adams" and they can see 15 pages deep of content from videos, everything I've done. As more and more of that stuff is put online, it's easier for people to find you. But also if somebody's thinking about working with you, you better hope that you have a great representation online in terms of what you do.

A lot of people who work with me say, "Brandon, I've been watching your videos for a couple of years now. I enjoy your stuff. And I'm thinking about whether now is the time that I need help with video marketing." Or they ask my if I can advise their company. That came because I have been putting out consistent content.

Anybody can do this, whether you're in real estate, a small business owner, an author, speaker, whatever. All you got to do is bring people into your life, share what you do, and how you help people, and the people who are out there that need your help will reach out and get you to help them.

Now you're an Emmy Award-winning TV producer and host. You've spoken on hundreds of stages around the world with some of the most renowned entrepreneurs. You've got three TV shows available. What stands out as the darkest day for you looking back at your life in this journey that you've been on?

It's up and down. If you're in this space, even when you've made it, you're going to have your ups and downs. We're human. Life happens, whether you're dealing with a death, a family member, a relationship, whatever it may be. And so there's a couple of really dark days. I'll share two, and the reason I'll share them is because it shows how they ultimately led to my success.

In 2014, Samantha and I moved to Des Moines, Iowa to start this company called Adams Product Innovation. I had spent money on a lawyer. I was going to buy an existing asset. I had money raised, ready to go, and I was going to start this business. We had an office picked out. We signed a lease on an apartment in downtown Des Moines, and I asked Sam to leave her job, which she did, because I said she would have a full-time job.

When we got there, I had a gut feeling that what I was about to do was going to be wrong for me. I knew if I did it, it would hurt me in the long run because I didn't have enough experience in the background and I didn't want to let down the people who had contributed funds. Ultimately, I decided not to do it. It hurt me because my girlfriend, now wife, I let her down. She said, "What do I do now?" because she wasn't really an entrepreneur and she believed in me. So I felt like I let everybody down.

But sometimes you have to eat your pride. Our relationship was rocky because it's like we were figuring out what we were going to do, and we didn't have enough money to pay rent. That was a rock bottom moment. But I realized that if you hit rock bottom, there's only one place to go and that's up. But also you get these superhuman powers to figure out what you're going to do.

I realized that if you hit rock bottom, there's only one place to go and that's up.

Sam ended up getting a job at a fitness center, and that's how she got into fitness and became a personal trainer. I ultimately did a crowdfunding campaign for my invention, Arctic Stick, which got me into crowdfunding and got me into TV. So looking back on that low moment, if that hadn't happened, I wouldn't have become the person I am today.

Sometimes our temporary defeats are successes in disguise. You just have to look at what you can learn from that moment, and move forward. So that was a big one.

Another one occurred when we were in Austin. It was rock bottom, and I didn't know what we were going to do. But we just kept pushing forward. Whether you're in a financial situation or a committed relationship, you need to figure out how to put yourself in a mindset that you can stay positive and keep moving forward. The ways I've done that is to be around the right people, to focus on my fitness - without that, I'd be dead - and meditation. The positive atmosphere gets you through those tough times.

Relationships have been by far the biggest asset that you and I have had. What relationship or business partnership stands out as having moved the needle the most in your life or your business?

Well, besides you. I mean, honestly, there's not many people I can go to and share everything with, and you're one of them. You're like a brother to me, you're my Australian brother. So for one, you.

Also, in terms of making money in business, Kevin Harrington is one. I've made more money with him than anybody, and I've made him a lot of money, but we've helped a lot of people. Kevin was the original shark on Shark Tank. He did a couple of seasons. He's known for pioneering and inventing the infomercial, and he's taken over 20 companies to $100+ million. I was a small part of one of those, that went from $20 million to $100+ million.

I saw what Kevin had done and I'm like... I always found people I wanted to mimic in my own way and learn from. I knew I wanted to get Kevin as a mentor, so I studied him, I read his books, and over months of preparation and reaching out, talking with his assistant, I eventually hired him to come to my event in Iowa, 2016.

Ever since that event we've done probably a dozen different deals. We have investment in five companies right now together, but I've learned so much and the lesson is to find somebody that's doing things at such a high level. If you want to become a billionaire, if you want to become super wealthy, or you want to become the top TV host, or whatever, find somebody that is doing it that level, figure out how to help them, make them money, get their attention, and they will help you in return.

Find somebody that is doing it that level, figure out how to help them, make them money, get their attention, and they will help you in return.

I would say that's been a pivotal thing for me. Even when he's not mentoring me and I'm just in the room with him, people who are very successful in terms of achieving things in business, they communicate differently. They understand things differently and just by being in their presence, you learn. By being in their presence, you're a lot more likely to get an opportunity to work together with them and get so-called "lucky." So surround yourself with those right people.

Absolutely. What about the business partnerships or relationships that fizzled out?

Again, it's people who over-promise and under-deliver. Also, life changes. I mean, I've made mistakes. I remember when, I had a team for Accelerant Media Group and now it's more me and subcontractors, but there were seven of us and I was probably my worst enemy. I probably was a horrible person to work with. I'll admit that. I expected a lot of others and sometimes I was a horrible person to work with.

So a lot of that was on me, but as long as you learn from it and you don't make those same mistakes again. I've had a lot of partnerships come and go. I would rather be in a position where we collaborate on things together and not start a company together because that's like, you're getting married together, and if things go wrong, you got to go through the buying out of the business partner.

So, I've sold two companies and I've bought out business partners and I've been through those uncomfortable situations, but you have to do them. It's like the dating scene. You have to date them a while before you're going to marry them, to make sure you get to know somebody. Even being friends together before going into business can be valuable.

And communicate. Communication is key in business and your relationship. The more you communicate, the better.

Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Brandon does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give her 18-year-old self, his favorite book, and a whole lot more 🚀

Final question. What's one thing you do to win the day?

Take action every day. Take action every single day.

Resources / links mentioned:

📝 Brandon T. Adams on Facebook

📷 Brandon T. Adams on Instagram

⚡ Brandon T. Adams website

🎙️ We Are Podcast: learn how to make money from your podcast

📙 Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

🌎 Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy by James Whittaker

💚 The Road to Success by Brandon T. Adams and Samantha Rossin

🗝️ Success In Your City (TV show)

🔥 BRAND NEW! Andrew Carnegie’s Mental Dynamite by Napoleon Hill and James Whittaker

“We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”

– Archilochus

Is it possible to stay productive, happy and healthy during a pandemic? Absolutely!

You just need the right plan.

In this episode, I'm going to share with you the five changes I've made during the pandemic that have helped me make a greater impact in my life and business.

The most important is how I've changed my morning routine, because we win the day based on what we do in the morning. I’ll also share with you a story that I’ve never mentioned before about a particularly challenging day earlier this year.

These are the exact changes I’ve made in the last few months that have enabled me to fill my cup at a time when I really needed it, and hopefully they work for you too.

For the video version, click here.

Resources / links mentioned:

🔥 BRAND NEW! 'Andrew Carnegie’s Mental Dynamite' by Napoleon Hill and James Whittaker

💚 Episode 26: From Failure to Fable — Interview with Michael Fox

🔮 Episode 27: How to Thrive in an Uncertain Future with George Chanos

✈️ Episode 28: How to Elevate Your Life with Jessica Cox

☮️ Episode 29: How to Stress Less and Accomplish More with Emily Fletcher

💌 Episode 30: How to Create Life-changing Relationships with Keith Ferrazzi

🎁 Episode 31: Becoming Unstoppable with Kerwin Rae

Episode 32: From Solitary to Service with Coss Marte

🧠 Episode 33: Reprogramming Your Brain with John Assaraf

🎧 We Are Podcast — Learn how to make money from your podcast

“We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”

– Archilochus

Today, I’m going to share with you how I’ve changed my daily routine as a result of the pandemic and being in isolation, especially the morning routine because we win the day based on what we do in the morning. I’ll also share with you a story that I’ve never mentioned before about a particularly challenging day I had earlier this year.

But before we do that, let’s quickly reflect on the above quote: “We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” It’s one of my favorite quotes and something I think about often.

The most recent Win the Day episodes have featured interviews with some of the most successful people I know to help you take ownership of your financial, physical, and mental health. There are so many incredible takeaways from these episodes and there’s ALWAYS at least 2-3 things I personally implement into my own life and business as a result of these interviews.

We win the day based on what we do in the morning.

I get dozens of emails each week from people asking for help, so I wanted to start this episode with a quick recap of the most recent interviews so you can pinpoint the right ones for you based on your current circumstances and what training you need. Then, once you’ve watched that episode, you’ll be far better equipped to rise above your present circumstances due to your new level of training – as that earlier quote reminds us.

How You Can Win the Day

Episode 26 featured Michael Fox, an entrepreneur from Australia who created the world’s first online women’s custom-shoe business, raising more than $25 million and partnering with companies like Nordstrom, before losing it all – his business, the investors’ money, and his marriage. After a six-month break to explore his intellectual curiosity, Michael embarked on a new entrepreneurial journey – one that was far more aligned to his personal mission, which he realized was to end industrial agriculture.

To achieve that, he partnered with the right people and created a high-end meat alternative from mushrooms, so delicious that it attracted attention from people like Heston Blumenthal – whose restaurant Fat Duck was voted the number one restaurant in the world. Despite being less than two years old, Michael’s company, Fable Food Co, is now available in 600+ stores. If you want to know the ins and outs of starting a business and finding out your personal mission, I can’t recommend Episode 26 highly enough.

In Episode 27, we sat down with former Attorney General of Nevada, George Chanos – who even argued successfully in front of the Supreme Court – to talk about a whole range of topics related to the present uncertainty and what we can expect from the future. This included: the tense political environment we’re in, the technological tsunami that no one seems to be talking about, how automation and artificial intelligence are rapidly changing the world, how to pivot your business during a pandemic, and so much more.

George’s views are extraordinary and, in addition to understanding everything going on in the world in the present, you’ll have a clear idea of what’s coming in the future and how you can leverage it to your advantage.

Episode 28 featured Jessica Cox, who was born without arms and – in addition to being able to drive a car, play the piano, and put in contact lenses – she became the world’s first armless pilot. Jessica is an incredible woman and her powerful mindset is a wonderful example for us all.

If you, or someone you know, needs some inspiration, Episode 28 with Jessica Cox is highly recommended.

In Episode 29, we spoke with Emily Fletcher – the world’s leading expert on meditation for high performance. Emily has had an extraordinary career, which started as a performer on Broadway before she began her meditation journey, which has now seen her train everyone from Navy SEALs and NBA players, to leading physicians and globally recognized CEOs.

If you’re feeling stressed or simply want to free up your brain to get much better results out of each day, you will love Episode 29.

Episode 30 was a particularly special one for me because it featured one of my biggest influences, Keith Ferrazzi. Keith is the author of #1 New York Times bestseller ‘Never Eat Alone’ which had (and continues to have) a profound impact on my life. He is regarded as the world’s foremost authority on relationships, networking and now remote work.

We all feel the frustration of not having the opportunities we want, and this interview with Keith will show you the exact steps to establish relationships with the most influential people in the world and how to become resourceful enough to get job promotions, pay rises, and just about anything else you want.

Episode 31 featured Kerwin Rae, one of the world’s foremost business growth experts. Kerwin has helped more than 100,000 businesses in 150 different industries, in more than a dozen countries, to achieve better results. Better yet, all of that came after overcoming dyslexia, ADHD, and a bunch of learning difficulties, as well as drug addiction and numerous near-death experiences.

Kerwin is a seriously inspirational guy and shares some amazing lessons, such as how to balance hunger for future achievements with happiness in the present, why (and how) he learned to meditate while in a skydiving freefall, the parenting style he has for his six-year-old son, and how he reframed divorce to being an advantage.

In Episode 32 we had Coss Marte on the show. Coss certainly has a unique background – in fact it’s one of the most fascinating stories I’ve ever heard. Coss began using drugs at 11, selling drugs at 13, and at 19 he was at the helm of one of the largest drug delivery services in New York – think of it like the Uber for cocaine. His business employed dozens of people and Coss needed eight mobile phones just to store his clients’ contact info.

Despite raking in more than $5 million a year, he was thrown in jail for the 10th time since he was a kid and he thought his life was over. Yet, while inside, one fateful moment revealed an entirely new opportunity for him and today he’s an internationally regarded fitness entrepreneur, author, and TED speaker. It’s definitely a raw interview but it has some incredible insights.

And finally, our most recent, Episode 33, which featured John Assaraf who you might recognize from the blockbuster 2006 film ‘The Secret’. In our interview, John shared how a painful and embarrassing health condition from his early 20s actually became the catalyst for him understanding just how powerful his brain was. Using the exact same steps as he did to get healthy, John set out to see is he could program his mind to build a billion-dollar company and did just that.

There are some seriously good takeaways from that one, with the biggest being a proven step by step method to achieving literally any goal you want.

5 Ways to Stay Productive During a Pandemic

A lot of people email me asking for tips on how to manage their daily routine, so here I’m going to share with you five changes that I’ve implemented into my daily routine to stay productive, happy, and healthy during the pandemic.

Before we dive in, I want to just reiterate how important it is to take purposeful and consistent action on anything you learn. Not just from the Win the Day show, but from anything. Like we mentioned earlier, it’s that training – that regular upskilling – that gets you moving in the right direction and achieving everything you want.

If you don’t have a plan to stay productive, happy, and healthy, you’re in big trouble. The cracks will start to appear and that can manifest in a whole bunch of ways down the track, such as relationship troubles with your spouse, financial issues, health issues – you name it. In a time of massive transition, like we’re in now, the right plan is essential.

In a time of massive transition, like we’re in now, the right plan is essential.

Overall, the theme of how my daily routine has changed is ‘Self-care’ and I want to share a quick story with you to illustrate why it’s so important. At the end of May 2020, my good friend Ronsley Vaz and I hosted We Are Podcast, an online event for existing and aspiring podcasters to make money from their show (a very important mission since many people had lost their jobs during the pandemic and needed a way to supplement their household income). We put that event together in just over seven weeks.

Now, anyone who has organized an event before knows how many moving parts there are. But launching an event in a time as uncertain and fast-moving as the pandemic led to a lot of complexity. We had to:

In the 2-3 weeks right before the event, I was exhausted. For the first time in years, I felt on the brink of burnout.

Working behind the scenes to organize the event, not to mention my regular work commitments – as well as my responsibilities as a husband and a father – it just accumulated very quickly. Working late into the night and staring at a 27-inch computer screen right before bed led to a horrible sleep, which made me feel lousy the next day, which made me less motivated to exercise, and more irritable with my family. I was spending too much time on my phone throughout the day.

Overall, it was just not the mindset I wanted to be in, and it never ceases to amaze me how quickly it can creep up on you. You might have felt that recently, or perhaps even find yourself in that situation right now, but don’t feel bad – awareness of the problem is the most important step.

On the day of the event, I woke up to a leg cramp, which is never a good feeling. In fact, it’s quite an excruciating feeling – it’s like your calf muscle is being ripped out of your leg. Once the muscle spasm stopped, I took a few deep breaths and tried to reset mentally. Feeling a bit better, I got out of bed, but as I stood up, the leg that had given me the muscle spasm gave away, and as fell to the floor my glass of water dropped out of my hand and drenched both my iPhone and the pile of books next to my bed.

For the last few years, I’ve been wearing a MyIntent bracelet on my wrist that reminds me of the importance of staying calm rather than giving into emotional reactions. Yet somewhere in the mayhem of the morning, the bracelet had snapped off my wrist.

I remember thinking: “This feels like a moment of rebirth. Either this event is going to be incredible or it’s going to be an absolute disaster.”

Ultimately, the event was a huge success. The tech side ran without a hitch, the event ran like clockwork, and we had aspiring and existing podcasters from 15+ countries who attended.

The very first speaker was Hal Elrod, who wrote a book called ‘The Miracle Morning’ which has sold millions of copies and been translated into 27 language. One of the first things he said was, “In times like we’re in now, it’s more important than ever to double down on self-care.”

In times like we’re in now, it’s more important than ever to double down on self-care.

That was such a simple but powerful statement. And it’s why the focus of this post, and what I want you to focus on for the next week, is self-care.

I truly believe we’re in the midst of a mental health crisis right now as a result of the pandemic, the forced isolation, the very real economic impacts, and so much more. That’s why it’s so important to help each other out, but we can’t give from an empty cup. You need to fill your cup first, using what we’ll go through shortly, so you can help others to do the same.

These are the exact changes I’ve made in the last few months that have helped me feel happier and more productive than ever. They’ve enabled me to fill my cup at a time when I really needed it, and hopefully they work for you too.

Number 1: Start your day with a cold shower.

I know – this sounds crazy! I love a hot shower more than anyone, but I’m always on the hunt for new ways to win the day. About four months ago, I tried a cold shower in the morning to see what happened,

Nervously, I turned on the cold tap and walked in, lasting only about eight seconds. Seriously – it was pathetic, and I felt like an absolute wimp! But being extremely competitive, especially with myself, I decided to try again the next day – only this time I set a two-minute timer on my iPhone and left it just outside the shower door where I could see it. No matter how cold it felt, I knew there was no way I was going to leave the shower until that timer went off.

The stopwatch was the motivation I needed. I hit two minutes that day, four minutes the next day, and haven’t had a problem since. Now, it’s easy. In fact, the secret is that your body actually gets used to the cold after about 60 seconds.

Yet, the first part is the ultimate mental battle because our brain tells us that we should, first, not go under in the first place and, second, to get out of there as soon as possible. But of course we’re not in mortal danger – it’s just a shower at a lower temperature, albeit a much lower temperature.

