“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

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision."

Helen Keller


Before we begin, I want to make something very clear: how you respond to adversity when it inevitably strikes is what separates ordinary people from extraordinary achievers.

That’s right, none of us are immune to adversity – and, in fact, the most successful people use the adversity they’ve faced as fuel to move forward stronger and more resilient than ever before.

Today we sit down with Dr Sonja Stribling who has faced enormous adversity her entire life. She was born into a family as the youngest of 12 children, to parents who only had a second-grade education. At age 15, she gave birth to her first child. And just two years later, at 17 years old, she was raped and left for dead.

Sonja went on to college, but just prior to graduating, she joined the US Army for what would become a 21-year career, including combat tours in war-torn countries like Iraq and reaching the rank of Major.

While in the military, her 18-year marriage fell apart, and she returned to civilian life without any idea of what to do next. Considering taking her own life, Sonja had an epiphany that there was more to her story than what had been written.

Since that fateful moment, she has become an internationally renowned speaker, author, television presenter, and business coach, as well as recipient of the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award.

In this wide-ranging interview, we talk about:

She holds nothing back and I know you’re going to love it. Let’s win the day with Dr Sonja Stribling.

For the video interview, click here.


Resources / links mentioned:

📷 Sonja Stribling on Instagram

⚡ Sonja Stribling website

📙 The Divorce That Saved My Life: 12 Principles To Overcoming A Broken Relationship by Dr Sonja Stribling

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

Author Unknown

Won’t that quote (above) make you think twice about living every minute to the fullest!?

Well, today's guest is a truly extraordinary human and DEFINITELY living to the fullest! And if you’ve got kids of your own or an adventurous spirit you’re going to absolutely love this one.

Bruce Kirkby grew up in Toronto as an engineering physicist by trade, but going through the motions each day left him feeling like there was so much more to life than what he was experiencing.

Despite almost failing English in high school, Bruce became a wilderness writer and adventure photographer, and today he’s visited more than 80 countries and is renowned for connecting wild places with contemporary issues. Some of his most notable accomplishments, of which there are many, include the first modern crossing of Arabia’s Empty Quarter by camel, a descent of Ethiopia’s Blue Nile Gorge by raft, a sea kayak traverse of Borneo’s northern coast, and a coast-to-coast Icelandic trek.

Bruce is the author of three bestselling books, winner of multiple National Magazine Awards, and has been featured in The New York Times. His television show Big Crazy Family Adventure was released by the Travel Channel in 2015 and followed Bruce’s journey with his wife and two young children from their home in Canada to India with one condition – they weren’t able to use an airplane the entire time. That adventure in particular has some truly incredible moments.

In this interview, we’re going to dive into Bruce’s craziest experiences, of which there are many. We’ll also look at:

He’s got an incredible energy, some amazing stories, and I know you’re going to love this episode. Let’s get into it!

James Whittaker:
What was an average day for Bruce Kirkby growing up?

Bruce Kirkby:
I grew up in the suburban wastelands of Toronto at the end of the subway line, so I felt like I was kind of removed from the action. I was a bit of a geek – good at maths and science. I was pretty active too, and loved to ride my bike and explore. Now, I've spent my whole life doing wilderness travel but, even at that age, I remember the joy in poking around construction sites once the workers had left. At the time though, I did not see myself as anything other than a math and science nerd.

In high school, I failed English. It's kind of weird that I ended up writing books and being a columnist for newspapers! But I thought I'd always go into math and science. By the time I got to university, I wanted to be like Michael J. Fox in Family Ties. I'm like, "I'll get an MBA and I'll just study engineering." I thought it would be this killer duo.

When I graduated, I was off to chase the money, until I started guiding rafts and everything else.

You’re an engineering physicist by trade. When did you get the sense that there was much more to your life than that traditional route you were on?

Eng phys is beautiful because you learn why the sky is blue, how electricity works, and all kind of practical things, but it only prepares you for academia and research. I knew already that wasn't for me, so I got a job in a little consulting firm and I loved the excitement. It was six people at the start, and I left four months later was 45 people, so it was growing quickly. It was in IT consulting, and I was in Ottawa, the capital of Canada.

