Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist with the American Museum of Natural History and Director of the Hayden Planetarium.  He is also the host of the hit radio and Emmy-nominated TV show StarTalk, and the New York Times best-selling author of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry and the author of a number of other notable books, the latest of which is titled Letters from an Astrophysicist.  He earned his BA in physics from Harvard and his PhD in astrophysics from Columbia.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • He knew he wanted to become an astrophysicist since the age of nine when he visited his first planetarium.
  • His passion for discovering the universe enabled him to push past the racism and all the societal pressures holding him back. He would not allow anything to interfere with his ambitions.
  • He finished middle of his class in high school because he was valuing the joy of learning while others were valuing high grades. He had lots of interests outside of school and was never driven by grades.
  • “When I wonder what I am capable of as a human being, I don’t look to relatives, I look to all human beings. The genius of Isaac Newton, the courage of Joan of Arc and Gandhi, the athletic feats of Michael Jordan, the oratorical skills of Sir Winston Churchill, the compassion of Mother Teresa. I look to the entire human race for inspiration for what I can be – because I am human. My life is what I make of it.”
  • It’s highly likely that there is extra-terrestrial life. The top four ingredients of life on earth are the top four chemically active ingredients in the universe. In addition, the speed at which life formed on Earth, the age of the universe, and the number of planets and galaxies all suggest that there are life forms outside of the Earth.
  • He does not believe in a God. If there were such a divine force, it would manifest.  If there is something we don’t understand and can’t explain, his first thought if not whether it might be divine but rather, how can he experiment on it further to better understand it.
  • He has 14 million Twitter followers. He views his role on social media as enlightening the public to what is objectively true so people can have informed opinions.
  • Physicists recently detected gravitational waves originally predicted by Einstein over a century ago. These waves were produced in a collision between two black holes 1.3 billion light years away.
  • “Excellence is whether you’ve done the best you can given whatever the talents available to you.”

At the age of 17, Chris Wilson was sentenced to life for murder.  He turned his life around while in prison and was released after 16 years.  Today he is the owner of Barclay Investment Corporation, a social enterprise specializing in residential and commercial contracting work and employing out of work Baltimore residents.  His other business ventures include the House of DaVinci, a high-end furniture restoration and design company, and Master Plan Productions, a social impact content development company. His book is called: The Master Plan: My Journey from Life in Prison to a Life of Purpose.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

 

  • At the age of 17, Chris Wilson was sentenced to life in prison for murder.
  • Despite being sentenced to life, Chris believed that if he focused on turning his life around, he would get his sentence reduced and be set free after 7 years. He called this kind of thinking a “positive delusion”.
  • While in prison, he created a “Master Plan” which was a list of goals he wanted to accomplish in his life. He shared the list with his grandmother and the judge because he felt it was important to have others hold him accountable.
  • It was also important to include a number of shorter term goals on the Master Plan which were easier and quicker to accomplish to boost his confidence and create momentum.
  • He went to therapy to learn how to stop making excuses and take full responsibility for his past actions in order to move forward.
  • Instead of chasing money and living an easy life, he chose to give back to the community by starting a company which employed out of work residents including recently released prisoners.
  • It’s important to surround yourself with a support system of people you can turn to in order to stay on track and not revert back to bad habits.
  • “Excellence is pushing yourself to achieve high standards and doing so in a way that’s humble and considerate.”

Joe is the founder and CEO of Spartan, the largest obstacle racing series in the world. He is also a New York Times bestselling author of multiple books including Spartan Up, Spartan Fit, and most recently The Spartan Way.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • The most grueling endurance event he’s ever done is running a business.
  • “Death is the price we pay for life so make it worth it.”
  • Learn how he built the largest participatory endurance sport in the world with over a million annual participants and 275 events spread across 42 countries.
  • It took over a decade of losing money and tweaking the product until he finally figured out a formula that worked. He stuck with it for so long because he knew it was his true north.
  • Branding matters. They’re probably 10x more successful because of the name Spartan.
  • Intermittent fasting can make you feel better and it increases performance.
  • The best way to physically train is to focus on flexibility and mobility.
  • The ambitious mission of Spartan is to change 100 million lives.
  • “Excellence is giving it everything you’ve got. When you’re up against a wall and you refuse to give up, that’s excellence.”

Scott Hamilton is a retired figure skater and Olympic gold medalist. He won four consecutive U.S. championships from 1981–84, four consecutive World Championships from 1981–84 and a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics.  Since that time he has been a TV commentator, a motivational speaker, the founder of a skating academy, a cancer survivor and the founder of a cancer research center.  He is a New York Times bestselling author and his latest book is called Finish First: Winning Changes Everything.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Finishing first doesn’t necessarily mean finishing first. Accomplishing whatever goal you set for yourself is a finish first moment.
  • “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”
  • It was his mother’s passing that was the catalyst which woke him up and allowed him to take his skating to another level.
  • He gave away all his medals and trophies because he didn’t want to let them be an anchor to prevent him from moving forward.
  • All of the losing earlier in his career was actually great preparation for ultimately learning how to compete and win.
  • “Excellence is leveraging everything we have to live the best life we possibly can.”

