John Assaraf (@johnassaraf) is a speaker, a NYT bestselling author of books including “The Answer: Grow Any Business, Achieve Financial Freedom, and Live an Extraordinary Life” and “Having It All” and a successful entrepreneur with several million dollar companies. He is also the founder of the Neurogym and a yearly Brainathon, an event where neural experts present their research.
John has learned from his own experiences and he and Mark discuss everything from the importance of mindset and having control over your emotions to achieve success to the importance of mentors and of being ready to be guided. Listen to this episode to hear how John overcame a difficult youth to achieve huge entrepreneurial success, set and achieve your goals and build your confidence.
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Having it All
Hey folks, Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Welcome back. This is special moment, because I’m here at SEALFIT Headquarters. Literally the final week of our training here before we begin the move out. And so I’m doing a live podcast with my new friend John Assaraf, who’s a fellow San Diegan and author and doing incredible work.
But before I formally introduce John, who if you’re watching on YouTube you can see standing here with me. If you’re not watching on YouTube then you can’t see him. Unless you have some special powers that we don’t know about yet. Which if you do have those powers, then John and I want to know about them. (laughing)
At any rate, here we are. And we’re heading into the fall. And we have one last opportunity to train immersively in our SEALFIT and Unbeatable Mind training philosophy where we combine them all and go deep. And that’s the SEALFIT Academy in October. The week prior to our last Kokoro camp in October. For 2017. Which is our 50 hour immersion training.
John Assaraf: Nice.
Mark: Yeah, it’s pretty cool.
So check out the information we have below, because this is a not to miss event. We’re changing the format next year. This has been an extraordinary event. A great place to really dive into all the principles of Unbeatable Mind. Physical, mental, emotional, intuitional and Kokoro (heart/mind) training. All right. So hope to see you there.
I spend a ton of time at that Academy working so we can go pretty deep.
All right, that said. John Assaraf. New York Times bestselling author of “The Answer” which I read, like, 10 years ago. What a great book. Fantastic.
Also “Make it happen?” Is that right?
John: “Having it All.’
Mark: Oh, “Having it All.”
John: “Making it happen,” “having it all.” It’s all good.
Mark: (laughing) In order to have it all, you’ve gotta make it happen. That should have been your byline.
John: (laughing) “Have it all and make it happen.”
Mark: Exactly. I don’t have my notes in front of me, so I’m working off a memory that might be a little flaky today.
John: Ah, it’s perfect.
Mark: We’ll see.
So John is… I first heard of John in the movie “The Secret.” You might have heard of that. Which has done an amazing job of really just opening people’s mind into the world of metaphysics and what’s possible with positive mental attitude. So we’ll talk a little about that.
John: Yeah. Did a really good job there.
Mark: I think so. And then of course, there’s more to it than that. Which is one of the things that you really kind of took off on. There’s more to it than just that. And I wanna dive into that. What’s the “more?” What’s behind that? What comes after “The Secret?” You discover that.
He’s an entrepreneur. Real estate guy. He’s built businesses in digital software and internet marketing. And most recently–this is why it’s so in line with what we’re doing here–in neuroscience. In brain training. Neuroplasticity.
And really approaching it from what we would call the 3rd quadrant. Non-subjective. Understanding the science behind it, and how you can change it to affect your objective experience of life positively.
So welcome, John. Thanks so much for being here.
It’s awesome to meet you. So I met you really in person–I knew about you for a long time–but I met you in person recently at the Pathfinders event in San Diego.
John: That’s right. Yeah, that was a lot of fun. And it was interesting because the night before somebody’d invited me to go to it. And I was like, “What are you talking about? I’m busy tomorrow.”
And then I saw that you were on and I said, “Oh my God. We’ve been trying to connect.”
Mark: yes, we have.
John: I said, “I’m going to move my schedule around.” And there you were. You did a phenomenal job and it just felt like we were kindred spirits.
Mark: For sure.
John: So it was great. Great to meet you.
Urgency and making change
Mark: I don’t know if you feel this the way I do, but I feel like there’s a real sense of urgency to help evolve both individual and collective consciousness to deal with some of the problems we have in the world. What do you think about that? Do you feel that?
John: I do in one sense, and then I don’t. And so let me share with you the do part. There’s a physical side of me wanting to help and to share and teach and to be a part of solutions. Wants the urgency.
The other side of me that has been studying a little bit of quantum physics and the universe being here for as long as it’s been here… says everything’s happening in exactly the perfect time. In perfect order.
