044. Fighting Diseases of Ignorance with Howard Jacobson

By on February 26, 2019


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Howard Jacobson, PhD, is Chief of Behavioral Science (aka Chief Habit Nerd) at WellStart Health. He’s the host of the wildly popular (in his home) Plant Yourself Podcast.

Howard is co-author, with Josh LaJaunie, of Sick to Fit, and contributing author to T. Colin Campbell, PhD’s WHOLE: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, and Garth Davis, MD’s Proteinaholic. His work has also been featured in Fast Company and the Harvard Business Review online.

Howard is lead instructor at the WellStart Health Coaching Academy, and co-author of the Coaching for Performance chapter of the American Management Association’s Book of Knowledge.

In his free time, Howard runs, practices Russian martial arts, gardens, and plays far-too-competitive Ultimate Frisbee.

Howard earned his BA from Princeton University, and his MPH and PhD from Temple University.

He lives in Pittsboro, North Carolina with his wife, and sometimes with his adult children. (Fly, kids, fly!)

Key Points from the Episode with Howard Jacobson:

  • As Howard went through his career, he had a feeling that making money meant he was selling out, so he does a lot of things for free.
  • His podcast, Plant Yourself, has a huge following, and shares the vegan lifestyle with thousands of listeners.
  • WellStart Health – a digital platform and care team to reverse chronic disease. Can you use behavior change to lead to better health outcomes and get people to put those new habits into their lives in a meaningful and sustainable way.
  • Millions of people have tried and failed to do better, and Howard uses a really brilliant analogy to illustrate why. If a six year old who has never played the piano before sat down to play a complex concerto, they will fail. This isn’t surprising. Yet we are essentially doing that with totally different ways to eat where we go in without clear knowledge, guidance or resources and don’t seem to have the same understanding when we struggle. Instead, we go to a place of frustration and a mentality of, “This will never work for me. It’s too hard.”
  • In Western society, we carry trauma and push ourselves to just move on, which really means the trauma stays within us, stuck there. In other cultures throughout time, there were processes to move through trauma, whether ceremonies, rights of passage or forms of therapy so people could truly move on. We don’t do that, and the trauma continues to cost us as time goes on, and it compounds with each successive trauma. Howard has chosen to face his rather than deny them, and that’s part of the work they do at WellStart.
  • Howard went into a podcast episode he did during a water fast he was on, which lead him down a mental path that came from releasing a lot of inhibitions as he faced lots of feelings. The episode went through a lot of thoughts around his father, and losing his father to cancer when Howard was just 24 years old.
  • He said he was really angry about it, which came from losing his dad to what he saw as a disease of ignorance. He realized this after digging into the research when his father was sick to find a way to save his life.
  • What he learned was that there are many diet-based changes that could have prevented and could help fight the cancer. Lacking that knowledge is the driver of this feeling of the loss being unnecessary and due to ignorance.
  • The knowledge was out there, but it was relegated to a very small academic world rather than the norms of the world at large.
  • While he was angry about the loss of his father, he used the time to reflect on who his father was, what he meant to Howard, and the ways his father would have grown and improved as a person had he had the chance to.
  • We have all lost people too soon. We have all seen towering figures shrivel and die unnecessarily, as Howard put it. And it’s been decades since his father died, so we shouldn’t still be able to say that this is still happening from the same ignorance.
  • He would like to see all doctors trained in lifestyle medicine, which, essentially, none of them are today. And the doctors should be upset about this situation.
  • We need to get this knowledge to a place where it’s accessible to all, not just people in the small group who know today, or to those who live with access to the tools you may need, like a Whole Foods store.
  • He asked really pressing questions around the sustainability of what we are doing in healthcare and agriculture/the environment. Things have to change, but will they change because we change them before it’s too late or will it change because it comes crashing down and we have no choice.

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043. You Are Your Best Investment with Jenn Swanson

By on February 19, 2019


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Known to be a “pathologically positive” person, Jenn Swanson has been educating, encouraging and empowering others to succeed for more than 25 years. With a background in healthcare and education, a Master’s Degree in Public and Pastoral Leadership, and a passion for wellness in the workplace, Jenn brings energy and enthusiasm to all she does.

