“I need you to realize that the obstacle is the way. Whatever is hard is the way to go. You have to do it.” – Eliot Marshall
Eliot Marshall (@firemarshall205) is best known as a successful MMA fighter, but today he talks to the Commander about his business endeavours and the story behind his first book “The Gospel of Fire: Strategies for Facing Your Fears, Confronting Your Demons, and Finding Your Purpose.” Eliot has repeatedly struggled with depression and anxiety and he tells us how our mind has the power to drive us to accomplish incredible achievements and to manage and prosper.
- “The Obstacle is the Way” – use your challenges to learn new things and build yourself up.
- The Unbeatable Mind and Eliot’s approach are very similar in a number of ways – including knowing your “why”
- Using teamwork is essential to accomplishing your goals
Listen to this episode for a very practical example of how to turn difficulty into prosperity
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Hey folks. This is Mark Divine. Welcome back to the unbeatable mind podcast. Super-stoked to have you here today. I’ve got a really, really cool guest in Eliot Marshall. We’re gonna have a great talk about all sorts of things around leadership, and emotional development, and martial arts. And all sort of stuff.
But before I introduce you to Eliot, let me remind you – if you hadn’t heard – that my book “Staring Down the Wolf,” is due out in March. And we’re now offering some pre-order offers. And pre-ordering is a really important thing if you’re an author to get exposure – especially around the launch. So I’d really appreciate your help.
If you’re interested or open to that go to staringdownthewolf.com and that’s where the pre-order offers are. Like I said, the book is coming out in March. And I’m really excited about it.
I was actually scared and excited about it. This is the probably the most vulnerable I’ve been in a book. And talking about my own failures and disastrous attempts at building elite teams. And recognizing through the process that it doesn’t matter how many super squirrel secret skills you have from the SEALs, or martial arts… Or any book or seminar… Your shadow is always going to trip you up eventually. And so you got to stare down the wolf of fear and your shadow to get out of your own way. To become an authentic leader.
Eliot. Man, everyone sends you their book, right? I’m gonna read this book, I love it man, I love it.
Mark. It’s gonna be pretty interesting. So let me give listeners a little background on you… You’ve been a longtime black belt martial artist, four times pan am Jiu Jitsu champion, you were a veteran of the UFC for six years. I think I saw a win-loss record of like 10 and 4 -something like that, on your website.
Eliot. It’s not. I don’t know what my record is… I had 21 fights – 22 maybe – 17 and 5. I’m from back in the day when things didn’t like always make it to your actual record.
Mark. (laughing) I understand. Us old-timers.
And you were on the ultimate fighter show. I’m really anxious to talk about your book, “Gospel of Fire.” what a cool name.
I’m gonna just read – this is from your website “in his new book ‘Gospel of Fire,’ Eliot shares a story of breaking down and learning to build himself back up acknowledging his shortcomings, accepting his challenges, freeing himself from fear, and maximizing his opportunities. Sharing the experience and tools that helped him battle back from the edge of despair, Eliot shows you how to discover your own “why,” and refocus your days on how to achieve it.”
Man, it sounds like a paragraph out of my book.
Eliot. That’s why I’m gonna read yours, man. I was like “god damn, man,” you know? It’s the same concept. Stare down the wolf and jump into the gospel of fire, right? Jump into it.
Mark. You’re right. Exactly. You got to go toward your fear. And really just get into it, and get messy.
And don’t avoid that stuff, otherwise that mess will creep up on you and attack you from behind, right?
Eliot. I feel like, what we want most of the time is for that stuff to go away. And don’t get me wrong – in the moment – I want it to go away too. Like, when it’s going awful…
Mark. We all do. We’re just like, “oh my god. Not again. Are you serious? Maybe I can ignore it this time.”
Eliot. Right. But then I can talk myself out of “okay, no. It’s going to go away. I know it will.” like there’s no way it can last. Your brain just can’t handle it. So what am I going to do while in it? Am I just going to embrace this? Can I embrace this? And dive all the way into the fire or stare down the wolf…
We’re both saying the same exact thing, it’s in… In is the answer.
Mark. Yeah. And how can how can you use the opportunity to grow? Every situation, every moment is an opportunity to grow. Things are going great, great. How are you gonna grow from this?
But if things are really sucking, great. How are you gonna grow from it? Everything’s great in that worldview, even though I didn’t say it was easy, you know? You’re still gonna experience the suffering.
Eliot. Yeah, everyone… It’s simple, it’s very simple.
Mark. Simple, but not easy.
I love to get kind of like deep background on guests… Like, where are you from? What were your child influences? You know, I’m betting you watched like “Karate Kid” and got super inspired by that. Or there was some mentor or some triggering event that got you into martial arts…
Eliot. So the “Karate Kid” is what got me into martial arts. I did the crane kick in the beginning and boom I kicked a lamp in my parents… There I go, you know? Martial arts it is.
And it was the mid ’80s, so the only thing in America really – especially for kids – Jiu Jitsu was around, but only in California, so the only thing was karate.
