Certain things catch your eye, but pursue only those that capture your heart.”

Native American proverb

Our guest today is an NFL legend, but what you’ll find most impactful about him is how committed he is to making our world a better place, while helping those who need it most.

The best part? He leads by example EVERY step of the way.

Nick Lowery is a Hall of Fame athlete who became the all-time leading points scorer for the Kansas City Chiefs, but his entry into the NFL was anything but smooth. After being released or rejected 11 times by eight NFL teams, Nick was finally given a chance by the Chiefs who, as history proves, made a hell of a return on their investment.

Retiring after 18 seasons in the NFL (where he was selected to the Pro Bowl three times), Nick is widely regarded as the most valuable kicker of all time, achieving records for: most field goals in NFL history; most accurate field-goal kicker in NFL history – despite kicking, on average, from farther away; and all-time leading point scorer for the Chiefs.

Nick is far from the athlete stereotype you might imagine. He attended Harvard University where he graduated with a Masters degree from the Kennedy School of Government. Among his extraordinary list of accomplishments, Nick has:

Among his philanthropic endeavors, Nick is founder of Champions for the Homeless, the Nick Lowery Youth Foundation, and has run leadership programs for Native American youth for 20+ years. In addition, Nick is the national spokesman for Kannaway, which is one of the foremost CBD companies in the world and is undertaking extensive research on how CBD can improve neuroplasticity for dementia, trauma, and athletes with brain damage.

In recognition of his efforts, Nick has been featured in The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and on David Letterman (twice!), and in two feature films including Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy.

We’re going to cover a lot of ground in this episode. Nick will share:

Let’s WIN THE DAY with Nick Lowery.

🎞️ For the video interview, click here.


Resources / links mentioned:

⚡ Nick Lowery website.

📷 Nick Lowery Instagram.

📙 A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle.

🚀 Think & Grow Rich: The Legacy by James Whittaker.

🗝️ Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

🧭 The Rassias Method.

🎙️ Have a podcast of your own and want to learn how to monetize it? Join us at We Are Podcast, the world's #1 live and interactive event for podcasters. For 35% off ANY ticket, use promo code: WINTHEDAY

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

Helen Keller

As Helen Keller reminds us, looking at life as a daring adventure can create opportunities we otherwise never would have imagined and even help us change the world — and our guest today is doing just that.

Laura Latimer is an international speaker, a leader in healthcare tech, and a pioneer in the no-code / low-code movement of entrepreneurship. Her heart beats for empowering women and improving the lives of travel healthcare workers.

Laura started her company, Nomadicare, without the usual resources people have. She had barely any experience, no training, and certainly no external funding.

But the one thing she did have was a lot of heart. And if you’ve read any of my books, you’ll know that the right attitude makes all the difference.

While working in the healthcare industry, Laura experienced a problem firsthand and said to herself, “You know what? I’m going to be the one to fix this!”

In that pivotal moment, her mission to revolutionize travel healthcare was born.

Today Laura is part of the 2% of women entrepreneurs who generate over USD $1 million of annual revenue but, more importantly, she makes an enormous impact on the world.

In this interview, we’ll go through:

Let’s WIN THE DAY with Laura Latimer!

James Whittaker:
To kick things off, can you take us into what your life was like growing up?

Laura Latimer:
Growing up, I had a really amazing family. I was a middle child, so I get teased right now from some of my friends who are like, “Man, did you grow up!?” We were the cliché sweet middle-class family who lived in this beautiful bubble of a life. And I was involved in a ton of stuff and my family was very supportive of me. But I think what is really funny is people will tell parents today, "Hey, don't worry too much, because at the end of it, your kid's going to want therapy for it no matter what you do!"

For me, the part that I didn't get as much of in my childhood that I ended up getting to develop in adulthood was my ability to think for myself. When you’re young, there are often such blessings in adversity that really help you think about the world in a different way. And I grew up in such a beautiful childhood where things were handed to me and I was like, “Oh, this is what life is supposed to be. Cool. Done. Figured it out.” Then later in life, so much else changed. That helped me think about my childhood in a bit of a different way.

As a teenager, what did ‘success’ look like to you? And when did having your own business first come on your radar?

As a teenager, many people in Texas – especially back then – ‘success’ meant one thing to us: getting married and having babies. And I was right in line with that being a success; we were very much along the line of, okay, you go to college, you fall in love, you have your kids, you'll have some kind of career, you might decide to stay at home, or you get a house.

All the way, probably even into undergrad, that was my definition of success. But, looking back, that was my definition of success because that was all of my friends’ definitions of success. And one thing that I know you know, James, and I think anybody who's really into entrepreneurship knows, is you become the people you surround yourself with pretty much inevitably. So we all had the same kind of viewpoints back then, and that is what I defined as success.

You become the people you surround yourself with pretty much inevitably.

Now, looking back, I love the thought that who I am today is completely by luck of me not getting what I thought I wanted. There's been so many things I didn't get that I thought I wanted that I am so grateful for now. By the time I was getting out of school, I wasn't in love, or even in a relationship, so I had to figure out what to do next. And at that point for me, it wasn't entrepreneurship, it was travel.

One thing I realized when I was getting out of occupational therapy school is I could, with my occupational therapy degree, move to Australia and get a job there. To me, that was the wildest thing I could possibly do. And I did it! I booked flight, a one-way ticket to Australia. I sold everything I had. I didn't know anybody there. At the time, that was a crazy decision!

Literally my favorite all-time memory is the day the plane was landing in Australia. I didn't know a single person, everything I owned was on my back, I didn't have a job yet, I had a few thousand dollars, and I had a degree to hopefully find a job. That feeling in my heart that it was just me, solo in this new country, is my favorite feeling I've ever had. From there though, as I’m sure we’ll get in to, my business has a lot to do with traveling. And so travel became a huge part of my life.

In Australia, to my parents’ worst fear, I met a guy. It was nothing romantic; he was a little bit more ambitious and a more seasoned traveler than I was. He told me it was a $45 flight from Australia to Southeast Asia, so I did it. I booked the flight after doing just a few weeks in Australia and meeting other backpackers in Australia, just starting to open my mind to travel as a growth concept. It was travel as a way to learn more things. It was the first thing I ever did in my life that my parents straight up told me not to do. But I did it anyway.

It was the first thing I ever did in my life that my parents straight up told me not to do. But I did it anyway.

I ended up going to Indonesia and all over Southeast Asia. Travelers know Southeast Asia is a well-worn backpackers’ path – you can go to all these different places – but in my dad's head, all he could hear was, “My daughter's going to Vietnam!” All he knew was the Vietnam War. He thought I was going to die, literally. He took out life insurance on me and thought I was going to die. And I did it anyway. And I did most of that trip solo.

That trip was probably the most impactful, impulse decision I ever made because in doing that trip, it was the first time in my life that I had been exposed to other religions, cultures, and poverty levels – as well as other perspectives of what success, happiness, or impact was. Even meeting people in the hostels was huge; meeting people from Sweden, Germany, and New Zealand totally changed the way I saw the world.

But the biggest thing I got out of that trip was that it changed my relationship with truth. From there, I stopped believing in truth as a prescription that there was a right way and a wrong way to do life. In breaking up with that definition, I felt so free to define my own life. It was liberating to see people pick truths based on their location, what felt good, and who they were around. Above all, that you could think for yourself. I was 24 years old, and it was the best thing I’d ever done.

People hear a lot about solo travel, but it sounds so intimidating for those who haven't done it. Was there anything that solo travel specifically did to help you change your perspective either of who you were or the world around you?

Yes, 100%. So solo travel, versus travelling with other people, it gives you 100% control and freedom for everything you do. When you're with someone else, you just go back and forth on, “What should we do today?” and it's also much harder to be approached by others.

I have a distinct memory in college of me and a group of friends saying, "Oh my God, I would never go to the movies by myself!" And me being like, “Oh, I know. Me either!” Now, I can't even imagine me thinking that, but it's so amazing. Being able to trust yourself and realize that you can make decisions based on what makes you happy that day, too. It gives you courage when you realize inside of you that you can approach people, try new things on your own, listen to stories from strangers, and care so much about them … you just gain confidence very quickly when you’re traveling solo.

As far as the stereotypes of dangerous places, once you get there you usually realize that it isn’t really that dangerous. There's common sense to be had, of course, like the same common sense we have at home, but I got to develop the belief that people are, by and large, so good around the world. And it does give you that confidence of safety of the world, and humanity a little bit more too.

So true. I've been in many places that were documented as being among the most dangerous places on Earth, but when you're there, for the most part, you feel totally fine. With solo travel, it sounds like it gave you more than confidence – like a deep sense of inner peace and harmony that had eluded you previously.

On one end of the spectrum, there are people who spend so much of their life gallivanting around the world and seemingly can't sit still. Yet, on the other side, there are people who grow up and they stay in the same town that they're in. Of course, there's no right or wrong, but did you identify any unifying bond or common traits of all those people who were traveling? Was there an itch that they were trying to scratch, or were they trying to find out their purpose or their place in the world?

That's a good question. I think if there was one word that I feel like was unifying about the travelers I met, it would be curiosity. Travelers are craving and seeking something that is different than what they know. They're intentionally staying in hostels, they’re in their young 20s, and in a room of like eight beds, all bunk beds that are super uncomfortable, with the tiny locker. Nothing is comfortable per se about traveling, especially when you have no money. So you're doing it the rugged way, which is my favorite way, but everyone is seeking to experience something that is not what they knew.

Everyone is seeking to experience something that is not what they knew.

There's this craving for experiences and it's a craving to learn. With that comes open-mindedness. If you are in something that you're comfortable in and you've done over and over, you might start feeling like you're an expert. But when you're in a culture where you know nothing, you might not even know the language, you might not know what currency translates to, you are now back in this childlike state of figuring stuff out constantly. The bond comes from two (or more) people who feel like fish out of water. The unifying thing is a sense that we’re here to learn and dive in to these new experiences, rather than judge what we’re seeing.

Aside from international travel, you've also lived in a bunch of different places in the US. What are the pros and cons that has given you?

Well, it’s similar in that it always keeps me humble. It keeps me uncomfortable-ish. I traveled so much inside the US too because for a long time I was a travel occupational therapist. So that's like a healthcare career choice where you can go around to different cities and states, and help places that need healthcare. That is why I was traveling so much mostly.

Then sometimes it was because I just wanted to. As a traveler, I was constantly still in a new culture, like Berkeley, California, and Manhattan, New York are not similar. They're so different. And then to go straight into the hub of San Francisco and dive into the tech world when I was learning technology for Nomadicare, or when I was in San Diego with the beaches. It just keeps me curious, which is my favorite value, for me personally. Anytime I kept moving around, you can't really get too sure of yourself, which I think can be a really good thing.

Plus it gives you access to so many different relationships too.

Absolutely.

Well, let's switch gears and delve into the Nomadicare side. Can you give us a quick overview of your business, Nomadicare, for those who don't know anything about it?

Nomadicare is in healthcare and is a very mission-based business. First, for anyone who's listening / reading, there's travel healthcare where nurses and therapists, radiologists and sonographers, we can travel to places that are underserved or to hospitals that need help. That's the backbone of my industry.

Now, what happened, was one day when I was a travel OT, I excitedly walked into a job on the first day and met the other person who was starting the same day as me. We had the exact same profession in the exact same company, and she was getting paid $400 more a week than I was. That’s almost $2,000 more per month in the same company for the same job. And we just had different recruiters.

It was literally the first time in my whole career that it even crossed my mind that I was supposed to negotiate pay, or that this was a business, or that the people I was talking to maybe were not my friends – maybe they were salespeople pitching me a job, and their role was to make their company more profits.

And I can't stress enough why this is an even bigger deal in this industry. In this industry, it's 80% women who are caregivers and they go to school to learn how to serve, how to have relationships, and heal. But in school we do not learn our worth, how to negotiate, or anything to do with the business side of having a career as a provider of healthcare.

Now, on the other side, there are salespeople who are hired to be salespeople. They literally went to school or had experiences that taught them how to use persuasion and amazing skill sets, but in order to, in this case, underpay a healthcare worker to make their company more profits. And to me, that was extremely unfair. I also didn't like that it was mostly impacting women who were such relationship-based women, but of course, I really didn't like it when it happened to me.

That night, I went out with my best girlfriend and I was frustrated and venting, but I didn't know what to do. Of course, some of the best ideas are made over margaritas, and we were having some margaritas that night! We started talking and we came up with this idea of Nomadicare. We didn't have a pen or paper, so the waitress came over and gave us a pen and napkins. We wrote out an entire business model on these napkins. I wish so much I still had those napkins!

We wrote out an entire business model on these napkins.

And for me, the idea latched on. It stuck. I have this belief that ideas sometimes choose people because there's a million things my heart cares about, but this one chose me, where it didn't let go of my heart or my head. I was like, "I'm going to solve this. This one's mine to do."

So it was born from this unfairness. What it's become has been a really big movement in the industry, a huge community behind Nomadicare that are called the Empowered Travelers, a huge movement in the healthcare staffing agencies that are also moving in that same direction, bringing them together. We've built a ton of technologies. And technology can always increase the quality because it's data. Since that day five years ago, we’ve done a lot to transform the industry, but it started with seeing a problem and choosing to do something about it – even when I knew nothing about business.

What were the biggest things that you have done that have made your business Nomadicare as successful as it is today?

So anyone who is listening to this who does have an idea and is where I was (i.e. no connections or any skills at all in business), then you might realize it's really hard sometimes to know what's that very next step to take. For me, what ended up being so impactful was that I surrounded myself with a community of entrepreneurs right away. And life can be serendipitous, but I think it's serendipitous for everyone, if you open your eyes to it, you always see the opportunities.

For me, what ended up being so impactful was that I surrounded myself with a community of entrepreneurs right away.

At the time, I was living in Boston and there was this really cool thing called CrashPad, and I moved into it just a few months after wanting to do Nomadicare. It was 18 entrepreneurs living together in a three-story house, and we all co-worked together on the second floor. If you lived there, you weren't allowed to have another job. You were supposed to be 100% dedicated to your startup and 100% dedicated to giving and being in service to each other to grow.

I went in having the least amount of skillset out of anybody there, but I did have a camera and I was a professional photographer then too. So I was like, "Look, I'll take pictures of all your products. I'll do every headshot. That is what I can contribute." But then someone else over here could contribute web design, someone else over here knew marketing. And it was like an introduction that I needed to just learn some basic first steps.

The other thing I had was I think the superpower of not knowing anything yet. And what I mean by that is everything I launched that year was objectively terrible. The website was horrible and the pictures I had up were sized all wrong and nothing was mobile-friendly. Everything I did was bad, but I didn't know anything. So I didn't know that anything was bad.

I think that's cool because I put everything out with so much pride and excitement. I think also the community latched on to that mission and that excitement that I was putting out because I was constantly putting stuff out. And in my head, it was the best. Looking back, I'm like, "Oh my God, Laura!" So don't be afraid of not knowing stuff, don't be afraid of it being so imperfect at first because it is for everybody. At first, it's crucial to go through that.

You took action, and over time you were able to refine and make improvements. So many people who have that perfectionist mentality at the start, or who are so captive over their own idea, fail to recognize that your idea means nothing. It’s how well you execute. You were so good at consistently taking that action.

Thank you. I'm more of a perfectionist now than I was back then, because I see things different. The first year is cool when you don't have that because exciting. So don't be afraid of that stage when launching your business.

I love that mastermind community you were in. Literally, living together with a whole bunch of people who are all in on what they loved.

Is there a day that stands out as particularly satisfying on your entrepreneurial journey?

The journey has been so fun. There is a moment that stands out to me, and it speaks a lot to where the biggest joys usually come from – which is usually after a hell lot of hard work leading up to it. The moment I’m referring to was extra satisfying because I was fresh out of a breakup that hit me harder than other breakups for whatever reason. Therefore, all my life plans just stopped, not necessarily with Nomadicare, but with my life. I was like, "Okay, I need to make a decision." It was around year three, where I didn’t have much money. The business didn’t become very profitable until the year after that.

I was back in New England, and my amazing brother let me move into his basement because I didn't really have money for both rent and an office. I really wanted to hire people because I was at a point where we could grow and it was more than I could do on my own. So I got to live with my brother and his wife for free for a year in their basement, which gave me money to pay for this office. Now I couldn’t afford much. It was about $600 a month and walking distance from my brother's house. It was so old and the wallpaper's falling off of it. The landlord was like, "Okay, you can get it and you can renovate it if you want."

