Your ability to achieve your goals with a lot less stress is possible once you get your brain in coherence and harmony. John Assaraf knows how best to do this! John is one of the leading behavioral mindset experts, a serial entrepreneur, a brain researcher, the CEO of NeuroGym, and a bestselling author. In this episode, John talks about his latest book INNERCISE: The New Science to Unlock Your Brain’s Hidden Power. John separates himself from the personal development industry by having a firm grasp of the inner workings of the human brain. His research on and passion for harnessing the power of our brain to achieve our goals lead him to publish Innercise. His book, and all of his programs, aim to help you unlock and release your full abilities and skills to achieve the grandest vision for your life. In this episode, John reveals the importance of the three common denominators for successful pivoting and the things that will help you to adapt.
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Innercise: Unlocking Your Brain’s Hidden Power with John Assaraf
I’ve got an incredible guest with me but he’s much more than a guest. He’s a dear friend. I feel blessed at this moment in ways that I can’t express. Certainly, I’ve got the words for it but it’s more of a feeling at the moment to spend some time with somebody that I care about and I respect. The beauty of that is we get to have a conversation and it’s us chatting but everybody else gets to both experience the energy of a good relationship of a long-standing friendship as well as to learn some things about the business. The gentleman that I’m going to introduce has this ridiculously long history of success in business. He’s got wisdom and he’s consciously aware of some of the things and probably there’s a whole bunch of stuff that’s unconsciously competent behaviors and habits and ways of doing things that he’s not even necessarily fully apprised of himself. I notice it and a lot of people in the world notice it, too.
His name is John Assaraf. He’s a serial entrepreneur, brain researcher and the CEO of NeuroGym. In the last many years, John has grown five multimillion-dollar companies in real estate, internet software, brain research and life and business coaching and consulting. He’s also the author of two New York Times bestselling books, Having It All and The Answer. His latest book is called Innercise: The New Science to Unlock Your Brain’s Hidden Power. John has made frequent appearances on Larry King Live and has been featured in eight films, including the blockbuster smash hit, The Secret and Quest for Success with Richard Branson and the Dalai Lama. He’s one of the leading behavioral and mindset experts in the world with a unique ability to help people release the mental and emotional obstacles that prevent them from achieving their very best in life and in business. John is a vegan who cares a great deal about what he eats. He eats his own hot sauces and makes them, meditates daily and exercises six days a week. He loves skiing, traveling, taking cooking classes, listening to the Bee Gees and Enigma and being a dad, a husband, a mentor and I’ll add, a friend. John, welcome to the show. I want to ask you, what’s not written in this introduction that you would love for people to know about you?
It’s interesting as you were reading about building five multimillion-dollar companies, what it doesn’t say in that is I’ve bankrupted one other company and I’ve invested in dozens that haven’t worked out. It showed me in a wonderful light. It didn’t show any of my skeletons in the closet.
I was reading this and thinking to myself, you must be exhausted. This is a lot in a lifetime and you managed to do it. It’s a quality that I’m not sure if you see this about yourself but you do it with grace. You do it with certain ease because you can see with a lot of people that they may be successful. They may have created business success or money success or some other success and often they wear it. You can see it on their face. They’re worn. It’s the experience that I once heard this analogy of taking a train. It’s an old analogy that goes back to ways when air travel was much less the thing. It’s looking at people that get off the train and looking at the people who were working on the training, the porters, conductors and people like that. The difference is that the people who work on the train don’t take the trip in the same way that the passengers do. That’s a part of it.
It’s also important to know if you would have seen me several years ago, I was wearing it. I was 45 pounds heavier. I was stressed out, drinking too much alcohol and eating unhealthy. You see the effect of my pivot. I reprioritized what was important to me. I’ve always been good about family and I believe in God. I’ve exercised most of my life, but I always didn’t take as good care about myself with stress management, meditation, relaxation, vacation, time off, reflection time and consistent health-related stuff. I quickly realized as I was approaching my 50th birthday that maybe I had some of the other things in life that are important to me, but I was unhealthy.
I made a very concentrated effort to shift my focus and to pivot from not taking care of that to taking care of that and saying, “If I achieve what I want to achieve in business a year or two, three later, big deal, there’s no rush to it.” I want to achieve it and still have a great relationship with my wife, with my kids, my mother and father, sister and brother and the people and friends that I want to invest quality time with. It’s a much more balanced, harmonious life than it used to be as I was building a lot of the things that I wanted to build in businesses. For the most part, that time was to make money.
John, this is interesting because there’s a lot that people are seeing from influencers that would suggest you have to be a workaholic. That workaholism is an aspirational lifestyle for many Millennials being driven in this way. I read somewhere that Elon Musk talks about working 120-hour weeks. There’s a part of me that goes, “That would be interesting. What if I have twice as much time? What if I was twice as productive?” Is there a hack to that? Is there some way to be able to squeeze more juice out of the vessel? There’s another part of me that resists after 40 plus years in an entrepreneurial space because I started young like you did. Exhaustion is not a model that you can scale. Burnout is not a model that you can scale and there are so much burnout and so much exhaustion. When I see or hear other people who are influencers who will say, “The key to success is to be able to add those seven to eight hours.” When you get home from your day job, you first start your night, your entrepreneurial pursuits and things of that sort. Do you think that success requires that you be out of harmony or out of balance the way you were in order to achieve that? Is that a requirement in the equation?