So I started karate like every other kid. And then… Yeah, from there, it just was this blossoming love relationship, I guess. As far as martial arts goes.
My childhood itself – I had amazing parents – like they’re actually here, right now. Yesterday was my son’s birthday.
Mark. Oh congratulations. That’s awesome.
Eliot. Thanks. A ten year old. I have a double-digiter. It’s my first double-digiter.
So I had amazing parents, but I didn’t have the easiest childhood – my mom’s parents were holocaust surviving Jews.
Mark. Really? Wow.
Eliot. Yes. And I spent a lot of time with them. And I don’t know how many holocaust survivors you’ve been around… You’re in their presence and you know something bad happened to them.
Mark. I honestly don’t know if I’ve been around a lot. I just remember Elie Wiesel coming to Colgate and what a powerful person that was. I don’t think he’s still alive. But wow.
Eliot. Most of them aren’t, right? Most of them are gone, now.
So yeah, just being around them. You could feel the sadness. Like something really, really, really bad happened to these people.
And like I’d go downstairs in like the basement – and you’re a kid, right? So you don’t really know – but you’re trying to grasp your head around why there is all this flour and sugar and like these basic things. Like why do you have bags and bags and bags of this?
Mark. Getting ready for the next holocaust.
Eliot. Getting ready for the next.
And so that I was one side of my family. My dad is African American. And grew up very, very poor African American. Like, if you want to take a bath – no hot-water heater, the stove… Like, you put the pot of water on the stove and you fill… Everybody takes the same bath, in the same bathwater…
Mark. (laughing) I’m just getting a great image of that right now. You don’t want to be last. Wonder if they rotated. Or the bad kid got to go last all the time.
Eliot. Yeah. Two pairs of jeans, two shirts, two pairs of underwear – like, that kind of life. You know, one room – like, a kitchen, a room, and a bedroom for six people. And he was the oldest.
Mark. How did they meet?
Eliot. How did my parents meet? Education. They became teachers. And they met through the education system in New Jersey.
Eliot. Yeah, but that experience and they’re you know so there weren’t a lot of interracial couples in the ’80s. And that experience was very, very interesting – let’s say…
Mark. So I mean you look African American, right? So did people bully you…? I noticed on my notes that you dealt with bullying and racism… But did they know that you had this kind of mixed…?
Eliot. Yeah, when we moved to the town where I mostly grew up – like, we built the house there – I don’t know what kind of language is allowed on this podcast…
Mark. Oh you going whatever you want.
Eliot. Okay. People spray-painted my house you know “niggers, go home.”
Mark. Aww, geez.
Eliot. They spelled it wrong. Don’t worry.
Mark. (laughing) “Nigers go home.”
Eliot. Yup. “Nigers.” Only one “g” in there.
And it wasn’t once… They swastikaed the house, this is just so… You know, we probably shouldn’t have moved to that town.
But we did. My parents had put everything into that house. And it was a beautiful house on land…
But the people weren’t necessarily…
Mark. The best…
Eliot. The best. So, I had that to deal with. Where I never really fit in.
I was not allowed over to certain people’s houses. Like we could meet and play in the street, right? Like if the neighborhood was gonna get all together and play football that was cool. But they weren’t allowed to come to my house, and I wasn’t allowed to go to theirs. Things like that.
Mark. Interesting. Did you have friends though?
Eliot. Not really, no. I had two friends, so I guess that’s not friends, right?
Mark. Yeah, people you play ball with.
Eliot. No, I had two good friends. One was my neighbor, but the problem was that none of them went to my school. So like when I went to school, I was alone for the most part.
It got better my senior year, but for the most part, it was me. So that’s not the best experience…
Mark. What was going through your mind, especially as you became an adult – a young adult? I mean, did you push back against all that and develop the internal strength to realize your worthiness? Or did you have to kind of like figure that out later on after some breakdowns?
Eliot. So I got to a point and then I did break down so we can get to that – but I can remember when I left high school – when I was getting on the plane to fly to Colorado – my mom had a friend out here at the time, so they went early, so I had the last week of my house, living in my childhood house all to myself. That was pretty cool. And at this point, I had some friends, you know. And so I had a great week.
But then I can remember getting on the plane, and I started crying, you know? And I’m like “damn man, I get to start all over. No one knows who I am. I’m flying out to Colorado to go to college. No one knows any of this bullshit about me.”
“I mean they’re gonna see that I’m half black, right? But I don’t have to be scared about what people are gonna think of me, and I literally get to start all over. And I’m going to talk to everyone. I’m gonna literally go engage with as many people as possible.
Mark. That’s cool. And where did you go to college? That’s going and where did you go to college?
Eliot. University of Colorado.
Eliot. And I still do it. Like, when I go to the grocery store, man, my wife won’t go with me. Because it’s gonna take 20 more minutes. I’m friends with everybody in the grocery store. Like, I’m friends with the meat guys, I’m friends with the people that are in the deli, you know.
And I just talk and I just say hello to every… It’s just it’s just my way now.
