interview

047. Finding Your Mojo Through Authenticity with Gary Bertwistle

By on March 19, 2019


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Gary has always had a passion for innovation and creativity. His career has spanned the retail, music and radio industries. Gary’s drive comes from having people and organisations think differently to generate new ways of doing things.

As a thought leader in innovation and creativity, Gary has helped companies of all sizes, in all industries and categories, to look at how they currently do things and address what needs to change in order for them to think differently and maximise the ideas that currently exist within the business, with the view to making the company more successful. He is often called when companies or individuals lose their mojo.

Through easy to understand, fun, interactive speeches and sessions, he presents to a wide variety of clients in the areas of creative thinking, mojo, marketing, strategic facilitation, and innovation to improve performance and help us be at our best.

Gary has written 6 books, a number of which have become best sellers, and won the Speaker of The Year Award for TEC (The Executive Connection) in both 2007, 2008 and again in 2012.

In addition to his speaking commitments he also established Australia’s first ever creative thinking venue The Ideas Vault at The Entertainment Quarter in Sydney, co-founded Australia’s leading cycling foundation the Tour de Cure in 2007, writes a blog called The Espresso, in which he scours the world to find interesting tips, tools and news to give you a new or different perspective on the world in which we live, and hosts a popular new podcast series on iTunes called The Mojo Radio Show.

Key Points from the Episode with Gary Bertwistle:

  • Gary bought a farm in his home of Australia, and in driving back and forth to the city from his farm, he went through all of his music library, and decided to listen to podcasts, which sparked a desire in him to start his own (after a previous career in radio)
  • Getting to hear the real authentic person behind the outward person is what Gary really craves in all of his interviews, and key to finding why someone has their mojo working
  • When Gary and two friends were putting together their charity efforts and had to select what to focus on, childhood cancer became so clear because kids get cancer despite not having lived a life of smoking or other behaviors people normally ascribe to cancer.
  • Gary has also focused on the impact on all of those around the person with the diagnosis, and Gary has worked to support them, as well.
  • While money helps, we can also really help people by being of service to them, sharing a message or being a support
  • While he was deep into raising money for cancer research and treatment, his father was diagnosed with cancer
  • A doctor friend of his told him that cancer is a formidable foe, and we have to be as aggressive with it as it is with us. He took this advice to his father to ask him, yes or no, are you going to fight this? If yes, then we are really going to fight, so let’s do it.
  • Not only did Gary work to raise money to fight cancer, but he has become a fire fighter to help save farms like his own from wildfires in Australia
  • He heard about people going out to fight these fires, and felt a strong sense that you cannot hear about this and not do something yourself.
  • He also had a very clear desire to do it because it was hard. The draw of a real test was a big part of what drives Gary to go after new goals.
  • Gary talked about the life of a volunteer. He and his peers work all day as farmers, getting up early and working hard all day. Then they get the call to fight a blaze, and go fight it until the work is done only to get up early again to work on their farm. They do it for no pay, and no time off afterward. It’s out of the pure desire to help. He saw this first hand fighting a blaze that nearly took his own home if he and his peers didn’t stop it just feet from his kitchen window.
  • Doing truly fulfilling work like this is such a part of his world, and so rewarding in a way that he can’t imagine not having it in his life.
  • It’s important to model the right kind of values and behaviors. When kids see us doing right, they will follow.
  • When you focus on the process of giving back, it changes the trajectory of your life, the scale of what you do next, and your whole approach to your world and what’s important. Our children then get to change their trajectory through the example we set, which makes it even more important.
  • Gary likes disruption and being different. He reminded me of the idea from Mark Twain that, whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s probably time to pause and reflect.

