Doug Bopst (@dougbopst) is a former addict and drug dealer. After incarceration and being in prison, he got himself clean and started a fitness regime thanks to his cellmate. Today he is an author, podcast host, and fitness expert. He shares some of his journey with us and how you can apply that during these VUCA times.
- In order to reach your goal, you must first clearly define your “why”
- You must embrace failure in order to truly succeed
- Self-compassion is key, but bear in mind the balance between that and self-accountability
Listen in to learn more about how being in the worst situations can lead you to the greatest successes.
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Hey folks, this is Mark Divine host of the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Welcome back. Thanks for joining me today. Super-stoked to have your attention, which I know is limited, so I won’t waste your time. I don’t think I ever have, and I never will. That’s my vow to you.
We’re going to have really lively interesting conversations. Talk about what’s really going on in the world. As well as how you can develop an Unbeatable Mind, become an unbeatable leader, and live an unbeatable life.
My guest today is Doug Bopst, author of “Faith, Family and Fitness.” As well as “From Felony to Fitness to Free.” And “The Heart of Recovery,” so telegraphing a little bit about his storyline and his life – Doug’s now helped hundreds of – probably thousands of people – improve their health and wellness through his programs.
Doug was addicted to opioids. He became sober through faith and fitness, but his rock bottom was the time he spent in jail. How many of you can claim that on your resume? Not me anyways.
So I’ve spoken to Doug before on his podcast, I found him to be very inspiring, and I wanted him to share his story with us for all of our listeners who might have dealt with these issues of hitting bottom, being addicted to drugs or alcohol, or have children or friends that you know – and learn a path to recovery and then significance in helping others.
So Doug, thanks so much for joining me today. I really appreciate it brother.
Doug: Mark, thank you so much for the incredible intro. And yeah, I always love chatting with you. You have an incredible story as well and I look forward to bringing some value to your audience.
Mark: Yeah, Hooyah. Well, let’s do that. Anything goes… you know, we were talking politics before and I usually don’t get into that… but sometimes it’d be fun, because there’s just so much misinformation and craziness going on. But we’ll see if that comes up. Who knows?
So tell us about like your origin story. What was going on in your childhood that that led to such a kind of a mess in your early life?
Doug: Well, I mean what comes to mind for me is I was trying to escape, right? So like you said I was incarcerated on felony drug charges back in 2008. And I was 20 years – 21 years old at this time. And as I look back in my childhood… I was trying to escape… you know, my parents were divorced when I was five, I was bullied a lot in school, I suffered all kinds of abuse…
I was as unathletic as they come in sports although I loved to play sports and watch sports… I couldn’t run, couldn’t jump, had no balance… and so you can imagine where my self-esteem and my self-confidence is at this point. It’s incredibly low.
And the first moment or opportunity I had to escape I took, and that was when I was 14 and started smoking weed. And when I took my first hit off a marijuana pipe, I felt this monkey come off my back, I felt like all my fears, insecurities… anything that I had worried about up until this point was now gone.
Whether it was where I was going to go in life… whether I was ever going to meet a girl, get married, find love… if I was ever going to play sports, succeed… you know where I’m going with this, right?
And so what ended up happening was I had to continue to chase that feeling. Continue to chase that numbing feeling. And one hit leads to two, leads to three… and slowly but surely, I’m now smoking every day. I’m selling a little bit on the side to support my habit.
Messing up in school. I’m getting kicked out of my mom’s house and sent to my dad’s house. I’m changing schools by the time I’m 16, 17 years old.
And my life was going down the drain really quick. And I barely graduated high school, because I had skipped so much to get high with my friends. All we would do – it was more of a lifestyle thing – like we would ride around with each other and go on these things called “high rides,” where we would ride around and smoke weed all day and listen to music and stuff like that.
And that became my new norm. And I think in society, our environments create a false sense of normalcy based on who we surround ourselves with, right? So for me I was surrounding myself with nobody else but those who smoked pot and did drugs. Whereas now – today – I might surround myself with people who are into different things.
And so I barely graduated high school and get out of high school… I’m still selling drugs – selling pot. I’m beginning to sell even more now where I’m actually making some money. Start experimenting with cocaine – which that didn’t go over too well with me – because I got to the point where I built up a significant cocaine habit where I was snorting like an eight-ball of coke a day.
Doug: And mind you, I had mental illness when I was growing up too – just from all the trauma I endured… I had depression and anxiety. So cocaine and anxiety go about as well together as trying to eat pizza and lose weight. Just doesn’t work, right?
And so what really got me was painkillers. And one day somebody offered me a five milligram Percocet one of my friends… and I took it, and the same monkey that I felt come off my back when I was smoking weed for the first time, came off my back yet again…
Because see what happens when we first start smoking pot, we don’t ever think long term. And like “I’m gonna to end up eventually doing hard drugs.”
“Naah, I will never do that. I’ll never be that guy who puts a needle in my arm. I’ll never be that guy who does coke or oxycontin.” They’re like “I’m just gonna smoke weed.”
Well, if you’re anything like me and you’re doing it to numb pain, or fit in, or manage stress, anxiety… you have to continue to chase that numbing feeling. Because you can only get so high, and you have to keep getting high to numb yourself out.
Mark: Can I ask a question? You probably know this, but what’s the biology behind that? Does it interfere with dopamine and neurotransmitters so that then you just have to get that release through the drug? Because your body’s not producing it?
