Tony Robbins has a seminar called Unleash the Power Within (UPW) where, on the first evening, people do a firewalk as a symbol of turning fear into power. At a recent UPW in Dallas there were two people that had very different firewalk experiences one that saw everyone walk over hot coals and one that said most of the people they talked to did not attempt it. I submit they are both correct.
How is this possible? I remember seeing a film quite a few years back called “The Secret.” As described in the film, the “Law of Attraction” principle posits that feelings and thoughts can attract events, feelings, and experiences, from the workings of the cosmos to interactions among individuals in their physical, emotional, and professional affairs. It may sound like a lot of mumbo jumbo, however, bear with it for a moment. Deepak Chopra’s Seven Principles of SynchroDestiny is not that far off from the subject covered in the film and if you refuse to go down those roads the science behind the matter is our brains are expert filter machines. There is simply too much going around us, and within us, to take in. To say it another way — you get what you focus on. Look around wherever you are at the moment. Find everything you can see that has the color brown on it and make a mental list. Now close your eyes and try to remember everything around you that was red.
So, how can both observers be correct? If you focus on the firewalk experience as being important and transformational you might not be able to find anyone in the room who is not doing it. If, however, you focus on the opposite of this, for whatever your reasons are, then all you will see are the “hoards” of people not going through with the experience. The scientist in you might want to have a look at the numbers but also remember that statistics can be used to prove anything. (It may not be on topic but click here for a fun look at correlations)
The strange thing I have found in life is that ripple effects of your focus seem to stretch far beyond what can be logically seen. I have not been to a live Robbins event in many years, however, my last Tony story is actually quite recent. I received an email with a link to a video (3 Ways to Strengthen Your Body and Get Energy) of Tony mentioning a few key tips for better health. (It was marked not to be shared so I am assuming you are not going to find it on YouTube or elsewhere) One of the tips referenced MCT oil and a recommended brand by the name of “Bulletproof.” He said he had no financial connection to the business and just wanted to share the brand recommendation. It seemed like a simple thing to test out in my own life so I ordered it…but the story does not end there…
The Bulletproof website seemed interesting so I clicked on the Facebook “like” button and started seeing updates, not about products, but more the thoughts of Dave Asprey, the “Bulletproof Executive,” the person behind the brand…but the story does not end there…
Less than six months after seeing that video from Tony, I found myself sitting down at a dinner next to Dave Asprey. (By “found myself sitting down” I mean I was with a group of about 50 people getting together for an XPRIZE event and I had no idea who would be on this trip until after signing up for it) So, we spent that entire dinner time talking about bio hacking, his business, and more…but the story does not end there…
A month later someone wanted me to download a copy of a free for limited time “Sugar Impact Diet — 2-Week Cookbook” while they were deeply immersed in UPW. (They received the suggestion from their doctor while at the event and simply had no time to do it themselves) My response? Already did it the day before per a suggestion from Dave Asprey…but the story does not end there…
Where the story goes from here will need to be written in the months to come because it has not happened yet — or I am otherwise not able to publish it yet. The emphasis on the above is not only were the events not planned but, by definition, could not be planned because I had no clue as to who the people or the products were before they came into my life. The law of attraction? SynchroDestiny? Coincidence? Luck? Call it whatever you wish while I enjoy the journey.
A final thought…
Unlike the example using colors above, real mastery of focus comes from training the subconscious and not the conscious mind. Think the “wax on, wax off” from the Karate Kid. It is the not the ability to think of the solution to a problem but rather to take the steps towards a solution without thinking. Mastery makes things look easy and almost mystical. While it is easy for all to desire the end result few will put in the work to get there.
(Originally posted on Medium)
On Episode 205 of Joe Polish’s “I Love Marketing” podcast he did an interview with myself and three other entrepreneurs on a plane ride from St. Louis, MO to Manchester, NH. This is the last in a series of stories where I will dive a little deeper into the answers I gave to the questions Joe asked. His last question to the group was, “If you could look back in your life and give advice to your 18, 19, 20 year old self, what would it be? Looking back to your past self what advice would you have given your past self that would have either reduced a tremendous amount of suffering or accelerated your learning, would have allowed you to have more joy and happiness, that sort of thing.”