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046. Becoming a Person of Purpose with Tanur Badgley

By on March 12, 2019


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Tanur Badgley is a school teacher, blogger, and host of the People of Purpose podcast. He is fascinated with understanding the unique gifts he has been given and how he is shaped into a higher purpose when he chooses to live with full appreciation of those gifts. He believes we all have these gifts and can use them to unlock our infinite potential through pursuing our purpose. Tanur started his own path to purpose after a near-death experience falling at Yosemite National Park at the age of 19. Three years later he finished out college without a plan or a purpose to pursue. He found himself working a soulless corporate sales job, battling with depression from a devastating breakup, and eventually lying a dark room in the cold Minnesota winter after suffering his second major concussion. After three weeks of healing in the dark and two months of rehabilitation, Tanur was able to learn how to truly listen to from  his heart. During his work disability, he put in motion everything he needed to move to Thailand. and become a teacher.  In September of 2015 Tanur moved Phrae, Thailand where he taught and tutored English to 400 local 5th and 6th grade students from surrounding villages. He wrote nearly everyday in Thailand regularly publishing themes of his learning in his widely read Student Of the World Blog. He infused his blog with what he learned about himself and the world through teaching in Thailand, volunteering on an organic farm in Cambodia, trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp, sitting for a 5-day silent meditation course, and his month-long yoga teacher training certification course in Rishikesh, India.

Just over one year after moving Tanur found himself much happier and whole. He decided not to renew his teaching contract opting instead to choose an indefinite period of vagabonding and couch-surfing Southeast Asia, the U.S. and Canada through family, friends, and followers from the U.S. and Canada. This period lasted for 15 months. It was in this period that Tanur created, launched, and began hosting his People of Purpose podcast in October of 2017.  He felt compelled to go beyond himself to begin a project that shares the stories and wisdom of all the wonderful purposeful people he had met throughout his personal journey into purpose. People of Purpose features guests who live with a high degree of intentionality, are leading communities for positive change, and are treading a path that is very authentic to their passions and purpose. The podcast constantly inspires him and those listening to better align intentions with actions to live a more fulfilling and inspired life. In its first year the podcast has featured 30+ guests and 40+ total episodes. People of Purpose (PoP) has expanded to now include a regular newsletter where Tanur shares what takeaways on what he’s been experiencing and thinking about to grow in his purpose and how they can be applied to your life too. The podcast has now added a private coaching practice called Path to Purpose. Tanur expects a fully-interactive, comprehensive online course will be made available in 2019 that draws from the practices he’s learned from his guests and his personal path of purpose.

In July of 2018 after 15 months of traveling, teaching online, and finding odd jobs Tanur moved to San Francisco, California. He is completing an accelerated one-year Master’s of Education program and teaching credential as a full-time student and 7th grade social studies co-teacher at an urban, public- charter school in San Francisco. He is driven by the purpose he can express through through each of his endeavors and projects and the consistency of learning and challenge that helps him grow in his purpose which is “to be a conduit of God’s love by accepting everything he is, opening himself to learning challenges through difference, and using his gifts to live purposefully in order to help others find their purpose and fulfill their potential.”

Key Points from the Episode with Tanur Badgley:

  • Intentionality and purpose are the key themes to both this interview and Tanur’s life journey.
  • Tanur talks about decisions to experience via immersion so you get full-in rather than dipping your toes into things is how you can really grow. We talked about the intersection of immersion and introspection.
  • When Tanur was 19, he, his younger brother and father spent part of their summer hiking and climbing in Yosemite National Park.
  • His brother took a route off the path, which landed him stuck unable to get down from where he had gotten as many of the rocks he used to climb up had loosened and fallen out. Tanur went to try to help him, and ended up stranded on a small ledge with his brother. He tried to go for a ledge above them, grabbed hold and started to make it up until rocks let go under his hand as he was one grab from the top, sending him spinning head over heals over and over again as he tumbled down over 100 feet. He landed on his butt, but had hit his head multiple times, and finally stopped in the waterfall they were climbing by.
  • While the wiser choice would have been to stay on the ledge and wait for search and rescue, he chose a bolder path which ended up being the foolish path.
  • Tanur soon passed out from his injuries and head trauma while his brother was still stuck on the ledge. Their father finally made it to the top via a safer route and then saw what happened and quickly went to get help, which took seven hours and took them into night time.
  • He remembers moments of consciousness where he was frustrated that the help was focused on him while he brother was still in danger. Tanur saw himself as being as hurt as he could possibly be while his brother could fall off the ledge.
  • He had whiplash, a concussion and fractures in his cervical spine as well as deep tissue injuries to his butt – all of which he still deals with today. Somehow, in the moments after the fall, he felt a lot of peace. He made it, he was still there, and he was overall ok, which gave him a sense of not squandering his opportunity in life.
  • To get to a point of not squandering opportunity, he needed to know his purpose in life, and sought to learn more. Of course, that needed to wait slightly while he recovered from the damage to his body and brain, and was totally reliant on his father to care for him for several weeks and even more as he worked on the injury to his brain.
  • Three years later, Tanur found himself in a similar situation – he got another concussion while playing basketball. He was angry and it was impacting his decisions and behavior, so it wasn’t surprising to him that he ended up in a situation where he would get hurt. He had lost his grandmother, broken up with his girlfriend, and was in a sales job he did not like, which just meant things were boiling up inside of him, and because his life wasn’t aligned with what he cares about, he wasn’t making progress in dealing with everything.
  • With the space from all of it that his doctor’s note excusing him from work for a month due to his concussion, he dug into the self-work to face the pain and anger. Through his work, he focused on how to live a life that wasn’t for someone else but was for his own interests.
  • He dropped everything and decided to move to Thailand to become an English teacher, meditate and live in a more peaceful way.
  • He also used the time to finally move forward from his last relationship. We hit on the irony of how bad relationships can be harder to get over than the good ones.
  • He is clear that he wouldn’t be where he is today if not for the travel but even for the concussions. He finds himself thankful for both of those experiences.
  • His work as a teacher showed him how it is the most proactive force for good. It’s about saving lives before they go down a bad path, if you see it that way. He sees it as requiring you to be a role model and a constant life-long learner who builds up themself to keep growing. It’s about connecting with people as more than just a transaction but a true relationship.
  • Tanur talked about a very interesting struggle to fit in the box of society enough to actually fit into the world while also being removed from the game of it enough to be able to be fine if it all goes away or trouble befalls you.

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045. Breaking Free of Depression, Medication & Suffocation with Brooke Siem

By on March 5, 2019


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Brooke Siem is a true renaissance woman. She’s a professional chef (and Food Network Chopped Champion), world traveler (30+ countries), breathwork coach (more nasal breathing, please!), and grief/mental health advocate. Her broad range of life experience helps her to connect to clients while providing actionable tools that help them navigate the mental and emotional challenges of modern living. She believes in the power of using life’s triggers as a roadmap to healing, with self-awareness and self-compassion as the driving force for positive change.

Brooke had been prescribed antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs at 15 years old after her father’s sudden death. An unexpected  opportunity for a life abroad sparked the realization that she had been heavily medicated for half of her life. She decided to make a massive change.

First, she booked a one way ticket to Malaysia. Then, she got off all the prescription drugs.

Two years and 19 countries later, Brooke’s primary focus is on advocating for mental health and wellness without the use of antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs. Though she believes that these sorts of drugs can have their place on the road to healing, her own experience has taught her that these medications are often poorly monitored by doctors, prescribed without thought of the long term consequences, and prioritize the notion of “existing” versus thriving. Brooke’s goal is to show that it is possible to live a joyful, centered life without the use of antidepressants, no matter how far down the rabbit hole we once were.

We get into the backstory that lead to being on medication for a decade and a half, the catalyst to come off them, the process of doing that (and what she discovered about herself through that very difficult journey), and how she’s lived her life since.


Key Points from the Episode with Brooke Siem:

  • Brooke had built a life in New York City around a bakery she found success at, but was also struggling with the demands of New York (and the costs of living there). Despite the bakery’s success, the cost of doing business in New York were so high that it made it hard to feel like you had real success.
  • She found herself struggling to fit in and find her path or her opportunities, and was judging herself for not being able to find them in New York – a place with so many opportunities abounding. Seeing people in successful paths only compounded that as she felt inferior to these other people who seemed to know where they’re going, and the competitive nature within her made her feel like she wasn’t winning in the path she had created.
  • When her bakery’s lease was coming up for renewal in 2017, her world changed. She got an opportunity through a program called “Remote Year” to travel around the world and work remotely with 70 other people in the program, and she went for it. The only trick was that her work – owning a bakery – wasn’t something she could do remotely. She figured she wouldn’t get accepted into the program anyway, so she didn’t let that stop her. She figured if she made it, she’d figure out how to make it work. And that’s what happened.
  • She felt she was at such a low point that she new she needed to get out of her situation and would regret not doing it if she could.
  • This all brought about another major change. When Brooke was 15, her father suddenly passed away, and she was subsequently put on a cocktail of drugs to manage the emotional impact. She went through all of life’s major, pivotal growth periods – adolescence, high school, college, entering the work world and becoming independent, without the drugs effecting her mind.
  • As she was turning 30 and looking at this nomadic existence, she realized she wouldn’t be able to get her prescriptions refilled reliably, so she suddenly realized she needed to find a path off of them, which also helped her realize she had been on them half of her life already and that got her wondering who she would be without them.
  • This sparked a very fast path to coming off the drugs so she would be clear by the time the trip came just six months later. As many of the drugs have long half-lives and withdrawals, this would be both tricky and intense.
  • When this all started, she described her feelings as misery, suicidal and essentially just waiting to die. It went so far that she found an online life expectancy calculator, got a date when it said she would die, and put it in her calendar. She actually quoted the time remaining when we were talking.
  • In the midst of this withdrawal, Brooke actually was chosen to compete on the cooking show, Chopped, which was incredibly hard in and of itself, but so much harder because of the emotional impact of the drug withdrawal. She actually went on to winning her competition despite what she was going through. She described seeing herself on the show as watching a twin who wasn’t her.
  • Brooke touched on her competitive side, which manifested in a competitive dancing background when she was younger, which obviously served her well on Chopped (and other things in her life).
  • She described coming off one of the drugs specifically, where her hearing became painfully heightened, making her hyper sensitive to everything around her (and NYC not being a particularly easy place to be that way). She described it as having all of these emotions and sensations bottled up for years, and then coming out all at once, which can feel unbearable.
  • She described the feelings she had through her therapy approach while coming off the drugs, and this feeling like her real feelings had been stifled and she had a dream where a rope was being pulled from deep in her throat, and that symbolized a freeing. It lead her to need to go outside one night and scream at the top of her lungs to physically release all that was inside, which was a pivotal, transformative moment for her in facing all that was inside.
  • Ultimately, the travel was a very clarifying thing for her because it helped her realize that the only constant in her life was her. She was able to completely isolate all of the variables in her life, which changed each time she moved to a new place, and found the way she could be the grounding center and could learn and grow in each place she went to. For example, with her heightened sensitivity to noise, traveling to Malaysia was incredibly difficult as the noise and bustle was even greater than in NYC. Had she not done that, she wouldn’t have gotten as good at dealing with the sensory-overload of life as she became after a month in Kuala Lumpur.

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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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037: Using Disaster to Unlock Wellness with Josh Perry

By on January 8, 2019


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Josh Perry is a former professional BMX athlete, motivational speaker, and certified holistic health consultant that’s fighting 4 brain tumors. His strong motivation for living his best and healthiest life stems from a brain tumor diagnosis & surgery in 2010 followed by 2 additional diagnoses. After overcoming the surgeries & treatments, and realizing he most likely has a genetic predisposition to accumulating tumors, he immersed himself in research on how to enhance the health, performance, and longevity of his brain. Since choosing to change his life and follow a ketogenic diet & lifestyle, the growth of the tumors have stopped and he feels better and more fulfilled than he has ever before. Today, Josh has left competing to start his health coaching business as a way of exploring his passion for helpings other improve their brain health and become the most successful versions of themselves. Josh also teamed up with the Athlete Recovery Fund to start raising awareness and funds for a non-profit BMX/Wellness event focused on raising direct funding for direct patient care through education, sport, and faith called the Brainy BMX Stunt Shows

Josh shares what really helped him take back control of his life. Vision & goals are what helped him overcome adversity and become successful, still living with 4 tumors today. His tools are Gamma Knife Radiosurgery, a ketogenic diet/lifestyle, and leaving the competition side of BMX to pursue his wellness-focused purpose purpose, Brainy BMX. Josh feels strongly that health is internal and we all have the same choice in our life and that’s our perspective.