As that was happening, my housemate had rented a cheap house in Ottawa and was starting a bungee jumping company as part of a rafting outfit on the river. I went to a meeting and the head of the rafting company said, "Why don't you guide rafts for us?" And I did. There was just such clarity for me that those two days of the weekend were so much more… not just joyful, but meaningful. They mattered to me more than the other five days of the week, even with the 99.8% cut in pay. I decided that's where I was going to go.

Too many people, especially in fields like investment banking, are living to work?

We put a lot of demands in western culture, and that's not wrong. I'm still a full Type-A guy, and it happened to be that my interests and my joys evolved. People often ask what my strength or superpower was that led me through this. For whatever reason, I had real comfort with uncertainty.

When I quit engineering, I didn't need to know what was going to happen one year later, or five years, or 30 years. But it led me to find the things that mattered to me, which is remote landscapes and threatened indigenous and traditional cultures around the world. So I still brought that full intensity, that full Type-A work ethic, into what I do. I just realized pretty quickly that working in a downtown setting wasn't for me.

Some of the adventures that you've been on are absolutely incredible in your travel to 80+ countries. Let's start with the Arabian desert where you did the first modern crossing of Arabia's empty quarter by camel. For those who don't know much about that region, the climate, the geography and anything else, how brutal was that experience?

Well, so many expeditions are difficult but fun. The empty quarter was the quarter of the world. The Bedouin thought it was uninhabited. They thought there was this huge sand desert in the middle of the peninsula that was empty. So only really three people had crossed it before us and in modern times no one. Wilfred Thesiger was the last fellow in 1938 who had been through that region. So we went back in 1999 and bought 12 camels.

It got hot. I remember our thermometer broke. It was 52.1 Celsius (126 Fahrenheit), so for a Canadian, we call it a toque. I like to have a hat on and my warm boots. Because you can escape the cold, but you cannot escape the heat.

There was no way out. It was hot, but none of it seemed like deprivation. I remember we really tried to go as traditionally as possible. I'd heard about other people who had made attempts and brought plastic water jugs that had just cracked in the heat. Instead, we had sheepskins. You basically take a sheep, cut the head off, empty it out and turn it inside out, and hang it by the legs from the saddle, one on each side. Man, the water that came out was green, and there's like these floating hairs and pieces of other stuff.

You talked about it being brutal. That does sound brutal, but for me, the joys were learning about the Arabic culture and learning about the Bedouin. That feeling of working over a period of time towards our destination… when we saw the blue waters of the Arabian Gulf and rode into Abu Dhabi, it just felt incredible.

It must have been an amazing feeling. What about the Blue Nile Gorge in Ethiopia and Sudan? They’re two countries that are known recently for unfortunately some violent conflicts. Tell us about that experience?

That was a good year in 1999 because right after crossing the Arabian Peninsula, I went down the Blue Nile with the National Geographic team. The Blue Nile is the bigger tributary of the Nile. The White Nile is longer and it's famous for its origins in the mountains. The Blue Nile supplies about 70% of the water to hit the Aswan Dam, and Ethiopia had been through a period since the early '70s called the reign of terror where no expeditions had been in there.

Blashford-Snell in '68 had led an attempt to go down part of the Blue Nile. One of his men was eaten by a crocodile. A lot of stuff went down, so this was the opening of Ethiopia. It was still kind of controlled by the deputized outlaws and brigands in those highlands.

The Blue Nile Gorge is huge. It is three times the size of the Grand Canyon. We traveled about 500 miles on those big, big volume rapids. The white water wasn't crazy difficult, but at the bottom of every rapid there were 20 to 30 crocodiles. I mean, to the crocs, the rafts look like bloated cow carcasses. And you're probably familiar with how aggressive crocodiles are in the Nile.

As an Australian, I'm very familiar with crocodiles!

Exactly! The Salties in Australia. These were Nile crocodiles. On the first day, one of our interpreters and guides picked up all these little rocks and I was like, "What are those?" He's like, "Oh, they're croc rocks." And he put them beside himself on his seat. When a crocodile showed up, he threw it at the croc, and the croc disappeared.

The white water wasn't crazy difficult, but at the bottom of every rapid there were 20 to 30 crocodiles.

I thought, "Wow, that's amazing." Then I realized it was relatively easy to scare these crocs away, until we got to the big ones.

