“So the most powerful thing you have is the way your brain responds. ” – Dov Baron
Mark’s new book about the seven commitments of leadership is out now. It is called “Staring Down the Wolf: 7 Leadership Commitments That Forge Elite Teams,” and is available now from Amazon and from staringdownthewolf.com. Commander Divine writes about many of the great leaders he met in SpecOps to give examples of the commitments that one has to make to the 7 key principles of Courage, Trust, Respect, Growth, Excellence, Resiliency and Alignment.
Dov Baron (dovbaronleadership)is a well-known entrepreneur and leadership coach. He is also the author of numerous books, including One Red Thread: Discovering the Purpose Already Woven Into Your Life. Today he talks with Mark about overcoming inner fears to become a better leader.
- Passion is just a vehicle to get you to your Dragonfire––what you truly are.
- We each have to defeat the mental dragon that protects what’s most valuable to us.
- The “normal” situation can be completely dysfunctional, it’s just that we’ve gotten used to it.
Listen to this podcast to learn how you can take this crisis and become even better.
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Hey folks. Welcome back. This is Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Thanks so much for joining me today.
Super-stoked to have Dov Baron on the show – I’ll introduce Dov a little bit more in a moment, and I was recently on his podcast which was leadership and loyalty it was just fantastic discussion – so really gonna have a great discussion.
Before I start, a couple things – one) my book “Staring Down the Wolf” recently out. A little over 30 days ago. It’s timely for leading through these times of crisis and really having the courage to really step up your game. And also to step up a game with your team, so that you can help them really overcome fear and uncertainty – navigate the complexity and the volatility that’s confronting everyone –to pivot and to really come through whatever is happening right now with a lot of momentum and maybe a little bit more confidence than you would have. So “Staring Down the Wolf” could be a valuable addition to your reading arsenal at this particular time.
And if you want some free video training, then go to staringdownthewolf.com and I’ve got a couple hours of video training, where I go through all the seven commitments that forge elite teams – courage, trust, respect, growth, excellence, resilience and alignment.
And then also we’ve just launched our new coaching cohort. So it’s our certification for Unbeatable Mind if you want to become an unbeatable certified coach. And I’m pretty blown away by the response and the interest. I think it’s a testament to the time that we’re in – a lot of people are looking at what’s going on with the economy and you know the shutdown and saying “you know what? I don’t want to go back to the old thing. I think being able to be a leadership development coach and a team development coach sounds pretty interesting. And I can do it virtually. And I can even coach virtually. This seems like a good idea.”
So if you want to learn more, go to unbeatablemind.com and you’ll see some information there about that. We launched our next core pretty soon but if you move quickly you should be able to get in. And otherwise we have these cohorts going pretty frequently now.
Okay. Enough on the public service announcements. Dov Baron is a leadership expert. He was named by “Inc. magazine” as one of the top 100 speakers on leadership. He’s got “The Full-Monty Leadership” radio show and obviously I mentioned his podcast earlier called “Leadership and Loyalty.” He’s the author of “One Red Thread” and “Fiercely Loyal.”
He’s got a really interesting story and an incredibly dynamic personality. And Dov – I’m super stoked to have you on my show. And thanks again for having me on your show. And seems to be the way this whole podcasting world is working these days.
Dov: Yeah, well first of all thank you for having me on. I’m honored and grateful to be here and to be of service to you and your audience. And it was great having you on our show. Actually we’ve had a phenomenal response to your episode. I know that you’ve been pushing out… we’re pushing it out all over.
And just a great response, because one of the things that you and I have in common – among many – is this nitty-gritty, let’s just deal with it get it to the bottom line of how to deal with what’s going on at a leadership level. And I think that people really responded amazingly to that level of conversation that I think is rare.
Mark: Yeah, I agree. And I’ve done a lot of work on that myself and it’s a tenet that’s ran through our conversation is people are kind of sick and tired of the inauthentic leaders, or bullshit leadership… just following a checklist or top-down, autocratic leader just dropping some grenades of orders around and expecting people to just hop to.
It may have worked in the past…
Dov: Yeah, but command and control leadership is interesting to me, because it’s polarized – meaning that for most of us – it’s dead. And it should stay dead. And it never needs to be resurrected again.
But whenever anything moves to an extreme, it will always get its polarity – and so we’re seeing the rise of autocratic, dictatorial leaders. And the thing that I want people to understand about that is… people say “well, why is this happening? Why do we have these leaders?”
Very simple. So when you look at it, and you think about it, on one side you’ve got these leaders… now who’s keeping them in place? And the answer is anybody who feels like a victim. Anybody who feels powerless is looking for somebody to rescue them. So here comes me this great leader and I’m telling you that I can do it and only I can save you. And all that crap…
Which means you get to abdicate personal power…
Mark: You outsource your brain to them, right?
Dov: You outsource your brain, you outsource your courage. And you literally outsource any level of discernment and so then you pass it over to that person.
The problem with that is the first law of psychology is that – it’s the same rule as investing – is you must not lose your original investment. And what that means is if you’ve invested in something – let’s say you invest a thousand bucks in something – and it goes up to 100,000 the place where most people will get out is when it comes back to a thousand. They’re keeping that investment. You can’t lose that. “well, I didn’t lose anything because I came out there.”
So people want to keep their investment, which is the same psychologically. So if I’ve invested in this leader, and I’ve told everybody “this is the great leader, and you should follow him. Yeah, I know he seems like a lunatic, but his ways right. And he’s doing this for us…”
Mark: I can’t help but think you’re talking about a particular person, right now.
Dov: No nobody in particular. But then he does more and more of that – the problem is that if all your chips have gone on that leader – let’s say the leader of brazil – then you have to keep backing that up. And so what happens is then you start minimizing your own ability to think through processes. And that’s the challenge. And to get rid of them, you have to get more empowered.
Mark: Right. And you look for reinforcement and you get that confirmation bias in these echo chambers, right? So certain facebook channels, certain twitter channels… certain newspapers. And so you’re hearing all the same thing, because you’re just talking or listening to people who believe the same as you.
And it happens to be a pretty narrow subset…
Dov: The challenge is that there’s this terrible piece of advice that we all got which is surround yourself with like-minded people. That’s a terrible piece of advice. Surround yourself with like-minded people, you’ll never think any different, or any better.