And so I go back and forth between trying to speed things up and having that urgency–and flowing and allowing things to happen.
I personally don’t think there’s anything to fix, right? And I come at it from… not that there aren’t problems… but nature does what she does maximally, efficiently, on-time every time, no exceptions. I live with that philosophy. So even when things aren’t to my taste, I do my very best to elevate my conscious awareness of the perfection that exists in everything and in everyone.
Mark: Mm-hmm. But do you think human nature follows natural order principles? The principles of natural order?
John: Yes. Yeah, I do. From the micro- to the macro-. From the elliptical orbits of the planets to cells dividing in our bodies. To the atoms and protons and electrons spinning in perfect ordered harmony. I think that without that perfection, it all falls apart.
And so the more I could be aware and in alignment with that, I can help shift my behavior. Shift my awareness. That is really what I like to have people ponder, a little bit more.
As opposed to being in that physicalness all the time. Using the emotions. Using the mindset. To tap into the higher order of everything.
It’s interesting; I was just on a flight from Paris to San Diego just a couple of days ago. And I was sitting in my chair looking at the screen that was in front of me. And I was looking at the earth, and I was seeing where the plane was on the earth. And I was able to spin the interactive video of where we were on the planet. And it just reminded me of just… here we are… flying. From London… or from Paris–which actually was Paris to London, London to San Diego. And I was just in awe that we were able to do this. And we were able to do this because we understand the laws of physics. And they’re absolute, in most cases.
Mark: So it’s safe to say that you have an abundant mindset. An optimist. That you see… your vision of the future is a cup half full, sounds like.
John: My vision of the future is cup totally full. Full of opportunity. Full of abundance.
I don’t believe that there are accidents. There are things that are not to my taste. There are things I don’t understand. But I do not believe that there are accidents.
There is chaos, but there’s also order.
Mark: What about this idea that complexity can only withstand a certain level. It exceeds the level that created. So there’s a lot of people who think that we’ve exceeded the level from a complexity standpoint of the ability to constrain the forces of the industrial age paradigm. And so things are spinning out of control. And the challenge we have is that the technology is allowing violence to be projected so powerfully that it’s almost created an existential threat for the planet. With nuclear weapons and artificial intelligence kind of outpacing our ability to understand it. And to keep the genie in the bottle. That stuff worry you at all?
John: But it won’t happen. It’s… if you look at human kind, we’ve had like, what? 5, 6 near complete extinctions? And then we’ve reorganized into a higher living organism over and over and over and over again.
Mark: Transcend and include the past, but we evolve into something higher. So I’m with you on that.
John: 2.5 million years…
Mark: But oftentimes there’s a lot of suffering that incurs in those transitions.
Mark: Not unlike the chrysalis suffering and thinking it’s dying as it converts to a moth or a butterfly.
John: correct. And nature doesn’t think twice about inflicting capital punishment. In nature. Nature’s fuller expression, expansion of itself. And that’s the spiritual realm of what makes us up. So we’re not separate from this intelligence.
Mark: That’s a very nativistic philosophy. A spirit that runs through all things. Grandfather the scout used language like that. Apache scouts.
John: I didn’t study the American Indian, but I studied a lot of eastern philosophies for sure…
Mark: it’s very closely aligned…
John: I studied a lot of, you know… “What is my hand made up of?” Beyond my eye’s ability to see this… the atoms and molecules.
Mark: it’s energy.
John: It’s energy, right. And so if that’s energy, and that’s what I’m made up of. And everything’s made up of that. How do I become more aware of that?
And that’s probably why I got into understanding the brain a little bit more. I like to think of the brain that’s evolved over billions of years of evolution is, for me, and electro-magnetic switching station. That allows me to tune in or tune out of different vibrational frequencies of energy like I’m tuning into a radio station. Rock and Roll is 95.5. Classical might be 98.2. I believe that we’ve been given this phenomenal brain without the manual of how to use it. But now we’re finally in that new era…
Mark: I would argue that the manual has been given to us and it’s been passed down through word of mouth and through small groupings of people who are willing to listen and learn.
Through different traditions. Yoga tradition being one. Classically. I’m not talking about American stretch-pant yoga… (laughing)
John: Yeah, if we go to the Vedas. If we go to…
John: yes. We go to the parts of our society. Eastern societies, for example, that spent more time than anybody on earth going inward…
Mark: Right. I mean, the Sutras themselves are a manual for training the brain…
John: correct. Totally agree.
Mark: And then Patanjali brings it out in number 2. He says, “This is about training the mind.” To seize the modifications. Basically to control your thinking.