Doug: Yeah, it messes with our pleasure sensations, right? The neurochemistry and the neurotransmitters like dopamine. So we’re trying to chase that feeling – that feeling good, right?
And also, I think you can mess with serotonin production too, as far as kind of like “Zenning” us out a bit. And then we do have our body does have opioid receptors naturally, right? But there’s natural ways to get there and there’s unnatural ways to get there. So a very unnatural way to get there would be to ingest painkillers.
And I think for drugs, Mark, the fact that they were highly illegal – you got to remember this was… when I started I was 14, so that’s 2001… and I was using from about 2001 to about 2008.
All drugs were very stigmatized back then. Not just cocaine and heroin, but marijuana was illegal everywhere. So I would get almost more of a rush off chasing the drug, like finding a way to get it because I knew it was illegal – than I would when I actually did it.
Cause when I actually did it, you feel this intense shame, guilt you’re like “why’d I do that? My life’s going down the shitter.” All these things.
And that five milligram Percocet led me down the highway to hell. Turned into 10 milligrams a day, 20 milligrams a day, 40 milligrams… you can see where I’m going with this. To the point where I was snorting 3, 400 milligrams a day. a day.
I couldn’t get out of bed without snorting 150, 160 milligrams. Half my left nostril was missing. I was spending a couple hundred hours a day to support my habit. And I was… at this point I’m like 19, 20 years old and I started experimenting with mixing coke and oxy together. And I would literally crush up these lines and be like “I wonder if I snort this if anybody will remember me?” Or I would hope and pray that I would snort, and I just wouldn’t wake up…
Mark: So you’re saying you were deliberately or were contemplating killing yourself with drugs? Or you just had such apathy, that you didn’t care if you came out back out of it?
Doug: It was more the apathy of it. And the lack of hope. And the lack of faith. That I just was like “well.” I buried a few of my friends at this point… I mean, I went to funerals when I was in my teenage years for people that I hung out with. Not for family members – ironically – right?
Mark: That sounds very painful.
Doug: Yeah, and my friends and I would often joke that what was the point of living if we couldn’t party and do drugs anymore? We idolized people like Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison… the guys who died of drugs when they were like in their 20s.
Mark: Better to burn out than to fade away… (laughing)
Doug: Exactly. And for me back then, I just was like “I’m never going to accomplish anything.” I had no self-worth, no self-esteem… because when you’re doing drugs, no one likes being addicted to drugs. Anyone who says they do is full of shit.
And you have this intense shame and guilt around it. And then you’re already feeling that lack of self-worth, because you’re not achieving the things you want in your life. You see your friends going off to college, you see your friends getting jobs. And your friends are starting to get engaged and married.
And so you already have intense shame around that. And then you throw in the fact that you’re an addict and you’re doing all these drugs every single day – it exemplifies that, right? It like 10xes that. It makes it so much more of an intense shame.
And so everything kind of came to a head for me on Cinco de mayo of 2008. I was riding around with a few of my friends to go pick up some oxycontin. And I had a busted headlight. And a cop was running radar and I flashed my high beams at him to get him prevent him from pulling me over, but it actually gave him a reason to pull me over.
And when I looked in my rearview mirror, I saw his lights flashing before me. My heart went to the pit of my stomach, because I had a half a pound of pot and two thousand dollars in cash in the trunk of my car. It’s crazy.
So the cop pulls me over, I’m like shaking, I’m nervous, I’m nauseous as you can imagine. Because I was actually on my way to get my fix. And the ultimate buzzkill happened. It would be a buzzkill if somehow like the guy was late, we didn’t meet… but I’m getting pulled over with drugs in my car. So it’s like the ultimate buzzkill.
And he pulls me over… one thing leads to the next… I’m out of the car, he searches it, finds everything. Finds a half a pound of pot, two thousand dollars in cash… scale… and at that point, I thought my life was over.
He arrests me, puts me in the back of his cop car, taken off to jail I get charged with a felony, to distribute marijuana. And bailed out the next day, by my dad. Of course I’m walking with my tail between my legs. I’m so embarrassed.
I’m like, “crap, I’m facing felony drug charges. Now I got to go to court? For this? My life is never going to be the same. I’m not going to vote, have a gun – like, all these things that you take for granted as a citizen of the united states, right?
So I go to court a few months later in September and the judge sentences me to five years. Suspends everything but 90 days. Gives me five years’ probation, 200 hours community service… all kinds of fines and drug classes, but he looks at me says Doug, you’re young…” at the time I was 20. He’s like “if you complete everything without messing up – no missed probation appointments, you got to do your community service no fail drug test all that stuff – I’ll take the felony conviction off of your record and give you a PBJ at the end of the five years of probation.
Mark: What’s pb & j? It sounds like a sandwich.
Doug: It is, actually. And they serve it in jail, ironically. (laughing) it’s probation before judgment. So meaning, it’s just pretty much like a lesser conviction. Like there’s guilty, not guilty, there’s…
Mark: This wasn’t even juvie. You were being tried as an adult, obviously.
Doug: I was 20, yeah.
Mark: Interesting. And so he probably saved your life.
Doug: He did. And at the moment, I thought my life was over, right? Because he was sentencing me to do 90 days in jail.
I was like, “I can barely like walk up and down…” I was the guy who never wanted to fight. I was like, “how am I gonna be able to survive in jail?”
And then what happened from that was he just looked at me and he’s like “you’re young. I’m going to give you a second chance. You’re only 20 years old. This felony conviction’s going to haunt you the rest of your life.