And you said certain channels… well, it’s actually not certain channels… this is one of the wonderful things about social media – and the terrible thing – is there’s something called algorithms. So what that means is if you click on something, they show you more of things like that.
So it’s not the channel. It’s actually based on your behavior. It comes to you.
So this is why I get… people say to me “where do you get all your news from?” Because I’m very political and I like to study leadership on all the realms. I watch al Jazeera, I watch the BBC…
Mark: There’s some interesting things on al Jazeera, you know?
Dov: Super interesting. Al Jazeera, the BBC, CNN, Fox, Breitbart… all these different platforms, so I can get that well-rounded understanding.
And what’s fascinating, Mark, is that when you look at those things, you’ll see exactly the same headline. But the stories are vastly different.
Dov: So to me it’s like you’ve got to get out of your bubble. Because that’s what makes us smarter. We get smarter by listening to people who don’t agree with us, and learning from them. Like, “why do you think that? That’s interesting. Okay let me find out.” Curiosity is a gift.
Mark: It really is. And I agree with that methodology. Just scan broad.
And also when you’re on it a new source that you know is biased in one direction or the other – and they’re all biased these days…
Mark: I have a little mental game I play called “opposite day.” And so I’ll read the headline and I’ll quickly scan and then I’ll come up with the exact opposite position. And I’ll think “oh yeah. The truth lies somewhere between those two.”
And it’s been really helpful for me. It’s like “okay, this is interesting. This is what’s being said, then there’s something else going on that they’re basically pushing back against. So what is that?” And then neither of them can be perfectly right.
Dov: Again that’s why you and I do what we do around the mind and really building a tough and agile mind. Is because we’re willing to do that – we’re willing to look at the other side. So often people are not.
Now, the fact of the matter is – I know you know this – there’s a party of brain called the reticular activating system. The part of your brain which goes looking for evidence of that what he believes to be true – even if what it believes is completely false.
So that confirmation bias has you only looking for that. And that part of your brains job is to delete information and be effective to cut down energy burn. So it goes looking for more evidence.
“Oh yeah, all these people are bad. See here’s another one.” If the example is not true, but I can’t see those because my brain is literally trained to look for evidence. And so we have to train it to look for the other evidence, which is what your exercise was about.
Mark: Mm-hmm yeah that’s fascinating. And so if you’re in organizations or if you’re looking and working in systems – like a political system, academic system – whatever that might be… those systems have this bias too. This organizational confirmation bias.
And it’s one reason that like at the political level you see all these leaders kind of reacting the same way and supporting each other’s… and if one person steps out of line and says “you know what I think?” For instance, “I think we can open up Georgia. We don’t have much going on down here with COVID.
And man, they get eviscerated by the mainstream thinking. That is all confirming their own beliefs, because they’re talking to each other. And the system has rigid order around that. It’s really fascinating
Dov: Well it’s the same in any direction. The bottom line is – again, you and I both know this very well – is if you go against the mass thinking, you are gonna get a slap. And the question is are you willing to get slapped?
My work is helping individuals and organizations find what we call their dragon fire. And when you find your dragon fire – when you tap into that – you are definitely going to bump into the bias. You’re going to bump into it, because everybody’s “can’t do that. You shouldn’t do that. That’s not okay.”
So whether you’re Mitt Romney who stood up against Trump – which is not allowed in the republic party. Or whether you’re the Georgian leader standing up against the mainstream media – it doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you’re on. It doesn’t matter which side of the argument you’re on.
If you stand out as different, and you want to do something different, you are going to face that. And only when you have that single unified monolithic center in your dragon fire, in your meaning – it doesn’t matter then.
So that’s the anchor. Yeah, the ocean’s crashing and the big storm’s coming… but this is where you’re staying. Yeah you’re getting rocked, but this is where I’m staying. This is what it’s about.
And that’s why for you and I, it’s so much about what is that center?
Mark: Yeah, well let’s talk about that. First the dragon fire metaphor. Where did that come from and what does it mean?
And then how do leaders find that center? And stick with it, you know, and make sure that they’re not going to get blown over by the tsunami?
Dov: So great questions. So first of all, my experience is this… when I talk about dragon fire, people will say “well, is that passion?”
No, it’s not passion. Then they say “well, it sounds like passion.”
“I know, but it’s not passion.”
“Okay, well what’s passion and what’s this?”
Well, passion is this. If you think about when you were fifteen what you were passionate about – and if you’re a straight guy, it’s probably something similar to what I was passionate about.
Mark: (laughing) yes and yes.
Dov: And if that was supposed to be your career, then we’d all be lining up for a job as the manager of Victoria’s Secret. That’s not what we do – so clearly our passions change and they go from one thing to the next.
So passion is a vehicle. I want you to think about it that way. Passion is a vehicle. It transports your dragon fire.
Your dragon fire… and people say to me, “well, how do I find that? If it’s not my passion, is it my joy?”
No. In fact, it is only found – and this is why very few people found it – it’s only found in your pain.
“Yeah, your dragon fire is found in your pain. So dragon leaders are revealed in fire.
Now what is fire? Fire is a crisis. Fire is a divorce. Fire is COVID-19. Fire is a bankruptcy. Fire is a horrible diagnosis. And it’s where you stop and you go “okay. I can’t do this anymore. I’ve been running around on this wheel, and I realize this has given me the opportunity to stop.”
For me it was falling off a mountain and getting smashed to pieces. For other people – like I said – it’s a divorce, a diagnosis… whatever it might be…
But it brings you back to that place where you start saying “what really matters to me? Beyond all this?” Whatever this is.
Mark: There’s a famous leadership author or researcher named… I think it’s Lesnick – and he called this “twice-born leaders.” And that’s kind of what you’re talking about. You’re blindly going along one way, and you’re doing leadership one way and you’re a certain type of person.
Then boom – you hit the wall. Something springs and it could be… like, you fell off a friggin’ wall rock climbing… almost died. I want to talk about that too.
I had kind of an existential crisis in my early 20s, right? And maybe it wasn’t as extreme as falling off a wall… to wake up and realize that you’ve been living a lie is still kind of…
Dov: That is the birth of dragon fire. And I always say that those events are there for two reasons. They’re to wake you up from… so who you were. And to. Who you are going to become.