Mark. I mean, that right there is such a powerful principle, right? Just to give your energy to other people in a positive sense.
Eliot. You get back so much more.
Mark. Yeah it creates this kind of like blowback… Or you leave a carbon copy on yourself, another way to look at it. You can’t help but be happy and positive, if you present that to other people.
And you learned that all on your own? Or it’s just kind of a decision you made? Said, “Hey, this is a new opportunity, a new life, blank slate… This is how I’m gonna be.”
Eliot. I don’t like to say you doing anything on your own. I don’t know what made me have that thought, you know? I have no clue why that thought came in my head. But I was like “man, I get to start over.”
But what I did mostly during this time… So I did a lot of that… But I also – that’s when I really got into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, when I went to college. Okay and I got very good at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. And I used that as well like you know in both a positive and a negative way.
The negative was I beat down my anxieties with bravado sometimes. And with this actually getting physically tougher. And having more friends, and doing all this stuff, right? So it masked it, right? And I had to pay the piper later.
Mark. Interesting. What do you think the biggest lessons from training in BJJ were for you? Eliot. The biggest lesson is that you learn how to survive the devil. Cause someone’s gonna mount you. Someone’s gonna…
Mark. You’re always gonna have someone bigger, stronger, faster, gnarlier…
Eliot. And you can’t escape it in the beginning, right? You can’t escape it. They’re gonna get their arm around your neck, and you are going to freak out. You tap because you can’t breathe, you tap for a whole host of reasons when you first start. You’re tired – you’re all of these things. You quit.
But then slowly like it molds you and it toughens you, and it teaches you that “no, you’re okay right now. You don’t have to quit. You’re okay. You can survive this hell. This hell that’s being put upon you.”
I’ve never not seen somebody let go when they’re choking…
Mark. (laughing) Generally a good idea if you want to come back to the school, right?
Eliot. Yes, but the person could not let go. So their life is in your hands. So you also build a real sense of community and brotherhood.
The only thing I don’t like to compare fighting and martial arts to is military combat, because your guys’ life was on the line – but it’s a similar concept.
Mark. It has similarities, yeah. It’s interesting, a lot of the guys now informally train mixed martial arts and BJJ. And also I think you know the SEALs now either do seminar work or, you know, they bake it into their advanced training.
When I went through SEAL training and then into the teams we didn’t do MMA – of course, it wasn’t even around like you said, in the early ’90s. But we did something called scars and that was like a brutally effective offensive fighting art. And it’s exactly what you’re talking about. There was no tapping out and there was no letting go the choke hold it was just it was all offensive combat. You know, ripping larynxes out and just basically finding the nearest vulnerable target on another human being. And then just attacking it with viciousness.
Anyways, just a little sideshow. Sorry about that.
Eliot. Yeah, for sure. Jocko’s huge into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu now.
Mark. He is. I would not want to be on a mat with that guy, personally.
Eliot. I’d love to be on a mat with Jocko.
Mark. Would you?
Eliot. Just the experience. It’s cool man. I love doing Jiu Jitsu with people, so yeah, it would be very, very cool for me to be on the mat with Jocko.
Competition and Breakdown
Mark. So how did you get into competition then?
Eliot. I always said I was going to. Like, that last year of high school when I started to get some friends, I was like, “I’m gonna fight in the UFC.” and I just said I was gonna do it.
But I dabbled in Jiu Jitsu, in that last year of high school as well.
So I was like, “I’m gonna fight in the UFC.” and I just told myself that that’s what the way it was gonna go down.
Mark. Is UFC Jiu Jitsu or MMA? Or are they the same thing?
Eliot. So, no… The UFC is MMA, right? You have to have Jiu Jitsu to do it…
Mark. Because everyone goes to the ground, right?
Eliot. Yeah. So I just said I was going to do it, and where I started with was Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitions.
And I did really well at them, right? Like, you can’t just go to the UFC. You have to see if you can actually compete at something.
So then one day I was taking a shower – I was married at this point – and I graduated from college. And my wife just looked at me and she was like, “hey so um… Like this Jiu Jitsu competition stuff – it’s really great. I’m really glad that you’re doing it. And happy and yada yada.”
“But you make no money. So let’s either get a job…
Mark. (laughing) This is her come to Jesus talk with you, right?
Eliot. Uh-hunh. She’s like, “let’s either get a job – like a real job -” I was working at a bar, so I was doing ok. Like, you can you can make decent money bartending. But that’s not like a life.
So she was like “let’s get a job, or let’s fight. You said you wanted to fight. Which one’s it gonna be?”
So the next day, I called the local promoter and I booked a fight.
Mark. Okay. Did you win it?
Eliot. Yeah, I won for a while.
Mark. So with the actual competition now, what did you learn there? Like what was the a-ha moment or the challenge that you faced in competition?
Eliot. God-damn you’re scared. Walk into a cage, you know? Walk into a cage, fuck man.
Mark. And there’s all these people screaming and watching you.