They always say that you can estimate the size of a crocodile: the distance between its eyes in inches is roughly equivalent to the length in feet. So some of these early ones had a whole lot of inches between the eyes, because that's what you see coming at you. We had a monster come at us – we hit it with oars and paddles, even the croc rocks, and they did nothing. The head was the size of an engine block of an F-150!

Where were you even sleeping at that point!? In Australia at least, crocodiles are known for traveling a long distance on land too.

I was sleeping beside the slowest runner on our team! We were on the banks, but definitely we were aware at all times of what was going on.

Did you have any challenges from a government and military perspective at the time?

We had all types of stuff going. In fact, a friend of mine ran the river the next year and he met a herdsman who said, "Oh, I shot at a couple rafts that came down the river last year, but I missed them." Thank goodness!

We got taken hostage at one point. And when I say hostage, I mean basically three kids. The oldest was 18. The other two looked 13, with AK-47s. Fingers on the triggers. They wanted to walk us in the jungle and take us to their leader. And that's a pretty intense moment when we're going through three layers of interpretation from English to Amharic.

Eventually, with some bribery, we walked out of that. People often talk about the scariest and most uncertain times on these expeditions. People with guns scare me more than anything because most other things have a certain level of predictability to them. You know, you can understand a bear's behavior, a crocodile's behavior and whatnot.

People with guns scare me more than anything because most other things have a certain level of predictability to them.

We met some tribes in the lowlands who had zero contact before us. A lot of my writing and a lot of my thinking is about preserving the incredible knowledge that is held within these vessels of indigenous cultures. So I really had some mixed feelings about that. But the interactions… they would ask how we got on our tight white shirts and then we'd say, "That's our skin!" And then they'd be like, "You guys are disgusting. You're see-through. It's horrible!"

What did you use to bribe them with? Did you have any cash on you or did they want something that was more valuable than perhaps a piece of paper with a number on it?

Do you ever go anywhere without some Ben Franklin's in your wallet!? The American hundred-dollar bill is a universal lubricant. We had several of those and I think it's recognized everywhere. I mean, we had lots of other things that we would trade and give away, but I don't think there's anywhere in the world that $100 doesn't speak pretty loudly.

I know you went to Mount Everest as part of Big Crazy Family Adventure, but what were your experiences with Everest like before that?

I went there in 1997, which was one year after the big Into Thin Air tragedy. I went there with a Canadian team and my role was to set up the communications to run radios on the mountain and send satellite stuff back to sponsors.

It was pretty shocking for me. I mean, the Himalaya are beautiful. I love that land and landscape, and the Sherpa people in particular. But it was the start of, and this is going to sound harsh for me to say, but the ego-driven side of Everest – people really going there in a very goal-oriented way without perhaps the respect and understanding of the mountains or perhaps the mentorship they probably should have gone through.

Just paying big money so they could tick the Everest box?

Absolutely. I saw husbands and wives break up with each other over trying to get to this summit. I understand the allure of the summit and I'm a driven guy, but I have to admit overall I was a little disillusioned.

I had a chance to go back to Everest a few years later or go to the Arabian Desert and ride the camels on the empty quarter. I knew immediately which I was going to do largely because I was interested in being away from those crowds and that insanity. I mean, there were showers in base camp and huge satellite receivers and it's only gotten worse. That was '97. Some people don’t mind that, but it wasn't for me.

Crowds certainly dampen your enthusiasm for wilderness adventures. Outside of the Galapagos Islands, Yosemite is the most spectacular place I’ve ever been to. But there were just so many people there that I just can't imagine how amazing it would have been hundreds of years, prior to the crowds.

Totally. And the funny thing in Yosemite and the Galapagos is you can get away from it a little bit. I mean Yosemite, if you're halfway up The Chief or something, you're on your own generally. The other routes can get a little bit busy.

Particularly hard for me was the focus so intently on the summit at Everest that people lost sight of the beauty, they lost sight of the culture, and the land and the history.

A large part of my work is that I think we need to stay connected with wild places and want to get people out to the Canadian parks. We talked about Banff and Glacier and all these places. It can be hard. Particularly hard for me was the focus so intently on the summit at Everest that people lost sight of the beauty, they lost sight of the culture, and the land and the history. They're going to walk all over each other just to get to the top of this pile of rocks.

