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

Helen Keller


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

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

Today we sit down with Dr Sonja Stribling who has faced enormous adversity her entire life.

She was born into a family as the youngest of 12 children, to parents who only had a second-grade education. At age 15, she gave birth to her first child. And just two years later, at 17 years old, she was raped and left for dead.

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

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

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

In this wide-ranging interview, we talk about:

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

James Whittaker:
You're one of the strongest people I know. You've also got about the biggest heart out of anyone that I know, and you've helped so many people all around the world. We'll get into the amazing highs and lows of your story very shortly.

But first I wanted to say thank you for your service and thank you for all you do to make the world a better place. I'm deeply honored to have you here today.

Sonja Stribling:
Thank you so much for your continued support James.

What was your life like growing up, especially as the youngest of 12 children?

Honestly, I felt like I was the only child because they were so much older. At the very beginning, everyone was two years apart, but when you get to the last three or four of us we were spread out a little bit. Of course I was what they called the “mistake baby” and the mistake baby came eight years after everybody else. So when I showed up, it was a little different.

I didn't know my dad and I had to dig deep into that later in life, but I remember him being around once. Maybe when I was 9 - 10 years old, but that's about it. So my childhood wasn't the best. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't the best. And so just being the youngest of 12 and knowing my mom had a third-grade education and my dad had I think second-grade education, that's about all I remember of him. But my mother is a strong woman, for sure.

And your teenage years were particularly challenging. You had a child at 15 and just two years later, you were raped and left for dead in a field. How did those experiences change your mindset at the time, having that happen at such a young age?

Well, I can remember being 15 years old, James, and you will see me look up because I can remember being in that hospital room, giving birth to my first child at 15 years old. I remember them strapping me down to the table. I can smile about it now, but for years I couldn't tell that story.

A 15-year-old should not be giving birth, but I did. It was a blessing later, but during that time I had to grow up really fast – I’m very open and transparent now about my story. My mom was a saving grace. She was there when the rest of my family wanted me to have an abortion. My mother was like, "No, that's not what we do. You made this bed, you're going to lie in it." But it was a blessing. My son will be 34 this year, but it's a blessing that I had a mother like that who insisted I be responsible for this child.

I had to grow up really fast.

And then, as you mentioned before, James, two years later in the wrong place at the wrong time. I grew up fast. I skipped my entire teenage years, and all the fun things we’re supposed to do as teenagers, because I was a mom. I didn't get the opportunity to do that. I was busy with school, busy with a child, busy just trying to figure out my life.

It was a bit much, but at 17 when that happened, it really changed who I was. I didn't think the same. I was very angry. I was very hurt, disappointed. So it was a lot to deal with as a young adult.

At 22, you went and joined the military, which was a career you ended up having for more than 20 years. What was it about the US Army that appealed to you?

It's so funny. I laugh about this because it was just a couple of years ago that I realized that out of 12 siblings, seven of us were in the military. Four of us were retired military. Because they were so much older, they weren't around. And then when I got older, I went to college, played college basketball, and then joined the military. It wasn't the conversations that we had, because I wasn't there. During their adult life, I was younger and with mom. So it was just different.

I always saw the "Be all you can be" army sticker on the door. So when I joined, it just seemed natural that I was supposed to be there, and I absolutely enjoyed my career in the military. I'm glad it's over, but you know once a soldier, always a soldier.

It gave me the opportunity to express how I felt about the heavy things that I couldn’t express previously. So it was a blessing for me to join and serve my country.

Well, doing combat tours in places like Iraq, I'm sure that presented elements of life and humanity that other people would really have no idea about. What did those experiences teach you about the world?

Wow, great question, James. By the way – you ask the best questions ever! Just being in a foreign land… I’m a country girl from Wilson, Arkansas, who had never been on foreign soul. And when I traveled on foreign soil for the first time, I was an Officer, and it was just like, “Wow, am I really in the desert?” Like proper desert, not Arizona or any place like that.

