“Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant.”

P.T. Barnum

Prior to moving to the US in 2012, I spent more than a decade in financial planning in my home country, Australia, and there are so many lessons from that time that I’ll never forget, such as:

But you know me well enough to know that I'd never introduce a problem without offering a solution 😉

Enter one of the world’s foremost financial literacy activists, Adam Carroll. Adam has spent 15+ years helping people do more with the money they make. He is an internationally recognized financial literacy expert, a three-time bestselling author, host of the Build a Bigger Life podcast, and a two-time TED Talk speaker with more than 10 million views online.

He is also the creator of the documentary Broke, Busted and Disgusted, which aired on CNBC and is shown in hundreds of high schools and colleges across the United States.

In this episode, we’re going to be talking about how you can achieve financial freedom and create intergenerational wealth for your family. We’ll also go through:

Adam is an extremely accomplished entrepreneur and there are some phenomenal takeaways in this one. Get the notepad ready!

James Whittaker:
Adam Carroll, great to see you my friend. Thanks for being on the Win the Day podcast.

Adam Carroll:
James, it's my pleasure. It's been a while and I'm super excited to be with you and your audience.

What was your life like growing up, and what was your relationship with money at a young age?

Well, I thought it was privileged to be quite honest. I grew up in this idyllic mid-western household where my dad had a very abundant mindset. If we needed it, we would get it. And I always thought that we were affluent or somewhat affluent.

And when I got older, my dad came clean with me. He laughed and said we were far from affluent. I think it was just the fact that I was loved at home. There was lots of opportunity, it seemed like, and I was really lucky because both of my parents had a very positive mindset, which meant there was always an air of opportunity around the house. I think that's what helped shape who I am today.

The positive energy, the love in the home, and of course, financial literacy, these are core tenets that you and I both are very passionate about and incorporates much of the light that we want to bring into the world, so I'm so excited to dive into all of that stuff today.

What career opportunities did you gravitate towards at a young age? Or did the entrepreneurial bug bite you early?

I was an entrepreneur from way, way back, and I'll tell you the very first story. My mom had made a chocolate cake one day and it was great and I said, "I want to make one. I think I could make one." And she said, "Well, the recipe is right on the side of this Hershey's cocoa can."

So I made a cake, and it so happened that the neighbor came over that day and was really wowing it up that I had made this cake, how delicious it was, and said that maybe she would like to buy one. Well, in that moment I had made the decision I was going to be a cake baker! I went around door to door and I sold three chocolate cakes that week.

I think I'd made a grand sum total of $17 in profit or something, but I was hooked immediately. And it followed me through my high school and my college years. I mean, I did little things like buying big bulk bags of candy and having that in my locker and then selling them for a quarter a piece at school. When I got to college, I bought these gigantic popcorn vending machines – they were like seven feet tall and they air-popped a 24-ounce cup of popcorn.

But I was hooked on the idea of entrepreneurship. And so my career choices post-college really went after sales and marketing because I made the connection that if I could come up with an idea and sell it, I could be a really successful entrepreneur. Lo and behold, here we are some 15 years later being self-employed and building businesses. And I would say it's all gone fairly well.

Once you’ve had the taste of entrepreneurship, it's hard to go back isn't it!?

Dude, I am functionally unemployable at this point! I'm convinced of it.

What about your commitment to your own personal growth at that point? Was there a book or two in particular that really stood out and helped you realize that perhaps you had more potential and power than you would have given yourself credit for previously?

I mentioned my parents were very positive minded and they talked about opportunity a lot. My dad was big into Deepak Chopra back in the day. And he would tell me growing up that I was a wizard, and I didn't really understand what he was telling me at the time. I had visions of Harry Potter-esque kind of wizards.

But what he was telling me, I believe, is that I could create whatever environment I wanted to create, I had the ability to manifest my own desires. And so when I read Think and Grow Rich the first time – which you are obviously well-versed in – I realized how important the messages of definiteness of purpose, and of focus and attention, were. I have a saying up on my door up here and it says “The definiteness of a purpose for acquiring wealth is necessary for its acquisition.”

The definiteness of a purpose for acquiring wealth is necessary for its acquisition.

And I kept reading that over and over and over again. Think and Grow Rich was one of the first books that got me on the path. And then I went down this unbelievable rabbit hole of finding all of the quantum physics and law of attraction books that were out there. I realized that we are all constantly, consciously or unconsciously, creating our own environment. And I owe it to Think and Grow Rich for getting me started.

What about when it came to the practical application of these things, was there a job in particular that you had that helped transform your mindset around life or business?

Interestingly enough, this is going to sound kind of odd, I think, James, but when I was in college, I got recruited to sell books door to door. It was a company called Southwestern Publishing that recruits about 4,000 college students a summer. And we go out and we knocked on 200 doors a day, 12 hours a day, six days a week. So it's a brutal, brutal summer.

My first summer incidentally, I was in Rancho Cucamonga, California. That was my home for 12 weeks. And I went and knocked on doors and I got told no 198 times a day. And they told us if you sell two sets of books a day you'll be successful. And what I realized in that business, not necessarily manifestation – although we were constantly trying to manifest what we wanted during the day – it was more about the fact that every no is just a next, and that every no just gets me closer and closer to what I truly want.

So after that summer, and then the summer the next year, I really felt like I could deal with rejection better than just about anybody because it was no big deal. You could say no to me and I was just going to go to the next door, it wasn't a big thing. And I think that alone has made me an effective entrepreneur because when I hear no, or I experience failure it's just like, "Whatever, next."

That resilience and finding the gift in every adversity and very quickly moving on when there's a door closed in front of you is a phenomenal attribute for anyone to have.

What about experiences with money? When did personal finance first appear on your radar?

Given that I was raised in a household where I thought we were affluent or mass affluent, we would receive a J. Crew catalog in the mail and I thought, "Oh, we're obliged to buy something," because it seemed like that's what we did. Then I got to college and the way that I like to describe it now when I go and spoken on college campuses is that I was a rich college kid and I quickly became a broke professional.

I was a rich college kid because I was trying to live the same lifestyle that I had grown accustomed to at home, but I was doing it on the pre-approved credit card offer that I got in my freshman year that ballooned to over $8,000 by the time I was a senior. Then I met my future wife, who was probably one of the most financially savvy women I'd ever met in my life. She said, "Adam, get rid of your debt or I'm going to get rid of you!"

She said, "Adam, get rid of your debt or I'm going to get rid of you!"

Now, we’ve built a really incredible life together using very core philosophies around the mistakes that I made and the lessons learned in the midst of those mistakes, and then going out and teaching other people how to do exactly the same.

So to answer your question, James, I think it was probably near the end of my college career where I started to take a really long, hard look in the mirror at what did I have in debt and what were the mistakes I made that got me there and realizing real quickly I didn't want to live that life. I wanted to live one that was free of encumbrances, debts, and obligations, and one that was a bigger life, one that had freedom and flexibility and options and choices. So it was from that point forward that I really started to dive in and pursue mastery of money.

What are some of the steps you've taken with your own children to insulate them from falling into that trap of credit card debt particularly?

I love this question because I think the experience that I had on college campuses in talking to teenagers helped prepare me to prepare my own children for the same kind of environment. The students that I spoke to that were 18 – 21, up to 25 years old, and many of them had never made a financial decision on their own before they arrived on the college campus.

They didn't fill out their FAFSA, they didn't buy their own clothing. Some of them didn't pay for their own gas or their own meals. Many of them had no concept of what a thousand dollars borrowed meant. What I realized was I wanted to bring my kids up in a world where they had made very tangible, real decisions around money. So my wife and I realized that it was first of all important that they have money in their hand.

And I wasn't just going to hand it out; I wanted my kids to have a work ethic and be industrious. So we pay them based on chores they do at home. It's not a commission, but it's money that you're going to make for doing this work around the home. They also make money babysitting. My daughter has a part-time job. My son has reffed soccer and basketball games. My other son has mowed lawns and shoveled snow, and done lots of other odd jobs.

I wanted my kids to have a work ethic and be industrious.

But what I'm most proud of James is the fact that all three of them have far more money in savings than the average American does right now. And they're also very, very savvy and wise about making purchases that are no longer small, insignificant purchases. They're buying things like phones and computers, and they're making really educated choices in doing it because we prep them on the $5, $10 and $50 items so that they are better prepared for the $1,000 and $5,000 items down the road.

I love it. It's not necessarily the dollar value, it's the habit that you get into at a young age, which is something I included in my first book The Beginner’s Guide to Wealth. So when you get older and have more money at your disposal, you're naturally embedded with those good financial habits. And something I talk about often is that Think and Grow Rich could just as easily have been titled Think and Grow Poor because the idea is the same. It's that your actions each day, extrapolated over time, manifest that reality.

You're a dad, I'm a dad. We know that if we really want to enact this financial literacy change generationally, it all starts in the home. What should parents be doing to teach their kids about money? And when should they start that in the home?

I get this question quite a bit from parent groups who say, “My kids are six or they're eight, or they're three, what age should I start?” Some will say, “My daughter is 18 and she knows nothing about money.” I had that conversation just the other day. Actually a dad said, "I'm sending my daughter off to school, I think we've done a great job, there's just one area that I think we fallen down."

And I said, "What is that?"

He said, "Well, she knows nothing about money. She's carried my credit card the entire time she's been in high school and when she needed gas, she charged it. When she wanted clothes, she charged it. When she went out to eat with her friends, she charged it."

And for those of you who have younger kids, let me be very clear, that is NOT the way to bring your kids up to understand money.

I think we should start doing this with kids as young as five or six years old. And the way that we did it with our kids, which I think worked was, first, we gave them an allowance. And the reason that we wanted to give them that based on the work or the chores they did at home was they need to have some tangible amount of money in their hands while it's still real and tangible.

That paper money is a big deal because as they get older, if they've never experienced the paper money and had the emotional tie to a $20, $50, or a $100 bill, they'll go onto Amazon and hit one-click ship on a $47 item and not think twice about it.

Then they get the credit card statement where it looks like there's too many things on there to even go through. So it's like, "Oh, I'll just pay it. I couldn't be bothered spending 10 minutes combing through all of my purchases."

That's exactly right. Or pay the minimum, right, where we don't even feel it. And so I think if we start young and we give kids money, we also then must give them the ability to make the decisions that they want to make. With our kids we said, "Listen, you're not going to spend $10 on candy necessarily."

But if they said they really wanted to buy a Nerf gun or a piece of athletic equipment, I’d let them know that it’s their money and they’re perfectly entitled to do that. And as the purchases got bigger, we would just have a little bit more dialogue about: How long do you think you'll use it? Will you get a good use out of it? Do you think you could resell it when you're done so there's not a sunk cost in it? So we were just teaching them some business lessons.

A study came out that said 65% of the American population could not come up with $500 cash in the event of an emergency. So another thing we did was make a rule that by the time our kids are five, they had to have $300 in savings in an emergency fund. By the time they were seven, they had to have $400. And by the time they were nine, they had to have $500.

And people will ask me, “What kind of an emergency will a nine-year-old have?” The answer is that they hopefully won’t have an emergency, and if they did I would take care of it, but if they have $500 at the age of nine, they're going to have it at 19 and 29 and 39 and 59. They're going to have it forever because it is a habit, just as you said.

Absolutely. Well, many parents conflate this idea of love with cash handouts. Is spoiling children financially about the worst thing that you can do for their development?

In my opinion, that whole idea of love and money and us conflating that idea of, “I love my kids; therefore I don't want them to struggle.” The challenge today is that there is this generation of students coming through college right now who have never really struggled. And because of it, they think that life is supposed to be easy and as soon as they confront struggle, they collapse.

They think that life is supposed to be easy and as soon as they confront struggle, they collapse.

My fear is that we're going to have a lack of entrepreneurial spirit for people in their 20s and 30s because they never experienced struggle when they were in their teens. And I think if you hand your kids money, it equates to removing all struggle from their life. I think kids need to mow lawns, they need to rake leaves and they need to wash windows, and they need to make their own money, first of all, if they want some of these big things.

As parents, we're taking away that ability if we give it to them straight away.

This is very much the growth mindset that Carol Dweck talks about, only applied to personal finance. It's absolutely brilliant.