In the weeks leading up to that, I was there till 4:00 AM scraping wallpaper, learning DIY paintings. I printed every office decoration myself. I found donations for desks and tried to refurbish them to make them decent. I hired my first few people. So I put everything into the business again in year three. On day one, it was my first day being a boss, so I had little gifts for them!

That day, I remember them coming to work for the first time and walking into the office and me just getting to be in that role. When they left at the end of the day, I just remember sitting down on the floor of that office and I was like, "Oh my God. Oh my God, I'm a boss! What has happened?" And it felt so hard and so exciting.

And I mean, that's what it takes sometimes – living in the basement, scraping the wallpaper, and realizing the dream. It felt amazing.

You're driven by a bigger mission, and you touched on a few of the dark moments already. I like to chat with entrepreneurs about the really dark side of entrepreneurship. People see the glamor, they see the wins, but they never see the struggles and the pains that goes on behind the scenes. Can you take us into a particularly dark day or moment along your entrepreneurial journey?

When I was first coming up, it felt like the whole industry was on board and excited. It got to a point where Nomadicare was developing a name in the industry, and it was the first time I started getting personally attacked online. And it's so crazy how much that can hurt, especially the first time it's happening. The personal attacks were complete lies because my service is free to the travelers.

There were all these false implications of why it's unethical and why you shouldn’t use it. None of what they said was true. I felt helpless and didn’t know how to defend it without looking defensive and them attacking me. That was really hard. And I think that lasted a few months that I literally struggled emotionally with getting attacked because you grow that emotional resilience over time, but when it first happens, it kicks you.

Also, the first time I had to fire someone; I lost many nights of sleep over that. It's very hard firing someone. They say, “Hire slow and fire fast” but it’s so hard in reality, even when it's the right decision to do.

Then the last one – and you know how hard of a decision this one was for me – but I left Nomadicare for six months to go to a job that I thought was this incredible opportunity because it was in San Francisco. It was a tech company that had raised multiple, multiple millions of dollars. And the founders with the best intentions talked me into believing that I really needed this experience to learn and how great it would be for me. But when I got there and I left Nomadicare, which was not that long ago so Nomadicare was doing well, it really was the hardest thing ever to go back to, I think, a corporate job and realize it's because I thought I wasn't ready for the next step, but I was. I had talked myself into thinking I needed this and I didn't. So coming back to Nomadicare was amazing, but that was super hard as well.

Thank you so much for sharing those moments. I often talk to my wife about this, but I have no idea how people with 5 million or 50 million followers can possibly handle online trolls. I really appreciate you sharing that because, at the end of the day, if we don't have our mindset right, we’re in big trouble.

In Episode 45, we had Dr Steve Sudell on the show who was a renowned inventor that had big success on Kickstarter. But he had a big problem with counterfeiters who saw his online success and would manufacture his product quicker than he could even bring it to market. He said the most damaging aspect was not the financial side, but that it damaged his mojo, so it was much harder to motivate yourself.

When that starts to chip away at you and things begin to fall apart, that’s when I believe entrepreneurs can develop a degree of PTSD from what they go through.

Yeah, 100% it is. I don't know how it's so unexpected when it first starts happening, but it feels so personal. Over time, you do develop emotional strength, but the first few months you're like, "What's wrong with me? How could they say this about me?" And then after a while, you're like, "Oh, they don't know and they don't care about you. They don't know anything about you. It's just online." But you don't think that the first day.

And when you’ve got enough good people around you, that can make a big difference too.

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

Oh, wow. What an interesting one. On my worst days, I think the thoughts that come up are that you can’t do it or it’s not worth it, or the imposter syndrome creeps in where you feel that you’ve only made it out of a fluke.

So I think the affirmation would be like, “Girl, you were made for this! You are a creator, you are worthy, and you are doing so much good. I love you and I got you.”

That grace and compassion from myself helps me a lot too. I have this relationship with myself where sometimes I'm outside myself, like I have talks with future Laura sometimes, or even younger Laura sometimes. So a lot of the times it is like a future me being like, girl, I got your back. It's okay. It's okay. You're having a bad day. And I think that helps me a lot to relieve the pressure, just knowing it's all okay, good days, bad days, but then circling back to the bigger mission. I like that I'm up to something that helps people, and that helps me want to keep going.

In Episode 29, I interviewed Emily Fletcher who's the founder of Ziva Meditation. In one of her meditations, she talks about what if everything that you are going through at the moment (and that you’ve been through) is preparing you for this moment of greatness that you're going to have in the future. If we can constantly keep that in mind, and view adversity through a proactive and productive lens, it frees us up to trust the process.

I like that so much.

What do you do as part of your daily routine to manage self-care and bring the energy you need for all the high-level things you’re doing?

I figured myself out a little bit. One, I am highly motivated by not letting other people down and that's going to be part of my personality. So I love getting up early and I love having a morning movement to move my body, shake the energy off from the night before and get into the right mindset.

I have a really good friend, and every morning, Monday through Friday, we get up really early together and we start our days on Zoom where we do a workout together. We also do gratitude and affirmations together. Once upon a time, I read Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod and it super inspired me.

On a side note, once I had a job where I had to get up at 5:00 AM to get stuff done before work. Well, again, since I don't like letting people down, I would set an alarm clock in my room for 4:58 AM. I'd set a second alarm clock by my roommate's bedroom door upstairs for a few minutes later. So I had to get up and go upstairs to get the alarm clock to not wake her up because I knew I would get up if it was going to wake her up and then I would stay up and do my morning thing! So, getting up early is big for me, plus mindset and exercise in the morning too.

The other thing is eating. One of the things that's hard for me is eating throughout the day when my mind is focused in it. So learning how to meal prep and making myself eat throughout the day has been huge for my energy and my mood throughout the day and getting outside at least once a day. I mean now, I'm really big on that one too. You got to get some sunshine in your life as you can. It helps a lot.

The last year and a half has involved massive transition for the world. There's a lot of companies that have gone under, but also a lot of companies and individuals who have found a great deal of opportunity in what has transpired. What was your mindset when the pandemic first hit? And how has your life changed in the last year and a half?

Massively. So one of the interesting things that not everyone knows, because COVID was a healthcare issue, obviously, that it seems like the healthcare industry would have just grown through that, but in reality, it only grew if you were an ICU nurse or a respiratory therapist for my industry. We lost 80% of our job orders almost overnight and for four months. And job orders is the way, not just my company runs, but every staffing agency, every partner I have too. And so in our industry as a whole, it was really hard, the travelers now had no jobs. The travel nurses, even the ICU nurses now, all of a sudden were super in demand.

And there were many news stories at the beginning that New York was really bad at the beginning of COVID, so they would fly all these travel nurses there to help at these huge bill rates, which means high pay packages. They would arrive, only to realize they didn't need them all, so they just get canceled and had to go back home. And so even though it sounded like it was good for them, most of them lost their jobs. It was really hard for a few months.

Where Nomadicare was very lucky is we were lean, as in we didn't have many overhead costs at that time. We were in a stage of technology development, so we got to take that time, but it was slower to put our heads down to build the stuff that we knew we needed for the coming months. A lot of my friends in the industry lost their jobs. A lot of staffing agencies shut down. It was hard. But now it's come back and now we're probably at like 70%.

But one interesting thing at Nomadicare is we've never done strike work before. And with all of the stuff that went on with the nurses not having appropriate masks and PPE, there's going to be an increase in strikes. It was also a crash course in helping staff strikes. And that was one of the craziest whirlwind things I've ever done in my whole life. So there was some of that kind of energy of “pivot and pivot” and find things you can help with that you would have in any year that your industry is the one that's drastically impacted.

It was a whirlwind, but we came out with amazing technology built that we hadn't had yet. And I learnt a lot about a whole new industry and now job orders are back, so we're moving forward in a good way.

You’re part of the 2% of women entrepreneurs who generate more than $1 million dollars in revenue from your business. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who thinking about launching a business for the first time, or even more specifically for women entrepreneurs who are thinking about giving it a shot?

Well, for sure, if you're thinking about doing it, do it. It's so worth doing, for the people you'll meet. Your circles of people elevates, who you become elevates, and your self-awareness elevates. For someone who is growth minded, I think it’s great, so freaking do it. Don't think twice, get in there and do it, take the next step. Let's be friends – I’m here to help! Entrepreneurship is very worthy if your heart feels called to it.

In addition, in the first few years for me – which was a huge part of my success – is that it wasn’t about the money. I literally was doing it to change an industry. I was out to do something. And then it almost came by surprise when money started coming in and that it could be full-time, then I could hire some people and all of that, but really I have always stayed focused on what I'm up to in the industry. And it really means a lot to me.

So I would say, if you're wanting to get into something, find a problem you're excited to solve, a problem that you are excited to do grunt work for. It’s often not very glamorous, but you want that problem to be solved and you want to be the one to be a part of solving it. Make sure there is a group of people who want you to solve it (i.e. market fit).

Do something because it means something to you because there's many ways in this world that you can ultimately make an income or find financial freedom, but the first thing is to find the right fit for your heart and your life because it's hard work, no matter what you pick. And there's no such thing as get rich schemes. So ignore anybody that says you can make great money in a few months. At least for me, I haven't seen it. It's just hard work.

Focus on the mission, not the money. I think that’s a wonderful message.

What's the biggest highlight of your career if you think about all the cool things that you've done and the change you've been able to make?

The highlights of my career literally come consistently; there's not a moment that I'm like that one thing happened and that was the pinnacle. That's why I know I'm doing the right thing for me because the highlights came last week when I get a thoughtful message of how Nomadicare impacted someone positively, or that without it they couldn’t have done what they really wanted to do. Those things still spark so much inside of me.

I've had moments on stage that I just want to pinch myself, which really fill me up. I've had such cool experiences, but there's no pinnacle for me. I still get goosebumps from thank you notes. I just know I'm up to the right thing because I still love the impact as we get to the big impact. Now the big impact to the industry is that it’s going to be transformed, and we're going to use a lot of technology to help do that. The industry will look very different. On the other side, we still have big things we're up to, but I get little pieces of my pinnacle in my why I think at least once a week, and it's very fulfilling for me.

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

Stay alive. Some days I'm not perfect with my morning routine, and other days I am. Some days, I crushed it and I'm like, "Yo, I rocked it today." And some days, I'm like, "Did I just run in circles?" But the thing is, on the days I remember that being alive is winning the day and how incredible it is to still be alive, that is winning the day for me. So I guess it's probably more like gratitude.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

Helen Keller

Laura Latimer is an international speaker, a leader in healthcare tech, and a pioneer in the no-code / low-code movement of entrepreneurship. Her heart beats for empowering women and improving the lives of travel healthcare workers.

Laura started her company, Nomadicare, without the usual resources people have. She had barely any experience, no training, and certainly no external funding. But the one thing she did have was a lot of heart. And if you’ve read any of my books, you’ll know that the right attitude makes all the difference.

While working in the healthcare industry, Laura experienced a problem firsthand and said to herself, “You know what? I’m going to be the one to fix this!” In that pivotal moment, her mission to revolutionize travel healthcare was born.

Today Laura is part of the 2% of women entrepreneurs who generate over USD $1 million of annual revenue but, more importantly, she makes an enormous impact on the world.

In this interview, we’ll go through:

Let’s WIN THE DAY with Laura Latimer!

🎞️ For the video interview, click here.


Resources / links mentioned:

📝 Nomadicare on Facebook.

📷 Nomadicare on Instagram.

Nomadicare website.

🎙️ Have a podcast of your own and want to monetize it? Join podcasters from all over the world at We Are Podcast. For 35% off ANY ticket, use promo code: WINTHEDAY

“No day is so bad it can’t be fixed with a nap.”

Carrie Snow

Today, we sit down with the world’s foremost authority on sleep for high performance.

Dr Michael Breus is a three-time bestselling author, clinical psychologist, and sleep educator. He has appeared all over television, including Oprah, The Today Show, and on The Dr Oz show more than 40 times. Dr Breus is also a regular contributor to major publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

When he’s not doing media appearances, Dr Breus works with some of the most successful individuals on the planet who want to perform at their peak with as little sleep as possible.

In this interview, we’ll go through:


🎁 YOUR CHANCE TO WIN:

We have three copies of Dr Breus’ book to giveaway! To enter, either leave a comment on YouTube or on Apple Podcasts with your #1 takeaway from this episode with Dr Breus. Three people will be selected and the book will be mailed to wherever you are in the world.


As we get started, remember the right bit of inspiration can completely transform someone’s life, so if there’s someone you know who needs to hear this – and I’m sure there is, since lack of quality sleep is a dangerous side effect of the stressful world we’re in today – share it with them right now.

Let’s WIN THE DAY with Dr Michael Breus!

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

Dr. Michael Breus:
I am excited to be here. Thank you for having me.

To kick things off, is there a story from your childhood that encapsulates what life was like for you growing up?

That's a good question. So, I had a very interesting upbringing, which – now that you're making me think about it – has a lot to do with how I became the guy that I am. My parents were separated when I was nine, and I'm 53 years old now. Back in those days, very few kids ended up with their fathers, and my father ended up having full-time custody of me. It was just he and I against the world for a very long period of time.

I've played that role as the sleep doctor: I was the very first sleep blogger on the Huffington Post; I was one of the first clinical psychologists to take and pass the Sleep Medicine Boards; things of that nature. I'm very comfortable being the lone wolf – not to mention that I am a wolf chronotype, which we'll talk about in a moment. But that's a lot of who I am. I'm pretty confident and I feel comfortable in my own skin for sure.

Can you take us into the moment when you realized that you weren't just going to be a regular health professional – that you were going to actually drive the industry forward and change the lives of millions of people in the process?

It was interesting, the very first time I was on television, I walked off and it was like electric. It was one of the first appearances that I made, and I was so in the zone that I didn't even see the audience. I was so focused, I delivered this great information, and I just became so comfortable out there. It was like, "This is exactly where I need to be."

I don't know. Maybe I've got enough ego to pull it off! But I like getting in front of people, I like talking about sleep, I like mixing it up, I like controversial ideas surrounding sleep and sleep science.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Dr Michael Breus does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give his 18-year-old self, the one thing on his bucket list, and a whole lot more 🚀


Here's the thing that's cool for me as a topic. My wife says it all the time. She's like, "Honey, you wouldn't be nearly as interesting if you were a cardiologist." No disrespect to the cardio guys, I have one myself, but sleep is such an interesting topic, and it draws people in because one of the things we know is that, when you change your sleep, you change your life, right? So, if you have bad sleep and I'm able to give you some information, or lead you on a path that can help you with your sleep, I feel confident that I've changed your life in a positive way. Honestly, dude, that feels good, I just like doing that.

Early in my career, people would come and they would be so excited to tell me how much I had changed their lives. After a while, every single day, there would be five people, 10 people, 15 people, and I kind of said, " You know? I want to get the message out bigger." Because at the time I was practicing, you could only see about 30 patients in a day. I mean, let's be fair. I was seeing 30 patients a day, five days a week. and I was crushing through 150 people, good care of medicine, making sure that everybody's well treated, but it wasn't where I wanted to be or where I thought the world needed to hear.

When you change somebody's sleep, you literally change their life.

Oddly enough, one of my best friends got a vice-president job at a company that, at the time, was called Medscape. He turned it into this big old company called WebMD. He was like, "Hey Michael, have you checked out WebMD?" So I went on it and they didn't have anything about sleep on there. Being my lone wolf self, I decided to create a document that had all the places on the website where they needed to have more sleep information, and I sent it to my buddy, who apparently sent it to his boss. His boss then said, "Go hire that guy!"

That was how I became the WebMD sleep specialist. I was the WebMD sleep specialist from the time they launched for 15 years. That's a big audience, and it was so much fun. You remember back in the day when they had chat boards? I would answer questions live on chat boards in WebMD about sleep. We counted, I think, over 5,000 questions that I answered at one time. It's like I just feel the need to educate, and people are so receptive because it's just not an area where people get a chance to meet folks like me.

Again, not breaking my arm patting myself on the back, but I will say that I feel like I have a purpose, and I feel like I have a passion. For me, the point where purpose and passion hit was sleep, and that's what drives me in that direction.

It sounds like facilitating these transformations for others actually gives you a lot of energy along the way, too. Now that you've worked with regular folks right through to the celebrities at the highest level, is there a particular transformation that you're most proud of?