And the reason it’s difficult, the reason that I have to pick my five clients a year – I only work with five private clients a year – is very simple.
The work is not easy. Because it’s an identity crisis. Because your identity goes “I’m this.” Surely. And if you don’t believe me, look at my successes and there’s this long list of accolades of all the things I did right. So don’t tell me what to do, I did it right.”
Okay, what’s your level of fulfillment? I don’t care about your level of success. I respect it, but what I’m asking you about is your level of fulfillment. The level of legacy. Do you feel really, truly proud of who you are as a human being and the difference you’re making?
“Oh.” That’s the identity crisis, so very often a person will go “how come I can’t make any decisions?” Because you can’t make them from the same place. You can make them, but just not from the same place. You’re driven by the dragon fire within you, as opposed to the external reference points of a bigger house, better house, nicer car, nicer suits… whatever it might be…
Mark: Mm-hmm. So you work with five clients and it sounds to me that you’re pretty clear that this transformation comes from serious pain. Or cataclysmic events.
So do you like, take them up on a rock wall and push them off? (laughing)
Dov: No. So I don’t actually do that to them. I do that psychologically… psychologically I throw them off mountains every week.
But no. Usually that’s the catalyst for them to come to work with me. Is that they’ve gone…
Mark: So they’re having the crisis.
Dov: But it’s interesting, because sometimes it’s very dramatic, like mine, right? Or they had a heart attack, or their wife left them, or there’s a horrible diagnosis… but oftentimes it’s leaders who are super-successful but just go “this life is… there’s something missing. I’ve got the good life” – and they will often say things to me like “I feel really bad saying this, Dov:”
And I go “what?”
They go “I want more. And I have everything, so I feel guilty about even saying that.”
And I that’s the perfect time, now you’re ready. So you don’t need a catastrophic event, but you need a catastrophic awakening to this false identity. That you’ve stepped into the matrix of who you’ve become as an identity. And you suddenly realize “oh, there’s a wobble in the matrix, and this is not who I am.”
“Who am I really? What’s really driving me?”
Mark: So what’s the red pill that you feed these guys? These clients?
Dov: Well, part of the red pill is exactly what I said. Is that the dragon fire is found in pain. So my first question around that is “what is the pain you’ve been refusing to look at? What is the pain that you’ve looked at, at three inches, six inches, a foot deep – that’s 20 miles deep?”
Mark: Right. So you’re suggesting that they – and I see this in a lot of my clients this way – a lot of times people claim to be bored or discontent or just not feeling like their life is meaningful.
But, at the same time they can’t identify the root of that pain. So you’re suggesting you gotta trace that back and go right into the belly of the beast. And your beast is a dragon.
And then you’ve got to do that work. And so there’s probably a question in there, but let’s start with why did you choose the dragon as a metaphor?
Dov: It’s a great question. I’ll tell you why, because there’s pieces to it.
So, first of all, I studied mythologies and religious philosophy and all that… there are certain symbols that come to mind that just don’t go away. Like, so, nobody’s ever seen a dragon. Yet how come they keep staying with us all the way through? And we see shows like game of thrones, and we’re pulled into it. We’re inspired by these dragons.
And the interesting thing about it for me was that dragons are always portrayed as less than positively. And for me what’s interesting is if you read the stories, dragons always protect something very valuable. Now that is, of course, shown as gold. But it’s not. It’s what’s golden – which is very different.
If you look at Jungian psychology and Campbell’s work – which I’m a huge fan of – which is the “Hero’s Journey,” it says in order to find the treasure that you most want, you have to enter the cave you’re most afraid to step into.
That cave in many of the myths contains a dragon. And the dragon is protecting what is most valuable. And you have got to be willing to go in there to claim what is most valuable, but you fear that you’ll be consumed by this beast.
And that’s what we are. The beasts we fear being consumed by is us. It’s our own darkness.
So that one of the places of going to that is… I always talk about the beast that we’re afraid of is often silence. Because when we sit with this beast I feel like I’ll be consumed by the silence.
But when you sit with it, it gets transformed into a dragon that will carry you and breathe fire onto the lies. That’s why I just love this metaphor.
And the other thing about it is this. From a warrior point of view – which I love.
When you think about a dragon you think about this very powerful beast. I mean, it doesn’t sort of arrive on tippy-toes and nobody notices. It’s dynamic.
But what’s also interesting about it, is it seems almost impenetrable. And impossible to bring down. And it can fly above whatever the trauma is that’s going on.
But what’s also interesting about dragons and dragon mythology is right above the heart it has one scale that is soft. And I know you’ll love this – a strong man as powerful and as filled with fire as it is – it never covers it’s heart. It always leads with the most vulnerable part of itself in order to serve.
So for me there were so many wonderful pieces in the dragon metaphor that just were like “yes, that’s what it is. It’s a fire that cannot be extinguished.”
Mark: That is fascinating. I love that. That’s really neat.
Mark: So what you’re suggesting is that that which we fear the most – our dragon – is actually protecting that which we need the most. The jewels.
And so the shadow work basically is another way to look at that. The shadow is hiding the innate goodness. And we fear the shadow, but you have to look at the shadow in order to dissolve it to allow your innate goodness to finally come through.
And so that’s where you’re taking your clients. Through a hero’s journey to kind of look at their shadow. Slay their mental dragon which is not really harming them. It’s there to protect what’s pure.
Dov: Exactly. So they’re actually slaying their own fear in order to embrace the dragon. Because they don’t know they’re a dragon.
So the dragon is actually their mirror, and so it appears dark and fearful, because they’re afraid of that part of themselves. But when they step into that power – step into that shadow self, really embrace that power.
And it can be a force for such good. Such amazing powerful good.
Mark: We’re kind of dance… well, actually not dancing around… we’re talking directly about one of the most important concepts in leadership beyond the emotional development. And that is the power of metaphor and language to inspire or to unlock learning, right?
And the human mind – let’s talk about that a little bit from your perspective. Like why is metaphor and imagery and very succinct language so important for leaders?
Dov: Well if you look at it in the simplest possible way, we know that story has been with us longer than even language. So you know the French caves of ancient man that predate any language that we’re aware of is there.
Mark: Visual language.
Dov: Visual language. Yeah. So before we became verbal, there was a visual language. And we are visual – we know that – we work with imagery and there are certain imprinted imagery – because storytelling is a powerful, powerful skill that all leaders need to develop. We have the authentic speaker academy for leadership and it’s exactly that. It’s about being a leader, while being a speaker.