Her weekly podcast, Careers by Jenn, is heard around the globe, and her book, “What They See: How to Stand Out and Shine in Your New Job” has been a popular read for those starting a new job. Jenn lives near Vancouver in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, and is delighted to be joining our show today.

In this episode, we focus on what drove Jenn to be so positive, and, shockingly, it began with one of the least positive things a child can go through – a parent abandoning their family. Jenn shares her story and the amazing maturity, strength and clarity she showed as a young child that set her up to become the positive, caring person she is today.

Key Points from the Episode with Jenn Swanson:

  • At the age of 2, Jenn’s father left her mother, her and her as-yet-unborn brother. He did not just move out, but completely left them, with no contact for many years.
  • That lead to a feeling of being different on top of the struggle of getting by financially.
  • At the age of 12, Jenn’s father and mother reconnected as her mother sought help for some behavior struggles her brother was having, and that meant Jenn had to see him and this alternate life he had created.
  • What struck her was what a waste all of the feelings she had been dealing with had been – the pain, confusion, anger – all of it.  None of it was making the situation better or different.  So she decided to write a letter of forgiveness to her father, and wrote out 12 pages explaining what the impact on her his choice had been, what it had meant for her, and then actually put in the mail and sent it to him.
  • She wasn’t looking for a response, but more the catharsis of releasing the pain from her system so she could move forward. This is what struck me – you see this action in some people who faced what Jenn faced, but almost never until they’re adults dealing with the impact of their childhood experience. Jenn did this on her own as a pre-teen.
  • We dug into why that might have been, and it wasn’t something Jenn had thought about before, so we talked through it. One key thing growing up was that her mother kept things very open where you could talk about your feelings or express them. She would go on long walks with her mother where they talked a lot, did art projects and other activities where expression of your thoughts and feelings was encouraged.
  • She also had a strong sense of her faith and the idea that there is something bigger, which was a feeling that grew into her current work as a part-time minister.
  • The lesson she took from all of this is that the act of forgiveness is not about the person being forgiven but rather about the person doing the forgiving. We can’t control what the person who is being forgiven does with it, but we can control the freedom we feel when we forgive someone and let go.
  • The opposite of peace is fighting things, and you can’t fight reality. That fight would be wasteful, so Jenn asks what we could do with what we have rather than denying its existence.
  • Acknowledge that things happen, life sucks – something bad is happening all the time. So how do you manage, where is your resilience and where can you take your hope from so you can move forward?
  • She has found that the most insightful people with the greatest wisdom seem to be those who have been through the greatest hardship or struggle – if they have a gratitude mindset about where they are rather than fighting where they had been.
  • A common idea that my guests have often shared came up again in this episode, “It doesn’t happen to us, it happens for us.”
  • As a bit of advice, Jenn suggests people not write out all of their feelings and hit “Send”, but take a bit of time to think about it once it’s written and then decide what to do with it.
  • She spent time helping people talk about how someone else’s behavior made them feel rather than how they did this to them. “I felt this way about what happened,” instead of, “You hurt me.” It creates space for more introspection and reflection, and helps keep the other person from digging in with defensiveness, which can stop a productive discussion before it gets a chance to get off the ground.
  • Jenn shared a beautiful idea she’s been reminding people of a lot lately. She said, “You are your best investment.” Spending the time, money or both on yourself, being willing to do the hard work, prioritizing your need for rest and recovery all pay huge dividends. You need to invest in yourself and your self-growth.

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042. Coming Back from Tragedy As a Victor, Not Victim with Sandra Younger

By on February 12, 2019


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Sandra Younger lost her home, 12 neighbors and nearly her own life in a catastrophic California wildfire. Her best-selling book about the disaster, The Fire Outside My Window, is praised by Amazon reviewers and studied by top-level emergency professionals.

After the fire, Sandra discovered that personal resilience is both a natural strength and a skill set we can build like a muscle. Combining her own recovery experience with leading academic research, she developed The ComeBACK Formula™—a five-step system of powerful, commonsense practices proven to transform disaster into opportunity and loss into legacy. She teaches the approach in The ComeBACK Formula Guidebook.