So what was the big improvement and how could it possible rank #1 on my list of changes!? Sustained energy levels. It not only made me much more effective first thing in the morning, it gave me lasting energy throughout the day – much more than I’ve ever had previously. It also gives you a great sense of accomplishment early in your day because, although you never feel like a cold shower, you’re really proud of yourself afterwards. Plus, if you have a hot shower at night, it will feel 10x more relaxing!

Since starting cold showers four months ago I haven’t missed a single one. And, at this rate, I’m sticking with cold showers forever. And my wife loves them too.

One quick thing I wanted to mention. I tried the cold shower at nighttime to see if there were any additional benefits, but I didn’t notice any positive changes at all. Some people swear by a cold shower both in the morning and before bed, so it’s really up to you to try it out and see what works best.

But I need to be clear here – I still NEVER look forward to the cold shower. It’s always a mental battle to start the day, but it’s a very good system to ensure I’m ready to win the day, which is exactly what I think about when I step in there each morning.

Number 2: Have a daily routine of exercise.

Since covid, many gyms and other fitness centers have closed (some permanently), but for me personally I’d much rather figure out a way to get my exercise in without needing to commute or pay for a membership.

A few months ago, my wife and I started doing a morning yoga routine. It only takes 15-20 minutes and we just select any of the free yoga sessions available on YouTube. This gets the body loose first thing, which I’m valuing more and more as I get older.

Another confession here, I’m far from motivated when my eyes first open. However, after a quick yoga session and a cold shower, I’m a full inch taller and ready to tackle anything the day throws at me. If our daughter (16 months old) wakes up early, we’ll simply put her in the front-pack and have a nice stroll through the neighborhood.

In the afternoon, I’ll almost always add a two-mile walk where I try to spot all the things my very observant daughter notices and concede to her persistent requests to sing ‘Baby Shark.’

Unless you’re training for a certain milestone, it really doesn’t matter what you do, or when you do it, but having a daily routine of exercise / mobility should be a big priority for your life.

Number 3: Insulate yourself from negativity.

In recent years, the biggest source of negativity has come through our mobile phones. Everything we see on there is designed to create an engagement, which means all the articles are for more sensationalized and emotional than they need to be and all the apps are trying to lure your attention.

If you’ve watched the Netflix documentary ‘The Social Dilemma’ you’ll get a peek behind the scenes of how these tech companies and media outlets mold their algorithms to keep your attention. Is it any wonder then that a quick look at your phone can last for 30 minutes, or more, and you feel mentally drained afterwards?

So take all the time and energy you have been spending on your phone and, instead, spend that time enjoying life. You’ll feel much better for it.

Number 4: Surround yourself with the right people.

Since covid, I’ve been extremely proactive about establishing relationships with people who are having the impact on the world that I want to have. In fact, I believe who you surround yourself with is your best indicator of success.

Now, when I talk about the ‘right people’ here, I’m talking about people who:

Unfortunately, the pandemic struck during an election year in the US, which means tensions are VERY high and people are spending way too much time talking about politics. But, as George Chanos said in Episode 27, there’s 10% of people on either side of politics who are just too far gone. When we talk about unity, we’re realistically talking about that middle 80%, and trying to offer an insight with someone who doesn’t recognize their own confirmation bias is exhausting.

It might seem like the ‘right people’ are hard to find, but I promise you they’re out there. And a whole bunch of them are in our Win the Day Group on Facebook so join the 500+ legends we have in there from all over the world.

Number 5: Focus on consistency not intensity.

It doesn’t matter what you did yesterday, it doesn’t matter what you do tomorrow. What matters is what you do today. And if you go all out, you’ll probably end up burnt out, so focus on a plan that gives you that consistency.

What matters is what you do today.

Even if you have a day when you’re feeling flat, still do the task. As a parent, every now and then there are nights where we are woken up 2-3 times and feel completely wiped of energy the following morning, but those are the times when I know that sticking to this routine is most important. So focus on consistency – on getting the job done – not intensity.


Now that I’ve let you in on some of my changes, I hope you’ll implement some of those in your own life to see what works best for you. Again, that quote for today, “We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” This week, I want you to focus on filling your cup so you can feel better and put yourself in a position to help others feel better.

That’s all for today! Remember to grab a copy of my brand new book Andrew Carnegie’s Mental Dynamite (co-authored by Napoleon Hill), available now in book stores all around the world.

Get out there and win the day. Until next time...

Onwards and upwards always,
James Whittaker

In case you missed it:
11 Tips to Supercharge Your Productivity

“Do more of what you love, less of what you tolerate, and none of what you hate.”

– John Assaraf

Today, we’ve got one of the leading mindset and behavior experts on the planet, John Assaraf. You probably know John from blockbuster film The Secret.

Since then, John has built a billion-dollar company, numerous multimillion-dollar companies, written two New York Times bestselling books, and been featured in eight movies, including The Secret and Quest for Success alongside Richard Branson and the Dalai Lama.

But his journey to success was anything but smooth. Growing up with a fixed mindset, John was expecting to follow a similar path to his father who lived paycheck to paycheck as a taxi driver with a bad gambling habit. John left high school after Grade 10 and eventually found work in a warehouse, but he was hanging out with some unsavory people which left him with two career horizons: jail or the morgue.

It was only at 19 years old, through the influence of a successful businessman, that John began taking ownership of his life for the first time. This mentor asked John three simple but profound questions that changed his trajectory forever. And when his mind changed, his world did too.

Today, he is founder and CEO of NeuroGym, a company dedicated to using the most advanced brain training methods to help individuals unleash their fullest potential and maximize their results. In this interview, we talk about everything you can do to reprogram your brain for massive success.

We’ll go through:

There are a ton of value-bombs in this one! I know you're going to love it.

For the video interview, click here.

Resources / links mentioned:

📝 John Assaraf Facebook

📷 John Assaraf Instagram

⚡ NeuroGym

💪 Innercise: The New Science to Unlock Your Brain's Hidden Power by John Assaraf

🧠 John Assaraf website

📙 You2: A High Velocity Formula for Multiplying Your Personal Effectiveness in Quantum Leaps by Price Pritchett

💡 Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

🔥 BRAND NEW! Andrew Carnegie’s Mental Dynamite by Napoleon Hill and James Whittaker

“Do more of what you love, less of what you tolerate, and none of what you hate.”

– John Assaraf

Today, we’ve got one of the leading mindset and behavior experts on the planet, John Assaraf. You probably know John from blockbuster film The Secret.

Since then, John has built a billion-dollar company, numerous multimillion-dollar companies, written two New York Times bestselling books, and been featured in eight movies, including The Secret and Quest for Success alongside Richard Branson and the Dalai Lama.

But his journey to success was anything but smooth. Growing up with a fixed mindset, John was expecting to follow a similar path to his father who lived paycheck to paycheck as a taxi driver with a bad gambling habit. John left high school after Grade 10 and eventually found work in a warehouse, but he was hanging out with some unsavory people which left him with two career horizons: jail or the morgue.

It was only at 19 years old, through the influence of a successful businessman, that John began taking ownership of his life for the first time. This mentor asked John three simple but profound questions that changed his trajectory forever. And when his mind changed, his world did too.

Today, he is founder and CEO of NeuroGym, a company dedicated to using the most advanced brain training methods to help individuals unleash their fullest potential and maximize their results. In this interview, we talk about everything you can do to reprogram your brain for massive success.

We’ll go through:

There are a ton of value-bombs in this one! I know you're going to love it.

James Whittaker:
We’ve got so much to get through today! Let’s start with your personal story. People see the multiple New York Times bestselling author and multimillion-dollar business owner, but it wasn't all smooth sailing for you. What are some challenges that you had growing up that are still such vivid memories for you today?

John Assaraf:
Where do I begin!? When I moved from Israel to Montreal, Canada, I was just learning the Hebrew language as a five-year-old and struggled with the reading and writing. My parents moved us to Montreal because they didn't want to raise their children in what, at the time, was war-torn Israel.

I quickly fell two years behind the other kids in school. There were 50-60 kids per classroom and I started getting into a lot of trouble. By grades seven, eight and nine, it felt like I was in the principal's office the whole time. I ended up with a group of kids that were adept at shoplifting, breaking and entering, and ended up in detention centers. My life was spinning out of control. By the time I was 17, I knew I was either going to jail or the morgue. That was the direction my life was heading in.

And fortunately for me, when I was 19, my brother had invited me to travel by train from Montreal to Toronto to have lunch with a gentleman. He said, "Listen, this guy is really smart, he's a really nice man, and he can help you." I'm like, "Yeah, sure, I don't need any help." But long story short, I knew that I was heading in the wrong direction and picking up speed.

When I met this gentleman, Allen Brown, he asked me questions about why I was doing all the things I was doing that I shouldn't be doing. And my answer was, "Well, because I just want to make some money, I want to fit in, and I want to have a good time." And he asked me, "Why don't you just use your brain better to do things legally, and to become more than you are right now?"

I had no idea what he was talking about. He then asked me about some of the goals I had, and I said, "My goals are to move out of my parents' house, get my own car, and have a little bit of money to have some fun." He said, "Well, they’re all great basic needs. Everybody wants that at your age. What are some of your bigger goals and dreams?" And I said, "Well, I really haven't thought about it."

So he gave me a five page document and said, "Why don't you sit down at the table next to your brother and I and fill out some of these questions while we have lunch?"

The first question on this document was: At what age do you want to retire? I'm like, “I'm fucking 19 years old! What do you mean what age do I want to retire? I'd like to get a job!”

The next question was: What net worth do you want upon retirement? I remember looking at him and saying, "Hey, Mr. Brown, what's net worth?" And he's like, "You take your assets and you minus your expenses or your debt, that's net worth." I remember thinking that I had no idea what he was talking about. He said, "Just breakdown how much money you want to be worth." There were a whole bunch of questions like that: What kind of lifestyle do you want? What kind of car do you want? Who do you want to help? All of these obscure questions that at 19 years old, I had no idea about.

About 15 minutes later, I’d written down a bunch of stuff, and he looked at the document and he goes, "Wow, this isn't bad." On it, I’d written that I wanted to retire at age 45, a net worth of $3 million, I wanted to drive a Mercedes Benz, I wanted to travel the world first class, I wanted to have Italian clothes, and blah blah blah.

He said, "This is actually really good. Where did you get all these ideas?" And I said, "Well, I love watching the TV show called Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. They live a great life, so I want to live a great life." And he said, "Listen, I'm going to ask you one question, and the answer to this question will determine whether you achieve every one of these things."

In the back of my head, James, I'm thinking, one question? Really? I said, "Fire away."

He said, "Are you interested in achieving these goals and dreams, or are you committed?"

I wasn’t sure what he meant, so I asked him what the difference was. Mr Brown said, "If you're interested, you'll keep coming up with stories, and excuses, and reasons why you can't. You'll keep doing the things that you're doing, and you won't do what it takes to change. But if you're committed, you'll upgrade your knowledge, you'll upgrade your skills, you'll upgrade your beliefs, and then you will develop habits that are consistent with somebody who can achieve those goals. All of which are doable."

Then he repeated, "So are you interested or are you committed?" I thought for just a moment, and I don't know why, but out of my mouth came, "I'm committed." And in that second, he says, "Good." He reached out his hand and said, "In that case, I will be your mentor." And I go, "Awesome. What's a mentor?"

If you're committed, you'll upgrade your knowledge, skills, beliefs, and then you will develop habits that are consistent with somebody who can achieve those goals.

Then he explained to me that a mentor is somebody who coaches you on what to do, what not to do, and why to do it. I was 19 at the time, it was the end of April in 1980, and that was the beginning of my shift. So I went from being lost, low self-esteem, low self-worth – which I didn't know at the time – with a limited mindset of what I could achieve, doing things that I shouldn't be doing because that's what I thought I had to do to succeed, and to have a little money in my pocket, and feel like I belonged. And that was the beginning of my life really shifting, and being on this trajectory that I've been on now for 40 years.

So, there's a little bit of the history, maybe more than you wanted!

No, I love it. Were you actually committed at that time, or were you interested, pending committed!?

Well, I didn't even know what it meant. As soon as I said I'm committed, and he said, "I'll mentor you", he said, "Great. In that case, I need you to move from Montreal to Toronto." And I said, "What do you mean move from Montreal to Toronto? I don't have any money, I don't have a car, I don't have a job."

He said, "There you go, look how fast you're giving me excuses! If you're committed, you'll figure it out." I said, "Well, I know, but I have $40 in my bank, I don't have a car, and I don't have a place to live in Toronto." He says, "There you go again."

I said, "Fine. I'll move to Toronto." I had no idea how. And he said, "By the way, on May the 5th, there is a real estate course that I want you to take so you can get your real estate license." Mr Brown was a very successful builder and had real estate offices. I said, "You mean me going back to school? I left in grade 11. I failed math, I failed English, I can't stand school."

He goes, "Look how fast you're telling me about your past, and how you hated school. I don't care about your story. I don't care about the reasons or excuses that you have. That's what's going to hold you and keep you stuck. "The course starts on May the 5th, it's five weeks from 9am to 5pm, it costs $500, are you doing it or not?"

I go, "I don't have 500 bucks and I hate school." He says, "See how fast you just keep going back to why you can't?" I said, "But it's the truth. It's reality. Like I'm committed, but it's reality." He says, "No, it's not reality but you're making it your reality, and you're reinforcing a limited mindset."

It’s not reality but you’re making it your reality.

So I sat down and said, "Fine, I'll do it." And I wanted to say something else! And my brother says, "Hey bro, I'll lend you a hundred bucks." My sister ended up lending me some money. My father ended up lending me some money. At the time, I was working for $1.65 an hour in a shipping department, so I quit my job, moved to Toronto 10 days later, and my brother let me live with him.

I attended the real estate course 5th May 1980 and graduated 20th June 1980 with a real estate license in my hand. And the reason I remember these dates so well is because I had cheated tests most of my high school life because I didn't feel smart enough to do it on my own. Or I just failed. And so, on 20th June when I passed the test and they gave me my certificate, it was the first time in my teen or young adult years that I actually felt proud of myself. And it was the first time that I'd actually worked really hard for five weeks to learn the material, because he was practicing with me, to ask me all the questions for real estate.

I then realized, "Maybe I'm not dumb. Maybe I can do this." It was the first opening of the window of possibility for me, and it was because he challenged me to not have stories, and excuses, and reasons, and to have that as my fallback position.

So I wasn't committed, because I really didn't know what it was like to be committed. Even though I blurted it out of my mouth, he helped me understand what ‘commitment’ means. And that has been the story of my life, because I've achieved some pretty neat things. I've also failed, but I always committed to what I want to achieve more than I am to the reasons of failure.

It gives me chills as you talk about that. A lot of people say that they're committed to their success, even though deep down many of them aren’t even interested. But once they start seeing that result, and are able to reinforce that with consistency – which is where mentor guidance is so powerful – they believe it. Was there a specific book or two that Mr Brown shared with you that helped reinforce everything he taught you about mindset, resilience, and resourcefulness?

Yeah, there were a couple of types of books that he helped me with. One, of which you know very well, was Think and Grow Rich. Back in the early '80s, it was even more of a classic, and handed out even more, than it is today. I think it should be handed out more today. The theme of Think and Grow Rich is that you become what you think about most. I remember after reading it, I said to Mr Brown, "I think I'm going to become a woman" because at 19 years old that’s what I was thinking about the most!

He started to chuckle and laugh, but I remember having dialogues with him about what it really means to become what you think about most. I remember him sharing with me, "If your dominant thoughts are on your vision and your goals, and how you can, then you'll likely achieve it. However, if your dominant thoughts are on having a vision and a goal, but your dominant thoughts are on why you can't, you’ll pursue all the reasons why you can't."

He used to call it the razor's edge. The razor's edge wasn't in goal setting. It was in which part of the goal-achieving process you decided to believe and follow. So if you believe that it's possible, and if you believe that it's possible for you because you upgrade your knowledge, you upgrade your skills, you upgrade your belief in yourself and your self-confidence, you'll achieve every goal in the world. But if you're hyper focused on why you can't, and why it's not possible for you because of your age, or the color of your skin, or your knowledge, or your skills, you'll give yourself all the reasons of why you can't.

Of this razor’s edge, he said, "You can train yourself to see the reasons why it may be hard or impossible, and then you can train yourself to see how it is possible, and then you can learn how to choose which option you're going to follow."

I just learned that both positive and negative exist – that can and can’t both exist – and which one I choose to focus on every day, week, and month will determine the outcome.

That’s so powerful. I feel like one of the biggest misconceptions people have about self-mastery is that they’ll reach a certain point and then nothing bad will ever happen to them again. But as you and I know, life sometimes has a funny way of throwing you a curve ball.

You’ve mentioned some of the challenges from growing up, and obviously everyone has challenges as they get older, too. What's the biggest adversity you've in your life to this point where you were able to find an equivalent benefit or advantage in?

There’s one thing that I'm so grateful for today because it is actually is one of the reasons why I'm where I'm at today. For an insight into my background, my father was a cab driver and my mother worked at a local department store. They always fought about the lack of money, and he was a gambler. He would make $100 in a day, and then end up owing people $200. So there were fights and screams, and I just hated fighting about money, or listening to the fights about money, and the lack of it. It always felt like we didn't have enough, because we didn't. We had enough for food and shelter – it was never a problem with that – but there was never enough for more. There were always these arguments. The joke was that there was always too much month left at the end of the money, instead of too much money left at the end of the month.