But how do you translate your story. And the thing about it is that this part of your brain – the frontal part of your brain – the frontal lobe, is there to do the decision-making and cognitive facts stuff.
But we all know – we all remember how difficult it is to remember this stuff – yet we remember stuff that goes in story. And story goes to the back of the brain. It goes to the limbic system, it goes to the mammalian brain. It goes to those parts of the brain that actually don’t have verbal language. They have emotionally connected visuals.
Now this is key for everybody listening. If you want to learn something, you have to have an emotional connection. If you don’t have an emotional connection, you won’t learn it.
I’ll give you a great example. Think about when you went to school as a kid – anywhere up to the age of 12 – and when you think of a subject you didn’t like that suddenly you did.
So lots of us have got that. You know, I hated math and suddenly in fifth grade, I really liked it. Or I hated this and then I really liked it.
And I go “yeah.”
And they go “so what do you think the difference was?”
I go “I know what the difference was.”
And they go “what?”
I go, “you liked the teacher.”
And they go “yeah, Miss Smith…” or whatever. “She was great.” You got an emotional bond with that individual – that is what made the subject interesting. It’s the emotional connection. We love to think of ourselves as these rational logical beings, and we’re not. We simply make rational lies of our emotional decisions.
So when we get an image, the image immediately attaches to the emotional part of the brain. So when we use metaphor, and we use story, and we use imagery that evokes emotion. Boom. It sticks, it’s important and we remember it.
Mark: Wow, a couple things popped into my head – one is how humanity has collective myth and story tied to emotion that’s passed down. Now how it’s passed down we can debate about… is it epigenetics? Is there some sort of metafield that energetically we’re just part of. It’s like this matrix – like you said.
And those stories are part of our common heritage from way back in the beginning. And so those are part of our subconscious. Part of our background of obviousness is the term we use.
Dov: Yeah, they are. And I can address that from two places which both talk to where you were – which is when the dominance or the predominance of genetics has been disproven over and over again. What we know is that the genes do not determine. We know that for sure, because genes can be turned on and turned off.
But there is an epigenetic response and that is this – if you go into a cell and you remove the nucleus -which is the brain of the cell – the cell still lives.
However, if – on the other hand – you damage the membrane which is the response to the external world – the cell will die. So what we know is that we respond at every possible level to the environment we swim in.
We all know the language pattern of “you are what you eat.” Well no, I would go further “you are what you consume.” That’s not food, that’s what you’re swimming in every single day. Now on top of that overlay onto that morphogenetic fields and the fact that we live in a quantum field. Because quantum physics is my thing.
So we live in a quantum field of energy and information – that is an information pool information field and the morphogenetic fields are these collective packets of information that are based around being a seal, or being a leader, or being a Christian, or being something else.
And we tap into those as if they’re true, and they’re not. They are simply packets of information. And we have to be really centered in ourselves to lead in order to discern from it what works and what doesn’t work. Because our responsibility is to evolve the morphogenetic field.
Mark: Hmm. That’s fascinating. I’ve read a little bit about morphogenetic field and there’s definitely some critique of it – or maybe it’s just that nobody can really validate that stuff, because our scientific instruments and scientific theory only works at the physical observable level. And anything that really works beyond that – like, even in the health field – like we still poopoo energy work, acupuncture… qi as in qi gong… because you can’t see it and so they just kind of deny it. They’re just slowly in our medical world beginning to appreciate this.
Dov: Can I give a great metaphor for that that I think will help?
Dov: So I want everybody to imagine a circle that is 1 foot diameter, right? Just imagine that for a minute.
And I want you to imagine that that circle 1 foot in diameter is all known knowledge – scientifically proven known knowledge. Right? Got that?
Great. Now let me ask you – it’s one foot – how big was it a hundred years ago? I don’t know, let’s say six inches – it’s much smaller – but let’s say that.
Okay, so if it’s six inches in diameter 100 years ago and it’s now one foot – what was everything between six inches and one foot, 100 years ago?
Hmm. I don’t know. Mythology? Mysticism? Woo woo? Yes. Absolutely. Scalar energy, totally mystical. Morphic fields, totally mystical. Black holes, mystical. Dark matter, completely mystical. Some of it still is.
So what it is that we like to tell ourselves that something is scientific, because – as you stated – we have the equipment to measure it. But what we also need to pay attention to is the evidence that is not measurable.
So here’s the thing the placebo and non-cebo response are scientifically measured – you can go do the research on them – so a placebo is when somebody gives you a quote “sugar pill.” Meaning doesn’t have the medication of the pharmacy in it. And you respond as if it did.
And a nocebo is when you’re given something – it was kind of like thinking about back in the times of the witch doctors. And he pointed the bone at you, and said you were dying. You did. That’s a nocebo response. People do that all the time even today. Not normally pointing witch doctor bones, but in all kinds of ways.
So the most powerful thing you have is the way your brain responds and creates a neurochemical cascade from the hypothalamus – the mood and appetite center of your brain – that floods your body with these chemical cocktails. But then you have thousands upon thousands of receptors on every cell.
The receptors pick up that chemical cocktail, and the more of that chemical cocktail you get – the more addicted that cell becomes to it. By the way, that means that all human beings are addicts.
And so we might get addicted to happiness. We might get addicted to denial. We might get addicted to anger, or power, or frustration… whatever it is.
And we have to change that. That’s much bigger than anything else, and that is science. That’s not woo woo, but it was woo woo twenty minutes ago in the long period in the calendar of life.
Mark: Right. It’s interesting… you’re kind of like doing it from the inside out. You’re talking about like you can tie that to leadership by saying if you are addicted to let’s say anger, and then every time you get triggered into anger, you’re gonna have a feeling state, an image that is associated with that. And then a reactionary behavior that stems from that. And that’s gonna end up being your leadership style.
Dov: Absolutely. Nailed it. That’s exactly what it is.
Mark: So you can then reverse engineer that, through the shadow work, the dragon fire work – using your terminology – to trace that back and be like “holy shit. You’re right. I have been addicted to anger and maybe there’s a root cause of that. But I can change that story, and rewrite the script. And attach new emotional energy, and new imagery to it.”