It depends on the outcome. If you are efficient with time, there’s no such thing as time management. All you can do is manage what you do in time. If you are being efficient with what you’re doing in time, the only reason to put in more time is that you want to get things done faster. At that point, it becomes a question of if what you value is to achieve, whether it’s financial, business goals or making a difference in the world goals faster than you can add more time. If you have other things that are important to you, then you have to allocate a portion of your time for those things. What happens with a lot of entrepreneurs, especially is we’re looking to get as much as we can do in the shortest amount of time. A lot of people forget that it comes at the expense of other things.
If you’re prepared to pay that price, do it deliberately. Do it consciously and know that chances are, if you overdo it, you’re going to end up with burnout, which is considered a very serious medical condition. Burnout means that the hard stuff is nearly impossible and the easy stuff is hard. When we get into understanding the body and the brain a little bit better, the reason humans need sleep is there’s a lot of stuff that happens in those six to eight hours of sleep. If you don’t take care of allowing your brain and your body to do those things, then you’re putting stress on it and stress for a short period of time is okay but for longer periods of time, stress breaks down systems. There are eleven systems in the human body. It’s a matter of time before your systems break down until you cannot take care of itself. One of my friends once said, “If you don’t make time for your health, your illness will make time for you.”
I had my phone sitting on my desk and one of the things you inspired me to do was to get an autonomous desk. I love the ability to stand up because I remember coming to your office and saw you standing at your desk. I’ve got this thing plugged in on my desk, which is our lifeline or what feels like for many of us. We couldn’t live without this device, this cell phone and yet we remember a time when this thing wasn’t a part of our lives. I read that many of us are addicted to this but there’s this continuous cognitive arousal that has us endlessly on. There’s almost no off switch.
On average, people are looking at this and interacting on their phones more than 150 times a day, two-and-a-half minutes on average. We’re talking about a lot of time but here’s the thing about this, if I don’t have it plugged in, if I leave this thing alone for whether it’s ten hours or two days, at some point, it’s going to read a signal that shows that the battery is depleted. Eventually, if ignored completely, the battery goes out on the phone and this wonderful computer, this device will not work. Isn’t it the same with us? The difference is that we don’t have a gauge that tells us that our energy or that the gas tank is low, so to speak.
Resilience is the conversation I want to have with you ultimately and I want to talk about the kinds of resilience that help us to recharge and to be able to plug back in. I want to focus on the brain but before we get there, I want to circle back because it is a show about conscious pivoting. You did a great job of seeding that at the very beginning and transparently saying that what’s missing in your bio or your intro are the moments of failure, the moments of learning or the challenges. I’d love for you to pick one more macro pivot because the book I wrote was more about those extreme points of inflection in our lives. When we change career, we leave a relationship or when we’re left or were fired or those moments. The book that we’re incubating is more about the micro pivots, the smaller moment to moment, even in second by second increments that we pivot in our lives. I’d love for you to start with the macro one and then we’ll transition into something that’s more of a micro pivot for you.
Would you prefer a business one or do you prefer a health one?
You choose, John. The audience is people pivoting in many different areas and businesses are relevant for a lot of people as well.
For me, I’ve been an entrepreneur for my whole life. I got involved in selling real estate when I was nineteen years old. I built my own real estate company and I’ve had several different ventures that I’ve built. I keep reinventing myself based on what is it that I want to do in the world. I have been in a fortunate place than when I was nineteen. My mentors put a lot of personal development in front of me, whether it would be a book, stats or events that I went to. One of the events I went, there was something that was said that helped me a lot in how I make decisions in my life. The idea of setting goals for yourself came up and the seminar leader said, “Don’t set goals wondering if you are worthy of them. Set goals asking are they worthy of trading your life for?” I’ve never done anything that I didn’t want to trade my life for. When I get tired of doing something where it’s not worth the trade, I stop doing it and I figure out what is it that I wanted to do. I went from being in real estate to being in the online world of virtual tours and seeing homes, inside of cars and on computer selling virtual tours to the world. I’ve been involved in a lot of different things. My pivots have been extremely deliberate.
You’ve planned those pivots for the most part.
They were not hard. They took some time to plan but they were very deliberate. I haven’t been put in the position too often. With one of my businesses, I had a partnership that was with my best friend and he got sick. There were some psychological issues and we ended up having to close our company down with 72 employees and thousands and thousands of clients and millions of dollars in revenue. I lost a lot of time, a lot of money, very painful in the friendship, very painful financially, very painful from an ego perspective and from a reputation perspective. I was the guy on the front and he was more of the operator at the back. I was forced into a pivot where I had to start from zero, no database, no employees, none of that.