Iraq is a place I never want to go back to – not in that situation and as a mom having to leave my kids for 15 months. I was married at the time. My husband was there and he was about a 45 minute flight away, but you can’t just walk outside of the gate and say, “I'm going to go see my husband.” You had to catch a flight. And of course that was dangerous.

So that experience in itself is something I can't describe. I wouldn't really want to, but I would just say it really opened my eyes to what was happening around the world. And the fact that I was a part of a war is, I don't know… War is something that I didn’t find myself in, it’s something I volunteered for. I raised my hand and said, “This is what I want to do.”

War is something that I didn’t find myself in, it’s something I volunteered for.

I volunteered to serve my country and that was a part of it. So I wouldn't take it back, but I don't want to go back there either.

When was the moment in your life where you felt empowered for the first time? That you felt maybe you had more power than what you ever thought possible?

In this very home, some years ago, I was lying on my back, James, and I was just reflecting on my life. All the things that we spoke about. I was in a very deep, dark place, depression, all of that. I had recently retired from the military after serving 21 years. I just wanted more.

It was this feeling of, “Okay, you cannot live like this. There's got to be more.” I wanted something that was going to bring me happiness. I just remember crying. My prayer was, "Please don't let me live like this." Because as a woman of faith and a believer in God, it was, “God, please help me. Don't let me live like this.”

I had children and, James, if I can be very honest and very transparent, I was at the moment where I was literally wanting to take my life. I didn't want to be here anymore. It was just way too much. Thinking back: being in the Army for 21 years, having a child at 15 years old, what happened at 17. Those things happened. Then a marriage of 18 years ending in divorce that took three years to dissolve. It was a bit much for a single mom of three kids.

I was literally wanting to take my life. I didn't want to be here anymore.

I sat back and thought, “Okay, there's got to be more. So if you're not going to let me take my life, please just don't let me live like this. Just use me in whatever capacity you think I fit in.”

After that, I found myself very quickly on social media sharing my story, sharing my life about divorce, and all of these women thanked me for helping them, but it was helping me too because everything that was pent up on the inside of me I could share it very openly. Messages, emails, all of that were coming through.

So the turning point was when I realized that there was more for me to do, when I began to bring a smile to somebody else's face helping them get through whatever they were going through, it blew my mind. No one ever talked to me about it. No one ever shared that, "Hey, you can tell your story. You can share," but that's exactly what happened and it changed my life forever.

That honesty and authenticity is such a big part of your personality and one of the things I love most about you. Well, you had this 18-year marriage, which you just mentioned was a really difficult time in your life, but that then went on to inspire your book. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience, what the book means to you, and the lessons in it that help other women today?

The book is called, The Divorce that Saved My Life: 12 Principles to Overcoming a Broken Relationship. You can go and find it on Amazon and at the bookstore. The book was more of my story, but it wasn't just my story. It was tips and tools for women or men – whomever read it – to really help them walk through the journey and to know that divorce is not the end.

Divorce can be the beginning if you want, because in itself that book was my story of how I overcame all of the trauma and the pain in my life and the disappointment in the divorce in itself. It walks individuals through identifying the problems, why you're in broken relationships, and why we choose the mates that we choose, and all of that. So it was a part of my give back, to share the very intimate parts of my life.

And it was just inspired because I had to get it out. One day I was like, “I want to write a book” but I didn't realize how challenging that was. Even to this day, I cannot read it all the way through without crying. I was like, “Who is this and how did she survive?” Knowing that it was me and I was a part of this big movie. But the main thing is that it helps someone else. So that book was just something that I just wanted to give back to help someone else write their own story.

Recently I had mindset and brain expert, John Assaraf, on the show. And he was talking about using the past as a guiding post, not a hitching post. It sounds like you had something similar.

What was it about your life that made you want to work with female empowerment in particular, which of course has led to you having your own TV show and a whole bunch of other amazing opportunities around the world?