Yeah, that “I’ll be happy if” mentality. Like my Everest journey will only be a success if I make it to the peak.

Totally. I think people thought it was going to change their life. Consistency and habits change your life. Standing on top of a pile of rocks doesn't change anything.

In 2015 your TV show, Big Crazy Family Adventure, was released by the Travel Channel and our good friend, Wes Dening. It followed the Kirkby family as you traveled from Canada to India, more than 13,000 miles by every mode of transportation without taking any airplanes.

You were on cargo ships, donkeys, canoes, rickshaws – you name it. You traveled with your wife and two children, aged seven and three at the time. How did you prepare for that journey?

That was a big trip. We were going because we wanted to basically live in a Tibetan, Himalayan Buddhist monastery and get away from this crazy amount of distraction and business we were feeling in our lives. I'd been talking to our good buddy Wes over the years about TV shows and ideas for adventure. I called him and said, "Wes, I'm just going to be out of the loop for the next six months because I'm taking my kids to live in Ladakh."

And there's this pause on the phone. He's like, "Hold on, mate. That might be it! The ultimate family relocation."

I went back to Wes and said, "I was thinking about Ewan McGregor and Long Way Round, like just one embedded photographer. Maybe we film it ourselves just really up close and personal and gritty."

There's another pause on the line and Wes said, "Mate, the Travel Channel has a different vision. We got 16 on the crew and budget for eight helicopters."

I'm like, "I better go talk to my wife, man!"

Things escalated quickly! I can imagine your wife would have been thrilled that your family adventure had quickly turned into a global television show with eight helicopters!

It did escalate quickly! There was a lot of great stuff about the trip and people cannot believe that it wasn't intrusive having the TV crew around. Obviously, there are stressful times. You're wearing a mic, your camera is around you for 100 days almost. That said, it was like Teflon to my boys – it just bounced off their backs.

There's a lot of upsides. The one beautiful thing is we have a nine-hour home documentary about our trip that was produced by a crack team in Los Angeles. The boys watch it all the time! I don't go back and watch myself too much. Once the crew left us, we had this incredible experience in the monastery.

There's another pause on the line and Wes said, "Mate, the Travel Channel has a different vision. We got 16 on the crew and budget for eight helicopters."

But it was really neat and we did a lot of things we wouldn't have done with them. But in terms of preparing, we'd already taken the kids out a lot. We have a thing similar to Yosemite in Canada, with some granite spires. At three months of age, we had Bodi in there. We climbed up to high camps with them. At eight months, we'd had him down in Patagonia. We've done a 70-day horse trip in the Republic of Georgia with both boys. Taj was eight months old at the time.

With the boys, one of the particular challenges was that Wes is like, "We're not going to help. You got to do it all on your own." So we had to pack into two duffel bags, everything we would need for a 100-day journey across the North Pacific over the Himalaya, down in the jungles and heat of Nepal. There were a lot of environments that we were going through. Our plan was I would carry those two duffels – one on my back and one in my arms. Christine would have the two boys in her hands, and we could navigate anything: train stations, guest houses, busy roads in Beijing.

Essentially that's how it worked, so we went light. It's easy to think, "Oh, the kids need a lot of shirts. We'll wash them in the sink at night and dry them and they'll be ready for the morning." We had maybe two or three shirts each, and some first aid and some good hiking boots and that was about it.

How did you prep for the first aid side? When you've got two young kids in the mix and different languages and medical facilities that mightn’t be as good as what you're used to. How did you prepare from that perspective?

Our assumption was we couldn't get medical help. Once we were at the monastery, we were at least two days drive away – in the best conditions – from a hospital. Or, if the road was closed, that would be 14 days of walking. It was a long way.

Luckily, I have friends who are doctors. And as a guide, you have lots of wilderness and first aid training. We took pretty robust medical kits. I took sutures. I've had these sutures forever and I'd watched a Sherpa get 79 stitches in his face at Everest when he fell off a bridge, and that had been two decades earlier.

One of the novice monks at the monastery had a rock hit him that opened up a gash, and I put four stitches into his forehead. We actually use those sutures we took and that was a pretty intense moment. I write about it in the book a bit and the bond between me and him, the trust that's required to sew someone's forehead together, it was unreal really. It was a pretty special moment. And the boys still talk about Jigmet probably more than any other of the novices. But we had everything. I had the most buffed-out first aid kits, because you're taking kids, right? You need to be ready for anything. We had three or four EpiPens just in case.