And then practice that or habituate that. And then become addicted to the opposite. Because addiction really is just saying maybe an obsessive moving towards something. That then is gonna create a habit around it. That’s subconscious patterning.
On the negative side we call it reactionary conditioning. On the positive side we call it a positive response.
Dov: Exactly. But it’s the same thing. And this is in fact one of the things… in my work, one of the things I’m very keen on doing is I’m saying “let’s breach the bias.” Whatever the bias is, let’s breach the bias it doesn’t matter…
Mark: And don’t shoot the messenger, because we all got it…
Dov: Right. So what I say to them is this “are you an addict?”
People say “no.”
Okay “well describe an addict.” And then they describe one. And they’re usually describing that person down the street who is in a back alley drinking from a brown paper bag, or shooting up, or whatever it is…
And I go “no, you’re an addict. We’re all addicts.” An addiction is simply this response within you to get a need met and most often it’s in order to not feel something else. Because human beings all just want to feel better.
So if you have anger as your addiction – let’s just use that one – if you have anger as your addiction… you have got all these receptors on the cells waiting for that chemical cocktail. You don’t need a trigger. The trigger is the cells going “gimme-gimme-gimme.”
Sends the message back up into the brain and says “okay, give me that.” And now you’re looking for using that reticular activating system – looking for reasons to be pissed off. See?
And you’re feeding the addiction. So my question before we can do all the shadow work we can do all the digging – and I’m definitely encouraging of that – but let’s just start with this. What are you avoiding feeling? Because you got triggered to need anger, because there was something else you didn’t want to feel.
And the biggest example for us blokes – us macho guys – is the thing we don’t like to feel is sadness, grief the softer feelings. Which you and I know that’s funny, because we know that that’s horseshit.
But it’s we avoid that and ninety nine per times out of a hundred – maybe more, maybe I’m understating – anger is simply a reaction to a softer feeling are not comfortable with.
Mark: A hundred percent. I’m thinking of my father right now, like the guy… he’s like a big softy but boy what an a-hole he was for all of my youth. I love you, dad. If you’re listening to this.
Probably not, but anyways… he was avoiding the pain of his own childhood hurt.
Dov: And the thing about… when you go to that… let’s go to another piece of that, which is love. And one of my podcasts is called “Curiosity Bites” and people are asking about solving the problems in the world. And they said “don’t we need more love?”
And I’m like “no.”
And they go “why?”
I go “cause people murder in the name of love. People beat their kids in the name of love. ‘I love you and I’m just preparing you for the world.’”
That ain’t love dude. That ain’t love.
Mark: That’s something else.
Dov: But if you were programmed and conditioned with it, you will believe it, because you’ve not had the discernment to say “does this work?”
“Well, it’s what my father did, and it’s what his father did before him, so it must be okay.”
No. This is one of the things I love about COVID. People are finally starting to get it – normal isn’t healthy. Normal is just what you got used to. That’s it. We need to create something else.
Mark: There’s so many beautiful examples right now why we don’t want to go back to that normal. Like the air quality, I love seeing all these memes and pictures coming around now about the quality of the air and being able to see you know the Himalayas for the first time.
Dov: LA has the cleanest air of any major city. Do you know that?
Mark: Right now?
Dov: Right now the cleanest air of any major city – LA! What?
Mark: So why would they want to go back to all that smog and nastiness, right? So why not accelerate forward to create the conditions for that clean air and for the healthy environment. And to bring back you know fresh water. Why not? We can do this. We can do this.
Dov: Me I think it kind of clears up this debate around whether we are affecting climate change or not. Because this data set called COVID, and this period where we didn’t do it and look what happened. Oh yeah, now you want to argue that we’re not doing it? Come on.
Mark: I know. Come on. What planet are you on?
Mark: Let’s talk about motivation. It’s one thing to spend a lot of money to hire Mark or Dov – and those people are highly motivated. Which means they are already… something set them off on a growth path.
So generally for someone listening, how can we get motivated to do this work? If we’re so busy and so distracted? Even though we might sense that something’s not right, we don’t really know what to do about it. And by the way, you got to get up and go to work?
Dov: Yep. And that’s always the excuse right? The excuse is a whole list of “gottas.” Gotta do this, gotta do that. Got to pay the bill.
Until you don’t. And so that’s why I said for most people it’s usually a devastating event. It’s something that says “oh. It’s stopped me in my tracks.”
So how do you motivate somebody like this? And I’m just gonna walk you through an exercise that I do. It’s called consequential thinking, and consequential thinking goes like this… if you don’t do this, what it is that you need to do – I.e. The work that you would call the shadow work, the dragon fire work, whatever it might be – if you don’t do this work, what will happen in five years?
And so they go “oh well, you know, I guess I’ll still be a bit miserable in my marriage. But I’ll be okay and I’ll have made another ten million bucks…” Or whatever it is.
“Great. Now what I want you to do is to keep walking it out further and further into the future.”
So some people – five years they’re done. Like “I can’t bear this.” Great. Now walk it out six, ten years. Now some people can stuff it so far that they can walk all the way to death – which is fantastic. Good for them, right? I don’t want it, but all right, good for them.
But now here’s the thing. I say to them “all right, so you can bear it. Are you a leader?”
And they say “yeah.”
And I go “great. Who are you a leader of?”
“Well, you know, I lead my team.”
“Okay, that’s great. Who else?”
“I don’t know.”
“Okay, is this the model of leadership you want?” Because we don’t learn by what we’re told, we learn by what is demonstrated to us. So if you are saying “stuff all your feelings in a box, dear. Let’s not have any of that emotional stuff. Let’s not feel anything. Let’s just be driven to make more and more success and be miserable in the process. And marry who we’re supposed to be married to. And be in that place and that’s what we’ve got to do.”
Then, okay, that’s the model you’re teaching. How are you with that? How are you with your grandson, your granddaughter now being in a shitty marriage, working a job they hate, but they’re good at? How are you feeling about that?
What is the long-term model? Because your ego mind says “this is good,” because the mind likes to be right. It’s the number one rule of the mind. It’s gonna be right.
And so it justifies staying in a shitty place. Normal isn’t healthy – normal’s whatever you got used to. And the only way to get past that is to examine “normal.” So my question to people all the time is “what have you normalized that’s incredibly dysfunctional?”
