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 Jurek is widely regarded as one of the greatest runners of all time.  He has won most of ultrarunning’s elite events including the Hardrock 100, the Badwater 135, and the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, which he won a record seven straight times. His most recent accomplishment is his 2015 Appalachian Trail speed record, averaging nearly 50 miles a day over 46 days.  He is a New York Times-bestselling author and his latest book is called North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • He averaged nearly 50 miles a day for 46 days to set a new Appalachian Trail speed record.
  • Watching his mother suffer with multiple sclerosis at a young age gave him the fortitude later in life to fight through the pain and suffering during long runs.
  • Humans were built for extreme endurance. If you want it badly enough and are willing to endure the suffering, you can run an ultramarathon.
  • Being adaptable and being able to adjust his mental state on race day was a key ingredient of his willing so many ultra races.
  • He had lost the passion and drive to really push himself and test his boundaries. Running the Appalachian Trail gave him the spark he needed to rekindle that fire in his belly.
  • Learn how he fought through excruciating injuries in both legs to keep moving on his way to setting the record.
  • “Excellence is being the best that you can possibly be. There is no end point. It’s something we’re always striving for.”

 

Show Notes

Scott Jurek’s book: North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail https://www.amazon.com/North-Finding-While-Running-Appalachian/dp/0316433799/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1528762039&sr=8-1&keywords=scott+jurek

Scott Jurek’s website: http://www.scottjurek.com/

 

Nicola is one of the most sought-after violinists of her generation.  She is one of the most influential classical artists in the world and has played with the finest orchestras and symphonies from around the globe. She was the BBC Young Musician of the Year at age 16, twice the Female Artist of the Year at the classical BRIT awards and has sold millions of records.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • As early as the age of 5, she was so emotionally moved by music that she would often be brought to tears while playing.
  • It’s important to focus early on in life. Once you learn to push through certain barriers, you can apply that discipline to other areas in which you choose to devote your life.
  • She never had any long term goals of becoming a world class violinist but rather, was always hyper focused on just improving one day at a time.
  • Beyond her technical mastery, she had a natural stage presence which enabled her to take her talent to the next level.
  • When she performs she enters the “flow state” whereby she becomes so engrossed in playing that she’s no longer thinking but rather, enters a period of emotional timelessness.
  • Learn how she was able to top not only the classical charts but the Top 30 Pop Album charts as well.
  • Excellence isn’t just about the discipline, dedication and relentless work ethic but also about being immensely curious about the larger philosophical questions outside of their areas of expertise.

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

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.”

Dave Perkins is the Founder and former CEO of High West Distillery, a craft whiskey producer.  He sold the company in 2016 after 12 years to Constellation Brands for $160 million.  He had a successful career in biotech marketing prior to that.  He lives in Park City, Utah.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

 

  • Learn how his biotech background prepared him for building a whiskey business from scratch.
  • He moved to Utah to start the company despite the state’s tight liquor laws.
  • He chose to become a distiller, not just a blender, despite the much larger investment and longer waiting period.
  • Learn how good contingency planning can help mitigate risk in a startup.
  • In addition to hard work, good planning and a distinctive product, serendipity played a key role in his success.
  • Excellence is taking pride in your work and giving it your best.

Rich Wilson is the fastest American skipper to race solo around the world.  He completed the Vendee Globe 27,000 mile solo round-the-world yacht race this year in 107 days.  At 66 years old, he was also the oldest skipper to complete the race.  Rich is the founder of the SitesAlive Foundation, a non-profit platform to connect K12 classrooms to adventures and expeditions around the world.  He has a degree in mathematics and an MBA from Harvard and a Masters in interdisciplinary science from MIT.   He currently resides in the Boston area.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Learn how his lifelong battle with asthma has provided the motivation to persevere both on and off the water.
  • 80% of success on the water is done prior to the start of the race.
  • Ironically, even in a solo racing voyage, the team is the most critical element of success.
  • Learn how he had not just one but two incredible strokes of luck which helped save his life when his boat capsized during one of his races.
  • Learn how he educated hundreds of thousands of kids around the world through the experiential learning platform of his sailing expeditions.
  • Excellence is knowing you put out your best effort on whatever axes are part of the equation.
  • “Most people will have a dream about what you should do but find what you dream to do and go do that one.”

