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.

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.”

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.

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.”

Marquis Grissom is a former professional baseball player.  He led the National League in stolen bases in 1991 and ‘92, was a member of the National League All Star team in 1993 and ’94 and won four consecutive Golden Gloves.  He joined the Atlanta Braves in 1995 where he helped them win their first and only World Series.  In all, he played 17 years in the majors, hitting 227 homers, stealing 429 bases and finishing with a batting average of .272.   Today he runs the Marquis Grissom Baseball Association, a foundation he started which teaches kids how to perform at their highest levels, both on and off the baseball field.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • How hard work at a very young age would help prepare him for a successful baseball career.
  • Learn which sport he always dreamed of playing as a professional. Hint: It’s not baseball.
  • Hear what his Plan B and Plan C were if baseball didn’t work out.
  • Hard work, discipline, focus and determination were the keys to his success.
  • How he was able to turn around a season-long slump just in time to help the Braves win its first World Series.
  • The lessons learned in baseball are life lessons kids will carry throughout life.
  • The way to not live in the past is to be even happier living in the present.

 

You don’t have to look real hard to see where Marquis Grissom’s work ethic comes from. He didn’t have a cozy lifestyle growing up.  If he wasn’t pumping water to boil for his parents and fourteen siblings, he was chopping wood, laying bricks, mixing mortar or doing a number of other odd jobs. His parents laid the foundation early on that you have to work hard to achieve anything in life.

It’s that strong work ethic ingrained in him at an early age that would underpin much of his success as a professional baseball player.  He was willing to do whatever it took to become the best he could be.  Being competitive wasn’t good enough.  He strove to be the fastest, the strongest and the smartest player on the field at every game.  That meant more batting practice, more fielding practice, more running, more conditioning and pretty much more of anything and everything to gain that extra edge. When the odds of a high school baseball player making it to the major leagues are a miniscule 1 in 5,000, it’s no surprise that it would take this kind of herculean effort to realize his dreams.

As talented and as driven as he was, he also had a good head on his shoulders.  He attended college instead of chasing the quick buck. Education was a value he always embraced, even with the lottery ticket to fame and fortune. And knowing that a prolific career in professional sports is never guaranteed, he always had a backup plan.  Had baseball not worked out, he could have been just as happy as a fireman or construction worker.

So when you’ve had a standout professional sports career with all the fame and money and glory that comes along with it, how do you prevent yourself from looking in the rearview mirror for the rest of your life?  It sounds like a worn platitude to say you just need to find something after retirement that fills you with as much passion.  But that’s exactly what Marquis did in founding the Marquis Grissom Baseball Association.

The mission of the foundation is to teach kids how perform at their highest levels both on and off the baseball field.  The staggering odds of making it as a professional baseball player aren’t lost on Marquis.  He knows the vast majority of these kids won’t ever see a dime from the sport. But if he can prepare these kids to go to college, whether or not baseball is part of the package, he’ll feel like it was worth all the effort.  And with 83% of his students going to college, mission accomplished.

You won’t find too many superstar athletes as modest as Marquis.  With all of his incredible talent and disciplined work ethic, it’s somewhat of a surprise that it’s luck to which he attributes most of his success.  It’s hard to argue that serendipity plays a role in just about any success story but in this case, it’s a very minor supporting role.  That said, for Marquis, it’s all beside the point.  For that was then and this is now.  And all that matters now is to show gratitude by dedicating this next chapter of his life to teaching the next generation the fundamentals of baseball and of life.

 

Mandy-Rae is an accomplished freediver based in Vancouver, British Columbia.  She holds 7 freediving world records and 13 national records.  She owns Performance Freediving International where she teaches freediving courses to the general public.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Entering a flow state allows you to hyper focus and achieve amazing results.
  • The mammalian dive reflex is a survival mechanism we share with whales and dolphins.
  • Visualization plays a critical role in the pre-dive planning.
  • She views the 14 underwater blackouts including one trip to the ER not as deterrents but as learning experiences.
  • Success is as much mental as it is physical.
  • Working toward achieving ambitious goals should be fun and enjoyable, not feel like a chore.
  • Anyone can be trained to hold their breath for several minutes and dive deep. We all have the potential to push ourselves further than we think possible.

 

What’s so special about holding your breath under water?  Not much if your plan is to dive down 10 feet in a pool while holding your breath for a few seconds. But try going down 500 feet in the ocean while holding your breath for several minutes.  That’s what the competitive sport of freediving is all about.  It’s about as “pure” a sport as you’ll find.  No fancy equipment.  No burdensome rules.  No crowds.  It’s just you and the water and your willingness to see just how far you can push yourself.

So how is Mandy-Rae able to do it?  How is she able to submerse herself to depths fifteen times the pressure we experience on dry land while holding her breath many times the average human breath hold?  It turns out there’s both a physiological component and a mental one.

Let’s start with the physical.  There’s something known as the mammalian dive reflex that humans share with whales, dolphins and most mammalian sea creatures.  It’s essentially a survival mechanism that kicks in the minute you submerse yourself in the water. First our heart rate slows way down which reduces oxygen consumption.  Next, the blood vessels constrict, reducing blood flow to the limbs while maximizing blood flow and oxygen to the most critical organs in the body – the heart, brain and lungs. Finally, the blood accumulation in the lungs acts as a protective barrier, preventing the lungs from collapsing under extremely high pressure.

As with any endurance sport, the physical element is just half the battle, sometimes even less.  The mental toughness is what separates the wheat from the chaff.  It is the mental edge which gives champions like Mandy-Rae the ability to set new world records over and over again.

First there is the pre-dive prep.  For Mandy-Rae, there is a mental shift that occurs from being a land-based human to a marine animal. It’s not just about the physiological transformation but the mental one. In her own words, you must learn to “become part of the water”.  For the next few moments, that underwater world is one in which you must feel very much at home.

Next is the visualization.  Just like with skiers going through an entire slalom race, turn by turn, in their heads before they leave the gate, so too does Mandy-Rae go through an entire dive before she ever submerses herself.  This exercise includes working through potential issues that may arise during the dive so if and when they happen, she’s already dealt with them and can be calm while working through them.

Finally, she enters what is commonly known as the flow state.  This will allow her to focus 100% of her mental abilities on the task at hand.  This will remove all external distractions as well as the internal ones – those voices in our head that give us pause and make us second guess ourselves.   In the flow state, there is no thinking and there is no feeling.  There is just doing.  It’s a hyper-focused mental state that allows her to push herself to the limits and achieve extraordinary results.

Why does she do it?  What drives her to go deeper toward the ocean depths again and again?  For one, it’s fun for her.  She truly enjoys going through the rigorous training and discipline it takes to set a new record.  She likes seeing how hard she can push herself. But just as importantly, achieving something you once thought impossible can be life changing.  She sees this in many of her first time dive students. The breakthroughs they have in the pool change them in profound ways by giving them the confidence to try new things in life and achieve other breakthroughs outside the water.

Mandy-Rae is the first to admit that she has a few physiological advantages that give her a slight edge on her record setting dives.  Her lung volume is larger than average and she’s able to equalize her ears rather easily.  But her confidence, her attitude, her mindset and her belief in herself are the advantages that any of us can share with her.  If there’s something you want in your life and you believe in yourself and apply yourself, there’s nothing holding you back.