John: Yes. And science is catching up now. And that’s the part that I love. Cause all the studies that I did in my 20s and 30s and 40s… Science is starting to catch up to validate what the…
Mark: (laughing) Still a ways behind, in my opinion.
Youth, Sales and Mentoring
So let’s talk about… I wanna get way back and go deep on this subject, but I haven’t really had the opportunity to kind of hear your story. And the people who listen to this are entrepreneurs and business people. And moms. And warriors. But what we have in common is that we love to know the story of how other people really stepped up their game from the origins. So you have this origin story… like, my origin story was upstate New York. Family business. I was groomed for all that… you heard that, right? And then all of a sudden, I woke up to the warrior in me.
What was your origin story? Where did you come from, and then what were your influences? Or mentors? Or wake-up moments that kind of got you on your path?
John: Simple. Well… simple.
I was born in Israel. Lived there until I was 5. And moved to Montreal. And was put into grade 1 not speaking English or French. Speaking only Hebrew. And for 2 years I suffered because I didn’t know the language. And having to learn 2 new languages.
So started feeling inferior, insecure, not smart enough, not good enough at 6, 7, 8 years old.
Mark: Accepted from a racial perspective, though?
John: Nope. No. The area that we lived in where immigrants from all over the world came to this one area of Montreal. Montreal was accepting immigrants in.
By the time I was in… 12 years old. 13, 14. Street gangs. Drug selling. Breaking and entries. Fights.
Mark: no shit?
John: Oh yeah. Massive. Crazy. So 12 to 17, in and out of detention centers. Got into a lot of trouble. A lot of trouble.
Mark: Where were your parents during this time?
John: At home. My father was a cab driver. Mother worked at a local department store sewing in the back…
Mark: Busy making a living.
John: Busy trying to make ends meet. You know, complaining all the time that there was too much month left at the end of the money.
Mark: (laughing) Like that.
John: And they fought a lot about… My father was a gambler. And he went to play cards or the horses after he finished his taxi shift. And so they always fought about money. I remember as a kid, I hated that. I hated that they argued and fought and used words that they did. Fortunately, it never got physical. In front of us, anyway.
And I remember just hating that. And I got a job… I left high school grade 11. I don’t know who was happier, me or the teacher. I was getting in trouble all the time. I was in the principal’s office more times than I care to remember.
But I hated school. I didn’t do well in it. I hated it. The only subjects I did well in were biology and chemistry.
Mark: Interesting. This wasn’t from, like, a learning disorder. You just literally hated the content…
John: Just didn’t feel like I was smart enough or good enough. I think having the pain of how I felt in school when I was in grade 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 just carried over into this feeling that I didn’t belong there.
And then my brother introduced me to a man. It’s interesting how one thing, one moment, one man… one something can change the course of your life if you pay attention and you take advantage of it.
So he introduced me to a guy. His name was Allen Brown. Allen Brown was a real estate developer. Had like 7, 8 real estate offices. 150 real estate agents. And my brother used to teach him tennis. And he asked Allen if he would meet with me, because his younger brother was troubled.
And so I took the train from Montreal to Toronto. About 350 miles away. It was a Friday afternoon. Beginning of May, 1980. And I’ll share with you why I remember this so well.
I had lunch with Allen Brown and he said, “Why do you think you’re doing the things you’re doing? And getting in trouble so much?”
I said, “I don’t know. I just want to make some money, and I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life. I don’t have a college degree. I don’t have a lot of education. And everybody tells me if I don’t have an education or college degree, I’m not going to amount to much. So I might as well not amount to much.”
And he said to me, “well, if you could figure out a way to do it, what would you like to achieve?”
I said, “Well, I see this show on TV called ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.’ with Robin Leach. I’d like a yacht, and I’d like a plane. Make money. And I want to travel. And I want to wear those clothes.”
He said, “Well you can have that.”
I go, “Yeah, right.”
And he said to me, “I’ll make you a deal. Why don’t you go home and write down everything that you would like to have?” And I was staying with my brother for the week, so he gave me some sheets of paper. He said, “I want you to write in what kind of health does you want? How much money do you want to give to charity?” Stuff that I had no idea about at 19 years old. “When do you want to retire? With what kind of wealth? What kind of car? What kind of home? What kind of charity?”
He asked me a whole bunch of questions. Gave me the documents… the papers to fill them out. And so I went home to my brother’s house reluctantly and started filling them out and just started to dream.