Well, truth be told James, I didn't want to really help women. I Just didn't. I wanted to focus on just me, because simple fact, because I'm a woman, I know what we deal with, all the nuances, the ups and downs and the roller coasters and all of that. But of course the universe and God had a different plan for me, and women began to come.

Men do come and I do coach men as well, but my focus in my heart was for women because all of the things we deal with. We multitask so much. We have so much on our plates. We're our husbands' wife and we're our children's mother, and we're the caregivers for everybody else. And people are pulling at us and I realize, “What if I can help another woman get to where I am?” I’m not saying I made it to the mountaintop, but I sure feel like I had, and I know it's just the beginning. So I just decided, okay, let me help some other women build their business.

One day, I had walked off stage after a speaking event, and a woman tapped me on the shoulder. I thought she wanted a signed book, but she said, "No, no, no, I don't want a book. My marriage is great. My relationship is amazing. I want to know how to do what you do."

I thought, “What am I doing!?” I didn't realize I was doing something! I was just doing at the time, what I thought was necessary and needed. It helped me, but it helped other women.

She said, "I need a coach."

And at that moment, that's when I stepped into this role of being someone else, not just a life coach, but someone else's business coach, because all they wanted to know is how do I do what you do? How do I build a six figure or higher business?

I was like, “Wow, I am doing that!”

At that time, I had made a million dollars in my business just helping others, not really thinking of it as a business, which is crazy. That's a whole different story in itself. But then I realized, James is that they were asking. So I began to build something so massive that would help women change generational wealth, to take them on a journey to help other people and really change the trajectory of their life and their business, if that was their choice to have.

You're very candid and open about talking about money, yet it seems to be almost a taboo subject in most countries. Tell us more about this mission to help others build wealth and freedom and why so many people have a bad relationship with money?

I think it's all from our childhood around the world. I mean, I used to think it was just for women and men who were in the US. But then I began to travel to the UK, Australia, and Canada, I realized it was everywhere.

Money makes the world go round. I don't care what anyone says. Most people who say it's not important, normally don't have any, which I not necessarily their fault. It is just more about what we've been taught along the way.

Money makes the world go round. I don't care what anyone says.

We can sit at a table and talk about money, but if I look at the table men talk about money, no problem. But women are very shy about having conversations about someone paying for their services. I wanted to change that thought process of you sitting at the table and being very confident about who you are and what you bring to the table, because you wouldn't allow someone to do that in a job.

You know what you're worth, but why is it so different when it comes to business? That's the pathway I want to change for women to know that they are worth so much more than what they give themselves credit for and what they allow others to put a price tag on them.

There was something I heard you say in another interview, “If you didn't come from a wealthy family, let a wealthy family come from you.” What does that mean exactly?

Oh, wow. So I was sitting in church some years ago with my son who was in his freshman year of college, and the pastor said something very similar to that. At the time, my son elbowed me and said, "Mom, he's talking about you." Oh my gosh, James, my face at the beginning just swelled with tears. I started crying so har, just from the simple fact that my youngest realized that our lives or his life, his children's lives, are different because of that.

So when you hear me say publicly and in books and wherever that if you didn't come from a wealthy family, let a wealthy family come from you. Just because you came from nothing doesn't mean your family has to carry on that tradition. It means you get to create whatever lifestyle that you want. And so it's just been my mantra.

Just because you came from nothing doesn't mean your family has to carry on that tradition.

I don't want my children to suffer the way I did or the way my mother did. It's not just about the money. Being rich is more about teaching them different ways that they don't have to always go get a 9:00 to 5:00 and always have to go to school because school is not for everyone, but there are other means to create wealth. You just need to know where to find those ideas and the strategies and the tips and tools to do so.

This year in particular has really shone a light on social injustice. To me, one of the most alarming statistics is that the average net worth of a black American family is $17,000, whereas for a white American family it's $170,000. At a community level, or at whatever level you think you want to talk about, what can be done to help balance this wealth gap? Because clearly a very real problem exists somewhere.