What did that journey teach you about yourself and your family?

I hinted earlier that the genesis of this was the idea of distraction. I was a bit slow adopting to these smartphones. I probably got my first iPhone a few months prior to that trip. I think just like a tractor beam, I got sucked in really quickly. Just staring at streams of Kafka coming across Twitter and Facebook. I had these two beautiful boys and I knew that I want to be paying attention to them, and I started realizing I'm wasting my time on other stuff. I tried to change it.

We're a lot more fluent now with our understanding of distraction and how these devices work. But both Christina and I wanted to go to the Himalaya with our kids, to live in a Buddhist monastery, and this just seemed like the time.

So when you ask what it taught us, it reinforced to me that time away from distractions with your family forms this incredible bond. No matter what happens when you're home, the gutters need the leaves pulled out of them and that something is broken down, the car needs more gas. There's always something to do. But when it's just the four of you in the same tent every night for six months, something really special happens and I've been exposed to that before. This was the longest big trip we've done at that time.

Time away from distractions with your family forms this incredible bond.

And there were other things that I came home with in terms of Buddhism and things I learned from those ancient cultures. What we've kept doing is going on big trips every summer and it's almost like it just resets that plaster that holds us together.

We just spent 21 days in canoes on the Columbia River and that first night we all crawled into the tent and we have our little positions, we lie, and the kids on the outside, me here. Everything has got to be right because my kids are sticklers for a routine. It just felt we're back! Here we are and by the time we got off the river, we were a well-oiled and well-connected family.

I love that. When our daughter was born 17 months ago, our big focus for her was making she was used to travel, noise, and people. Me being from Australia and my wife being from California, we knew there was going to be a lot of travel on our horizon. When she was two weeks old, we’d taken a six-hour drive to Shaver Lake. At six weeks old, she flew to Hawaii with us. At seven months old, we flew to Australia.

From everything I’ve learned in my 37 years on this planet is that getting kids as adaptable as possible is so powerful. Obviously there are elements of routine that are important, and there are unforeseen challenges that can emerge for any parent. But raising her to be constantly out of her comfort zone has been, and continues to be, a big focus for us as parents.

Totally. There's a lot I can say about kids and travel, but kids need love and their parents. If you're providing those, you're everything. I figured that out really quickly. The other amazing thing with children is what a window into the culture they are as you travel. You go to Buenos Aires or Southeast Asia and you're a 20-year-old backpacker and the locals look at you like, "Don't you have to work? What are you doing!?"

You show up with a baby and it's like everyone has that struggle, right? It's a universal part of all our journey in life. They're like, "You can't sit in the sun. You can't wait for the bus here. You need to come to my house!”

When we took Bodi away for the first time, and I'd been traveling non-stop for 20 years, it changed everything. People will also say, "But they aren't going to remember it. He's only 18 months old." But everything we know about early childhood education is those first years, the bonds are the most critical.

Kids need love and their parents. If you're providing those, you're everything.

So I've often posed a question to people. What's more impactful – taking your daughter or son as a 20-year-old or as an 18-month-old to board a ferry and go across Lake Tanganyika in Africa? Who's to say that the fact that they can't remember it doesn't have a bigger cascading effect on their life? We’ve taken our children out right from the start.

On any of your adventures, along or with your children, where you felt that perhaps you had bitten off more than you can chew?

I remember waking up to a gun fight once and it was intense. I was in Ethiopia and some mule thieves had come. I remember the first thought. I was like, "If someone was going to shoot into the tent, should I crawl up like a ball? How am I going to miss these incoming bullets?"

I think the most out there I felt with the kids was on the container ship. We were crossing the North Pacific Ocean on this massive cargo ship. They were just these little boys and this is an industrial setting with wrenches the size of horse legs hanging off the walls! We hit a storm and the ship was heaving side to side, and the captain came to our bedroom and said, "Just sleep perpendicular across the bunks so you don't roll out in the middle of the night."

I'm like, "Oh, god. What does he know that we don't!?" So it was beyond our control at that point, right? We were really at the safety of someone else's hands. So that was a bit intense. But I felt pretty good with the boys.