Oh, wow. There's a few actually. There's quite a few cases that were really ... there's some sad cases for sure, but there are quite a few cases that were pretty amazing. One of the more famous cases that I've worked on is Carson Daly from The Today Show. I was on The Today Show talking about time change or sleep or something like that, and Carson pulled me over to the side – we weren't on camera – and he was like, "Dude, I'm exhausted." And I was like, "Okay, let's hold tight."

We did the segment and I came back afterwards and we went over to his dressing room and I'm like, "Tell me what's going on?" He said he had gained a little bit of weight over the years but, and people don't know this, he's on The Today Show and he's the executive producer of The Voice at the same time. He flies every single week back and forth across the country.

Not only was he exhausted, but we could potentially have jet lag issues. There's all kinds of stuff that could be going on. So I dug in and it turned out he had sleep apnea. We worked with his doctor, got him sleep testing, the whole thing. Now we've got him on a solution that helps him sleep, and he's losing weight, he has more energy. He was really concerned about what he called his shelf life, as many people who are on television are.

I think now he can be on for quite a bit longer. I'm telling you something, dude, when you change somebody's sleep, you literally change their life.

Amazing, and thank you for sharing that.

In the peak performance realm, we often hear people talk about nutrition and fitness, yet there is so much misinformation out there on those two areas. We also spend one-third of our lives sleeping, so that definitely needs to be in the peak performance equation. Are there just as many misconceptions about sleep as there is for nutrition and fitness? And, if so, what are the biggest myths that need to be busted?

Yes, there are a ton of misconceptions about sleep. Some of the bigger myths, and we can even include nutrition in this, is things like, "Oh, turkey makes me feel sleepy because there's tryptophan in it,” or “Warm milk makes me feel sleepy." So, just to be clear, you'd have to eat a 40-pound turkey to get enough tryptophan to actually make it worth your while. It doesn't work well in the presence of protein anyway. So, I really wouldn't go for that one. And I think it's about a gallon and a half of milk to get enough tryptophan, so we're not even going to go there.

Also, there’s a lot of misinformation out there about melatonin, which a lot of people take. But what most people don't understand is melatonin is not a sleeping pill. Melatonin is a sleep regulator, not a sleep initiator. Melatonin doesn't make you sleepy. What melatonin does is it helps your brain think that it's bedtime from a circadian rhythm perspective.

We talked about Carson Daly already, so I'll give you another great example. If you're familiar with electronic dance music, you’ll know a DJ named Steve Aoki. He does almost 200 shows a year in different countries. His jet lag is unparalleled. But when we're talking about something like this, what we're looking at is scheduling, how to schedule flights, working through some of those different issues, and then trying to understand what to do. Well, melatonin is very, very helpful in that process of getting people adjusted to a new time zone, because it tells your brain it's bedtime when your brain didn't think that it was bedtime before.

That's great when you're Steve Aoki and your jet lag is all over the place, or you’re Carson Daly flying back and forth across the US. But when you're not crossing time zones and you're lying in bed not sleeping, you probably shouldn't be taking melatonin because that's not really what it's there for. So, that's a myth or misunderstanding that we see that can be very harmful to folks.

Then what happens is, if one doesn't work, they take two, and if two don't work, they take four. I mean, we were talking about WebMD, when I was on WebMD answering those questions, once a month, literally once a month, I got the question, "Is it okay to take a box of Benadryl a night?" 20, 10 milligram tabs? The answer is “No, it’s not okay!”

But, people are desperate, man. When you don't sleep, it hits you to your core. You turn into somebody who you don't like, and nobody around you is particularly thrilled with you either, so it's hard to not have sleep. Those who don't suffer from sleep problems, they really don't understand it. They're like, "What are you talking about? Close your eyes, just go to bed, come on. It's easy." Honestly, dude, people are tortured with some of their sleep related issues. Right now, when we're talking about the pandemic and what's going on in the universe, this is arguably the most stressful time any of us have ever had, and it's not stress that we're used to.

This is arguably the most stressful time any of us have ever had, and it's not stress that we're used to.

You and I were talking before we started. We live here in Los Angeles, and a big stress here in Los Angeles is traffic. But traffic doesn't mean crap compared to a pandemic. I'm worried about things like my entire family's health. Like my grandparents, my parents, my kids, my wife, my extended family. I've never had to worry about everybody all at the same time. I've had to worry about certain people here and there of course, as anyone would, but this is a different kind of worry. There’s also financial stress, because so many people are suffering incredibly financially right now.

What kind of weight does that put on your brain before you're getting in bed at night? Does that cause insomnia? You bet it causes insomnia. So, I would say that right now, if people turn to me and say, "Hey, Michael, I'm sleeping great." I'd be like, "What's your trick dude? Because nobody's sleeping great right now." We all have issues. I mean, I'm the sleep doctor, and let me tell you something, when the pandemic first hit, I didn't sleep so great. That's okay. The message here is, is that we're all humans. And sleep is a reaction for us.

Think about it like this. If you notice that your sleep is not so great, it could be a window into your health. It could be giving you clues about something that's going on for your mental health or physical health. But to be clear, if you're healthy, both mentally and physically, you should sleep pretty well, generally speaking.

What are some simple things that anyone watching this or listening to the podcast can do right now to improve the quality of their sleep?

Oh, this is an easy one, and it's not going to cost you anything! I got a five-step program. It's super simple, people are going to love it. Step one is to wake up at the same time every single day, including the weekends. I know that sucks for most people because they're like, "Oh, I want to catch up on my sleep on the weekends, Michael, come on." Here's the deal, if you wake up at the exact same time every single day, what will happen is that the quality of your sleep will improve because your circadian rhythm is consistent. Because remember, when you wake up, that's the reopening of the package. So, the new day comes, sunlight comes in, and then all of your hormones kick off and go into gear.

If you do that at the same time, every single day, your brain knows what's coming, it can prepare for it, and it's much more efficient. Also, by the way, if you wake up at the exact same time, every single day, what you will find is that the amount of sleep that you require begins to shrink. I did this experiment on myself. I'm a night owl, what I call a Wolf chronotype, and I go to bed around midnight every single night. That's just what I do. I really can't get in bed before midnight. That's just me. So, I got in bed at midnight and I woke up around 7:40am, after about a month of it, I was waking up at 7:20am. After another month of it, it was 7:00am.

If you wake up at the exact same time, every single day, what you will find is that the amount of sleep that you require begins to shrink.

I wake up now at 6:13am almost every single day. I'm not sure why it's 6:13am, people will always ask. I always look at the clock and I say, "Oh my God, it's 6:13." But my entire sleep cycle shrank by almost a full 90-minute cycle. I get six hours and 13 minutes of sleep, and I've looked at it on trackers, and my sleep is fantastic. What's happened is, the consolidation has occurred because of the consistency. That’s why step one is to wake up at the same time every single day. You will get higher quality sleep and you will probably need less of it, unless you have an underlying sleep disorder.

Step two has to do with caffeine. We already know that caffeine is a problem because it’s a stimulant. But what we know is, it's got a half-life of about six to eight hours. So, with a half-life like that, what we do is, we say stop caffeine by 2:00pm, and eight hours later it’s 10:00pm which is where most people in North America tend to go to bed. So that's the reasoning behind the recommendation.

Now I guarantee you there's a listener or a watcher out there who is thinking, "Huh! Sleep doctor? He doesn't know what he's talking about! I can have a cup of coffee, an espresso, or a cappuccino minutes before going to sleep and I can fall asleep, no problem."

I think I've said that before!

See, there you go! Let's bust that myth. Here's what's interesting, it turns out that people have different caffeine sensitivities. I had one patient who honestly could drink a pot of coffee and go to sleep, and I had another one who could eat a square piece of a chocolate bar and be up for days. So, that's the first thing. But here's the other thing, for my patient who could drink a pot of coffee and go to sleep, if you stick electrodes on somebody's head, caffeine is a stimulant, you can't stop the fact that it is stimulating, and what it does is it almost completely obliterates stage three/four sleep.

For folks out there who don't know, stage three/four sleep is your physical restoration. That is your wake up and feel great sleep. You do not want anything messing with that. And right now during COVID, I'll tell you why, even more importantly, during stages three/four sleep is where growth hormone is emitted, and this is where your killer T cells are produced. Killer T cells are what fight viral infection. Hello! We want as much stage three/four sleep as we can possibly get right now. So please, please, please slow down your caffeine, and if you could eliminate it altogether, that would be great.

Don't do it cold turkey. I had two patients end up in the ER, believe it or not, going cold turkey off of caffeine. One of them had a seizure and one of them just couldn't stop puking. It was a mess. So, if you're a heavy, heavy caffeine drinker, slow it down over the course of time. But if you can, stop caffeine by 2:00pm.

Step three has to do with alcohol. There's a really big difference, dude, between going to sleep and passing out, okay? People don't seem to understand that sometimes. It takes the average human approximately one hour to digest one alcoholic beverage. The data would suggest that the time between the last sip and when you close your eyes, that gap, is the most important amount of time when looking at alcohol's effects on your sleep.

If you notice that your sleep is not so great, it could be a window into your health.

Remember, alcohol is a depressant, so it will make you feel sleepy up until about two to three drinks. Once you get past the third drink, unfortunately it has a tendency to energize people or make them aggressive, so you really don't want to go over two drinks if you possibly can. That time period is very important. If it takes the average human one hour to digest one alcoholic beverage, here's how I run it: if you're going to have a glass or two of wine with dinner, let's say you finished by 7:00pm and you had two glasses of wine, then you would be able to go to sleep by 9:00pm.

Do me a favor, for every glass of wine, drink one glass of water. If you had two glasses of wine, drink two glasses of water, wait two hours. It's really very simple. It's the one-to-one-to-one rule. I found this to be very, very effective for people.

Also, let's be honest. If you're using alcohol as a sedative, you have a problem. Talk to your doctor. There are much better ways of helping you get a good night’s sleep than drinking yourself there. And you're not alone, since alcohol is the number one sleep aid in the world. More people use alcohol to make themselves fall asleep. Once again, you don't get that deep sleep. Just like with what caffeine does to stage three/four sleep, alcohol does the same thing, but it also screws up your REM sleep as well, which is why your memory is all messed up after a heavy night of drinking. So, if you can, stop alcohol three hours before bed.

Onto the more positive side of things! Exercising daily is incredibly important, and I would argue, especially during the pandemic, this is one of our biggest issues. I'm a huge fan of exercise, but the good news is, you don't have to run a marathon. Remember guys, sleep is recovery. If you do not do anything to recover from, your body is not going to sleep as deeply. It just doesn't work that way. So, get your butt outside. Sunlight is an important and good thing, so is fresh air, and so is exercise.

But if you're going to do your workouts, which I want you to do, you need to be careful, because remember, sleep follows the core body temperature cycle. As you fall asleep, your core body temperature begins to drop. Unfortunately, exercise raises our core body temperature, which is why we sweat. So, step four is to exercise daily, but stop exercise four hours before bed.

Finally, step five, is for waking up. When we wake up in the mornings, what we really want to make sure of is that we can clear the brain fog and get ourselves moving. Do not drink coffee as the first thing that you drink. Most people don't realize it, but sleep in and of itself is a dehydrative event; from the humidity in our breath, we lose almost a full liter of water every night. Sitting by your bedside, you should have about 20 to 30 ounces [600 ml to 900 ml] of room temperature water in a refillable glass or jug. Every single night, you should put one of those there.

When you wake up in the morning, take 5-10 deep breaths just to activate your respiratory system and orient yourself to space. Sit on the side of your bed, grab your water, walk to the window and get 15 minutes of sunlight. "Michael, why sunlight?" So the data would suggest that, blue light hits a particular cell in your eye called a melanopsin cell, which sends a signal to your brain to turn off the melatonin faucet in your head. We want the melatonin off when we wake up. This is why we like blue light in the morning, but why we don't really like blue light at night, because it suppresses melatonin as well.

Do me a favor, if you've gotten out of bed, grabbed your water and walked over to the window to get your sunlight, put on a robe! I'm just saying. I'm just saying, put on a robe.

In summary:

  1. Wake up one time.
  2. Stop caffeine by 2:00pm.
  3. Stop alcohol three hours before bed.
  4. Exercise daily, but stop exercise four hours before bed.
  5. When you wake up, drink 30 ounces [900 ml] of water and give the sun a high five for 15 minutes.

So many amazing things to unpack there. You mentioned marathons. If someone does a marathon, or some other type of unusual event where they’re physically exhausted, should they set an alarm for their usual wake up time so they get up, or is it better to give the body one day off to sleep as long as it wants?

I would give your body one day off to sleep from a marathon because it's such an extended type of thing. When I work with professional athletes, usually the day after the game, contest, or race, we let them sleep in. Also, depending upon the competitive nature of it, they end up doing a lot of damage to their bodies and you know in marathon work, everybody gets hurt by the end of the marathon.

I’ve heard a lot of people talk about waking up and having lemon juice first thing. Can a tablespoon or two of lemon juice do anything!? Is that a myth that needs to be busted right here right now?

I've never heard of lemon juice being particularly effective in the morning. I will tell you though, that the vitamin C from lemons in the citrus actually has been shown to be helpful for keeping circadian rhythms in line. People ask me all the time about supplementation and vitamins, minerals, things like that. That's the only thing I could think of from a lemon juice perspective. I tried doing that apple cider vinegar in the mornings, and I almost puked!

You mentioned waking up and getting sunlight as soon as you can. If it's 5:00am in the middle of winter, with no sun to be found, is turning on a light a good substitute?

I've found even having something like a cold shower, which I do every single morning, does a good job of giving me an energy jolt. Plus, I’ve been trying to do what you recommend and wait 90 minutes or longer before having my coffee!

In the absence of sunlight, is there something else that can fill in?

There are commercially available light boxes, believe it or not. So you could go onto Amazon, and Phillips makes one called the GoLite. I think it's 90 bucks. I have one in my suitcase because I use it for jet lag when I travel. Because you can forward your circadian rhythm using light, caffeine, and melatonin, and sleep in particular patterns. That's how we work with people like Steve Aoki and Carson Daly, we mess with all of those things. We have an algorithm, it's actually pretty cool.

But when you look at those things, light is certainly one thing that would be helpful in the morning. The temperature challenge is definitely helpful in the morning. I do a temperature challenge most mornings. I don't do it for my entire shower, I do it for like the last 30 seconds type of thing. I don't have a cold plunge at my house, although I'd like one, it's a cool idea. It's definitely alerting, I can assure you of that.

Sleep is recovery. If you do not do anything to recover from, your body is not going to sleep as deeply.

For healthy ways to wake up in the morning, I also think that breathwork is something that I've personally found to be very helpful. I have a men's group that I meet with every morning on Zoom, and we do Wim Hof breathing together, followed by a small meditation of gratitude, and that's how I start my day. Honestly, I'm awake and alert and present. It's awesome.

Are there really people on this planet who wake up with immediate hits of energy and motivation!?

Based on the chronotype, yeah! So, I mean, we haven't really talked about chronotypes. I came up with this categorization of chronotypes. To be clear, there were chronotypes long before I came up with it. I ended up finding the fourth one. We used chronotypes, so things like early bird, night owl, people in the middle, and that's what we've been bantering back and forth about. About 15% of the population love getting up in the morning.

Honestly, dude, the only thing I hate more than mornings are morning people, right!? They’re so damn chipper. Even though I wake up at 6:13am, I don't want to talk to anybody, that's for sure.

Source: Dr Michael Breus 'The Power of When' | Business Insider.

How true is it that we all need eight hours of sleep a night?

Total horseshit. The math doesn't even work. The average sleep cycle is 90 minutes long, and the average human has five of them. So, five times 90 is 450 minutes, which is only seven and a half hours. The math doesn't even work on average to get you there.

I think the original recommendation came from a study done at Stanford in the 50s, where they put people in these self-contained chambers. What happened was, their sleep amount went up and then eventually came back down and their bodies would no longer allow them to sleep any longer than, I think it was like, eight hours and 13 minutes. So, I think that's where the recommendation of eight hours originally came from.

But to be fair, that's not a smart way of trying to figure that idea out. Number one, I think it was an all-male study. By the way, sleep has changed a lot since the 50s. Even thinking about it philosophically as a concept, remember – well, you’re young – but in the 50s, people slept in separate beds, and it was a whole different universe for sleep back then. Whereas now people have televisions in their bedrooms, they have video games, I mean, it's a whole different universe. Sleep has evolved.

So, as it continues to do so, and with these levels of stress that we're all experiencing, and with some of the environmental insanity that's going. There’s lights here, kids playing video games until 4:00am, and all that kind of stuff, so we’re going to see some sleep consequences for sure.