There's so much. I was having this conversation with one of my sons at home, and he plays in NFL at times, and then he was coming over to Canada to play, but of course they closed the borders. And we were talking about the years from slavery and all the things that were happening.

And by the way, James, when this took place, I think for eight days at the beginning, I cried every day. Every single day. I had to stop watching social media. I literally felt like it was happening to my family. I have three young black sons, so I called them all the time to check in. One was home, one went back to college, and the oldest one was in Arkansas. So I was constantly on the phone to sure that they're okay.

And then even during the pandemic, I'll be honest, my business tripled. It is simply because I got the opportunity. I worked from home, but I was doing a lot of traveling before COVID, but I just made the pivot and I start working from home. I started thinking about not just the community but what about us as African Americans and what we can do. I truly believe what has happened is we have not been educated at the same level that others have.

What I mean by that, talking to some of my Caucasian friends or anyone outside of the black community, the conversation that some of them are having at their kitchen table wasn't about survival. It was about, "Hey, when you get 18, if you don't go to college or you need to go to college, you can get more education. So you can be the accountant in our business, or you can do those things." They were having conversations about business.

But we weren’t having those conversations in my community. I know I didn't have that conversation with my mom. Not at nine sitting at the kitchen table, it was just, "Hey, we're going to eat today. What are we eating? And do you have homework?" It wasn't about the future per se, other than graduate, get a good job, go to college, get a good job. That was the conversation. And what I believe our community is missing is that education.

I’ve been in the military 21 years. Did I see racism? Yes. However, most of the time when I was in the room, James, I was a senior person, so people said, "Hey, you may not want to do that with her." It was just a respect thing that was mandated through the military. When I retired, I saw the world different. So I felt like I'd been sheltered a long time. I'm not saying racism doesn't exist in the military because it absolutely does. But what's happening in the world now is at a whole different level.

And so I think for us, we haven't been shown a few things, but I also think we have to take responsibility and not think it's about looking good and having these nice things or nice hair and all of that. There's so many other things that I've learned along the way. Just to say that I'm the first millionaire in my family is a big deal. Sometimes I get choked up about it. My children know, my family knows I'm the youngest, but I had to take on opportunities when they weren't always offered to me. I had to go find them.

You mentioned access to education, which I think is so important. In my experience, where I’ve learned the most in a practical sense is actually doing things – it’s solving real life and business problems. It's not necessarily what I learned at elementary school or high school of which I really remember probably zero. It was from having my own businesses.

I know that there's a lot of associations out there working with communities now to try and give people real life business experience through simulations, training, and programs, and I hope that style of education continues, especially in low income communities, all around the world. Entrepreneurial skills, especially now that the barriers to entry are so low where all you really need to start a business is an internet connection and a phone.

Oh yeah, 2020 is a year of the expert. If you have some life experience and knowledge... This year, James, I launched a new platform called Kitchen Table CEO. It's just that. It is more of taking your life experience and the knowledge that you had to be able to create generational wealth, because people are picking your brain all the time. They're asking you your opinion on things, and we just give it away and not thinking that you actually have something on the inside of you that many people want.

You don't need 100,000 people to make a $100,000 anymore. You need a handful of people who are willing to invest in themselves, and you take them on a journey. When I learned that, it changed the game for me.

You don't need 100,000 people to make a $100,000 anymore. You need a handful of people who are willing to invest in themselves, and you take them on a journey.

I was sharing with one of my colleagues who was in the military 28 years. He was talking about how he had just written his book and he's doing all these great things. I said, “If I would've known what I know now…” and I've invested a lot, James – and I'm sure you have as well – in my self-development but also in the business that I saw for myself.

Did I imagine one day it would be a multimillion-dollar business? Absolutely not. I just wanted to make $10,000. I wanted to replace the income from the military and that began to happen not just by the month and by the week and by the hour. It was like, “Wow, I have my hands on something.” If I had learned this years ago, while I was active duty military, I probably would have gotten out early. So it happened at the right time, but I've learned so much about wealth, the difference in wealth and riches and just really creating your own table.