At one time Taj, my younger son, had what appeared to be an altitude reaction and we were just starting to acclimatize him. We talked to lots of pediatric physicians and we took him down and kept measuring his oxygen saturation in his blood and brought him up a few days later and he was totally fine. In fact, we got our boys almost to 17,600 feet. Pushing 6,000 meters on the passes as we went in and out of Zanskar and they were just absolutely unfazed.

As a dad, what's the biggest fear you have for your children as they get older?

Oh, boy. Well, I mean these days there's a lot of fear. The world seems pretty dynamic I'd say, not knowing what the future will look like. I want my boys to have the courage and freedom to pursue what matters to them in life. I think that's a journey that we all go through. And I don't want to paint with too broad of brush, but within western society, sometimes, we may get deep into life and look back and think, "Why have we made the choices that we've made? Why have we done the things we've done?"

I want my boys to have the courage and freedom to pursue what matters to them in life.

So I don't want them to get to that place. One thing I try to instill in them is just the precious nature of every day. We don't know what's coming. Of course, as a parent, you look at this beautiful child to love something you have to risk loss. Something could happen to your children and what a horrible thing for parents to consider. But that doesn't mean we don't have kids. So I want them to be aware that every day is so precious.

My fear would be nothing catastrophic. It would just be them not taking full advantage of this opportunity of being alive.

That’s such a good point. One of my favorite quotes actually is, "When I die, my biggest fear is that the person I am meets the person I could have become."

Well, of the countries you've traveled to with a young family, and with all your experiences, what environment or what country in particular do you think would be good to raise a young family in 2020 and beyond?

I love that you asked that. There's a bunch of things that come to mind, but so many other countries really worship the child like the child, and the elders are god and king. So when we took Bodi to Buenos Aires, the very first day we were walking down the road and construction workers were coming up to us and saying, "Goo goo ga ga," like pinching his cheeks saying, "Cachete," which means the cheeks. Businessmen would stop on the road. We were going out for coffee. It was 8:00 AM in the morning and they want to hold our child.

Can you imagine walking around downtown LA, Vancouver, or Toronto, and businessmen or construction workers or high school students asking to hold your baby!? No. So again, does the child know that? I think they do because we brought Bodi back and you'd be in a Starbucks and he'd start trying to get people's attention like making these little gurgling sounds and people be like, "Oh my god."

When you get on a plane holding a baby, everyone looks like the devil has just got on the plane, right? They do not sit in my row or within one row on either side. Man, I got on to a plane down in El Calafate with Bodi and there was this lady. She was an old kind of rancher from the pampas. It might have been her first flight. She was sitting in the exit row, which was row 12. We were in row 56 on that plane. She saw me and my wife walked by. She stopped us. She could speak no English, so she had the kid beside her translate for us and say, "You can't go to the back of the plane. You need this seat. Give me your ticket. I'm going to the back." This was an 80-year-old lady.

So all of that to say the amazing thing in other countries and the thing that I'm trying to bring home is that respect and love of the child, the respect and the love of the elder, that sense of community because it truly takes a village to raise a child.

One of our challenges within a busy lifestyle is not to view our children as a burden, but as a gift.

South America would be an incredible place to bring up your child, but I think anywhere where the child is respected and not seen as a burden. I think that's one of our challenges within a busy lifestyle is not to view our children as a burden, but as a gift. The more busy we are, the harder it is to see that gift they are. But they just flourish when they're in that environment.

It says a lot about the character of the human spirit, doesn't it? Across the world, we come from different cultures and backgrounds, we have different political leaders, we follow different sporting teams and have different interests, but at the end of the day we're all human.

Speaking about busy and the world that we're in, a question I wanted to ask you is about the traditional path. For most people, they get to high school and their whole focus is on getting good grades so they can get into the college program they want. And then once they're in college, their whole idea is to get good grades so they can get the job that they want.

Then they finally get that job, they move to a big city. They pay thousands and thousands of dollars a month for a tiny apartment. Then they commute for an hour a day on a bus, train or car – and I feel like sitting in traffic brings out the worst of everyone – myself included! And people are increasingly glued to their phones. Have we lost the sense of what it means to be human and what can we do to start getting away from that daily grind?