He’s like “I’m going to give you this second chance, but if I see you in my courtroom again, you’re going to be sharing a cell with bubba. Which I never thought I would ever last obviously given my athletic ability and the fact that I’m now throwing all these drugs on top of it.
And so when he gave me that that deal, Mark, I never thought I’d be able to live to see my 25th birthday. So I had no confidence, and I was like, “whatever, like 2012 is supposed to happen – the world’s going to end. I’m high now – I’m going to get high when I get out of court…”
Mark: Right. The Mayan calendar or something like that.
Doug: Yeah, yeah. So I reported to jail about a week after my 21st birthday. I was crying as you can imagine, and I detoxed cold turkey off the oxycontin. Three weeks.
Mark: Wow. How was that? That was pretty brutal, hunh?
Doug: It was three weeks of hell. It was like having like the most intense flu for three weeks. I mean, vomiting uncontrollably. Bowel movements left and right. You felt like you’re trying to crawl out of your own skin. Anxiety, depression, pain… all that. Everything you can imagine going wrong in your body was happening in my body.
Mark: Wow. Now does the jail have sort of services to help you are you just doing this in your jail cell, and they could give a shit?
Doug: It was a little bit of both. I mean, for the most part it was like they knew I was in jail and they could really give a shit that I was in jail, but they would give me some stuff to help with the nausea.
But I mean, the nausea was nothing. What was really hard for me was the massive bouts of random anxiety and the feeling of trying to crawl out of my own skin.
And just the constant fear I was living in. And the aches and pains, right?
Because you can’t die from opiate withdrawal. You can die from alcohol withdrawal, you can die from withdrawing from Xanax and other benzodiazepines like Klonopin, right? So they really legally don’t have to cater to you.
Mark: Interesting. I didn’t know that.
Doug: Yeah. And I was also smoking a bunch of cigarettes and still getting high off pot you know when I went into jail. So I had all that I was going through, too.
Jail and Transformation
Doug: So you get through this detox, and then you got to wake up and be like “wow, I’m in jail. What am I going through, right?” So you’ll appreciate this – so my cellmate was playing scrabble and he… I meet him with the scrabble table and he’s playing scrabble.
He said, “come on sit down.” He’s like “what are you doing in here, man?”
And I was like “I got busted with some pot.”
He just said, “you don’t look like the type that would be in here.” Like he was wondering like who I pissed off and that sort of thing.
And so later on that day he’s like “you’re gonna start working out with me.”
And I was like “bull crap.” Like, I remember at that time I had never formally exercised. I was like, “there’s no way, man.”
And so later on that night I see him exercising – keep in mind he looked like you in your prime, looked like a David Goggins – he was a guy that was just extremely fit.
Mark: Huh. Did he get fit in jail? Or was he…?
Doug: Yeah, yeah. He was a guy who got… he had been in the prison system for 10 years.
Mark: Wow. True prison fit.
Doug: Yeah, yeah. And he just happened to be in the county jail on a detainer, because he was awaiting trial. Because he had violated his parole in the state of Maryland.
And I remember that night watching him exercise – he was doing like literally thousands of push-ups, hundreds of pull-ups, running all kinds of laps in the common area of the jail. Climbing the rails, doing like rows on the steps like crazy… for hours. Like “what’s wrong with this guy?”
And so after him nudging me and nudging me, finally I just decided to give exercise a try. And I got down to do a push-up – couldn’t do a push-up from my feet… could barely do one from my knees. And with his encouragement, training me in there every single day, I was able to do a set of 10 push-ups and run a mile by the time I left. And I lost some weight. And I felt this new sense of confidence go off… I felt this light bulb go off inside of me, that I never had in my life.
I felt like I was going to make it, that I was going to beat addiction and that when I got out of jail, I was going to change my life. And I thought that only because I had to.
Mark: It’s safe to say that this guy was your first mentor?
Doug: Yeah, for sure.
Mark: You had a fellow prisoner as your first mentor. I mean, that is incredible.
Doug: Well, and I think, Mark, what’s interesting is sometimes the most… the biggest heroes in our story, the biggest mentors are the people that no one will ever hear about. Their name, right?
Mark: That’s right. Have you ever like sent a letter to thank the guy, or anything like that?
Doug: Oh yeah, we would exchange letters back and forth… his big thing for me when I was in jail was, he would always tell me to quit being a bitch. Because I would complain and I’d be like “oh, I don’t want to do it. Or I would blame my parents.
Because he was… he would ask me… we would have these deep conversations – because you can imagine like you have unlimited time in there. So we would have these conversations, and I’d be asking him questions about the prison system, what it was like being in incarcerated for years and years.
And he would ask me my story. And I would be sitting there blaming my parents for their divorce I’d be blaming my friends for… or the people who bullied me. The girls who said no to me. And also the abuse and everything else…
And he’s like “dude, quit being a bitch.”
And I would be like “what?” In jail you don’t want to be called a bitch, let alone where I came from… where I grew up you didn’t want to be called that either. And I said, “what do you mean?”
He’s like “you’re blaming everybody else for your problems.” He’s like “did anybody put a gun to your head and force you to use drugs when your parents got divorced?”
I said “no.”
He’s like “did anybody make you sell drugs to feel better about yourself?”
I said “no.”
He’s like “did anybody force you to eat these cheese steaks when you were depressed?”
And I said “no.”