It was a public pivot if we can call it that.
It was a very public pivot. I have to start from scratch and learn a bunch of stuff that I didn’t know. The foundation that I’ve built and been into personal development is what gave me the sea legs to be able to weather the storms. That’s the one thing that’s I keep coming back to. I’m still a voracious reader and learner. I still go to events. I still have consultants, coaches and mentors that work with me. I’ve kept myself in this environment that facilitates change and environment that helps me navigate through change. The two hardest things I’ve ever done. I’ve been around not eating. I was an addict to alcohol, where I drank a bottle of wine a day after a couple of cocktails. I was a functioning alcoholic where I can drink in the evenings and then go to work all day long. You have to drink during the day and then I stopped drinking alcohol several years ago for several months.
I had one glass of wine with a friend of mine and drank for several months and I haven’t had a drink in a few years. Giving that up was probably one of the hardest things to do and sugar as well. Giving up sugar was one of the hardest things to do because of the addiction in the brain to it. I’ve had to make some pivots for those two things, but it was all health-related. My reason why was bigger than the addiction. It was bigger than the challenge. I had a much bigger reason why I must and why I wanted to. It had nothing to do with not being functional or getting into any trouble. It was who I wanted to be at the time, especially my kids were right around ten and twelve years old. This is not something that I want them not to see me beat.
You’re a serial pivoter and also a serial teacher. You’ve been teaching for a very long time. I want to put you to the task of taking the lessons in the wisdom of the pivots you’ve made and chunking it into three things that you could say were common, common denominators or common elements that serial successful pivoting, which you’ve done. What would you say are those three things? You’ve already said a few things and I’d love to unpack it.
Everything that I teach my students evolves around three things. One is mindset which is attitude, perspective, beliefs and habits. Number two is the skill set. What are the skills and knowledge that I need to have in order to understand the pivot and to understand what it is I’m trying to achieve? What’s the real stuff? The neurological, biological, emotional and physical that all falls into my skill sets. Number three, what are the specific behaviors, I’m not talking about one-time behaviors, I’m talking about specific behaviors that must become my habits?
I remember you being fascinated with this idea of unbelieving. Where do beliefs fall into that category? Is it purely in the mindset area?
Yes, the answer is beliefs are nothing more than neural patterns in the brain. The more we believe the more evidence and repetition and experience we have but what if you can get to the point where you don’t believe your beliefs?
There are a lot of people, if they have self-awareness, they understand that there are patterns to their behavior. They’ve existed since. It depends on how much work you’ve done on yourself but initially, it’s the stuff you did. When you dig deeper, it’s the stuff you’ve been doing your entire life probably since the age where you first experienced some form of trauma, whether it’s six, seven or eight years old. You make meaning out of things and you do certain things repetitively. Can the proverbial old dog learn new tricks?
The unequivocal answer is yes. Let me unpack it a little bit and explain. You said a word before. You said patterns. Those patterns at one point when you were born did not exist and what is a pattern? A belief is nothing more than a cluster of cells that have connected and have been reinforced. Habits are nothing more than thoughts, emotions, feelings, sensations and behavior. Things that had created a cluster of neural networks reinforced that had moved from a time when you did them consciously with an effort to a subconscious pattern that requires zero effort. It’s automatic and that’s what a habit is. When a dog is comfortable and repeating the same things that he or she does, that means that they are good at using something called their automatic self to do the things that don’t require any thought or energy.
If we want to teach that dog a new trick, we have first to figure out what’s the trick we want them to learn. We have to do space repetition and experiential behaviors in order to teach an old dog new tricks. I keep Rubik’s Cubes next to me all the time. I have 2x2s, 3x3s, 4x4s, 5x5s, 8x8s and 10x10s. Can you teach somebody who has never done a Rubik’s Cube to solve this Rubik’s Cube in less than ten minutes? The answer is yes, even though there are billions of patterns or algorithms that you can follow. If you don’t know how to do it, then it’s nearly impossible. When you understand that in order to develop a new belief, habit, perspective or behavior, there are things that you can do algorithmically that when you repeat these patterns, they take the place of the old patterns.
It’s all based on neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to rewire itself. A belief is nothing more than a pattern that is active at times and not active at other times. If you know how to take a new belief and impregnate your brain with that new belief and allow it to become the new default pattern, part of the new operating system, then that pattern overrides the new patterns. It’s no differently than if there’s an issue with software on a computer. You’ve got a computer programmer to recode the software and the new software can be run on the computer. Our brains operate pretty much in alignment with that. They don’t operate exactly like a computer, but our brain is a living, thriving and changing organism versus an organ.
