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Spartan Co-Founder Joe De Sena on Overcoming Obstacles and Spartan Race taking off around the world

By May 9, 2018 August 12th, 2020 No Comments

“My daily routine is I’ve incorporated a bunch of those movements that I saw going on in the living room. I don’t do the chanting. And I don’t have beads around my neck, but I am doing a lot of those movements. And I do them religiously.”
 — Joe De Sena

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Joe De Sena (@realJoeDeSena) has always been an entrepreneur, but he is best known as the co-founder of the Spartan Races, and the host of the Spartan Up! podcast. With the sound of another Spartan Race being built at Dodger Stadium in the background, he talks with the Commander about the past few years spent in Southeast Asia and China spreading the Spartan brand and his own, personal fitness approach. He’s a legend and a master of forging ahead no matter the odds.

Find out about:

  • The importance of his mother’s yoga practices and spiritual beliefs to how he still thinks about fitness
  • The joy and freedom he felt in losing his smartphone
  • The extreme difficulty he has in sitting quietly to meditate.

Listen to this casual and friendly episode to hear how more about the journey of the Spartan Races from where they began to where they are now.

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Hey folks. Super-stoked to be here at Dodgers Stadium with my good friend Joe De Sena. You might hear a little noise in the background cause they’re actually building a Spartan race that they’re going to run tomorrow. So we’ll just deal with the noise.

Before I get started an introduce Joe a little bit more formally for those that don’t know him. Which is probably nobody.

Check it out. So you’ve heard me hit up our burpee challenge. Joe and I love burpees. They’re the ultimate machine for getting into great health and fitness.

But there’s another reason we love burpees this year. It’s because we want to suffer for all the vets who suffered for us and are continuing to suffer. Do you know that 22 veterans a day are committing suicide?

Joe De Sena: Unbelievable.

Mark: It’s unbelievable. It’s unsat. The system… as good intentioned as they are… has failed. So…

Joe: By the way, any vet that is feeling on the edge, and just needs a race. It’s on me. So we’ll figure that out.

Mark: That’s a good idea.

Joe: Yeah. Like, if they’re on the edge and they’re feeling whatever they’re feeling, come do a race and you’re back in the community.

Mark: Well, that’s what… our Courage Foundation I set up basically specifically to help vets suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress. Cause I was so moved… how could 22 a day be committing suicide?

I know how and why. They get into this desperate rut. Deep depression but then the cycle of regrets and it’s an emotional pattern. And then it gets exacerbated by the drugs. And the lack of mission and the lack of team.

Joe: Even lack of exercise, maybe, right?

Mark: Yeah. Lack of movement. So everything that we do at Unbeatable Mind is going to be delivered through the Courage Foundation, but we have to raise money and raise awareness.

So my tribe and I have committed to doing 22 million burpees this year. So we’ve already got commitments to do about 8 million of these. We’ve already committed to 125,000, so…

Joe: I’ll fill in the difference. I’ll just do 14 million. I’ll start today.

Mark: (laughing) Let’s get started today. We’re going to have to get started right away.

My commitment is 100,000 this year.

Joe: Nice. That’s a big number.

Mark: I’m doing that in increments of 300 a day roughly.

So go to to learn more. You can pledge for me. You can start a team. I’m hoping Joe puts together something.

Joe: I’m holding back. You sent me the email and you know me… I do a lot of burpees…

Mark: (laughing) I know. You already do it.

Joe: I know, and so I’m in. I’ll give you 300 a day.

Mark: You don’t have to do it all year…

Joe: Well, you’re doing 300 a day. I’ll go to 400 a day. All right?

Mark: (laughing) Dude! I knew you were going to say that. Now I gotta go to 400 a day.

Joe: I’ll go to 500.

Mark: Better stop while we’re ahead.

Joe: No 400 a day I’ll do for however long you need me to do them. Until we hit 12 million I guess. (laughing) Whatever you need me to do.

Mark: I would have talk to Colleen about this, cause she’s going to be like, “He said what?”

Joe: I know. No, I’m in. How do I say…? You know I have a tattoo on my leg here…

Mark: Those are some sexy thighs…

Joe: Sexy thighs. Oscar Mike it says. So that ended up happening the same way this just happened.