Eliot. Screaming. And you have no clue what’s gonna happen. My friend, he’s a medical doctor, he used to be the ring doctor for the local promotion that I fought in. And there’s this question on the health application, like is the person healthy to fight?
You go through all the physical stuff, and then there’s “is he of sound mind?”
And my doctor would be like, “no, he’s not of fucking sound mind.”
Mark. (laughing) Nobody would be.
Eliot. Yeah. This isn’t sound. Like, this is not a sound decision for your life.
Mark. That’s funny. Did you ever get seriously injured in a competition?
Eliot. Concussions, you know, broken faces – seriously? Like what do you call…?
Mark. Well, concussion’s pretty serious. I mean we learned that in the SEALs. There are so many people – myself probably included, even though I’ve never been diagnosed – but I mean just the micro-TBI from constantly getting their head bashed in.
Eliot. I had constant concussions. I had weekly micro-TBIs.
Mark. Yeah. You should get that checked out, by the way.
Eliot. Yeah, no, I have. I’m okay.
Eliot. I have friends that are not, obviously. I have friends that are not. So that sucks.
Mark. So at this point in our discussion, it sounds like things are going swimmingly well.
Eliot. They get better they get better. It gets better before it gets worse.
Mark. Let’s hear about the better first.
Eliot. So like look, nobody knows me as the UFC champion. So I have my last fight and then I go into business with my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu teacher. And we want to open these large martial arts schools. Or at least two of them, we opened the first one in Denver.
And it went super successful.
Like, the schools are great. And we opened another. And things are going really well in my life. I have plenty of money…
Mark. Is that “eastern” martial arts…?
Eliot. “Easton” training centers. You know, I have plenty of money. Like, more money than I have ever had in my life. I have a wife, a great kid, live in a great house. I take bomb-ass vacations. I mean it’s doing great. My life is peaches.
And yeah, I came home from one of the vacations. Got a little jet lag – which is just normal, right? When you travel time zones.
And there it was. Didn’t sleep for five days. Lost my shit. I had a breakdown.
Mark. Holy cow.
Eliot. Yeah I had a full-on breakdown. I never dealt with the devil. I always just let the devil fade away.
Mark. And so what triggered it? Do you think it was just the sleep deprivation?
Eliot. Yeah, it was the sleep deprivation. You know, it was coming, right?
Mark. Yeah, eventually. Just looking for an opportunity to poke its head out, right?
Eliot. With the business, I was always like looking at the numbers. “Okay, what do the numbers say? What do the numbers say?
Which is very easy to do with a new business, and you’re doing well and it’s comforting. And well I’m not bill gates, right? I don’t have millions of dollars.
Mark. I understand
Eliot. Like just, you know, comfortable. But obviously that safety and security, didn’t do it for me.
Mark. You said the devil kind of finally came out, or you had to face it. You know, every individual would call that devil by a different name. What was he for you? What was your main issue? Your shadow, or what caused the breakdown? What was the fear?
Eliot. The fear was that it would all go away. The fear is that all of this was gonna go away mark. Which is true, by the way.
Mark. That’s not a fear, that’s a fact. That’s reality.
Eliot. You know, I was always very scared to die. Like that is something that that I didn’t come to grips with.
Mark. Which is interesting, because you are in a combat sport, right? We even talked about that with Jiu Jitsu. How you got someone putting you in a chokehold. You’re facing death, right there. So it’s a great time to come to grips with it.
Eliot. I came to grips in the moments of my fights.
Mark. Uh-huh. But that didn’t translate into appreciation for the ephemeral nature of human reality.
Eliot. No, the most beautiful thing that we have is that we’re going to die.
Mark. I love that you said that, because obviously I’ve been studying martial arts, and Zen actually, the meditation aspect of the martial traditions since ’85.
And then later got into yoga philosophy, which helped me translate a lot of the experiences I had. And one of their big principles – and this also exists in Tibetan Buddhism – is to contemplate death. And that death – your own death your own mortality, is your biggest teacher.
It allows us to live each day with full awareness, full presence of how awesome this opportunity is. Today.
Eliot. I would have been a much better competitor, if I would have realized this earlier in my life. I didn’t realize this until late in my life, you know? Like not late in my life, but late in my competitive life. Like now.
And I’ve actually competed the best now… I’m competing in guest Jiu Jitsu again. I’m not getting punched in the head.
Mark. That’s probably smart.
Mark. You can approach it with a certain fearlessness with that kind of philosophy, right? Eliot. Look I’m 40 years old almost like. When I go fight the very, very top of the line food chain guys, I don’t win, right? That’s for the 20 year-olds, right?
But I get to lay my life in front of them, and I get to go out there and I get to kill or be killed. And I’m not afraid of either one. And that’s… I read this book… My friend had me read this book called “Zen and the Samurai,” have you read it?
Eliot. Yeah, that part where he talks about the fight with the bull. And the beauty is that the bull gets him too. And the bull gets… Stabs him in the leg, and there it is… He laid his life down in front of the bull… And that’s where the most beauty comes out of everything.