Daniel Negreanua (aka “Kid Poker”) is a professional poker player who has won six World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelets and two World Poker Tour (WPT) championship titles. The independent poker ranking service Global Poker Index (GPI) recognized Negreanu as the best poker player of the decade in 2014.  As of 2018, he is the 2nd biggest live tournament poker winner of all time, having accumulated over $39,500,000 in prize money. He is the only player in history to win WSOP Player of the Year twice.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • He was making more money than his teachers playing poker so he quit high school to pursue his passion full time.
  • He would keep a journal during his games where he would track his mood and observe how it affected his game play. This allowed him to better control his emotional states and be more steady and focused.
  • His advantage and edge is mental preparation and the ability to deal with adversity when it comes.
  • It’s important to get clear on what your intention is going into something. It’s about knowing what the steps are to accomplish whatever intention that you set.
  • “Whenever you think that you’ve mastered something in life, that’s the exact moment when someone’s about to surpass you.”
  • There’s a difference between being a victim to circumstance and standing completely responsible for your results.
  • Excellence is the pursuit of ultimate integrity which means doing exactly what you said you were going to do.

Josh Blue is a comedian. He has cerebral palsy which forms the basis for much of his self-deprecating humor.  He won first place on NBC’s Last Comic Standing in its fourth season. He has appeared in a number of comedy specials on Comedy Central, Showtime, Bravo and Netflix and has been featured in several publications including People Magazine, The New York Times and NPR. His YouTube videos have been viewed millions of times. He was also a member of the US Paralympic Soccer Team.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Learn how he didn’t try to run or hide from his cerebral palsy but rather, made it an integral part of his comedy early on.
  • A turning point in his life was spending a year in Senegal and coming to appreciate how fortunate he was to just have food, clothing and shelter.
  • Hear about his crazy experiment living in the gorilla exhibit at the zoo for a day.
  • It takes most comedians years to refine their material to get a good 10 minute act but Josh had that “it factor” (i.e. stage presence and likeability) from day one.
  • “A joke is just a story with all the extra words taken out.”
  • He is so talented and spontaneous on stage that he never has to write down any of his material. He tests new material “on the fly” during live performances.
  • “Excellence is being so in tune with what you’re doing that nobody can touch it.”

 

 

Christopher Beck served for 20 years as a Navy SEAL.  He deployed 13 times over two decades, including stints in Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He received the Bronze Star award for valor and the Purple Heart for wounds suffered in combat.  In 2013, after retiring from the Navy, he came out publicly as a transgender with the new name Kristin.  A documentary was produced about her life called Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story. 

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Hear a glimpse of what daily life is like during the Navy SEAL BUD/S training.
  • Becoming a Navy seal is as much mental as it is physical.
  • Hear about his nerve-racking brush with death during combat.
  • Learn the trigger that pushed her to finally come out publicly as a transgender.
  • Gender and sexual orientation are really two different things.
  • Learn about the many challenges she has faced in being accepted as a transgender.
  • “Excellence is about being the best you that you can be.”

Christian Picciolini is an Emmy Award-winning director and producer, a published author, a TEDx speaker, and a reformed extremist.  He is the co-founder of Life After Hate, a non-profit organization dedicated to finding long-term solutions that counter racism and violent extremism.  His latest book is titled White American Youth: My Descent into America’s Most Violent Hate Movement – and How I Got Out.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • “Hatred is born of ignorance. Fear is its father and isolation is its mother.”
  • Hear about the tactics hate groups use to recruit.
  • The birth of his children was the impetus he needed to reprioritize his values and walk away from his former life.
  • The first step in counseling others to leave the extremist movement is just listening.
  • The people who join the extremist movement aren’t generally swayed initially by their philosophy. Most are just searching for identity, community and purpose.
  • Learn how the African American who forgave him for the physical violence he once caused was the trigger that gave him the courage to tell his story to the world.
  • The way we can help is to show compassion to those who deserve it the least because those are the ones who need it the most.
  • “Excellence is being the best human being that you can be.”

 

Show Notes

Christian’s book: White American Youth: My Descent into America’s Most Violent Hate Movement – and How I Got Out  https://www.amazon.com/White-American-Youth-Americas-Movement/dp/0316522902/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1515354532&sr=8-1&keywords=christian+picciolini

Christian’s website: www.christianpicciolini.com

Christian’s one on one talk with Richard Spencer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0U5zCbwFizA