Mark: Oh, is that right?

Joe: I was with a vet and you know I have massive military envy. And he’s in a wheelchair and he’s got this new foundation called “Oscar Mike.” And he told me there’s a radio call symbol in the military–on the move. And because they’re all wounded vets, they want to be on the move.

I said, “That’s really cool. Do you have a tattoo?” And there was silence. And he goes, “No, do you have a tattoo of Spartan?” And I said, “No.”

And so that’s how that happened.

Mark: You got the Oscar Mike and not the Spartan.

Joe: Yeah. My wife was like, “What the fuck?” and I said, “I thought it was going to be a little tattoo.”

Anyway, she came around to buying it. So I’m sure she’s going to say, “400 burpees a day? How did that happen?”

And I’ll say, “Well, it was with another veteran, and…”

Mark: It’s not the first time you’ve done a 400 burpee a day challenge…

Joe: No. I’m in.

Mark: All right. So second thing. So

Second thing I wanna say is I’m releasing a 5th anniversary edition of The Way of the SEAL–my book. On Memorial Day.

Joe: Nice. So when you do a 5th, is that an edit?

Mark: I added 2 new chapters. One on leading in accelerating times which looks a lot like we’re heading into. And one on secrets of Elite teams–which Navy SEAL leaders know a lot about.

Joe: Sure.

Mark: What we’ve found is that the book is actually selling more copies every year because it’s becoming more relevant. I launched it in 2012, and the whole idea of lead and succeed in VUCA–Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous times.

And so I was really gratified that the publisher–who’s Reader’s Digest–wanted to do a 5th anniversary edition.

We’re going on half a million copies sold and my goal is a million.

Joe: That’s big.

Mark: That’s pretty cool, huh?

So you can get information about that and a free workbook at That’s the pre-order page.



Mark: So Joe, thanks for being here man. You rock. Joe De Sena. Founder of the Spartan

Race, the Death Race. All around wickedly cool guy. And really doing it right to help people live people live a healthier life…

Joe: Yeah, I just want to rip people off the couch. Burn the couches.

Mark: Yeah, I hear that. I wanna talk about what happens in China. I mean… there’s a whole bunch of things I wanna talk about. But how are the Chinese doing? Are there unhealthy people in China just like there are in the US? Cause you’ve been living in China. You brought your kids there…

Joe: Yeah. I moved the family over. My wife was kind enough to let us move around the world. And we blew out Southeast Asia first. Then Tokyo. Then China.

Mark: How long did you live in each one of those areas?

Joe: Over 2 years in those areas. And I got to hang out with monks in Japan, I got to…

Mark: Yeah, we’ll come back to them…

Joe: But stay in China. I got to breath lots of pollution in China.

Mark: It’s nasty. Really smoggy.

Joe: It’s smoggy. It’s ugly. And people are generally getting more and more overweight… sorry for this noise in the background. I can’t tell them to stop building the course, though.

Mark: (laughing) Put them behind schedule.

Joe: Yeah. But I was confused. I didn’t know if China was going to work. I didn’t know if they were going to steal our IP, because you hear the rumors of it’s so hard to do business…

Mark: All the tech IP, they basically rip it off.

Joe: They rip it off, and I didn’t know what was going to happen. But I have to say it’s been awesome.

Mark: Are they embracing the race over there?

Joe: There was a lot of resistance from smart people that we talked to there. When we did the focus groups. They said, “This’ll never work. They’re not ready for it yet.”

And they’re embracing it whole-heartedly. But what we learned is humans everywhere embrace it. So that just happens.

And they just deal with the pollution. You and I probably wouldn’t go out and run in it, but it’s just their everyday life, so they gotta deal with it. They don’t necessarily have supplements on every shelf like we do. They don’t have gyms on every corner like we do.

Mark: When you do a Spartan race you don’t do it in the city, do you? Where it’s all polluted?

Joe: No, we don’t do it in the city. But it’s everywhere. You can go way out. Way out west…

Mark: Is it mostly carbon smog from fire burning?

Joe: It’s coming from all the factories. All the industries.

And by the way, I don’t think you wanna go down this road, but I bet New York City was like that in the turn of the century, right?

Mark: Probably. Yeah. Long time ago, right?