I came back on Monday morning. Met him at his office, and he says, “Great. This is some good goals over here. This is a good place to start. Now here’s a question I want you to answer. Are you interested in achieving these goals? Or are you committed?”
I looked at him. I was sitting in a chair, he was leaning over the desk, and he said, “Are you interested or committed?”
And I said, “Well, Mr. Brown, what’s the difference?”
He said, “Well, if you’re interested you’ll do what’s convenient. If you’re interested you’ll come up with stories and excuses and reasons why you can’t achieve it. If you’re committed you’ll throw all those away and do the fucking work.”
John: “You’ll become who you need to become. You’ll learn what you need to learn. You’ll develop the knowledge, the skills and the habits to achieve that.”
Mark: That’s the shortest lesson in success that I’ve ever heard. That’s awesome.
John: Unbelievable. Interested or committed. And I’m getting chills talking about this because I remember looking at him and I remember my heart beating faster than normal because it’s like, “Wow.” He was challenging me and I felt uncomfortable.
And I said, “Mr. Brown, I’d be committed if I had somebody to teach me.”
He says, “No, no, no. first you’ve got to decide whether you are interested or you’re committed.” he says, “The teacher will show up.”
I said, “Okay. I’m committed.” He says, “Good. Then I’ll teach you.”
That was May 3, 1980. On May 5, 1980… I went back to Montreal, came back to Toronto. He paid for my real estate course. 5 weeks later, on June 20, 1980, I graduated from Humber College with a degree to be able to sell real estate. He told me I owed him the money, but he would teach me how to make the money.
And the reason I remember those dates so well, Mark, it was the first `test I passed myself without cheating.
Mark: No kidding.
John: In years and year and years.
Mark: And did you find the subject interesting?
John: Hard. It was a means to a possible end. I was intrigued in real estate just because I had heard people made a lot of money in real estate. But I had no idea that taking that leap would result in learning sales. Learning marketing. Learning business. Learning promotions. Learning how to sell. Learning about habits. Learning about all the stuff that I needed to learn about. I didn’t know what the path would involve… but I knew…
Mark: By the way, that’s one of the most incredible things about real estate as a profession. That you have to learn an entire… both the tactical and strategic skills of selling real estate. But you have to also learn how to be the kind of person who can engender trust and develop rapport. And get the work done. And literally be disciplined enough to sit and make all the calls you need to make every day. And drive toward a goal oriented transaction, but transformational relationships to. So I would say it’s amazing the growth that can accrue in careers like that. Especially starting out.
John: I was really fortunate that not only did he take me under his wing. When I…Take me under his wing… he gave me an opportunity and then he gave me some stuff to read. Some stuff to listen to. And some people to model in the office.
And there was a guy Dave, that sat across from me, who wore the same Harris Tweed jacket for a year while we were there. But Dave would be on the phones every day. And we had these sheets in front of us that said “15, 30, 45, 60, 75, 90, 105, 120…” I could go on all the way to 1500, cause there were a hundred boxes–15 dollars to 1500. And here was my task. Make a hundred calls today.
And make a hundred calls today and here’s the script you had to memorize. It took me 10 days to memorize. “Hi, this is John Assaraf with Allen Brown real estate. We have somebody who is looking to buy a home in the neighborhood. Are you interested in making a move?”
Mark: (laughing) Click. Next call. Click. Next call.
John: I had to make a hundred calls a day. He said, “You get used to making a hundred calls a day and learning the script and rehearsing it like a New York play…” He says, “You’ll become wealthy.”
I go, “Shit. I’m going to learn this script.” So I studied the script. I recorded the script on a cassette tape. I listened to the cassette tape every day in my car. Every day, over and over, and over and over, and over and over again. Until I knew the script.
And then he just kept giving me little additions to the script. “If they say this, you say that. If they say that, you say this.” So he taught me that you’re going to hear objections. Here’s the answer to the objections. And here’s when to cut bait.
So at 19 I started selling real estate. And in the first 12 months, I made $5000 more than my father did driving a cab. I made $30,000. My dad made $25,000.
Mark: No kidding.
John: In the second year he taught me some advanced skills. And I made $151,000.
Mark: No kidding? A 19 year old kid?
John: Swear to God. I was 20 at the time. I used to wear glasses because I was 19. I would wear a suit. Suit and tie every day. And glasses. And the reason I wore glasses is because I was tired of people asking me, “How old are you?” And didn’t believe that they could trust me to help them buy or sell a home.
And so I tried to make myself look older. And I finally learned that the answer to that objection was “Old enough to get the job done.” Right?