He’s like “you got yourself here. There’s plenty of people whose parents get divorced, who’ve suffered some sort of abuse, been bullied. Been cut from teams. And they’re not in jail.” He’s like “so you got yourself here, and it’s on you to get yourself out of that mess.”
He’s like “you can either be a man or you can be a bitch. And these words may or may not resonate with everyone, but what’s important is the context in them and the way it’s they’re being used.
He said, “you can be a man and take ownership of your choices, your responsibilities and everything else. It’s up to you to change. No one’s going to change for you. You got yourself here, it’s your job to get out.”
He’s like “or you can be a bitch and blame everybody else for your problems. Say ‘woe is me.’ be all pessimistic, and cry in the corner.” He’s like, “most people will do that…”
Mark: You know, Doug, sorry to interrupt – this one idea, this one principle that you just espoused is probably the most underrated in our culture today. Because everyone is playing victim, and our government actually supports that. Like our government pays people to be victims.
And it doesn’t work, because they still point fingers at the government saying, “you’re not doing enough.” And they point fingers at you and me saying you’re racist because you’re white and it’s built into the system. Or you’re whatever, because you’re blankity blank… you’re rich or you’re better off it’s all bullshit
Doug: It’s like a drug, too…
Mark: It is like a drug… people are ultimately only accountable and responsible to themselves and responsible for… they create their own reality; everyone creates their own reality…
Doug: Yeah, and once you start pushing blame onto something else in your life, it’s like “oh well, what else can I blame? Who else can I blame?” It becomes a habit. So if you start blaming the government for you know your business suffering, you start blaming the government for your health or whatever… it’s like well “what else are you going to start blaming your problems on? Who else?”
It becomes a habit, because it’s like the way you do one thing is the way you do everything. It’s the old saying.
And so he gave me a workout plan when I left that I still have framed in my place today, so that I never forget where I came from. And I asked him “how can I repay you? And he’s like “just pay it forward, don’t mess up.”
And there’s some sayings on there like “remember you’re no longer a fat-ass, you never have to be one again – eat smart. I’m out there with you, so you’re gonna have to work hard…” that sort of thing.
So the reason I bring this up is when I got out, it was like wintertime. And when we would work out in jail, we would do calisthenics in the morning and then we would run in the evening. We would break up our days, so that I would have something to look forward to. I was like “all right, I’ll get up, we’ll eat breakfast, and then we’ll do calisthenics.
And then at night I looked forward to doing this like run or… it was a walk at first, then I’d run a few laps… it became running a few laps, and the few laps turned into me being able to run a mile in jail.
And so I remember writing him a letter, ”it’s too cold outside for me to run.”
And he said, “quit being a bitch.” He wrote me back, and he was like “get your ass to Target and buy some sweatpants. And get outside and run.”
And it was what I needed, because I think in these situations what most people want – and I wanted that too – is to be coddled. Is to be like, “it’s going to be okay, Doug. You did nothing wrong. You know, it’s everyone else’s fault.”
That’s what… because it feels good, it’s easy and it makes you not have to look at yourself in the mirror and say, “what was my part in this? Well, what could I have controlled in that situation that I didn’t? How did I respond?”
Because that’s the one thing, is nobody likes to be held accountable. Because sometimes when you’re held accountable you have to check yourself and your ego, and say “you know what? I made some mistakes.” Or “I could have worked harder. I could have been more dedicated.”
Mark: It can be painful to your ego, right? And you have to suck it up and be like “okay, yeah.” But if someone doesn’t point it out to you, most people won’t admit they’re shirking responsibility.
Doug: Yeah, and I had to get to the point, Mark, where I had to really look logically – I was like, “okay, I played the victim card most of my life until I got into jail. Where did that get me?”
Well, I had 21 jobs by the time I was 21 years old. I had a horrific drug habit. I was selling copious amounts of pot. I had ruined many relationships, I lied, manipulated… you see where I’m going with this.
I said “so, clearly that doesn’t work for me. And so let me try something else. Let me know that I have 24 hours in a day. And if I can just be relentless in those 24 hours about the things I can control – my health, where I spend my time, who I engage with, how I talk to myself, how I treat other people…
If I can be relentless about becoming a better version of myself in all those facets, it gives me a chance. No guarantee – it gives me a chance. I could wake up tomorrow and get hit by a bus. I could wake up tomorrow, something could happen, unfortunately.
But I knew that if my mindset was that “I’m gonna fail,” or if my mindset was “Doug, you have no shot…” Because, granted even though I believed that I was gonna make it – the odds were so stacked against me, I had every right not to. Up until that point I had failed and 95% of me, didn’t believe that I was actually gonna make it. Just given my track record.
But that 5%… I had to hone-in on that 5%. And it was almost like the whole stoicism approach, right? Like with just believing that my life was going to be better a year from now if I put in the work consistently on a daily basis.
And that’s really how I shifted from the guy…
Mark: Probably that 5% came from just seeing your progress over 90 days in jail, right? If it was any shorter… like if you were only in for 30 days or just two weeks in juvie or something like that… you wouldn’t have had that benefit of seeing you go from zero push-ups to ten, and zero miles – you know, just being able to walk around the park – to one mile run.
And that that gave you probably enough to say “you know what? If I just keep doing this incremental thing every day.”
Doug: Well, it’s just small steps lead to big goals, right? And I think it was the structure in my day that I never had. I mean even the simple thing of like having to make my bed in jail. Was something big, right? It was like starting your day off with a win, right? I know they do that obviously in the military as well.