Morris Robinson is a world-renowned bass opera singer.  He has regularly performed at the Metropolitan Opera as well as opera houses all over the world.  He is also a highly regarded concert singer and has performed with many of the well-known symphony orchestras across the United States.  He is a graduate of the Citadel and currently resides in Atlanta with his wife and son.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • A 3 time All American football standout in college, at 6’3” and 290 pounds, he was deemed too small to make it in the NFL.
  • Learn why he quit the corporate world cold turkey to pursue a singing career.
  • If you do what you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.
  • Learn how football helped prepare him for a career in the opera.
  • Talent is important but it’s not everything. You have to be willing to make sacrifices, work hard and apply yourself to achieve something great.
  • “If you have a dream, you have a right to go after it.”
  • “If you give your best at whatever you do, the product will be excellence.”

 

To some, Morris Robinson can be an intimidating presence.  He’s a big and powerful looking guy. Remember Popeye’s powerful nemesis Bluto?  Sort of like him.  There is also no pretense about Morris.  When he showed up for our interview, he was wearing workout shorts, a t-shirt and sandals.  If I told you that he’s an ex 3 time all American collegiate football player, that probably wouldn’t be much a surprise.  But if I then told you he’s now one of the great bass opera singers of our generation, you’d probably do a double take.  And Morris would have it no other way.

Morris has always relished the dichotomy of his existence – a 6’3”, 290 pound aggressive offensive lineman on the one hand and a talented performance artist on the other.  Those two seemingly contrasting personas have been a part of his identity throughout his life.  Even today with his football playing days well behind him, he certainly doesn’t “look” or “act” the part of a world-renowned opera singer (not that I personally know any of them).  An image of a polished, clean-shaven and formally dressed sophisticate driving a Mercedes may come to mind but certainly not a casually dressed, scruffy-looking former athlete driving around town in a Hummer.  That’s one of the things I love about Morris Robinson – he is who he is and he makes no apologies.

So what do you do when you finally come to the realization that your lifelong dream of playing football in the NFL isn’t in the cards?  Like most of us, you do what you feel you have to do to make your way in the world.  That is, you settle.  For Morris, that meant getting a job in corporate sales for a technology company.  That is what he did for seven tedious years until he woke up one day and felt empty inside.  Despite his success at it, the passion just wasn’t there.  He knew deep inside that it wasn’t in God’s plan for him to spend the rest of his days toiling away in corporate America.

His wife Denise also noticed that the spark was missing which is why, unbeknownst to Morris, she had secretly set up an interview for him at the prestigious Choral Arts Society of Washington.  The Director fell in love with his beautiful voice upon the very first note.  And that’s all it took for Morris to embark upon a new journey to rediscover this remarkable gift he had always had but which had laid dormant for many years.  It wasn’t so obvious at first how he could leverage his vocal talent into a career but that was beside the point.  Corporate sales had become a grind and he needed some excitement in his life.  With singing, he got just that.

With a voice as naturally sweet and powerful as his, it didn’t take long for Morris to get discovered.  But the road from salesman to opera star wasn’t an easy one. Talent notwithstanding, becoming an opera singer meant going back to school, both literally and figuratively.  He had to relearn how to sing operatically.  He had to learn how to act.  He had to learn multiple foreign languages (most operas are in Italian and German).  And he had to learn how to take critique. And lots of it.  While he had the advantage of a beautiful voice, singing opera is not something you just do.  It would be years of hard work and sacrifice and swallowing his pride to learn this difficult craft and make it as a professional opera singer.

So why did he do it?  Why did he decide to take this risk and essentially start over when he was already well ensconced in his corporate career?  Because according to Morris, “If you have a dream, you have the right to go after it.”  And he believed in himself.  His attitude from day one was that if someone else could do it, then he could do it too.  In his heart of hearts, he knew that if he wanted something badly enough and was willing to truly devote himself to it, he could accomplish anything.  No goal would be beyond his reach, even if that goal were as bold and audacious as becoming a world-renowned bass opera singer.