They’re just behind us probably by 20 years. They’re making moves to change all that.

Joe: They’re making moves. And the hotels are getting nicer every time I go there. Things are getting nicer.

But they’re accepting what we’re doing in a big way.

By the way, the last time I was on your podcast, there were buses and cars in the background…

Mark: (laughing) And there was an ice bath…

Joe: (laughing) That’s right.

Mark: (laughing) And people spraying water in our face. That was distracting too.

Joe: So I was a little nervous about coming on your podcast this morning. Maybe you were going to hang me from the Stadium or something…

Mark: Well, we’re on your turf now, so…

Joe: But China… we’ll have 20 races there this year. It’ll be our biggest market in the world in a few years, and people are wearing Spartan shirts now like it’s a badge of honor.

Mark: Is it Spartan in English, or in Chinese?

Joe: We have it both ways. We have it in English, and then we have it in Chinese.

Mark: Did you pick up any Chinese?

Joe: Ni Hao. Which is hello.

Mark: (laughing) Yeah, I even know that. Come on. Impress me.

Joe: I’m not impressive. My kids speak a lot of mandarin. But…

Mark: That must have been an incredible experience for them. Have you seen them really change and grow? I would have loved to have done that with my son, just didn’t work out.

Joe: What’s so awesome is when I asked on the third year, “Hey, where do you wanna live next year?” I asked my oldest son. He said, “Anywhere the food is good.”

So like, when a kid becomes that malleable, and their resilient and they’re willing to go anywhere. We’re in Canada now, and they picked up hockey.

Mark: Oh, you are? Okay.

Joe: Cause I needed to be close to China. So I’m in Vancouver. I could do a quick flight over.

But they picked up hockey right away, and the kids are awesome. They’re healthy. I got nothing to complain about. So…

Mark: That’s pretty cool.



Mark: So are you making your way back to Western style living for good, do you think?

Joe: Do you speak French?

Mark: Oui. No.

Joe: There’s a term, right? And I don’t know if I’m going to say it right. Fait Accompli.

Mark: You’re done.

Joe: I’m done. Stick a fork in it. My wife basically said we’re moving to Boston. That’s where our headquarters is. The Board of Directors has said to me, “You’re moving to Boston.”

Mark: Wow. This is starting to look like a real business, finally.

Joe: Starting to look like a real business. Normally a CEO they said is supposed to be in the office. And…

But I did good work. I went out and pushed the brand out around the world. And…

Mark: You wanna be that kind of CEO?

Joe: I don’t. But…

Mark: Is there somebody else you can tag?

Joe: They said that. They said, “Or we’re going to get a CEO that will be in the office.” So my wife is the CEO of our family and she wants to be with her parents. And so, we’re going to Boston.

Mark: How big is Spartan now? Give us a sense of like how many racers? How many races? You don’t have to disclose revenue or anything like that, but…

Joe: 275 events. 40 countries. About a million two racers will go through this year. And then 150,000 kids. So it’s exhausting.

Mark: When you had a vision for Spartan back when you launched the Death Race, did you ever imagine it to get like this?

Joe: The only thing I could remember… and I’ve been filming, by the way, for 17 years… so when I say remember…

Mark: Filming the race you mean?

Joe: Just filming this whole experience. And so back in 200 when I had the original idea, I thought maybe there were 50,000 people like you and I. If I can even put myself in your category. But, you know what I mean?

Mark: I’ll let you stay in there for a little while.

Joe: (laughing) I’ll stay in there for a little bit. But get out of your comfort zone and do crazy things… Maybe there’s 50,000 people globally that would do it.

And our first iteration of races were over 350 miles long. So very few people showed up. But that’s what I wanted it to be.

Like when you were in the military right? That was the bar.

Mark: Just like we started with Kokoro camp. We had 7 people. And it’s still that way. Our last Kokoro camp, think we only had 30 enrolled. 20 showed up. And 1 graduated. An Irish guy. And he was singing the whole time, having a good old time.

Joe: He was drunk.

Mark: He was probably drunk.

Joe: So very few people showed up and I thought that maybe there’d be 50,000 people. And then in 2009, we said, “All right. Let’s make it for the masses. Let’s put something together that’ll appeal to the masses.”