You make your bed. Get up and then you’re forced to get up, because the lights like flash on at like – I forget what time – 5 or 6 a.m. and eat breakfast. And then if you don’t eat then, you don’t eat. It’s not like they’re like catering to you, like “oh, we’ll be back in an hour. Like you’re in jail. It’s either you take it or leave it.
And then having that whole consistency in my day, that I never had… making sure that I had built in the exercise component, was something I never had. And that boiled into other areas of my life. Because then it was like “what’s next? Okay, I can do a set of 10 push-ups that I never thought I could do. I could run a mile that I never thought I could do. How about we do 25 push-ups? How about I run a 5k?”
“oh, I got my fitness under control. Let’s change my nutrition. I can improve that.” And you build this equity in your confidence bank that allows you to navigate through life in such a way that you have the self-esteem and fortitude necessary, to be able to believe that you can achieve things.
And that’s why I think fitness is the catalyst for everything, because it forces you to get comfortable being uncomfortable. It teaches you how to set and achieve goals. It changes your mindset because it gives you that positivity and that outlook that’s needed to say “okay, you gave it your best today. You improved yourself. You loved yourself enough to take care of your body today. Now you can go serve other people.”
Mark: Yeah, I agree. 100%. You know, I’ve often taught – especially starting with seal fit now and Unbeatable Mind – that where the body leads the mind follows so start your day with physical training and commit to optimizing your body through nutrition, sleep, recovery, exercise and movement.
And those are non-negotiables, because how can you show up for others on your team? And how can you go learn new things, and how can you achieve any worthy goals if your body’s broken down… overweight?
That means your brain is going to be broken down and overweight, so to speak. Metaphorically. And you’re not going to be thinking clearly, you’re going to make poor decisions both cognitively and emotionally. And your life’s going to suck.
And so many people just miss that. And they think that they’re operating at a high level – even if they’re successful financially and whatnot – but they’re not. Because their bodies are their temple. And the mind is part of the body, it’s infused into the body, right?
And so if your body’s broken and out of shape and unhealthy, then guess what? Your whole life is at some level.
And so you figure that out – body first, then you can work on the mind, and then you can start to work on the emotions. And then you can start to work on the spiritual aspect. They kind of work in that order.
A lot of people try to take it the other way around.
Doug: Yeah, because here’s the thing – you can be spiritually fit – you can be the guy who reads the bible every day, or practices gratitude, whatever… whatever you do, you can be emotionally fit, you could go to therapy, you could be okay at managing your emotions and you can be mentally fit and you can do all the things right. Setting and achieving goals in your business.
But if you’re not physically fit, the physical part will bring down those other areas of your life.
Mark: Bring them all down, or it’ll interrupt them completely. Through disease, or through a breakdown, right?
Doug: Yeah, and the adverse – when you’re physically fit it elevates those other levels of fitness. When you’re physically fit and your mind, and body, and spirit are aligned… when you’re feeling good about yourself, and your body’s not achy and you’re achieving your goals with your fitness. And you’re on a plan, and your energy’s up – you’re going to feel so much better in other areas your life.
Your relationships are going to be better. You’re going to improve the way you are at work. You’re going to be able to increase the amount of time you have with your kids, because you’re going to be more efficient. That sort of thing.
So it all starts with fitness. And I always tell people if they’re looking to transform themselves from the inside out, start with moving the body. And then focus on other areas of your life.
Mark: I agree with that. So many people might agree with us and they kind of cognitively know that. They’ve read the books.
But then they still fail with their goal achievement when it comes to physical fitness and nutrition. How did you do it? And what do you recommend for success?
Doug: I mean, for number one, I think you can read all the books that you want, but if you don’t have a deep internal “why” as to why you’re doing it, I think you’ll fail. I know for me, my “why” was extremely strong, because I was so scared of going back to jail and letting my cellmate down, that I knew I had to stay on track.
Because I knew what the fat Doug, and the Doug that didn’t exercise and didn’t eat right – I knew what he felt like. Suicidal thoughts, heavily depressed, anxious, scared… using any kind of substance or excuse to check himself out of life, right? And ended up in jail.
So that was a “why” for me. That was my “why.” And I was like “you know what? I have to keep going. And I have to keep eating right, I have to keep exercising.”
So with that being said, getting a strong “why” and then setting realistic goals, right? And just knowing that when you set a goal, make sure you’re setting… you can set a big goal… you can set a goal to lose 50 pounds. But there’s not one person that’s ever lost and achieved losing 50 pounds that hasn’t had the action steps to lead up to that. That they don’t do the right things on a daily basis.
So if you’re saying, “I want to lose 50 pounds,” okay, well that’s great. What do you need to do on a daily basis to get there? Because like we said before, small steps, or small lead up to big goals, right?
And then the thing I always like to tell people is this – and this is a mindset hack that I love – is like choosing your suck, right? You know, reaching a goal sucks. It takes a lot of hard work. It takes a lot of fortitude, takes a lot of sacrifice… you’re gonna have to maybe change your taste buds up a little bit, you’re gonna have to carve out some more time in your day. You might have to spend some money on some new clothes. You might have to cut out some friends…
All that sucks. But what also sucks is not achieving the goal, right? And being depressed, and being anxious, and having regret. And getting more sick and becoming more overweight and looking back and being like “man, I wish that three months ago… four months ago I would have started when I wanted to. And put in the hard work put in the effort that’ll then build strength and resilience for me in the future to achieve that goal.”