For himself, Joe mentioned the one piece of advice I tell everyone trying to get further in life. It is the one line from a song that itself is about advice:
Do one thing every day that scares you. Baz Luhrmann — Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)
I have no data to support it but perhaps growing up as an only child, in a very rural area, helped in building my ability to do more listening than talking. Thus, I don’t think it is something that I needed to learn, because it is who I am, but if you listen more than you talk then you will find life gets a little easier. From the perspective of trying to give the gift to my children or somebody else I would say try to understand your weaknesses perhaps even more than your strengths — and that is not to say that you are going to be able to do anything about your weaknesses. If it is a core aspect of who you are, and you just suck at something, you may not be able to be ever good at it. Yet, if you know what you are bad at you can find people that you will work with that are outstanding at your weakness — and when you come together that makes a team that is unstoppable. In summary, the advice to myself younger self on this subject would be to not think of listening more than talking as a being a bad thing. It many ways it is a super power that allowed me to get where I am today. Unrelated to the interview I recently read “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain and found myself thinking, “Good God — are we really that messed up about the meaning of introvert vs. extrovert?”
In writing this story I remembered another piece of advice I heard in 1999 from Joseph McClendon III, Tony Robbins No.1 Performance Coach. It was a story he told aloud back then and in asking him just recently if it was written down anywhere his reply was, “Unfortunately I do not have that in written form. Most of the time it is of the cuff and I’m in the flow.” I wish I could remember his words exactly but it went something like this —
Imagine yourself going back in your past having the chance to see all of the moments that made up your life to where it is today. See the friends around you today and remember where you first met them — some you may have only known for a short time and others you may have shared most of your life with. Remember how you wound up living where you are and what that move was like. What are you most proud of now — your family? Your job? Maybe what you have learned over the years. How did you meet your spouse? Remember all of those good times you have had together. Remember the bad times too — how have they made your relationship stronger? How did you wind up driving the car you have now — what about the last accident you were in — I know you were in at least one. What are you most proud of? Go back further in time before your career. Remember your school friends. Remember the people who didn’t like you? Remember the subjects you liked and the ones you didn’t. Dating, your first kiss, your first boy friend or girl friend. How about your first car? What were you eating back then? — I bet it is different today. What was your neighborhood like? Remember all that free time you had. Go back before school. Can you remember what your home was like? Remember where you played. Visualize that world in your mind. Look around to those familiar places and find your favorite one. Do you see a child there? Pick that child up and hug it with all of the love you have inside until you are one with that soul. Then realize that child is you. Before you let go take the time to tell that young soul, “It’s going to be all right.” Then let go and remember how far you have come. Enjoy and be thankful for that moment. Your life is a gift to you. What you do with it is your gift to God. Become the miracle you seek.
Yes, thinking about it now probably the best advice I could give to my younger self is, it is going to be all right. Divorce, death, and even high school, were all somehow meant to be on the trail leading to the here and now.
(Originally posted on Medium)
On Episode 205 of Joe Polish’s “I Love Marketing” podcast he did an interview with myself and three other entrepreneurs on a plane ride from St. Louis, MO to Manchester, NH. This is the forth in a series of stories where I will dive a little deeper into the answers I gave to the questions Joe asked. His forth question to the group was, “Out of all the things that you have done that have allowed you to be focused, be successful, manage your time, say no, I’d love to hear one or two rituals, methods, or strategies that you use that allow you to be effective. For me, I go to a public library, I have 11,000 square foot building I own, beautiful office, I can get more done in a library in an hour than if I was to spend half day or all at at my office simply to focus. So when I when I want to focus I create a focus environment. I also meditate every day, I do TM. Transcendental mediation, that helps. I exercise every day. Those things actually help me become more productive, but every one has their thing that they do so I would love to hear some things that you do that other people listening to this can learn from, and say, ‘ah, that’s a good idea!’”
Before getting into my own answer I suggested to Jeff Peoples to use Evernote instead of sending emails to yourself (in fact, that is indeed what I am literally using at the moment to help put thoughts together to create these Medium stories!!) It has the ability to go cross platform be it Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS. All of the data is synced via your Evernote account so there is little setup. You can add text, attachments, web clippings, and more. Share notebooks with others. As much as I use it I am also sure I have only scratched the surface of its capabilities. Okay, enough with my rambling, if you are not using it — download it and start today before reading any farther.
For my answer to this question I focused on the theme of NET time — meaning No Extra Time. Time is the one item that is priceless to me and I am willing to spend a lot of effort and funds making “more” of it, or probably better said, out of it. The empowering question to always ask yourself is, “What else can I accomplish during those things that I am going to be doing anyway?” Below are top three things for me. Ask yourself what they are for you. I know one thing for Joe was doing this interview during his ‘dead’ time on a plane ride!