For a long time, studying peak performance has been a big part of my work. Several years ago, I downloaded a top-rated sleep tracker app on my iPhone, and I woke up the next day and felt pretty good. Then I looked at my phone, and it said that I had shitty sleep, which completely shifted my mood. Then the next day I woke up and I felt miserable, but when I looked at the app it said I had an amazing sleep, so I felt like crap anyway. I haven’t used a sleep tracker since.

Here's the thing about sleep trackers, it’s like the best of the worst. When you look at the history of sleep tracking, here's what we've discovered: people were tracking activity before they were tracking sleep. It's not too hard to measure steps. My daughter, she's 17 years old, she's pretty good at math. If I know the length of your leg and your gait, that's a calculus problem. I can figure out how to track your steps.

But if I'm going to track your sleep, what do I measure? How quickly you fell asleep? Is it how quickly you get to stage three/four? Is it how quickly you get to REM? Is it the number of REM periods? Is it your number of awakenings? Dude, I can go on for 30 or 40 more variables if you want me to. It's a complicated process. Thinking that a wristband, a ring, a pad, is going to do a great job of truly measuring our sleep is probably a fallacy at this point in time.

Will we see it in the future with a high level of accuracy? I think we will. How far is that future? I think it's less than 18-24 months away. I think we will get much, much better at this much, much faster. As machine learning, AI, and algorithms start to get more involved in crunching, some of those big data sets, I think we'll start to learn a whole lot more.

But here's what I tell people, if you've got a sleep tracker, it's still useful, and I'll explain to you how. Don't look at the absolute data, look at the relative data. So, if my sleep tracker says that I have 13 minutes of stage three/four sleep, every single night, I know that's inaccurate, but it's consistently inaccurate. However, if I got 13 minutes, one night and 407, 612, the next I want to know what's happening relatively speaking. Don't get caught up in the what it should be. Compare it to yourself.

You are your best scientist, so when you wake up in the morning, however you perceive you slept, it's probably pretty accurate. Sleep is a perception. There's a physical state of unconsciousness where lots of cool shit happens. But when you wake up in the morning, how you think you slept, I would argue, is probably the best marker of how you actually did sleep.

You are your best scientist.

So, trackers or no trackers, there's lots of things that we can do to improve our sleep and our performance. I would argue that consistency is certainly the biggest one. I have a high-performance sleep coaching practice here in Los Angeles, as you know. One of the things that we do is, we evaluate people right when they walk through the door.

A lot of people come to me, they're like, "Hey, Michael, I know I need eight hours and I only have six. What can you do?" Believe it or not, I can actually fix that problem. Like I was telling you earlier, it's learning what their chronotype is, getting them more consistent, and then I actually run blood work on people. I look at things like iron, magnesium, vitamin D, melatonin. All of those are things that, if you're deficient in them, are going to have a really big effect on your sleep.


Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Dr Michael Breus does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give his 18-year-old self, the one thing on his bucket list, and a whole lot more 🚀


We want to make sure that we're starting out at good levels, and then if everything looks good there, I do a full genetic screen. So, I take their DNA from a 23andme, ancestry.com, something like that. I run it through an algorithm with 74 different sleep markers, and I get a roadmap of what your sleep is going to look like now and what it's going to look like in the future. Then we taper to the future.

As an example, I had one fellow, a prominent CEO here in Los Angeles, and we discovered that he had a genetic propensity for sleep apnea. He's a lean guy, not somebody who you would ever expect to have sleep apnea. So what we do now is, we contacted his physician and at all of his appointments, we measure his neck size, because one of the big markers for sleep apnea is neck size. Anybody who has over a 17-and-a-half-inch neck has something like an 80% chance of having sleep apnea.

If I now monitor his neck and if he goes a bigger collar size, we get on it real quick, and we make sure that things are copacetic because we don't want him to get that sleep apnea. We had another one with somebody with restless legs, same thing, had the propensity, didn't have the symptomatology, make sure that we avoided in the future. That kind of stuff is pretty cool.

If you get someone who comes in who has PTSD, depression, or some type of other severe condition, do you change your approach or is it pretty similar to what you just outlined?

I do change my approach, especially with people who have PTSD. I did a lot of work with patients with PTSD during my residency at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi. I'll be honest with you, I'm going to say something that's a little on the controversial side, so I hope that's okay. One of the only things I was able to find for my veterans to help them sleep after they had been in an active theater of war was cannabis. We live in California, it's legal here, it's recreational here, and it's literally the only thing I've ever found that worked in my PTSD patients in particular.

There's this hypervigilant switch that pops in these folks. If you've been in an active theater of war, your head's on a swivel, you're making sure that you're okay at all times. That just doesn't turn off when you come home. I'm not suggesting everybody goes out and smokes weed to sleep. But what I am saying is, there's something there. There are lots of sleep related products in the dispensaries. Most of them, to be fair, don't work particularly well. I do believe that THC is an important component in reduction of anxiety. I believe that CBN, which is one of the cannabinoids, can be very important in helping with sleep. There's some interesting data to suggest that.

One of the only things I was able to find for my veterans to help them sleep after they had been in an active theater of war was cannabis.

Unfortunately, with CBD, you'd have to have a tremendous amount of it as far as the data is concerned for it to be really effective. But for PTSD, I think we're close. I'm excited to see some of those cannabis studies come out.

Depression is a whole different ball game. In my mind, I think of PTSD as more on the anxiety side of things. Depression in and of itself is very interesting when you look at it. For example, most people, you don't see REM sleep approach until about 80 minutes into the cycle. For people with depression, they're in REM sleep 30 minutes in.

Sometimes when we're in the sleep lab, we can identify somebody with depression before they even know they have it, which is an interesting concept. It's a biomarker, if you will, for depression, which I think is in and of itself, quite interesting as well. Again, there's lots of different ways to approach all of these different things. Obviously, it's all about good medicine and good science.

Is the delivery method of cannabis important?

Yes, great question. I would argue that the preferred administration method would probably be a tincture, like a dropper with a liquid that you could put underneath your tongue. Because for sleep, we have to get it up and into your brain fairly quickly. And so, if it's a gummy, you got to eat it, it's got to go down to your belly, it's got to mix around, it's got to get back up there. You're talking about 90 minutes or so.

I'd love to see a tincture that would work a little bit faster. Things of that nature, I think, would make sense.

For those who work late at night in front of a computer, is it the light of the computer (or whatever device they’re using) that’s keeping them awake? Or is it their brain being an absolute beehive of activity?

Dude, it's both. It's a two-factor thing here. So, I'm the only sleep doctor, I think, in the universe who says it's okay to fall asleep with the television on, because it's passive content. You're lying back, and content is just flowing over you.

You're watching an old episode of Seinfeld, you close your eyes, you're barely listening, and you fall asleep. That's very different than trying to get your high score on Candy Crush or get through as many work things as you can. That's an active engagement that I think we want to say “No thank you” too. It's both the blue light and the active brain.

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

Show up. I show up positive, and that's been a struggle for me for a long time, but that's really what I do every single day. I wear a bracelet and it's got ‘Positivity’ and ‘Patience’ on it. I think about those two things every day. If I can do those two things, I am good to go.


Resources / Links Mentioned:

🧭 Find your chronotype.

📙 The Sleep Doctor blog.

📝 The Sleep Doctor Facebook.

😎 Sleep glasses.

📚 The Power of When by Dr Michael Breus.

💡 Philips SmartSleep Wake-up Light.

🧘 The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday.

👟 Shoe Dog by Phil Knight.

💚 Have a podcast of your own and want to monetize it? Join us at We Are Podcast.

“No day is so bad it can’t be fixed with a nap.”

Carrie Snow

Today, we sit down with the world’s foremost authority on sleep.

Dr Michael Breus is a three-time bestselling author, clinical psychologist, and sleep educator. He has appeared all over television, including Oprah, The Today Show, and on The Dr Oz show more than 40 times. Dr Breus is also a regular contributor to major publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

When he’s not doing media appearances, Dr Breus works with some of the most successful individuals on the planet who want to perform at their peak with as little sleep as possible.

In this interview, we’ll go through:

Let’s WIN THE DAY with Dr Michael Breus!

🎁 YOUR CHANCE TO WIN:

We have three copies of Dr Breus’ book to giveaway! To enter, either leave a comment on YouTube or on Apple Podcasts with your #1 takeaway from this episode with Dr Breus. Three people will be selected and the book will be mailed to wherever you are in the world.

🎞️ For the video interview, click here.


Resources / Links Mentioned:

🧭 Find your chronotype.

📙 The Sleep Doctor blog.

📝 The Sleep Doctor Facebook.

😎 Sleep glasses.

📚 The Power of When by Dr Michael Breus.

💡 Philips SmartSleep Wake-up Light.

🧘 The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday.

👟 Shoe Dog by Phil Knight.

💚 Have a podcast of your own and want to monetize it? Join us at We Are Podcast.

“The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.”

Norman Schwarzkopf 

On this show I like to bring you the real mindset masters, and today we’ve got an absolute superstar, Marcus Smith, who’s been through more wars than most. Marcus is an entrepreneur, an extreme athlete, and a performance coach. Based in Dubai, he’s the founder of InnerFight, which helps everyone – from kids to corporate clients – unlock their peak performance, as well as owner of Smith St Paleo, which provides paleo food offerings to help people make better nutrition decisions.

Marcus is fit, and I mean FIT. At age 18, he started playing professional rugby, making it to the 2009 Rugby Sevens World Cup. Since then, he’s completed pretty much anything with “ultra” in its name, including:

In February 2018, while training to set a world record in ultra-cycling, Marcus was hit by a truck, with the impact smashing him into a brick wall. But he stared death right in the face and said, “Not today.” Rather than focus on what he lost, Marcus decided to create a documentary ‘Fight for Every Breath’ where he details his experience and his journey back to full health.

Just nine months after the accident, Marcus completed not one, not two, but 30 marathons, in 30 days!

In this episode, we’re going to talk with Marcus about:

Strap yourself in. Let’s WIN THE DAY with Marcus Smith!

James Whittaker:
What was it like growing up in Dubai? Can you also take us into a bit of an overview of the city for those who haven't been there?

Marcus Smith:
To be honest, it's almost like shatters to dream because when I came here, when I was four, there was nothing; there was no lights, there was no highways, there was no buildings. And I think that's kind of what I love still about the places I see it quite, if you'd like, quite naked. I see it for what it is for the culture, which now it's a lot different. There's obviously a lot of stuff that's maybe a little bit more, make sure we say it, let's be honest, it's quite plastic. And a lot of it is not very real at all, but I've got friends here that have been here forever and Dubai's kind of been home for the last coming up 40 years, then I say, "That's a long time."

What's it like geographically? Is it a lot of the sand like you would imagine being in the Middle East or is there bits of greenery and things around too?

There's a lot of green, James, and that's what the government has done super nice. But from my house, I'm literally in the middle of the desert within 20 minutes, which I absolutely love. And mate, next week we've got some public holidays coming up and I'm an hour from the mountains and I'll be there for about three or four days that public holiday so I can get away from it. And this is one of the things, people come as tourists to this country, and it's like, "Oh, it's malls and it's buildings." There's a lot more, if you like sand. If you don't like sand, don't come here, mate. That's quite a lot.

And you and your wife have a paleo food company, don't you? What's it like getting fresh produce and things in Dubai?

That's all good. Yeah, we set up Smith St Paleo in 2016. My wife's from Australia and she was actually an air hostess with Emirates for 13 years where we met, mate, imagine that on an airplane. And we set up the paleo food business basically based on the back of her suffering a lot of inflammation when she was traveling and she just started cooking paleo food.

So getting good food back in the day, when I first got here, I can't imagine what it'd been like when my mom was trying to cook for us as kids, but now everything's available. We've got a lot of home grown organic food. So yeah, it's super good. But mate, I think we have probably on par with America, if I'm allowed to say it, the number of burger joints per capita is probably some of the highest in the universe. We're trying to do a good thing, but a lot of the time burgers win basically for a lot of people.

You met your wife on an airplane. Tell us about the pickup line you used!

It's not even good, mate! I was fast asleep and, she’ll tell this story, she's like, "He looked okay and he was a nice sleeper." So I'm there with my mouth shut. We didn't really speak much on the plane. We ran into each other in a bar here in Dubai. One of my mates was over from Australia going back. And I said, "Mate, if we're not going to see each other for six months or so, let's go out for a couple of quiet beers."

And we walked into this bar and Holly was in there. I was like, "I know you." And we've literally been together ever since. I went back to live in Australia because I was playing rugby down there. I'm about to live there and she sort of was flying in and out. Then I was like, "This is the one" and I moved back to Dubai.

And in end of 2004, I moved back here full-time and it's amazing. We have a great life, and one day we'll be back in Australia and very happy. Well, we're very happy now, I mean, but I think she definitely didn't take much persuading to say that we'll spend the rest of our life in Australia. I was like, "Yeah, I'm in for that."

One of the most amazing things about your background is your career as an extreme athlete and we'll get into the accident and those elements that have really defined a big chapter of your life shortly, but where did this love of extreme sports come from – the ultra-running, ultra-cycling, and all those types of things?

Honestly, it's the environment that you're brought up in. I'm not blaming it on my parents, but they did such an amazing job of making sports such a big part of my life. And I'm eternally grateful to them. I see a lot of my habits were their habits – it's incredible. They'd have people running from the house, they'd be off at triathlons. Mum would be winning running races here in Dubai. And I would just be begging the whole time from like four or five years old to go out and go running with them.

As I got a little bit older, I was allowed to run a little bit further down the street with them and then they'd be like, "Right, you've got to go home now." I do believe, James, you are a massive product of your environment and I feel a little bit sometimes not super comfortable saying that because I know people didn't have such fortunate upbringings that I had, but I know that people had perhaps more fortunate upbringing than I have, and haven't done much with it.

You are a massive product of your environment.

But endurance sport was in my blood, I think, from the start. Dad has cycled the length of New Zealand, he's cycled the length of England. He cycled pretty much halfway across America so that's really where it comes from. And even to this day, my dad's pressing 74, 75. I was speaking to him the other day, he's out on his bike and mum's doing workouts in the garden and it's amazing. I love my parents so much and they've given me so much.

Yeah, you need to catch up! It's a good benchmark of fitness and adventure for your life.

Yeah, absolutely. It really is.

You've done ultra-marathons through the Sahara Desert and had some other incredible experiences. Was there a particular moment where you felt like maybe you'd bitten off more than you can chew?

No, absolutely not. The Sahara was the moment where a lot of things came clear, mate. I was running 250 kilometers across the Sahara self-supported and honestly, I have a picture of it just before it happened, it just so happened that one of my friends took a picture and about 50 meters from where this picture is taken, I stopped and the sand, it was almost like a salt flat and the earth had almost parted. And there was just this big line of runners. And I was like, "Wow, I'm in the middle of the Sahara Desert." We hadn't seen any other civilization since we'd been there for like five days.

And I just thought to myself, "This is amazing that we, as human beings are allowed to pass on this earth." And from that, I always had a massive appreciation for nature and for the outdoors. I spent a lot of time when I was young in boarding school, in the UK, outside. But on that moment, I think a lot of things changed. Since then, all I've wanted to do is cross landscapes on foot and walk and hike and run and cycle. Holly was probably going, "Yeah, this is where it all went wrong. I let you go to the Sahara!"

But yeah, I just had this almost epiphany, if you want, and reflection, I'm huge on, James. And the more I think about it every time I sort of tell that story, the closer I come to it. Yeah, there's tough times, mate, don't get me wrong. It's brutal. Ultramarathons, endurance sports are I call them the wildest rollercoaster ride you'll ever go on because you are literally, you have these moments and you're invincible, no one can touch you.

You're running through the Sahara and it's just amazing. And a few hours later, the sun goes down and you're like, "Why the hell am I here? Why do I even exist as a human being?" And that's what's so amazing that you have these ultimate highs and lows, which allows you to come back into life.

You're running through the Sahara and it's just amazing. And a few hours later, the sun goes down and you're like, "Why the hell am I here? Why do I even exist as a human being?"

And when you come back, I believe you live on a different level. Again, it's no better or no worse than anyone else. But for me, it's elevated my game in a number of areas, family, business, a number of different areas. So yeah, the Sahara was very special.

I often think about those sliding door moments about one decision you made. When I first moved to LA in 2013, there was a barbecue that I went to in the afternoon which became the foundation of so many friendships, which has led to so many other amazing things. For you, the one decision of doing the Sahara Desert has helped you with a whole heap of inspiration.