When I was 22, I was working really hard to succeed. With Allen Brown's help, I made $30,000 my first year in real estate. I upgraded my knowledge and skills, and made $151,000 my second year. And then I went and traveled around the world. When I came back, I was working really hard to make money again, but I ended up with severe ulcerative colitis. I had ulcers in my colon, which means you've got inflammation of the colon. And I had bleeding ulcers in my colon, so it was very painful, and I had no bowel control.

So for a year, I was taking 25 salazopyrin pills a day, doing two cortisone enemas a day, and going to the hospital once a month to do a sigmoidoscopy, which means they stuck up a tube up your rectum to see what's going on, to see if the medications are working.

And after more than a year of being sick, I was watching a TV show about a topic called ‘psychoneuroimmunology.’ And in layman's terms, that's just the body-mind connection. The doctors who were on the TV show were saying that there's a lot of new evidence around the thoughts you have and how it affects your cells. Obviously, your behaviors and your stress too. If you're focusing on disease, you create more disease. If you're focusing on health, you create more health. And coming back to Napoleon Hill and Think and Grow Rich, it's like think and grow healthy.

If you're focusing on disease, you create more disease. If you're focusing on health, you create more health.

I started to research the cause of the colitis, and then I started focusing on, “Okay, let me get a health affirmation. My body and all its organs were created by the infinite intelligence and my subconscious mind. It created all my muscles, bones, tissues, and organs. It knows how to heal me, and make me whole, and perfect. I am deeply grateful for the healing powers that are taking place within me. I am now perfectly healthy.”

I wrote out this affirmation and every day I read it, I visualized it, I meditated on it. I changed my diet, began exercising, and so between affirmations, visualizations, declarations, meditation, proper eating, etcetera, five weeks later, all of my symptoms went away. And so, at 23 years old, I went from being unhealthy to the point where they were talking about removing a portion of my colon, where I was like, “I'm fricking 23 years old, I'm not going to have part of my colon removed!” So, the mental and emotional rehearsal and practice of being in a state of ‘at ease’ versus ‘disease’ helped me realize there is a lot of power in that brain of mine.

Now, I have been researching the power of the human brain for over 38 years. First, because of a health issue with me. But then I started to look at it and thought, “Well, if you can train your brain to be healthy, can you train your brain to build a billion-dollar company?” And I did that. It’s due to what's going on between the conscious and subconscious mind.

If you can train your brain to be healthy, can you train your brain to build a billion-dollar company.

Not only did that terrible disease cause me to have pain and anguish – and I mean, the embarrassment you would not believe if I shared with you some of the stories of where I shit. I had presidents of companies in my car with their wife and kids, taking them to look at houses. I would be showing a home, but not have bowel control, so I would have to ask somebody to go get my bag from the trunk of my car so I could change in the bathroom. I would have to ask the homeowner if I could go shower after I've shit in my pants showing a home.

Having sex with a wonderful young lady, and all of a sudden not being able to make it to the bathroom, and shitting all over the place. You want to talk about pain and embarrassment? It causes you to either be a victim of it, or learn how to be victorious with it. That's what I dealt with.

So out of that, at 22, came my fascination with the human brain. And then I've built companies, and I've helped employees, and I've helped hundreds of thousands of people with what I've discovered over the years, and written books about that. So that's one of the things that came out of being very, very embarrassed, and a very painful time in my life.

One of my favorite quotes is from Steve Jobs who said, "You can never connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking back." And I bet at the time, that felt like the worst thing that could ever possibly happen to you. To have built the amazing career that you have as a result of the lessons you learned the hard way, and from manifesting those visualizations, is very powerful.

You’re obviously still focused on making a bigger impact, but what do you do to stop and smell the roses these days?

Well, first and foremost, every day I start off with gratitude, and I end the day with gratitude. I have a really good process, and rituals, to be able to enjoy the moment, as I'm setting bigger and bigger goals of what I want, and how much I want to give, and be, and all that stuff.

I'm living in the moment as well. I meditate every day, I practice mindfulness all day long. I have an alarm on my cell phone that goes off at 55 minutes past each hour for me to stop and breathe, and to get centered, and to be in the state of appreciation.

I spend time with my wife, my children, my family, my friends. That's actually what I put into my calendar first – before I do any work. And so for me, it's not about what else am I going to acquire. For me it's about what else can I contribute. How else can I make a difference on the planet, on the animals, the plants, planet Earth, people's lives, so that I can share my journey with them, in a way that positively impacts them. And in that, I get an enormous amount of gratification.

A lot of people know about vision boards. One of the things you mention a lot is the accomplishment board. Can you give a bit of an overview of what an accomplishment board is, for people who aren't familiar with it?

Sure. Everyone who goes through my coaching program goes through the process of what they want and what they've accomplished. The idea behind a vision board is “This is what I aspire to have, do, be, give, etcetera.” But an accomplishment board is something very few people put in place, and that is a collection of all the things you’ve accomplished.

And people ask, "Well, why would you want a list of that?" The answer is because it's a great reminder of the things you've already done, many of which probably came with a lot of obstacles.

Now, there's another reason for that, and I always have my plastic brain on the table here. When we look at the stuff that we've accomplished, we actually fire off a part of the brain that releases a little hit of dopamine. When I release a little bit of dopamine, that part of our brain activates the motor cortex part of our brain as well.

Why is that important? Well, when we are motivated, we have motive for action. And if we can remind ourselves of all the things we’ve done or overcome, or people we’ve helped, or products we’ve created, or places we’ve been, whatever the case might be, we're activating the motivational circuit that wants us to actually do more of the things that helped us create the success we want. And it doesn't matter what accomplishments – if you think about, I learned how to ride a bike, I learned the English language, I graduated from grade 10. It doesn't make a difference.

When I am motivated, I have motive for action.

Any time we activate that circuit in our brain, we reinforce that circuit. And we then can become addicted to doing the things that are necessary in order to achieve goals, including overcoming obstacles and failure, because most of us do not have this rocket ship ride to success. If you ever take a look at a map of people who climb Everest, it’s not a straight climb up. It's left, right, down, up, across, this way, and that's what life and success is like. So, I like to remind myself of the things that I've already accomplished, as opposed to all the things that aren't working.

It's so easy for us, and I call it activating not the Einstein brain – which is the imagination, and the vision, and the signing part of our brain – but the Frankenstein's monster that goes, "You can't because… You're not good enough, you're not smart enough, you're too young, you're too old, what if you fail, what if you succeed, what if you're embarrassed, what if you're ashamed?" That part of our brain is active all day long, way more than our Einstein brain is.

So, by having my accomplishment board and vision board right here next to me every day, I can just get a little hit of dopamine to help me get focused on the things I want to do and need to do.

It's an evidence-based check in? I love it. And that's the perfect segue, actually, to talk more about things on the performance side, too. I just finished your awesome new book Innercise, which is a fantastic overview of the human brain. What's the biggest misconception that people have about the brain?

Well, I think a lot of people still think that we only use 5% or 7% of our brain, and that's not true. We use 100% of our brain, and the neural networks and the patterns that exist within it. Every one of us has the ability to double, triple, quintuple the capacity. I mean, way more than that.

Misconception number two is that change is hard. But change is only hard if you don't have the right process. Change is easier, not easy, if you have the right process. So the brain is made up of circuits that turn on or off, so if you think about your computer, you can go from one software program to the other, and our brain has circuits, and networks. So networks that turn on and off, circuits that turn on and off, and most people just don't know how to turn on or off, whether it's their motivational circuit, or their fear, or stress, or uncertainty circuit. They are victims of what their brain has been conditioned to do, instead of being masters of change, and using their brain.

Since I don't believe that we are our brain, I believe that we have a brain, and our brain is an organism, not an organ. So an organism can grow, develop, and do things, and once it learns how to do things, it does more of those things. We can deliberately and consciously evolve ourselves way more rapidly than ever thought possible. So the reason I wrote Innercise: The New Science to Unlock Your Brain's Hidden Power is not to teach people about their brain as much as to show them that they've got the most powerful trillion-dollar organism that they already own. I try to give them a bit of the user's manual to learn how to do X, Y, and Z; to become aware of fears and then release them; to become aware of their self-image or self-esteem; and to become aware of the limiting beliefs that are holding them back.

It’s important to realize that limiting beliefs are nothing more than patterns in your brain that have been reinforced. They're not right or wrong, but they may be constructive or destructive. But you have the ability to deactivate a pattern in your brain, and create a brand new one that you can reinforce, and that becomes the new default or automatic part of you that's more empowering.

So that's the fascinating part. Why I wrote the book is to show people that you don't have to be a victim of your traumas, your past, your limiting beliefs, or self-esteem, or fears. You can be victorious over them, but you have to have the right process. And in the absence of the right process, change can be almost impossible.

I’m a Rubik's cube fanatic. If you want to solve this Rubik's cube, you just need to know the algorithms. Now this one might take you 24 hours to do, once it was totally messed up, but a two-by-two, or three-by-three, or four-by-four, you can do it in minutes or seconds, if you get good. And so in the absence of getting good, people just randomly try. And it's silly to try in a world where we have the answer, and the how-to, for anything that you want to achieve.

There's so much to unpack about what you said there, because in my experience, it's not really the motivation they struggle with, or the goal-setting, or even the knowledge. It's that activity – the daily reps – that they simply don't prioritize. What do people need to do to make sure they're getting that daily activity done, so they can achieve their goals – whether it’s a weight loss goal, a financial goal, or solving a Rubik's cube!?

Sure, so I want to just back you up for just a moment. You also need to know what you need to do and when. So what you do, and when, and how, is important. Any goal that we have now, in our time, all the ‘how-to’ already exists. Unless you're trying to colonize Mars, or you're Elon Musk trying to figure out how to use rocket ships more than once, you really don't have to be innovative. For any goal, whether it’s health, wealth, relationships, career, or business, we already know the ‘how-to’.

So the first part that you have to know is, “Do I really want to achieve Goal X and am I committed?” If I'm committed, then the next step is, “What do I need to believe in order to achieve that goal? What are the behaviors that I need to take today, tomorrow, the next day, the next day after that?” It’s important to know what you need to do and what skill you need to have.

Then I need to understand, “What could get in my way?” Well, what could get in my way is something happening in the economy or many other things. Then I need to ask, “What am I going to do if that happens? What is my contingency?”

Then I simply develop the daily habits that make that process repeatable, so that you are doing those things every single day. So we need beliefs, and we need habits, and we need the right strategies.

Once we learn those few pieces, we can achieve just about any goal that we have.

The other piece is managing emotions on a day to day basis because, as we are looking to achieve greater and greater goals, the stress, fear, and uncertainty circuits in our brain are going to get activated. And when they get activated, the first thing that happens is the motivational center actually closes down. The thinking center closes down. Then we spend the time on all of the things that are causing us to have these fears or uncertainties. So I have to learn how to self-regulate, specifically my emotions, because they are the triggers by which our brain just tells us that something dangerous may be lurking in the background. There might be an emotional, mental, financial, or physical trigger in our brain, where we might have a loss or a painful experience.

Anytime we're growing, this part of our brain is hyperactive. And so we have to learn how to recognize that this trigger has happened, and then we have to learn what to do about it. Once we learn those few pieces, we can achieve just about any goal that we have.

Most of my career has been about studying human performance, as yours has, and I remember as a young idealist, I naively thought that I could positively change every single person's life who I came into contact with. But I had a situation several years ago where I learned the hard way that sometimes those you're trying to lift up can sometimes end up pulling you down, without even you consciously being aware of it until much later.

Eventually for my own well-being, I had to distance myself from that person who was a good friend at the time. Have you ever had an experience like that and, if so, how did you handle it?

Yes, on many occasions I’ve worked harder at helping somebody achieve their goal than they have. But that brings me back to a couple of things that I've discovered over the years. First and foremost, help the people who want the help, not the people who need the help.

Number two, don't be in the convincing business, because if you've got to convince somebody, then they're not sold on themselves doing it.

Help the people who want the help, not the people who need the help.

And number three, every person I work with I ask the question, “Are you interested or are you committed?” And if they tell me they're committed, and they're willing to do whatever it takes, and be radically honest with themselves, and radically honest with what they do, or don't do, then I'm willing to help you.

But anybody else, I have no interest in helping. I don't want to spend my time trying to talk somebody into what they should be doing.

Well said. Earlier, you mentioned some things you did as a teenager that were perhaps a little bit unethical. I would put myself in that same boat, as I'm sure a lot of people did stupid things when they were young, that they're not proud of. Why are we haunted by things in our past that bring us shame in the present? Whether that's something that we might have done personally, or something that's happened to us?

If we haven't worked on our self-image, self-worth, and self-esteem, then those things can embarrass us, or cause us to feel ashamed, which is blame turned inwards. And so I've done things in my teens that, I mean, you wouldn't believe. Crazy, crazy, stupid things that I'm not proud of today. But I forgave myself a long time ago for those things. I created a healthy self-image, but also a healthy respect and understanding for traumas, for errors in judgment, for stupidity, for things that, like, really, you did that? Or you didn't do that? And forgave myself for those things, and then have made restitution by doing a lot of good stuff to balance all of those things out.

Shame is blame turned inwards.

One of the things that I teach in the book is an exercise called A.I.A., which is awareness, intention, action. One of the first and best ways to grow as a human being is to practice awareness: awareness of my thoughts, my feelings, my sensation, emotions, behavior, results. My past, my present, the future. To be in awareness of the thoughts that are going on. And if you can start to become more aware of the past, the present, and the future, without judgment, blame, shame, guilt, or justification, no judgment, no blame, no shame, no guilt, just pure awareness. And be in a state of acceptance of whatever is, is, whatever was, was. And then surrender to it, and allow. That puts you in a state of growth, versus a state of going into the past, and bringing forth a disempowering thought or emotion, or the meaning that you gave something, or give something back then or now that can disempower you.

So, why not give yourself permission to have made plenty of mistakes, forgive yourself, and then say, "What am I doing right now?" And so, we live in the moment, we use the past as a guidance post, not a hitching post, as our friend Tony Robbins said many, many years ago.

What I love about what you said there is that we always have the ability to be able to make restitution for something that we might feel bad about. And, in fact, that bad thing from the past can even be used as a bit of rocket fuel to help us do a even more good in the future.

Yeah, and every single person who’s experienced some kind of a trauma and made something out of it, the one core bridge between all of them is they said, "Because of that, I chose to be better." They used it to become more, to help others, and to make sure no one else has to experience that.

But there's other people who because of that trauma, or that thing they did, they say, "Oh my God, I'm going to hold myself playing small." The meaning you give it determines how you feel, and how you feel determines what you do or don't do. So it is possible to give meaning to something from your past that you are embarrassed, ashamed of, traumatized by, that can actually empower and inspire you, rather than expire and disempower you.

So why not do it for yourself? I can take the stuff that I did with lying, stealing, cheating, selling drugs, doing drugs that I was embarrassed about, and I can say, "Oh my God, can you believe I did that?" and minimize myself. Or I can say, "Because of that, here are the 50 things that I have done as a result. And here's what it forced me to do, or challenged me to become." So I'm happy that it happened. I'm not proud of it, but I'm happy that it happened, that I was able to reframe it and use it in a way to empower me, so that I can empower others. And that's using your noggin a little bit better.

Yeah, your credit's good with the universe now.

That's right.

We're in interesting times at the moment, and the mood and productivity of way too many people is malleable based on what they see in the news or whoever’s in the White House. We're in a pretty unique time now with COVID, where there's a lot more fear, anger, and negativity than there would be normally. What can people do to avoid this negativity creeping in from external sources?

Whenever we say, “Because of that… COVID, the news, the government, this political party or that party… because of them…” we're taking all the control and putting it out there.

What if you could turn off your TV if it's not empowering you? What if you could be neutral, and in a state of observation, in asking, "How can I take this opportunity to be more focused? More empathetic, more compassionate? More productive, instead of just active, or unproductive. How can I use this as a fertile opportunity to become an adaptationist?" Which is what I've been teaching all of my clients for six months now.

Adapt, adapt, adapt. What if that gave you more confidence, more certainty, that you could endure anything, anytime, anywhere, no matter what?

Also, how can you observe whatever it is that there is to observe, and see more than just that? How do you teach yourself to see the polar opposite of it? To find the good in it? You can practice that right now.

Use this time as a fertile opportunity to become an adaptationist.

Now, I don't want to downplay COVID and all the deaths. My mother died because of coronavirus, and a dear friend died because of coronavirus, so it's really close to my heart. I know the severity of what I'm talking about. When there's a real predator at the door, and there's a chance of death, you can still be personally responsible for reducing your own risk.

My wife and I, and our family members, have been hyper-focused on immune system buildup and staying healthier now than we ever did before. We teach people that even if you don’t have an underlying health condition, you should start getting healthy now. You can use it as a springboard into being healthier, and increasing your ability to fight off any virus if you happen to get it.

So, everything has got a polarity to it, right? You can't have an up without a down, an inside without an outside, white without black, or light without dark. So the polarity always exists. But if we allow ourselves to get hyper-focused on the disempowering thing, or the negative thing, that we're giving meaning to, then we are not focusing on its polar opposite of, “What can I do about it? How can I grow from this? How can I become better, be more, have more?”

When we get hyper-focused on these external things, and we give them these disempowering meanings, then we become victims of them, and I don't want people to be a victim.

Check out the YouTube or podcast version where John does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give her 18-year-old self, his favorite book, and a whole lot more 🚀

Final question, John. What's one thing you do to win the day?

First thing every morning, I do meditation and innercise. And I'll give you a bonus one. I review and listen to many pieces of my Exceptional Life Blueprint.

Thanks so much for being on the Win the Day podcast!

Thank you, James. I appreciate you for having such a great show.