Key Points from the Episode with Josh Perry:

  • Josh has taken a step back from his pro BMX career to focus on sharing his story across podcasts, public speaking and his health coaching work. And he’s doing that all with four brain tumors that he’s managing through a mix of the Keto diet, the right mindset and medical intervention when needed (mainly Gamma Knife technology)
  • He hit on the hidden transition in his retirement from the pro BMX circuit around a loss of identity. His world has been Josh Perry the BMX rider, so aside from not riding in competitions, he’s faced the question of who he is today. He still rides at an incredible level because he loves it, but he isn’t actively competing.
  • His dream was just to be a professional BMX rider competing, but didn’t realize what he’d be exposed to all over the world through the travel he’s done, for example performing for the troops in Afghanistan.
  • In March 2010, he was training a jump he was working on. He was worried about under-rotating and ended up over-compensating and over-rotating, which resulted in a crash that landed him in an urgent care center to get his head scanned.
  • As a background to this crash, he had been having intense headaches for a year with pain so severe it made him nauseous. Whenever he went to the doctor about the headaches, the doctors sort of blew it off since he was so young, and just gave him pills for the headache pain.
  • But when he got the scan after his crash, the news the doctor shared was not something he expected at all. He was told, “There’s something in your brain that isn’t supposed to be there.” And after that, things became surreal and he was almost detached from his surroundings. He called his mother to tell her the news and couldn’t even speak.
  • He felt complete broken and out-of-body.
  • The urgent care doctor told him he not only would never ride again, but probably would never walk again, either. That was what really set the shock in.
  • He sound learned that he had a large tumor on top of his brain that had wrapped itself around his optic nerve, which was causing his headaches and vision issues. It was so severe that, in a month or two, he wouldn’t have woken up again.
  • After his surgery, which took over six hours, he was riding again after five weeks, and was competing again seven to eight weeks after that.
  • His biggest struggle coming back into competition was just around confidence and whether he was ready and able to do it. He worked on that actively and got himself back to where he was before the surgery. It was very much an action-oriented approach.
  • He found inspiration from his mother’s battle overcoming colon cancer and also reading Lance Armstrong’s book and recognizing how he won most of his victories after he had cancer. That helped him realize he wasn’t done yet.
  • He learned so much through this experience about himself and what he can do that he believes he wouldn’t have learned without going through this experience with the first tumor. He doesn’t think everyone needs to face something so dramatic to learn these lessons, but he feels he did.
  • I questioned whether the fast movement to action helped him be positive and overcome it, which isn’t something he’s thought about before, but he does believe this is a crucial part of the puzzle. Had he sat longer before the surgery, he would have had more time to ruminate, worry and let his mindset slip.
  • He talked about how worrying can lead to bad choices, like when he crashed. He was worried about under-rotating when he flipped, and he ended up over-rotating and crashing. Worry about going too far left can mean you shift too hard right, and fail. Mindset and fear can lead to the outcomes we’re fearing in the first place.
  • Two years after coming back from his first tumor and surgery, a routine MRI found two new tumors that were not operable. He was told he could try radiation, but that didn’t sit well with him, so he researched other options, and found the Gamma Knife, which uses targeted radio waves done on an out-patient basis, which is what he has been using to fight his tumors since finding it.
  • As he was getting fully back into BMX competition, he blew out his knee at a competition, and rode with it that way for two years with it in a brace because he didn’t want to stop riding to get it taken care of.
  • His girlfriend, who was a trainer who he met through working through his recovery, pushed him to address his knee problem by getting surgery, and eventually he agreed to do it, timing things around BMX events. Recovery was expected to be six to eight months long, but his recovery went much faster, which he credits his physical fitness and diet with.
  • He came back into competition and got up to 10th in the world and then, during another regularly MRI scan, they found two more tumors, and realized he has a genetic condition that predisposes him to develop tumors in his brain and spinal cord.
  • Since then, he has used a Ketogenic diet to stop the growth of the tumors and promote brain health, and so far, the tumors have not progressed. As this episode comes out, he will have had his second annual scan to see if the tumors have stayed the same size or even shrunk, so we’ll all be thinking of Josh as we listen to this.
  • He shared some of the science behind why the Keto diet is so helpful, which is about providing alternative fuel sources to brain cells that are damaged, for example by concussion (which Josh obviously has dealt with given his profession).
  • Ultimately, Josh’s goal is to inspire change in perspective to help people see their lives in a more positive outlook but ultimately to prioritize the health of their brain. He shares his story to help inspire that in others, and has started to share more mindset pieces than anything.
  • He’s using his health coaching to help make this impact, as well as public speaking to try to touch large groups.
  • He’s not looking to just inspire people, but inspire them to take action and change.
  • He’s also working with the Athlete Recovery Fund to create the Brain BMX Stunt Shows, which are wellness BMS events to educate and raise funds for brain tumor and injury patients to provide direct funding for them. Josh and his family benefited from the Fund when he got his diagnosis, so this is a way to give back.
  • Books we mentioned: Buddha’s Brain and The Ketogenic Bible