For those who don't know, can you take us into the specifics of running through the Sahara Desert? Is it soft sand? Is it hard sand? Is it super hot? Are you wearing shoes? What's the deal!?

That's a great question. Marathon des Sables, it was the second big ultra that I did, is quite famous. It's a 250 kilometer race. You carry everything you're going to need for those six days on your back. You only get given water along the way and you wear normal trainers. And we stitch in what's called a sand gator to stop the sand from coming in. Despite people thinking the Sahara is all sand, it's not all sand, but a shit ton of it is sand! You get sand everywhere.

I was going to ask how effective the gators were. Sand is like water. It's sort of hard to get out if you're right in the thick of it!

I mean, they're good, but you get sand everywhere. And a lot of places, it's like a clay sand. So at the end of it, you're like, "Is this a real sun tan?" And then you have a shower and all comes off. But mountains in the day, it's super hot. In the night, it gets really cold. And that's why it's such a brutal race, that particular one, because a lot of races, like you'll have a race in a country that's quite hot most of the time.

I was in Kenya last year and that race is quite warm the whole time. You'll have races in the Arctic, there's an ultra where it's just freezing cold all the time. Whereas the Sahara, it can get down to about 6-8 degrees Celsius at night, but up to 45 degrees Celsius in the day. So you get these massive swings and it sounds quite straightforward, you're going to put everything on your back and you're going to run, but that pack shouldn't weigh really more than about nine kilograms.

So you're eating dehydrated food, which after a few days, obviously does quite funky stuff to your digestive system. For some people, it completely blocks them. Other people are literally just diarrhea the whole way through, so those problems are real.

And then we've got hygiene issues as well. You're not able to wash properly because you only get enough water to drink. So literally you're starting to come out with rash on your armpit because you're just sweating so much. And I don't need to go on about how your private parts will look, but you can imagine that as well, it's carnage.

I train a lot of people. I've taken over 20 people through that race now, and people will come and see me and I'd be like, "Tell me what it's about." And I just I'll say, "Listen, this race is nothing about running. This race, like life, is about all the other stuff. If you get all of your little admin bits in place, if you control the controllables, we've heard it like three million times in the year of COVID mate. But if you can focus and control on what you control, then you actually have a great time."

And it's mental, we're over 1,300 people running through the Sahara. So as you can imagine, we’re all absolute fruit loops!

Is everyone setting up their own tents or how does that work? Where do you sleep?

They put together this absolute token shelter that most nights just falls down, and you've got eight blokes laying literally like sardines. And when it falls down, no one can be bothered putting it back up because everyone's so tired. People just sleep under the stars, on rocks, you don't sleep properly for the seven days. That’s just the nature of ultra races.

This is what really takes people down because you've got lot of people who are very good runners, but if they can't manage stinking, I'm very good about washing in normal life, but when I'm in the bush or in an endurance event, you've got to deal with that and you don't have enough water and you won't have enough sleep – and eating dehydrated food the whole time is not like eating fresh paleo food, for example – and it's all these things that just start to chip away at people slowly.

And most people, you can move forward. And this is one of the biggest learnings I've got from ultra-running and from endurance sports is that you can keep moving forward. But when you're moving forward to another camp that you don't have anything to look forward to, it's quite a difficult argument to sell to yourself in a way. It's not like, "Mate, you finished this, we're at the pub. We're going to have a countertop meal and we're going to have a schooner."

You can keep moving forward.

But it's like, "Yeah, we're going to get to this other shit camp site where you won't be able to wash, you'll have to cook your food which tastes like crap anyway. And then you'll sleep on a rock. Do you want to go?"

It's like, "No, I don't really want to go there."

Sounds enticing.

Yeah, exactly! So these are the challenges, but that's what makes it absolutely incredible.

How do you feel at the start line of these things now that you have done so many of them – do you feel nervous, or have you gone through it that much now that you're just prepared, you understand the process, and you just got to focus on putting one foot in front of the other?

Yes, to all of the above, but I still get a bit nervous, mate, in a way that, when I go to these races, most of them now I want to try and push a little bit. We're on a journey of self-discovery. We all are, we're expressing that in different ways. So I want to see where my limits are. I want to sort of start to push it.

And I also love it, because I've been to a lot of races and the pre, the day before everyone gathers, and then we start the race the next day, I love just listening to people, listening to stories. If it's their first race, people talking about their shoes, their equipment, and just sitting back and listening and taking it all in.

I want to see where my limits are.

And you meet some people that generally, and this is what we always say that endurance sports brings together people that, we wouldn't be friends. This is the one thing that brings us together. We don't have anything else in common. We don't like the same music, but through this crazy sport of suffering, we all come together and you make some amazing, amazing friends. Like all of my good friends now I sort of know through endurance sports, it's gone from rugby mates to endurance mates. And they're both a crazy bunch.

The way you talk about it is the way that people talk about Burning Man and Ayahuasca, it's like this experience of self-discovery that people go through. It's really interesting.

Yeah. It is that James, that's a very good way of putting it together.

Obviously, you have a competitive spirit and somewhat of an obsessive nature to do the work behind the scenes to get this done. Are you very competitive and obsessive about all other areas of your life too?

Yes. What do I say!? No, mate, I'm totally chilled out. I'm really relaxed. I'm very OCD on a number of levels. Without this sounding wrong, that's one of the reasons why I love my wife so much because she puts up with it. Everything is like bang, bang. My diary is just so strictly done. My training is strictly done. And because when I was playing sport, when I was playing rugby competitively, and then when I moved into ultras, you're going to be in a remote place in an ultra. If you're not OCD, you could've left one thing that could just ruin your whole experience.

And that for me is sad because you might have to pull out the race because one of the guys rocked up to one of the races that I've been in and he didn't have his insoles in his shoes. So his race is destroyed. He'd washed them the day before and forgot to put them back in. So yeah, I'm pretty OCD in pretty much every area of my life. I'm very routine driven, which again, you wouldn't be surprised comes from my dad. It's like every single Sunday we do this, Monday, we do this, it is bang like that. And that's how I work really well.

I have my whole work life. I run two businesses. I do all this training and I try and spend as much time with my wife as I can, I have to live in these buckets. So Sunday's for this, Monday's for this. And I try not to tell Holly that, "Okay, I'm home now, we've got two hours make the best of it," sort of thing.

We did take as much holidays as we could. We try and get away four or five times a year. Obviously, COVID made that quite difficult. But I think that downtime is really important as well, because a lot of people would say, "Yeah, you're really intense." And when I'm here, I'm just on. Like this morning I was up before 4am and I was riding my bike at 4:30am and then bang, bang, bang the whole day.

And just literally an hour ago, I got home for my sister because it was her birthday. And now we're having this chat. So it's banging, but I love it. And I think that's what helps me as well. It's not for everyone, but it's just the way it's what works for me.

Yeah, the more prepared you are, the more you allow yourself that luxury of surrender. There's an old quote that's taken so many different forms. It says, “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” It's like people in the UFC, they talk about “The more you sweat in the gym, the less you bleed in the octagon.” Clearly you have no troubles putting in this work behind the scenes. What is that secret to the daily motivation? Is it just something that's instilled in you as a kid from your parents, as you mentioned earlier, or is there actually something going through your head every single day?

Like I talk about a lot about the “Win the Day” mentality. So I literally have that in my head as I step into the cold shower in the morning, it's “Win the Day”. My alarm says “Win the Day”, it's like a little mantra that helps me move forward. Have you got something like that to inspire that daily motivation and enable that consistency?

Yeah, I do James, and it's not dissimilar. My alarm's called “Dominate”. When I'm waking up to dominate, which is most days, I'm waking up to dominate. It's funny, because when I'm waking up to teach people, my alarm's called “Make people better at life”. So when I'm teaching first thing in the morning, when that's my first appointment, it's that.

But I get up every morning, as we all do, and I look in the mirror and I say, "Literally, this is it. I'm excited. I want to do this." And I try and carry that attitude.

Mate, I'm not full of crap, some days are shit; not every day is amazing. But I look in the mirror every morning and say, "This is going to be the best day of my life. This is really it."

And then one thing that I think is super, super healthy – and Holly and I have done it since we've been together 17 years – whenever we've been in each other's company is we sit down at the dinner table every night. You'll laugh at this, there's one month of the year or three weeks of the year where I have a screen on, which is when the Tour de France is on. She lets me watch it. It's wild because the finish of the Tour de France is like five o'clock in France, seven o'clock Dubai time. So I'm like, "It's live, I've got to watch it." And she bought into this years ago.

Mate, I'm not full of crap, some days are shit; not every day is amazing. But I look in the mirror every morning and say, "This is going to be the best day of my life. This is really it."

But the point is we sit down, no devices, nothing except those three weeks of the year. And we'll debrief the day, not formally. It's not like, "Oh, what did you love about today?" I'm not really like, can I say airy-fairy like that. We're pretty straight forward, "Now, how did it go? What went on?"

And I think we spend more time talking, like we never watched TV. I can't watch Netflix. I hate it. And this is also because of the way that I was brought up in boarding school, discipline was huge, but I think those things really help you, or they really helped me. And the way that I live is the way that I live. I don't think it's for everyone, but the same that you wake up with an attitude to win the day. I don't get why people don't try and wake up with that attitude.

I know some days you wake up and I know there's things on your agenda that you're not 100% looking forward to, but when you switch that attitude on, I'm going to win this day. Even if this thing that I have to deal with this shit, I'm going to win at it. Then you're going into it in such a positive way with such a beautiful mindset that you're actually going to turn that bad experience into a good one and have an awesome day. And we can all do that. I really believe that we can.

Yeah, it's an opportunity each day to also do something that your future self will thank you for.

You're very big on people finding the right training and the right nutrition and the right routine that suits them, rather than just trying to go on and get a downloaded a template version of the internet. When everyone wants that magic bullet for perfect abs, rather than finding out what’s going to fire them up and keep them consistent.

I think that's the key. Everyone's always worried about what everyone else is doing. And no one else is living your life. You're living your life. You've got to deal with your problems. You've got to get out of your bed and look at your face in your mirror.

So we need to go inwards to figure out what works, to get different ideas from here and there, listen to your Win the Day show. I was listening to it earlier today when I was riding my bike; it’s a beautiful show, with a very, very inspiring lady who you had on. And I got some ideas, but then I have to take them in to figure out what I'm going to do with them.

I think that's super important. Taking different ways of training, different ways of meditation, different ways of approaching life – it’s different for everyone. If someone's listening to this show and they get fired up and they go and try and live the way I live, it won't work for you. It will not work for you. You need to take small bits, and they might start to work and then we can start to develop change, but we have to figure out what works.

But I don't know what you think, James, that's the hard bit. And that's the bit where we have to look deep into ourselves to figure out what we are, who we are and how we are going to live. And I think it's easy to go, "Oh yeah, James is saying live like this. I'll do that." And it will give us happiness, but it will only last for a certain period of time because it has to come from within. And that's tough.

For sure, the win starts within. And I think that's where having the right friends is important. I was speaking at an event last night and I was asked by someone in the audience, “How do you get away from toxic people?” Which is so important, because you need to protect your energy source at all costs.

I just don't have any negative people in my life at the moment, I just don't. We’ve only got X amount of energy each day so we need to allocate that to people who give us energy.

Yeah, I think that's super important. It was funny, I was just with my sister and we were talking about that. Actually the scenario we're talking about was, if you pass someone in a supermarket that you don't really like, but you kind of know, would you stop? And I'm like, “No, of course I won't stop!”

I don't need to stop, because I’d rather spend 30 seconds calling someone I really care about to try and change their life in those 30 seconds. And she's like, "No, no, you've got to stop." And I'm like, "No, I'm not stopping!"

Your accident has so many parallels with the Janine Shepherd story. A big theme from both of you is that we can be on what we believe is the right path and everything might be looking good for us, but completely out of left field – through no fault of our own – something massive life-changing shifts our trajectory forever.

Can you take us into that day of the accident and exactly what happened?

Yeah, of course I can, like you rightly said, I was just on a completely different path. I was actually training on my bike, I was going to try and set an ultra-cycling world record. We were about two weeks out from the first race, and I was in the mountains about an hour or so from my house. I was riding with three other friends and I was hit by a truck at just over 55 – 60 kilometers an hour. And that truck pushed me on to a brick wall, which I then hit at 54 kilometers an hour, which is a little bit problematic being an 88 kilogram human, traveling at 54 kilometers an hour, going into a brick wall.

There's so many crazy things about this story, but in this split second, I dropped my shoulder. Like I would have done in rugby, and it took all the impact. So on impact, I broke my scapular and seven ribs. Without sounding too blasé about it, bones are not really that much of a problem. But I realized very fast that it was almost like I'd been winded and I couldn't breathe very well.

Then I started trying to figure out why I couldn't breathe. There was a lot of blood coming out of my mouth, and I remember having thinking to myself that in movies, when the guy gets shot, the blood comes out of his mouth, and next thing the guy's dead. So I knew I was in big trouble.

And one of the things through ultras and this thing I talk about the ultra mindset is if you have a problem, you have to admit you have a problem. You can't just deny it.

On impact, I broke my scapular and seven ribs.

And I couldn't deny it. There was blood coming out of my mouth. I couldn't breathe. And I'm like, "Shit, I've got a problem." What had happened was, on impact with the wall, my left lung had essentially almost exploded, like a beach ball. And that makes breathing incredibly hard because you're breathing essentially with the lung on the right side, although they're both together. It took almost two hours to get an ambulance because we're in the mountains, so I was just lying there. And so many amazing things happened.

Thank you for asking me the question, because this is part of my therapy. The more I reflect on it, the more I know in that moment that my body and my mind were detached, my soul left and I saw something different and a lot of people are listening and going, "Wow, this is going to be crazy." But in that moment that I was out of my body, all of the pain stopped, I could breathe again and everything was totally normal.

I thought to myself, "You're in a bit of a bad situation. Well, what's the options here?" And essentially there were two options. One was just give up. I thought to myself, James, I was like, "I love my life. I'm doing something I love, I'm with my mates. My wife's at home. No, that's NOT an option.”

There was only one option, and that was to fight for every single breath.

When I decided to take that option, I couldn't breathe again. I was back in my body and I was just trying to draw this breath. And it was just wild. It was just such an amazing experience to reflect on the power of choice, the amount of choice that we have in the world these days. And then when that choice is removed and you have to put all of your energy into something that is just so, so simple for us, which was breathing. And I made it through; the long and short of it. Obviously, I'm here.

I spent three days in intensive care, which is really awful because no one really knows what’s going on. You want an answer, but no one has the answer. You're like, "Am I okay? Am I going to live?" You're conscious, and they’re saying, "Yeah, we're hoping your lungs going to open.”

You're like, "What do you mean, you're hoping!? Is that not going to happen?"

And they're like, "Well, we'll send someone else in to see."

And you're in this weird, weird time. But again, mate, it was just an amazing time to reflect, to think, to listen to others. Then when I was moved to the main ward, I was able to answer people's questions, probably not with quite as much energy as I've got right now, but I was like, "I'm okay." Because you just literally. People would be making me laugh. I'm like, "Can you please not make me laugh."

This is what I believe life gives. It’s these unique moments and super unique opportunities where we're asked to respond and we're asked to make decisions. Those decisions almost define us, and they prepare us for what else is coming in life. The decisions that I made during the recovery of my crash has prepared me for things that I'm facing now.

I was never aggressive but I'm so much calmer now than I was before. And I'm just happy to sit back, listen, take stuff in, and I'm comfortable to say, "Thank you, James, let me come back to you on that." Whereas I remember before I'd be like, "No, James. We got to do it like this. Let's finish it right now, right now, me and you," you know what I mean? And now I'm just like, "Yeah, it's cool."

And because lungs need time to heal, you can't rush it. I always used to want to rush things, even until I was 40, I was going always super fast. And I was like, my accident and reflection has just told me you can slow down and it's okay to say nothing. And it's okay to say to someone, "Thank you so much. I'll come back to you tomorrow." That's cool.

We're in this world now where if you don't reply to WhatsApp within like 3.5 seconds, you're not a nice person. That's bullshit, mate.

We're in this world now where if you don't reply to WhatsApp within like 3.5 seconds, you're not a nice person. That's bullshit, mate. We don't need to live like that. And we're forced to live like that often by the system and we just don't need to. So yeah, it was a wild year. 2018 was just the best. Honestly, I mean it from my heart, it was amazing.