How do parents balance that journey of their kids as they enter adulthood where independence is required, but they might've found themselves in a situation where all of a sudden one day your kids come home, they might be 18 years old and old enough to be responsible for their own decisions and be independent, but they've got $40,000 in credit card debt. How do you balance the need for independence with interjecting to potentially stop them from going a hell of a long way down the wrong road?

I think some of this goes back to my comment that young people don't really understand the context of 10 or 15 or 20 or 40 or a hundred thousand dollars in debt. And one of the ways I think as parents that we can do that is we need to have really candid, honest conversations with our kids about, “You like that card? Let's do a quick price online and see: A, what does that car cost to really run; B, what does it cost to maintain that car; C, what are the payments on that on a monthly basis; D, if you don't have a degree, how many hours would you have to work in order to pay for that car; and E, is that really what you want?”

In our house, we have some interesting conversations around, “I get that you want that car, but the car dealer doesn't necessarily want to sell you the car, they want to sell you the loan.”

And so understand that as a society, what we are doing is we are teaching our kids how to payment themselves into a corner. And when you’re paymented into a corner, it's really hard to build a bigger life because you're constantly working just to pay the minimums, as opposed to working and knowing that you own 60 or 80% of every dime you make.

Are there some things as a household that you do, or maybe you personally, to make sure you're being responsible day-to-day with your finances?

In our household we really value certain things, but going out to eat is not necessarily one of them. My wife's an amazing cook and we eat at home 99% of the time. I mean, for us to go out to eat, it might be once, maybe twice a month that we go out and have a nice dinner.

But when we do, James, we typically really take our time and enjoy it. I'm always surprised, maybe I'm not surprised, but I'm always taken aback, I think, when I go out to a restaurant and you see a family wolf through a meal, throw down a card, and walk out 25 minutes later. And the assumption I make is they do this all the time and it's not special.

And my guess is that they probably spend a decent chunk of their income going out to eat. While that may be important for them, and that's great, I also think they may be sacrificing their future financial freedom in doing that in the moment to just wolf down a meal. And was there anything special to it? Not really. So one of the things we do is we eat at home a lot.

Another is, we're just very, very careful about what we spend and when we spend that it's something that really aligns with our values. I am going through a couple of online courses around money because I always love to just absorb more and pursue mastery. And one of the course creators said, “Is this thing that I'm buying worth my freedom? And if I buy it, how much longer does it take me to achieve that freedom?”

So I am having that mindset a little bit. And I would say we're kind of closet minimalists. We're not quite there, but we're almost there.

What about someone who might be 40 years old with a bunch of debt and feel like it’s too hard to get out of debt or they don’t even know where to begin – what are some steps that people can take to start to move forward financially?

I think number one is looking for proof that it’s true or untrue. And I can show you a number of cases and clients of mine, friends of mine who are in their 40s, and I could riff off probably three or four examples right now. One guy had two homes, $600,000 in mortgages. There were three car payments in the family. There was credit card debt.

He had multiple savings accounts that he was saving for a whole bunch of random things. And I said, "Hey man, your income is totally inefficient. You've got all this money sitting in all these accounts waiting for you to spend. At the same time, you're spending copious amounts on interest payments for cars and homes and credit cards." And so we built a plan that had him completely out of debt in three and a half years – both homes, all three cars, all credit card debt.

I can share valid proof of people who've said, "I think it's possible. I'm going to build a system that makes it possible, and I'm going to go do it." And I think for those that are in their 40s and you're faced with a mountain of debt, and yet you really, really want financial freedom at some point, know beyond the shadow of a doubt, you are somewhere between three and seven years of having everything paid off. All you have to do is have a little bit of discipline and a little bit of definiteness of purpose, to go back to our conversation earlier.

It’s a great reminder that people who perhaps made a silly decision years ago can be proactive about getting on the front foot and taking care of some of those things so they’re not haunted by it forever.

How do we change the education system to start helping people become more responsible about finances?

I will say that that more and more schools today are offering financial education as part of the curriculum, but it's still not enough. In our state alone, they spent two days, two full days, arguing, negotiating, coming up with what the definition of ‘financial literacy’ was. And my mentality was if you spent two days doing that, it's the wrong people in the room defining what financial literacy is.

It’s like the quote, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person!”

Yes, indeed! And not to a committee, and definitely not to legislators. I think for us to change things, it goes back to what I've talked about in my TED Talk, which was that money is largely an illusion today, it's not real, it's zeros and ones, it's bits and bytes of the $4 trillion circulating the globe on a daily basis. Only 2% of that money is in cash point or currency.

Yet we are freely passing money to and from each other through Venmo and Zelle and all these other online apps. But if that's all kids know, the money never feels real. So they get a credit card and they're like, "Cool. I have $1,000 to spend," when they can barely afford the $28 minimum payment that comes along with it.

They need that real-world experience. And that brings us into your amazing TED Talk, which is brilliant! It’s at the London Business School and has more than 10 million views between the TED Talk site and on YouTube, so well done for such an amazing presentation.

Before we talk about the content of that awesome talk, how did you put yourself in a position to be able to get a TED Talk in the first place?

Well, I really appreciate the question, because this is a fun little walk down memory lane for me in terms of how things happen. And going back to even the conversation my dad and I had about me being a wizard, I kind of feel like it was manifested.

The way it manifested was I had been speaking professionally for some time, James. So I knew that I had chops and my career had progressed to a point where I had done local groups, I had done associations. I was on college campuses all across the country. I started getting some international nods. And a friend of mine said, "What's next for you?" And I told him I really feel like there's a TED Talk in what I'm doing.

So we brainstormed what that would look like, and what we came up with was at the very bottom of my signature line on my email, I had a solid line and in big, bold red letters, it said, “My dream is to someday grace the TED stage.” And then just below that, it said, “If you know someone who could help me make that possible, I would be forever in your debt, a simple introduction would suffice.”

And I put it at the bottom of my email signature line and I just left it. And over the course of maybe two or three months of sending out emails, I'm sure thousands of people saw the message and I ended up getting an email one day from a gentleman named Aaron who had been a student at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. And he said, "Adam, I'm on the curation team of this TEDx event and you were the first person I thought of."

So I went and I did my first TEDx event in the States, in Wisconsin. It was a great experience. I come home kind of riding this high of having accomplished my goal of a TED Talk. And not two weeks later, James, I got another email, this time from a woman named Sarah Durlacher – who's a dear friend of mine – and she said, "Adam, I'm on the curation team for a TEDx event at the London Business School, you're the first person I thought of." And so that's how it materialized. Again, it just kind of felt like I had manifested it.

Adding something to your email signature got you more than 10 million views online and has completely changed the trajectory of your career and the impact that you can have on the world. It's a great lessons of taking the first step to think about what you want, and then that second step of saying, how can I create those circumstances?

In your TED Talk, there's obviously some amazing lessons. Thus the 10+ million views! It's called What Playing Monopoly with Real Money Taught Me About My Kids—and Humanity and it's an incredible perspective. So don't give too much away because I want everyone to go and watch it afterwards. But where did the inspiration for that topic come from?

Well, we're a game playing family, and we love to play ball games, board games, dice games, card games, but my kids love to play monopoly, as many kids do. And one day I was noticing that the game was either really rushed or really slow depending on how my kids decided they wanted to play whether or not they were watching TV.

The money is kind of being shuffled along. And at this point, the money is like crumpled up, sweaty handed bits of paper, right? And I thought, "I wonder if the game would play differently if it were real money." And in the back of my mind at the time, James, I'd come off of a tour of college campuses where I'd met a number of students who were making these very dramatic decisions around money, and not small amounts.

I mean, they were borrowing $80,000 or $100,000. And I thought, "I think it's because the money isn't real that this is part of the issue." And so I did a quick sum of how much was on the counter at the time and was figuring out like, “I think it's $1,500 in starter capital that you need for every player. Well, there are five of us, that's $7,500. And I figured the bank needed $2,500.”

So I went to my credit union on a Friday and I said, "I need $9,990 in these denominations of bills in order to play this cash game of Monopoly." And so the idea I would love to say was like this flash of brilliance, it really was observing my children and observing teenagers and early 20 somethings with money and putting the two together and saying, "I think there's a disconnect and I want to figure out how to connect the dots."

You mentioned something earlier about a regular allowance for your children, which in Australia we call pocket money. Is it important for you that any time money is given to kids that there's some type of exchange and sacrifice for any money to be given?

I think it's important to do. And I'll tell you how I reconcile that. There are a number of people, Dave Ramsey being one of them and I'm sure Suze Orman kind of shares this mindset that kids should be paid commission for chores done. That it's effectively like you're selling me on this job and I'm going to pay you this commission.

The challenge is that you will, at some point, likely experience this, or you may have been a kid like this, that no matter how much money your parents had offered you to clean the toilet, you wouldn't have done it, right? And the thing with my kids is I didn't want them to be able to say, "I'm not going to do that. I don't care how much it is." Because the reality is that there is no job beneath you, particularly in making the house run.

So if it's cleaning the toilet, that's what it is. If it's sweep out the garage, that's part of the job. And so I wanted to tie the allowance to whatever the jobs were around the house. And the only way that they would get it is if they completed the job. In my mind, what it also tied together was you're not going to go get a job, a part-time job, and assume that they're going to pay you and not show up.

You have to show up to work. You have to do the gig in order to get the money. The same is true here. So we did that for quite a while. And candidly, speaking very honestly about it, we've since stopped the allowance program for the most part because our kids do such an effective job of saving and investing and making money that it doesn't really feel like they need the money from us.

What we've shifted that to is building what I would like to call a generational wealth plan, where we are building a program for our kids, much like the Rockefellers did, that by the time they get out of college, there will be an amount of money, a small bank for them to leverage to borrow from, to buy real estate, pay down debt, whatever it may be. So that's where that money has shifted to.

I love it. You're teaching them about the value of a dollar, about the value of hard work and responsibility and a whole bunch of other things aside from just the dollar amount.

My daughter is 18 months old, she loves the Baby Shark song (“Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo”), which you're probably very familiar with as I'm sure everyone who's a parent is! And every day I take her for a walk around the neighborhood and she says "Doo-doo" repeatedly, which is how she firmly requests me to sing it over and over and over again.

The moment I finish singing, she says “Doo-doo” for me to sing it again, although occasionally she mixes it up with “Baa baa” for Baa Baa Black Sheep.

I love it.

She's extremely convincing! I find it almost impossible to say no. As she gets older, that's going to extend to materialistic things. I’m happy to sing Baby Shark to her for 45 minutes each day because it makes her so happy! But at what age do you start saying no to these things, and is there a way to say no responsibly that maintains the peace and happiness?

I wanted to ask this question because I feel like there are a lot of parents out there who they know that their kids are just the ultimate salespeople!

Particularly for those young kids, right? You go into a Target or to a toy store, "I want, I want, can I have this?" And the natural reaction for a young child especially is to cry if they don't get it. And I've talked to parents before in large groups where they'll say my kid just has this utter meltdown.

And logically, and I was taught this by a child psychologist, they said when a baby was hungry as a baby, it cried and it was fed. When the baby was cold, it cried and it was fed. When the baby was wet, it cried and it was changed. So very naturally they equate, if I want something, I just need to cry and then I'll get it. And as parents, we start to give in to that rationale, whether they're three or they're 13, at Target.

So what I tell parents is when you implement the allowance program, and let's say you implement it at five years old, and the deal is the kid is going to get $5 a week. Well, that may seem like a lot to some families, and it may be; you may need to ratchet that down a little bit.

But if it is $5 a week and we go into Target and they see a stuffed animal, or some gadget they want to buy, there is a lesson to be taught there where we say, “Well, let's look at how much it is. Okay, well, it's $18.99. Now, how much do you have?”

“I have $10.”

“Okay. So if you get $5 every week, and you need $10 more dollars, that's two more weeks and then we can come back and get that thing.”

What a lot of parents will do, James, erroneously is they'll say, "Listen, I'll get it and then you can pay me back." But what we're doing is we're teaching instant gratification. And this is probably hard for me to even say, but I've seen my sister do this with her teenage son, he wants a new computer. They bought it for him, but he's going to pay them back by mowing the lawn for the next two years! It doesn't work that way, not in our house. If they want it, they work for it.

It doesn't work that way, not in our house. If they want it, they work for it.