And I love to say write your own check. When you're able to do that, no one can take that from you, not even a pandemic.

Yeah, it's so true having that resourcefulness and of course the resilience that you've forged from a life of challenges that you've overcome. And a lot of the mutual friends we have are all about making sure that we can learn the lessons from adversity and that it's never fatal unless we accept it as such.

You mentioned systemic racism before and it's been a major spotlight in 2020, not just in the US but around the world. Now that a bit of time has passed, how do you feel about the activism that's happened this year? And since we seem more divided than ever, what can people do to move forward united?

Well, the social injustice that's going on right now has led me to learn more about history than I've ever done. I didn't know anything about Black Wall Street. I learned about that, the killing and the massacre of a whole town and black business owners. They burned the city to the ground – just wiped out families.

It made me reflect on what happened in our history that made us think that because of someone's skin color, that they're less than. You have to think about how imbalanced someone is to think on that level and for it to carry over hundreds of years, even to today.

And when you hear the conversation about black lives matter, and then you say all lives matter... It's almost like, James, your wife coming to you and saying, "Honey, I'm not happy today because this is what you did."

The wrong thing for James to do is to say, "Well, I'm not happy either," right?

Whoa, wait a minute – I came to you first! This is not a tit for tat. I came to you to let you know that I'm not happy and to see if you could help me work through this. It is not the time to say all lives matter. Because all lives matter is not the point right now, it is about black lives matter. It's not saying everybody's not important. We're not saying that. We're saying right now, what we see in society is there a lot of black people being killed. There's a lot of injustice for the black community and we want something done.

And so when I sat back, I never really thought about this before. Again, I was in the military. I believe I was very much sheltered from what was happening in society. Well, I'm no longer sheltered. I'm wide awake. I see what's happening and I'm not very happy about it. At one point I was very angry, mainly at the fact that I missed it. So what I believe is happening is just some of the old thought processes that people have had. They have instilled it in their children.

But as far as unity, it's just time. I'm loving that Nike and Sprite and all those folks, national platforms are bringing awareness. You see tennis pros wearing a t-shirt with ‘Say her name’ and things like that.

But there's still some people who are quiet. Why? It could be about the bottom line, what's on their paycheck.

We’re going to get to a place where it's not all about the money. It is about justice and being right and fair. But we have to do something. We can no longer go back to the way we were. I'm very interested to see what the upcoming years look like about social injustice and when we ever get to a point, it's going to be a process for sure, but I'm curious to see what it looks like at the end of the road, at least during the time that I'm alive.

Can you imagine us all working together and that in itself, I would love to see that. I believe we're on our way. We have some ways to go, but it has to start from the very top from leadership. And that's the thing that needs to be changed and challenged more so than anything.

You're a mom to three boys, and I'm a new father. It's funny when you become a parent, it's like the fears that you have for yourself get passed down where you worry about what’s going to happen to your children rather than yourself. And it seems weird that the fear I have for my one child could be amplified by three because of the three children that you have, and parents who have even more children! As a mother, what is the greatest fear that you have for you children?

That they will be judged by the color of their skin and that they will not get a fair shake in life. All three of my boys now have dreadlocks; it’s not something I'm a fan of, right? Not because of a race or anything – I like clean-cut military, but they look very nice in their dreads. They are athletes too. So it is just assuming that all young black men are thugs or gangsters or whatever. They're very educated, highly respectful young men but my fear is that they will not be treated fairly because of their skin color.

But the second fear I have is that they will have a poverty mindset, and I know I have a responsibility in that. Not under my watch. We're not playing that game at all. I'm adamant about that, that it is not a ‘woe is me’ scenario, even though there's a pandemic happening, even though there are leaders who are not looking out for your wellbeing, and all of that. I want to give them something pandemic-proof, but at a minimum to make sure they don’t have a poverty mindset.