Mark: I like that. That’s good.
John: And so he just taught me a way of thinking. He taught me a way of overcoming my fears of not being good enough, or smart enough, or worthy. Or scholastically smart. And that was the foundation….
Mark: So the Trojan horse there… through all that… was basically teaching you about mindset. Like, how to develop a mindset for success. For winning.
John: But also to prepare for the task at hand. Right? And he mentioned to me, he says, “Professionals prepare. Everybody else messes around hacking at stuff. And professionals prepare.” o0ver and over and over again.
And he says… I don’t think he said this, but I later learnt it this way– “The average person prepares to get it right. The pro prepares so they never get it wrong.”
Mark: I like that.
John: And so he taught me and then I prepared with Dave and with Vern and with Leo in the office. We would practice, drill and rehearse the script. We’d practice the objections that could come at us with an answer that made sense. That moved us forward.
And then he introduced me to Tommy Hopkins. It was in that time, somebody who taught selling. And then Tommy Hopkins taught me some of the art of selling. The art of trust, the art of rapport. The art of doing something for somebody not to somebody.
Selling back then, maybe today… had a really negative connotation of used car salespersonish..
Mark: People thought it was manipulation.
John: And he’d tell me “No, no, no, no. The highest compliment you could give your prospect and client is to care more about them than you do about the commission you’re going to make.” Cause I had to eat what I killed. So I was like, “I’m money-driven. I’ve gotta pay my car. Gotta pay an apartment. Gotta pay for food and drugs and alcohol.” (laughing) There was a lot of stuff back then.
And so I had to get busy. And so at 20 years old, I learned being ethical. And then my life started to change. Then I started to develop more confidence and more certainty and…
Mark: Well the feedback loop was reinforcing you, so you had set yourself on an upward spiral of growth.
John: Yeah. And he had guided me there. Right? And so it was really wonderful beginning for me. Of having a mentor. Showing me where the landmines were, but also showing me what to do that he already knew worked.
Walter Schneider and the long game
Mark: You know, a lot of people talked about… if you’re not ready to learn and grow then a mentor’s not going to do anything for you. And that type of opening to moving from what Carol Dweck would call a fixed mindset to a growth mindset can happen from a rock bottom experience, like, hitting bottom, or it can happen from a mystical experience. Or a flow state experience. Or whatever. Getting hit over the head with a board.
It doesn’t sound like any of these happened to you, so how come you were so open to learning and growing when you were in such a negative pattern. Which in a lot of people would be considered a fixed-state of mind.
John: Well, jail or the morgue were probably the two destinations I was heading towards.
Mark: So part of you saw that.
John: I saw that. Friends of mine went to jail. Couple friends died. I had a very, very close run-in with the law on a drug deal that could have gotten me into jail for quite some time. So I was scared shitless. But the pain of what my parents would feel was greater than my own pain, if that happened.
My parents were loving, caring, hard-working individuals who loved their children. Did the best they could for them. And disappointing and hurting them was a real magnifier for me. I don’t know what caused me to even think of them. I was a pretty selfish kid at the time.
Mark: That’s a great lesson right there just for parenting. I’m dealing with that. My son is 18. Just graduated from high school. And he really is lacking a lot of motivation. And I love him dearly, but he’s… I think my sense is that there’s nothing that I can say right now except, “I love you. And go out and fail. Go out and figure it out.”
John: Go out and fail. Go out and succeed.
Mark; Yeah. But fail your way to success, because I can’t do much anymore. Now it’s on you to go out into the world and, you know, maybe get beat up a little bit. Not physically, but by the world. And learn these lessons. And look for the mentor. And then, you know…
John: Well you know what’s interesting is I was just on a lovely cruise with my wife and kids. And they’re 20 and 22. One graduated from college. Just came home. The other one didn’t want to go to college after a year, and I said, “Cool.”
At 6 o’clock in the morning, when I was waking up to go and stretch, and to do yoga and to do my breathing, my kids were coming back onto the boat after being in the bars and nightclubs all night. Right?
(Laughing) And there’s a part of me that goes, “Hey! What are you doing coming in at 6 o’clock in the morning?”
And then the other part of me goes, “Oh my God. That was me. And I’ve got 2 of them coming back now.”
So I was just in this space of allowing and non-judgment. After I was judgeful or judgmental. And realized, “You know what? I’m going to go back to the universe took care of my growth.” And if I could give them the space to grow, to be loved, to be accepted. To guide them when they ask for it. But to guide them a little bit when they’re not asking for it. Say, “Hey, be aware of this. Be aware of that. And think about this and think about that.”