And I experienced that once in my fighting career, in the UFC – I wasn’t aware of what it was though. It just kind of happened to happen. I always kind of chased that again, and I couldn’t figure it out until after my breakdown.
Mark. Right. That’s cool.
Yeah it’s like when you just step outside of the need for any outcome, the expectations of win/loss good/bad me/the other – and you just kind of merge into that experience.
I mean that’s a flow state, but also – the martial tradition – they would call it shibumi. Shibumi means “effortless perfection.”
And that’s when you have your best fights, or your best kind of experiences. Whether you win or lose, it doesn’t matter, you are being spontaneously perfect – as perfect as you can, based upon the level of your training and awareness as a human being in that moment.
Eliot. All you have is that moment. You are as perfect as you can be in that moment.
And then there’s only one way to get there. You have to surrender to that moment.
And that can be so hard, right? That can be so hard.
Mark. You know, we’re not taught anything close to this in the western world. We’re grasping and trying to hold on to everything but the moment. And so everyone’s minds are somewhere in the future, or somewhere in the past. You know, in the fighting context, thinking, scheming about what my next move is, or thinking about what their next move is. Or ruminating about what you just did and how you fucked up.
Eliot. So for me – in a real fight – not in the academy – but when you’re in that cage… That’s the beauty of the cage, man. Is that you are so fucking present.
Because when you were in combat there was there was no “what’s my wife doing right now?” like, fuck that.
And you can do all that. And even in your training, you can do that, right? Like you’re training for a mission – because it’s not really on… Your mind, your brain can slip, right? And look the best guys bring it back very quickly. But in the actual combat, your mind don’t slip. No fucking way. Because it’s fight or flight and you are in the fight.
Mark. Right. While we’re still talking about fighting and UFC and I know you were on that TV show – “Ultimate Fighter” – like what mental techniques do you use to stay focused and present and positive. What mantra?
How do you interdict the fear wolf when it starts to snarl at you? I mean, what’s it like for you?
Eliot. So I did it terribly in my professional career. I do it much better now, and I have a way that I go about it.
One, I just realize that the fear is going to come and go just like everything else. Just like everything else in my life. And for me, one of the big things that I do – especially during competition week let’s say, or like the day of the competition – is I do whatever I want. I eat whatever I want. Healthy, obviously, right? Because I don’t want to do anything that’s going to hinder my competition.
But if I want to watch a movie, then I watch a movie. If I want to go get sushi, then I go get sushi. I’ve done all the physical hard work already. I know that I’ve prepared the best that I can. So why sit around… Because what we do a lot of times when we have these big moments – whether it be a fight, like in my case, or most of us, we’re not gonna fight. You’re gonna have a big board meeting, or an interview, or a presentation. You can just sit around all fuckin’ day – “here we go, here we go. It’s coming five o’clock. All right, it’s 10:30 right now. All right, 5 o’clock. I got six hours – six and a half hours. All right.”
And then “aw shit, it’s 11 o’clock. I got five and a half hours. All right. Here we go.”
I mean, we’ve all done this. You are literally wasting your time.
Now look, I get it if you didn’t do the work. If you’re not prepared – if you didn’t do the hard work on the preparation end, I get that anxiety.
But you are literally wasting your time, if you did it, right? What do you want to do today? You like Topgolf? Go fuckin’ play Topgolf. I’m not telling you to go run a marathon if you have a physical event. But who cares…?
Mark. Just get your mind off of whatever that you’re obsessing about, and go relax, have fun…
Eliot. Yeah, my kid woke up having really bad anxiety this morning. He’s like me, he’s my mini-… And I was like “okay, start doing some squats.”
He was like “what.”
I was like “yeah, man. Give me ten squats.” and then I was like, “all right. Give me ten burpees, give me ten push-ups.” and I took what like two minutes?
I was like, “okay, you get a minute rest.”
And then we were just talking, you know? He’s like “what happens after the minute, dad?” I’m like “you’re doing it again.” I made him just do it three times, and it’s gone. Cause I just took his mind off of it, right? He had to do squats, and push up, some burpees…
Mark. That’s awesome. That’s good juju for everybody in the morning
Eliot. Yeah, if it’s there… Look, anxiety’s just energy… So if it’s there, just get up and do something. Burn it off.
You’re either gonna die, or it will go away. But look if you die, guess what? We don’t know what happens.
Mark. That’s right. At least you died doing something positive, right?
Eliot. Right. At least you died doing some positive. Most people believe in god I or you know and an afterlife. I think a lot of people do. Great you’ll go be with them, right? You know, for most people that’s the goal so fuck it.
Mark. So you had this breakdown… And most people they have a breakdown that severe, it kind of rocks your world, and you have to kind of rebuild your mental structures or your concepts of who you are, and what you’re all about, and why you do what you do.
Explain how you went through that. The midnight of the soul.
Eliot. I realized that people are the way. Other people. Nothing’s accomplished alone. I can’t do anything by myself.
So we all have this protection thing, where we want to feel safe. And we can go two ways – we can become control freaks, like we have to control everything which will lead to anxiety, things like that right? Or we can give up the control and realize that we don’t have any.