Are you a fan of Og Mandino’s work? There’s an old book called The Greatest Salesman in the World. In that book, Og Mandino says something along the lines of, “Weak is the person who allows his thoughts to control his actions. Strong is the person who allows or forces her actions to control her thoughts.” I want to get a sense from you because you’ve done so much work in this area, in the arena of how the brain not just functions but how it is that you leverage what you can learn about the brain to create new patterns and new behaviors. Do you find that it is a true statement? That there’s a strength in being able to force yourself to do something. When you talk about attitude, it could be that your attitude or your mindset is 6:00 AM alarm rings and I need more sleep. Your habit or your pattern is to hit the snooze bar two or three times and then conveniently, you can’t get to the gym and also get to work on time. You don’t go to the gym. There are a lot of people that do that rather than somebody who the alarm rings and what they’ve trained themselves to do is simply act. They get up, put their clothes on and get to the gym, even though they may be one eye open and one eye closed. What is stronger in your experience? Is it the thoughts that control the actions or is it the actions that control the thoughts?
First, we have to understand that thoughts are automatic. Thinking is part of your conscious brain. Thoughts are automatic from your subconscious brain of percolating up random thoughts and patterns of thought that you have consistently had over and over again. There’s a variety of different parts of our brain and what most people don’t understand is when that snooze button or when that alarm comes up, not a lot of people want to be awakened from sleep. You’re in a groggy hypnagogic state where you want to stay in bed and you’re not getting enough sleep. If you’re sleeping properly because your circadian rhythms are set properly and you’re not causing any challenges in your brain cycles to happen because of computers or your cell phones. For example, before bed and getting too much blue light from your computer screen, you should have a good night’s sleep when you wake up after your deepest REM sleep. You’re fine because you’re out of that deep sleep but if your sleep cycle is not something that you manage and you take seriously, then you’re not going to get out of bed because you’re going to be in the wrong brain state to want to go and work out. Any time that you can challenge any of the systems that are going on, there’s an entire body of work called hormesis.
I’ll give you an example. After I take my nice soothing hot shower, I do about three minutes of as cold of a shower as I can. Why do you do that? Based on a lot of the research, number one, me overriding my I-don’t-want-to-do-a-cold-shower gives me emotional and mental resiliency to override a comfort zone in the pattern I’ve gotten used to for 58 years. A nice hot shower or warm shower and then finish it off with a cold shower is not fun or easy initially. It taxes yourselves, the telomeres and a whole bunch of the different systems in your body. When you can become good at overriding your desire to stay in your comfort zone, you have emotional resiliency. When I did my cold shower, I’m like, “This feels good.” I was thinking to myself, “I need to get some colder water. Maybe it’s time to go into some bathtub with ice cubes in it.” Any time that you fast, when you’re hungry and you train yourself to override that. “I don’t want to, I’m hungry. I need to eat.” Anytime you override your brains and your emotional desire to do what’s easy and convenient and you succumb to your comfort zones. Anytime that you stretch yourself, I say, “I don’t feel like it but I’m going to get up and do it anyway. I don’t feel to not want to eat that even though I love desserts, I’m not going to have it right now.”
I can show myself that I could be in control of these automatic processes that I’ve had several years. Whenever you do something like that, including taking your toilet paper that maybe the roll of the papers coming down, flip it around so the paper is coming the other way and see how your brain wants you to flip it right back within hours or days. Any time you take whether it’s a mundane or a more sophisticated routine and you interrupt it and you override the natural propensity to want to do what is comfortable. You are developing mental, emotional and possibly even physical resiliency. I love to challenge myself in as many ways as I can to do that. Not only is it good for your brain because of the brain plasticity and keeping your brain young and creating new neural connections, but it’s good to put you back in the state of “I’m in control” versus “My environment, my habits or my beliefs control me.”
Resiliency is important, especially whether you’re running a company, you’ve got to become a resilient leader. You’ve got to model resilient leadership, whether it’s in your family or even as an entrepreneur. I want to understand a little bit more about what you would say contributes to resiliency and how much of it is situated in the brain.
It’s all situated in the brain, that’s number one. For me, resiliency also comes with another word that I absolutely love and I talk to my children about this all the time. I said to my children, “I became an adaptationist.”
That’s what the human species is. Part of it is adaptation.
In the past where we’ve taken a look at the human species, we say, “Genetic traits don’t change for 10,000 years,” but what about deliberate conscious evolution? In research studies with mice, in the last several years, if you take a very smart female mouse and you put her through a maze that takes six to eight hours to get through in order for her to get some food and water. She will pass on the genetic code to that maze so that her offspring can go through that maze like that upon birth in a fraction of the time. As she goes through the maze and her neural networks are changing, she’s passing that genetic predisposition to her offspring in one generation, not 10, 20 or 30. Survival of the smartest, maybe survival of the ablest to adapt, the most resilient, the survival of the pivotist and survival of the fittest, that is truer if you think about when have we experienced more change than now? We’ve had the Renaissance Age, you’ve had the Agricultural Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.
We’re right in the midst of a psychological revolution and a neurological revolution where our brains are starting the beginning of a massive adaptation for the next 10,000 years. Whether we will be in spaceships like Star Wars, traveling between planets at crazy dizzying speeds with our joysticks and our feet doing stuff or a brain to computer interfaces. We are at the precipice of a massive shift with augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality and artificial intelligence. All that is coming to a head. The individual who’s resilient, who can pivot and who can adapt can deliberately put herself or himself through it and go, “I’m enjoying this process because I’m developing a sense of greater control.”