Goals and Process
Mark: Now what you’re saying is to identify not only the gain from achieving the goal – the benefit – but also the pain from not achieving it and failing. And it’s okay to visualize both and to actually lean into both even on a daily basis. And say, “you know what? I choose the gain, not the pain today – or I’ll choose the pain of discipline, for that gain of losing the weight. Over the pain of not achieving that goal. And staying overweight and depressed.”
Doug: Well, because the thing is most people, they want to lose weight, but they do the very thing that isn’t going to get them there. They don’t try.
Not even trying, you automatically disqualify yourself from reaching that goal. And I think being smart about it is key. And just not trying to go from zero to 100. Just start small.
Because if you’re somebody who hasn’t exercised in 15, 20 years and you haven’t been able to stick to a program – don’t try to all of a sudden be like, “I’m gonna go to the gym for five to six days a week. I’m gonna work out two hours a day. I’m gonna follow this plan and eat clean. I’m gonna drink all this water.
It’s so unrealistic, right? That was the one thing that my cellmate taught me. I remember asking him I was like, “how long is it going to take me to really get ingrained with healthy habits? How long is it going to take me to lose weight, and get the body I want?”
He’s like “well, how long have you been damaging your body?”
I was like, “for a long time.”
He’s like “well, it’s going to take a long time for you to reinvent your body and get healthy.” And that really hit home with me, because I was obviously the guy who wanted instant gratification for my pain by doing drugs and abusing them and selling it and all that sort of thing. That was what I was used to.
But I had never really thought about the whole notion of being patient and doing the necessary things on a daily basis that will lead up to achieving that goal. So maybe for somebody who’s listening to this who is struggling to even start exercising, maybe it’s just going for a 10 to 15-minute walk. And committing to doing that three days a week, or two days a week.
Or whatever works for you right now.
Mark: The key is to have a process, right?
Mark: Not just focus on the goal. Have a goal, chunk the goal into achievable parts, but then develop a process, and to remove friction so that process becomes easy. It becomes like a self-reinforcing upward spiral as opposed to “oh, I got to do this every day.”
My friend James Clear wrote a book called “Atomic Habits,” where he talks a lot about removing friction and creating an environment where a goal achievement becomes almost a simple thing. Because you just do one small thing, that leads to another small thing, that leads to another small thing.
Suddenly you’ve achieved your goal. And you’re like “oh, wow. There it is.” Anyway, do you agree with that?
Doug: I agree with that.
Mark: Process is more important than the goal itself? Or almost as important as the goal itself?
Doug: 100%. Because during the process it’s going to be messy. You think about making a pan of brownies, right? I’m just going to use this as an example, because it’s easy. If you’ve never made brownies before – the process is going to be super-messy, right? You’re gonna have like chocolate all over your hands, you might burn them a little bit. They might come out like gooey, or whatever the case may be… it’s gonna be super sloppy in the kitchen, it’s going to be all over the place. But you learn like “okay, maybe I could have prepared more… maybe I could have used three eggs instead of two eggs… maybe I could…” you know, you see where I’m going with this.
And you learn and adapt. And you grow, right? You build the strength; you gain wisdom to know how to do life better as you go through the process.
But we’re so focused on the end goal, we see the fact that “oh, if I work out this much, I’m going to lose 100 pounds…” or whatever it is. But that’s only one part of the great things that happen from achieving that weight-loss goal. There’s so many other things that I believe trump that.
You’re not going to have all this confidence in yourself, you’re going to develop resilience, you’re going to develop toughness, you’re going to develop faith. Fortitude. Self-esteem… and it’s going to carry on, because you’re like “all right, my new norm now is I’m used to making sacrifices in my life to get what I want as far as my goals. I’m used to now staying in on the weekends and choosing myself and honoring myself that you’re going to start to do that in other areas of your life too. Other than just your fitness.
Which is huge. Which are life lessons you’ll take with you for the rest of your life. And I think at the end of the day you have to have a process you have to build off of certain things, because chances are when people go for a 20-minute walk, they’re gonna feel better afterwards.
And naturally humans are gonna want more of that good feeling. So what are they gonna do? They’re going to do more of it. And I think so many times people make the mistake of saying “okay, I’m going to go from couch to 5k in two hours instead of going from a couch to 5k in a month. Two months.
It’s a process. Takes time.
Mark: Right and you’re going to have as many or more failures or obstacles, than you have successes and streamlined moments – and those are your most important learning moments.
Doug: Yeah, I mean you learn way more lessons through failures than I think you do in success, right? Because a lot of success comes from failure. A lot of times people aren’t just like one shot successful. Like no, some of the greatest businesses that have been developed from the greatest entrepreneurs failed miserably over and over and over again.
And because of those failures… like my podcast is called “the adversity advantage,” so I’ll just say this, they use those adversities to their advantage, and the process and everything else. And were like “all right, what could I have done better? What could I have changed around? Who could I have implemented in my life? What kind of things could I have done differently?”
And that’s what leads to success it’s not just “I’m gonna go zero to a hundred, and I got one shot at this and if I don’t make it, I’m gonna give up.” It’s like no, it’s being resilient and knowing “I’m not giving up.” No matter what.
Mark: That’s also a very stoic and kind of warrior principle. Don’t fear the failure, embrace the failure, because that’s where you’re going to grow.
If you avoid the failure, you stop growing and then you start fearing the obstacle, you start fearing the experience of the failure, and the social stigma that you perceive will be foisted upon you.