The very first opportunity that comes to mind is driving time. When I am in the car I am listening to audiobooks. As long as the ride is longer than 15 or 20 minutes I am deep into whatever is up in the listening queue. If something comes up that I want to highlight, or otherwise read more closely, I pause it, take an audio note on the phone and continue on. As part of my audiobook ritual I do my best to switch between education and entertainment. In other words, a novel by Stephen King now, and The Millionaire Next Door later, and so on. I get a wonderful experience to go through these journeys which I am not going to have the time to sit down and read the physical book be it on Kindle or paper, at home or wherever. I do not add up all of the hours I am able to cover in a year but I never had to worry about having credits leftover in whatever Audible plan I am subscribing to! If it was not for having uninterested (no, I didn’t say interesting ☺) passengers at times in the car I would dump my Sirius radio subscription and never miss one-second of it.
I have the privilege of having my home be my primary office for work. Linked to this lack of commute is also having a small fitness room at home as well. One day I was looking at this small little room, with a tiny little TV, that I was desperately trying to spend more time in, and I am saying to myself, “What the hell am I doing here?” I want to spend more time getting in better physical shape, why don’t I take this room and change it so it has the biggest flat screen TV, the best sound system, etc. Sure I want to be in that room for health reasons but let me use that time to get other things done as well. So now I get the opportunity to be in better physical shape while taking in series television — be it Breaking Bad, or whatever. Yes, now I can binge watch shows and run a marathon! Being in the film business with Bron Studios this turns out to be a really good idea for business as well. ☺
Another NET ritual I use has to do with my magazine subscriptions. When they come in the mail, or in electronic form, I just let them pile up. They continue to pile up until I fly somewhere, for when I do those magazines become my flight time. Unlike the car, where I take audio notes if something interests me, on the plane you will see me ripping out articles to either archive as references, forward on to others, or otherwise followup on when back on the ground.
(Originally posted on Medium)
On Episode 205 of Joe Polish’s “I Love Marketing” podcast he did an interview with myself and three other entrepreneurs on a plane ride from St. Louis, MO to Manchester, NH. This is the third in a series of stories where I will dive a little deeper into the answers I gave to the questions Joe asked. His third question to the group was, “Stupid human tricks…so what are your unique abilities? What are the things that you have learned how to do, that as you make it up and make it real, this is like your skill set that you apply and that you have developed. Talk about not only what it is but how did you actually developed it. Did you fall into this success, was it arduous, did you have to go through numerous failures? A little bit about how you got into doing what you are doing and what is it that you do that has allowed you to be successful? Are you great at selling? Writing? Public speaking? Managing teams? What is it that you consider you are pretty damn awesome at this?”
To answer this question I talked about three top rituals that came to mind that have become a way of life for me…
The first one, oddly enough, was giving — as in making donations to “win” experiences that I was somehow passionately attached to. I have been a roadie for a day for The Who, I did firefighter training for a day with the New York Fire Department Training Division on Randalls Island, and so on. These are a couple of examples where the experience itself, and a deeper appreciation, was ‘all’ I took home. However, there are other examples like “Give your child a priceless gift: reading time with actor LeVar Burton” via the National Press Club’s Ellen Masin Persina Scholarship Fund that have turned into real businesses. A donation to the Carol Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund to have lunch on the set of Stargate Atlantis changed my entire career path and led me to helping found a business which has become the amazing Bron Studios and related group of companies. My work with the XPRIZE Foundation has turned into a number of passive investment opportunities that I would have never discovered otherwise, including a significant stake in the “Space 2.0” sector. All of these examples have one thing in common — there was no upfront intent of ever getting more involved beyond the initial contact. Yet, what I have discovered completely by accident, is that the act of giving has a high chance of making connections with extremely passionate and competent people doing amazing things. Further, sometimes those amazing things and talent cross over enough with my personal interests to spark something special that grows over time. As a small seed can grow into a mighty oak tree these moments of giving have come to change my entire life. These unplanned events have become the foundation of a more subtle core philosophy as well — the things I look forward to the most when a new year starts are those hidden behind doors I cannot even name when the year begins. Listen to the universe, it is taking to you. It will not tell you what is coming but if you enable yourself to hear what it is saying your life will become magical.
Stupid human trick number two for me is the counter intuitive thought of setting my bar for success very low. This may seem like an odd way to become awesome at something but think about it this way — when you take on a seminar, a conference, read a book, have a failure, etc, you are usually overwhelmed with a mass of good ideas for possibly improving your life or business going forward.