We don't do stuff on credit. It's not the First National Bank of Mom and Dad, because that one's too easy to default on. And once they default on that bank, they're going to default on the next several banks that they're a part of. So I think that the way you bring up a child to learn delayed gratification and understand the value of money is you put money in their hand and you let them make decisions of their own accord and also feel the repercussions of that.

If you, as a parent, don't think they should buy that $20 item but they have $20 and they want to spend it, that's their call. And it's a really hard lesson learned if they get home and it breaks or they get home and they're like, "Guys, don't like it. I want to take it back." You can't do that in some cases.

I love it. So even things like your emergency savings account and the weekly allowance or monthly allowance, whatever that might be, it's important that it's physical money rather than them seeing digital numbers on a computer screen.

100%. And on that note, when we hand it to them, our policy is:

And then we had what I call the family 401k program. So if you put money in investing, I would match it up to $25 a month. So my middle son who's a very savvy one, every month had $25 in his invest jar. And the rest would say, "Well, I'm putting some in savings. I'm going to spend the rest of this." But my middle son knew every month dad's going to give me $25 if I put $25 in here. So again, my goal was to reward that behavior.

What's your favorite thing to spend money on?

James, I am a technology nut. And I would be remiss not to say that I'm on Kickstarter or Indiegogo probably once a week, and I buy stuff. Within arm’s reach of me there's multiple things I bought on Indiegogo and Kickstarter. I love little tech gadgets, and I probably spend too much money on those things, but I geek out on it.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Adam 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?

This is a hard question to answer. The one thing I do, and it's more like a conglomeration of things is the morning ritual. And the morning ritual for me really starts with a night's sleep that is similar almost every single night. So I learned once, James, that we sleep in circadian rhythms, every 90 minutes we go through a circadian rhythm.

And so that realistically what we should be sleeping is some number of circadian rhythms at night. So it could be six hours, it could be seven and a half hours, could be nine hours, could be 10 and a half hours if you really need sleep. For me, I know that seven and a half hours is my ideal night's sleep. So if I go to bed at 9:30pm or 10:00pm, I'm getting up at 5:00am or 5:30am every single morning.

I'm to the point now where if I know that if I go to bed at 10:00pm I'll wake up at 5:28am, 5:29am, and I bound out of bed. First thing I do is drink a glass of water and stretch and do a little bit of yoga or exercise. And that just starts the day for me the right way. Then it's followed by a little bit of journaling or morning pages if you follow The Writer's Way. And then looking at my schedule for the day.

Then I take a shower, get ready, have breakfast with the kids. But it's all very sequential. And my business partner and I have this theory that if you win the first hour of the day, you win the rest of the day. And so our first hour is orchestrated and scripted to an extent that just makes us feel good.

We’re also building out the ultimate downstairs. You know how every guy wants a lair!? This will be my lair, so I've got a studio that I'm building down there. I've got an exercise area. Adjacent to the gym area, there's a bathroom that I'm putting in a three-person sauna and a standup shower right next to it. So my morning routine, once this is done here in the next few weeks, will be go downstairs, exercise, sit in the sauna, meditate, take a cold shower, get ready, and then go into the studio and work. So I'm jacked about that. So it sounds weird to be excited for cold showers, but I'm super excited about it.

Resources / Links Mentioned:

👨‍👨‍👧‍👧 Adam Carroll’s TED Talk ‘What Playing Monopoly with Real Money Taught Me About My Kids — and Humanity

📝 Adam Carroll on Facebook

⚡ Adam Carroll on Twitter

💻 Adam Carroll website

🧭 The Shred Method: How to get out of debt

🔥 Build a Bigger Life Podcast

🚀 Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

🗝️ How to Become a Financial Winner

💰 A Happy Pocket Full of Money by David Cameron Gikandi

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

“Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant.”

P.T. Barnum

Prior to moving to the US in 2012, I spent more than a decade in financial planning in my home country, Australia, and there are so many lessons from that time that I’ll never forget, such as:

But you know me well enough to know that I'd never introduce a problem without offering a solution 😉

Enter one of the world’s foremost financial literacy activists, Adam Carroll. Adam has spent 15+ years helping people do more with the money they make. He is an internationally recognized financial literacy expert, a three-time bestselling author, host of the Build a Bigger Life podcast, and a two-time TED Talk speaker with more than 10 million views online.

He is also the creator of the documentary Broke, Busted and Disgusted, which aired on CNBC and is shown in hundreds of high schools and colleges across the country.

In this episode, we’re going to be talking about how you can achieve financial freedom. We'll also go through:

Adam is an extremely accomplished entrepreneur and there are some phenomenal takeaways in this one. Get the notepad ready!

For the video interview, click here.


Resources / Links Mentioned:

👨‍👨‍👧‍👧 Adam Carroll’s TED Talk ‘What Playing Monopoly with Real Money Taught Me About My Kids — and Humanity

📝 Adam Carroll on Facebook

⚡ Adam Carroll on Twitter

💻 Adam Carroll website

🧭 The Shred Method: How to get out of debt

🔥 Build a Bigger Life Podcast

🚀 Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

🗝️ How to Become a Financial Winner

💰 A Happy Pocket Full of Money by David Cameron Gikandi

🎙️ We Are Members: Create a thriving business 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

“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

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

“What you seek is seeking you.”

– Rumi

Wherever you are in the world, there’s a strong chance that you’ve been feeling a great deal of stress lately. And 2020 certainly seems like a year of transition for all of us.

What started with the Australian bushfires, where we thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse, led to a pandemic. Job losses skyrocketed, incidents of violence dominated the news cycle, and if you combine that with the forced isolation that most people have been in for a good chunk of the year, it’s an absolute recipe for disaster for our mental health.

So how bad is it? Well, Harvard suggests that up to 80% of doctor’s visits are caused by stress, and that was before all of this hit. This made it the perfect time to have Emily Fletcher, who is regarded as the leading expert in meditation for high performance, on the Win the Day show.

I want to clarify something right off the bat here: Emily is not the person you might have in mind when you think of a meditation guru. It’s not about sitting cross-legged in front of an incense candle while you chant out loud and block out your thoughts.

What she teaches is extremely practical and eliminates the shortfalls that I’ve personally experienced from other types of meditation. Every session also ties in directly to goal-setting and manifestation, which is one of the attributes I love most about it.

But don’t just take my word for it!

Emily has worked with Navy SEALs, NBA players, Academy Award winners, leading physicians, and globally recognized CEOs. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Today Show, and Vogue magazine, and she’s spoken at Google, Viacom, and Harvard Business School.

Today, The Ziva Technique founder has taught more than 20,000 students around the world how to perform at their best. Emily’s new book ‘Stress Less, Accomplish More’ is also a wonderful introduction to the challenges we face today and a practical guide to living at your best – in all areas of your life.

In this interview, we talk about her 10-year career on Broadway, what she teaches the most elite performers on the planet, how to reach new levels of productivity despite what’s going on in the world, and how you can use meditation to unlock your full potential.

James Whittaker:
Emily Fletcher, great to see you again! Welcome to Win the Day.

Emily Fletcher:
I am really happy to be here; and happy to see your face again. Thank you for having me.

Let's start broadly. What's the problem with society that meditation solves?

[Laughs] There's a long list right now! I think the underlying problem for so many symptoms is stress. There's so much stress in our nervous system and so much stress that we've inherited from previous generations. It’s all showing up in big ways right now.

Stress weakens our immune system, which is making us more vulnerable to the pandemic. That inherited generational trauma is certainly pouring gasoline on the fire of the racial injustices happening around the world, but certainly in the US. And it also makes it harder to heal them because when you're very stressed it's hard to let go of your own unconscious biases. It's hard to even look at them. 

And so once you start meditating, once you start getting rid of your stress – not only from today, but all that accumulated stress from your past – it really revolutionizes the way you interact with other humans; the way your immune system works, your productivity, your clarity, and your creativity. 

It's a pretty profound list of changes that start to happen in your brain and in your body, when we really handle the root issue – which, for many of us, is stress.

It’s counterintuitive how we have quickly increasing standards of living and many other benefits to modern society, yet we’re more and more stressed. Is being accustomed to comfortable beds, warm showers, and Nespresso machines contributing to this at all? Although, I should mention I recently converted to cold showers in the morning and am loving it.

Well, it's an interesting double-edged sword. We have modern advancements like plumbing that have really decreased communicable diseases. We have surgeries and antibiotics that have really upped our longevity and the quality of our life. 

But the other side is that much of our modern conveniences are directly opposed to nature. Like staying up late and looking at your phone – your brain thinks the sun is up and that it should be awake. Drawing the shades and sleeping past sunrise – your body thinks the sun has not yet risen. Eating food that isn't food – this over time creates chronic stress in our body. The fact that our soil is depleted from over-farming. Our bodies are not being nourished in the way that they could and should be.

The fact that we're over-sexualized but not having enough sex – this is changing us. The fact that we don't have our feet in the soil. There's so many “modern conveniences” … plane travel, car travel, eating mangoes in the wintertime. You know? All of these things ... microwaves! 

These all seem convenient, and they might seem to be saving us time in the short term, but over the long term these chronic stresses really cost our bodies and they are asking our bodies to adapt.

None of the things that I mentioned are inherently bad, but over time you're asking your body to adapt, adapt, adapt. And when you burn up something called ‘adaptation energy’ and then you have another demand on your nervous system, your body will launch involuntarily into fight or flight. 

Whether you've read Eat Pray Love or not, whether you’ve read Think and Grow Rich or not. If you're stressed and you're out of adaptation energy, your body is going to start preparing for that imaginary tiger. And that's unfortunately what so many of us are dealing with – this low-grade chronic stress, which is different than something like a cold shower.

A cold shower, boxing match, or a sprint, even though they are “stressful,” this is what we define as good stress or hormesis. You’re actually inspiring your strong mitochondria – which are the energy centers of our cells – to get stronger, and you're killing off the weak mitochondria.

So acute short-term intentional stress, that can be very good and help strengthen you. But the low-grade chronic stress is what's making us stupid, sick, and slow.

In your awesome new book Stress Less, Accomplish More you mentioned, “It's not bad to get stressed. It's bad to stay stressed.”

How does someone disconnect from a world that's increasingly connected? People are multitasking like crazy – on their phones while eating dinner and watching television. How do we disconnect from that stress?

Well, I would even take that one step further. People are now on their phones when they're meditating! [Laughs] It's like having an AA meeting in a liquor store. Why would you want to be tethered to your phone for your meditation practice? It would be good for us to just have one thing to do that didn’t require being glued to our phones.

That's why I’m so big on self-sufficiency and giving people the tools to do meditation on their own, without needing wifi or headphones or someone guiding them.

But how can we unplug? Well, I think first it’s letting go of the “I'll be happy when...” syndrome, which is what you and I were talking about before the show. This idea that your happiness is going to come on the other side of a person, a place, a thing, another follower on Instagram, another 100 likes on your post – the little dopamine hit that we're even subconsciously chasing and craving. And if we can stop to really remember that our happiness exists inside of us, it exists right now, then perhaps that will stop the constant searching, the constant strolling, and the constant checking. 

And it's a practice, you know, because we're all addicted. Just like strengthening any muscle, we need to say, “Okay, let me put my phone down. Let me turn it off. Let me put it in a drawer. Let me create a consequence around it.”

"If we can remember that our happiness exists inside of us, it exists right now, then perhaps that will stop the constant searching, the constant strolling, and the constant checking."

I'm big on promises and consequences. My rule for myself right now is that I have to be in bed by midnight, asleep – like lights out by 12:30am – or I can't be on social media at all the next day.

Social media is my big vice and I know that it's an addiction; because I feel myself. I'll do it mindlessly, so I have to create some boundaries for myself; otherwise, it becomes destructive.

Completely agree. My wife and I, we have a 14-month-old daughter and I mean, what a weird world we live in where you've got to consciously say to yourself: “Look, I'm going to leave my phone on airplane mode in a different room so I can actually be present with my daughter.” Like you, I'm completely addicted to my phone – and you and I teach this stuff, yet we're still not immune from those things!

An interesting point from your book was when you said that “nature doesn't allow your body and mind to rest at the same time.” A lot of people associate exercise as a way of getting a mental reset, which can be beneficial if they're in a demanding job doing really long hours and they have an opportunity to go out for a run. But when it comes to peak performance, what's the optimal balance between exercise, sleep, and meditation?