Let’s be mad scientists. If we know that’s the toolkit that we’d want, that’s most relevant. Probably if I was going to give my kids or give anybody’s kids something at the earliest stage, it would be that they could do the things you’re talking about. They could adapt, make new decisions, pivot and reinvent quickly. Not get bogged down in what was because change is normal and it’s always been the normal. The pace of change, the pace of disruption is exponentially greater every day. Let’s talk about how the brain might function in that area and what we could do, what kind of training is available to help people to establish those new skill sets for a world that is changing rapidly, that to try even to pinpoint it in a moment is foolish.
Why do people get stuck in these comfort zones? Why don’t we like to adapt? Why don’t we practice resiliency? There’s a very simple answer. Our brain is wired for safety first. When we think about safety, what kind of safety? Survival, number one, physical, emotional, spiritual and financial safety. Anytime our brain processes information, it has to analyze whether there’s a real or potential danger involved in that and it balances that out against how much energy it’s going to take to do this. Energy conservation and survival are paramount in the brain and right with that is the avoidance of any kind of pain or discomfort.
Adaptation is uncomfortable. Doing something that I don’t want to do is uncomfortable. It requires energy. I’m doing something that I don’t want to do or I’m being asked to or forced to. It requires energy. There might be danger involved in it. I don’t know whether there is a payoff of pleasure that’s possible. Our brain processes information from the perspective of energy conservation, pain move away from it as fast as possible and survival. How do you manage to feel this discomfort? What happens is when our brain is in a state of discomfort or possible fear or danger, we’re releasing the neurochemicals of cortisol or epinephrine and that happens at a subconscious level. The feeling that it causes is what makes people stop.
Cortisol and epinephrine are our fight, flight or freeze.
Those are stress hormones. A little bit is good but too much is not a good thing. When we have these feelings that we have to learn what to do, for example, when people feel vulnerable, what do they do? They do anything but go into the vulnerability and the answer is in order to release the vulnerability, you have to step into it.
Same with fear, it is a bluff. It’s a bully and the moment you go into it, it falls away.
There’s some logic that you have to go through in order to say, “Is this real danger or how do I minimize the risk?” That’s part of your logical brain working with the emotional brain and instinctual brain. It’s head, heart and gut getting all those three in alignment but strictly from an organism perspective, not wanting to is normal. When people don’t understand, here’s what I’m feeling and here’s why I’m feeling it. If I override that feeling or step into it or use some of the tools that are available to manage emotions and feelings better, then they’re ill-equipped to deal with a world that is changing and demanding for them to adapt. A couple of years ago, my wife and I were with some friends in the Galapagos Islands. You quickly learn there that it’s adapt or die. I have a hat that says, “Adapt or die.” That’s our species and we’re in the beginning stages of massive adaptations and changes. There’s so much disruption that is about to happen that most people are going to get blindsided in a monstrous way and if they don’t know how to foresee it, accept it and challenge themselves to adapt to it.
Foresee it, accept it and challenge themselves to adapt to it. In our corporate consulting and even in the work we do sometimes speaking to companies, we talk about self-disruption because disruption is a tidal wave. It’s coming and it’s here. People feel it every day and it’s only getting bigger all the time. To be able to self-disrupt was a skill set that I first learned or became aware of when I was working as a lifeguard at this place called Jones Beach many years ago. On that beach, we had on a Saturday or a Sunday, we’d have 100,000 patrons. It’s a lot of people on not a thin stretch of beach. It was a very wide area of the beach and rip currents and things that were happening. We could never have made all the rescues needed if we’d have allowed the environment to dictate the game. While I was nineteen years old and I was sitting on that lifeguard stand, we had so many people in the water. It was like a watering hole and there were eight to ten guards up at one time. We could never make all those saves if we didn’t change the environment to make it possible. Where we could see people were getting in trouble, we would blow our whistles. We would move them. We would use a variety of different means to disrupt the environment as it was so that we could not lose anybody.
What triggered this for me was when you said that you’d lived your life working in positions or at least in businesses where you would trade your life for it. At our beach, we had a mantra that our captain shared with us very early on after we had lost somebody. Through a search and rescue, they drowned and we didn’t find them. For seven summers after that, we never lost anybody in our field because he said, “You either make the save or you die trying.” That was a very serious life or death context there. It was something that we were willing to trade for. Meaning that the ability to protect, to serve and to do what we were doing to be in comradeship with other people who would put their lives on the line meant that if that happened, it happened. It wasn’t what anybody wanted but we were willing to put ourselves out there for it.
You’re prepared to practice to ensure that it didn’t happen. Your level of commitment to being good through self-preserve but also to preserve others, that was the benchmark.
That self-preservation in many ways was self-disruption.
Deliberate conscious evolution, I call it.