What I do is look for the one thing that I can take home with me to my life or business and truly implement it well. Of course, this concept assumes you are constantly feeding yourself ideas for improvement from various sources — without that in place you are really rolling the dice for an all or nothing outcome for the rest of your life! The great part about looking for just one thing is that it is easy to build on. The magic is looking back, years, and years, and years later and seeing how far you have come. No, you do not need to limit yourself to literally just one good idea but do keep it to an absolute minimum ensure your odds of implementation are extremely high. Remember: Ideas are worthless, everything — and I mean everything — is hanging on execution.
Gary Vaynerchuk: Nobody Cares About Your “Billion Dollar Idea”
I am usually pretty good at picking out moments in life when a new perspective is created for me but this one is a little hazy to me. My guess would be going back all the way to 1998 when I went to my first Tony Robbins seminar. Unleash the Power Within (UPW) was an experience that lasted 50 hours and ran across 4 days. It was an overwhelming amount of life changing content — yes, he even offers life coaching as an add-on to the program just to help keep your momentum going. For me, however, the trick was taking home just a couple of key factors for my life, as it was at that time, and doing my best to push them as deep as possible. The result was that overwhelming feeling was gone and it instead turned into the excitement of true progress. One, step, at, a, time.
The last stupid human trick is something that I will quote Tony Robbins to introduce (yes, I owe that man a lot), “A life worth living is a life worth recording.” A daily journal is something I have been doing for more than 15 years — and I mean literally a daily journal. Whether it is a sentence or a number of paragraphs it’s been wonderful to be able to. Something that’s changed in me is living a life of gratitude. I am fortunate that Over the course of a year now so many things happen it is hard to place those events in perspective because I am so focused in what I am trying to do or what is happening at the moment. With the journal at hand I have looked back at the end of every year and have been able to take in how really far the journey has been. No, for those reading carefully it did not start with UPW in 1998 — a journal was not one of the top take home target for my life at that time. Further, life was filled with a lot fewer moments when I started as compared to where it is today.
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. — Steve Jobs
It is great to look back on all of the good, however, if you are brutally honest with yourself a journal can also be a great ‘mirror’ for checking in with yourself when change is needed. Character development makes for a great film — use it to write the script of your life as well.
Taking the circle very tight, just to my own family… for me it’s weird — people joke that we must have been in the witness protection program because we have a box of three photos from my father’s early life. There is really not much history there. His parents came from Europe so beyond his parents there really is no family history that I am aware of. The story on my mother’s side is only marginally better. Amazingly there is a photo of my mother’s entire family posing together before some of her brothers were off to war. That’s like the crown jewels as compared to my father’s side. Now, however, the gift I can give to my children, through this daily journal and all of the wonderful ability to record everything we do today in photos or in other ways like blogging and so on, is they can see a window to a life I have never had the opportunity to see in my own parents.
During the interview Joe goes on to explain how he values recording knowledge and how people might be listening to these words 400 years from now. (I personally think that is quite a stretch though maybe some form of AI will be taking all of this in!) He also mentions that he doesn’t even know what his mother’s voice sounds like anymore referencing silent film. Now when I take one photo on a high end camera it is capturing more data than my first Macintosh, with the optional external hard drive, was able to store. Where “Moore’s law” will take the generation ahead is truly something science fiction cannot even begin to predict with any meaningful accuracy.
To summarize, I do it for myself but I know the side benefit of it is for the longer term of others. How I became able to journal everyday is the story of a slow boil the idea I probably first heard about at the same UPW seminar in 1998. It may have not been a priority then but it was somehow placed in my mind as something that made sense to do. Though it seems like a long time, looking back it was really only three short years later when it finally became that ‘one thing’ I wanted to change in my life. Ever since then I cannot imagine living a life without it.
(Originally posted on Medium)
On Episode 205 of Joe Polish’s “I Love Marketing” podcast he did an interview with myself and three other entrepreneurs on a plane ride from St. Louis, MO to Manchester, NH. This is the second in a series of stories where I will dive a little deeper into the answers I gave to the questions Joe asked. His second challenge to the group was, “Share some of the things that are important to you beyond business, because for some people that are not entrepreneurs they have a completely skewed perspective of these greedy business owners that are doing a lot of stuff, but in reality everyone here is on a trip like this, and have come together, because they are trying to make a dent in the world to whatever degree they can and they are caring, contributing, human beings.”
Tony Robbins talks about contribution being one of the six human needs. If my memory is correct he also talks about contribution as a growing circle that starts around yourself (think like the flight attendants tell you about putting on your own oxygen mask first), then grows in ever expanding circles around you — from family, to friends, to community, all the way out to possibly the entire world for the rare few that can make a difference at that level.