You make an excellent point. I remember being in a physics class in grade 11 and the teacher heard one of the students in the class say, "Oh, I can't go to the dance this Friday. I got too much homework." And the teacher stopped the whole class. He's like, "Everyone sit down. Forget the experiment. Sit down."

He's like, "I don't want you to make this mistake. You're going to forsake your fun right now, forsake living the way you're talking about, so you can get into a good university. Then you're going to say, "I'll have fun later once I graduate and get a good job." Then you're going to say, "I'm going to have fun later or live once I get a promotion and then once I retire.' Then you're going to retire and then you're going to die."

This man said this to me at like, I was probably 16 or 17, and that had a very big impact on how I led my life. And I think we have lost that sense. I suspect we're going to see some form of adaptation going on because it's almost reached a cracking point in the insanity of the news cycle right now. So quite a bit of what I wrote about in this new book that's coming out was this idea that development so often goes one way.

We go to an indigenous culture, we bring healthcare and improved education and all types of technology that eases the rigors of life. But it's always a one-way interaction. Nothing comes back. So the Zanskaris, this place I was living, they had all types of skills and abilities, and I'll give an example of one in a second, to help cement the community, to help bring people's attention to the moment. I was like, "We need to bring some of that back." So one thing that Zanskaris had is this idea of the Paspun which is a group of three or four families and every family, in every village, in all of this valley that's deep in the Himalayas is a unique social construct, is a member of a Paspun.

So they share some religious artifacts. They help each other during times of planting and harvest, and they cradle each other through this journey of life like at the times of birth, marriage, sickness, death. They are there for each other. It's a word we have no equivalent for in English, but it was a very powerful concept to how that society operated and as modernity comes into that valley. This will be eroded. I think we'll probably get into some routines and ideas of trying to find peace amongst the chaos.

But community is clearly a part of that. I mean, there's self-care and consistency in our work and time and all that. But I think we're going to find ourselves going a little bit back in time in some of the ways we interact. I guess that the fundamental thing it saved, James, is attention. This whole trip was about attention and our attention is this gift. It's like this hose. It's always on, pouring out. We can pour it into everything. We pour it into our kids, our family. We can pour it into our phone. We can pour it into traffic and frustrations, watching CNN or the news.

So I think the fundamental part is learning to manage our attention and obviously you can do that through mindfulness and different things. You simply do it through awareness of what matters to you and paying attention to it.

It’s a good segue into the next question I was thinking about. You've spent a lot of time in Buddhist monasteries where they talk about one of the tenets of Buddhism being that all life is suffering, and suffering comes when we desire something we do not have. But then in books like Think and Grow Rich, they talk about the starting point of all achievement is desire.

What do you do as part of your daily routine to balance happiness in the present while at the same time focusing on future accomplishments on your own growth?

Boy, that's a tough one. I'm just going to step back a bit come and answer that. Part of what I've done for the last 20 years has been speaking to corporate audiences. At first, it was just telling stories. I'd go and talk about going across the empty quarter. But slowly, you have agents representing you and they're like, "We need business lessons." So I've tried to really think hard about things that adventures taught me that I bring home and apply to my own life and I've talked about change.

A big thing I talk about is the importance of dealing with uncertainty. It’s a huge gift if we can deal with that. Recently, grit and resilience have been quite large. So what you're talking about is really one of these three core things that I talk about when I'm finding resilience or grit within us in the balance of the here and the future. You're going down this mountain ridge, you've got to look at your feet, you've got to look at the summit. How do you balance those two things?

Really the way I boil that down is this idea of purpose, process, and practice. To me, ‘purpose’ is more than winning. Winning is an outcome and purpose is a cause, not an effect. So to me, purpose is like how we can make the world better. What do friends love in us?

I'm sure Wes doesn't love you because you win, Wes loves you because of the things that make James a cool person. Therein lies the start of us finding purpose – how we're going to leave the world a better place. So that's the long-term view, the desire, because I really think people talk about big goals that they're setting for themselves, but really we need to find the thing.

I was guiding the arctic, which is severely threatened landscape. I was in love with that landscape. And on my first trip a senior Alaskan guide with a big mustache like a squirrel's tail said to me, "You know what we're doing here?"

I was like, "No.” I was tired. It's late at night.

He said, "We're creating ambassadors for the wild."

That gave me a purpose to what I was doing,  so that's the long-term view.