Like you mentioned, it's important to differentiate exercise versus meditation because so many people say, “Well, working out is my meditation.” And exercise is good for you – of course! But it is exciting your nervous system. You are speeding up your metabolic rate, whereas meditation is the opposite.

In Ziva, we are de-exciting the nervous system. We are decreasing the metabolic rate. And the really important differentiating point there is that exercise is good enough to handle your stress. When we get stressed, our body is preparing for an imaginary tiger attack. So we need to either fight or flee.

People say: “Oh, I box out my stress” or “I run off my stress.” And again, that's good enough to handle your stress from today, but if you want to handle the backlog of accumulated stresses that we have in our cellular memory then we have to give the body rest – deep, deep rest – and that's what meditation does.

So I think that both is really the answer, and I think that it's a personal preference as to what you do first. My loose recommendation is that you wake up, meditate, and then workout because you're giving your body this rest so you have more energy for a workout.

The only exception to that would be yoga because yoga was designed to prepare the body for meditation. Every asana; every pose. Asana is a Sanskrit word that means “seat”; and so what we're doing with yoga is we're preparing our body to become a seat for meditation.

Ah, like savasana. 

Yeah, exactly. Savasana actually means “corpse pose.” It’s practicing dying. Sometimes that’s what I'll say to folks about Ziva when I'm like “Well, Ziva's actually practicing dying” if you get to that savasana without having to do an hour and a half of yoga.

Within 30 to 45 seconds, you're moving beyond the left brain, which is in charge of individuality, and you're tapping into that right brain, which is in charge of totality.

But for me personally, I meditate every day, twice a day, and I exercise about three times a week. I could probably stand to up that especially in this sedentary time of pandemic. My normal life is so active. I live in New York City and the subway and stairs, and meetings, and walking 10 city blocks.

Normally, I could exercise once or twice a week and feel strong and my body has enough energy moving. But because I'm much more sedentary now, I'm needing to exercise more.

Let's dive into your story for a moment. You had a 10-year career on Broadway, which is a very public forum of mental and physical capabilities. What was it about a career on Broadway that appealed to you in the first place?

I remember when I was in fourth grade. I was sitting on the floor of my mom's bathroom reading the newspaper while she was in the shower. I saw an ad for a thing called Young Actors’ Theater, and I said to my mom, “Oh, I need to go here. I'm going to be an actress.” At fourth grade and eight years old, I knew that’s what I was going to do. 

There was no wondering or guessing or wishing or hoping. It was just like, “That's what I'm going to do” and it was just one of those crystal clear moments. But I knew even then that I wasn't going to stay there. I knew I would do it for a while and then I would move on to helping people.

I started at the Young Actors’, which is this amazing children's theater in Tallahassee, Florida, where I got to study voice, dance, and acting pretty intensely. I would go every day after school, and that was in addition to my other dance classes and then doing musical theater at my high school.

So even at a public school in Tallahassee, Florida, I had a pretty intense training in these three disciplines. Then I went to Florida State to study musical theater, and moved to New York in 2001, just three weeks before September 11.

And I was very fortunate to get my first job on my second day in New York. So I was employed when all of Broadway shutdown due to 9/11 – because tourism stopped. A lot of my friends and colleagues who were starting their careers as actors went years being unemployed because the whole industry shutdown and it took a long time to recover.

It was a blessing that I was able to start working right out of the gate, and then I worked for about 10 years back-to-back-to-back. It's intense and a very competitive industry, and I think that's where I really learned, like you said, to use my voice, my mind, and my body as an instrument, and where I got my hardcore high performance training; which I've now taken into the meditation arena and with Ziva.

It sounds like trial by fire! How did you deal with literal stage fright before you even discovered meditation?

Not well! [Laughs] I mean, I guess okay, because I was working, but it was what drove me to meditation.

My last Broadway show was A Chorus Line where my job was to understudy three of the lead roles; and that means you have no idea which character you're going to play when you show up at the theater.

Sometimes I would start the show as one character. Halfway through, they'd switch me to another one. I would just be chilling in my dressing room doing my taxes and they would say "Emily Fletcher, we need you on stage". I would start panicking and having full-blown anxiety attacks. I would grab all three of my costumes and run down seven flights of stairs. Someone would throw me in an outfit and sometimes I would be on stage before I knew which character I was playing.

Some people are good at this job. I am not one of them! I was having panic attacks. I was going grey. At the tender age of 26, I was having debilitating insomnia, I was getting sick five or six times a year. And thankfully this amazing woman – and you'll like this story – this amazing woman was sitting next to me in the dressing room. She's understudying five of the leads, including Cassie.

So it's an incredibly hard job and this woman is nailing it! I mean, every song she sang was a celebration; every dance she danced was a celebration. Every bite of food she ate, she went “Oh, this is sensational!” and she was an Australian. At first, I thought she was just an Aussie because all of you are so happy – I don’t know what you put in the water down there! [Laughs]

It's our Australian coffee!

It really is! That's strong stuff. But finally I thought, “No, this is special. I need to have some of what she's having.”

I said to her, “What do you know that I don't know?” And she said, “I meditate” and I rolled my eyes and thought “Oh god, one of you.” Finally, I was so embarrassed about my performance, and I was sucking so bad at my job, that I thought I have to try something.

So I went along to an ‘Intro to Meditation’ talk. I liked what I heard. I signed up for a course, and on the first day of my first course, I was meditating! I did not know what that meant, but I was in a different state of consciousness than I had never been in; and I liked it. That night, I slept through the night for the first time in 18 months – and I have every night since. 

That was 12 years ago. Then I stopped going gray. I'm 41 years old now and you know I have not been to the salon because it's illegal! So this hair right now, you know it’s real! I didn't get sick for eight and a half years. I started enjoying my job again.

I just thought “Why does everybody not do this?”

Then I left Broadway and went to India where I started a three-year training process to teach.

Now you're a veteran of meditation and teaching others how to unlock that extraordinary performance. What do you incorporate with Ziva Meditation that you noticed was missing from traditional and more mainstream meditation?

Well, it's interesting because when I first learned I had the blessing of beginner's mind. Twelve years ago, there were no apps. There were no drop-in studios. I know that it's hard for people to conceptualize now, but it was really just monks and me in New York.

I mean, that's not totally true, but it was nowhere near as mainstream as it is now, so I have the gift of no comparison. I was just like, “Oh, here is this thing” and it made my life so much better.

Now, interestingly, what people consider ‘mainstream meditation’ is the free apps. There are hundreds of millions of downloads of these different apps and then very little continued usage of them. What people now consider mainstream meditation apps are actually what I would call mindfulness.

Mindfulness is very good at dealing with your stress in the now. Mindfulness is the art of bringing your awareness into the present moment. And it is necessary, especially in this day and age.

The type of meditation that I teach at Ziva is all about getting rid of your stress from the past. And that's not an insignificant shift; because I would say that eradication of the backlog of cellular stress is really what gives you this surge in cognitive ability; this surge in productivity. Like we were saying earlier, with that chronic low-grade fight or flight thing. Over time, that's what's making us stupid, sick, and slow.

“Eradication of the backlog of cellular stress is really what gives you this surge in cognitive ability.”

While mindfulness or using a free app may create a state change – it might make you feel better in the now – meditation is creating a trait change. It is going in and healing you on a cellular level; so that your brain gets faster, your IQ increases, your neuroplasticity increases, your body age reverses, your immune function gets better. 

These aren't, “Oh, let me just imagine rainbows and gurus and incense.” You're actually healing things on a physiological level. You are changing your neurochemistry. And then over time – just like the cumulative effect of stress can be very detrimental over time – the cumulative effect of meditation can be very beneficial.

It's interesting that one of the greatest discoveries of our time is that we can improve our own IQ. More and more studies are proving that’s the case, which you reference in your book, for example, that meditation can improve one’s IQ by as much as 23%.

And a smile came to my face when you were talking about people who have downloaded a meditation-type app and then deleted it. I downloaded Headspace because I'd heard everyone talking about meditation, so I sat down to give it a shot but it was just really brutal for me. I couldn't stand it. I was very uncomfortable and couldn’t block out my thoughts or the sounds. I all but swore that I would never do meditation again because I found it impossible to switch my brain off.

Around the same time, I started doing yoga which, although didn’t allow my brain to switch off, it was definitely a break from the usual chaos of thoughts.

Recently, I started doing Ziva Meditation for the first time, and one of the first things that I noticed was that I was completely present in the yoga session and I think it's the first time that has ever happened.

So I wanted to talk to you about ‘meditation failure.’ I’m one of those meditation failure people, and if you and I weren’t connected I would likely still have a distaste for meditation! But now I'm really, really excited for it. I have committed to it – my wife and I incorporated it into our daily routine.

What is the meditation shame spiral? And why should people give it another shot if they’ve done meditation before and didn’t enjoy it?

Yes! Thank you for sharing this and thank you for being open enough to give it another go. Know that you are not alone; I hear this story multiple times a week, sometimes multiple times a day: “I downloaded this app; I tried to do it, I couldn't stop my mind from thinking; I felt like I was failing and then I quit.”

It makes me sad just because I know that there are millions and millions of people out there who think that they are failures. I actually dedicated my whole book to it. Anyone who's tried meditation and quit because you felt like a failure; you're not a failure. You just haven't been taught yet.

"Anyone who's tried meditation and quit because you felt like a failure; you're not a failure. You just haven't been taught yet.”

And so the beautiful and hopefully stress-relieving fact here is that the mind thinks involuntarily just like the heart beats involuntarily. Trying to give your brain a command to shut up is as uncomfortable as trying to give your heart a command to stop beating. It does not work, yet this is the criteria by which we're all judging ourselves as to whether or not we can meditate. 

There's like one dude out there telling everyone to “clear their mind” and we've got to find him and we've got to teach him how to meditate.

We do. Patient Zero!

[Laughs] Exactly! He's Patient Zero – and he's got the same publicist that kale has. Even people who have never meditated before are convinced that the point is to turn off the brain. But I would argue that the point of meditation is to get good at life.

No one cares how many or few thoughts you're having when you sit quietly in a chair. Everyone cares about how kind you are, how present you are, how creative are you, how is your immune system, how is your sex drive, how is your intuition? People care about that stuff. Nobody cares that you can clear your mind.

And the beautiful thing is that all of these physical and mental IQ-increasing benefits that we're talking about can happen even when you don't “clear your mind.” Those thoughts, especially during Ziva, are an indicator that stress is leaving the body. And once you understand that meditation is a cycle – it's like a washing machine, like a cycle of stress release – then you stop beating yourself up for having thoughts and you celebrate them as part of the purging healing process. And that can be revolutionary for people and their practice. 

When I first started Ziva, the apps weren't around yet. I was just teaching straight up meditation face-to-face in my studio in New York, and people were having profound results. People were committing, people were noticing their lives were changing, their insomnia was going away, they were becoming fertile after doctors told them that they were infertile. Their IBS was going away, migraines, panic attacks... All of this stuff just falling away.

And then they would say: “Well look, I want my mom to learn. She's in Idaho” or “I want my cousin to learn; she's in Brazil.” “Hey, do you ever go to the Virgin Islands?” And I'll be like, “Yeah. I'll be on a plane tomorrow!”

Technology was getting better and so I just thought that this thing is too good to rely on geography. Not everyone has access to a teacher in their hometown, and so we actually created the world's first online meditation training.

It was before Headspace, before Oprah and Deepak Chopra, and it was just me with my musical theater degree, my tap shoes, and zero technology experience!

But a hell of a lot of life experience!

Yes, a lot of life experience and thankfully some really smart friends! And so we made the first course and it was an experiment. We didn't know if it was going to work or not, but slowly but surely it just grew and grew, and then we revamped it in 2017 and that is when I created the Ziva Technique.

I created the Ziva Technique because after six years of teaching meditation I realized that meditation alone was not enough; that more people were falling off the wagon than I would like; more people were not starting than I would like; and so as I started to ask deeper and deeper questions of “Why are you not starting? Because you know this is good for you. The science is in. Why are you not giving this practice or yourself a fair shot?”