That’s the most you can do. Part of the lesson for me… my parents… I left the house when I was 17. And they were quite cool with it. “Go.” They left Romania when she was 12.My father left Morocco when he was 15. So for me to leave at 17, I was like 5 years past them already. “Get out of here. Go do your thing.”
And so the motivation is hard for me most people. The research that I’ve read said that 2 or 3% of kids have the motivation before they’re 20, 25. And it’s only when that left pre-fontal cortex activates and comes online… that CEO, that executive director that we start getting that motivation. The motive for our actions…
Mark: Intrinsic motivation. That happens around 24, 25ish?
John: 22, 25, 26, 27. Somewhere in that range. And so I trust that. I didn’t know it before but I trust that now. And I go, “Okay.” The soil that they have been raised in has been fertile soil of positivity. Of possibility of overcoming challenges.
My parents never hid the challenges from us. So we knew they had challenges. I’ve never hidden the challenges I’ve faced with my children. Whether it’s financial, business, health-wise. Never. And so I’m okay with them having challenges.
Mark: That’s normal.
John: Very normal.
Mark: That’s fascinating.
Okay, so you cut your teeth in real estate. That began the process of developing a mindset for success.
John: Mindset and habits. Mindset and habits for success and I was taught another lesson that I’d just love to share with everybody is the power of an hour. So my second mentor, Walter Schneider… very, very successful entrepreneur. He is still, to this day, the most successful sub-franchisor of any franchise in the world. With about… I think about 10 or 12 thousand Re/Max offices.
Mark: Good Lord.
John: When I was 26…
Mark: What’s his name again?
John: Walter Schneider.
Mark: I think I met him once.
John: Yeah. He’s in Toronto, Canada. Dear, dear friend of mine, and was my business partner in Re/Max of Indiana. But when I was 26, the opportunity arose for me to buy the franchising rights for Re/Max of Indiana with Walter and Frank. And Walter said, “Listen, if you invest an hour a day on upgrading your skill, at the end of one year you’ll have 9 40 hour weeks. At the end of 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, you’ll be so far ahead of the competition.” by one hour a day. Whether you read a book, practice your craft, doesn’t make a difference. But upgrade your marketing skills, your sales skills, your management skills, your finance skills… whatever it is. If you invest an hour a day… and you commit to that. Not 5 days a week, 7 days a week. He says, you will be able to…
Mark: You’re talking about tactical skills as opposed to like an hour in the gym, or…
John: Yeah, but even an hour in the gym. If you were to apply it anywhere. An hour meditation, an hour in the gym. An hour walking. An hour running. An hour climbing. An hour reading. An hour on anything is 9 40 hour weeks.
We can get good. If you and I said, “Hey, let’s get good at sewing.” if we spent 9 40 hour weeks, we’d get better at it. A lot better.
Well, imagine doing that for 2 years, 3 years, 5 years. And a lot of people are thinking a lot of the short game versus the longer game. And it’s interesting, when I was in my 20s and even in my 30s, it was the short game. 3 months, 6 months, 1 year. It was hard for me to see when I was 20 what things would look like when I was 30. Or 40. Or 50.
Now I can see to 75. I’m 55. I can see to 75. I can see to 85. I can see to 100, now. And I’m playing the long-game now.
I’m playing the short-game obviously for health and spiritual and all that stuff. But the longer game is more important to me. To develop the mindset habits, the emotional habits, the physical habits that gives me the best chances of success later on in life. And so habits are what drive behavior more than anything else. So your beliefs will drive the habits. The habits then drive you.
And so a lot of the stuff that I’m fascinated with is are there mental habits that you can get into that are constructive versus destructive? Empowering versus disempowering? Inspiring instead of expiring?
And so we have some very similar vocabulary. I teach a model called SEMP which is spiritual, emotional, mental and physical. And so are there spiritual habits that empower you? Yes there are. Are there emotional habits that can empower? Yes. Are there mental ones and physical ones? And the answer is yes. Well, why not start with those? Why not start with those?
And it doesn’t have to be a hundred different ones. Maybe one for each to get off of the position you’re in right now. And develop that empowering habit because every empowering habit connects to other empowering habits and reinforces them. And every disempowering habit connects to others and reinforces those.
And so, you start off simple and easy and work with neurology and biology initially if you’re… if you’ve got some destructive habits. Just change one. Just focus your energy and attention on one.