Sure, there are exceptions, yet for the most part people that have become successful entrepreneurs also have a desire to expand this circle of contribution in addition to their businesses — after all, it is not just one of the six human needs but rather it, in itself, actually helps fulfill the other five as well.
As I told Joe, education is where I have my passion outside of my business interests. Our family has sponsored a “John Raymonds (1986)” scholarship for MIT. 1986 is the year I graduated with a BS in EE and this scholarship fund was an ideal way to both give back to an institution that gave me so much while staying connected in the years to come. It is available for under grads that are going to MIT and scholarship support continues to be a top priority for President Reif and the Institute. Since the fund was established in 2005, there have been four Raymonds scholars and two of these students received support from the fund throughout their four years as an undergrad. Though it is a small drop in the bucket of the current aggregate value of all undergraduate scholarships at $1.7b, it is still having an incredible impact on undergraduates and will continue to do so for years to come. At MIT the largest source of undergraduate financial aid is the MIT Scholarship, a need-based grant. These are packaged based on a family’s ability to contribute towards the price of education. Students need to apply for scholarship aid annually. Once a determination is made about a students need, Student Financial Services then matches the student with the appropriate aid/scholarship fund or funds. Of the almost 12,000 endowed scholarship funds that MIT has, about 90% of them are funds established by individuals. The balance of the funds are Class or Club funds. Almost every graduating class from 1938 onward has established a Class scholarship fund.
Reading Rainbow. Okay, this one is a for profit effort but its foundation fits into education and its destiny is to help build a legacy that was founded in the non-profit world. LeVar is well known for Roots and Star Trek, but where he is the real rock star is Reading Rainbow. When walking around with him it is amazing to hear the call outs of the memories he brings back and, in turn, the lives he has changed for the 26 years the show was on PBS. Back then the TV was the after school focus of a young child’s attention. Today the digital world of tablets trump the TV and to learn more about the incredible story of the journey to bring Reading Rainbow back in the form of interactive digital children’s books please read the story: “Life is really unfair, maybe…maybe not”
For those looking for a chance to relive the classic episodes you can get them on iTunes, Amazon, and now Netflix.
The last thing I mentioned to Joe was being one of the benefactors of the Global Learning XPRIZE. Long before becoming a benefactor I first met Peter Diamandis by the happenstance of supporting another cause by winning a ticket for a Zero-G flight with Tim Ferriss, James Cameron, Elon Musk, and more. Yes, the flight was amazing, as was the chance to meet and to talk with the people who were also on board but the surprise of the entire trip was hearing about this XPRIZE Foundation that was actually more than just the Ansari XPRIZE that I only tangentially knew about. Speaking to Peter he approached me about the idea of doing some kind of XPRIZE for education. Being the engineer, I immediately began to wonder how that would be possible — how would you ever define point A (the starting point) and point B (your goal) for a prize in education? Education is not like space where the idea of your starting point, the Earth, is pretty easy to understand, and the end point is just agreeing how far away from the Earth you want to get. So, to summarize the beginning of my involvement:
Peter: “I would really like to develop an XPRIZE in education.”
Me: “Sounds impossible, how can I help?”
About a year after that initial conversation I became a Spirit of Innovation member for the foundation in support of developing a prize in education to which three years later the Global Learning XPRIZE was officially launched. It challenges teams from around the world to develop open source and scalable software that will enable children in developing countries to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic within 18 months. Once the 18-month field-testing phase concludes, the prize purse will be objectively awarded to the team that generates the best international standardized test scores within the group of participating children. Our goal is an empowered generation that will positively impact their communities, countries and the world. Technology is scalable — people and schools are not. For the regions this prize will target there are no schools and there are no teachers thus the resultant change for the lives of these kids growing up will literally be a night and day difference. I am proud to not only have contributed to the development effort but also to the prize itself as a benefactor. My hope for the long term future of what is gained from the winning teams is to also bring change to the way we educate in schools as well. The fact of progress is that it is sometimes far easier to make things obsolete than to change existing systems for the better.
The examples above, given to Joe in the interview, are more donation or investment centric but the real joy I have begun to experience in my later career is being a mentor. Having gone through both good times and bad…scratch that, having gone through really great and terrible times, being able to share the wisdom gained has become the most rewarding part of the life I lead today. If there are follow ons to anything you see from me on Medium you can obviously make comments directly here or hit me up on Quora.
(Originally posted on Medium)