When did you realize the severity of the situation? The big problem that I have with doctors and psychologists – who do great work, don't get me wrong – but it's when we put a label on someone that can force them to say, "Oh, you know what? That is the reason why I shouldn't do X, Y, and Z” rather than giving them the motivation and opportunity to go out there and actually make something happen.

Because most doctors have got to err on the side of caution. When I was in Boston, about eight years ago, I had a Grade III shoulder separation where you get this little bump on your shoulder, after the ligament has ripped clean off the collar bone. And I remember the doctor telling me I would never be able to do some things that I loved to do. He was an expert so I believed him.

I went home with the bottles of painkillers that I’d been given. Combine strong painkillers with doctor’s severely constraining your idea of what’s possible for you, and it’s a path to suicide. It really is. I remember moments standing in the shower in tears, before I threw them all out and swore I’d never take a painkiller ever again.

Yeah. I had something similar when they sent me from hospital, I was taking these painkillers and I was losing it. And literally, I came downstairs one morning and I took the bag and I went out to the garbage and I just threw them all away. I said I'm not having more painkillers. The funny thing is, mate, and folks that I tell this often, anytime anyone asks me, go back on my Instagram the day before my crash which was on like the 9th of February, crashed on the 10th of February, I posted a picture that said, “Everything happens for a reason.” And the next day this happens.

On that theme, the doctors that I had were incredible. They never made me feel like I was going to be unable to do something. And I remember, and I'm forever thankful for this guy. The physio came in to my room when I got moved to the main ward. Well, there was three really cool things. One, the guy in the emergency room was just totally calm, super calm and so nice; softly spoken. And that made me feel comfortable.

Then I went to see the surgeon, he was a South African guy. And he said, "Listen, your shoulders in so many pieces, I wouldn't know where to start putting it back together. So I'm not going to bother operating. See you later." And I was like, "Yes, that's the best news ever!"

Then I got moved to the main ward. A physio came in and this was a real turning point for me, James, , I'd been in intensive care for three days, and it was like the second day in the ward. So I hadn't moved from the bed for almost five days.

And he was an English guy and he looked at me and he goes, "How are you feeling mate?" And I went, "Actually, I feel pretty good mate." It was morning. And I'm looking in the mirror and I'm feeling good and I'm doing what I said earlier. And he goes, "Do you want to go for a walk?" And then my face must've just dropped. I suddenly wasn't feeling so good." I was absolutely petrified. And I went to him, "Are you serious?" And he went, "Yeah, you can go for a walk if you want." I was like, "Mate, I would love to."

I was going to say, as long as it's an ultra-walk! Is that what you were thinking!?

Well, That's the thing, James, it literally was! It took me over 10 minutes to sit upright in bed. At this point, I had a pipe coming out from my lungs, draining the blood off. I had a pee bag in, I had a catheter in and he just grabbed these two and he clipped them on his belt as I stood up and he said, "Come on then mate, let's go for a walk." And it was like, I was reborn.

At five days, I didn't know whether I'd make it through. I was fighting for my life on the side of the road. I had no idea whether I'd make it through. And I started shuffling out of the hospital room down the ward, and I was just I had this grin on my face. I was holding my left arm because everything here is broken. I was almost crying. And I was like "This is amazing, this is amazing."

You could see the look on his face – he was so happy for me, and I felt just superhuman. But at the same time, my piss bag was on one clip on his belt, my blood bag on the other, and my hospital gown at the back was fully open. I'm cut to shreds and I'm having the best moment of my life. And I'm like "Wow, this is just so, so surreal. And no doctor is going to tell me I can't because I'm going to do this. And I'm going to recreate this feeling as often as I can."

I only had one more physio session after that, and I did all of my own rehab on my shoulder. I woke up every morning at 4:30am, went to my gym and started training. I got in that environment.

And the first week, when Holly was cooking dinner, I'd sneak out the house, get in my car, and I'd drive to my gym. She called me she goes, "Where are you?" I'm like "I'm at the gym." I just wanted to be there, mate, because of this environment of people. And I knew the power of the energy to heal me was going to be something amazing. And it did. I did it for a week.

Then when I could start training, I started training, and I just asked myself every day – it goes back to what we were talking about to “Win the Day.” I said, "What can I do today just to get better?" When you're really buckled, progress is super small but also super big, like to be able to lift my hand in line with my shoulder, it's like nothing really. When you think about it, like you're so far from being able to lift up a bottle of water or anything, because all you can do is get it to here.

But three weeks before I couldn't even lift barely my hand off my leg. So your whole perspective on things just starts to change. And that's when you realize that the human body and the human mind, they are incredible. For the amount of time that we disconnect them. we talk about mental and physical. We're one being, we are a human being and we're an amazing piece of machinery. It's incredible. It really is.

I love it. There's a part of your bio which is crazy, 30 marathons in 30 days within nine months of the accident. I want to ask you a question. There's a story about Bear Grylls, former British SAS who was in Africa and he jumped out of the plane, had an issue with his parachute, and ended up breaking his back. Lying in hospital, he had a picture of Mount Everest that he put at the wall at the end of his hospital bed.

The nurse came in and said, "Why have you got a picture of Mount Everest there?" And he said, "Because when I get out of hospital I'm going to climb Mount Everest." The nurse replied, "The only thing you're going to be climbing in and out of is a wheelchair."

Sure enough, I forget the timeframe, but he went and climbed Mount Everest, after he had a broken back. You had 30 marathons in 30 days within nine months of your accident. Where did the idea for that first come from?

It's very similar to that story, James. I was in the hospital bed and I was fortunate to get such amazing support in hospital, so it was one of the rare times I was alone. And I had this thought because my whole life had been about this ultra-cycling world record. And I was like "That's gone."

I had to make peace with it being gone. Then I had this thought of, "Well, if I can't ride my bike I can definitely run." And I sent a message to one of my friends, Rob, who now works with me. It's almost like a romantic love story. I sent him the route in Corsica that someone had sent me before. And it's basically crossing the Island of Corsica from the top left-hand corner to the bottom right corner; 195 kilometers, 10,000 meters elevation.

And I told Rob, who was a schoolteacher at the time, "Tell me what date you finish school because the following Monday we're going to run this."

He just wrote back "Mate, leave it, get better speak to me in a few weeks."

When I was training for that, I actually picked up the Dean Karnazes book about him running 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days.

In 2018, I turned 40, and thought, "Bike crash near death in February. Turning 40 in December. I need to do something pretty special in between." And there's the Dubai Fitness Challenge which is a 30 day challenge. I called up the organizers and I said "You guys have got this challenge?" And they're like, "Yeah, 30 minutes a day for 30 days." I said, "I'm just about to blow it out the water."

The guy said, "what are you talking about?" And I go "Well, mate, I'm going to run a marathon every day for 30 days." And he's just like, "No." I was like "No, no, no. You don't understand." He's like "Mate, this is for sedentary people to get them moving for 30 minutes, it's too extreme."

And I'm on the other end of the phone going, "Yeah, exactly. If I do something that's absolutely so stupid, then everyone will just go, "Well, if that moron can do this..."

I had this sales pitch, James!

You’re a man of the people trying to get everyone’s averages up!

Yeah! He’s just going "No."

Anyway, few more phone calls and I got it through and that's really where it came from. I was just like, "You know what, my motivation for doing it was super clear in that I wanted to see where I could push myself too, physically and mentally, because that's what the ultra-cycling would have done."

I wanted to test my potential. In the process of that, I want to inspire a lot of people as well. I thought, "I live in Dubai. Dubai has been my home for a number of years. If I can run into schools, that'll be something absolutely amazing."

So I finished about 16 of the 30 days in a school. Some days I had 2,500 kids trying to race me around a 400-meter track which, when you've already run 42 kilometers that day and you've run 10 or 15 of these things, and you’re absolutely smoked, the kids are trying to run like three and a half minute Ks because they're running with the marathon man.

But we were able to create an amazing impact. And it's so ironic that it's actually the day that we're recording this, 24th, it's two years ago to this day that I finished my 30th marathon. So it was wild. It was just … you learn so much, mate. I got to meet so many amazing people, again, the energy just feeding off people. I'd have people that just get up 4:00am, drive to where I was, start running with me. I had 40 or 50 people that ran a full marathon of which 30 had never run a marathon before, I was literally only on my own for like three hours of the whole month.

I downloaded 20 audiobooks, and I didn't even listen to one! I'm like "At the end of it, what am I going to do with all these audio books that I had?" It was wild. A lot of these things it's so much fun.

There is nothing we can't do. We just got to figure out how to do it.

And thank you for the great questions, mate. It's fun to talk about them and to continue the reflection but a lot of them are just, honestly, they're quite surreal. Sometimes I'm just like "Did this stuff happened?" Is this me, is this life, and then you realize, "Yeah, it did. And this is life and it is amazing."

Because on February the 10th, I'm in intensive care and on November the 24th I had just run my 30th marathon. There is nothing we can't do. We just got to figure out how to do it.

That legacy is going to live on for a long, long time, in all the different people who you helped with your story. You're a super positive and inspiring guy. High energy. Was there a particularly dark day that stood out in that recovery period between the accident and the marathon?

Yeah. There were tough days. There were really tough days. The first week that I went home was brutal because you can't sleep, and sleep deprivation is really tough. I'm okay with pain but when you can't sleep, I'd say to Holly, "I just want it to go away. I just want it to end. I just want this pain to end."

You laugh too hard, a rib pops. You roll over in bed, a rib pops. And you're just like "Oh my God." But when you're committed, like you are, to wake up every day and to say I'm going to win the day, that starts a programming in your subconscious, and you do it now subconsciously. So it's going to take a lot for that dark moment in the night where I'm almost in tears because I'm in so much pain and I've thrown the damn painkillers away because they’re giving me nightmares and stuff.

All of that's forgotten when you've programmed your subconscious, but it was brutal. And a lot of people will say to me, "Oh, Marcus, this is amazing, you recovered so fast." And in that same tone that I said before, I just look at them and go, "Yeah, bro I recovered fast." You don’t know the half of it. And I never would say that to people because people are just trying to be polite. And I just appreciate that they say nice things to me.

But when you do the first month of my training, I would just make it simple because when life is hectic training should be simple. I would just do 100 rounds of Tabata every morning; 20 on, 10 off, for 100 rounds. And it's still set up like that in my phone, 100 rounds. When people come to train with me, they're like, "You've got it saying 100 rounds, are you really going to go 100 rounds of Tabata?"

I'm like, "We'll see how it goes, bro."

And so yes, there are a lot of challenges. There are a lot of tough times. And I think that's one thing that people who listen to shows like yours, mate, you have very inspiring guests on; you give off a lot of great energy.

I think for people to think that we don't have tough days that we don't just look at it and go, "Oh my God," or get overwhelmed. We ALL get overwhelmed and we have to be honest with ourselves on that. But I think what the difference is from what you said and from what I see in my life is that no matter how bad today is I'll wake up tomorrow and it's a new day, then I'm ready to dominate and you're ready to win the day.

If I can just encourage people that every time you go to bed when you get up the next day, you've been just gifted this unique opportunity to do amazing things. And you've got a fresh mind. And if you come with it with this great positive mindset you're going to have an awesome life and you just rinse and repeat that. And it's beautiful.

Yeah, it's so true. There's an old saying it says "A happy person wants 10,000 things. A sick person wants just one thing." What did facing death head-on teach you about life?"

To live every single day. Don't waste time because it's brutal. It nearly ended. And it's hard for me when I look back at it, when I think about, it's very, very emotional mate. And wouldn't it just be a waste, how close was I? You could say very, very close. I was very close and I'm here. So I'll live. And that is something that is easy to say, but I think it's challenging and it's tough. Some days are very tough but that's what I learned from it.

Goal setting is a big part of what you do by the sound of it. You're always focused on a big achievement in the future. How do you balance that hunger for future achievements with your happiness in the present?

Because the goal is just where you're headed to. The goal for me is important, but the process is my love. Holly will tell you, "You only sign up for these races so you can buy new stuff." And for me, often the end goal running across the Sahara, running in Kenya, all of these places I was in Sri Lanka last year, amazing, amazing. But the training, the waking up tomorrow morning at 4:30am, it’s dark and cold, but I’m going out and do something, eating well the whole time, being hydrated, sleeping eight hours a night. That is what I love.

The goal is just like the icing on the cake. It's good for the selfies and stuff, you know what I mean? It's at the end. That's why I think people struggle a little bit sometimes because they're so focused on the end goal that they forget that the process is life and it has to be part of your life, this end goal, you have to enjoy.

When life is hectic training should be simple.

There's no point in dreaming about climbing Everest, you have to dream about cold adaptation training. You have to dream about wearing big down jackets and you have to be in love with that. You can't just dream about taking the picture on the top of Everest. That's not it, it's the process, because that process is life.

Otherwise, you just go from one six-month goal or race to another, and that would be awful. I get people that come to me for endurance coaching, and they've just had awful experience, they hate it. And I'm like, "Wow, you spend 16 hours a week doing the sport that you hate. This is ridiculous."

I love the process mate, again, do I love every single minute of training? I try to, because I always make it fun. And I'm at a stage now where I’m 42 and this is what I've chosen to do. Is it my calling in life, if that's what you want to say? Yeah, it is. And I absolutely love it. I love every minute of it. I really do.

Life is too short to do what you hate. And it's not necessarily the will to win, it's the will to prepare to win, which I really I feel like is a big theme from you.

Yeah, absolutely.

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

I wake up one minute before everyone else. I never set my alarm at 4:30am, I set it at 4:29am. I would never set it for 5:00am, I set it at 4:59am. I've done it for a while now, and I feel that gives me the edge and I never ever, ever press snooze … and nor should you.

“The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” 

Norman Schwarzkopf 

On this show I like to bring you the real mindset masters, and today we’ve got an absolute superstar, Marcus Smith, who’s been through more wars than most.

Marcus is an entrepreneur, an extreme athlete, and a performance coach. Based in Dubai, he’s the founder of InnerFight, which helps everyone – from kids to corporate clients – unlock their peak performance, as well as owner of Smith St Paleo, which provides paleo food offerings to help people make better nutrition decisions.

Marcus is fit, and I mean FIT. At age 18, he started playing professional rugby, making it to the 2009 Rugby Sevens World Cup. Since then, he’s completed pretty much anything with “ultra” in its name, including:

In February 2018, while training to set a world record in ultra-cycling, Marcus was hit by a truck, with the impact smashing him into a brick wall. But he stared death right in the face and said, “Not today.” Rather than focus on what he lost, Marcus decided to create a documentary ‘Fight for Every Breath’ where he details his experience and his journey back to full health.

Just nine months after the accident, Marcus completed not one, not two, but 30 MARATHONS … IN 30 DAYS!

In this episode, we’re going to talk with Marcus about:

Strap yourself in. Let’s WIN THE DAY with Marcus Smith!

🎞️ For the video interview, click here.


Resources / Links Mentioned:

📝 Marcus Smith Facebook.

📷 Marcus Smith Instagram.

⚡ Marcus Smith website.

😋 Smith St Paleo in Dubai.

🏃 50 Marathons 50 Days: The secrets to super endurance by Dean Karnazes.

👶 Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall.

🎙️ We Are Members: Learn how to create a thriving business from your podcast.

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

Oscar Wilde

Today, we sit down with one of the world’s leading entrepreneurs and all-round legends, Mike Michalowicz. If you feel like you’re treading water in your career (or simply have lofty goals), or you’re thinking of going down the entrepreneurial route, this is the episode for you.

By his 35th birthday Mike had founded and sold two multi-million-dollar companies. Confident that he had the formula to success, he became a small business angel investor – but then proceeded to lose his entire fortune. Then he started all over again, driven to find better ways to grow healthy, strong companies.

Mike has devoted his life to the research and delivery of innovative, impactful strategies to help business owners succeed. He is the creator of Profit First, which is used by hundreds of thousands of companies across the globe to drive profit. He is the creator of Clockwork, a powerful method to make any business run automatically. And his latest, arguably most impactful discovery, is Fix This Next, where he details the strategy businesses can use to determine what to do – and in what order – to ensure healthy, fast, permanent growth (and avoid debilitating distractions).

Mike is a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal, a business makeover specialist on MSNBC, and author of #1 bestselling books such as Clockwork, Profit First, Surge, The Pumpkin Plan, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, and his new book Fix This Next.

In this interview, we go through:

You’re going to love this one. Let’s Win the Day, with Mike Michalowicz!

James Whittaker:
Mike, thanks for being here. First, I want to start by letting you know that The Pumpkin Plan is the best audiobook I’ve ever heard! Energy and content are both on point, so well done, sir. It must be comforting to know that if all else fails, you at least have a profitable career as a narrator ahead of you!