And all of that’s bullshit. Failure truly is not an option is what we said in the seals. It didn’t mean that we weren’t going to fail or couldn’t fail – it meant that we didn’t care about failing. We knew that failure was an important component of mission success. We had to fail our way forward.
Doug: And that feeling you get when you try something and you fail at it, and you keep trying again, and you get better at it. It’s so euphoric. It’s almost like doing drugs.
Perfect example for me recently – this will make you and your audience laugh – is I hate the cold, hate it, right?
So a buddy of mine – he’s really into the cold-water therapy and I was going out like I was telling you to do this work out with gabby and laird in the pool. And I was like “I gotta get ready for this. I have to train. I’m gonna get my butt kicked, right?”
And so I got in the cold water and it was like 42 degrees, and I remember getting in the tub, lasting… I was shivering – like, the pain from my nerves, from the shock to my system, going into fight or flight – I was like screaming like a little child. And I got out like right away. I was like “oh my god. This is hard.”
And I remember getting back in a week later and I was able to last like two minutes. And then I was able to get back in a week later and went three minutes. To the point where I did it for five minutes and that feeling, Mark, is irreplaceable.
I was like “wow, I never thought I would be able to achieve sitting in a cold tub at 42 degrees up to my chest to the point where it looked like I had just been baked in sun, I was so red, right?
And so now it’s correlated into other areas of my life. Because it’s changed the way I respond to stress – even my own workouts when I’m challenging myself with different modalities. And so that’s the one thing I want to kind of emulate to your audience is when you do fail, and when you get back up and you try again, and you get better – you build that resilience and that confidence in yourself.
And that’s how you build confidence – is by continuing to fail, and not fearing failure and doing it over and over again and continuing to get better. And just knowing that you’re improving yourself.
Because I think lack of confidence comes from when we stop doing the things, we know we should be doing. We stop taking a chance on ourselves. We stop believing in ourself. We stop trying and we lose faith.
And without faith we’re nothing. We’re just full of fear. So you got to keep taking chances
Mark: I agree with you. Man, you’ve covered so many really, really important topics – the importance of setting realistic goals, having a process, developing faith and confidence through failure. The power of a mentor – do you have a mentor now still? Or a number of them?
Doug: Yeah, I’ve had a number of mentors through the years. I mean, at first obviously I was so used to having my cellmate that I cried when I left jail. I was like, “what am I going to do without you?” It was literally like ironic to the point where I cried when I went into jail because I didn’t want to go, and I cried when I left, cause I didn’t want to leave.
(laughing) I was like, “I don’t want to go. What am I going to do without you?”
Mark: (laughing) “let me in.”
Doug: So it was very bizarre.
Mark: That is strange.
Doug: But I was like “well, what am I going to do?” Because one of the problems with people when they get out of jail – very similarly, I think, when people come home from the military is, they don’t know how to adjust to civilian life. They’re so used to being regimented and having everything kind of done for them, in a way, being scheduled…
Mark: I think it’s fascinating for you because you only spent 90 days, but that 90 days transformed who you were. And the way you were dealing with life before you went into jail; you certainly didn’t want to go back to. But that’s all you knew. So you were facing a blank slate. That’s fascinating.
Doug: And I’ve always… even when I became a trainer – I became a trainer after I lost a bunch of weight when I got out of jail. I sought out mentors, because I just saw with my cellmate, he catapulted that knowledge and wisdom for me on the power of having somebody walk before you that’s done it. And for him he had walked before me in the fitness space as far as how to build you know a great body and get the shape and the fundamentals of that.
Then, when I became a trainer I sought out a mentor – this guy Todd Durkin in helping me build a training business, because he was somebody that did it well, and as I’ve gone on to podcasting and writing books and speaking… I’ve sought out other people that are better than me.
Because I think in life you can’t be the smartest person in the room. I think you always have to be around people that are better than you, because that will elevate you as well, right? It’s just the nature of the beast.
Like I said early on – I said your environment can create a false sense of normalcy based on what you’re doing. If you’re around a bunch of people in a bar every day at happy hour it’s going to feel normal to you. And that’s why you hear a lot of people say, “well everyone else is doing it.” Because they are doing it around you… everyone else is doing it… but they all have the same problem you have.
Whereas if you’re in a room with people who are trying to better themselves, they’re trying to give back to the community, they’re positive… they live more of a faith-based life, they’re trying to you know create podcasts or whatever it is going in a positive direction. You’ll become that as well over time… not right away, but over time your tribe will dictate your vibe. And I think you really need to pay attention to who is in your corner right now.
Especially now. There’s so much negativity out there. It’s easy to find… all you have to do is turn on the news and it’s there, all you have to do is get on Facebook it’s there, all you have to do is Google “election,” “pandemic,” “corona,” and you’ll find any kind of negativity you want.
And being so meticulous – like literally meticulous – about where you spend your time. And you can have mentors now, whether you’re listening to a podcast, or on YouTube, or books… you don’t have to pay a ton of money, right?
Mark: You don’t have to know them in person, right?
Doug: Yeah, it’s fascinating. I mean there’s so many people – I’m sure – that have had their life changed by you and your podcasts and your books and many others. Just from turning on an app on their phone, or on their computer… or buying a book on amazon that they’re like, “wow, I needed that push to get started….”
Because keep in mind, any podcast, any book just like we alluded to at the beginning won’t 100% change your life, but it might give you that kickstart that’s needed.
