Nik Wallenda is an acrobat, daredevil, high wire artist and author.  He is known for his high-wire performances without a safety net.  He holds nine Guinness World Records for various acrobatic feats but is probably best known for walking a tightrope stretched over Niagara Falls.  He is the author of a book entitled: Balance: A Story of Faith, Family and Life on the Line.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • “Life is on the wire and everything else is just waiting.”
  • “Fear is a choice and it’s up to us to decide whether we’re going to allow that fear to enter our mind or not.”
  • “I’d rather live free doing what I love and what I have passion for than to live in a bubble.”
  • “I consider a negative thought like a weed growing in the garden. If you don’t pull the weed out, it will eventually take over the garden.”
  • “Whatever you’re facing in life, whether physical, mental or emotional, anything is possible.”
  • “Every negative experience has led me to where I am today.”
  • “Excellence is the way we treat the everyday person, whether we like them or not.”

Lonnie Johnson is a former Air Force and NASA engineer who invented the massively popular Super Soaker water gun. He currently oversees Johnson Research and Development, a company which commercializes technologies with a recent emphasis on alternative energy.  He studied at Tuskegee University where he earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s in nuclear engineering.  He lives in the Atlanta area.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Learn how he created one of the world’s top 20 all-time best selling toys.
  • He made his own toys from a young age including a go-kart he built from junkyard scraps.
  • He was told by his high school counselor that he shouldn’t aspire beyond a career as a technician but he didn’t let that advice deter him from his goal of becoming an inventor.
  • “The only thing that really leads to success is perseverance.”
  • His original goal with licensing the super soaker was simply to generate enough income to allow himself to become a full time inventor.
  • His latest invention, the Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Converter, is a game changing technology that can dramatically improve the efficiency of alternative energy sources.
  • “Excellence is setting goals that are tough so you can wake up every day knowing that you’re doing something worthwhile.”

Scott Kelly is a retired NASA astronaut and a veteran of four space flights.  He is best known for spending nearly a year on the International Space Station and the second most time in space of any American.  He recently wrote a book now available about his space travels called Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • He struggled academically for many years until he read Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff which would finally give him the focus he needed to turn himself around and become a model student.
  • Despite the odds of success of becoming an astronaut being stacked against him, his attitude was if you don’t even try, then you know for certain that the odds are zero.
  • Learn how spending a year in space tests your psychological endurance as much as your physical endurance.
  • When you’re doing a very challenging task, try to focus only on the things you can control and then ignore the rest.
  • His mother’s passing a rigorous physical exam to become a police officer served as a role model for Scott overcoming his own challenges.
  • Excellence is the ability to focus 100% of your ability and attention on one thing.

Morten Andersen is a former professional football kicker who spent most of his career with the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons.  He played in a record 382 games during his 25 year career and is the all-time leading scorer in NFL history with 2,544 points.   In 2017, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  These days Morten is a motivational speaker and also oversees his family foundation.  He resides in Atlanta, GA.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • As an exchange student, he never intended to stay in the United States for more than a year but when he tried out for the high school football team on a whim, he made the team which led to a full scholarship at Michigan State which led to one of the greatest NFL careers in history.
  • The goal is to practice enough so you can get to a level of “unconscious competence”.
  • He had to swallow a “humility pill” after he hit a performance plateau and hire a team of experts to get him back to a high level and extend his career many years.
  • He kicked on 8’ goalposts during practice so come game time, he would have a much easier time executing with 18’6” goal posts.
  • As an athlete, all you can control is effort and attitude. Everything else is white noise.
  • If you focus more on the process than the results, the results will follow.
  • His sports psychologist introduced the idea of “goal windows” which altered his mindset about how to measure performance and hence, how to feel successful.
  • He had his best year statistically over his 25 year career in his final season at the age of 47.

Alan Eustace holds the record for highest altitude free fall jump. On October 24, 2016, he jumped from the stratosphere at an altitude of 136,000 feet or about 26 miles.  Alan was a Vice President of Engineering and Knowledge for Google and held many other executive roles at other high tech companies prior to Google.  He is currently retired and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • He had so much confidence in his team and his equipment and so much practice along the way that he had absolutely no fear on the final record-setting jump.
  • He used scuba diving as inspiration for solving the challenge of surviving in a self-contained system in the stratosphere.
  • Unlike Felix Baumgartner’s Red Bull-sponsored jump which had tons of media and buzz around it, Alan approached the jump more as a science experiment with little fanfare.
  • Learn how he assembled and oversaw a team of leading experts across multiple fields which were foreign to him at the time including meteorology, ballooning, spacesuit design, environmental systems and high altitude medicine.
  • There were multiple feats of engineering to enable a safe flight including a specially-designed rogue parachute that could stabilize him during his fall, a spin-free spacesuit and an automatic parachute release.
  • His wife had him write his own obituary and farewell video to his children so he could understand the gravity of this undertaking.
  • “Excellence is approaching a problem and trying to find the best possible way through it.”

 

 

 

 

Anders is a professor of psychology at Florida State University where he specializes in the science of peak performance.  His groundbreaking research has been featured in many publications including Scientific American, Time, Fortune, Wall Street Journal and New York Times.  His most recent book is called Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • The Malcolm Gladwell “10,000 hour rule” (i.e. it takes 10,000 hours to become world class at something) stems from Anders’ research. But it’s not necessarily 10,000 hours and it’s not any kind of practice.
  • Learn what is meant by “deliberate practice”.
  • The success of the Navy’s Topgun (fighter pilot training program) largely stemmed from the methodology behind deliberate practice.
  • The brain can be rewired to extend its capabilities at any age.
  • There is no such thing as natural talent.
  • Learn how building mental representations can dramatically improve performance.
  • For many fields, the workday is far too long. It is very hard to maintain intense focus and concentration for more than 3 or 4 hours a day.

Jeff Seder is the founder and CEO of EQB, a consulting firm which advises thoroughbred racehorse owners. He utilizes proprietary big data analytics to predict the success of racehorses, most notably the 2015 triple crown winner American Pharoah.  He has his undergraduate, law and business degrees all from Harvard and he currently resides on a farm in Pennsylvania.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Learn how he used utilized big data to predict the success of American Pharoah, the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
  • Success is all about hard work: “It took 35 years and $7 million to become an overnight success.”
  • On why competitors haven’t replicated his methods: “I can give someone a violin and an instruction manual but they’re not going to play a symphony right away.”
  • On following your passion: “My Harvard professor asked me what I was passionate about and I said ‘horses.’”
  • Learn how he used a slow motion camera to study the U.S. Olympic bobsled team and help them turn the tide and start winning medals for the first time.
  • “Excellence is learning your instrument and then forgetting it all and just wailing.”

 

 

 

 

 

Jon was the Founder and CEO of Krave Pure Foods, a gourmet jerky company.  The company became one of the fastest growing food brands in the country and was acquired by The Hershey Company for around $220 million in 2015. Today he is the CEO of Sonoma Brands, an investor and incubator for new branded food startups. Jon lives in Sonoma, California.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Learn how he reinvented the entire jerky category and broadened its appeal.
  • The most important litmus test as to whether a new product will succeed is simply whether it makes sense to you. If it’s a problem you can personally relate to, that’s a good start.
  • The lean startup method isn’t just for technology companies but consumer packaged goods businesses as well.
  • Learn how he brought a new product to the market for just $10,000.
  • His experience in the ultra-competitive wine industry gave him a “PhD” in branding.
  • While serendipity plays a role, there is a playbook that allows new brands to come to life.
  • Excellence is an aspiration that you never quite reach. It’s a mindset.