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036: How to Make Time with John Zeratsky

By on January 2, 2019


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John Zeratsky was a designer in the tech industry who became obsessed with the idea of redesigning time. He is the bestselling author of Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days and Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day.

John’s writing has been published by The Wall Street Journal, TIME, Harvard Business Review, Wired, Fast Company, and many other publications. John has appeared on stage more than 100 times, including at Harvard University, IDEO, and the Code Conference.

For nearly 15 years, John was a designer for technology companies. At GV, he helped develop the design sprint process and worked with close to 200 startups, including Uber, Slack, Flatiron Health, Pocket, Foundation Medicine, One Medical Group, and Nest. He was also GV’s in-house copywriter, editor, and content strategist; he created and edited the GV Library, which has attracted million of views since 2012. Previously, John was a designer at YouTube and Google, and an early employee at FeedBurner, which Google acquired in 2007.

Originally from Wisconsin, John and his wife Michelle have lived in Chicago and San Francisco. Today they split time between their sailboat “Pineapple” (currently in Panama) and their home in Milwaukee.

Key Points from the Episode with John Zeratsky

  • John has been in the startup space for years, having been part of the team at FeedBurner when it was sold to Google.
  • At Google, he started to work at Google Ventures, which inserted him into companies they invested in to help those companies scale toward success.
  • Through those experiences, he learned a lot about productivity, and decided to dive head-first into it to find ways to become even more productive. He was focused on efficiency so he was making the most of his time while working. He saw this as a good thing, at least at the time.
  • Until he realized you can’t just keep pushing productivity as, eventually, you burn out. That inspired him to look for something more sustainable. This is what lead to the journey to his current book, Make Time.
  • The trick to making time, if there is one, is to spend less time on the default behaviors we fall into so we can focus more of our time on what matters.
  • Mindfulness is a big piece of this approach, but it’s not the only aspect as finding yourself doing something mindlessly might suggest you need to try harder and use will-power to stop doing that. John does not see will-power as a long-term strategy, and I agree with him.
  • Instead, he says we should make it harder to get distracted. We need to create the space to become more mindful with the time we have.
  • It starts with the idea of self-responsibility, since no one cares about you more than you do.
  • Rather than focusing on grit and execution, we should focus on structure that helps us succeed. Instead, we would see ourselves as failures or incapable if we don’t succeed.
  • Make the path to success the path of least resistance. As he says, if you are a compulsive gambler, you don’t live next to a casino. Make choices in the structure of your life to make it easier to get to where you want to be.
  • He shared the basis of his first book, Sprint, which is about bringing software engineering design sprints into making teams more productive. It was an experiment with redesigning time for teams. Some of what they learned became the framework for his new book, Make Time.
  • Speaking of which, what is it? Make Time is a book, but also a strategy for how to make time for the things you want to be doing. It is filled with 87 concrete tactics, but it boils down to four daily steps, which are in a daily loop. They are:
    1. Highlights – what is the highlight of your day that you want to see accomplished, and then build your day around that.
    2. Laser – make the structural adjustments to your technology and physical environment to cut back on the activities you get into mindlessly that you don’t really want to do, like, “Today, I want to spend three hours lost in my Facebook feed.” It’s about adding friction and barriers back oil so you make better choices.
    3. Energize – you can’t make good use of your time if you’re tired, don’t have energy and are worn out. This is about concrete ways to build energy for your body and mind through different things you can do to take care of yourself. These are simple, concrete things you can do in a given day. For example, he shares small ways to bring movement into your day like walking to work at least part of the way (which brought up a convo about my idea of #CUYOP – Commuting Under Your Own Power), or not ordering online but going out to a store to get what you need.