Mark. And let ourselves be controlled by society, by the government, by other people… Eliot. What I would say… The way I went with it was like “hey man, I’m going to be the leader here of my company and of my like pack, I would say. Of my tribe.
But I need all of you to do it with me. And not for me, right?”
So I brought in as many people as I could, and got them as close to me as possible. And that’s how I found my power – and this is my thing, is finding your power, because I believe we all have it – and that’s how you help other people find theirs.
And it’s not by putting them down. It’s not by telling anybody that I’m better than you. It’s showing them – it’s bringing them in, and showing them how great they can be. Like, “look you can do it.”
Cause my friend saved my life, man. When I was in hell, I had a group of friends… That like literally, I’d have a panic attack every night that I wasn’t gonna sleep… I would run downstairs to my basement and I’d call them, and sometimes I’d fall asleep on the phone while talking to them and sometimes they would stay up all night with me.
Mark. Huh. That’s cool. Interesting.
So they saved my life, and who else saved my life – I say – is my students. Because I got to a point where I was like “okay, I just got to go teach. I just got to go teach my classes.” and for them showing up, I was like, “I’m gonna teach the best class possible. That is how I’m gonna get out of this.”
Along with therapy, and all kinds of other things, right – that was my goal, was to teach the most phenomenal Jiu Jitsu class that I could. And man, people…
Mark. In the most sleep deprived state…
Eliot. Yeah, it didn’t matter, right? Like, I had to pretend like I slept, if I didn’t sleep. I knew that, right?
And so I would just go, and I would teach… Like “okay, gotta teach better. I gotta teach better. I gotta teach better.”
And man, people just started coming and coming and coming. I put this picture up yesterday… A picture from five years ago – you know how Facebook sends you like old stuff, right? And the picture from five years ago – I had 11 people in my class, and now I have 50. Like every class has 50 people.
Eliot. And so that took time to grow. That didn’t just happen overnight. And so it took a shift from me of in my mind of being up saying “look, it is not their privilege that I’m showing up to teach.” because I was a black belt UFC vet, Jiu Jitsu champion… Blah, blah, blah…
“it’s my privilege that whoever is showing up – whether it be five or whether it be fifty – are choosing to spend their time with me.. It’s my privilege. It’s not their privilege.
Mark. I totally love that, and I agree with you 100%. And most people would focus on themselves, but the best leaders and the best teachers, the focus is not about them. It’s about the student and transmitting knowledge.
Eliot. Everybody in our lives is more… And like… I don’t want to sound totally altruistic here, because I get so much back from that. I know that I’m gonna get ten times the amount of love and care that I’m gonna put out. And I hope they feel the same way.
And we’ll never know which one’s true, but we can’t worry… I don’t worry about it. Like, all I know is what this does for me. And we’ve created a place and a community, man… I hear it all the time from people when they come to our schools – and they’ve been to a ton of schools, man – people will come up to me they’ll be like “man, I have never been to a place like this before.”
Mark. Hmm. That’s awesome.
Eliot. It’s not just a martial arts school, it’s a family, it’s a way of life. Like we do this together.
Yeah, you’re gonna get really good and you’re gonna get really tough. But fuck, man, keep walking in the door and that happens at any Jiu Jitsu school. You could go… If you put Jiu Jitsu schools on a scale of 1 to 10, you could go to a level 5 Jiu Jitsu school and the martial art itself is just so amazing that if you go for five years, you’re gonna be good.
Mark. Yeah, right.
Eliot. But we do something different. I like to say, nobody pays me to teach them Jiu Jitsu. I don’t take any money for teaching Jiu Jitsu. I take money for a life experience.
Eliot. You know, I don’t get paid for my classes. When I teach seminars, I don’t teach them for free, but I don’t take the money. I donate the money to a cause in the community that’s there.
I don’t take money for private lessons, because man that’s just not what I do. I make money totally different ways, you know? Like it’s all about enriching someone’s life.
Mark. So you donate all the profit from Easton?
Eliot. No, no, no. I teach classes – my personal…
Mark. Oh, your personal…
Eliot. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, I’m the owner. I get paid out of what the profit of the business is, right?
Mark. You get paid as an owner, but all your personal stuff you give to charity.
Eliot. Yeah. So today, we’re gonna hang up, I have a little video to film afterwards. And then I have to teach all day. Well normally, when somebody goes to teach they get paid. Like all of our teachers get paid…
Mark. Right. Working on the business and on the business… You get paid when you work in the business, and you get paid when your business makes money.
Eliot. Right, well I only get paid when the business makes money. So I skip the other part. But like you know I go out and I do seminars, right? And when I do a seminar, the people pay, I try to keep the price point very low – like 30, 40 bucks and I try to get as many people in there as I can. And then we give that… Like, I was just in Hawaii I gave all of that money to the Save the Reef Foundation. It’s an important cause on the island.