Let’s talk about brain state because I want to get into the discussion of how it is that you do train people because you don’t train people one-on-one. I know years ago you used to mentor people may be by the dozens, but your time is not allowing for that. You work with people in a bit of a different way that gives them the access to not just your wisdom but the wisdom of people who’ve mentored you in the space. The brain state is the area that you work with people to create new patterns. Is that correct? I want to get a better understanding of it.
My specialty is helping people develop the mental and emotional strength to become aware of the obstacles that are holding them back. Whether it’s the knowledge or skills they’re missing, the limiting beliefs they have, the fears that they have or the self-image or self-esteem issues they have that’s preventing them from taking action and from fulfilling their biggest goals and dreams. I personally don’t believe that knowledge and skills are the problems because we can google anything or buy a book, review a course or program and find out exactly what to do. That’s not people’s problems either. They are not being able to find out what to do or having the skill.
As to the tidal wave of disruption that we’ve been talking about, I want you to speak to that specifically if you could. Where do these things help people to adapt? That’s what we want people to be able to do.
First is a belief in self. The belief that no matter what happens, I can make it through and I can achieve the goals, the dreams, the lifestyle and the desires that I have. Belief in self first.
That’s a check for me. I’m going to put myself in the lifeguard stand. We had total belief that we would be okay. I always believe that.
Number two goes a little bit deeper than that. Do you believe that you deserve to have that? You have this goal and this dream and you might have this belief that, “I believe I can have that,” but do you deep down inside, you as a soul and as a human deserve that? Do you feel worthy of that? Number three is the silent killer and this is fears. Fears of failing, succeeding and then failing, being embarrassed, ashamed, ridiculed, judged and disappointing yourself or others if you try your best and fail. When we think about fear, it is directly tied to the oldest part of our brain that’s been evolving for millions of years. The instinctual part of our brain, the reptilian or lizard brain or brain stem and that is directly tied to motivational centers, to thinking centers, to creativity centers and to the motor cortex in our brains. It is directly tied to behavior.
If we go back to what I was talking about, survival first, avoidance of any kind of pain right there with survival. If we think that there’s any type of emotional, mental, physical, financial and spiritual pain associated with what we need to do, then chances are we don’t know how to manage our emotions. If we don’t have any skills on what do I do when I feel afraid? What do I do when I have self-doubt, which is a precursor to fear? What do I do when I’m feeling stressed, anxious and uncertain? Most people don’t have any tools or techniques of what do I do with this feeling? There’s nothing wrong with the feeling. The issue is in ignorance. It’s a lack of skill of what to do when I feel that.
A firefighter feels fear and does it anyway. A Navy SEAL goes several meters underwater into enemy territory knowing that they may be killed and feels that fear and learns how to do it anyway. An astronaut leaves her space station to go with a robotic arm to fix something in the middle of space and time and has those fears but has learned how to manage the emotion and the feelings because they practice techniques. I was getting ready. I haven’t done an event in years. I’m doing one for about 35 people and I took some pictures, one of a beautiful car, then another slide I have is all of the components of a car. I took another one of a picture of a beautiful brand-new watch and then all of the pieces inside the watch.
What I want to portray to people is you see the surface of who you are but do you understand how everything is working? Are you your own mechanic that could fix the stuff that isn’t working? Most people are like, “No, I’ve never been taught how to be my own brain mechanic, heart mechanic, lung mechanic or digestive system mechanic. You have eleven systems and you own them. It’s the most powerful system in the entire universe and your brain but you don’t have the tools of how you use it more effectively. You don’t need a hundred of them. Microsoft Word has 4,000 features. The average person uses seven. You don’t have to be a mechanic to drive your car, but you surely need to know how to drive, how to park and how to do some of the fundamentals and the basics. Most people don’t have the fundamentals and the basics of using their brain.
You came up with a name some years ago for a virtual event that is all about what we’re talking about. The topic is the brain and how it works, how to get leverage over it, how to change it and all that. I love the name of it. It’s called Brain-A-Thon. Take a minute and share what this thing is called the Brain-A-Thon because it is such a great name for something.
I’ve spent the last many years studying the human brain and why we do the things we do and why don’t we do the things we know we should do, what our beliefs and habits, how do we get rid of the disempowering ones and create new ones. In my travels, I’ve worked with people from Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Yale and all the major universities, brain researchers. I decided to do something called the Brain-A-Thon. It’s where I would bring some of the top brain researchers in the world with me to teach the public more about their brain, how to focus more, how to be less stressed, how to utilize your brain to help you achieve your goals, how to manage emotions, fears, disempowering thoughts about yourself and the little inner critic that everybody has.
Everybody’s brain is the same. This is what most people maybe don’t understand is all of our brains are the same. Sure, there are some anomalies on the fringes, but our brains operate the same way. The fear center in my brain works like the fear center in your brain. The focus center in my brain works like the focus center in your brain. What if we learn how to use our brains better? What if we took the latest evidence-based scientifically challenged methods and said, “Here’s what works and here’s what doesn’t,” and share it with the world. That’s what I did. I put together the Brain-A-Thon and I do a full one day, eight hours with me and about six other brain expert sessions on here are the different parts of your brain. We don’t get into the technical parts of the brain. If you want to make more money, how do you reset your brain’s financial thermostat?