The Present and the Future
Mark: So one of the things I think a lot of people struggle with is with this kind of relentless focus on the future. Relentless focus on goal setting. Short term, medium, long-term. The vision for my ideal self in 20, 25 years. And always working toward improving yourself for a better future.
The nihilists would say, “Why waste your time? The present moment is all we got.” I mean, ultimately, right now is all we have. And then the next right now. And the next right now.
And when you get into that it’s like, “Okay, so why are we wasting all our time in the future?”
But the response to that is because we want to improve the now. We want the now moments to be positive and purposeful and in service. And without that kind of future mindset orientation and preparation and planning and thinking, then we don’t get there. But the key… I want to throw this back at you… the key is to be able to let go of that. When you’re in conversation or when you’re in action so to speak.
John: Yeah, if what I said alluded or suggested that I only focus on the future…
Mark: No, I’m saying it’s more of a general theme for people. It’s like there’s a lot of talk about future planning, and visioning and all that. And I think that generally speaking, that’s all really good. But that’s in service to being here, now more powerfully.
John: Yeah. I think that for me it’s… obviously there’s only the present moment. And I’m totally in that. For somebody who’s struggling in the present moment, sometimes you need to be able to see a better future in order to take action and make a shift in the present moment. So you have to have the motive for action
And so I’m all about seeing the future. Planning for the future. But living and doing what is necessary right now as well. So I’m totally, totally for that.
Mark: Yeah, and what you said is so powerful. Because if the moment is one of suffering or discomfort, oftentimes it can be because I don’t have a powerful vision for the future. Or, because I haven’t rectified my past. And so that’s a lot of the emotional development that I think is so important for people today is basically–and I’ll use this term for the first time, I think–re-remembering our past in a more powerful way. So if you grew up with abuse, or if you grew up with parenting which was sub-optimal… (laughing) which so many people do. To be able to make peace with that and to find the silver lining in there and to let go of the energy that you’re dragging along like a kettle bell. What the psychology profession would call the shadow.
If you’re carrying a big shadow, then it’s hard to be present because the emotions and the thought patterns are going to be colored by that dark energy. By that negative energy. That patterning.
And then it’s hard to see the future. So it’s a real Catch-22. So you gotta work on both ends. You gotta work on the future and the past. In my opinion.
John: And it’s also a matter of understanding what are emotions? Where do emotions start? And from a pure neuro-science perspective, all emotions are subconsciously activated. That give rise to feelings and sensations that are either pleasurable or unpleasurable to varying degrees. And we move away from the ones that are pleasurable.
So if there is a repetition or a pattern of unpleasant, unwanted emotions. I don’t like to suggest emotions are positive or negative. They’re pleasant or unpleasant to varying degrees.
So if there’s a recurring pattern of an unpleasant emotion that causes this feeling you don’t like. So asking yourself this question, “How is this showing up over and over and over? What’s the trigger?” Either the external trigger or the internal trigger that’s being represented in a way that’s causing this unpleasant feeling.
So you could take anything from the past, and reframe it so that it empowers you as opposed to disempowers you. That’s very, very easy technique that you can do is reframing. We teach a process called the 4R process, which is Recognize–which is recognize thoughts, emotions, feelings, sensations and behaviors. If you want to write them down, write them down. Reframe the ones that disempowering you. So Recognize, Reframe. If you don’t like the emotion… an emotion in the body will only last up to 90 seconds if you observe it. So you can release it through an innercize that we teach called “Take 6.” so Take 6 is just 6 rhythmic breaths deactivates the stress response center of the brain. Activates the relax response center in the brain. And then we can retrain our brain through repetition. So that the same stimuli will not repeat itself into the same pattern. So that’s the 4R process. Recognize, Reframe, Release and Retrain.
And like any type of training, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. So it becomes a conscious effort initially… you’re doing unconsciously or non-consciously through practice and repetition. And so emotions are there to serve you. And if there’s something that is an unpleasant emotion that you’re having repetitively, there’s something neurologically that’s being triggered.
Let’s go to the cause versus the effect. Too many people focus on effects and I like to focus on cause.
Meditation and thinking with your eyes closed
Mark: right. I agree with all that, and I think that’s a beautiful process. A challenge that a lot of people have is creating the space to separate themselves from the effect. So that they can observe it long enough to recognize it. And so that’s where mindfulness and meditation comes in. or even the breath practices. And I was just talking about this today, the Tony Robbins event. Because people struggle with meditation because meditation is like saying “leadership.” right? It’s a very broad subject. And people think anything with your eyes closed is meditation. What most people are doing is sitting with their eyes closed and thinking.