And like private lessons, right? When you teach private lessons, people pay you for private lessons. Well, I don’t take money for private lessons, I just teach them. Because I want to. Mark. That’s cool.
You went through this kind of transformation and now you’ve got a fairly clear – or a very clear sense of who you are, and why you do what you do. How could you help our listeners get a better understanding of how to define who they really are deep down? As they stare down their fear and discover their “why?”
Cause this is a big part of our training, and I’d love to hear your perspective on this.
Eliot. For sure. I’m actually about to put out a little like a course on this.
So there’s three things that you have to do in my opinion. You have to start your day like a champion. You know, you can’t just randomly go about when you wake up in the morning. I’ll go through all these.
The next thing you have to do, is you have to find your passion. You have to work really hard. And it’s got to have fulfillment to it. And the fulfillment can’t be money. You have to like truly… It’s who you are.
And then the last thing you have to do is you always have to be working on yourself. Both mentally, spiritually and physically. So we’ll start with to start your day – like, I wake up and this is just the shit that I do – so I wake up, I start my day with meditation.
Mark. Oh good.
Eliot. Right away. I go to the bathroom first.
Mark. (laughing) That’s a given…
Eliot. So I go to the bathroom, and then I sit on my pillow. Ten minutes. If I feel more, then I do more. So I do my meditation and my breath work.
And then I immediately follow that up with gratitude. So as soon as I’m done meditating, I thank the universe.
I don’t know… This is such a hard topic… Like, god, right? Like, I don’t believe in the traditional god, but there’s something greater than me out there in the world. I don’t know what it is. I don’t care if it cares about me, or not. But I say thank you to it.
Mark. That’s great. We’re taught that we have to have a definition or a concept or something – but the concept that you’re talking about or we’re talking about is actually unknowable by the human mind. So let’s just leave it at that. Why not, right? Gratitude to the unknowable.
Eliot. Yeah, leave it at that. Yeah, in that gratitude, I think it’s really important that you’re grateful for the things that are not great in your life.
Eliot. Like that’s true gratitude in my opinion. Like “man, this is a problem I’m having. Thank you for that problem.” like, “I appreciate that problem… I don’t want that problem – it’s just like my anxiety – I don’t want it to be here. But I know all of my problems are going to teach me a lesson.”
And then after gratitude, I like to exercise. Cause it gets the endorphins going. So all of these things are things that go on that I’m successful at. Meditate – if you do it, you’re successful. Say thank you – if you do it, you’re successful. Exercise – if you do it, you’re successful, right? I win right the fucking way…
Mark. Before you even step out the door.
Eliot. Before I even step out the door. And then I like to learn a little bit. I like to study something. Again – if I do it, I’m successful.
There’s no number on it. There’s not like “oh, I learned a lot,” or “I learned a little.” no, I just learned. So you know that’s how you start your day…
Mark. Is that by reading something? I read, I watch something on YouTube, like if it is something that I’m interested… I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. Something.
There’s phenomenal Jiu Jitsu instructions out right now – I’m studying one particular person, I have been for a couple years now – I’ll watch the instructional so that I can go teach that better, later on in the day. So I’m just learning and learning.
And then, after that’s all done, now we get after it. Now we move into the passion, hard work and fulfillment.
Mark. Right. That’s awesome, I love that. And that has some similarity to the morning ritual that I have and that I put out to our team. We call it winning in the mind before you step foot in the battle…
Eliot. Yeah, man. Yeah, it’s all about success, right? Because if your mind wins… We can we can go one way or the other – we can wake up and we can let our day get ahead of us. Which is what a lot of people do.
Or you can wake up and you can start like literally… Like with the meditation, I got ahead of the day on the jump.
Mark. Right. And then you stay there, right?
Eliot. Yeah. Rest of the day.
Mark. Because the meditation gives you the mindfulness to always be able to bring yourself back into the present moment when things start to gyrate out of control a little bit.
Eliot. Which they do. And that’s part of it. You have to realize that they’re going to.
Mark. Right. We’ve been going for a while here, but I want to ask one more thing and then we’ll kind of close out. And you can go record your video, and get on with your training.
Emotional development. We talked at the beginning of this show that both of us have had to stare down our fears. And we teach it, because it’s really important, especially for men. Who aren’t comfortable with emotional development, or therapy…? And for years therapy was thought to be something that guys just don’t do, or emotions we don’t show our emotions. We’re taught to be the staunch individualist. The warriors, right?
But that’s flawed and emotional development – in my opinion – it actually makes you much stronger, because you’re more flexible, you’re more… I don’t like the word “vulnerable” because as a SEAL we don’t like vulnerabilities, but “authenticity” is a good word.
Eliot. Sure, sure.
Mark. Transparent. There’s other ways to describe some of the outcomes. But what’s your take on emotional development? And how do you grow emotionally?
Eliot. So one – my practice. My meditation, gratitude practice helps me. And two – I realize that everything in my life is my fault. Like I take ownership of everything in my life. And I look at that as a great thing. And I look at that all as learning points.