Mark: So that became your sprint series?

Joe: Sprint. Super beast. The bigger challenge actually is how do we do 100 million people? Because I can’t put a hundred million people through… So how do we sprinkle Spartan in everybody’s life?

Like you put out the books. What could we do to get people just doing something? Eat a little healthier.

Mark: So is there a product line in the future or something like that?

Joe: (Sigh) I’m trying to figure it out. I don’t…

Mark: It’s tough, isn’t it? Scaling the stuff. We’re struggling with that ourselves.

Joe: The hubcaps are shaking on the car at this point.

Mark: (laughing) At least you have hubcaps. I don’t even have wheels yet.

That’s wild.

I heard that… speaking of training… that there’s a woman with MS running around your property right now? Maybe she doesn’t have MS. Does she have MS? Miriam said…

Let’s just start with the woman. She’s running around your property in Vermont. 500 miles.

Joe: That’s right. Cause we have a 500 mile race going on. I forgot. On the farm. And… Yeah… so then you’d say, “Well, why would you put on a 500 mile running race?”

Because those things…

Mark: Because you can. It’s very inspirational. You might have one person do it.

Joe: Exactly. But it motivates the rest of the world. That’s why we do it.

By the way, you’ve been on the farm.

Mark: I have been on your farm.

Joe: That’s the greatest place in the world.

Mark: It’s awesome.

Joe: It’s not San Diego with the sun and all that, but…

Mark: Well, yeah. But during the summer time it’s pretty nice. And maybe for one weekend in the winter.

Joe: (laughing) Right. Gets cold.

Mark: I’m from upstate New York too. Right across…

Joe: Lake Placid or where?

Mark: Lake Placid is where I spent all my summers, and then just a little south of there for my winter times. So I know how cold it gets.

Joe: And it’s getting colder. You’re getting global warming, it’s getting colder there.

Mark: I’ll stay in San Diego, thank you very much.

So what is your particular, daily training routine look like? And nutrition? I mean how do you maintain…

Joe: My amazing physique? (laughing) I look like Ironman.

So basically my theory is… I think you’ll agree with this, that we can all do 100 miles or 500 miles or get through life’s obstacles, except if we get injured. And so I’m really focused on mobility and flexibility because I just don’t want to be injured.

I was lucky enough, my mom was into yoga. And meditation. And being a vegan. In the ’70s.

Mark: Did she like follow Maharaji or someone like that?

Joe: She followed Swami Bua. And then Sai Baba. And then…

Mark: I know who Sai Baba is.

Joe: Yeah, and so she got into all that stuff in the ’70s. So that planted some seeds in my head. And I was resistant to it, as any young kid would have been in an Italian neighborhood back then. But my daily routine is I’ve incorporated a bunch of those movements that I saw going on in the living room. I don’t do the chanting. And I don’t have beads around my neck. But I am doing a lot of those movements. And I do them religiously. I do them every day.

Burpees are mixed in there, some pull-ups are mixed in there…

Mark: Well burpee is just a fast sun salutation.

Joe: Exactly.

Mark: And all these movements, they do fit together like a hand in a glove. Preparation for moving more aggressively, then you move aggressively. But you gotta do it with the same principles as you learn in yoga. And then the recovery phase



Yeah, I agree with that. In fact, my passion right now. ‘Course, I’m passionate about SEALFIT and teaching executives, but it’s Kokoro yoga. Which is my latest book. And that’s basically to take what you just said, and teach people personal practice for longevity using the principles of breathing, meditation and movement. And the movement can include traditional Asana. Can include Tai Chi, Chi Gong or just a slow methodical squat, or 100 burpees but done mindfully. It’s incredibly powerful.

Anyways, someday I’ll take you through a Kokoro yoga session. We need more time though. We need an hour and a half.

Joe: I did take a cold shower this morning. Preparing for maybe you were going to dunk me an ice bath or something.

Mark: (laughing) Oh man. That was so much fun.

Joe: (laughing) For you.

Mark: Go to Spartan Up and find the podcast.

Joe: Find the podcast of Mark and I. And notice that I’m frozen…

Mark: Yeah, we’re sitting in an ice bath. Notice who is nice and calm and relaxed. And actually feeling like sitting on a beach in the Bahamas. And notice who’s chattering like a school girl.