And if you take that and pace that out over the next 2, 5, 10, 20 years – how do you feel as you lie on your deathbed? How do you actually feel as you lie on your deathbed? Are they going to say things about what you achieved or about who you were? That’s what counts.
Mark: That’s so powerful. I love that. We have people in our client base or in our program where we have them do a similar thing. Like, we call it future me imagery.
And we have them go out and there’s like two paths – one path is do nothing and write your obituary. Visualize how people responded to you and all that kind of stuff. Similar to what you’re saying.
And the other is what if you were to make that 1% change in your physical health and your mental health and the emotional work and you were aligned with your dragon fire and project forward. What would that look like? And what would it feel like? And write your obituary from that perspective.
It’s very similar to this… I got this idea – and it’s nothing new of course – but one of the stories I tell is Alfred Nobel. Who everyone knows right now is creator of the Nobel peace prize.
He actually got to read his own obituary, because he had a twin brother who passed away and the author of the obituary mistook them. And Nobel – at the time – was involved in dynamite and commercialization of dynamite. And this guy in the obituary, eviscerated him for you know all the deaths in world war one.
Pretty much placed a lot of human suffering on Alfred Nobel. And he read that he’s like “holy shit, that’s not me. I do not want that to be my legacy.”
And he gave up all that work and he went and promoted the rest of his life to good. That’s an example of one of those cataclysmic moments that you’re talking about. It wasn’t life or death for him but it sure was when he projected it out, and said “wow, who do I want to be? Who am I really?”
Those are the questions. If you ask better questions, you get there. You get a better answer.
Dov: And most of where we struggle is not in finding the answers. We find the answers, that’s what we’re good at.
But we just ask terrible questions.
Mark: Terrible questions, right.
Dov: If you ask terrible questions, you will get terrible answers. And the problem is as you pointed out Mark, is that we just don’t stop. If you’d have asked me five minutes before I fell “are you on purpose Dov?” I would have said “yes, absolutely.” Absolutely.
But I needed that wake-up call. So I fell in June 1990 and up until that moment I was the most successful I’d ever been. I felt like I was totally on purpose. I had a nice house, nice car – was living in a beautiful place – I was traveling all over, doing all kinds of great stuff. And I was highly in demand. I was on target.
But I was also – looking at my addictions – I was an adrenaline junkie. Full blown adrenaline junkie. I did crazy stuff all the time.
And on a particular day in June 1990 I decided that I would go up to brand new iron falls, which is by whistler where the winter Olympics were in 2010. And my buddy and I looked over the top of the cliff when we saw where the glacial water washes down on this twisty river. It’s magnificent.
And then it plunges off the edge of a 200-foot cliff. It’s stunningly beautiful – stunningly beautiful.
And I said to my mate “well, let’s not stay up here. Let’s go down to the bottom and let’s see if we can get close to the water.”
He’s like “okay.” So we hiked down – no path – we get down there.
Then I said “let’s see if we can get behind the waterfall.”
He’s like “what? No, we can’t do that. We’re not dressed for it.”
And I go “I know. But let’s do it anyway.” I’m an adrenaline junkie, right?
So we do. We get behind the waterfall – which is about a 3-foot gap. Massive amounts of adrenaline… but on top of that… tons and tons of negative ions, which as you know positively charges the body. So I came out on the other side and I felt like superman. I mean, I could do anything.
So I said to my mate “let’s not hike back.”
And he’s like “what are we gonna do? Take the elevator?” Of course, there is none.
But I said “no, let’s climb the face.”
Now mountain climbing can be dangerous, but you have safety lines, harnesses…
Mark: And you didn’t have any of that with you…
Dov: We didn’t have any of that. And we were soaking wet and in the wrong clothes. At a 120 feet – which is about 12 stories – I reached for a rock that dislodged a bigger rock that hit me in the face and sent me hurtling down onto the boulders below. Maximum velocity. Not onto rocks, not onto grass, not onto shale. Onto boulders.
And I got smashed to pieces. Now what I want people to just get there is this… I’ll take a pause and say “here’s the news. Cause nice guy, but little slow learner.” That was my fourth fall. Wasn’t my first.
Dov: Was my fourth. Four falls. But at that moment, I was completely incapacitated. And I fell 120 feet landed on my head – but as I like to say – I fell 120 feet from a self-imposed pedestal and landed on my ego. It got smashed open.
And I went into a very, very dark place – I mean, I could tell everybody the gory details – we don’t need them. Ten reconstructive surgeries. Died five times in the process.
Mark: Good lord.
Dov: Yeah, I mean it was pretty horrendous. And when people would ask me “how you doing?” I’d say “I’m great. I’m coming back.” I was born in a ghetto. I’ve been a martial artist, a boxer… I mean, you aren’t getting me down. I ran companies on three continents. I’m not gonna be a wimp, I’m not gonna cry about this.
But on my own, I was devastated. I was so depressed, and dark. And my mates would have a night out and I’d go out and I’d have a miserable time.
Then one night we went out and had a great night out… I actually laughed. And I thought “okay, I’m coming back.”
As I walked in the door, I opened the back door and the light shot into the kitchen and festooned across the floor was garbage. I mean there was cans, and packets, and vegetables, and kitty litter… I mean, the whole thing was everywhere… and it was gross.
And I went from joy to rage in an instant. I knew exactly who was the culprit, and I went looking for the culprit. Cause I was going to kill them. That’s how I felt.
Mark: Was it a human being or a pet…?
Dov: I walked into the living room, and there is the culprit all curled up on the couch looking comfy. Lifted my hand to strike and about halfway down – of course, that’s not who I am – so I stopped. And I put my hand down and lift it underneath and I picked up my cat. I held this cat in my arms and it was cold and it was dead.
I fell on my knees and began to weep. For a cat I didn’t even like, it wasn’t my cat. Somebody had given it to me.
But I realized I wasn’t weeping for the cat. I was weeping for the life that had gone. It was dead and I hadn’t realized it. There is no back.
And so I fell on my knees and just wept for hours and hours. And decided there were three paths before me. To continue to try and come back. Well, I’m smart enough to work out that there is no back in life. Everything is forward, so that wasn’t working.
The next choice was the most seductive of all the choices, which was to stay the same. Because now I could be a victim of circumstance. “It isn’t my fault. I gave it my best shot. I could have been a champion…” all that nonsense. And I knew I couldn’t bear that.