And the other question I really was interested in answering is why anyone could get the keys to the kingdom and put them down? That was the one that was really mind-boggling to me. And for most people it was about time. When you're stressed, you feel like you don't have enough time, that you're always behind schedule, that your to do list will never fit inside of your day; and the reason we have that relationship with time is because our brains are not functioning as well as they could.

And so if you really just drill again and again that meditation gives you more time; it makes you more productive; it makes your brain more efficient; your sleep more efficient; you get sick less often and just keep reminding people that the return on time investment is exponential, then that sometimes solves that issue.

But the quitting issue, as in why people were starting and quitting? They would say: “Well, I'm too busy”, but when I got to the root of it, what I realized is that people were terrified of feeling their feelings. People were terrified of facing the intensity of emotion, and trauma and stress that most of us have stored inside – and most meditation teachers aren't talking about that. They're not talking about the purge of the catharsis that often happens when you do something as powerful as this.

So I just doubled down and I started warning people. “Hey don't start Ziva on your wedding weekend” and “Do not start Ziva the week that you just got a new job”! Because stuff's going to get a little messier before it gets cleaner. 

And then on top of that; I wanted to equip people to handle the purge, to handle the catharsis, if and when it comes, rather than saying like, “Oh, don't worry about that; let's just focus on enlightenment!” It's like “No, we have to integrate that. We have to celebrate it.”

We have to equip people to process the level of intensity that we've been dealing with in our lifetimes, but now scientists are starting to say we can inherit trauma from somewhere between two to seven generations prior – and that's not insignificant, especially in today's climate. 

Inherited generational trauma, it's a thing. And the cool thing about Ziva is that you can stop it in its tracks; by you healing your stress, your cells; you're changing your epigenetics; you're changing what you're passing down to future generations.

With the Ziva process, you’ve got mindfulness, meditation, and manifestation. Can you give a quick insight into those three “M's” and what they do for the brain?

Mindfulness is really good at dealing with your stress in the now. It's like a focused meditation, and that's what most of the apps and YouTube videos are. Anytime someone's guiding you through, then you're directing your focus. And when you're using a directed focus style of meditation, a small part of the brain lights up but very bright.

This is different from the style of meditation that we teach at Ziva, which is all about letting go. It's all about surrender and rest. It feels kind of like a nap sitting up, and this is where that healing of the old stress happens – where the trait change starts to go. Also, it’s where I would say you get this return on investment, meaning that you get more time in your day.

And then the manifesting piece is all about dealing with your dreams for the future. So it sounds a little hippy-dippy. It sounds a little woo-woo. Maybe not to you or your audience!

I would define manifesting as consciously creating a life you love. It is reminding yourself of your dreams. And what I've found is that the combination – and this might really be the thing that keeps you committed to meditation – the combination of meditation and manifesting is so much more powerful than either one alone. Because you could meditate all day, but if you're not clear about what it is that you want it's very hard for nature to give you the thing.

“I would define manifesting as consciously creating a life you love.”

And conversely, you could manifest all day, lining your walls with vision boards, but if you're not meditating and your nervous system is riddled with stress and trauma, and limiting beliefs that you can't even see, then again it's going to be a lot harder for you to achieve your dreams. But when you do them together, you get rid of the stress in your body, you peel away these subconscious limiting beliefs, and you remind yourself of your dreams every day, twice a day, and things start to show up a lot more quickly. 

It's interesting because it's like what you said earlier about meditating for life, rather than to get good at meditating. If we have an idea of what we want, this is simply a weapon we can have in our arsenal that's going to get us there and achieve it as quick as possible.

There are so many themes from what you said that I think are really valuable to anyone who actually just wants to achieve anything – whether it's a successful marriage, a strong relationship with their children, or a business goal.

You've worked with a lot of elite performers from Navy Seals and the NBA, to top executives and doctors, and Academy Award winners. Who stands out as the most ‘elite’ out of all of those people, however you want to define it?

Fascinating question! I think you have to say Navy SEALS, just as far as the mental and physical performance and what they put their bodies and minds through. 

This one Navy SEAL, he did Ziva online when he was in Afghanistan. He said he was meditating in a porta-potty and I was like, “Dude, you are more committed than me.” I was like, “I love meditation, but I cannot say I would meditate in a porta-potty!”

That's a nice testimonial to have!

Yeah! [Laughs]

But I mean, he said it saved his life. He said that having the ability to deregulate his nervous system or to down-regulate his nervous system – because when you're in that chronic fight or flight for a living, for your job, you aren't granted the luxury of turning off or getting into rest and digest. Over time, that can lead to adrenal fatigue, it can lead to PTSD, and it can also lead to you not even having the capabilities of down-regulating.

I think that's why we see such high suicide rates from folks certainly after being in active combat. So the fact that these Navy SEALs were using it while they were in the trenches, and then many of them are interested in actually becoming teachers now, really is very heartening to me because it means they might be able to enjoy their lives for the rest of their lives, which can be difficult if you’re used to intense situations because the rest of life can just feel boring.

I had an interview yesterday with Larry Sanders who is a former NBA player. It was an interesting story, but his manager asked me to teach him because he was about to walk away from a $44 million contract, and his manager was like “No! Please come teach him to meditate!”

So I taught him and I was like, “Look, I can't guarantee anything. I'll teach him to meditate, but I can't guarantee that he's going to stay in the NBA.” But he ended up leaving. We fell out of touch until a few days ago, and he posted this photo on Instagram with “What advice would you give to your younger self?” and he had Photoshopped a picture of him now and a picture of him eight years ago – and he looks so much happier now. 

His face is like beaming sunshine. And the picture of him eight years ago, he looks sad and depressed. I'm not outing his secrets here; he had a very public struggle with anxiety and depression. 

And so anyway, we just sat down for this interview and he said that he considered Ziva a really important part of his mental and physical boot camp when he was transitioning out, and he feels happier now than he's ever been.

And he said that when he was in negotiations about walking away from $44 million; he was in the room, with these people, and he said they were just talking, talking and talking; and it was like “I couldn't hear anything they were saying. I was meditating, and I was imagining just cutting the cord from my root chakra to these people that represented my survival.”

And I was like, “Dude, good for you!” Because there's a lot of people who say that they would and who think that they would, but they wouldn't actually, and he did!

Wow! That's powerful. How receptive were the Navy SEALS to everything that you were teaching?

Several Navy SEALs reached out to me organically and then shared it among their groups, and there’s another retired Navy SEAL who wants to become a teacher. While I haven't officially been hired by the Navy SEALS, the ones I’ve worked with are super-duper gung-ho; and I think they like it because Ziva is so focused on performance.

It's so much about optimizing your brain and body, and I think it speaks their language. Whereas a lot of meditations are about ceremony and incense. If that's your thing, awesome. It's just not my thing.

What about people who want to try meditation, or want a partner to try meditation, but they don’t feel like doing it in the first place? How do you get people to give it a try, especially if they think it’s too woo-woo?

Good question. I can't tell you how many people come to my intro talks and they're like, “I really need this for my husband. I'm not going to take the course, but I'm going to get this for my husband.” Or like, “Hey, can you give this to my wife? Can you get my wife meditating?”

Always, always, always you've got to clean your own house first! 

If you want your dad, your mom, your brother-in-law, or your sister to meditate, you've got to start with you. 

“Everyone else should do it. Not me! Just everyone else.”

That's it. “It's their problem!” [Laughs] – “If my husband would just go to therapy, then I'd be fine!” I definitely heard that story for a couple of years. 

So we have to clean our own house first. And the beautiful thing that happens there is that as we change the lens through which we are seeing everything, everything changes. If we have stress lenses, then the whole world looks stressed!

If we start to peel away our own layers of ignorance, then sometimes relationships might change, our job might change. You're going to think that the world is changing, but actually it's you that's changing. And your life gets better. You get less stressed. You get healthier, you get happier.

And as you do that, you inspire something that I call ‘worthy inquiry’ which is basically like: “Does someone want to know about this thing; and are they willing to surrender something to get it?”

Because here's the meditation course that everybody wants: they want it to be free; they want it to take zero minutes; and they want to never have to meditate again. That's really what everyone is looking for! And I don't teach free meditation. I don't teach a one-day meditation class. I've got no interest in it. I want to teach people who want to learn, and that usually requires some skin in the game.

"I want to teach people who want to learn, and that usually requires some skin in the game.”

The online course is 15 days. When I teach it in person it's four days. So at the very least you're surrendering your preference of your time. This weeds out the people who don't want to be there, and that's great because no one should be forced to meditate.

Everybody comes to it in their own time and when they're ready, but I would say it depends on who you're talking to. If you're trying to convince someone else to meditate – and you’ve started with yourself, and cleaned your own house – then the most powerful thing you can share is your own experience.

You can say, “I used to be struggling with this and now I am this…” or “I used to feel this and now I'm this…” and no one can argue with that. You don't have to be a neuroscientist. You don't have to pretend like you're a meditation teacher, if you're sharing your story. 

And then, if people want all the science, if they want to be equipped with facts – they go to our website. We have hundreds and hundreds of articles and studies; and we have been collecting them since 2011.

So basically every study, story, or research that's been published, I've been categorizing based on: mindfulness, meditation, or manifesting. And people can find that on our blog. 

High performers are always trying to squeeze as much as they can out of every single minute. Have you noticed an effect on a reduced number of hours of sleep required by people for those who have been doing Ziva Meditation during the day?

Yes – but for a lot of folks, especially in the beginning if they're sleep deprived or if they've been dealing with insomnia, oftentimes in the first few weeks and even months they need more sleep and sometimes a lot more sleep. 

I have an interview right after this with my friend Amber; and when she first took the course, she was sleeping 14+ hours a night. She said, “Emily, I have a job. I can't sleep for 16 hours a day, and then come here for an hour and a half a day!” But that's extreme. Normally, most people are not like that. 

A lot of people are sleepy for a couple of weeks as their body is detoxifying and moving through the purge. And then because the meditation is so restful – because you're inserting these 15 minute chunks twice a day, which is an equivalent of about an hour long nap, or 2 hour long naps – over time, as you're building up that backlog of rest and sleeping more efficiently, a lot of people end up needing less sleep.

Even if it was one hour less. You usually need eight hours of sleep, but then you start to need seven. Then for a 30-minute time investment, where you meditate twice a day for 15 minutes, if it shaves off one hour at night that you need of sleep, you're already 30 minutes in the black. And that doesn’t even take into consideration better decision making, getting sick less often, the opportunity cost of stress or losing your temper when you are frazzled. So over time the return on time investment is a real thing.

How has what you’ve learned about meditation changed your life as a parent?

My son turned two yesterday. When he was born, I had been meditating for 10 years, so I don't have any frame of reference of what it would be like to meditate or to be a parent without meditation. 

However, I will say that he has been my greatest teacher in presence. He has been my greatest teacher in surrendering and really embracing the now; because everything just changed so quickly! And as you know, because you have a 14-month old, it's like they take a nap, and when they wake up they have five more skills! They have five more words! 

Five more teeth!

Yes! Things are falling away and new things are being acquired hourly. Like: “Oh, you don't suck your thumb anymore but you do know how to climb that couch!”

It's just a fascinating lesson in impermanence. And I will say that I never felt happier or more present than when I'm with him, but it feels like this is almost like the reward for the 12 years of meditation, that I've been training to be able to be with him fully. And that is such a gift and a blessing.

But I will say that I went to classes with him when he was a baby. They were RIE classes, which is about respectful parenting. It's about nonviolent communication where you're speaking in observations versus judgments, and you're just present.

In the RIE classes, there would be seven or eight babies and you would just sit there. The adults are in the circle; not touching, not speaking, and not interacting. You only intervene if someone's in physical danger. Other than that, the babies are on their own and you are just super-duper present with them; on their level, watching them. 

You can affirm them. Like “I'm right here. I see you.” And then, they call it sports casting, where you're like, “Oh! You picked up that cup!” or “I hear that you're crying. Are you upset?” which is different than “You look angry.” 

So you're speaking an observation rather than a judgement, which is almost like an out loud meditation practice. “I hear that you're crying” and “How are you feeling?” is different from “Are you scared?” and “You sound upset.”

It's an interesting thing that I'm still practicing obviously, but the nonviolent communication, and speaking in observation rather than judgment, and the hyper presence, have all really served me as a parent.