Then at your feet is the ‘process’. Those are the daily habits. And the other little piece I have is ‘practice’, which is that we need to get better every day, right? We need to not just play to our strengths, but we need to address our weaknesses.

For those who have spent too much time in the cities and want to take a wilderness adventure so they can start to experience some of the benefits that you've spoken about here, what's the best way that they can go about doing that?

There's all types of opportunities, from day trips to longer ones. One of the things I found early on was the longer the trip – I was going to say the more intense the experience – but the better the chance to actually disengage, and the way I learned that was guiding five-day trips. I was doing a sea kayak run out of Vancouver where I take people for two days on the weekend then the five-day trip over and over and over. And on that five-day trip, on Monday, everything would be new. They'd be getting used to the sea kayak on Tuesday and still be a little uncomfortable. By Wednesday, they were free, and then Thursday they were thinking about the ferry ride home, and Friday was a write-off. So of the five-day trip, they had one day I realized where they were totally free.

Time is so precious, so if they can go a little longer – whether they're sea kayaking or climbing or whatever, it is – even three or four days, it really gives you a chance to enter a new environment. I encourage people to do things that make themselves uncomfortable, just from a philosophical point of view because so much growth comes from that.

Also, guided experiences now are so well regulated and safe. No one should have any concern about taking on something new, whether you’re paddle boarding, sea kayaking or whatever.

Your amazing new book, Blue Sky Kingdom, is getting massive praise all over the world! Tell us about the new book and who it's written for.

I really took my time with this one. It took me six years to write it and to see that some of this early praise come out has been really meaningful. I mean, I do read a lot of Himalayan literature. So guys like Peter Mathias and whatnot have been massively influential to me.

It touches on the Himalaya, but it also touches on family life. My son is on the autism spectrum, so it touches on that. It touches on Buddhism. I really tried to make it accessible to anyone because, really, in a sense it’s a family drama, a family love story playing out in a remote landscape.


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


Final question, what's one thing you do to win the day?

I wake up every morning, I have a big glass of water with a pinch of Himalayan sea salt, and then I get in my ice bath. And that has changed everything for me.

Resources / links mentioned:

📷 Bruce Kirkby on Instagram

Bruce Kirkby website

🌎 Big Crazy Family Adventure on the Travel Channel

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

💚 Blue Sky Kingdom trailer

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

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

Author Unknown

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

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

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

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

In this interview, we'll look at:

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

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

For the video interview, click here.


Resources / links mentioned:

📷 Bruce Kirkby on Instagram

Bruce Kirkby website

🌎 Big Crazy Family Adventure on the Travel Channel

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

💚 Blue Sky Kingdom trailer

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

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

Brandon T. Adams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the video interview, click here.


Resources / links mentioned:

📝 Brandon T. Adams on Facebook

📷 Brandon T. Adams on Instagram

⚡ Brandon T. Adams website

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

📙 Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

🌎 Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy by James Whittaker

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

🗝️ Success In Your City (TV show)

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

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

– Archilochus

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

You just need the right plan.

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

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

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

For the video version, click here.


Resources / links mentioned:

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

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

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

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

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

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

🎁 Episode 31: Becoming Unstoppable with Kerwin Rae

Episode 32: From Solitary to Service with Coss Marte

🧠 Episode 33: Reprogramming Your Brain with John Assaraf

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

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

– Archilochus

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

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

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

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

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

How You Can Win the Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Ways to Stay Productive During a Pandemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Number 1: Start your day with a cold shower.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Number 2: Have a daily routine of exercise.

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

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

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

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

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

Number 3: Insulate yourself from negativity.

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

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

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

Number 4: Surround yourself with the right people.

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

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

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

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

Number 5: Focus on consistency not intensity.

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

What matters is what you do today.

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

__

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

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

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

Onwards and upwards always,
James Whittaker

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

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

– John Assaraf

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll go through:

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

For the video interview, click here.


Resources / links mentioned:

📝 John Assaraf Facebook

📷 John Assaraf Instagram

⚡ NeuroGym

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

🧠 John Assaraf website

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

💡 Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

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

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

– John Assaraf

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll go through:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I am motivated, I have motive for action.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shame is blame turned inwards.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

Resources / links mentioned:

📝 John Assaraf Facebook

📷 John Assaraf Instagram

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

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

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