If you have self-image or self-esteem issues, how do you reset that part of your brain so that you have more confidence and certainty? If you have limiting beliefs like, “I’m too young or too old, I’m not smart enough or not good enough,” how do you disrupt that neural network in your brain? How do you create a new pattern that causes you to feel, “Maybe I am smart enough, maybe I can do this, maybe I am worthy enough?” How do I get rid of, “I can’t because,” and how do I say, “Maybe in the past, I could but now I’m learning how to.” That simple little shifts in what I did, I can’t because versus maybe in the past I could but now I’m learning how to, that opens up an entire circuitry in the brain of possibility. We do this Brain-A-Thon to give people tools, techniques and ways to use their brains better to get rid of the obstacles and to start achieving more of their potential. Anybody who feels comfortable with who they are and what they have to offer, we’ll give a lot of free stuff. If people like what they hear and what they see then maybe they’ll go deeper in my work, in my books and my programs and yours.
You know this better than me because you’ve been involved in this space longer than I have been. In the past years alone, there’s been more content created in the prior years. Much of it, probably 95% of that content is free. It’s available on YouTube. It’s available in so many ways.
I want to make people aware of something. Sometimes free is extremely expensive though.
What do you mean by that?
Sometimes part of the challenge with all of the channels, whether it’s podcasts, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook, you have a lot of people who are offering opinions. Opinions are great and there was so much hype and lies out there that are produced. Sometimes free is extremely expensive because it doesn’t come with evidence. One of the reasons, I know you do, I know I do and the people that we hang with it, we’re looking for the stuff that’s evidenced-based. This is proven to work. We know this combination works because and there’s empirical evidence. One of the things I decided to do many years ago for myself was I want to separate myself from everybody else in the personal development industry. I took one of the hardest topics, the human brain. If you want to compete with me on the human brain, you’d better do some serious studying to put yourself in the environment of being drilled and grilled before I publish my latest book.
You’ve been more of a researcher as well. I know you don’t typically describe yourself that way.
I research two to four hours every single day.
The latest book, Innercise, is that the result of a lot of that research as well? I’d love for people to please go out and buy the book on Amazon or if there’s some other way that people can get it. Tell us about Innercise for a moment.
It’s called Innercise like exercise for the physical body and Innercise for your neural muscles, The New Science to Unlock Your Brain’s Hidden Power. There’s a website, IgniteMyBrain.com, to find out about the book. I’ve got a bunch of free gifts for people who buy the book. It’s already a bestseller. I’ve got some brain training audios that I give people when they buy the $11 book on Amazon. I give them a couple hundred dollars’ worth of brain training audios. It’s all around giving them actual tools and techniques to strengthen their mental and emotional capabilities and the resilience and more importantly, how to achieve every one of their goals and dreams. We’ve discovered that there are different parts of the brain, for example, responsible for setting goals and other parts of the brain that are responsible for helping you achieve goals.
Most people get the setting goals part well, “Here’s what I want.” That’s great because you’re using a little bit of your logical, deductive reasoning part of your brain, even some emotions, maybe even some instinctual parts of your brain. In order to achieve your goals, you’ve got to create coherence or harmony between a few different players in the brain like you would if you were in a band. If one of the band members is not playing well, chances are you’re not going to have harmony. Getting your brain in coherence and harmony makes your ability to achieve your goals a lot less stressful. Stressful is when there’s too much going on that you don’t know how to handle. If you want to make or achieve your goals with a lot less effort, not effortless but effort less, get harmony and coherence in your brain. That’s what I talk about and teach people how to do in the book, Innercise.
I’m intrigued by other people’s rituals and this is a show called The Conscious PIVOT. Hopefully, it’s in the implication but we’re overtly stating that there’s a difference between your conscious way of being and your unconscious way of being. I’m not making this distinction to downplay the importance of habits and a book like Stephen Covey’s, The 7 Habits is famous for the fact that there are habits that people do unconsciously and they’ve created unconscious competence. I look at habits like you’ve described them as patterns. The way I brush my teeth with the same hand or drive home in the same way. What is important is when we want to change something in our life, whatever that might be, we’ve got to create some new way of doing things. Those are consciously created rituals. The distinction is that we choose to do it versus something we’re doing by default. John, what’s something that’s not a default mode? You’ve been doing some things for many years, like going to the gym six times a week or what have you. What’s something that you do consciously that’s a ritual that you do it at a certain time of the day, every day or almost every day for a particular reason? What’s a ritual that you’ve got?