And the third option was to find my dragon fire. To find out why am I here on the planet? Why does that matter?
And that was a brutally tough journey. Going inward – like we talked about – dealing with the shadow, finding my dragon fire, examining those things.
And I did that work. And I buried myself in that work. I journaled every day. I worked with therapists, I worked with coaches like you and I talked about when you were on my show which I loved about what you shared. I dug into that that stuff and really did that work.
And during that time, one of my friends said to me “well are you gonna speak and teach again? And write again?”
I said “no. I’m done.” About two years later he came to one of my public seminars and he goes, “I thought you weren’t gonna do this.”
I said “I’m not.”
He goes “well, what is this? Is this a one-off?”
And I said “no.”
He goes, “I don’t understand. You said you weren’t gonna do it. You’re doing it. Now you say you’re not doing it.”
Said, “I’m not. I’m not doing it from the same place. What I do appears to be the same, but what’s driving underneath is different.”
And he goes “what do you mean?”
I said “I’m driven by this dragon fire.” Which I explained to him. But you never know whether you’re actually there until something shows up. And this is now about two… two and a half years later… I do a public seminar – and you know, because you’ve been around crowds and you’ve spoken – people are kind, they’re generous. At the end they stand there and they line-up to say thank you.
I know that I have had all my life this piece of Plexiglas. It’s this invisible shield that if you give me a compliment, it bounces off.
Mark: (laughing) it’s hard for a lot of people to accept compliments.
Dov: Exactly. So I knew I had to work out how to do that better. So I did. So when people would give me a compliment I would say in what way? I wanted to know in what way.
So this lady was there, she was in line. She’s in her early 40s – nice-looking lady – and she says “I want to thank you for the training. It’s really been wonderful.”
It’s generic, okay. I said “can I ask you a question?”
She said “sure.”
I said “in what way? How has it directly impacted you?”
She was wonderful. She took this pause and she said well I want to thank you for my grandchildren.
I said, “You don’t look old enough to have grandkids.”
And she said “I’m not.” She said, “You see that young lady over there?”
I said “yes.”
She said, “That’s my daughter, and that’s her partner.” And she said “she’s four months pregnant. And because of what we’ve learned here, you have changed our relationship to each other and that will change my relationship to my grandchild.”
And at that point my eyes started to leak a bit because I realized that I was living my dragon fire. Because when you are living your dragon fire, it’s about serving those who will never know your name. And whose name you will never know. Do it beyond your life.
Mark: Right. And if you even impact just one person like that positively, that’s enough.
We’ve been going for a while, so I want to start to wind this down, but I would love for you to talk for a little bit about your ideas of what you call regenerative design. And the role that breath work and silence or meditation and those types of things.
I think this is another thing that’s really powerful that could come out of this so-called crisis time is people all of a sudden they’re finding themselves with downtime. Some people. Or at least an ability to break the patterns the distraction that kept them on that treadmill.
And yet not everyone has really been taught on how to deal with that time effectively. So they’re filling it up with Netflix and whatever… and even more work. So what does that look like to you? Regenerative design?
Dov: Well, as you said – I think it’s not possible without silence. The beast of silence. It’s not possible without the willingness to give yourself that space.
And I really understand that that’s a difficult place for many people.
And so like you I’m a big proponent of breath work. And where I start all my clients is with box breathing. And I teach them how to do it in a very simple way – by just sitting in a room and keeping your chin parallel to the floor. And just looking at that corner where the roof and the walls meet. So your head’s here and your eyes are going up. And then you just tongue on the roof of your mouth and you do your four-four, all right?
So you just do your box breathing, which I’m sure you’ve explained many times, so I don’t need to explain it here.
And doing that, and not trying to not think. So people are like “I can’t do this because I can’t stop my head.”
Well, don’t worry about that. Only thing you need to do is focus on the breath. So when my teacher, who was the dean of Vedanta University, told me this I was so frustrated. Because he gave me an exercise which was to do 100 breaths without a thought.
It took me four years. I did get there. And I’ve been there briefly since. But it’s difficult, right?
Mark: It’s like my Zen master taught. That’s the most severe approach to the training. Is to try to crowd out all of the thought with fierce concentration. And it’s difficult for most westerners to do that.
Dov: Well, we’re trained to be distracted. We’re given distraction at every possible turn. And so this is why it’s so important to do that.
For instance, when we work with a client – they fly in, they spend 24 hours straight with us – it’s called a boot camp – they spend 24 hours straight. They go “should I bring my pajamas?”
“Why? You ain’t doing any sleeping.” 24 hours straight. But afterwards they’re asked to spend 48 hours out of contact with the people they know. Why? Because you have to sit with and be with what you’ve learned. Not distracted from it.
So that’s number one, is we got to slow down enough – and this, as you said – this is one of the wonderful things. I think one of the great things about right now is that it’s done two things.
It’s pushed us forward into a future we’ve been resisting, which is remote work, all those kinds of things… which is great.
And the other thing is it’s put a pause… and you can use that pause or you can ignore it, because now I will ask you this question. Are you addicted to distraction? Because we’re all addicted, and addiction means I don’t want to deal with something so I’m looking for something to pull me away from it.
And so are you addicted to the distraction, because if you are, like any other addict you’re gonna feel withdrawal. So when you sit quietly, you’re gonna go “oh yeah,” and you start thinking about a million things. That is withdrawal from your hormonal, your systemic system that is just pouring out.
So that’s number one, is to start there. Number two – and I know you’re a proponent of this too – journaling. My god, journaling. It’s the greatest gift.
Not on your computer, not with a keyboard… by hand in a journal… “Oh my God what if somebody finds it?”
Then hide it. I don’t know. Don’t let anybody see it. Get over it – that’s a bullshit excuse.
Write in your journal. It activates different parts of your brain than keyboard work does. It allows you to visualize. It allows you to create pictures as you do it.
Journal. And people say “well, what do I journal?
Okay, here’s the thing. When I met my wife and I fell in love with her I said to her one day I said “you know, I wrote about you in my journal today.”
She goes “oh yeah? Can I read it?”
And I said “no.”
And she said “why?”
And I said, “I have a bucket under the sink. It’s filled with vomit, but there’s some diamonds in there. Do you want to dig in the bucket?”