So now we're working on a kid’s course. We're creating what I hope to be the world's best kid meditation training. We're working with creators from Sesame Street and a Harvard child psychologist. And it's been really fun to get inside a child's mind. So even though my son is only two and the course starts for four-year-old children, it's still letting you live in that world a little bit more.

What do you tell the athlete who is about to start their gold medal race at the Olympic Games, or the university grad who is interviewing for their dream job, or the CEO who is about to deliver a presentation to the board for the first time? What do you tell them in that last one or two minutes to focus on before they're about to embark on something that feels life-changing or is potentially life changing?  

Good question. So there's a couple of techniques. One is a very tactical technique and the other is a bit more conceptual. A tactical thing is something I call ‘Balancing Breath.’ You can be backstage, or in a bathroom, or in the locker room. You probably don't want to do it in front of people because it looks weird because you're closing it right and left nostrils, but it's just an adaptation of alternate nostril pranayam breathing. 

It helps to balance the right and left hemispheres of your brain. But when you close one nostril, you are de-exciting your metabolic rate and you are de-exciting your breathing. And when you close the right and left nostrils, you are helping to marry the right and left hemispheres of the brain, which is your critical mind, and your creative mind.

And the cool thing about balancing breath is you can do it quickly or slowly. So if you were just exhausted but you had to amp it up for a game, you can do it fast. Or if you're really nervous and you needed to appear relaxed for your presentation to the board, then you can do it slow and sort of deescalate things.

Also, it helps me to just feel much more creative. I like to think that it's giving you this simultaneity of critical mind and creative mind. 

For a more conceptual thing, I gave a talk at Google many years ago, at the beginning of my career. I’d only been teaching for a year or two, so to be asked to speak at Google felt like a make or break. I thought, “Well, this is it! If I mess this up; my career is over. But if I nail this, my career is made!” It felt like the penultimate thing. 

And my husband just reminded me, “Look, even if you totally blow it, like you just forget everything and you are just a blithering idiot, what's the worst thing that can happen?”

He said, “The reality is, even if you were to be your worst day, it would probably be an 85%.”

“What's meant for you is coming, and what is not, is not.”

He helped me understand that more realistic 15% range, which is not going to make or break your career. And even if you totally forgot your name, how to speak, or how to read and write, this one thing is still not going to make or break your career. And I think that’s the important lesson to remember: that what's meant for you is coming, and what is not, is not.


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


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

I think it's the manifesting piece. It doesn't take long; it's just that two minutes at the end of the meditation where I ask myself, “How would I love to feel today? What's one thing that I would love right now?” It varies in length depending on how intensely I’m working on something.

Also, something I learned from BJ Fogg is a tiny micro habit version of that, where you hit your feet on the ground in the morning and say, “Today is going to be a great day!” Our mind has that confirmation bias – it wants to be proved right. So just saying “Today's going to be a great day” is like the micro super-fast manifester's trick.

I love it. Everyone's looking for a magic bullet, but it's often those simple habits reinforced with consistency that can be the most powerful. I want to finish with a quote from you. “We meditate to get good at life not to get good at meditation.” Such a great lesson. Thank you for being on Win the Day.

Thank you for having me. Thank you for your clarity, your inspiration and your wisdom.

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Connect with Emily Fletcher and learn more about the resources/links mentioned in the interview:

🧘 The first 3 days FREE of Emily’s flagship Ziva Meditation training (plus a guided visualization for deeper sleep).

🕯️ Balancing Breath exercise.

📷 Emily Fletcher on Instagram.

📝 Ziva Meditation on Facebook.

📗 Emily’s new book ‘Stress Less, Accomplish More’.

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

Onwards and upwards always,
James Whittaker

"The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that's changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks."

Mark Zuckerberg

In this post, we’re going to talk about something that sounds negative but is actually the key to unlock pretty much EVERYTHING you want in life.

Think about the earlier quote from Mark Zuckerberg:

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that's changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

Unfortunately, the word ‘risk’ has a negative connotation associated with it.

But when we talk about risk, let’s give a few examples of what we’re NOT talking about:

These four scenarios are far more common than you think! And I bet you can probably think of a few scenarios of your own.

The misconception with risk is that it’s something undertaken that is dangerous. Yet, a better definition of risk is: “An opportunity that can significantly enhance your situation, while carrying a possibility of failure.”

But, let’s face it, pretty much ANYTHING we do in our pursuit of growth and self-mastery carries the risk of failure in the short-term. However, it shouldn’t be tainted with the same brush of what are generally just ‘bad decisions,’ like the four scenarios we mentioned earlier.

There’s a huge difference between risk in the sense that we’re talking about here, and bad decisions that are made by people every day who will sadly have to struggle with the consequences. And generally, the people who make bad decisions have made a habit out of it so it keeps happening.

The main thing that stops people from getting out of their comfort zone is this closely linked component of risk which is a ‘fear of failure.’ So let’s quickly explore the concept of failure and risk in more detail.

1. Failure:

Contrary to popular belief, failure should not be viewed as so terrifying that is causes inaction. It’s the pursuit of failure that has created the most dominant and wealthiest companies in the history of civilization—embracing innovation, pushing society forward, and raising standards of living for people around the world.

In fact, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos once revealed his own experience with failure: “I’ve made billions of failures at Amazon. Literally.” That’s coming from arguably the most effective business leader of all time who, from his own garage, built an online bookstore that became the world’s most valuable company. Not book company. The world’s most valuable company, in any industry.

On the condition that you learn from the failure and rise once more, your ability to seek it out is one of the greatest assets you can have. This is where having a growth mindset is essential.

2. Risk:

Again contrary to popular belief, risk carries significant upside and its probability of failure can be mitigated. For any situation, you can maximize the potential upside while minimizing the downside, such as through your own due diligence (or employing the services of someone who is a specialist in that field), or seeking counsel from a mentor or mastermind.

Think about when SEAL Team 6 came knocking for Osama bin Laden in the middle of the night. It was a huge risk, but they spent months preparing—years, in fact, if you factor in the CIA’s involvement—so they could maximize their potential upside while minimizing the downside. Even with all the planning, they still lost a helicopter on the mission, but the carefully planned risk eliminated the most dangerous terrorist in the world.

If you’re faced with a decision and you can’t identify any upside (or it’s only minuscule), it’s a bad decision—not a risk! If you want to be successful in life and business, you need to put your heart, wallet, and time on the line every now and then for what you believe is the greater good.

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In a letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos once wrote, “I believe we are the best place in the world to fail (we have plenty of practice!).”

And the episode quote from Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg notes that “The biggest risk is not taking any risk.” In 2007, at age 23, Zuckerberg became the world's youngest self-made billionaire, so it’s worth listening to what he has to say about success. Those who don’t take any risk are the ones who perennially make bad decisions in their own lives, like keeping all their money in the bank because they believe it’s the best strategy for long-term wealth creation.

Both Bezos and Zuckerberg are acutely aware that every failure increases their chance of hitting a home run, as Amazon and Facebook have done with numerous innovations that propelled them from risky startups to two of the most valuable companies in the history of civilization.

In alignment with the modern-day tech moguls, Think and Grow Rich author Napoleon Hill said, “Those who will not take a chance seldom have one thrust upon them.”

Anytime I get the urge to stay in my comfort zone, I read that quote and it lights a fire right under me.

Now that we properly understand risk, let’s flip the script on those four earlier scenarios to illustrate what might be a better course of action and more appropriate use of risk:

Scenario 1.

Bad decision:
Dating someone who is toxic and destructive to your life because you believe you can change them.

Calculated risk:
Spending more time with someone who you sense a deep connection with and allow each of you to explore those feelings. If you bring out the best in each other, and your time together forms the seedlings of love—you will have to put your heart on the line as you commit to each other (perhaps the biggest risk of all)—but it might just be the best partnership you ever form.

Scenario 2.

Bad decision:
Starting a business without doing your due diligence because you think you already know it all.

Calculated risk:
Identifying a problem faced by many that you can solve through starting a new product / service. You seek the counsel of both a business mentor and a mastermind of your peers to help figure out what you don’t know about the industry and its potential complexities. Your business has no assurance of success, but you’re strengthened from collective wisdom and launch a business that could make all of your dreams come true, while helping many people in the process.

Scenario 3.

Bad decision:
Maxing out your credit cards because you believe the law of attraction will look after you.

Calculated risk:
You retain 15% from every paycheck and invest it, via dollar cost averaging, into a fund that tracks the index and enables you to harness the power of compound interest. While the media outlets try to rattle you with reports of “catastrophic meltdowns” in global markets, you stay the course because of your goals and professional advice.

Scenario 4.

Bad decision:
Not focusing on your fitness because you might get hurt.

Calculated risk:
You’re time-poor and stressed from work, so you decide that yoga might be the best form of exercise. You have never done a class before, but you ignore your ego and go at your own pace until you feel confident progressing to the more technical movements. There is the risk you fall flat on your face, but a few months later, it might just be the very activity that restores balance to all areas of your life and allows you to make new and healthy friendships.

ALL of these amended scenarios carry a possibility of failure, but without the risk there is no reward. You’ve gotta risk it to get the biscuit.

To finish, let’s dive into a passage from Napoleon Hill:

“Success always involves risk. You must take a chance by investing your time, money, and effort. It pays to be thoughtful and deliberate in your analyses of opportunities, but don’t let timidity hold you back.

Because you have worked hard to develop those things you must risk, it is natural for you to place a high value on them. But what good are they if you do not put them to use? You will recognize opportunity only to the extent that you are willing to consider risking your time, money, and effort.

Being confident gives you the courage to face risk and act when opportunity arises. No one on earth is going to force success upon you; you will find it only to the degree that you actively seek it out.”

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Until next time,

Onwards and upwards always,
James Whittaker

In Case You Missed It:
Are You Still in the Game?

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well have not lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.”

J. K. Rowling

Quick announcement before we get into this post. To help people absolutely crush 2020, I’m very excited to announce The Day Won Mastermind! This begins on 24th February 2020 and will be a 3-month program. It’s designed for professionals and entrepreneurs who want to find their voice, build their tribe, and make an impact.

I want to make sure I can allocate the proper amount of time for each person, so spots are strictly limited! I'll be sharing everything I know about success, happiness, and creating a life of freedom. If you want the ultimate foundation for success in 2020, to have me work with you on your business and your personal life, and to surround yourself with people who can help you along the way, grab one of the places while you can.

There's also a special bonus for the first 10 people to join. To reserve your place, or get more info, go to The Day Won Mastermind.

Alright, back to our post!

What does the "New Year" mean to you? For most people, it's a night of partying or a chance to have a holiday. Both of those are fine because it's important to have fun, but it's useful to know that the New Year marks a complete orbiting of the Earth around the sun. Recently, more and more, I've enjoyed it as an opportunity to refocus on what's most important and chart a detailed course for the next 12 months.

This celestial significance of the New Year gives us three insights:

As we begin our list, grab a notepad and brainstorm how you can apply these into your life. If you can do that consistently, your success in 2020 is assured.

1. Clearly define goals.

Napoleon Hill wrote that the starting point of ALL achievement is desire. In fact, he made it the very first principle of Think and Grow Rich, so that gives you an idea of just how important this step is. After all, if you don’t know what your perfect destination looks like, how can you expect to end up anywhere near there?

Once you’ve got that perfect destination in mind—in each area of your life that’s important to you (download this free Success Plan Template for a step-by-step guide)—turn it into clearly defined goals that are:

As you’re preparing these goals, let your thoughts run wild, unencumbered by what others may think. On this journey to living a life on your own terms, you’re going to encounter a lot of people with their ill-informed opinions, but you must remember that the most important opinion is how you feel about yourself.

Financial freedom in particular is a huge goal for so many people, as it should be; therefore, I strongly encourage you to read this post 'How to Become a Financial Winner' to get yourself on the right track. A recent study even revealed that wealthy people live longer and in better physical health, so make it a priority for you.

2. Hang out with the right people.

Ever driven in a Ford car? I’m sure you have. You might even have owned one. In the 109 years since it was founded, the Ford Motor Company has built more than 350 million automobiles, averaging a new car sold every 10 seconds. Its founder, Henry Ford, passed away in 1947 with a net worth of more than US $200 billion (adjusted for inflation).

Not bad for a poor, illiterate kid.