Resources / links mentioned:

📝 John Assaraf Facebook

📷 John Assaraf Instagram

🚀 Winning the Game of Money - Free Webinar with John Assaraf


💪 Innercise: The New Science to Unlock Your Brain's Hidden Power by John Assaraf

🧠 John Assaraf website

📙 You2: A High Velocity Formula for Multiplying Your Personal Effectiveness in Quantum Leaps by Price Pritchett

💡 Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

🔥 BRAND NEW! Andrew Carnegie’s Mental Dynamite by Napoleon Hill and James Whittaker

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”

– Winston Churchill

In the pursuit of giving you everything you need to take ownership of your financial, physical and mental health, I try to interview and share the stories of a diverse mix of guests. However, I’ve never interviewed someone like who we’ve got today: Coss Marte.

When she was six months pregnant with him, Coss’ mother immigrated to the US from the Dominican Republic. Settling in the Lower East Side of New York City during the 1980s, it was a brutal time, with skyrocketing crime statistics that made headlines around the world.

At 11 years old, Coss began using drugs. Just two years later, to make ends meet, he was selling crack on the streets. With a complete lack of positive role models, and an environment riddled with crime, there were few legitimate avenues available to him. Yet, despite seeing people killed and regularly witnessing extreme acts of violence, Coss survived as he inched his way up the food chain.

Eventually, at 19 years old, he was at the helm of one of the largest drug delivery services in New York City. Through a team of more than two dozen couriers, dispatchers, and street soldiers, Coss distributed vast quantities of cocaine and marijuana to all segments of society – from public housing residents to cops, judges, and doctors, but especially Wall Street executives who had the salaries to match their insatiable appetite for his product.

At its peak, the business was earning more than $5 million a year. Coss’ drug venture was so successful that he needed eight mobile phones just to store the sheer number of customer contacts.

Eventually, the law caught up with him, and 23-year-old Coss was sentenced to prison and forced to turnover all proceeds from his criminal enterprise. It was the latest and most severe of a string of arrests that had seen him incarcerated 10 times since he first began dealing drugs as a 13-year-old. Giving up the lavish lifestyle was tough but, since Coss had become a father for the first time, the feelings of abandonment from his baby son – whom he had to watch grow up from behind bars – was the worst.

While in prison, Coss was told that his cholesterol levels were off the charts and he would die if he didn’t start taking care of his health. Six months later, through a rigorous fitness regime from the confines of his cell, Coss lost 70 pounds and helped dozens of other inmates to do the same.

His physical transformation had reignited a flame of ambition, and when released he launched ConBody, a fitness program that would help get people in the best shape of their life, while offering employment for people who had just left prison so they wouldn’t have to face the constant rejection that awaited them.

Since then, through his studios and online programs, Coss has trained 50,000+ people from around the world. He’s an author, a TEDx speaker, and recently launched a crowdfund for a nonprofit that helps equip formerly incarcerated people with the skills to succeed in the digital world so they don’t need to return to a life of crime.

This is a different and more somber style of interview than I’ve done before, and while we cover many of the raw aspects of Coss’ past, none of it is used to glorify the life he used to lead. It’s a wonderful tale of redemption and shows how the right accountability and focus can brighten even the darkest situation.

Note: Prior to the interview, I asked Coss to avoid mentioning anyone or anything from his past life that could jeopardize his or his family’s safety.

For the video interview, click here. For the podcast interview, click here. For the written version, read on.

James Whittaker:
Great to see you my friend. Thanks for being on Win the Day.

Coss Marte:
No, thank you so much, James, for the opportunity.

To kick things off, take us into the Lower East Side of New York City during the 1980s, and what it was like as a 13-year-old kid selling crack on the streets?

It was a crazy time. I remember seeing drug lines down the block, and I remember it was a normal thing to see. The community was part of it, and I grew up thinking it was some sort of job. People would say, “Yo, the cops are coming,” and somebody would blow a whistle down the block to warn everyone. Some people would scatter, and sometimes the cops would just turn a blind eye to what they were seeing because there was so much craziness. It was just insane.

I remember seeing buckets filled with drugs coming down from the roof, and people on the street would put their money in the bucket and it would go up and down all day to service everyone in the lines. It was just crazy.

And that was obviously a notoriously crime-ridden part of New York City that made headlines around the world. Were there areas of the city where the police just refused to go into?

You would see the police, but you would not see them doing anything. There was just so much going on that it became normalized – they would walk by prostitutes and just say hi to them, to keep it moving. I felt like they just couldn't control what was happening and they were part of the problem as well. They were doing corrupt stuff. They were taking money under the door or robbing people. I've been robbed by cops before where they take my money and just don't report it.

How did the drug game work as a street-level dealer? Did everyone have their own turf where other crews knew they weren’t supposed to be unless they were trying to take it over?

Yeah, every corner was owned by somebody. But it’s not like the movies where somebody from one corner comes to the next corner and they get shot. Although if you sold drugs on that block, you would have a problem.

I remember having a fight with the guy who sold drugs in my mom's block, and I sold drugs two blocks away. I was walking into the building and saw a common customer, so I served him. Somebody told the other guy, and we got into a fight. He pulled out a knife and started chasing me. It was just things that you would never imagine happening, but it was happening, and there were no cameras around.

Nowadays, people are worried about the cameras watching them. Back then, there were no cellphones with cameras. Everybody had a beeper, and that was it.

Much easier to get away with things before all the surveillance?


Is there an incident that stands out as particularly brutal that people who haven't lived that life might not have any idea about?

I had a friend/neighbor get shot and killed. He got shot three times in the head, and I was down the block. I was just standing on the corner, and shots rang off. It was over a girl and a cellphone. It was just crazy to see how things could escalate for something so minuscule. Thinking about it now, people would fight for someone stepping on somebody's else’s Jordans [shoes]. “You step on my Jordans, it's an automatic fight,” so it was things of that nature.

I've seen a lot of crazy stuff. There's just so many stories that I could get into, especially with me and my business partner from back in the day. I remember we went to Central Park, and there was a horse and carriage there. We were walking around with our mink coats and joking around with our pimp sticks. And we just had so much money that we were like, “Yo, let's try to bargain with one of these horse carriages and take them back to our neighborhood, so we could sell drugs right from the horse and carriage.” There was a borderline under 42nd Street where they weren’t allowed to go.

So we gave this lady $5,000 to take us to the block, and the kids in the neighborhood started feeding the horses apples and carrots, and we gave everybody money. We were literally going down 5th Avenue having crackheads meet us in a horse and carriage so we could sell them drugs.

We were literally going down 5th Avenue having crackheads meet us in a horse and carriage so we could sell them drugs.

We even took the horse and carriage through a McDonald's drive thru. It was crazy, but we got away with stuff like that.

How would people know that you were the dealer? Or did people recognize you at that point?

At that point I had a delivery service, so I was getting calls all over the city from people who wanted drugs. So while we were riding down 5th Avenue, we were like, “We're about to hit the corner of 14th and 5th. Jump on the horse and carriage, and then jump off.”

And then we were heading to Houston Street: “We're on Houston and Broadway. We're here. Meet us on this corner.” It was like something out of a movie that’s really hard to describe.

It would make for a good movie at some stage in the future! Was there no concern about any of those people wanting to buy drugs possibly being undercover cops? Or was the war on drugs, and the big clean up of the city, done later?

Yeah. Rudy Giuliani [Mayor of New York City] was a man who was against crime. I remember as a kid just being stopped by cops constantly for not doing anything. I've probably been stopped by cops on stop-and-frisk about 200 times just because they knew I was up to no good, but sometimes I was just going to the store or going down the block or just minding my own business.

They stopped me because they said, “You fit the description” or “Somebody said you had a gun on you.” But I never really carried guns at that time. It was crazy.

Eventually you make it from street dealer to head of a crew making more than $5 million dollars a year. How did that transition happen?

We basically changed the way we sold drugs. I remember make little pieces of paper, and writing my number on it, and giving that out to people. In the early 2000s, the neighborhood started getting gentrified, after 9/11.

Nobody wanted to live in the Lower East Side, and I remember landowners offering people like $20,000 just to move out. Then they would fix up the apartments, and rent them out for $3,000 a month, which is crazy. And that’s still happening today.

So gentrification happened quickly. People, mainly white hipsters, started moving in, and they had a lot of money. I remember increasing my price from selling $20 bags to $50 bags, and then $100 per gram, and they just kept escalating like that.

I would buy a kilo for about $20,000 and make $100,000 off of it. And we'd move a kilo in a week.

I did what I could to make sure the person was not a cop. I would hang out with them – meet them in a bar, smoke a blunt with them, and give them my card with a coke sample on it. We would exchange numbers, and that's how it expanded.

But I did get caught through phones, but that's a longer story.

So, at that point, you had this whole business. You got dozens of people on your payroll. You've got drivers, couriers, people working all the different phones as dispatchers. What about the product side – where did that come from, what could you sell it for, and who were you selling it to?

I'm not going to say where the product came from specifically, but everything is derived from South America. It was being delivered directly through mail, people on planes, and that’s how things operated. I would buy a kilo for about $20,000 and make $100,000 off of it. And we'd move a kilo in a week.

You were also dealing to Wall Street executives and other corporate clients. Were they asking for certain drugs that you weren’t currently selling, which you then added to your portfolio?

The only thing that we added to our portfolio was weed. We didn't really have that many categories. When I was younger, I had messed around with hashish, heroin, e-pills, and acid, and all that stuff. But once we started the delivery service, we just straight focused on coke and weed.

Who were the best customers to have?

Those Wall Street people. They had a lot of money. They would move into the city and pay $3,000 a month for a 200 square foot studio apartment. It was crazy to see that. I've never seen people spend money so frivolously.

And there were actually a lot of Australians moving in. I remember them saying back home they paid like $150 a gram for coke. When they came to the city and we told them $100 a gram, they were like, “Wow, can I get 20?”

And it was just like, “Oh shit. This person going all out.”

So you had these people who were moving into New York City, and they were our best customers. They had professional jobs, but they all partied. And then the word got out. Even doctors. I've sold to lawyers, judges, cops. You name it.

At its peak, you were bringing in $5 million a year with more than $2 million in profit. What was your life like at that point – were you happy or were you wanting more?

I was always wanting more, and I was pretty greedy. I had a cold heart. I didn't even care who was hurt by my drugs – I just wanted the money, and I wanted to keep growing. It was crazy. I spent money frivolously and didn't really care what was going on.

I knew the money would keep going and coming, and it was fun. I was not sad at those times! It was a lot of crazy partying and messing around in the streets, and that was just the mentality that I had. I didn't care who I had to step over or hurt to get that money.

That notion of living for the present, rather than trying to set yourself up for the future. Is that why the idea of quitting while you were ahead never entered your mind? Or maybe it did enter your mind?

It did. I definitely wanted to get into some type of real estate. I tried to get my real estate broker license when I was younger, but I had a [criminal] record so that prevented me from entering that business. I was looking into buying foreclosed houses, and buying stuff, and I got caught up with my friend. We spent a lot of money.

When did you realize the whole operation had come undone or was about to become undone, and you were facing some very serious consequences?

It was the day I got caught – it was a total surprise.

We had all our dispatchers setup in condos, with cars and a salary. All they had to do was answer the phone and just tell the people where to go. They had the packages that they handed over to the deliverers. One dispatcher went behind our back, took our business card, and made a new phone number on the card. He then gave those cards away to try and steal our customers. One card ended up with one of my clients who had my personal number.

So this client of mine hits me up, and I used to hang out with this guy. He's like, “Yo, this guy gave me a card. It's a new number now and the product is not the same.” And I'm like, “What are you talking about?” because our product was always grade A. We didn't cut anything. It was straight from the ship to your nose, and that's how we delivered it.

Our product was always grade A. We didn't cut anything. It was straight from the ship to your nose, and that's how we delivered it.

He was like, “Yeah. They're serving green bags.” And I'm like, “That's not my bags. My bags are clear.”

I asked him for the phone number on the card he was given. I called the number and heard a dispatcher that I employed answer that phone, and I was like, “Yo, what the fuck are you doing?” and he quickly hung up. That dispatcher had all the phones in his possession at the time.

I had a connection with T-Mobile, and we only used prepaid phones, so I went and turned off all the phones and started again with new cell phones. But the phone number he had started was being tapped by federal agents. I had taken that phone number and started operating with it because I thought it was all the customers he stole from me.

So that's where the investigation started. They had a year-long investigation on me. They had a bunch of cell phones from all my drivers, but didn't even know that there were six other phones that we were operating with. The reason we had so many phones was because each one only held 1,500 to 2,500 contact numbers. Back then, you couldn't hold tens of thousands of contacts in a phone.

And we just kept pushing it. I remember not trusting anymore dispatchers. I started doing a lot more myself, and that's how we got caught.

I remember going to the stash house to drop off some weed. As I walked upstairs, I was getting a whole bunch of calls from clients. So, I was sending all my drivers out, and one at a time they were getting picked up. I don't know if you remember the Nextel phones with the walkie talkie, but when it didn’t go through it used to go “beep, beep” when they were busy, like someone was on the phone. And it kept doing that, so I kept sending other drivers to different places because we had a list of 50 people waiting for us, but it kept happening.

That night, after my ninth driver was unresponsive, I said, “Fuck that. I don’t know what these guys are doing. I can’t wait, so I'm going to go make these deliveries myself.”

So, I grabbed a whole bunch of packages, but as soon as I got downstairs, I saw this white… I'm in the middle of the Bronx, like a straight black and Hispanic neighborhood. You don't see white people there, but I saw this big white guy, and he was standing outside the house. He pulled out his badge and said, “This is Federal Agent Joseph King. Your whole operation is over.”

And I'm like, “What the fuck?”

He said, “You’re Coss Marte, right?”

And I said, “I don't know what you're talking about.”

I turned to run, but they quickly tackled me. They pulled out their warrant, went upstairs, and knew exactly where everything was stored. One of the drivers had told them where everything was stashed. I just knew that somebody had told because, when they brought me upstairs, they were like, “Don't worry, we know everything.”

They knew exactly.

I had about 500 pairs of Jordans, which I sold to start Conbody. The cops went exactly to the pair of sneakers where all the drugs were at in that box, and they opened it up. Game over.

Wow. So you were arrested and initially faced a life sentence because of the three-strikes-law that imposed a mandatory life sentence if you had two prior convictions. Due to equal parts luck and some changes in government, you ended up with a seven-year sentence with a non-parole period of five years. What was it like in court, just sitting there waiting to see how much of your life was going to be taken from you?

It was nerve-wracking. It was definitely one of the most nerve-wracking situations that I’ve ever faced. I've been in shootouts, I've seen people pass away in front of me, but to be in cuffs and see a judge who decides the future of your life… it’s like they can kill you right there. And once you're away, you're not alive, and that's how I felt.

You're off to prison at that point. It wasn't the first time you'd been to prison, but it was the largest sentence. How was your first night on the inside, knowing that it was going to be a long time before you'd be able to see your son again?

It was sad and it’s what hurt me the most. I remember that day I got arrested, I spent pretty much the whole day with him and my wife ... Well, she was my fiancée at the time, and we got married when I was inside prison, but divorced when we got out. But yeah, it was hard. If anybody has kids, you feel it in your heart.

And then also speaking to him over the phone was tough. I taught him his ABCs over the prison phone. And he would also come to visit me and say, "When are you coming home?" And that broke my heart, to hear him cry and have to tell him, "I can't go home."

What's an average day like in prison?

You try to forget about the real world. You're living in a different planet in there – it’s just a different set of rules. There's a lot of racism going on in US prisons. There's black gangs, Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, and all types of gangs running stuff. Sometimes you end up in a housing unit that's full of mostly Bloods, sometimes you're in a Crip house, sometimes you're in a Latin King house. You just have to be ready to adapt.

I knew how to adapt because I was a kid when I first went to prison. I remember when I was a kid, I had a fight every single day because I was not part of a gang. The adults are a bit more lenient in terms of you not being in a gang, but that meant you still couldn't do things like use certain phones.

In prison, there were three pay phones: a neutral phone, a Spanish phone, and a black gang phone. I was not in a gang, but I was always hanging out with the Spanish gangs, so I was okay to use the Spanish phone. Sometimes other gang members would take away that neutral phone, so if you're not part of that unit, you couldn't make a phone call.

I've seen people extorted for food, have fights over TV. Actually, a lot of fights over the TV – someone might be watching the Spanish channel, whereas someone else might want to watch regular news, so they just go up to the TV and change it. You just have to be ready to fight. It's crazy.

They say, “Pull out your gun.” You don’t have a gun, but it’s what they call knives. Your knife is your gun, and that's what they’d say.

Was it more violent inside or on the streets?

It was definitely more violent inside prison. In the streets, you could be incognito, especially after things changed with cell phones and delivery services. It was not that corner-to-corner type of issue from back in the day.

Were you able to work and earn wages inside prison?

Yes, I was working as a customer service agent for the Department of Motor Vehicles, earning seven cents an hour.

Seven cents an hour?

Yes, that’s an hour. My monthly wage was $40.

That's crazy. How do they justify seven cents an hour?

I have no idea. It's all a robbery. It's a money-making business. The department pays the inmates a certain amount, and the prison take a cut. So they could say like, “Hey, we'll deliver all the customer agents for you for $10 an hour rather than $20 an hour.” And then you get paid whatever they tell you you're going to get paid.

I was working as a customer service agent for the Department of Motor Vehicles, earning seven cents an hour.

You’re stuck because you want to do something while you're inside. You have to do something, just to keep occupied. And if you don't work, you get in trouble too.

There are so many ways you cease being human when you enter the prison system.

Yeah. It's part of the law. Basically, to be incarcerated, you’re subject to being enslaved.