Sandra now shares her resilience-boosting message as an international speaker, workshop leader and media guest. She’s appeared on NBC’s Dateline, ABC, CBS, PBS, CBC, Fox, the CW and more than 20 podcasts.

Key Points from the Episode with Sandra Younger:

  • Sandra Younger and her husband moved into their dream home outside of San Diego in 2003. Then one night, they woke up in the middle of what was the biggest wild fire in California history at that point (and for 14 more years).
  • The fire was set unintentionally by a hiker who was lost and set a signal fire to help himself get rescued.
  • She and her husband grabbed all they could, including their large Newfoundland dogs and their bird, and jumped in their car. As they backed out of their driveway, they saw that their home was about to be engulfed in flames.
  • They drove down the mountain they were on unable to see anything due to the smoke, with a bobcat suddenly appearing in front of their headlights, which acted as their guide down the mountain as it, too, tried to escape the blaze.
  • Interestingly, she made a point of steering toward the darkness, since the road was the only thing not burning. It was very significant that she was steering into the dark.
  • While she and her husband survived, their 12 neighbors did not. That got them the label of survivor, which she has actually never taken to as it labels you a victim and feels disempowering. Victim, to Sandra, is about not being overpowered rather than overcoming and triumphing. Instead, you can be a Survivor, who turn into Victors over time.
  • She ended up writing a book about the experience and being triumphant over it, which is called The Fire Outside My Window.
  • What she learned through writing it is that some people embraced the label “victim” and some did not. Those who did seemed to be looking for justice while those who did not use the label were trying to live their lives by moving forward.
  • What was more interesting to her is that the ones who used the labels were not the ones who lost the most. Those who lost family, friends – including some who lost their children – who refused to use the label felt that the fire had already taken enough, and they would not let it take any more from their life. The one who held onto the label “victim” the most lost a detached garage and its content, but nothing else. That is so interesting to Sandra and what it says about our ability to see a path forward and the choice involved in that path.
  • While we do not get to choose what happens to us, we get to choose our response, which Sandra calls, “Our story.”
  • Sandra’s book is really about resilience, which she discovered through the research she did in writing her book. What she found is that we can build resilience like we do a physical muscle through purposeful practices.
  • She boiled all the research down into five practices to change disaster into opportunity. She calls this The Come BACK Formula.
    • It starts with the word “Come”, which means, “Come from a place of gratitude.” This seemed to be a difference between victims and survivors – the former focused on what they lost while the latter focused on what they have.
    • B – be patient with the pain. No matter what the experience, there is a process to coming back, so you need to be patient through that.
    • A – accept help when it’s offered, and be tough enough to ask for it when you need it.
    • C – choose your story, your response. Man Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl is incredibly helpful in building this strength.
    • K – keep moving forward. It isn’t about just persistence but also detaching from this past that is no longer happening so you are free to embrace the possibilities and opportunities of a new future. That includes forgiveness of anyone who you think has a hand in the tough experience, including yourself.
  • She shared an example of someone who is a victor. Her friend Rena lost her son at a very young age. She decided to transform her disaster into an opportunity that has created a free screening program for other parents to check for the kind of abnormalities that took Rena’s son to try to help save lives going forward.
  • You can choose not to be a victim but to be a survivor and victor no matter what the situation is, whether it’s something as serious as losing a child or as (seemingly) small as being offended by someone. We have that power no matter what.

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041. Going from Why Me to What’s Next with Cornell Thomas

By on February 5, 2019


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Who is Cornell Thomas? That’s a question that even he wasn’t quite sure about until 2011. He is a former athlete, a speaker, an author, a thinker, an activist, but more importantly than any of those titles, he is a husband and father.

Cornell Thomas is the youngest son of Bobby and Tina Thomas. That sentence is very important in regards to who he is, as you will hear in the show. If not for his parents, he wouldn’t be the man you see today. His father passed away when he was just three years old, and although his time with his dad was brief, he learned through others the amazing legacy that his father left behind, as a police officer and community leader.