Joe: (laughing) In fairness, though. In fairness there were two wires on Mark’s side keeping his area of the ice bath warm, because it’s his bath. Mine was loaded with ice.

He’s got all these little Penn and Teller tricks going on.

Mark: I’ve often imagined you having an ice bath going like, “How the hell did Divine do that?” And just sitting in there going… doing the Wim Hof method and everything.

Joe: I was with Wim recently. I brought my kid to that.

Mark: How did that go? I did a podcast with Wim Hof. Very interesting but I was a little concerned just….

Joe: He’s got energy. He’s got a lot of energy that comes at you.

Mark: Here’s what I’ve learned through yoga. Like, breathing moves a lot of energy. And the intense Tummo breath, which was designed by the monk to stay warm in their cold monasteries. It was meant to be done sporadically or as needed. And I had a warning from one of my yoga teachers saying, “You gotta be careful with all that intense…” they call it Kriya activation breath because it moves mental energy. And it could destabilize you over time.

I posted a warning on my… I said, “Hey the Wim Hof method is great if you’re going to go sit in an ice bath or Navy SEAL training and if you’re really, really fit. Hardcore. It’s probably not going to be a problem.

But anyways. Something to watch out for.

Joe: He’s definitely got some energy.

Mark: (laughing) Exactly.

Joe: Spiraling full of energy. He was awesome. It was good for my kids to see. But what’s the… All-Blacks. And they do the Haka. And that’s a lot of breathing in that as well. And they’ve got energy.

Mark: That’s true. I’d love to learn a Haka someday. That’s on my bucket list.

Joe: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I would love to… I tell my kids… they wrestle… I said, “You gotta learn something like that and do it before a wrestling match.”

Mark: You know what? One of my deployments in the SEALs we were hopping through Southeast Asia on a ship. You’re putting SEALs on Navy vessel for two weeks at a time is like “hoo”. And so we would sleep until we’re hungry, and eat until we’re tired and workout in between. Basically.

In fact, the acronym SEAL means “Sleep, Eat and Lift” for those of us on those…

Anyways, so we went to Hong Kong and a British SAS guy invited us to play rugby against them. We’re like, “Hey, that’s a cool idea. Let’s do that.”

And so a bunch of big American guys get out there. We’re like, “How do we play?” And so they gave us a quick tutorial.

We got our asses handed to us, but we had a blast.

And then we go to Malaysia, and we’re supposed to have this other… they had pre-advanced set up this tournament for us to play against the Indians. And we got there and the New Zealanders pulled up. And they’re like, “Hey. Why don’t you play against us? Cause we’re scheduled to play against the Malays, and let’s let the Malays play the Indians and New Zealand will play the US.”

And before the game they did a Haka. And it scared the shit out of us. Here’s all these big ass Navy SEALs. The average height was like 6’3″, 6’4″. And there’s these New Zealand guys going… And their tongues are going… And their eyes are flashing.

And they later said that essentially that all means, “We’re going to eat you alive.” That’s what the language of the Haka means, and that’s what the eyes. And they’re licking their chops.

Joe: (laughing) We’re going to eat you alive. They’re not even going to kill you. They’re going to eat you alive.

Mark: (laughing) How cool is that?

That’s motivating.

Joe: I love it.

Mark: Yeah.



Mark: So what… beyond… I know what you’re going to say, the pat answer when I say what really motivates you is going to be,” Well, I want people to be healthy. I want the world to be healthy.”

What’s behind that though?

Joe: Well, let’s back up for a second. I mean, I don’t want to do all this work every day. I want to hang out with my kids and my family. That’s what I’d rather be doing.

And so if I was still working on Wall Street or I had a regular job, I’d just hang out with my family.

Mark: By the way, you couldn’t ever do that again either. I could never see you doing that. I could never do that.

Joe: but I get these emails. I’ll give you one that’s close to home. And I was lucky enough to do a little thing there with JSOC. And I’m pretty honored to be around you or any of the folks that served, right?