Well, five years in, you're only a couple of months away from being released, but an unwarranted assault from a guard lands you in solitary and stacks more time on your sentence. How that did happen, and how did you keep the faith?

I was devastated when I ended up in solitary confinement. I had two months left before my release, and I remember one of the officers beat me up and threw me in solitary confinement with 24-hour lockdown. I was devastated. I felt hopeless. I thought I couldn't get out of the situation, but then an officer came to my door, opened up the food slot, and passed me a pen, paper, and an envelope. I quickly grabbed them so I could communicate with my family.

So, I wrote a letter to let my family know about the whole situation, and how this officer set me up and beat me up. As I sealed the letter, I realized I had no stamp to send it out and I became even more restless.

I sat on my bed and started banging my head on the wall, just frustrated. Hopeless. It was not until three or four days later when my sister found out I was in solitary. She wrote me a letter and said, “We found out you're in solitary. Everything is going to be all right. All I want you to do is pray.” My sister is super religious, and she told me to pray to Psalm 91.

But I was like, "Fuck that. I don't need god and I don't need religion. I need a lawyer. I need to fight this case. This guy is trying to set me up."

It was not until a couple of days later where I decided to pick up the bible, which was the only thing in the cell. The bible is the only thing that follows you around through your whole prison sentence, and it was this bible that she gave me early in my incarceration in Rikers Island.

To be incarcerated, you’re subject to being enslaved.

And I turned to Psalm 91, which states, “He who dwells in the shelter of the most high will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord. He is my shelter and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” And as soon as I read those words, a stamp fell out of the Psalm pages, and that gave me chills.

I don't know. I was struck by awe, and I kept reading, and something weird happened to me. I was in 100+ degree weather, a super-hot cell, frustrated, but every time I read the bible I felt like I was in cool 70 degree weather, and sitting in the Caribbean. Every time I began reading, I escaped that cell. I got lost in the words, and I read the bible from front to back. I'm not a super religious person, and I'm not trying to convert anyone, but that is what happened to me.

Through reading the bible, I started realizing that what I had been doing was wrong. I felt like drugs were okay to sell. Previously, I had felt like I was not doing anything wrong – that it was the system that was wrong. I thought I was the victim in every situation.

And then I started realizing that I was affecting not only the thousands of people that I sell drugs to, but I started thinking about their families. I started thinking about my family. I started thinking about this web of destruction that I'd created, and I felt so much regret. I said, “I want to get back in some sort of way.”

I came up with the idea of ConBody in that cell. Then, I lost 70 pounds in six months, while helping 20 other inmates lose more than 1,000 pounds combined.

So, I started this whole workout program in the prison yard. I knew then that it’s what I wanted to do when I came home: a prison-style bootcamp. In my cell, I wrote a mini-business plan and a 90-day workout plan. I said to myself that I would do what I wrote, and I did.

About a year later, I came home and put it into action. I started training classes in the park, then rented out studios, then eventually opened up my own studio. It escalated to building an online workout platform where I now train thousands of people all over the world. Today, we've trained more than 50,000 people. But the most beautiful thing is that we've hired over 40 people coming out of the prison system, and none of them have come back into the system.

That's incredible. In New York, aren’t 53% of released prisoners likely to be back inside prison within three years?

Yes, and that's just three years. Within five years, it's 76%. Within eight years, 82% of the people will go back into the system. So more than three out of four people will go back, and I'm a proven statistic. I recidivated, and it a lot has to do with the lack of opportunities that you receive when you get out of the system and come home.

So you were inside and came up with what you thought was a solid business idea, but it was only when you got started that you realized just how good it was. How were you able to spread the word about ConBody? And were there any principles or lessons you had from your former life that were able to help you build it?

Yeah. I remember when I got out of solitary confinement, I had to do this group class for a couple of months called ASAT – the alcohol, substance abuse treatment program. In the middle of the class, full of inmates, they ask us what our plan is when we come home. I remember getting up in front of the class and telling everyone, “Look, I'm going to start a prison-style bootcamp. I'm going to hire people coming out of the system.” And I told them the whole idea of ConBody.

They all laughed and thought I was crazy, but that got me mad. I said, “This shit is going to fucking pop off! I know how to build the business from the ground up.” And that was just my mentality: that nothing was going to stop me. I was determined to make this thing happen.

My mentality was nothing is going to stop me.

Then I came home and used the same marketing and hustling skills that I used when I was selling drugs. I was going up to random people and giving them my business card. Any females wearing yoga pants who were jogging down the block, I would chase after them and pitch them left and right! I just kept doing it, and from there it started escalating.

Did you find people who were currently incarcerated and go into the prisons to train them as personal trainers? Or was it once they were released, you were able to train them as personal trainers and bring them into Conbody?

Yeah, once they were released. At the start, I was doing everything myself – teaching all the classes and running the whole business. I couldn't afford to pay anyone in the beginning stages. It took me a little over a year and a half before I hired my first guy. Then, one of the guys who I was locked up with that saw me lose a lot of weight, he contacted me immediately when he came home because he’d read about me in an article and became my Facebook friend. He hit me up and said, “Hey, yo. Can I be a trainer there?” So I brought him on board, and it kept spreading like that.

I love it. And this year, you started a crowdfunding campaign for Second Chance Studios, which has raised more than $60,000. What's your aim with Second Chance Studios, and why is it such an important project for you?

One of the biggest issues when people are coming out of the prison system is that we have a lot of manual labor jobs, and that's pretty much the only job you can get when you come out. One out of five people unemployed in America are formerly incarcerated people, which is crazy. That's millions and millions of people with criminal histories, and that correlates to people going back. Especially during COVID time, anybody who had a manual labor job pretty much lost their job. So now with the technical skill side of it, we want to launch Second Chance Studios so we can hire and train people to do podcasting work, video production, and audio engineering.

We want to have corporations hire these individuals once they’ve gone through our program and solidified their training. That would also be helpful for me because I want to hire people with those skills for the ConBody side, too.

It's perfect timing with the pandemic and the push to remote work, where people can offer their expertise from the comfort of their own home.

You've been a TEDx speaker, an author, and done all these amazing things. How long ago was it since you were released and able to start doing all these awesome ventures?

It's been a while. March 2013.

I have the utmost respect for the journey that you have been on. It was obviously a very difficult upbringing, but the bigger the setback, the bigger the comeback.

There seems to be a resistance to helping formerly incarcerated individuals develop skills and earn money. It’s like people would rather be afraid of them from a distance, and it remains a taboo subject. Yet, we need that change to happen if we’re to have a meaningful society. If you had one change to make to the prison system, what would it be?

I think we need to believe in redemption. Everyone in this planet has committed some type of mistake, something immoral or something bad. Not everyone's perfect, and we need to realize that we all commit mistakes. If we didn't commit mistakes, we wouldn't learn from our mistakes. But our system in the US is all about punishment. It’s a correction facility, and we need to correct the problem.

To do that, we need to recruit people who care. Instead of bringing in correctional officers who just want to beat you up with batons and turn you more into a criminal, why not have trained correctional officers and staff members who really care? People who want to correct the problem, to train and reform individuals, and who believe in second chances.

Hopefully sharing your story on platforms like this can help initiate that change.

Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Coss does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give her 18-year-old self, his favorite book, and a whole lot more 🚀

Final question. What's one thing you do to Win the Day?

Working out is the biggest thing for me. I feel so accomplished when I wake up in the morning and go for a run or workout.

Resources / links mentioned:

💪 ConBody

🎧 Ex-Dealer, Ex-Junkie Podcast

💚 Second Chance Studios

📚 ConBody: The Revolutionary Bodyweight Prison Boot Camp, Born from an Extraordinary Story of Hope

🎤 TEDx Talk

📸 Coss Marte on Instagram

"Do or do not. There is no try."

– Yoda

Today we sit down with one of the world’s foremost business growth experts, Kerwin Rae. Kerwin has amassed millions of followers with his raw, no-nonsense motivational style. In an extraordinary career, he’s helped more than 100,000 businesses in 150+ different industries, in more than a dozen countries, to achieve better results. He is also host of the Unstoppable with Kerwin Rae podcast.

But Kerwin certainly had to attend the school of hard knocks to get where he is today. At 7 years old, he was diagnosed with dyslexia, ADHD, and other learning difficulties. At 15, he had the first of seven near-death experiences. And at 19, he became addicted to drugs.

It looked like the stars simply wouldn’t align for his life, and he hadn’t even read a book in full until he was 23 – which is coincidentally the same year he started his first business.

Then, a series of transformational moments occurred that made Kerwin realize he had FAR more potential than he ever thought possible. At that point, he realized that his rollercoaster journey – through difficult lessons and significant hardships – had actually equipped him with an unparalleled ability to help others succeed. And he’s been kicking massive goals ever since.

Incredibly, he was one of the few people on the entire planet to properly foresee how dramatically things were going to change as a result of covid, and he pivoted his business accordingly.

In this interview, Kerwin and I talk about:

You’ll certainly be ready to Win the Day after this episode.

Resources / links mentioned:

📝 Kerwin Rae on Facebook

📷 Kerwin Rae on Instagram

Kerwin Rae website

🔥 Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink

🧭 Unstoppable with Kerwin Rae podcast

📙 The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida

🎙️ We Are Members: create a thriving business from your podcast

“Do or do not. There is no try.”

– Yoda

Today we sit down with one of the world’s foremost business growth experts, Kerwin Rae. Kerwin has amassed millions of followers with his raw, no-nonsense motivational style. In an extraordinary career, he’s helped more than 100,000 businesses in 150+ different industries, in more than a dozen countries, to achieve better results. He is also host of the Unstoppable with Kerwin Rae podcast.

But Kerwin certainly had to attend the school of hard knocks to get where he is today. At 7 years old, he was diagnosed with dyslexia, ADHD, and other learning difficulties. At 15, he had the first of seven near-death experiences. And at 19, he became addicted to drugs.

It looked like the stars simply wouldn’t align for his life, and he hadn’t even read a book in full until he was 23 – which is coincidentally the same year he started his first business.

Then, a series of transformational moments occurred that made Kerwin realize he had FAR more potential than he ever thought possible. At that point, he realized that his rollercoaster journey – through difficult lessons and significant hardships – had actually equipped him with an unparalleled ability to help others succeed. And he’s been kicking massive goals ever since.

Incredibly, he was one of the few people on the entire planet to properly foresee how dramatically things were going to change as a result of covid, and he pivoted his business accordingly.

In this interview, Kerwin and I talk about:

You’ll certainly be ready to Win the Day after this episode.

James Whittaker:
You’re known for your amazing energy and larger than life presence – whether it's on stage or in the office. Who were you before the bulletproof Kerwin Rae that we see today?

Kerwin Rae:
Probably the Swiss cheese version of Kerwin Rae – full of holes. I wouldn't say I'm bulletproof. But I'd certainly say that yes, I've always had a certain aspect of my personality that is quite persistent. And I think that's played out through my life in a number of different ways. But it's hard to say. Like anyone mate, we've all been through so many different experiences in life, and I can honestly say, I've probably lived four or five different lives in the lifetime that I've had.

So it's like asking me who was I before this version? Or who was I before the version before that? But I guess you could say, I've always been someone who’s really enjoyed helping people. I'm someone who natively likes to help and support others – it’s just something I do instinctively – and I think that's played out in a range of different ways. It's been able to support me and many other people in the process.

You and I are acutely aware of the power of the mind. It's what we do with our work and we both love helping people. We know that just as we can think and grow rich, we can also think and grow poor. When you were diagnosed at the age of seven with things like ADHD, and told that you had learning difficulties, dyslexia, and all these different things, how did those labels shape your younger years? And how do you feel about putting labels, good or bad, on children these days?

At the time, I don't think I gave much credence to the labels. It was more the description and how I was treated as a result. I didn't understand ADHD and dyslexia. I just knew that I found it really difficult to learn at school, and I found it very difficult to concentrate. The teachers often made a point of making it known that I was different from everyone else in that capacity. 

At a very early age, as far back as I can remember, there was a suggestion given to me by an immediate family member that I was ‘stupid.’ In many respects, I grabbed onto it – that label of being stupid. And then I started to manifest that in a whole range of different ways. And a lot of that, the ADHD and dyslexia, was ultimately the experience of really struggling in the learning space.

Can you take us into the moment of when you shifted your mindset away from feeling stupid to feeling like you had power – the moment when, for the first time, your destiny was potentially much brighter than what you’d been told to that point?

That's a good question. I actually remember where I was. I was in Carindale in Brisbane [Australia]. I was managing a fitness equipment store at the time, and I was reading a book by Dr. David Schwartz called The Magic of Thinking Big. I remember reading that book because it was given to me by someone I knew. And as I read that book, which I read feverishly – and I never read anything feverishly because I always struggled to read. Like, I had never even read the newspaper up until this point. I didn't read anything. I don’t think, until that point, I’d even read a book cover to cover before.

And this book kind of attuned me into the possibility that maybe there was more potential out there, that there was a possibility of some form of growth and personal development. I read the book over three days, got to the end – which, first of all, was a serious feat because it was the first time I’d read a book cover to cover. But then I remember getting to the end of the book, looking at the back cover and thinking, “Huh, I actually fucking remember what's inside.”

Then I thought to myself, “Maybe I’m not stupid after all.” I remember thinking that exact thought.

Then I thought to myself, “Maybe I’m not stupid after all.” I remember thinking that exact thought.

From there, I just made it a practice to start reading news I was interested in. I even started buying newspapers, not because I was interested in the news, but I'd flick through the newspapers until I found a headline that caught my attention, and then I would start reading. To me, that was just a form of practice.

Wow, what an interesting catalyst.

You know, I actually grew up in Carindale for the first 15 years of my life!

There you go! I actually remember your dad.

We lived in the middle of nowhere, before all the residential developments. There was a neighboring house, but no one else around for about a 10-minute drive. So, one of my greatest athletic feats was at about the age of 12 trying to get to the corner store that was about a five-kilometer bike ride away!

I’m sure the experiences you’ve been through, like what you just mentioned, help you in the career you’ve got now where you help so many people. That story reminds me of the quote “When the student is ready, the master will appear” because you always had the ability. But it was specific resource that was able to completely change your trajectory.

Every day, I think about the sliding door moments from my own life and how they can be created for other people. Is a big part of the work that you do today to help other people create those sliding door moments that can massively change their belief of what’s possible and life trajectory?

Everyone's got their own story, and I'm not trying to put myself above or below anyone. But what I do know is I've come from a pretty interesting background where I've had a vast range of experiences that could be labeled as severe traumas. And as a result, that created a whole bunch of situations, contexts, and feelings within me. Some of those were given labels and diagnoses. But it just required a disproportionate amount of work.

I've seen the amount of work that I've had to do to get to the person I am today – and it hasn't been an easy journey by any stretch of the imagination. But that's given me a really solid set of tools because I'm one of these people who is relentless, but I'm relentless from the perspective of sustainability. I don't just want to learn how to do something once. I want to learn how to do something over and over and over again.

And through this process of learning how to develop and grow myself, I'm equipped with tools that are incredibly powerful so when I look at anyone – and it's hard to look at anyone as anything other than what they are, which is an individual with their own experiences – but knowing where I've come from, I haven't met anyone to this day that I can't look at them and believe, “There’s still hope for you.”

That’s the beautiful thing about being human. We all have this capability to grow. We all have this capability to change and transform. But it's just getting people to that point where they can see that.

Many people out there feel like they don't have a good story. Brendon Burchard talks about his car accident. Janine Shepherd, a good mutual friend of ours, was literally hit by a truck. A lot of people out there feel that they’re not good enough because they don’t have a momentous story like that. But I think there's a huge market that you're serving of people who may not have a moment of great trauma from their lives. Although, I should clarify here that I believe everyone who has reached the age of 30 has overcome significant adversity and hardship in one way or another.

You've had a bunch of near-death experiences, business challenges, and personal challenges. Was there one of those challenges in particular that stands out where you were able to identify an equivalent benefit or advantage from?

One of the biggest challenges I’ve ever had to go through was probably the separation from my wife about three and a half years ago. That was mainly because I grew up in a single-parent household and I had these dreams and ambitions of creating a family-like environment in my own house. And when that didn’t come to fruition…

I feel very grateful that my ex-wife Kristen is an incredible human being. We’ve separated incredibly consciously, but at the time I was having this massive ideal shattered. This ideal of a mum and a dad, and a family that were going to have these big Christmases and these lives together. And when that started to come undone, from the perspective of the ideal, it required an enormous amount of work for me to balance the perspective and say, “Where’s the benefit in this? How is this serving me?”

Especially considering a significant body of my work is around relationship dynamics, and I’m now going through my own relationship breakdown. So, for me, it was beautiful and I’m so grateful. But I’m one of those people that whenever I experience challenge, I just embrace it really strongly. I love challenge. I love doing things that are hard. And when we went through that period, it was very difficult, but it was very easy to see the benefits when you’re looking for them.

Whenever I experience challenge, I just embrace it really strongly.

One of the most incredible benefits that I received was all of a sudden I became a full-time dad 50% of the time, instead of a part-time dad 100% of the time, and that was absolutely transformational for me. It changed my life in every single way, shape and form, to the point where I look at that one aspect and say, “It’s in balance. I’m good. It’s all good. I’ve got nothing to regret and everything to be grateful for.”

Absolutely. What has happened in your life, or what have you done, that now enables you to stay so calm in highly stressful situations?