Mike Michalowicz:
Perhaps, right!? It's funny, when I go to the recording studio, I always stand — and I’m the only person who stands. So, when I arrive, these studios are like, "Here's your seat," and I'm like, "No, I'm sorry," because I get so jacked up.

Well, I went to this one studio, and the narrator before me for his book was a guy named Michael J. Fox, you know that name. I remember coming in, he had just left, and I talked with the producer. I said, "What's it like having Michael J. Fox present?" She goes, "He's a thoroughbred. He wants to be whipped and he'll run faster." I'd read for a while, then I said, "What do you think I am?" She's like, "You're kind of a Clydesdale. You clump along and you get the job done, but we have to do a lot of retakes." So, that's my reading skill.

You work with entrepreneurs, but it seems your work overlaps spousal relationships, professional services, and so many other different areas. Have you found some unexpected results outside of that entrepreneurial audience who you primarily serve?

Yeah. You know, it's funny, I have. It's married couples. I am not a couples counselor by any stretch of the imagination. I have had multiple occasions where couples who are also business partners have reached out and said, "We've reconciled our marriage. We feel stronger." It's interesting how our personal lives and our business lives are locked, and when it's our marital life and our business partner life, it can get to be a real nightmare.

I think it's the systems I teach that simplify the process, but it also simplifies the communication. Partners start speaking eye to eye, and they're not cross-talking. Perhaps that serves marriages. I never expected that, but I do hear that frequently.

Even planting the right seeds and making sure we’re focused each day on the end goal, whether it is a successful marriage or a successful business partnership. Those who go into business with their spouse are usually in for a bumpy ride… I mean, there's maybe two or three times I've seen that actually work successfully. Everyone else just ends up burnt out, on all counts, and the relationship is one of the big sacrifices.

Listen, I can barely be with myself 24 hours a day. That's actually really hard. Being with someone else 24 hours a day? Forget it!

In your books, you challenge the modern-day definition of ‘entrepreneurship’ and state that real entrepreneurs shouldn't be doing most of the work. Instead, it's their job to identify the problems, discover the opportunities, and then build the processes that allows other people and other things to do the work for them. But how do these entrepreneurs recognize that they are on that hamster wheel, and what can they do about it?

If you start seeing yourself doing repetitive tasks, that's the number one indicator. So, if you do something again and again and again, that's an indication that there's, first of all, demand for that task to be replicated, but you, the entrepreneur, need to find a way to outsource it, systematize it, and assign it out – because if you're doing the repetition, that means you are now within the business. An entrepreneur, at least in the early stages, we are that icebreaker. We're going to break into the new space and leave space behind for other people to do the work. But if we keep on turning around, we can't break forward.

Ultimately, too, we need to transition from doing any kind of work, including the icebreaking, and moving our way to designing outcomes. What I mean by this is clear vision, and then considering, almost like a chess board, putting the right people in the right places, the right system in the right places to choreograph them collectively to achieve that outcome. That's the ultimate definition of entrepreneurship: we are not doing the job; we are creating the jobs.

What separates the top entrepreneurs and professionals – the ones who are always onto bigger and better things, making a bigger impact, and appear free in their day to day life – versus your run of the mill entrepreneur / professional who's constantly on the brink of burnout and never seems free?

You know, it seems to be purpose. Purpose in the business. A greater purpose of why we're doing what we're doing. I believe the entrepreneurs who struggle are going after money and thinking, “This is a way to make an income and support my life.” Well, that's a very volatile thing. If this doesn't make enough money, we move on to something else, we get frustrated.

That's the ultimate definition of entrepreneurship: we are not doing the job; we are creating the jobs.

But entrepreneurs who lean into purpose, meaning “This is why I'm on this planet and my business is an amplification or expression of serving that reason,” those people become relentless. I'm not saying relentless in that they're working ridiculous hours necessarily. They may. That's not healthy, in my opinion, but they have a ridiculous commitment to achieving that purpose. They become very thoughtful about it. They look at ways of amplifying it. They look at ways to leverage. That is the drive of purpose.

People with purpose also don’t give up. You know this – overnight successes take 10 or 20 years. A lot of these successes when they come to our purview, when we see it as a consumer, well, they've already been around for 15 years working relentlessly on this purpose. But it's purpose that begets drive and drive begets success.

Yeah, which incorporates mastery and enables you to be resilient and resourceful to acquire everything you need to achieve that mission.

What about passion – where does that come into it? A lot of people hear about ‘passion’ and ‘purpose’, but how are they aligned and how do people go and find these things if they don't already know what their purpose on the world is?

I would say purpose is the beacon and passion is the fuel. So, there is a difference. Purpose is asking ourselves what we’re moving toward. Business owners who don't have purpose are running away, thinking, “I can't handle these struggles” or “I don't want this problem.” They’re running away from that problem. Purpose is we're getting pulled towards something, and you move so much quicker when the magnetic force is pulling you in the same direction. That's what purpose is.

But passion is the fuel. It's the day-in, day-out fuel. If you have a great purpose, but you're not passionate about what you're doing, it becomes a real slog to stick with it.

The key is to find out what gives us joy in the activity.

The key is to find out what gives us joy in the activity. Not all entrepreneurs are cut out to manage people and to choreograph resources and stuff like that. Some entrepreneurs create an amazing idea, but they really should stay as doers. They're really talented at something. Those entrepreneurs, if they're smart, are going to bring in someone who has the talent to do the management of people and so forth. But we have to make sure that we're in a field of passion that gives us excitement on a day-to-day basis. As an entrepreneur, find that for yourself, drive toward that purpose, and you got the one-two punch.

A lot of your work encourages business owners to have a business that runs itself, and I think everyone aspires to that goal. But it might seem impossible for some people who are too deep in the trenches. Where do they start, especially the ones who are concerned about quality control?

Yeah. It's called the ‘I Can Syndrome.’ It's dangerous. I suffered from that from years. I said as an entrepreneur, "I can do this. I can do that." It's true, I can do it, I just do a real shitty job at it. That's the part I didn't add in. So, we can do lots of things, but ‘can do’ and ‘competence’ are two totally different things. First of all, we have to acknowledge that about ourselves, that we're not superheroes. We may have super talents in certain areas, but we can't do everything.

The next thing is to get the muscle of delegation in place. Delegation is where we assign outcomes to people and then hold them accountable to the outcomes. We have to start with the low hanging fruit, stuff that we are repeatedly doing and that there's low risk of assigning someone else. If they really flub it up, how much damage can that really do to your business?

For example, invoicing. That is easy to outsource, and the risk, if they really flub it up, that's recoverable. That can be caught pretty easily. It's actually a low risk. If someone instead of charging $1 charges $10 million by accident, the client will probably figure it out and bring you some awareness there. It is recoverable, but there's certain things that are irrevocable – for example, if they mess something up and it kills the relationship. Those are the things that we have to get a little more sophisticated in our delegation before we start doing it. So, start slow with delegation and then let it grow.

In the last few years, we've heard so much about the importance of starting with your why, but in your new book Fix This Next you talk about the power of what and understanding your what. How do people discover what their ‘what’ is in their business?

In Fix This Next, I did this thing called the business hierarchy of needs. It's a translation of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which is a human needs system as a business needs system. The great distinction is the Maslovian hierarchy of needs, we know what we need instinctually because we have inputs like eyesight, hearing, smell, touch, we get gut instincts. Our gut doesn't work so well in business. We need empirical data. We need the information from our business.

So, I created five levels just like Maslow, but within them, there's five needs at each level. Collectively, I call them the 25 core needs. I found this to be consistent in businesses of any type and industry. What we do is we go through a sequence and we make sure that the base level needs of our business are satisfied, and only when they're adequately satisfied can we elevate high-level needs within our business, just like human needs.

You and I both need to breathe, eat food, drink water. If we're not breathing right now, this interview is done. Even though we're serving a higher-level need right now, if the base is compromised, we go to it. Well, in business, the base is the generation of cash, which comes through sales. If you're not generating cash, your business is suffocating. We got to breathe. We revert to that. But once we have sales in and it's adequate, then the focus is profitability, the retention of cash, because that brings about stability, longevity. You can see in the 2020 crisis, the pandemic, how many businesses were focusing on sales but not profit. They're off the planet now. They're done. So, profit is the next level of needs.

You can see in the 2020 crisis, the pandemic, how many businesses were focusing on sales but not profit. They're off the planet now. They're done.

Once that's satisfied adequately, we move to orchestration of efficiency, which is no dependency on any individual – particularly the owner – like we spoke about earlier. There's impact, that's the creation of transformation. This is where businesses systemically don't do transactions, but transformation. What I mean by systemic transformation, it's not one client saying, "This was an amazing experience." That's when every client says, "This was an amazing experience."

Then the highest-level need in a business is the formation of legacy or permanence. This is where a business is designed to live on beyond the owner. This is where business owners find out that they were really never business owners in the first place. We've been business stewards. We had a responsibility to bring this entity to life, but it's about the entity continuing on for generations, to serve generations regardless of the owner's input.

I'm really happy you brought up retention of cash because I actually read your book Profit First earlier in the year. It's a concept that I feel like is so rare. Why is it that that profit first mentality such a rare thing for businesses when they're starting out?

I think because it's not logical. But the ironic thing is we don't need logic. We need behavior. We humans, we feel that we're very logical, but we're behaviorally based. Traditional accounting tells us a very logical formula. Your sales minus expenses you incur results in profit. So, sales minus expense equals profit.

But I saw a study that just opened my eyes to that formula not working. It was conducted by a US bank which identified that 83% of small businesses globally – small businesses is a company with up to $25 million in revenue – are surviving check by check. They’re in a constant panic, and are not profitable. I'm like, "How come the 250 million people who start a business to achieve wealth, to be financially free, can't figure out the number one reason we started a business?"

That's why I looked at the formula. I'm like, "Oh my gosh, it's right there in the formula." It says profit comes last. In fact, it's in our vernacular. We call it the bottom line or the year end. All these terms say last. It's the behavior of people, humans, when something comes last, it means it's insignificant. So, we're saying profit is insignificant. We delay the consideration. At the end of the year, they have profit, “No, dammit, maybe next year.”

When something comes last, it gets delayed and delayed. So, in Profit First, fundamentally we flipped a formula. It's sales minus profit equals expenses. In practice, what I'm saying is every time revenue comes into your firm, take a predetermined percentage of that money, allocate it toward a profit account, hide the money away, and run your business off the remainder. It's the ‘pay yourself first’ principle applied to business.

What about with early-stage entrepreneurs who feel like they've got their purpose, but they're not comfortable charging what they believe they're worth, or they're not comfortable having the conversation that gets them remunerated for the expertise that they have? What advice do you have for those people who struggle to charge for something that they're inherently good at or something that they want to make a business out of?

First of all, I get it. Secondly, I want to shake them and say, "Are you kidding me!? You have to charge more," because the number one argument you'll get not to increase prices is always from yourself. It's our own head, "I'll lose my customers. What if no one likes me anymore?" Here's the deal. If you raise your prices and you lose customers, it means all they cared was that you were the cheap guy. They want cheap, and who wants someone that wants you because you're cheap? So, they're cheapening you. I'll tell you something else, and this is the big secret. The vast majority of your clients, I guarantee, want you to be profitable.

Now, here's the deal. They don't say, "Hey, can you charge me more?" And they won't say, "Could you rip me off a little bit? I really would like that." But what they will say is, "I want your full attention. When I buy your product or service, I want you delivering the best of yourself. I want your undivided attention. I don't want you worrying about where you're making money and panicking, because then you'll half ass me. So, care for me."

This is the big secret. The vast majority of your clients, I guarantee, want you to be profitable.

The only way you can care for a client, the only way you can give them focus, is if you're not worrying about money. The only way you can do that is if you're sustainably profitable, and the only way you can do that is by increasing your prices. Your clients want you to increase your prices because they want your full undivided attention.

So true. It's interesting, a lot of the concepts you talk about really are flipping that script on the traditional way of thinking.

It really is. A lot of it’s framing, right? It's the old, “Whether you think you can or can't, you're right.” I think Henry Ford said that. If I say I suck at math, I won't do the math practice and I'll suck at it. What if I said I like to find shortcuts in math? I will start repositioning myself. The internal dialogue we have is very important on how we position our business.

You’ve stated previously the importance of being irresistibly magnetic in business to succeed. But what if you're in a fairly traditional job, like an accountant or a lawyer or a financial advisor, what do those professionals do to be different and irresistibly magnetic?

Well, start by breaking the label. As you were saying, accountant, lawyer, oh my God, I start falling asleep myself! The thing is, if I said to you, "Hey, James, I'm a lawyer," the conversation is done. You know what a lawyer is, you know I'm going to sue somebody. The question is, since all lawyers are the same from the customer's perception, it's like, are you cheaper? So, if your label is the same as your competition, the consumer sees you the same, and then you enter the downward price pressure game, which is a dangerous game to be in. It's a race to the bottom. The first step is break the label. Don't be an ‘accountant’, be a ‘profit advisor.’

Now, it's got to speak to your skill set. You better know how to increase people's profit. Don't be a ‘lawyer’, be ‘integrated counsel’, someone that integrates into the culture to write better legal documents. You have to break the label and it has to speak to your service differentiator. If you don't change the label, I don't care how different you are, clients aren't going to see it, because the second you say, you're a lawyer, they're going to say, "I know what you do. Don't tell anything else. Are you cheap?"

In business, no one seems to care as much as the owner. What can business owners do to empower their team to care as much about the day-to-day operations and the results as they do?

It's funny, I'm working on a book, I mean, this won't come out for five or six more years, so we're in deep analytics right now doing this and running tests. I own multiple companies. We're testing on our own companies, but we're testing other companies. Here's the number one discovery we've had: no one cares about the business goals except for the owner.

In my own business years back, I was in the forensics industry doing computer crime investigation. It was very clear… I calculated if we did the right moves, we could have a $10 million year. For me at that point, that had been the biggest business I’d ever had. I came out, I called all my employees together and said, "This is the year," I had the drumroll going, "We're going to do $10 million. Ta-da!" It was crickets.

I'm like, "Why aren't you guys excited!? $10 million!" My trusted confidant, her name was Patty, came up to me and said, "Mike, if we make $10 million, you get a new car, a new house, but why do we care?" That's when I had the realization that the number one concern for every single person is their own concerns. Judy cares about being home on time to be with her family for dinner. Mark cares about saving money to buy his motorcycle. Dave wants to go back to school. And it goes on, and on, and on. Everyone has their own concerns. So, the job of a business owner is to understand the vision and desires that our colleagues have, then organize the path of the business to satisfy their needs as we achieve the journey of our own personal goal. It's called individual goal alignment.

The job of a business owner is to understand the vision and desires that our colleagues have, then organize the path of the business to satisfy their needs as we achieve the journey of our own personal goal.

In our own wall here, we call it the path to intentions. There's a whole wall in our building with everyone's individual dreams. They're little micro dreams, leaving early on Fridays so I can go to baseball games that my son's playing in and stuff like that. We have them pinned up, and we say, "Are we achieving these individual dreams?" Now, the company is not going to buy a house for someone, but it's going to free up the time for them to see a real estate agent. It's going to bring the dream up over and over again and say, "What are you doing to get there?" Because people feel empowered when they achieve their own dreams. We just need to support them and recognize them.

So, the people who aren't even going out of their comfort zone to inquire as to what it is about their team's dreams, they have no one else to blame for their inferior results if they're not getting there?

Correct. When we're like, "We're all fired up. You're making a salary!" we need to recognize that a salary is a means to a living, but it's living that we need to address. The vast majority of businesses, including myself for years, ignore that. Now I'm attuned with that.

I've got a super little company. I have multiple, but this is the hub company where I'm broadcasting from, there's six people. Of the six people, three of us are full-time and the other three are part-time, yet our numbers are consistent with a company of about 20 employees. I'm getting consistently asked and curious about how can we be performing at such a level? But we are so attuned to what every individual wants. We also figured out another thing is match people's talents not to titles. We used to be very title oriented. If you're reception, you've got to answer the phones, do this and light data entry.

We now match talent to the tasks. We have a web like structure. Jenna, one of our colleagues, is extraordinary at writing. She used to be our email manager. Well, she's not our email manager anymore. She writes the emails. We have someone else who’s good at the number crunching and the data set up, but she's also writing articles and blogs now, which is Jenna's passion. Jenna has elevated extraordinarily and represents us better than ever before. Her work output is three times what it was before because she's not in any area of frustration. She's doing what she loves. We try and do it for every employee. The result is we don't have that pyramid structure of an organization. We have a web like structure.