And a woman came up to me and she started like crying, and she’s like, “Spartan changed my life.” And so if I’m getting that from people I’m enamored with… and I get it every day. Moms, this that… I can leave my family to do that because this is a bigger mission. My kids went to church with my wife the other day and they wanted me to come, and I was busy with something. And I said, “Listen I think I got a free pass to heaven. If I change 100 million lives they got to open the gates or something.”

So that’s the mission.

Mark: You know what they’re going to do. They’re going to go, “Hey, you’re that Spartan guy? I think we need a Spartan race up here. These souls are getting kind of lazy, sitting around on the couch.” And you could find yourself right back in it again.

Joe: Right back in it again. It never ends.

I wish I was running a school. Like, I love… kids are great…

Mark: Has anyone approached you about putting like Spartan Charter School together or something…?

Joe: That would be cool. If we had a Spartan school and we had the best… that would be amazing. Cause I’d have burpees between classes. No desks. Everybody’d be standing up. It’d be amazing.

Mark: I think I just planted a seed.

Joe: My mind is going.

Mark: I had someone approach me about that for Unbeatable Mind. And it never really went anywhere. Probably cause I wasn’t driving it. It was kind of an interesting idea. Most of the ideas that come to you, that people want to do, 99.999999 and one more 9 are never going to happen. Unless you take control… you make it happen.

Joe: I’ve had a lot of people come to me over the years with ideas and want to get paid on those ideas. I don’t. I’m like, “Are you crazy?” The idea’s the easy part.

Mark: Yeah, we don’t want to even go down that business corridor because it would get kind of ugly. Business is hard.



What do you consider to be your spiritual north star?

Joe: IN other words… what religion do I align with?

Mark: I mean, people ask me that. And I say I was brought up Episcopalian, but I don’t need the structure of a religion anymore. My spirituality is a practice and a relationship. So that’s how I would say it, you know what I mean?

Joe: Religion’s got a few components to it, right? And I grew up Catholic. And I couldn’t wait to get my uniform off. 8 years straight I was wearing that uniform every day. We were going to church and I was fortunate in that my mother opened my mind up to this idea that you don’t have to pick a particular religion. You gotta do the right thing. Religion’s got these components…

Mark: One God, many paths.

Joe: Yeah, many paths, right?

Mark: That was a yoga belief, right? So your mom probably…

Joe: Metaphysical component, like where do we end up after life? You can have all these different opinions. We come back.

It’s got a ritual component, and you and I love the ritual stuff. Let’s keep this candle lit for 1600 years. Let’s get under a cold waterfall with the monks in Japan. So the ritual is stuff I like.

And then there’s the ethical component which I think we’re both aligned with, which is let’s do the right thing.

Mark: Yeah. Do good work.

Joe: Doesn’t matter to me… I think we’re completely aligned if it’s Catholic or Judaism or whatever it is… I want to do the right thing. I love rituals.

Mark: Want to be good person.

Joe: Want to be a good person. The more physical the rituals are the better.

Mark: Yeah. The rituals are like sacrifice. They call it Yajna in the yogic traditions. So all traditions have sacrifice. Ritual was meant to be an act of sacrifice. You do it…

Joe: To sacrifice.

Mark: So physical training. Running a Spartan race as a sacrifice to your higher power is like going to church. Think about that. It’s the same thing.

Joe: I love it. I love it, because I think a lot of the world thinks I’m crazy and what we do out here is crazy. But actually, this has been going on for 5000 plus years.

Mark: Absolutely. And the warrior traditions where things like this really spawns from…

I remember my favorite evolution in 3rd phase which was land warfare for me. They switched the order right now so now 3rd phase is dive.

But land warfare was the combat conditioning course out at San Clemente Island. And basically imagine a Spartan race with a weapon, right? And live rounds. And grenades.

Imagine how cool that would be? You need one of those.

Joe: Live rounds?

Mark: Maybe not for the public. Maybe use paintballs or something. But you have a combat conditioning… this another good idea… no charge… the SOCOM variant or the military Spec ops or the SEALFIT Spartan series, where you gotta be kitted up. So there’s a whole gear issue, right? Cause that was the hardest thing. The military operators maintaining control of your gear when you’re running and gunning.

If you lose your weapon, you’re screwed. If you lose your ammo, you’re screwed.

Joe: I like that.