His father’s passing forced his mom to become he and his siblings’ everything. She was their main provider, mother, and life educator. She was forced to become an expert problem solver, and that skill was passed down to her children. Cornell’s mom raised her children on the old adage, “Everything happens for a reason,” and that one lesson out of the myriads she has taught him was never forgotten. It’s what he remembered when he suffered a career-ending basketball injury, and the first thing he thinks about when any adversity comes along.

In that dark times, his mom’s teachings served as his light. It was that ‘bounce-back-ability’ ingrained in him since his youth that has allowed him to find his purpose through the pain.

What Brought Cornell to The Do a Day Podcast?

That’s the question most people spend their whole lives trying to answer. He thought his purpose in life was to play professional basketball. In 2003, he received a contract to play professional basketball in Portugal. A dream he had since discovering the sport at 16. Two weeks before he was supposed to leave, he suffered a career-ending injury that reshaped his life, as he gets into in this episode. He was sickened by all of the negativity he was seeing online, and decided to start writing his own motivational quotes for his personal Facebook page. The quotes eventually led him to writing a blog, and the blog led to his first book The Power Of Positivity-Controlling Where The Ball Bounces.

In 2011, he realized what his true purpose is – to inspire and motivate others. He’s been fortunate enough to speak all over the world sharing his story with people from all walks of life. Daring others to say, “What Now?” instead of, “Why Me?” in the face of adversity.

Key Points from the Episode with Cornell Thomas:

  • Cornell’s lost his father to cancer when he was just three years old, leaving his mother with five young kids to raise on her own. That set Cornell up to see what it means to never quit as his mother always pushed through no matter how hard things got.
  • In his teens, Cornell found basketball and fell in love (despite being totally uncoordinated).
  • He learned how to play thanks to a short, Asian man named Ray. That taught Cornell you never judge a book by its color (let alone its cover).
  • He made basketball his life, practicing constantly, including skipping the senior prom.
  • Cornell had a dream of playing in the NBA, but he did not fully believe in himself yet. But his mother did, and kept pushing him to go for his true dream.
  • After many years of intense practice, Cornell finally found his skills while in college and became a solid player earning accolades. The only reason he got there was sacrifice. He sacrificed other things for what he loved (basketball). But what he really loved was the idea that his mother wouldn’t have to work again because he was successful enough for let her retire. He stayed so focused on that, which is why he got to where he needed to skill-wise.
  • He earned a scholarship to play for North Dakota, and was now playing with NBA-bound college players.
  • His dream was taking shape as he finished school as he got an email from his agent that he had gotten a contract to play professionally in Portugal. He went home to tell his mother that it was really happening.
  • A week before leaving, he played a half-court game casually with friends, and heard a pop. His Achille’s tendon had ruptured, and he needed surgery.
  • After surgery, as his contract to play in Portugal had just been voided, his first real memory was his mother kissing him goodbye as she went to one of the three jobs he told her she’d never have to work again.
  • He went into big Why Me mode, and his mother called him out. She told him to get out of Why Me mode and get into What Now mode. That’s how she had been living since his father died, so she knew it better than anyone.
  • When you find yourself in these moments, focusing on what happened is not going to help you move forward. You have to look at what’s next rather than dwelling in what already happened that you can’t change.
  • He worked through his recovery, and was at about 90% when he went to a training camp where he left one night to go back to the hotel just as some guys came in with guns and shot at participants including killing one of them. This was a sign to him that he wasn’t supposed to be doing this.
  • Cornell soon was asked to coach a junior college team, which was the next sign. As a 26-year-old player, becoming a coach was almost throwing in the towel so he fought it. It took his mother telling him to go to the interview anyway for him to at least give it a chance. He ended up taking the job, and fell in love with coaching.
  • As he became a father, it kept building, culminating in writing a book and finding his voice as a speaker.
  • One thing he realized is that all the hours, skills and discipline he put into basketball can be translated to other parts of his life.
  • As a coach, he realized that he has to love his players no matter what. That means not holding them to the standard he holds himself to since that’s about him, his life and his goals. His brother reminded him that if the players don’t think you love them, they won’t play for you the way you want them to.

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