I had Keith Ferrazzi, author of books like Never Eat Alone, on the show a few months ago, and he's been a huge influence on me.

Oh, yeah. I've seen him speak before. He's excellent.

His new book, Leading Without Authority, talks about that concept of co-elevation, where instead of your mission, you actually bring a lot of people into that to make it a shared mission. So, the way that they care about the company and its results is by you interlocking their desires and their dreams with their role at the company. Is that correct?

That's exactly it. You know, I was looking at popular mechanics, I get a little geeky, and they were looking at these things called Doric and Corinthian columns, columns that would support heavy structures made out of marble. They plugged into a supercomputer and said, "How do we make a column of the same material, but with less density and retain the strength? The system went through and it made... it almost describes a web like structure. There was no symmetry to it, it was just this web like structure. The column I think was one-third of the material, but retained the exact strength. That's what we need to do in our business, these web-like structures.

You mentioned before you've got a new book coming out a little bit down the track. You've already got at least six books out that we know about that have been translated into 20+ languages. They're all seriously kick-ass books. I’m curious, what's your process of being able to come up with a concept and figuring out whether there's actually demand for that particular solution that you're providing, as well as being able to get books published at a fairly frequent basis?

I'll do reverse order. I'm writing constantly. I wrote for three hours today already. But I write in parallel, so right now I'm about to submit my manuscript actually in two days for my most current book. I'm also working on a manuscript for my next book, and I'm working on the outline for the book after it. So, I do parallel processing. I think that's a big component. I'm already working on the 2025 to 2028 books right now.

The testing is real simple: I reach out to my readership. The beginning was kind of tough because I didn't have a readership. Now I'm very blessed. I have a readership that's engaged and will respond, and I say, "Hey, where are you struggling now?" And it's the feedback I use from them to pinpoint what subjects are important in the sequence.

Then, going back to the inception of books, I've been an entrepreneur my entire life, and I've had some wonderful successes. I've had some really, really big struggles. It was during the struggling periods I wrote down what I didn't understand about entrepreneurship. I wrote probably about 100 different elements I didn't know. I've distilled it to 25-30 things that I think are important, and so I think ultimately I'll be producing 25-30 books as long as it's in alignment with what people want. That's how I do it.

You're brilliant at taking these seemingly complex tasks and projects and making that something easy where people can essentially put one foot in front of the other. So, thank you very much for all you do and sharing everything here.

Systems are a big part of what you do now. I want to ignore the business side for a moment and focus on you personally in your role as a husband, as a father, or even as a role in your own health. What systems do you have in place? Is there anything that comes to mind that helps you be effective in any of those roles?

Yeah, I think so. I'm very process-oriented, so I wake up at 5:30am every morning, and go through a meditative practice. I write from 6:00am to 7:00am. I call it writing sprints, which I do with other authors. From 7:00am til 8:00am, I hit the gym for either cardio or weights. Then, I’ll eat, take a shower, hang out with my wife for a little bit, and I'm off to work.

I'm walking into my office at 9:00am. It's very ritualized, right? I'll prepare my cup of coffee. What I do is I put these elements of anticipation in, so I'm always looking forward to the next moment because there's a little ritual there of the coffee or sitting down with my wife or working out.

I put these elements of anticipation in, so I'm always looking forward to the next moment.

I workout regularly. I don't like to workout. I just don't miss it. So, at the end, the ritual is a text to an accountability group saying, "Workout done," and a show of my Fitbit results so I can't fake it. I look forward to those moments, and therefore push harder through the activity. That's served me in my personal life, my health and stuff like that.

My wife is also a great guard of time. It's very easy for me to not stop working because I have such a passion for it. She'll say, "All right, you said you're done by 5:00pm. I expect you home at 5:15pm and I have a bottle of wine waiting for you." She also is a great accountability partner, and wine doesn't hurt.

It sounds like so much of this stuff that you've got is around just having an awareness of what helps you perform at your peak, and then being able to create the systems that help facilitate that, even if it's a task you don't particularly enjoy.

I think so. For me, it works very well. I think it's a little bit manic for some people that I'm so process-oriented, but it works for me. I will say this. I've cooled down a little bit as the years have gone on, and have been more present in more moments, and I appreciate that.

My daughter, for example, this is about two months ago, she said, "Hey, I want to go to cross country, my friend can't do it because of the COVID situation. Do you want to go on a 14-day trip with me cross country?" My schedule is booked up so my instinct is “No,” but my knowledge is like, "If your daughter wants to spend a second with you, you better say yes and figure it out." So, I said, "Yes, I'm in. I'm the third wheel guy, I'm in." I had to change everything accordingly. It was the best move of my life, I think, to be with my daughter like that. I am a work in progress, but I'm learning the importance of presence.

Yeah, you can't get that time back with your daughter. You realize that the most important thing is making sure that you're not just spending time with them, but having that presence and that quality time with them.

That's exactly right.

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

It's so obvious. It's exercise and health. There's a big difference. As the day goes on, my energy is building, and people are like, "How do you have so much energy?" I'm like, "I really work at maintaining energy." My output at the end of the day often feels just as strong, if not stronger than it was throughout the rest of the day. I attribute that to religious exercise and rest and recovery, exercise and recovery.

Yeah, absolutely love it. Mike, thanks so much for being on the show!

James, thank you, brother.


Resources / Links Mentioned:

⚡ Mike Michalowicz website.

💰 Profit First by Mike Michalowicz.

📙 Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr Robert Cialdini

🧭 Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang

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

🗝️ Apply for The Day Won Mastermind

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

Oscar Wilde

Today, we sit down with one of the world’s leading entrepreneurs and all-round legends, Mike Michalowicz. If you feel like you’re treading water in your career (or simply have lofty goals), or you’re thinking of going down the entrepreneurial route, this is the episode for you.

By his 35th birthday Mike had founded and sold two multi-million-dollar companies. Confident that he had the formula to success, he became a small business angel investor – but then proceeded to lose his entire fortune. Then he started all over again, driven to find better ways to grow healthy, strong companies.

Mike has devoted his life to the research and delivery of innovative, impactful strategies to help business owners succeed. He is the creator of Profit First, which is used by hundreds of thousands of companies across the globe to drive profit.

Mike is also a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, a business makeover specialist on MSNBC, and author of #1 bestselling books such as Profit First, The Pumpkin Plan, and new book Fix This Next.

In this interview, we go through:

You’re going to love this one. Let’s Win the Day, with Mike Michalowicz!

🎞️ For the video interview, click here.


Resources / Links Mentioned:

⚡ Mike Michalowicz website.

💰 Profit First by Mike Michalowicz.

📙 Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr Robert Cialdini

🧭 Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang

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

🗝️ Apply for The Day Won Mastermind

“When things change inside you, things change around you.”

Buddha

Welcome to my third annual holiday gift guide! Each year, I outline the items that have made the biggest impact in my life throughout the year, and I know they’ll do the same for you.

Before we begin, this holiday season – rather than squandering money on gifts with little long-term value – consider giving something practical, like a life-changing book that gets the recipient excited about taking ownership of their future.

Aside from allowing us to delve into the minds of the most inspiring and innovative people who ever lived, books are a great gift because they sit there staring back at us: providing gentle prompts, imaginative thought, and unprecedented motivation when we need it most. In fact, many of the people I interviewed for Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy noted that, in times of distress, just staring at the cover of Napoleon Hill’s original classic made them feel better about themselves.

Audiobooks have again been a huge focus for me this year because you can listen with an increasing playback speed and also listen while you’re doing something else, such as cooking dinner or exercising, and it can even be used socially if, for example, you're driving and want to enjoy the book with someone else. Your mind gets amazingly good at an increased playback speed and now I listen to most books at about 1.5x, and you can simply rewind 15 or 30 seconds if there’s a point you missed or want to reinforce (which I do regularly).

For people who struggle with traditional books, I highly recommend audiobooks, although if you’re looking at a gift for someone other than yourself, perhaps a hardcover book is better.

Anytime I find a book that really speaks to me, I am sure to grab a copy of the hardcover version too so I can use as a quick reference point whenever I need it. And the #1 book I’ve read this year is actually an audiobook, as you’ll see below.

Filling your mind with the knowledge you need is the best way to transcend your circumstances so you can achieve whatever you want in life, regardless of what’s happened in your past. Every book I have read has changed my life in one way or another, so that hunger for learning should hopefully be a priority for you too.

Without further ado, here are the books that I think would make the best gifts this holiday season, for you, a friend or a loved one. They’re mentioned by category, rather than in any ranking order, so just pick whichever ones intrigue you the most.

Note: If you're new to the Win the Day show, welcome! You can subscribe to the podcast or on YouTube.

Best to future-proof your life:

Millennial Samurai by George Chanos

Many of you first came across George in Episode 27 of the Win the Day show where he spoke about the technological tsunami that’s sweeping the earth. That push to automation has only increased during the covid era, and this book contains hundreds of practical tips that you can use to prepare yourself for a world so different that even futurists have a hard time predicting it. George does an excellent job at communicating what some of those breakthroughs are likely to be in this easy to read book.

George has had an extraordinary career as Attorney General of Nevada, chairman of restaurant chain Capriotti’s, and even argued successfully in front of the United States Supreme Court. His book Millennial Samurai contains insights into artificial intelligence and so many other things that will rapidly transform the world in the next 30 years, and gives you a detailed plan to ensure you’re able to massively leverage the future rather than be made redundant by it.

George is an incredibly insightful bloke and if you want to future-proof your life, or be one of the leaders in the future, Millennial Samurai is the book for you.

Best for young people:

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

Brandon and Sam released this book in conjunction with their TV show Success In Your City to detail their journey all over the US to find out the true meaning of “success”. Together, they interviewed some incredible people who have defied the odds and created a life more meaningful than they ever imagined. Both the TV show and the book also include their wedding in Nashville, which was an amazing time, and – fun fact – I was actually the marriage officiant.

But the two themes of the book I enjoyed the most are:

If you want the perfect gift for a young adult with big dreams and looking to pursue a career as an entrepreneur, The Road to Success is highly recommended.

Best for parenting:

Blue Sky Kingdom by Bruce Kirkby

I just finished this book last week and it’s incredible. It reads like fiction. It’s a firsthand account of Bruce Kirkby, an engineering physicist by trade who quit his high-paying 9-5 job so he could spend his days in the great outdoors as a rafting guide. One day, after seeing how addicted he was to his iPhone, Bruce and his wife Christine decided to spend six months living in a Buddhist Monastery in the Himalayas so they could disconnect from modern life and reconnect with their two young children.

An extremely funny turn of events led to our mutual friend Wes Dening, who is a very successful TV producer in Los Angeles, coaxing Bruce into the idea of filming a TV show that documented their experience, which turned into a journey from Canada to Korea, India, Tibet, and many other places (including Mt Everest) with Bruce, Christine and their two young boys – on one condition: they wouldn’t use an airplane the entire time. That journey became the TV show My Big Crazy Family Adventure, which was a top-rated show on the Travel Channel.

Bruce is such a wonderful guy and his insights about what it means to reconnect with being human are a must read for all of us in this era of being increasingly distracted and glued to our phones that really don’t serve us like we think they do. Bruce also delves into the challenges of having a son on the autism spectrum, while balancing the rigors of modern life, and the stress of a 6-month backpacking trip through Asia with a film crew documenting your every move.

The language in the book is so creative and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Best for personal growth:

Andrew Carnegie’s Mental Dynamite by Napoleon Hill and James Whittaker

This book was released just three months ago and has been getting rave reviews. It’s based on the initial conversation between Napoleon Hill and Andrew Carnegie. Hill, at the time, was a young reporter tasked with interviewing Carnegie who was (and still is!) one of the most successful people who ever lived, both in wealth accumulation and philanthropy.

In fact, before he died, Carnegie gave away almost his entire fortune so it could help make the world a better place. An example of that is the more than 7,000 public libraries that have been created from his gifts.

This book will show you how to master self-discipline, how to learn from defeat, and how to create relationships that give your life meaning, impact, and financial freedom. I’m so grateful that I was asked to help with this project, and you’ll see examples of the world’s leading individuals and companies who personify these lessons so you can have both the inspiration and the blueprint to achieve whatever you want in life – and make the world a better place along the way.

Andrew Carnegie’s Mental Dynamite is in thousands of bookstores in pretty much every country, so grab a copy today.

Best for gratitude:

The 5 Minute Journal by Intelligent Change

Next on our list is the best book for gratitude, and this is the only book that has made the list three years running! If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen how frequently I post these as daily stories. A huge percentage of CEOs have spoken about the importance of journaling for mental well-being; yet staring at a blank page each day can be daunting. The 5 Minute Journal provides a useful structure to start and finish the day in the right mindset.

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

To me, it’s been truly life-changing and it’s the book I gift the most. If you want an introduction to gratitude, this is where to start.

Best for relationships:

Leading Without Authority by Keith Ferrazzi

In August, I was extremely grateful to have Keith Ferrazzi on the Win the Day show. Keith is undoubtedly the global leader in relationships and networking. His latest book Leading Without Authority contains a blueprint to getting other people excited in your mission, so it becomes a shared mission – giving you a far greater probability of making an impact and having a lot of fun along the way.

What I love most about this book is how tactical it gets in the second half. In a covid world, this is essential reading, since Keith is also one of the world’s foremost experts in remote work, where he contributes to Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal.

One of my proudest moments this year is having the opportunity to connect with Keith, and any of his work will change your life like it did for me. You can also check out his #1 NY Times bestselling book Never Eat Alone, which is still a monster hit today.

Best for empowerment:

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

It’s hard to think about 'empowerment' without mentioning Brené Brown. Brené's work on the power of vulnerability has created a huge following, and her latest book Dare to Lead contains a lot of practical strategies to tap into your vulnerability and use it to strengthen, rather than weaken, your life. Like Keith, Brené is focused on real relationships with massive long term benefits, rather than transactional encounters that seek to benefit one person over another.

The book also delves into why values are so important and gives you a step by step guide to creating a compass that will point you in the right direction, no matter what crossroad you come across in life.

One big takeaway for me was that vulnerability without courage doesn’t exist. If you have that voice in your ear that says you’re not enough, but Dare to Lead give you the empowerment you need so you can start to make your mark on the world.

Best for entrepreneurs:

The Pumpkin Plan by Mike Michalowicz

My favorite book this year – I know you’ve been waiting for this one – is my recommendation for the best book for entrepreneurs, and it’s The Pumpkin Plan by Mike Michalowicz. We’ve actually got an interview with Mike scheduled for early next year, and he’s going to drop some incredible knowledge bombs.

To be clear, The Pumpkin Plan is the best audiobook I’ve ever heard – Mike has this incredible energy, and if you’re an entrepreneur or professional feeling constantly burnt out and that there aren’t enough hours in the day, this book will show you how to free up your time to focus on what matters most, while at the same time making a huge impact with your business.

Mike has written 7x bestselling books, and in The Pumpkin Plan he gives you a framework to turn your business from just another offering to being irresistibly magnetic. One of the biggest takeaways for me was the quote “Your first success is being happy”. As an entrepreneur, we constantly attach our happiness to tomorrow – or another date in the future – when what we should be doing is implementing a plan that gives us happiness and freedom in the present.

Mike is a great dude and you’re going to love this book if you’re an entrepreneur. Check out The Pumpkin Plan – I highly recommend the audiobook – and definitely keep an eye out for his episode on Win the Day coming in January 2021.

Best Gift (or Accompaniment) for Everyone:

The final recommendation on this list, which is the best gift (or gift accompaniment) for everyone, is a letter or card – handwritten if your legibility allows – to acknowledge the recipient for all the loving and selfless actions they have taken to brighten your world and illuminate your spirit. Expressing our gratitude to one another in the long form written medium has become a lost art, but that just means your opportunity to make an impression will be even more powerful.

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


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

As we approach the end of 2020, I wanted to thank each and every one of you for your continued support. This will be the last episode for the year, and we’ll be back stronger than ever in the second week of January with incredible guests. And their mission? To help you win the day, every day.

If you haven't checked out our YouTube channel, click here and get access to exclusive content and other videos to help you blast through whatever obstacles you're facing.

Have a wonderful holiday season with your loved ones and get excited for an incredible 2021.

Remember, to get out there and win the day. Until next year, onwards and upwards always.

Happy holidays,
James Whittaker

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