Mark: And so you go up and over the obstacles with your gear. You’ve got these stations where you all of a sudden–just like the biathlon–you’re like (panting). “Now I gotta lob a grenade through the hole.” Which is not unlike throwing your spear, but…

And then over and under and do the next thing. And you’re running miles with all this heavy gear on. And then you’ve gotta shoot accurately. Very cool.

Joe: I like that.

Mark: I don’t know why I brought that up… Oh yeah, the whole warrior tradition. They’ve been doing this shit since the Spartans used to run with gear on. Hundreds of pounds of armor with water in their mouths. You know what I mean?

Joe: That’s right. Yeah. I was just in Sparta…

Mark: But it was also very spiritual. I don’t know about the Spartans, but the Samurai. Consider the Samurai. Hardcore training, and then sit in silence. Meditate. That was my tradition that I grew up in. The two of those combined.

Joe: The sitting in silence I have a tough time with.

Mark: Yeah. Colleen asked me to call you out on that one. A burpee is not the same as meditation.

Joe: I know. I have a tough time sitting still. My wife’s been begging me to meditate more and I think it’s… yeah, I just have a tough time.

Mark: Everybody does. You know… I’ll offer one thing. Don’t meditate cause you will fail. And I’m saying this to everybody. Don’t meditate. You’ll fail. Just start breathing. Just sit and breathe. And Box Breathe. You have to sit and Box Breathe. Five count in, five count hold, five count out, five count hold. Just learn to concentrate and it has 90% of the benefits of traditional meditation, but you’re just focusing on the breathing and all the relaxing. That’s how we start.

I’ve found it to be extremely valuable. I think that the breath pattern is probably the one reason that I was honor-man in my class. If I pointed to one thing, it was being able to control my breathing. Which led me to be able to control my mind. Which led me to be able to control my emotions. Which led me to be able to make better decisions.

So it’s not an insignificant thing.

I guess I’m trying to encourage you as a friend. And if you want to make it part of the Spartan lifestyle, then everybody needs to be…

Here’s the thing. I did a podcast with this guy named Joshua Ramos Cooper. Really fascinating.

And this guy’s been living in China for years, and he works for some big think tank. And he had a Japanese master… or a Chinese meditation master. This guy told him that the disease of the industrial age was cancer. The disease of the information age is insanity. And so we’re living in a world where insanity is encroaching…

Joe: It’s encroaching on me daily, to be honest with you.

Mark: Meditation is the antidote to that.

Joe: The amount or volume of emails. The screens. The phones. I wrote a tweet–the old adage of 4 minutes without air, 4 days without water, 40 days without food. And I was like 40 seconds without phone.

Mark: (laughing) 40 seconds without phone.

There’s this cool new phone called the Lightphone…

Joe: I heard about it…

Mark: I just bought it. And so you set it up, finally got it working. It’s just a little tiny phone about the size of a credit card. A little thicker. And you connect it to your smartphone, so it uses my same phone number. And I just press a button on my smartphone, and then I can leave it home, and it directs all my calls to this tiny black thing. And I’m disconnected.

Joe: Disconnected. Unless it’s an emergency I guess.

Mark: Unless it’s an emergency. I can call someone or someone can call me.

Joe: I like it. There’s going to be a day where I throw my phone away. I thought it was going to be last year, but it didn’t happen.

Mark: Imagine how liberating that is. Have you ever gone out just for 24 hours and say, “Okay, I’m not touching this thing.” Cause it really is powerful.

Joe: I lost my phone, in a taxi in Japan. And for three days I had no phone. It was awesome. Awesome!

Mark: And the first 10 hours is like, “Oh man, what am I missing? How many emails am I going to catch up on?”

Joe: It was great.

Mark: I just spent a week up in Mount Shasta. On a silent retreat. And every day I just go out in nature and just cruise. I don’t have to run an organization the size of yours so I get to do this on occasion.

Joe: That’s nice. Yeah. Hard to do.

Mark: It is hard to do.

Anyways, so we do love burpees, though. So we’re going to do some burpees for our Burpees for Vets challenge.

We’re going to crank out as many as we can. I’m going to do 300 cause I want to finish mine up for today.

Joe: I committed to 400, so I don’t know if I can do them right now, but they will be done today.

Mark: Joe, you’re awesome. Thanks for everything.


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