Like listening to my story… somebody listening hopefully maybe is going through an addiction or have been incarcerated or are trying to find yourself. It’s like, “wow, I can relate to Doug’s story. Maybe it’s going to give me an opportunity to try again.”
Or if they’re an aspiring person, that wants to go in the military or make it as a seal, they listen to you or some of your guests that you’ve had on, that have been through that. They’re like “wow, I can relate. Maybe I have a shot.”
Mark: Right. That’s awesome. We gotta wrap up soon here, but a lot of people who are suffering from you know addiction have extremely low sense of worthiness, or self-worth. And so crawling out of that and finding these incremental moments of confidence and a mentor who loves you and supports you is all really important.
But what do you have to say about just self-compassion? Because there’s probably a lot of times where you slipped and fell, or you felt like you were sliding backwards, or you were losing hope.
And what role did just having compassion for your own life kind of balance out the forward drive?
Doug: Yeah, I think self-compassion is key. And I think sometimes… we talk about being a victim, that gets confused with being a victim. I don’t think being self-compassionate is the same as being a victim.
Doug: Having self-compassion means you don’t feel sorry for yourself. And having self-compassion means you don’t beat yourself up. You just know “hey, it’s okay. You made a mistake. We’re gonna try better tomorrow.”
“hey, you might have messed up today, but tomorrow is a new day. Hey, you have a disease, or you’ve had a tough life… it’s okay. But just pick yourself back up and try again tomorrow.”
And I think there has to be a balance and a dance between self-compassion and self-accountability, right? Because I think so many times people either go one or the other they’re either hyper-accountable where they’re so hard on themselves that they never get out of that rut… or they’re so self-compassionate that they get used to being like “it’s okay,” that they fall into that victim trap because they let that self-compassion just go down into a deeper spiral.
Doug: So I think having that balance and just knowing that “okay, you might suck right now. Like, this might suck. But you’re not gonna suck the rest of your life, right?
Or the easy way is this is that so many people will say “well, I’m a fuck-up,” and it’s like, “no, you’re not you just fucked up.” That’s an easy way to put it for people…
Mark: Right. Stop identifying with the screw-ups. Just, it’s something that happened. It’s not you.
Doug: Your failures don’t just define you. It’s how you respond to them that counts. Like, every day you have a new opportunity to change. So anybody who’s listening to this, who’s like down and out just know, just give it your best shot today, and I know it’s not easy. I know it sucks; I know it’s incredibly uncomfortable but just know a) it’s okay. B) join some sort of community whether it’s online, whether it’s in person… whatever… that have people that are like supporting the direction you’re going.
And then move your body as much as you can. Doesn’t matter if it’s a 10 to 15-minute walk you commit to every day. Calisthenics if you’re a gym-goer you do that. And I think if you can just do those three things, just to start a) acceptance and knowing that it’s not your “fault,” so to speak, but it is on you to make the right decisions. Having that balance of compassion and accountability.
Two is having a great community of people that are gonna help elevate you and pushing you further towards your recovery, or towards your success.
And then three is fitness. And that’s the name of the game for everything is moving your body. It all starts with the physical part of your training.
Mark: Right. Hooyah. All right, Doug, well said. What a powerful message. Thanks for sharing it.
Where can people learn more about you? Like websites, social media, stuff like that?
Doug: Yeah, the podcast is “The Adversity Advantage,” which is available where all podcasts are hosted – on Spotify, iTunes, Castbox that sort of thing. And then on Instagram @Dougbopst.
That’s it my friend. That’s it. I appreciate you having me on and hopefully your audience gets a lot out of this.
Mark: Yeah, I know it’s definitely very, very valuable. And I think we probably don’t even have a clue how many people are suffering from drug addiction. I mean, maybe you do, but it’s just an epidemic in this country.
And even people who present well on the outside, a lot of those people are suffering. Addiction’s no small thing. It’s just part of the human condition. Whether it’s opioids, or alcohol, or food, or sex, or you know…
Mark: So it can really, really just crush your soul over time. And so fitness and faith and family… recovery programs, even 12-step you know we have an Unbeatable Mind coach Ron Gillis who’s starting using Unbeatable Mind in a recovery program. So there’s a lot of ways to get help so if you’re listening to this and someone you know a family member or even yourself are struggling, then reach out to Doug and listen to some of his other guests at his podcast.
Or reach out to me and we’ll hook you up with the Ron Gillis at his foundation, because it’s really important to know that you’re not alone. And there’s a way out. And life on the other side is so much better.
Doug: Amen to that man, yeah.
Mark: You’re a living example of that.
Doug: Absolutely. Especially now, the last thing is like… with the shutdown, the isolation, right?
Mark: It’s getting worse.
Doug: Mental health has become a huge problem. People’s mental health suffering. And anxiety is up, people aren’t sleeping as well, everyone’s stressed… addiction’s up, suicide’s up, alcohol sales have skyrocketed…
So I encourage people to just know you’re not alone. But in order to make a change you have to make the change.
Mark: Right. No one can do it for you, right? Be the change you want to see in the world – that’s what Mr Gandhi said – he was right.
Doug: Amen to that, man.
Mark: All right, Doug. I appreciate you my friend. Stay in touch and keep up the great work.
Doug: Thanks, Mark. You too.
Mark: All right, folks. So check out Doug Bopst’s adversity advantage. And that’s it for today. Thanks for listening. Stay focused and like I said reach out if you need some help – to either Doug or I – and I look forward to watching your progress as you become or stay unbeatable. I’ll see you next time.