You said something that sparked this. I started brushing my teeth with my electric toothbrush with my left hand instead of my right hand. I started putting face cream on with my left hand instead of my right hand after I shave. What’s interesting is every three to five days, I catch myself holding the toothbrush in my right hand and I’m like, “No, get it. Put it in this hand.” Why am I doing that? It’s starting to become a habit already. We know from some of the research that came up from the University of London, it takes between 66 days and 365 days to create a strong enough neural pattern that overrides an old pattern or habit. One of the things I will share with people that you can take if there’s anything you want to change or create whether it’s a new habit, a new belief or a new way of being, all of my students and clients must agree to at least 100 days. If you’re not prepared to work for 100 days on changing a pattern that will lead to the result that you want. I don’t want you as a client. The reason is that most people have had this idea of 21 days changes a habit and that’s all false.
It’s an old number from back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, 66 to 365 days. I’ve discovered through tens of thousands of clients, somewhere around the three-week mark, the hard-conscious effort goes away. Over the next three weeks, they’re doing it probably 50/50 conscious effort and 50% habitual. By day 90 or 100, the habit’s driving their behaviors. I want to do a sidebar on that but a lot of what I do, my morning rituals of waking up, my gratitude, my meditation, my exercise, my smoothie, my planning and reviewing my day from what I did the night before, that’s locked and loaded. My pre-bed rituals of what I’m grateful for the day, what I’m happy and proud of at work, what didn’t work, what I would like to make better for tomorrow. Give my subconscious mind some instructions before I go to bed on something I might be trying to figure out, those are locked and loaded for many years.
If you have never read one of John’s books, please go out and do that. Get a book but find out about the Brain-A-Thon. It’s been a very impactful event for a lot of people. I venture to say hundreds of thousands of people at this point for many years. I’ll end as I do every time with the same rituals. This is my ritual ending but it’s also such a blessing. I feel I find it so important that I remind myself of what I’m grateful for. In the beginning, I was grateful to have a conversation with a friend and to be able to share that with many people in this community that has sent such loving messages to us about how these conversations impact them. We want that to continue to grow. If you’re somebody that is new to this, please subscribe. Please leave us feedback. We’d love for you to add a comment, AdamMarkel.com/Podcasts. I answer all those comments personally as well as you can leave a review on iTunes. We’ve got to do something remarkable, something miraculous. John, I’m going to ask you this question. Did you wake up?
Absolutely, and thanks to you, you gave me a little ritual. Every time I put my feet on the floor, I’m grateful that I got to put my feet on the floor because I’m thankful.
Sometimes the most profound things are the simplest. It’s a simple practice but you got to wake up and I got to wake up and there was no guarantee when we went to sleep for either of us. There was no guarantee we’d wake up. As we take the first conscious breath of the day, for everyone, my prayer, my hope, my expectation and my intention are that you will get to wake up again. More than even waking up physically, although that is a blessing all by itself, that you wake yourself up consciously. That you wake up you’re, whatever that means to you. That you’re a little bit more alive than you even were. You can also realize at that moment that you are awake, that there are people who are in that very same moment taking their last breath. That makes that moment holy, sacred and special and certainly something to be grateful for regardless of the circumstances that you’re waking up into. Lastly, in this very simple waking ritual, the four magical words I’m going to ask you, John, do you love your life?
I love my wife and I love my life.
It’s Jerry Maguire. There’s this great scene in Jerry Maguire with Dicky Fox who is Tom Cruise’s mentor in that movie. This is where this all came for me in 1993, he says, “I love my wife. I love my life and I wish you the kind of success that I’ve enjoyed,” and I wish that for everybody. I wish you all the kind of success where you love your life. If you don’t, that you find reasons to and if you do, that you find more and more reasons to know that that’s a foundational place. John, thank you so much for being a guest.
Thank you. I always appreciate being with you.
Ciao for now. Have a great rest of your day, evening or wherever it is that we’re finding you. We’ll see you in the next episode.
- Having It All
- The Answer
- Innercise: The New Science to Unlock Your Brain’s Hidden Power
- The Greatest Salesman in the World
- Amazon – Innercise: The New Science to Unlock Your Brain’s Hidden Power
- The 7 Habits
- iTunes – The Conscious PIVOT
About John Assaraf
John Assaraf is a serial entrepreneur, brain researcher, and CEO of NeuroGym. In the last 25 years, John has grown 5 multi-million dollar companies in real estate, internet software, brain research, and life and business coaching and consulting.
He is the author of two New York Times best-selling books: “Having It All” and “The Answer.” His brand-new book is called “Innercise: The New Science to Unlock Your Brain’s Hidden Power” (Waterside Press, 2018).
John has made frequent appearances on Larry King Live and has been featured in eight films, including the blockbuster smash hit “The Secret” and “Quest for Success” with Richard Branson and the Dalai Lama. He is one of the leading behavioral and mindset experts in the world, with a unique ability to help people release the mental and emotional obstacles that prevent them from achieving their very best in life and business. John is a vegan who creates and eats his own hot sauces, meditates daily, and exercises six days a week.
He loves skiing, traveling, taking cooking classes, listening to the Bee Gees and Enigma, and being a dad, husband, and mentor.