A disproportionate amount of fucking meditation and all sorts of other gizmos and gimmicks! But you've also got to understand my origins, mate. I was undiagnosed SPD. And what that means is I've got family who are on the spectrum. I'm on the spectrum myself. And SPD means I have a sensory processing disorder, but it's not really a disorder – it's more like an upgrade. All of my senses are heightened. So my sense of smell, taste, touch, everything is turned up.

Now everyone might go, “Oh, that's amazing,” but it's not amazing when you give that to a child who is evolving in an environment that is quite noisy and frenetic and hasn’t demonstrated how to regulate in a healthy and functional way. So for me, growing up, I didn't know anything other than feeling stressed because I was constantly under the bombardment of amplified information, whether it be a sound, sight, you name it. Going into a shopping center was a very different experience compared to most other kids.

As a result, I think it was only a few months ago where I came to this conclusion, that I've literally gone through almost every system in my body, learning how to regulate it consciously, just to try and feel normal. But in the process, I've developed an incredible set of tools that are being used by the military, by business, by mums, by dads, by anyone to regulate stress and stay calm and cool.

People look at me and might think, “Man, how is it that you're so calm?” Well, it’s because I spent decades as a very wound up anxious little child who didn't want to be that way. And I used to look at everyone around me as a kid and go, “Why does everyone look so fucking relaxed? I feel like I'm wound up like a spring here.”

So it’s all been about the pursuit of calm. And even to give you context, there are only two base fears that we have: the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. I went straight for those two. Once I identified I had a fear of heights, I did 200 skydives in 12 months. I did 60 skydives in very quick succession where I threw a heart rate monitor on and meditated in free fall with the aim of getting under 80 beats per minute and maintaining that. Now that’s not normal by any stretch of the imagination, but you've got to understand, if you can learn to meditate in freefall – you know, flying through the air at more than 200 kilometers an hour – you can fucking meditate anywhere.

I did 60 skydives in very quick succession where I threw a heart rate monitor on and meditated in free fall with the aim of getting under 80 beats per minute and maintaining that.

One of the reasons why I pursued training with weapons and why I’ve trained with special forces — and I'm very lucky to have trained with some of the Navy SEALs and European special forces groups. When I do this training, people think, “Oh, it must be mad you know, running and jumping and climbing through the mountain.”

But I'm like, “No, dude, I don't get my hands fucking dirty in the mud. I play with the guns.”

The reason I like to play with the guns is because you're working in an environment that has a very loud percussion that activates the autonomic nervous system instantaneously if you don't know how to regulate.

And if you have to execute a series of 73 moves in the next three minutes and you're activated, you can't do that. You're fucked. But by virtue of exposing yourself to those stresses consistently – whether falling out of the sky, or loud noises as part of a complex range of sequences that can get someone or yourself killed – it forces you into a new zone where you are very clear on who you have to be. But, more importantly, you understand the value of calm.

One of the reasons that people aren't calm is they don't see the value of it. When you are calm, you have this massive objectivity to be able to make multiple decisions at any one time that most people can't make, because they're stressed and they're activated. There's a lot of value in calm once you start playing in that space.

For most people, jumping out of an airplane is probably stressful enough. But you're taking that to another level of constant growth around pushing the boundary at the furthermost point, which is the meditation in freefall thing, which is incredible.

Recently I had Emily Fletcher [Ziva Meditation] on the show, and we spoke about how 80% of doctor's visits are related to stress. Yet, the people who feel the most stress often aren’t taking the daily steps to improve themselves or get out of their comfort zone.

You’ve worked with hundreds of thousands of business leaders all around the world. Is stress an underlying factor for all those people? Maybe they're too busy working in their business rather than on the business. How much of a factor is stress, and how do you help people get through that?

Look, I would say it's a massive factor, and that's one of the reasons I think that we are so successful in what we do. When we work with business owners, the clients that we work with over a long period of time, there's about one in three or one in four that will 2X to 10X in the first 18 months to two years. We teach very solid business, marketing, leadership and scaling principles, yes. But the one thing that makes us different that really sets us apart is the psychological conditioning component that we teach. And a big part of that is learning how to deal with stress. Because here's what we know about stress: stress is the number one killer of the 21st century, and it’s a multi-billion-dollar issue in the workforce.

When we have stress activated in the body, our autonomic nervous system is activated, and we go into fight or flight. Adrenaline and cortisol start flooding the system and we lose within seven minutes about 50% of our intelligence. So when stress goes up, intelligence goes down. And to me it's a valuable question to ask, “Okay, what are the situations I'm in most that have the highest level of value that requires the greatest level of calm, that if I'm stressed most situations can cause me significant consequence?” And that is in your job, in your business, in your relationship, in those moments that really count.

And so, for me, there's an absolute clear correlation that if you're going to be alive, you're going to experience a level of stress. But if you're going to be an entrepreneur – and stress is a spectrum, right? You are going to significantly start to push yourself up that spectrum of experiencing stress. And the more you can regulate stress in a healthy way, at levels that other people can't, the more you’ll enable yourself to go further than anyone else can.

That’s the beautiful thing about being human. We all have this capability to grow. We all have this capability to change and transform.

The only difference between someone who plays here and someone who plays here is not necessarily their smarts. It's their ability to expose themselves to information, in some cases, stress, at a level that they can regulate in a healthy way. That's why not everyone's going to be able to build a multibillion-dollar company because not everyone could cope with the mental stress of even considering working with those denominations and those values. And that's why you'll always find where your limit is, and wherever that limit is you'll be constrained by some level of fear that triggers a level of stress.

The more we can interpersonally learn how to regulate the systems within our body consciously, based on the recognition of that being required, then the further we can go.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, once said in a letter to shareholders, “I've made billions of failures at Amazon literally.” That’s one of the wealthiest people who ever lived actively seeking out ways that he can get out of his comfort zone because he knows that the more he can expose his company to those environments, the more comfortable it will be. Which creates that sensory awareness around bringing something quickly to market that might resonate, in contrast to your traditional bureaucracy (e.g. banks, government organizations, etc.) that moves so slowly.

You had a two-year career break around the age of 33 when you were between business ventures where you were trying to figure out your next move. What did you do during that time which enabled you to find the business and path you’re on today that you’re so passionate about?

At the age of 32 or 33, I did what I probably should have done at 18 or 19. I took some time off because I went straight out of school and was working multiple jobs, which I had been doing since grade 10 or earlier. From the moment I could work, I was working multiple jobs. And so I never took any time off. At 32, I just got out of a venture, I had some money in my pocket, and I was like, “You know what, I'm going to take some time off.” And I did, and I took some time off living on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.

I just took enough time – and I think this is critical, I think this is something that everyone should be open to – I took the time to get bored. And the reason I think that's important is because it's not until we get bored that we get really curious. As I said, I've lived many different iterations of my life and my life is very full, and very rarely does it ever get boring. But this is one stage of my life that I got to where I'd basically done everything I wanted to do from a financial perspective.

I thought, “Well, maybe I want to retire now.” I took that time out. And then I started looking at who I was surrounding myself with in that phase. I was playing golf a couple of times a week with 74-year-old men who would sometimes accidentally piss their pants when they hit a good drive. And I thought, “Fuck, these guys aren’t exactly inspiring me to stay retired.”

I had to get to the point where I was so bored that I thought, “Right, I’ve got to do something. I'm going out of my fucking mind here. I’ve got to do something.” But I didn’t need to, so I put myself in a situation where I had to. After two years, I got to the point where I'd spent all my liquid capital, and if I wanted to keep living, I had to start selling assets. And I was like, “Yeah, fuck that.”

I sat down on the beach with a notepad and my cat. I had a bengal, and he's like a little leopard that thinks he's a dog. And I just started writing down what I love to do, and I kept coming back to teaching, I love teaching, I love speaking. But I was quite jaded, because when I'd come out of the industry two years previous, I'd worked in a range of different businesses, and I'd seen quite a different perspective. Like yourself, James, I'd been exposed to both sides of the seminar industry and I was just like, “I have no interest in coming back to the seminar industry.”

But I sat down to identify what I really loved to do: I love to teach, I love to help, I love to serve. Then I thought, “Well, I do that greatest when I'm speaking.” But I’d said I'd never do that again. In that moment, and I remember it was a Tuesday afternoon on that beach, it was a little bit overcast, the waves were pumping, and I made the choice that I was only going to take the stage if I would talk about something I was actually doing.

I gave myself a little bit of leeway, a 95% congruency. But with that 5%, they still needed to be things that I was going to do. The important message for myself at the time was don't talk about it unless you're fucking doing it. Don't talk to it unless you've got experience. Otherwise make it clear that you are going to do it. And that’s become a big part of our brand and making sure we’re genuine and authentic in what we do.

And I think that really comes across in everything you do. It reminds me of what you said at our event for podcasters a few months back that “Leadership is not a badge, it’s a behavior.” It’s about leading by example and taking that time to explore your intellectual curiosity.

I've got to connect you with a friend of mine, Michael Fox, who had a company called Shoes of Prey, which was the world’s first custom women’s shoe company. After a 10-year rollercoaster journey, he lost USD $25 million of investor’s money and his marriage broke up. He then took six months to explore his intellectual curiosity, and that's what led him to that mission of wanting to end industrial agriculture. And now he's created a new business called Fable Food Co that just launched in 600+ Woolworths stores, with partners like Heston Blumenthal, and they’re absolutely crushing it.

That’s great. I love that.

Once you’ve been an entrepreneur, it’s extremely hard to stop working or switch off. But big results if you can manage it properly.

I actually got the idea from David Deida in one of his books, I think it was The Way of The Superior Man. He spoke about how oftentimes what men will do is they'll keep themselves distracted, which will prevent them from discovering their purpose when they stumble upon it. And that's why I'd recommend this to a lot of people to take extended periods of time just to do nothing, just to get bored.

And we see it with kids. A big part of the Montessori method that we do with our son Noah is the importance of getting kids bored because that’s when their imaginations fire up the most.

From all the businesses and individuals that you've worked with and been able to help, is there one transformation in particular that you're most proud of or that stands out?

Yeah, there is actually. I know it might sound arrogant but my own. I feel like it’s a P.Diddy moment, “I'd like to thank me!” [laughs]

Look, it's hard. I don't know anyone as well as I know myself, so that's an honest answer. I've seen where I've come from and what I’ve gone through to get to where I am today – it's been a phenomenal transformation.

But if there's one other transformation that really stands out in my mind right now, it's Mattias, my filmmaker. When he came to me, I still remember his interview, his hair was shaking in the Skype interview and he was very mild. But the transformation, four or five years later, he's now probably one of the strongest leaders in our organization and he's got a great head on his shoulders.

He’s got his own story growing up and losing his mum at an early age. And the more I got to know him, the more I saw where he was from his journey. It’s a beautiful thing about working with a filmmaker, especially Mattias, because he's with me all the time. So you can't help but get to know him and find out more and more about each other. He's definitely one of the most phenomenal transformations I've seen.

Earlier you mentioned your six-year-old son, Noah. What do you do differently as a parent compared to how you see other people raise their kids?

I don't know because I don't look at what other people do with their kids, unless it’s in the line at Woolies [supermarket] or something.

Look, I’m like most other dads. I raise my voice every now and then. But the difference is, and this is probably the key difference, when I do I apologize straightaway. I'm human and can get a little bit on edge and lash out. I'll often say, “Buddy, I'm sorry for raising my voice. I'm not sorry for what I said, but I shouldn't raise my voice.” Then we can chat about the issue and bring it to an end that way.

So he sees me own my shit on the regular. Like, he really does see me own my shit on the regular! Which is something I hold very near and dear. But we also spend a lot of time together. I wouldn't say I’m anti-social but I'm not a massively social person. And one of the things I realized that up until the beginning in a new relationship about five or six months ago now, outside of work, 98% of my socialization was with my son, Noah.

And so I guess what that means is we spend a lot of time together. We hang out a lot, and we play cars, but one of the things we do on a very regular basis is we'll just hang out on a beanbag hugging and just talking. We will sometimes talk for hours. And I talk with him like he's a real human being and I talk with him at a high level, and I treat him with an enormous level of respect. I treat him as a human being, as an age-appropriate human being, but that comes with an incredible level of respect for the potential that he holds.

It’s up to everyone to parent their kids however they see fit based on their own experiences, but I see so many people who are quick to dictate to children how the world is. In contrast, I love asking children questions so they can tell me how the world is. I just love letting them talk and listening to their observations.

What is the biggest fear that you have for Noah as he gets older, and how are you equipping him to handle that?

I wouldn't say I have any big fears, outside of losing the little guy – that would absolutely destroy me. But I guess what I'm equipping him for is a very strong mental game. He gets some of the world's greatest coaching in some of the most important situations of his life. He really does. I look at him as, like myself, as probably one of the greatest clients I'm ever going to have. And I don't mean that in a commercial way, I just mean that in a way of service.

I'm just equipping him with a very strong mental game with a really strong focus on leadership and teamwork. Like, a disproportionate amount of our communication is around working as a team – working together, helping each other, being of service, helping people, and that kind of plays out in every context.

The other day, someone asked me, “How do you know you're successful?”

And I thought, “Okay, that's a good question.”

And I answered it honestly. I said I look at my son. I look at how he behaves in public. And that's not to say that every now and then he's not a bit of a cheeky monkey like other kids can be. He can be. But I look at the way that he treats a stranger, I look at the way that he treats the wait staff, I look at the way that he treats someone busking on the street. And he's the most polite, gentle, kind, loving human being I've ever fucking met in my life. And so that, to me, is success.

Now, I’ve just got to hold the standard for another 15 years to get him well on his way. But that's important to me. And I think that's a big part of why I do what I do. But I do an enormous, a disproportionate level, of socialization with my son.

Have you got anything that you focus on in particular to make sure that you're entirely present with him, such as switching your phone to airplane mode?

He's really good. If he's getting jacked off with the phone, he'll just give it to me straight. And we have a bit of a deal that if dad is distracted, he'll put the phone down. But also, if he has to get an important call, he can take it.

But this is one of the things that I do with my son that is maybe a little bit different as well. Yes, I give him an enormous level of presence. But I actually include him a lot of my business. You know, he sits in on a range of different meetings. He's been in planning meetings, sales calls, consulting calls, client meetings.

If he's around, he's welcome to come into the meeting, and he knows he's just got to be quiet. And so yes, that's something that I enjoy exposing him to as well.

With a 15-month-old daughter, I am astounded at how much she actually remembers and picks up. But I can't imagine the six-year-old level of consciousness. He’s going to learn so much more than what other people might actually think from participating in those situations.

And it's hilarious to see him in a meeting. In early February, I was in a meeting in the office giving someone some coaching. Noah turned to me and said, “Dad, just be nice to them. They’re new.”

Then I was like, “Oh, my God, this is hilarious.” So yeah, he's a pretty funny character. And that's why I look at how he behaves and him sitting in on these meetings and being involved in these meetings like you said, they hear everything, and they echo it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he's running the company in the next six years!

There's a poem that John Wooden used to have up in his office, and it was called ‘A Little Fellow Follows Me.’ I'll send it to you afterward, it’s incredible.

I love the sound of that.

It talks about how we’ve got a little companion who will always mimic what we do, good or bad – that whatever we do is handed down, whether we like it or not.

To switch gears for a second, you always talk about bigger, faster, stronger. How do you balance that hunger with enjoying happiness in the present?

I think it’s a practice. You don't just get happy by accident; you don't just get healthy by accident. Some people are naturally wired that way, maybe. But I think happiness is something that everybody needs to work on with a level of consciousness to be aware of how much they’re experiencing their life. And I'm no different to anybody else – I get obsessed with business performance and with everything moving so quickly, but sometimes I do forget to slow down and enjoy more.

And that's where the last few months have been quite special for me. I've now entered a new relationship for the first time, almost four years since the separation. And I've been spending more time in a family environment and bathing in a sea of happiness that is inspired by a different value to the business at a higher level. I've always bathed in the family value with my son, but to be putting myself back into the context of a family unit, it’s brought an enormous amount of happiness to me and awareness to the importance of managing that balance moving forward.

When covid hit, you were able to connect the dots quicker than anyone I’ve seen. How were you able to read the tea leaves of what was coming with covid, and how did you change your business as it was all unfolding? People might forget the uncertainty, but it was shifting wildly every day and it seemed that no one had any idea what was going on.

I guess you could say it was one-part luck, one-part smarts, and one-part timing. I'm someone who naturally gathers information every day. I use a range of different sources and look at a range of different data, depending on what's on my dashboard at the time. And somehow corona got on my dashboard on 7th January. When I read it, I thought, “Well, this is interesting.”

And I remember doing a little bit more research and thinking, “Fuck, there's something going on here.”

But then the very next day, 9th January, I jumped back on and it was media silence. And I remember thinking it was a bit strange. It went from outbreak in China to no talk at all. After about a 24-hour blackout, it was on the news again. And I just I couldn't shake it. Every day, I just kept gathering data.

So when the China outbreak happened, I was on it. When Spain, Italy, and France went up, I was on it. I ordered the first set of protective gear for our team on 18th January. We created our first biothreat response plan with the team on 24th January.

We had a 13-city tour that was scheduled for February, where I was going to be on 30 planes in 30 days, and I wanted to make sure that myself and the team were protected. A lot of people say, “Oh, it was a good intuition,” but it was just good foresight, combined with a solid intuition, and just looking at the data points.

In early January, I was literally saying on film, “Why the fuck is no one talking about this? This covid thing is taking off and no one’s talking about it.”

By 27th January I was saying, “China's been shut down for 3-4 weeks now. Everyone ships out of China, but no one is talking about this. What's going on?” When it hit, I thought, “Finally, someone's fucking paying attention,” because I'd been talking about it for seven weeks, heavily. As a result, my clients and our business were well insulated.