Now, as they get older, if they make decisions along the way and they do that, that's fine. But I don't want to raise them in that thought process. So a lot of the ways, James, that I used to think about things have changed because of what's happening right now. A lot of people are having to make decisions because of the pandemic, such as what they do financially.

About a week ago, I started a real estate company for my kids. That was the best feeling in the world, that I can change generational wealth because of how much I've invested in myself, the things that I've learned, so they don't have to go down that pathway and they can create their next level, if they want. Do they still have to deal with some racism? Yes. But I don't want them dealing with racism and being in poverty.


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


That mindset is such a big thing. The reverse of the poverty mindset is the growth mindset, or wealth mindset as some people might call it. I think a growth mindset is about as good a gift as you could give any child on their journey through life.

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

I wake up every single morning and I ask myself, “Who can I serve today to get to their next level?”

Resources / links mentioned:

📷 Sonja Stribling on Instagram

⚡ Sonja Stribling website

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

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

Helen Keller


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

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

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

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

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

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

In this wide-ranging interview, we talk about:

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

For the video interview, click here.


Resources / links mentioned:

📷 Sonja Stribling on Instagram

⚡ Sonja Stribling website

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

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

Author Unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Resources / links mentioned:

📷 Bruce Kirkby on Instagram

Bruce Kirkby website

🌎 Big Crazy Family Adventure on the Travel Channel

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

💚 Blue Sky Kingdom trailer

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

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

Author Unknown

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

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

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

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

In this interview, we'll look at:

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

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

For the video interview, click here.


Resources / links mentioned:

📷 Bruce Kirkby on Instagram

Bruce Kirkby website

🌎 Big Crazy Family Adventure on the Travel Channel

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

💚 Blue Sky Kingdom trailer

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

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

Brandon T. Adams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Whittaker:
How are you my friend?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A wake-up call, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You actually did it rather than talk about it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I create 99% of my content on my iPhone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Take action every day. Take action every single day.

Resources / links mentioned:

📝 Brandon T. Adams on Facebook

📷 Brandon T. Adams on Instagram

⚡ Brandon T. Adams website

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

📙 Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

🌎 Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy by James Whittaker

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

🗝️ Success In Your City (TV show)

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

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

– Archilochus

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

You just need the right plan.

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

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

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

For the video version, click here.


Resources / links mentioned:

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

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

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

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

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

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

🎁 Episode 31: Becoming Unstoppable with Kerwin Rae

Episode 32: From Solitary to Service with Coss Marte

🧠 Episode 33: Reprogramming Your Brain with John Assaraf

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

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

– Archilochus

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

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

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

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

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

How You Can Win the Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Ways to Stay Productive During a Pandemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Number 1: Start your day with a cold shower.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Number 2: Have a daily routine of exercise.

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

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

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

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

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

Number 3: Insulate yourself from negativity.

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

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

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

Number 4: Surround yourself with the right people.

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

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

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

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

Number 5: Focus on consistency not intensity.

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

What matters is what you do today.

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

__

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

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

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

Onwards and upwards always,
James Whittaker

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

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

– John Assaraf

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll go through:

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

For the video interview, click here.


Resources / links mentioned:

📝 John Assaraf Facebook

📷 John Assaraf Instagram

⚡ NeuroGym

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

🧠 John Assaraf website

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

💡 Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

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

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

– John Assaraf

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll go through:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I am motivated, I have motive for action.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shame is blame turned inwards.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

Resources / links mentioned:

📝 John Assaraf Facebook

📷 John Assaraf Instagram

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

NeuroGym

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

🧠 John Assaraf website

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

💡 Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

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

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

– Winston Churchill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the video interview, click here.


Resources / links mentioned:

💪 ConBody

🎧 Ex-Dealer, Ex-Junkie Podcast

💚 Second Chance Studios

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

🎤 TEDx Talk

📸 Coss Marte on Instagram

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

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