Henry Ford once said: “My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.” That’s one of my favorite quotes because seeing how your life has changed as a result of someone else’s presence is a very clear yardstick for the value of that relationship.

Often, we feel obligated to keep associating with people just because we went to school with them, or they’re a family friend, or maybe even a family member. But it’s important to protect your energy source, which includes understanding the following:

Over the holiday period, you might’ve bumped into some of the toxic people that made your skin crawl. Well, now is the time to replace them with someone who makes you happy and helps you succeed!

If you’re not sure where to start, join the Win the Day Facebook group and introduce yourself! We’ve got almost 400 people there just looking for ways to help others.

3. Create a positive environment.

A big learning for me in the last few years is recognizing the full magnitude that our mental state has to the meaning we attach to a given situation. If we’re in a grumpy mood, we’re going to focus a lot more negatively about any situation presented to us; yet, if we’re in an inspired mood, we’ll see the BEST in any situation.

There are mental tricks we can play to get into a positive mood, just as there are things that pull us into a negative state. What can you do? Just as we think about intent for how to structure the day, we can apply this just as readily to environmental care:

Even listening to a podcast or an audiobook once a day can help you give the constant repetition of positive materials to put you in the right head space.

4. Have strong systems to achieve.

This is where most well-intentioned people fall down. The absolutely essential next step after defining your goals is to BUILD them into your daily life so you know, every single day, what work you need to do and how it relates to your long-term mission.

Every year, I complete the Success Plan Template, then turn those 90-day goals into action items that then go into my calendar. After 90 days, I have another notification that goes off to do the next 90 days worth of goals and action items. What that is release yourself of stress today because you know the outcome already.

Contrast this to those who either don’t set goals in the first place, or do—but never create a strong system to actually achieve them.

There’s one final fail-safe measure here that you can take: When you wake up each day, write down three things you’re grateful for and three things that would make today a win. This ensures that EVERYTHING you do is with intent and positions you as the hero of your own story, rather than having to stare glumly or enviously at what everyone else is doing.

5. Attach happiness to the present.

The digital age has greatly exacerbated our self-esteem. When we don’t have a worthy method for self-evaluation, we look elsewhere for it, and images of ‘perfect’ people are thrust into our vision from all the social media platforms. This is where phrases like “I’ll be happy if…” and “I’ll be happy when…” become our mantra, as we attach our happiness to the success we believe others have that continues to elude us. This can be anything, from a desirable partner to a thriving business, or even having someone else’s body.

But true happiness is not just found in the present, it’s found by being present. So enjoy being in the present, come rain, hail or shine, and say “Yes!” to life more often. Just be aware that this step will be much easier to complete after you’ve done the preceding four steps.

6. Join a mastermind.

Rather than spending tens of thousands of dollars and years of your time trying to figure it out yourself, find someone who has the success you want and do what they tell you! If you join a mastermind that gives you unprecedented access with someone you admire, while allowing you to collaborate with other like-minded people, your idea of what you can achieve will increase exponentially and your journey to getting there will be so much faster.

To find a good mastermind, just make sure:

A good mastermind will give you massive amounts of structure, challenge, and accountability in all areas of your life.

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I wish you every success and happiness in 2020!

Onwards and upwards always,
James Whittaker

PS - Remember to secure your place in The Day Won Mastermind (or schedule a call to find out if it's the right fit for you).

“It is better to have less thunder in the mouth and more lightning in the hand.”

Apache proverb

This holiday season, rather than squandering money on gifts with little long-term value, consider giving something practical that gets the recipient excited about taking ownership of his/her future.

Aside from allowing us to delve into the minds of the most inspiring and innovative people who ever lived, books are a great gift because they sit there staring back at us: providing gentle prompts, imaginative thought, and unprecedented motivation when we need it most.

In fact, many of the people I interviewed for Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy noted that, in times of distress, just staring at the cover of Hill’s original classic made them feel better about themselves.

Lately, I’ve also really been enjoying audiobooks. With the speed toggle, you can listen at an increasing speed. When you first try 1.25x, it seems a little intense. But a day or two later, you'll probably feel comfortable at 1.5x and wonder how you listened to anything slower before. Audiobooks are also more social because, rather than simply listening to music (which I love for entertainment or a demanding workout), you and a travel companion can improve your minds while exploring new areas of interest.

For my favorite books, as you'll see in the YouTube edition of this post, I make sure to also purchase a hard copy because it's easier for a quick reference.

Welcome to my second annual recommended reading list of gifts for yourself or a loved one. With this list, you'll undoubtedly have more lightning in the hand, as the earlier proverb reminds us.

Best for Entrepreneurs:

Driven
by Dr Doug Brackmann

I first met Dr Doug Brackmann in Orange County, California, in early 2019 when my good mate Ronsley Vaz interviewed him. Brackmann radiated a potent mix of strength and empathy, traits forged from a career working with some of the most driven people on the planet.

This is the best book I’ve read in 2019 and I’ve literally just purchased a copy for every one of my clients around the world.

In it, Brackmann argues that 10% of the population possess a certain DNA that makes them feel like something is wrong with them, leading to anxiety, shame, and negative self-talk that can create a hellish existence. He calls this group the ‘Driven.’

Yet, through his research (which includes holding two PhDs in psychology!) and work with some of the highest performers on the planet—everyone from Navy SEALs to pro athletes and business leaders—Brackmann has discovered how the Driven can harness that energy into constructive means to reach their highest potential.

If you are an entrepreneur, or are looking at buying a gift for an entrepreneur, you won’t go wrong with this book. I’ve never read something that struck at the heart of who I was more than this one, while at the same time giving practical tips to improve day by day.

And let's face it: every existing and aspiring entrepreneur could do with a little more help understanding themselves!


Best for Mindset:

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
by Dr Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck is one of my biggest inspirations. This book talks about what sets champions apart in any field—the growth mindset.

Dweck contrasts those who have a growth mindset with those who have a fixed mindset, and it typically comes down to one simple focus: how we respond to adversity when it inevitably strikes.

Those with a growth mindset embrace challenge and recognize mastery as a journey of self-effort, whereas those with a fixed mindset avoid challenge and give up easily.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Mindset:

In her bestselling book, Dweck shows how people of all ages can cultivate a growth mindset, while giving examples of well-known people to keep readers engaged and illustrate the points, offering practical solutions to help us fulfill our potential in the most important areas of our lives.


Best for Empowerment:

Educated
by Tara Westover

Written with phenomenal detail, Westover’s memoir describes her unique upbringing by uncompromising survivalists in the mountains of Idaho.

Working in her father’s junkyard, Westover was never allowed to go to school or visit a doctor, and recounts her volatile—and, at times, abusive—family life as the youngest of seven children.

This alone makes for gripping reading, but the trajectory from Westover first stepping into a classroom at age 17 to eventually earning a doctorate at the University of Cambridge, while continuing to fight battles in and out of the classroom, leaves you spellbound.

In particular, if you’re a female struggling to find your place (or voice) in the world—or you know someone in that situation—this book is a must read. It spent more than a year on the New York Times bestseller list and has now been translated into more than 30 languages.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes:

Seriously powerful stuff, and an easy listen on Audible too. Plus, if you're an aspiring writer, it's one of the most beautifully written books you'll ever read.


Best for Gratitude:

The 5 Minute Journal
by Intelligent Change

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen how frequently I post these as daily stories. A huge percentage of CEOs have spoken about the importance of journaling for mental well-being; yet staring at a blank page each day can be daunting. The 5 Minute Journal provides a useful structure to start and finish the day in the right mindset.

You hear me talk constantly about winning the day. The best way to win the day is to know what actions you’re going to take on a given day and how they relate to your long-term mission, and this book gives you a forum to be able to do that.

To me, it’s been truly life-changing and is the book I gift the most. If you want an introduction to gratitude, this is the best place to be. A lot of people ask me what book it is that I keep posting on Instagram, and now you know 🙂


Best for Parenting:

Letters From A Self-Made Merchant To His Son
by George Horace Lorimer

This is the only book on this list that has entered the public domain, which means it can be downloaded for free. As a result, it’s probably a better gift for yourself, rather than sending someone a link!

This book was originally published in 1901 and contains letters from a successful business owner to his son who had just started university.

If Educated is slightly better suited to a female audience, this one is slightly better suited to a male audience. Yet, both hold enduring value for all readers.

Given Letters was written more than a century ago, it is told in a language of a foregone era, but it’s phenomenal quotes are timeless, such as:

This is the book that inspired me to start writing an annual letter to our daughter, the first one written in December 2018 (i.e. five months before she was born), so at whatever age I choose to reveal them to her she can understand the journey we’ve all been on together, especially her mother's unparalleled contributions, and exactly what unconditional love means.


Best for Motivation:

Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy
by James Whittaker

Writing this book is the greatest honor of my life and it’s truly humbling to see it continue to resonate with so many people around the world.

The theme of the book is that how you respond to adversity when it inevitably strikes is far more important than the adversity itself, and this is demonstrated through a combination of moving stories and practical tips. My hope is that it continues to inspire people of all backgrounds to extraordinary achievement.

Email us if you're after a signed copy! If you want your signed copy to arrive before Christmas, please allow at least two weeks' notice to ensure your order arrives in time. Discounts are available for bulk orders. Unsigned copies, as well as audiobook and ebook formats, are available on Amazon.


Best Gift (or Accompaniment) for Everyone:

A letter or card, handwritten if your legibility allows, to acknowledge the recipient for all the loving and selfless actions they have taken to brighten your world and illuminate your spirit. Expressing our gratitude to one another in the long form written medium has become a lost art, but that just means your opportunity to make an impression will be even more powerful.

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

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I proudly recommend all these books and know they would be a welcome gift in any stocking. This holiday season give your friends and loved ones the inspiration and ability to help themselves.

As we approach the end of 2019, I wanted to thank each and every one of you for your continued support. Have a wonderful holiday season with your loved ones and get excited for an incredible 2020.

Onwards and upwards always,
James Whittaker

In case you missed it:
How to Get a Promotion: Lessons from a Chief Maker

“There is no other road to genius than through voluntary self-effort.”

Napoleon Hill

One of the greatest honors of my life is having the opportunity to interview more than 100 of the world's most revered game-changers, entrepreneurs, and innovators, to unlock their secrets to success.

Which brings us to some exciting news – in this post, I'm going to be sharing with you the 11 BEST lessons I've learned along the way! These secrets have created billion-dollar empires, globally-recognized brands, and turned ordinary people into extraordinary achievers. They are what motivate me every single day to success in life, business, and relationships.

The best part? They can work for you too! These 11 lessons can be applied by anyone, irrespective of where you're at right now.

Enjoy 🙂

1. View success as an obligation.

One of the greatest turning points in my life occurred when I stopped casually waiting for success and instead started to approach it as a duty, obligation, and responsibility.
– Grant Cardone

We all crave success in one form or another. And why wouldn’t we? As we spoke about in Episode 10: How to Become a Financial Winner, success gives us happiness, freedom, and the ability to help others.

After losing three of his male mentors (grandfather, father, and brother) in quick succession, 15-year-old Grant Cardone became a serious drug addict for the next 10 years. At 25, after being beaten to within an inch of his life and refused access to his own mother's house, Cardone realized that he had a duty, obligation, and a responsibility, to be the best he could be.

Due to the enormous wealth he has been able to accumulate, Grant Cardone is now able to provide thousands of jobs, while his books, events, and other educational resources inspire others to make the most of their potential.

As my good friend John Shin says, “Don’t be too casual about your life, or you’ll become a casualty.”

Success is your responsibility, not anyone else's.

2. Thoughts become things.

Thoughts become things. If you see it in your mind, you will hold it in your hand.
– Bob Proctor

Just as you can think and grow rich, you can think and grow poor. Our thoughts become our beliefs, which then become our actions. Over time, those actions—good or bad—create our reality.

What’s the catch? If you do not keep a clear destination in mind and a structure to win the day, the negative mindset automatically seeps in. If those barnacles latch on to your hull unchecked, they will continue to amass until they sink your ship.

For any big goal, see it vividly in your head and allow your mind to unleash its infinite power for it to manifest.

3. Build a life that gives you energy.

It’s creating your entire universe about you being at your best, living with energy every day, and just being happy. That’s the ultimate freedom.
– Rob Dyrdek

I recently posted a video of what most people focus on each day: complaining. Yet, if redirected, that same energy could be used to create the circumstances to have everything we wanted in our life.