And it's so funny, because when I first went to my team and said, “Oh, this event will get canceled,” they were fighting it. They said it won’t be cancelled. And not only did that event get canceled, we ended up shutting down the event that we were just about to go into, like two weeks later, we shut it down halfway through. And I had team members arguing with me saying “No, that's not going to happen, it will never happen. That's impossible.” And I was like, “Oh, it's not impossible. It's going to fucking happen. Everyone needs to get their head around it now.”

For some context for those who don’t know, when you ordered all that protective equipment, that was seven weeks before the US stopped the first flights from Europe. And it was also five weeks before Nancy Pelosi held a press conference in San Francisco’s Chinatown district to reassure people that everything was fine and that they should continue their lives as normal. To make that call many weeks before those things happened is incredible.

It's kind of birthed a new division in the company. We now have, I guess you could say, a small intelligence division in the company that just gathers data. And it gathers data at whatever we point it at, which is very helpful. We’re going to explore that more moving forward.

A lot of people these days want the instant monetization strategies, the magic bullets. But for me, and I suspect you too, relationships have been by far the most valuable asset and the most valuable weapon in the arsenal. How have relationships played a role in the success that you have today?

Massively. A relationship is a dynamic that's also on a spectrum, and we're all involved in them. It just depends on what types of relationships, whether they be relationships with our family, our team, our audience, our clients. And so, as someone who is a massive introvert, it's been a real journey. Because I wanted to be like, “Okay, I just want to help people and make money, but I don't want to talk to anybody!”

It’s interesting because I see that playing out with a lot of our clients who say, “Well, I'm not really a people person.” I go, “Well, neither was I. I had to fucking learn!”

If you want to do anything well, you're going to require a team. And if we're going to have a team, there's going to be relationship dynamics at play. And fundamentally, what determines the performance of those dynamics is your communication strategy and how well you communicate. It ultimately determines the level of trust or connection that you have, which ultimately determines the quality of the collaboration.

And that collaboration might be your wife or husband. Again, that might sound cold, but it’s the reality. It's an intimate collaboration, whether its collaboration with your kid when you’re parenting, or collaboration with your team member when you are trying to lead.

As humans, we are built to collaborate. But not all of us got the best instructions on how to do that effectively.

I just had Keith Ferrazzi on the show who’s the #1 New York Times bestselling author of books like Never Eat Alone. During our interview he mentioned that the next romantic partner he wants to have will be his partner not just on the relationship side but to co-elevate with. To lift each other higher.

In a relationship that involves kids, they allocate so much meaning to the relationship the parents have with each other. Is that a big focus for you and your ex-partner – making sure the relationship you have with Noah’s mum is one he admires and respects?

As parents, we need to swallow a pill, take a step back, and start to really become aware, because a lot of parents look at the relationship dynamics of their children and say, “Well, I don’t know where that comes from.” I’ll tell you right now, there is a very high probability it came from you. Whenever Cesar Millan works with a dog, he goes, “I rehabilitate the dog and I train the human.” It’s the same thing with kids. As parents, we’ve got to be very careful with the blueprint that we demonstrate because that ultimately become the foundational operating system of how they relate in a different context.  

And that can be at an intimate level. One of the biggest fallacies that we tell our kids is that if someone is mean to you, it means they like you. What does that tell a six-year-old girl or a six-year-old boy?

“Oh, that boy is bullying me.”

“He doesn't not like you. He likes you, but he just doesn’t know how to tell you.”

And so now we start building this whole model of people treating you poorly, which you interpret as them meaning they love you. Or they start looking at the dynamics they have with their mom or their dad, and their communications strategy, and they don’t understand why their communications strategy keeps playing out in their intimate lives when they move forward.

As parents, we have a lot to answer for, but we also have a lot to be responsible for and a lot to be grateful for, if we are conscious of what we demonstrate.

Check out the YouTube or podcast or YouTube version where Kerwin does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give her 18-year-old self, his favorite book, and a whole lot more 🚀

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

I just get it done. To me, when you know yourself well enough, you just know what buttons to push and you can do anything, in most cases, regardless of context.

Always great to see you! Thanks for coming on the show.

Absolute pleasure, James. See you, next time buddy.

Resources / links mentioned:

📝 Kerwin Rae on Facebook

📷 Kerwin Rae on Instagram

Kerwin Rae website

🔥 Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink

🧭 Unstoppable with Kerwin Rae podcast

📙 The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida

🎙️ We Are Members: create a thriving business from your podcast

“Success in any field – but especially in business – is about working with people, not against them.”

– Keith Ferrazzi

There’s less than a handful of people on the entire planet currently alive today whose work has continually and significantly impacted my life. Without even knowing them personally, these people have spoken to me through their life-changing books and given me the confidence and tools that really inspired the mission that I’m on now and that I will continue until my dying breath.

Today, I am extremely grateful to have one of those people on the Win the Day show: Keith Ferrazzi. Keith is undoubtedly the global leader in relationships and networking. In fact, he’s often cited as the modern-day Dale Carnegie. (For those who don’t know, Dale Carnegie is author of one of the most impactful books I’ve ever read, How to Win Friends and Influence People.)

As long-time fans of the Win the Day show will recall, relationships have been by far the most important ingredient in literally every success I have enjoyed to this point and I’m sure will be responsible for every opportunity that arrives in the future. I’ve spoken before about my struggles through high school and as a young adult, and that it was really only at the age of 23 when I felt focused and empowered for the first time.

But the journey from then certainly wasn’t a straight line.

In 2012, I moved to Boston on the east coast of the US – about as far away from my hometown of Brisbane, Australia, as you can get. I was 28 at the time and moved there to study an MBA, and early in the university program they mentioned Keith’s book Never Eat Alone so I grabbed a copy.

The #1 New York Times bestselling book showed how being genuinely interested in other people, being of thoughtful service to others, and constantly learning (and practicing) every day are the foundations to making every one of our own dreams come true. This philosophy had a profound impact on my life. Keith’s blueprint to success in relationships – along with Carol Dweck’s growth mindset and Napoleon Hill’s achievement principles – are what have shaped my mindset today and really underpin everything I do.

Yet, more than ever, I see people who want magic bullets to success – and the secret to instant monetization. However, this focus on immediate gratification all but nullifies the opportunity to establish authentic, lifelong connections that can provide enormously transformational experiences for us and the people we meet.

In May this year, during my presentation at our virtual event House Sessions, I even mentioned that my number one tip for monetization is not advertising, which everyone kills themselves to get, it’s relationships. It’s giving without the expectation of anything in return. It’s boldly being of service. And it’s knowing how to leverage the people in your network – the ones who would do anything to help you – to achieve your mission.

You're going to love this episode of Win the Day with Keith Ferrazzi, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of books like Never Eat Alone, Who’s Got Your Back, and the brand new Leading Without Authority. Keith leads executive teams of some of the most well-known companies in the world, including Delta Airlines, General Motors, and Verizon, and is featured regularly in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal.

When he was just a summer intern at Deloitte, one of the biggest accounting firms in the world, Keith used the power of relationships to become the youngest Chief Marketing Officer of a Fortune 500 company and the youngest partner in Deloitte history, all before he turned 30.

In addition to relationships and networking, Keith is recognized as the world’s foremost authority on remote work. At a time when most teams are failing, and the global pandemic has pushed the majority of organizations to remote work, Keith’s mission is more important than ever.

In this episode, we talk about:

At the bottom of this page, you can also check out the 60 best quotes from Keith Ferrazzi.

James Whittaker:
I know we were talking offline, but I wanted to quickly give a public acknowledgement to express my gratitude for all you've done – not just to help me, but how you’ve helped the world through your work. It's had a profound impact on my career and on my life, and I know for millions of other people around the world too. So thank you. It means a lot to me that you're on the show today.

Keith Ferrazzi:
Thank you, James. I'm honored.

Three of the most impactful books I've ever read are: How to Win Friends and Influence People (by Dale Carnegie), Think and Grow Rich (by Napoleon Hill), and your book Never Eat Alone

Those are the three books that had the biggest impact on my life too!

It's a good coincidence then! All those books include themes like: being genuinely interested in other people; the power of the mastermind; how we can all go higher together; and the importance of working on your relationships now rather than when you desperately need them. Those three books have enormously shaped my mindset and created all the opportunities and relationships I have in my life today.

All your work talks about relationships, but I want to know whether you had relationships with any books that played a pivotal role early in your career?

Yes, particularly How to Win Friends and Influence People. My father gave me that book when I was young, and I have to say there's nothing more gratifying to me than when somebody will say to me or introduce me as ‘the modern-day Dale Carnegie.’

Another book you wouldn’t imagine is The Great Gatsby. Growing up, I was a poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks, and I got to go to some pretty prestigious schools thanks to my parents' commitment to education. But through that, I also created and absorbed a great deal of insecurity. I didn't feel I deserved to be in the room. I wasn't as good as the rich kids.

And if you know that last chapter of The Great Gatsby, Gatsby – who came from the wrong side of the tracks – had this beautiful desire to be with Daisy Buchanan. He moved to a mansion right across the ocean from her, in the Long Island Sound. He longed for that green light on her deck that someday he could be something. And that actually was his demise and what ultimately led to his death, as you know from the book.

And the name of my company is Ferrazzi Greenlight. It's to always remind me of that deep insecurity I had as a kid and how that insecurity could really be my demise if I didn't watch out for it. So, The Great Gatsby was a warning to me as a young man.

“It's to always remind me of that deep insecurity I had as a kid and how that insecurity could really be my demise if I didn't watch out for it.”

I just finished your awesome new book Leading Without Authority, where you introduce the concept of ‘co-elevation.’ For those who haven't read the book, what is co-elevation and what problems does it solve in this rapidly changing world we're in?

Thanks, James. Co-elevation is a shift of an operating system in the workplace. And in the last four months, we have seen more innovation change the way of work than we have in 20 years. We’ve been talking about the future of work for 20 years. It happened in four months. And I think the question we have to ask ourselves is: how are we as leaders, teams, and organizations in a post-covid world?

You read my book, Never Eat Alone, and it's about networking. Today, we work in networks. Anybody who's listening to this podcast has to understand that your dreams, hopes, and aspirations depend on your capacity to create a team around you that will co-create and fulfill the mission that you have.

But the mission that you have is owned by the team. So when you invite somebody into your mission, you're inviting them into their mission as well. It’s that journey of co-creation … of taking a hill together. And at the same time as you’re going for that shared mission as a team, you're also equally as committed to each other's development.

Co-elevation is a commitment to a shared mission and a commitment to each other. When a team has that, nothing can stop them.

“Co-elevation is a commitment to a shared mission and a commitment to each other. When a team has that, nothing can stop them.”

Another big theme of the book is that maximizing each other's capabilities should be the responsibility of every member of team. I think that's so important, whether it's a sporting team, a business team, or even a family team.

But in the business world, particularly, we have these hierarchies and job titles. People in a junior role might not feel comfortable approaching someone higher, or maybe the person in a senior role might rest on their laurels due to their job title. Is traditional leadership now out of date, and are job titles sabotaging companies from within?

We have to take a step back to recognize the world we live in today. Today, the world demands transformational levels of change from all of us. If you're an entrepreneur, or simply an individual who wants to achieve anything, it requires that you consume radically large volumes of information and continuously adapt to that information to figure out what your plan and strategy is. You also need to keep pivoting because that information changes pretty frequently.

That's unheard of. Previously, we never had that. I coach the transformation of teams and work with companies like General Motors and Delta Airlines. These groups have wake up every day and ask themselves: “What business are we in? How do we deliver?” And so, every one of us has to meet these transformational pressures.

Now, how do you do that? Well, you cannot do that alone. You're only going to be able to do that through unleashing the insights, the wisdom, the warnings of risk, and with the help of a calm networked set of individuals.

So, if you thought your job was to manage your team, meaning the team of people that report to you, and you think that's going to get you there? Bullshit. There's no way you're going to meet the pressures on you by simply managing the resources you have.

Your ability to transform and meet the pressures of the marketplace is dependent on your ability to enlist others into your goals, your mission, and your vision. If you want to be transformational, you've got to work in the network.

I coach executive teams of some of the biggest companies in the world. Covid hits, and no one is spending outside money on new consulting. Even McKinsey, Deloitte, Accenture, they're giving away their consulting because they don't dare ask for cash, which they know these companies aren't giving, but they want to earn loyalty. So, from our perspective, what's the marketplace that we play in now? Well, we've started playing in the middle market where I've coached coaches in our methodology, and they deploy that into smaller companies. We have courses in team transformation that can be taken online, and I had none of that on March 1st.

“We’ve been talking about the future of work for 20 years. It happened in four months.”

So I needed a team to make all that happen. And I found my team in a group of individuals that I didn't even have to pay. Now, the co-creators of my business ended up being individuals that I had admired for years, who I reached out to. Jim Kwik, the memory expert, is a good friend of mine. I reached out to Jim and said that I didn’t know anything about online sales funnels and I needed to sell to small / medium sized businesses and individual business consumers. Jim walked me through the sales funnel process.

All these people came out of the woodwork to help me. Peter Diamandis. Tony Robbins. All of these people joined my team to help me create my business. Opportunities like that have nothing to do with your org chart. Remember that if you’re sitting there at the moment and think you’re stuck.

I had this conversation last night with my 25-year-old [foster] son. I got him at 16 and he's 25 now. He was bemoaning the fact that there's no work out there. And I said, “Kiddo, let's talk about who's on your team to find your work.” I could, obviously, help with that in a moment, but it’s about his ability to co-create a vision for himself. He needs to know what he wants to do, then invite people in to help him and work out what's next in both of their lives, right?

It's amazing how the entire world is open to you through the idea of creating a team where you’re going to help each other be successful. That's the bottom line, and that’s co-elevation.

These days, everyone wants a magic bullet, instant success. For example, I work with a lot of podcasters, and the number one challenge they have is how to monetize. But the only solution they come up with to monetize is to get sponsors on their podcast.

Recently, at We Are Podcast, I spoke about the number one monetization strategy that you can have is investing in relationships. I mean, Keith, look at the relationships that you and I have both been able to build. Then, as you said, you need to be clear on what you want and not be afraid to call in a favor, because other people who you have built up all that goodwill with actually want to help you. That can easily equate to millions, tens of millions, over time, rather than going for a short-term dollar.

One of my favorite quotes from your book is when you said, “I never let a title or a lack of one stop me.” How did you become the youngest Chief Marketing Officer of a Fortune 500 company and the youngest partner in Deloitte history, all by the age of 30?

I'm going to try to answer this in a way that I can coach your listeners and viewers. Imagine yourself working inside of a company. And the CEO says his vision is to really go from eight in the industry to being one of the top consultancies in the world. You're in the audience. What do you do with that information?

Most people say, “Well, that’s nice and I'm glad to be part of the team that's going to go there.”

Well, here’s what I did. I went up to [Deloitte CEO Pat Locanto] the CEO afterward and said, “Sir, what are some of the critical elements that you have in your plan to make us become number one? What are some of the things you're working on?”

He responded by mentioning pieces of brand, marketing, and core competencies. And I said, “Sir, I know you didn't ask me to, but I'll do some research, and if see anything that could help, I'd love to be able to reach out to you and show you what I’ve got.”

He said, “Oh, sure kid” and didn’t think much would come of it.

Well, I went back to school because at the time I was a summer intern. At school, I reached out to a professor of mine and said, “I'd like to do a white paper on professional services marketing. I'd like to do that as a replacement for some of the work that we're doing in our class.”

And he agreed, saying that it sounded like an interesting project. So, I reached out to the top consultancies – their Chief Marketing Officers. I told them that I had spent the summer at Deloitte and was really intrigued by marketing and professional services, but I couldn't find much about it in the industry papers. I mentioned that I was going to do a study on best practices, and I would give them a copy of it when I was done.

So, I was a 100% transparent. And I talked to McKinsey about their vision for thought leadership – how they extracted it from the projects that McKinsey worked on and how they put that out into the marketplace. I talked to Jim Murphy about how he was applying traditional advertising and media, and what that looked like. And then I went to the other folks at the other firms.

I put it all together, sent it to Pat Locanto, and said, “Sir, you don't remember me, but I was the kid that said I'd like to do some research and come back to you. I have now interviewed the Chief Marketing Officers of all the major competitors. Here is the analysis of what a codified marketing strategy would be if we wanted to be rivaling one or two.”

Well, it kind of blew him away. None of his partners had ever done it. He didn't even have a Chief Marketing Officer.

Pat called me, flew me down from Boston (where I was at business school), and took me to dinner. He said, “Kid, this is unimaginable, what you just did. I want you to come and work for the firm, and I want you to come in and work on a project around redefining marketing for the company.”

I said, “I would love to. All I want is one-on-one dinners with you every few months.”

I knew that relationship was more precious than anything else. I did ask for more money; he didn't give it to me!

Then I said, “If I do this job for you, will you make me Chief Marketing Officer??

And he looked at me and laughed. Actually, he said, “No effing way! Get that out of your head. You’re a child, just out of business school, and you would have to be a partner to be the CMO.”

So I said, “Okay then. Make me a partner.”

He said, “You're just lucky you’ve got this opportunity.”

Within three years, I was the youngest partner ever elected at the firm and the Chief Marketing Officer of the company.

So, all I ask for those of you listening to this is don't give me bullshit. In chapter two of Leading Without Authority there's the six deadly excuses of why you are mediocre. And one of them is, is ‘laziness’ because the reality is that path with Deloitte took work. The other one is ‘deference,’ which means, “Oh, it's not my job.” That wasn't my job. There is no excuse for you to remain mediocre. If you want to be extraordinary, you chart your path. Leading Without Authority is really a prescription for that.