She goes, “that’s gross.”
I go “that’s my journal.” My journal is where I go to emotionally vomit, so that it becomes impotent rage. Its rage I can let out all the toxicity into there about individuals, about situations.
I can be the victim, I can be all of that… so that I’m not living that. I want it out, so I can see it with my own eyes. Because if it’s stuck in the recycling machine called your brain, you will never get away from it.
So put it out. Vomit. One of the things I like to do… here’s an exercise – you’ll like this one, I know you will Mark. You know when you get upset with somebody, and you want to tear their head off? That’s never happened to me, personally…
Mark: Of course not.
Dov: And I’m sure you’ve never had that either. Then go write “dear fuck-face” letters.
Mark: (laughing) expressive writing expert is a great way – it’s like a personal therapy, you know?
Dov: Exactly. So you write fuck-face letters. So I’ve got many to my wife and she’s got many to me. And I will tell you that I don’t know anybody who loves that partner more than I do. I am more in love with my wife today than I was the day I married her. She’s an amazing… greatest gift in my life.
And part of the reason is because I don’t put that vomit on her. I put it in paper. I just let it go there.
People say “well do you burn it afterwards? Or do you keep it?” I keep all my journals. I want them, because I look at them and I go… I want to find out my evolution. I want to see what’s repetitive.
Mark: See the patterns, right? That’s cool. You know what else works well for expression? Is either in the bathtub or the pool or the ocean is to go underwater and scream bloody murder.
Dov: Yep, that’s another great one.
Mark: It works. I do that all the time. Whenever I jump into the pool, I’m just like, “raarh.”
Dov: Yeah, physicality. Which is punching a punch bag. And if you don’t have a punch bag, do you have a tennis racket? Do you have a pillow? Beat the crap out of it.
That’s okay. Just give yourself room to move it. Because remember this…
Mark: Just moving energy. Emotion is energy in motion.
Dov: If that’s exactly the words I was going to say. That’s it. Its energy in motion. So give it motion. If you get it stuck in your system, it becomes part of the recycling plant. Get it out of there. Express it. You will feel better.
“Oh, but I don’t want to do that.” Okay, then you’re just walking around toxic. If you want to walk around toxic that’s your choice – you’re free to do that. It won’t serve you and it certainly won’t serve those you serve.
Mark: Well it’ll serve you if you’ve chosen to remain a victim.
Dov: Yes. There is that.
Mark: (laughing) there is that piece. Awesome.
Man, Dov, I love talking to you.
Dov: Thank you, sir. I love talking to you too.
Mark: Remember when I did your podcast, we did the podcast, then we just kept talking. So we actually did two podcasts.
Dov: (laughing) yeah, it was like part one, part two. Cause we were like, “well, it’s that time. Should we quit?”
“No, we’re both having a good time.”
“Okay, we’ll do a two-part.”
Mark: I have to go, because I’ve got an appointment in 20 minutes. I have to drive home to it, and it’s with an attorney. So that’s always fun.
Dov: (laughing) you don’t want to be late. That costs you money.
Mark: (laughing) it’ll cost me a lot of money. So we will wrap this up now.
But, man, it’s such so much fun. And I really appreciate your insight, and your ability to communicate. It’s masterful.
So thank you for that. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and your metaphors and your stories.
Dov: Thank you, sir. It was a pleasure and an honor. Always a joy to serve. And really enjoy our conversations. I know that you and I could probably go for a tequila. Sit and have a sipping tequila for a couple of weeks.
Mark: (laughing) let’s do that someday.
Dov: I will look forward to that…
Mark: And we’ll journal and we’ll scream underwater…
Dov: Exactly. Get somebody to film it.
Mark: Can probably sell tickets to this event.
Dov: (laughing) exactly. Watch these two guys go to off their rocker…
Mark: (laughing) two knuckle heads.
Where can people learn more about your work?
Dov: You can simply go to dovbaron.com. You find all of my stuff, and my podcasts – both of them are there. You can also find me on YouTube, there’s over 700 videos. You can find The Dragon’s Path on Medium which is one of the places for my outlets for my writing. I write for a bunch of other places you can find me there too.
And on top of that listen here’s what I want you to know. I just want to take a minute, Mark.
I don’t know if you’re aware of this and I don’t know how many podcasts you listen to, but if you’re a regular listener to this I want you to understand something. Mark takes the time to find leaders, find amazing people who can come on here and share their knowledge and their wisdom with you.
You don’t pay for that. He’s taking the time to find them, to give up his time to do the research, to put this together, to do all the production all the things… it’s a pretty thankless side.
And what I’m asking you to do is this. I’m asking you to go on to wherever you listen to podcasts – whether it’s Apple or Spotify or wherever it is… go on – rate, review and subscribe to this show. Share it with other people. Let them know about it.
And then I want you to do one other thing. I want you to write to Mark and me and tell us what you got out of this. Because information is the hole in a doughnut. Transformation is when you apply it. Transformation comes from application.
So I want you to write to us, tell us what you got out of it. And tell us what you’re going to do with it. And if I can help you, I will help you – write to me. My email address very simple [email protected]
Write to me if you’d like to work with me privately. You want me to work with you, and your company -your organization. Can do all that through there.
But I do want you to – it’s important – I want you to write to Mark, let him know what you got out of this, and I want you to subscribe to the show and share it with others.
Because let’s not hoard. This world is abundant, so let’s share the wisdom, share the wealth. Get it out there, make a difference in the world. You are here to serve, so serve.
Mark: Hooyah. Well thanks for that.
Dov: You’re welcome.
Mark: (laughing) we’ll carve that out. “Listen to what Dov said.”
Mark: All right. Thanks so much my friend. Stay safe, stay focused… and be unbeatable. Which we know you are already. Daily practice.
Dov: Stay safe, stay sane and stay curious.
All right, folks. That was Dov Baron. Man, give him a big shout out. What a great guy. And go support him at his email. That’s pretty bold of you to offer that like that. I often say if you want to email me my direct email is [email protected]
(laughing) Just kidding. I get deluged with email. But now that I’ve got a trustworthy assistant, she’s helping me, so that’s good.
At any rate, I appreciate you. And dear listener, I appreciate you. Thanks so much for being unbeatable and for supporting this podcast. And I’ll see you in training.