Former pro skater turned business mogul, Rob Dyrdek, reminds us that life is about working on projects that give us energy. Happiness, freedom, and the ongoing pursuit of our potential are available to EVERYONE who takes the right action, but so many of us believed it is reserved for a lucky few.

One day at a time, build a life that gives you energy.

4. Take purposeful action, every day.

Above all else, action … every single day.”
– Lewis Howes

Action is the key, not intellect. Sometimes people who are book smart are too good at evaluating risk, which keeps them in a state of inaction because they can always come up with a reason why they should not do something.

The ones who reach the loftiest heights are those who take action. This habit means they fail quickly and repeatedly. In these failures, the seeds of success are sown, creating a much faster and deeper success trajectory. It certainly pays to do your due diligence, but results only come from action.

Fortunately, this is firmly in your court, so remember to shoot for the stars each day.

5. Reframe adversity.

Adversity is a learning opportunity, not failure. Sometimes a door has to close for another one to open.
– Sharon Lechter

So many of us settle for “okay” because we’re afraid that if we take a shot at something better we’ll miss out. Yet, it’s the adversity faced in the process of unleashing our potential that enables us to become resilient, resourceful, and persistent enough to achieve extraordinary things.

After being the founder and author of the Rich Dad brand (alongside Robert Kiyosaki), Sharon Lechter felt that her vision was no longer aligned with her business partner. Making the decision to trust her intuition and leave a household brand was a huge hurdle because she experienced the full gamut of emotions that emerge when we’re stepping into the unknown. However, Lechter realized that she just had to have faith that there would be a next step—even if she didn’t know what that was. As Martin Luther King said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.”

Shortly after, the acclaimed entrepreneur received a phone call from Don Green of the Napoleon Hill Foundation inviting her to partner on numerous projects that would introduce Hill’s timeless principles to today’s generations. Lechter also received a call from President George W. Bush's office inviting her to be on the inaugural President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy, a tenure she continued with President Obama.

That never would’ve happened if she didn’t trust her gut, channel adversity into something great, and take that leap of faith.

6. Be competitive.

If you’re not competitive by nature, you don’t succeed as a businessperson.
– Barbara Corcoran

If you’ve seen Shark Tank, you’ll know how fierce it can be not only with the contestants but among the sharks too. When Barbara Corcoran was a waitress at a diner in New Jersey, she had a dream to be the queen of New York real estate.

Corcoran partnered with her boyfriend at the time and launched a real estate company. One day, the aspiring property mogul was confronted with the news that her boyfriend and business partner was leaving Corcoran … for her secretary. Single in romance and business gave her the rocket-fuel to build what would become one of the most respected real estate companies in the world, which she would go on to sell for US $66 million.

The lesson? You have to be competitive to succeed—a powerful trait that Barbara Corcoran employs in her businesses today.

7. Play the long game.

Don’t negotiate to the last penny. Always be fair. Don’t do business with dicks.”
– David Meltzer

I first met David Meltzer a few years ago at the Fairmont Hotel in Santa Monica. From the moment we met, I felt this energy, professionalism, and willingness to help, at such an extent that I’ll never forget. In 2018 I had the opportunity to speak to the Sports1Marketing team and I could tell that Dave’s commitment to excellence in all areas has clearly rubbed off on his team who are all wonderful people.

His three-pronged quote is one I think about often. In the digital age, too many people are increasingly focused on short-term gain by ramming their product down people’s throats. Instead, Dave focuses on playing the long game, which has enabled him to build an enormous network of people who exponentially increase his effectiveness in all areas of life. Anyone who knows Dave personally will tell you that he’s an absolute terminator at getting things done, whether it’s raising money for a charity, gathering a crowd for an event, or helping a client.

When he says, “Don’t negotiate to the last penny,” he emphasizes the importance of maintaining integrity in business. Any business dealing can be used as an opportunity to develop a strong relationship with others so they can see your true character, which also ties in to the second part of his quote, "Always be fair." That's what enables opportunity to come to you, rather than you chasing it.

The final part of his quote “Don’t do business with dicks” is probably self-explanatory! Unfortunately it can be hard to spot unscrupulous individuals early on, but experience has taught me that you need to trust your intuition when it comes to people. I’ve done business with people who ended up being dicks and it’s a horrible feeling—a mistake I don’t intend on making again anytime soon!

Remember to never accept toxicity in your life, no matter what form it’s in. Life’s too short to be around energy vampires, negative people, and those who don’t align with your values.

8. Create, and consistently offer, value.

Build an audience that you serve with free, valuable, and consistent content.”
– John Lee Dumas

Many authors and business coaches talk about the importance of finding your tribe. However, if you want to truly make an impact, you need to build your tribe. EOFire founder John Lee Dumas should know—he went from being a rudderless military vet bouncing from job-to-job, to hosting a podcast that in seven years has generated more than US $16 million.

What’s the best way to build an audience? Create and publish free, valuable, and consistent content. As the community grows, you can home in on common pain-points the community faces, then offer paid solutions to those problems. Once you’ve established that trust through continually offering value, the community will grow like wildfire, and at that point you’re only limited by how big you dare to dream.

For professionals and entrepreneurs looking to build their business, your entire model should come from creating a clearly defined audience, and then focus on how you can add as much value to them as possible. Value ALL comes from being crystal clear on the problem your audience faces. The better you understand the problem, the better your solution will be.

If you’re not growing your business or achieving conversions, it’s likely because you don’t know enough about—or haven’t clearly articulated—the problem your audience is having. That’s such an important step and something I work on constantly with my clients to help them grow their business.

Too many people are focused on what they can take from others, but as you’ve heard me say on this show before: the real magic in life comes when you give more than you get.

9. The answer is always "Yes, you can."

No matter what the dream inside you is, the answer is always ‘Yes, you can’.”
– Jim Stovall

Anyone who’s read Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy will remember Jim Stovall’s story, but for those who haven’t read it, I’ll give you a quick recap. Jim was once faced with a problem that many of could barely even imagine. At the age of 17, doctors told the aspiring NFL prospect was told that he would soon go totally and permanently blind … and there was nothing they could do about it.

Rather than wallow in his own pity, Jim realized that there was no way for blind and visually impaired people to watch television, a problem that he realized was faced by tens of millions of people. Despite his own limitations, Jim went on to create the Narrative Television Network, which now operates in more than a dozen countries around the world. He is also now the author of 30 bestselling books.

Even more amazingly? He hadn’t written a single book before he was blind.

Whatever excuse you have for being a failure is invalid. That might seem harsh but it’s true. When you find yourself questioning whether you can start a business, write a book, or achieve any other dream, the answer is always YES YOU CAN!

10. Create your own luck.

I always worked hard, so whenever the door of opportunity knocked I was ready for it.
– Warren Moon

Most of us are able to do the work when people are watching, but it’s what we do behind the scenes – when the lights of accountability are off – that proves how committed we are to our success. One of the simplest ways to stand out is through an unrelenting work ethic.

What that quote — a snapshot of what NFL Hall of Fame player Warren Moon told me during our conversation — doesn't reveal is how many doors were actually slammed in Warren’s face along the way. His ferocious work ethic for a long period of time is what eventually created the opportunity that transformed his entire life and made him one of the most influential figures in NFL history. Another ‘overnight success’ 15 years in the making.

Stand out through your actions — the work you’ve taken to this point — so, when the lifechanging opportunities emerge, you’re ready and able to make the most of them. They then become branches to even more exciting opportunities.

In fact, the opportunity to write a modern companion to Think and Grow Rich never would’ve been granted to me if I hadn’t spent 10 years before that proving through my actions that I would do a good job if given the opportunity.

Your future is entirely dependent on you — no one else. Follow the advice of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon and create your own luck.

11. The most important opinion is how you feel about yourself.

I just don’t listen when people tell me I can’t do something.”
– Janine Shepherd

Hopefully, by now, you’ve heard Janine’s story. It’s literally the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard, and that’s why it’s featured in the very first chapter of Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy. Believe me when I tell you that Janine knows what she’s talking about when she reiterates the importance of self-belief. She used it to defy medical opinion where now she can walk, ski and bike ride despite still being classified as a paraplegic. She’s also the most kindhearted person you could ever meet.

On the success journey, there’s going to be a lot of critics, doubters, and haters who attack your business, your dreams, your progress, and your voice.

But just remember, regardless of how loud the noise gets, the most important opinion is how you feel about yourself.


I hope you’ve enjoyed these lessons! They’ve been truly transformational for me and continue to inspire me every single day. Just remember, what you do with them is the most important thing 😉

Onwards and upwards always,
James Whittaker

“You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do.”

Henry Ford

Most people have the best of intentions—why is it, then, that extraordinary success is seemingly reserved for so few people?

We all know that action is an essential ingredient to success, but there are many different types of action. Your choice determines the difference between those who keep running around in circles versus those who are able to continuously level-up.

You might have heard that the best way to predict the future is to create it. It’s a brilliant quote.

Who has put this idea into practice?

You get the idea. There are endless examples, and I’m sure you can think of a few yourself!

Let’s think again about the episode quote: “You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do.” What I love about that quote is how directly it talks about the importance of purposeful action. Your reputation is built on what you’ve already done. It is not built on how well you talk about what you’re going to do.

This quote is even more powerful when considered in context. In Henry Ford’s time, and we’re talking around the year 1900, horses were the primary mode of transportation. They filled the streets of every city and were used for mail, transport, and entertainment.

But they weren’t perfect.

Horse dung was left all over the streets (a problem so offensive that it became an expression in itself), and when horses died they would leave behind a heavy, smelly carcass that would need at least one more horse to drag it away. They were vulnerable in bad weather. Not to mention the dozens of other complexities with having an actual animal as the engine—the primary mode of transportation.

There had to be a better way. Alas, horses had been commonplace for so long that most people simply assumed they would be around forever—just like they did with Kodak, Blockbuster, and Nokia. After all, horses changed the face of warfare, revolutionized numerous other industries, and today we still use the expression ‘send in the cavalry.'

Seeing the future, Ford had a dream to build a horseless carriage. His aim was to provide a product that boasted all the benefits of this dependable mode of transportation, while eliminating the problems that had caused frustration for owners, passengers, and government officials.

When hearing about Ford’s idea, everyone scoffed and said that would be impossible. If it wasn’t the pipe-dream that turned them off, it was probably the fact that Ford didn’t have a degree from a fancy university. In fact, not only did not Ford not attend university, he never even went to high school.

This is an interesting juncture in our story because I am assuming that everyone reading this has either owned a Ford or gone for a ride in a Ford vehicle?

So we know how the story ends.

Above: A triumphant Henry Ford observing his defeated foe.

But how was a poor, uneducated man able to completely revolutionize transportation, and in the process become one of the wealthiest and most famous people on the planet?

Ford was crystal clear about his dream, but then he realized there was one problem—he could only do so much alone. Many people abandon their dream at that point, when the odds seem insurmountable and they start listening to the ill-informed opinions of others, and many others would have forfeited before even getting to that point.

But Ford realized that he didn’t need to have all the answers himself. He used purposeful action. He surrounded himself with people who aligned with his values and got them excited in his mission. As his extraordinary journey continued, and more and more people joined the ride—all working in harmony toward a single aim—Ford realized that his pie-in-the-sky dream would soon become a reality.

In the 109 years since it was founded, the Ford Motor Company has built more than 350 million automobiles, averaging a new car every 10 seconds. So enamored was Napoleon Hill with Ford’s methods that he references it profusely in Think and Grow Rich, the bestselling book of all time.

Henry Ford passed away in 1947 with a net worth of more than US $200 billion (adjusted for inflation). Not bad for a poor, illiterate kid who was even labelled “an ignorant anarchist” by The Chicago Tribune.

Let’s quickly think about a few important questions:

To change the world, you need to:

To finish, I just want to leave you with something Barbara Corcoran told me during our interview:

“When I heard what [Henry] Ford did, it made me realize I didn’t need to know everything. I could build an empire on someone else’s knowledge.”

If you’re not tapping into the efforts of others, you’re going to get run-over by those who are.

Onwards and upwards always,
James Whittaker

In case you missed it:
How to Become a Financial Winner

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