So if situations in my life go poorly, it doesn’t even matter what the situation is – like you and I are having a conversation, let’s say. And it goes bad. Let’s just say, you were a terrible interviewer here mark. Right?
Mark. (laughing) Might be. Who knows?
Eliot. Well that’s my fault. I see the poor interview as my fault. Like what did I do to not add to that situation? And then look man, I read a lot – I read a lot about philosophy, and I go to therapy every fucking week. Every week. Wednesday, noon my time – don’t call me, don’t… You know where I am. I’m sitting on my therapist’s couch.
Mark. And how long did it take you to find the right therapist?
Eliot. How long did it take me?
Mark. Because this is something that took me a while. Like I had to go through a few different people.
Eliot. I saw a couple, and I knew they weren’t the ones. And then when I sat down with this lady, I was like “oh yeah. She gets me.”
Look, I work well like in this sense with women the best.
Mark. Yeah me too.
Eliot. I open up way better like with the book that I wrote… In my book “The Gospel of Fire,” it’s the same name as the podcast.
A lady and I wrote that. I had a ghostwriter. She was female. I just don’t like um… Like, when it comes down to really feeling that emotion, I don’t do it as well with men.
And some people do. Like my friend mike, he does. He goes male.
So it’s just me, and I learned that about myself. And now it’s been 4 years, 3 and a half years of me and Gail, man. Me and Gail, every Wednesday at noon.
Mark. Good for you.
Eliot. And a lot of times I don’t have… It’s not like I’m struggling all the time. It’s not like I go in “oh god. My wife.”
Mark. I learned that lesson the hard way. You know thinking in the beginning that therapy was for when things are skidding sideways. But then it’s usually too late. I mean, obviously it’s never too late. You go back and get back on track.
But it’s like dental floss for the soul.
Eliot. That was just… I have this in my book, man. We are so similar, bro. In my book I say hey, therapy’s like brushing your teeth. Did you brush your teeth this morning, mark?
Mark. I did, yeah.
Eliot. Because your teeth are already falling out? Is that why you brushed them.
Mark. (laughing) No, no.
Eliot. No. You brush your teeth, so that your teeth don’t fall out. When your teeth are falling out, brushing your teeth ain’t gonna do shit.
Mark. Not gonna help you much. That’s awesome.
Eliot. Yeah, I can’t believe you went to the dental as well.
Mark. All right, my friend. Thanks so much for your time.
Let’s leave the listeners with like one or two big ideas from your book. We’ve probably covered most of them, but you’re… “The Gospel of Fire” and then we’ll say goodbye.
Eliot. Yeah. So one – I need you to realize that the obstacle is the way. I need you to realize that the obstacle is the way. Like, whatever is hard, is the way to go do it. You have to do it.
And then two – look, I have a little excerpt. Let me just go grab it real fast, and I’ll read it. Hold on one sec.
Mark. Sure. “The Obstacle is the Way,” Ryan Holiday wrote a book of that title, by the way. And that’s a fantastic read.
Eliot. Yeah. So I understand the concepts of religions you know? They’re amazing. And I called this book called “The Untethered Soul” – that’s my old testament, and Ryan Holiday’s book “The Obstacle is the Way” is my new testament. Yeah.
So look, man, this is what I would say to everyone. “To everyone who is struggling, please know that you are not alone. Know that someone else out there is struggling just like you. Know that you will get through this, and you have the ability to find greatness.
I know this sounds impossible. Find one thing in your life to be grateful for, and focus on that. I promise you will find another and then after that another.
After that you’ll have three things. Now, go make a difference in someone else’s life. And now you’ll have four. And you’ll just do that again and again.
For those of you that are not struggling, realize how blessed and lucky you are. Realize that you have one job, and one job only, go sprinkle some of that luck dust on someone else who isn’t so lucky. Find someone whose life you can make better. Don’t tell them what to do, bring them along with you and show them exactly how to do it. You will become even more blessed and more lucky.” and that’s what I would say.
Mark. Awesome. Eliot, thanks so much for your time. Super-appreciate you.
Eliot. That was great man. Hey, man, let’s stay in touch.
Mark. I would love to stay in touch.
Eliot. I’m a fan. And I liked the conversation, it was really good.
Mark. Yeah, let me know if you ever get down to San Diego. And I’ll do the same if I come up there. I’d love to train with you and I look forward to reading your book.
So everyone “Gospel of Fire: Strategies for Controlling your Fear, and Finding your Purpose.” Eliot. Go check out the podcast by the same name. And then firemarshal205 on Instagram.
Mark. Fire marshal 205. That’s cool.
Eliot. Yeah, I don’t weigh 205 anymore, but that was my fighting weight.
Mark. Thank you.
Alright everyone. Thanks so much for your time today. Check out Eliot’s book “Gospel of Fire,” and his podcast or his Instagram channel. And let’s support him, he’s doing great work.
And so are you. Thanks so much for your support of me, of unbeatable mind, of the unbeatable mind podcast. And SEALfit.
We’ll continue to do our part. Thank you for doing yours. Stay focused and be unbeatable.