    4. Reflect – look back on your day and note what went well and what didn’t, and think about what you can do differently the next day.
  • We talked about a lot of pressure from “Musts” in our life, especially around exercise. You don’t have to workout for an hour to get benefit, and some is better than none, so do something. He cited some research that shows that the majority of the benefit of an hour of cardio comes in the first 20 minutes. And he shared other insights that, if you aren’t doing anything now, try to do just 15 minutes a day, which is a great start, builds consistency, and will start to have impact. You don’t have to stare at a huge effort and cower in front of it and end up doing nothing (that is, Do a Day!).
  • John is all about breaking down the big things into small things we can do today. It may not get us where we’re going today, but will get us going towards it, and if you don’t start, you’ll never get there. Looking at something that’s 60-90 minuets seems to be a good place to start. It’s long enough to be a big deal that you have to make time for purposefully, but not so big that it’s impossible (like an all-day effort).
  • We also talked about the idea of Someday vs. Today. It’s never “Someday,” but is instead always, “Today.” This is central to Do a Day, so of course I loved it. If you focus on “Someday,” you will never start since it’s always in the future.
  • This is really useful for New Years Resolutions, especially. Break down those “Someday” goals into “Today” actions.
  • We always know that there is something that we want to be better at, but we don’t always know quite what that would look like if we haven’t started. John talked about the idea of treading water. You know you want to get to land, but you can’t really see around you to know where to go or what getting there would entail. Sometimes, you need to start, get your head above water, and as you get going, you will see more clearly where that goal point is.
  • John shared a personal story of doing exactly that. While he and his wife were living in San Francisco and were busy, they started to find that they were having trouble finding the space for what they wanted to do. They started (the key!) to create space for doing just that, and used it to get into sailing, which they enjoyed. The more they did it, the more they were able to make time to do it, and over the course of years, this turned into a complete change in their life. They moved out of San Francisco and onto their sailboat, and cruised their way down to Panama, where their boat is today  and they spend their summers (and they are in Milwaukee, WI the rest of the year). They didn’t start with the plan of doing any of this, but made time, and the goals started to come together toward their current life.

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035: Falling From High to Rise Up Above with Jon DeWaal

By on December 27, 2018


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Jon serves as the Executive Director, transition guide and workshop facilitator at Liminal Space.  Throughout his personal life and professional career, Jon has discovered that handling transition well will allow for a deeper and more fulfilling life.

A native of Michigan, Jon began his career after graduating from Hope College like any other – landing a job that was ‘fine.’ It paid well, offered a comfortable lifestyle, and promised many great career opportunities. But a few years in, waves of discontent just wouldn’t go away. He started asking questions, having conversations, reading and began meeting with a mentor. Over the course of about 18 months, he explored the questions: Now what? and Where do I go from here? It was within this discontent that he started to intentionally explore what the next chapter of his life could be.

Jon came to Seattle in 2003 to attend The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology (formerly known as Mars Hill Graduate School); ultimately receiving his Masters of Divinity in 2007. Through his education, mentoring and the struggles and discoveries of his transitions, Jon found a more natural fit for his career – creating a practice called Liminal Space that combines the often segregated disciplines of spiritual direction, life coaching and counseling. Through this work, he’s come to know and believe in the power of transformation while a person is located in a moment of transition – a liminal space. Though often very challenging and many liminal spaces conjure up many unwanted things, it’s where the most true things in life are found.  It’s where God joins us and anticipates seeing some of the best of who we are, and how we fit into the story.

Outside of Liminal Space, Jon enjoys living life with his wife and three young sons.

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