“There is no excuse for you to remain mediocre. If you want to be extraordinary, you chart your path.”

Now, the flip side of that is if you are a title individual, holding onto your title is going to also make you mediocre because you'll never have enough resources under your control to really break through. You need to go to Peter Diamandis. You need to go to Jim Kwik. You need to get James Whittaker who knows everything about podcasts to teach you about podcasts, right?

So, you need to expand your view of team, which is chapter one of Leading Without Authority. You need to redefine your view of team. If you don't redefine your view of team, you will remain mediocre with mediocre resources.

Incredible stuff. What I love about the book is how tactical it gets, especially in the second half. I listened to the audiobook, but I think I need to go and get the hard cover because there's just some really amazing stuff in there!

How did the guy on the audiobook do? With covid, I really didn't have the time, even though I wanted to.

He did great! I feel like if you’re an author and you can't do the audio recording, at least find someone who's got a similar voice.

I listened to a bunch of guys and listened to their style. Then I got him on the phone, and I said, “Brother, let me explain this to you. Let me explain to you my passion. I've listened to your books. I don't know who directs you, but I want to tell you, you better be excited as hell about this book. This book is going to change the effing world and how we think about leadership and interdependency in the workplace. It’s going to redefine collaboration. You need to be excited about this. I want you to record your first chapter and send it to me. And if you're not excited enough, I will get someone else.”

By the way, I knew I didn’t need to listen to it. I just needed to throw that gauntlet on the table.

He did great. He's a good substitute for you anytime you can't do it!

You often talk about vulnerability and struggle. Why is that so powerful?

We work in a world where people don't have to do what you want them to do. So, that's what this book is written about. The book is written so that you can lead people who don't have to do what you want them to do. By the way, that's not just people who don't report to you.

I can remember all the jokes about millennials, but the reality is you have to earn your right to lead. People follow you, not out of authority, but out of their own compulsion to do so. So, the basic idea behind all of this was a word I created called opening porosity.

“You have to earn your right to lead.’

This [computer] screen is not porous. You drop water on it, it slides off. Sponges are porous and absorptive. You want people to be a sponge to you. You want people to be a sponge to your ideas. But what opens them to you? Vulnerability. Authenticity.

The reptilian brain, which controls your fight-flight mechanism, is triggered when people are insecure and fearful. A friend of mine, Christine Comaford, talks about people going to critter-state like that. So, many leaders have their people in critter state constantly. But if you’re constantly in critter state, you can't be innovative. You can't be risk-taking. You’ve got to be in flow.

And so, porosity is about us. How do you create ‘us’ with people? And the one human connector of a productive relationship is empathy. You open that door with vulnerability. Think about how I started this conversation when you asked me what books changed my life. I could have stopped at How to Win Friends and Influence People.

But I went to The Great Gatsby. Not only is it an accurate answer, but it’s expressing my vulnerability because what a great opportunity to start this dialogue with people getting a peek into who I am. They open their ears more. Does that make sense?

Absolutely. And I think one of the best things that you have done is stay grounded despite a lot of the people who you rub shoulders with today. I think it's great that your mission is still very much to help everyday people, rather than focusing on coaching the best executive teams in the world. I mean, you are doing that, but you're also doing a lot to help people all over the world because you're aware of the impact that one person with the right knowledge, expertise, and willingness to help can do for others.

Well, it goes back deeper than that. My whole mission… I don't think I've ever told this story in any of the books. My whole mission started at my dad's dinner table when he was unemployed. Unemployment was rampant in Pennsylvania. The bosses and the managers didn’t care about the workers. They weren't unleashing value from the organization.

“The one human connector of a productive relationship is empathy, and you open that door with vulnerability.”

I vowed that I would grow up and make sure that I made an impact on leadership and organizational dynamics, because I felt that we were unemployed because of it. That is an especially important lesson for me, and it is very humbling. I do what I do at General Motors and Verizon and Delta and all these companies because it saves jobs – hundreds of thousands of jobs – and families. That's why I do what I do.

That feeling from when you were young is still so strong within?

So strong. Hopefully I've ironed out a lot of the insecurity, but I’m still working on that.

We’re always a work in progress! What about bureaucratic bottlenecks? Some of my clients are police officers, in Australia and the US, who express their frustration with how hard it is to progress. You can also see that more broadly in any government organization, where people want to move up the ranks, and they don’t want to wait for the tap on the shoulder for it to happen, but they feel like there’s absolutely nowhere for them to go. What can employees of bureaucracies like governments do to move up the ranks quicker?

Well, frankly, the more barriers you have to progress, the more you need to influence the network. I was talking to General Stanley McChrystal who is an amazing business leader and coach. He and I were talking about how the people in the military that really make it to the top understand the network. It’s the grunts down at the front level, the infantry, who are not imagining the network is what's going to get them there. They're just doing what they're told. However, those who do awaken to that are the ones that navigate up through the hierarchy.

“The more barriers you have to progress, the more you need to influence the network.”

But it's true of everything. That’s the only way to move forward if the blockers of large organizations – like silos and bureaucracy – are standing in your way. Deloitte was probably one of the worst organizations at the time. And my whole point was, “Bullshit I’m going to wait for 12 years until I’m a shot at partner.”

I committed to adding so much value, and doing it in the face of the most powerful people that I could find. I didn’t want to play onesy, twoesy around the board. I wanted to go down the slide and win the game.

Rather than being confined by the linear progression, just because of how that worked for others previously?


In March this year, we started really feeling the effects of the pandemic. Now, people are working remotely. There's been a lot of unemployment and a lot of economic issues that I'm sure are still to come in the next few months and years.

Despite that, are there any opportunities or benefits that exist right now, uniquely as a result of what's happened with the pandemic, that people can use for their own personal growth?

Massive. So, that's the third business I just started. In March, everybody was panicked, and I started a business. I had done a lot of research around remote teams and remote work. I did it starting in 2015, and nobody gave a damn back then. I had invested $2 million in research on running remote teams, and I did it with Harvard Business School. I raised the money from Siemens, Cisco, Accenture and a bunch of others.

“I committed to adding so much value, and doing it in the face of the most powerful people that I could find.”

And I believe that remote can be better than co-located. I think a lot of us are finding that it's not as bad as we thought, and with certain adaptation you are going to get better collaboration. So, I opened a website called Virtual Teams Win, which was me finding opportunity in crisis. And through that website, we started courses and a resource center. That point of view gave me access.

For example, Zoom named me their top thought leader in remote teams. Fast Company did the same. Harvard Business Review asked me to do more pieces within a one-month period. I had more PR and more visibility because I read the tea leaves of where people were suffering the most, and I decided to serve that market.

I was talking to a gentleman this morning, Martin Lindstrom, who's just a brilliant market strategist. He was talking to me about how in times like this, you need to step back, look at the tea leaves and say, “How has customer demand changed and in what way? And how do we serve that?”

And it might be that you serve someone you've never served before. Unilever didn't do hand sanitizer, and in 20 days they had hand sanitizer on the shelves in North America. Normally, it would have taken them six months to get a product on the shelf.

And now the hottest item in the world.

Exactly. You need to look at the tea leaves and really understand and decide how you’re going to serve. With Virtual Teams Win we started a whole series of what we call ‘remote reboots.’ How does a team reboot itself in a remote world and make it a better team? But then I started hearing people talking about going back to work, and I thought, “What's that going to look like?” And I started getting scared, because I've seen more innovation in the last four months than I have seen in 20 years.

“I had more PR and more visibility because I read the tea leaves of where people were suffering the most, and I decided to serve that market.”

And I wanted to capture that. So, I started a media site, as opposed to go back to work, it's called Go Forward to Work. And I hired the former managing editor of Forbes, the former editor of Brand Week, and a few writers. And they're collecting the world's largest database of best practices of how work been redefined over the last four months and how marketing and sales have been redefined.

I know one large tech company that used to spend a billion dollars a year in sales travel, but now they've spent no money in sales travel. They've saved over $400 million in sales travel – and their loyalty numbers have gone up. So, what does that say?

One question is, “What have we seen that we like, and we want to hold on to, as we go forward?” Start curating that question with your team.

And the next question is, “What are the things that we're fearful in a remote world will not be performed as well?” And then when you list those things, stay on them and ask, “Well, how can we do them better?”

We believe we've engineered a process where team meetings can actually be better in remote world than they were physically. So, I think there's a lot of opportunity right now.

You speak all over the world and meet tens of thousands of people each year. What system do you have of keeping in touch with all those people that you meet?

I use Salesforce. I know it's a little expensive, and there may be a lot of things out there, but what I like about it is that as my company has grown, it doesn’t just track my network – it tracks campaigns.

The one thing I learned since writing Never Eat Alone is that a network is not about you running a bunch of individual relationships. It’s starting communities. And that's probably a whole conversation by itself, but starting communities is very powerful. When I started Go Forward to Work, part of the intention was to take all of my VIP relationships, pull them into a virtual room and say, “How will we teach each other what the future of work looks like?”

I started a community and then I hired a community manager, a gentleman from Forbes, who's curating that conversation, so when I'm not there, I'm still there. When that group convenes with Bruce, I'm present in that conversation, right? So, your ability to be present in conversations and build your network by building community makes you exponential in terms of your network.

So much of what you talk about comes from that abundance mindset. It's like when you were talking about hosting parties at your house, where you ask everyone to be co-hosting the evening – that they all make sure everyone's got a drink in their hand and that everyone’s invited into a conversation.

Well, the point I'm making is that leaders are great hosts. And part of being a great host is helping other people make other people comfortable. If I’ve got a table of 14, I can handle that. I can make everybody comfortable. But if I've got a party of 150, now I need to turn everybody into hosts. If everybody acts like a host to take care of each other, then everyone's going to be taken care of.

“Part of being a great host is helping other people make other people comfortable.”

It's the same thing with your team. A great team leader is a host of a team that takes care of each other.

In Leading Without Authority you talk about co-elevation in the workplace predominantly, but what about co-elevation in the home? How can it be used to improve a marriage, or a relationship with your children, or even a relationship with someone's parents?

By the way, it is so infrequent that I show up and somebody's done their homework. You've actually read the book and consumed it. It's just amazing! Thank you for that.

The example I use a lot is my son. I could not parent my child the way that my dad parented me, nor would I want to. And I think that's true of a lot of us. But with our spouses, imagine being in a spousal relationship where your commitment is to a shared and aligned set of goals for each other, for the family, for my career and for my spouse's career. And collectively we are going higher together where we are open and interested in each other's challenges, innovations, and critiques. Not critique as in badgering. Critique as in caring enough to correct. And it's received that way and it's given that way.

I'm single now. I've been single for five years and I've made a commitment that my spouse is going to be my co-elevating partner. That's one of the reasons I didn't dive back into a relationship sooner.

I'm hopeful that co-elevation is adopted by governments because we certainly need more cross the aisle collaboration. It's starting to heat up with all the [political] conventions. And unfortunately, we're going to see such divisiveness and lines drawn, when what we need is more co-creation because we need the brilliance on all sides of the aisle to come together and fix these problems.

Absolutely. Focusing on the future rather than pointing fingers or what might've got us here in the first place.

How can someone turn a generic “How can I be of service?” into actually being of service?

Well, listening helps and asking the question is easy. In the case of Pat Locanto, I was in the audience and I heard something and I was like, “Let me double click on that. That sounded important. Let me double click and let me see if I can be of service.”

It’s this idea of serve, share, and care. And the service piece is really understanding what another human values. And typically, there's a checklist: they care about the kids, they care about their own personal development, they care about the careers, they care about being entertained, they care about their intellectual growth, they care about their spirituality.

You have a checklist of things, and if you are curious and ask people questions about things, you can start to say, “Oh, well, I can introduce you to this person.” Or “Maybe I could help you here, or “Could I do some research here for you?”

It's quite easy when you start having a framework that says, “Okay, James. How do I help James? Well, here's the checklist of things that I might be able to do to be helpful.” And you get better at it as you practice.

Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Keith does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give her 18-year-old self, his favorite book, and a whole lot more 🚀

Final question. What’s one thing you do to Win the Day?

I workout every day.


Connect with Keith Ferrazzi and learn more about the resources/links mentioned in the interview:

💚 Greenlight Giving Foundation

Keith Ferrazzi website

📙 Keith's new book Leading Without Authority

🚀 #1 New York Times bestseller Never Eat Alone

👨‍👨‍👧‍👧 All-time classic How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

🗝️ Bestselling self-help book of all time Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

💻 Go Forward to Work

🌎 Virtual Teams Win

📷 Keith Ferrazzi on Instagram

📝 Keith Ferrazzi on Facebook

That’s all for this episode! Remember, to get out there and win the day – I certainly will after that chat with Keith.

Until next time...

Oonwards and upwards always,
James Whittaker

PS - As a special bonus for making it this far, check out the 60 best quotes from Keith Ferrazzi below...

The 60 best quotes from Keith Ferrazzi:

  1. “We are long overdue for change in the way we work.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  2. “I never let a title, or a lack of one, stop me.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  3. “Position doesn’t define power. Impact defines power. And impact can be made at every level.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  4. “Your team is made up of everyone who is critical to helping you achieve your mission and goals.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  5. “There is no excuse for you to remain mediocre.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  6. “Come to the table looking to disrupt your own thinking.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  7. “Co-elevation creates a bias for action and innovation. It helps people go higher together.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  8. “Build momentum with positive people first.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  9. “No matter what your status within an organization is, the way to be a leader is to start leading. Right now. Do the job before you have the job.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  10. “When people don’t feel connected, they don’t lean in to collaborate.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  11. “Until you try, you will never know if someone will make a good teammate.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  12. “We can’t wait for our team to find us. We need to build it ourselves.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  13. “If a situation scares you, there’s probably something in it calling you to grow.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  14. “You don’t have to wait for others. You just have to get started.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  15. “If what you do matters, you have to give it your all. Your excuses don’t matter.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  16. “Prioritize your mission, rather than needing to be right.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  17. “People don’t want to be told. They want to be a part of something.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  18. “Making a commit to co-elevation means making a commitment to being boldly of service.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  19. “Change is about people. And if people aren’t open to change, there will be no change.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  20. “Give without keeping score.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  21. “Relationship-building is too important to be left to chance.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  22. “Co-elevation is when everyone in the team is committed to the mission and committed to each other.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  23. “True co-creation is anything but consensus.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  24. “Leaders are never done learning.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  25. “Get to know people personally, not just professionally.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  26. “Give feedback with the other person’s best interests at heart.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  27. “Never deliver personal feedback without requesting it in return.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  28. “Feedback is a gift. Once it’s given, it’s up to the other person to consume or discard it as they see fit.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  29. “The strongest leaders are lifelong students.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  30. “Thank people for their feedback, as you would any gift.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  31. “79% of people leave their job because they don’t feel appreciated.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  32. “An ordinary moment can be made heroic and meaningful through authentic praise from a leader.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  33. “What we reward with praise others will try to achieve.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  34. “You have to earn your right to lead.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  35. “Every team member must maximize each other’s capabilities.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  36. “True leaders leave no one behind.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  37. “The burden of responsibility is lighter when the mission is shared.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  38. “Success in any field, but especially in business is about working with people, not against them.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  39. “Business is a human enterprise, driven and determined by people.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  40. “The only way to get people to do anything is to recognize their importance and thereby make them feel important. Every person’s deepest lifelong desire is to be significant and to be recognized.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  41. “Connecting is one of the most important business and life skillsets you’ll ever learn. Why? Because, flat out, people do business with people they know and like. Careers, in every imaginable field, work the same.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  42. “Real networking is about finding ways to make other people more successful.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  43. “By giving your time and expertise and sharing them freely, the pie gets bigger for everyone.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  44. “Poverty, I realized, wasn’t only a lack of financial resources; it was isolation from the kind of people who could help you make more of yourself.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  45. “It’s better to give before you receive. And never keep score. If your interactions are ruled by generosity, your rewards will follow suit.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  46. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be the best in the world, as long as you know that doing so also means wanting to be the best for the world.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  47. “A network functions precisely because there’s recognition of mutual need. There’s an implicit understanding that investing time and energy in building personal relationships with the right people will pay dividends. The majority of “one per-centers” are in that top stratum because they understand this dynamic—because, in fact, they themselves used the power of their network of contacts and friends to arrive at their present station.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  48. “Organizations can’t change their culture unless individual employees change their behavior – and changing behavior is hard.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  49. “There is only one place to find real peace, real harmony. That place is within.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  50. “Who you know determines who you are: how you feel, how you act, and what you achieve.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  51. “Our souls are not hungry for fame, comfort, wealth, or power. Those rewards create almost as many problems as they solve. Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  52. “Lifetime corporate employment is dead; we’re all free agents now, managing our own careers across multiple jobs and companies. And because today’s primary currency is information, a wide-reaching network is one of the surest ways to become and remain thought leaders of our respective fields.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  53. “Audacity was often the only thing that separated two equally talented people and their job titles.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  54. “The choice isn’t between success and failure; it’s between choosing risk and striving for greatness, or risking nothing and being certain of mediocrity.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  55. “There is genius, even kindness, in being bold.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  56. “When you help someone through a health issue, positively impact someone’s personal wealth, or take a sincere interest in their children, you engender life-bonding loyalty.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  57. “The problem, as I see it, isn’t what you’re working on, it’s whom you’re working with.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  58. “You can’t feel in love with your life if you hate your work; and more times than not, people don’t love their work because they work with people they don’t like.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  59. “Power, today, comes from sharing information, not withholding it.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  60. “Until you become as willing to ask for help as you are to give it, however, you are only working half the equation.” – Keith Ferrazzi

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