And thinking with your eyes closed is thinking with your eyes closed. It’s not meditation. It’s an attempt, but there is a very specific process. And the first step to being able to meditate… or get to the point where you can recognize those patterns that you talk about, is to learn how to concentrate deeply. To develop your mind–and this is like the Navy SEAL principle–to sharpen your mind so you can concentrate for a long period of time. On one thing. And breath is a great thing to concentrate on.
And in that, because you’re concentrating on that one thing, and you’re looking at that one thing, suddenly you can notice when other things intervene or interfere. Guess what those look like? They look like thoughts or emotions that don’t belong, because you’re concentrating on that one thing. And one thing can be a bible verse. It can be your breath. It can be a mantra.
But concentration precedes mindfulness and, you know, being able to separate from the thought. You’ve got to be able to focus on that one thing to create space so that you can run the simultaneous mind where now you’re looking at the thoughts. And instead of being the subject, they become the object. And then you can work with them.
John: And you observe them. And I do a variety of different practices for myself and so there are some mornings or afternoons or evenings where I’ll actually be mindful or aware of, “Where are all my thoughts going right now?” Just observe them. No blame, no shame. Just sit.
Other times… and I do them open-eye and closed-eye…
Mark: let me ask you a question. So open-eye… doesn’t matter. Soft gaze. You’re just sitting there watching. Where is your awareness seated in your brain/headspace when you watch your thoughts? Do you have a sensation that you’re a little bit removed from your frontal lobe?
John: Oh yeah, yeah. I like to think I have a body. I have a brain. I have thoughts, I have emotions. I have feelings. I have sensations, but I’m not them. So no differently than looking at an artist painting, I look at it like somebody is painting in front of me.
Mark: You can be first person, or 3rd person.
John: And even when I do my visualization practices I do first person, 3rd person. And…
Mark: so thinking would be first person, but watching your thoughts come and go, is 3rd person. So to situate yourself in a 3rd person perspective, that’s a skill in and of itself. How do you train that?
John: The same way you train becoming a Navy SEAL. Right? The same way you train your bicep muscle to get stronger. The same way you train your cardiovascular system to get stronger. You keep challenging it. You keep practicing. And you don’t get it right all the time.
There are some days that I’ve got this monkey mind–then I just got to step away and then come back again. “Okay, hold on a second. This pattern is something I need to interrupt.”
And through practice… right now, if I closed my eyes or even keep my eyes open, at this pace we’re going right now. I’m already in a mindfulness, meditative state right now. And if I closed my eyes, 2 breaths, 3 breaths, I’m gone. I’m not in this body. I’m like, checked out. Body’s here, John’s gone.
Mark: (laughing) Who am I talking to?
John: (laughing) John’s gone. Lips are moving. John’s gone. He’s surfing the universal waves.
Mark: That’s awesome.
John: but that comes from practice. It’s no different than if somebody’s practiced a martial art. If they practice on a consistent basis, and somebody attacked them. They would be unconsciously competent at knowing how to meet that threat, right? And the more you practice the easier it becomes.
And that’s the thing that I think is missing from a lot of society today. And we… like, my kids, you know, they’re awesome, awesome young men. We also talk about… they suffer from “Affluenza.” (Laughing) You know? It’s too much of a good thing. It leads to a bad thing. And it also… when they got older, they wanted a car. So I’m going to pay for half of anything you want.
You have to figure out the other half. So I forced them–as much as I can–to participate in their own rescue as our friend Tony Robbins would say. Right? but I want to teach them that whether it’s business success, health success, financial success, relationship success, spiritual success–you’ve got to not just practice, but you’ve got to practice the right things in the right order at the right time.
Mark: Exactly. And I agree. That’s new to the Western world. It just hasn’t been taught very well, and that sequencing. And it’s different for everybody, you know what I mean? Like, if I take one of my Navy SEAL friends who’s got a lot of experience with concentration training, I can go a little bit quicker with them and maybe introduce something else right away. And also a lot of visualization training.
But the mind does need… does follow that kind of sequence from the outer to the inner, right?
John: it’ll follow any… our brains are our predictive organ. So they’re consistently brining information in, but then projecting information out. And trying to predict what’s going to happen all the time. And so we’re projecting out onto the world the patterns that already exist in our brains. We don’t see the world as it is. We see the world as we are, and we’re reflecting it.
But when we’re talking about a hundred billion cells with trillions of things going on in our brain at any given time. There’s a lot of noise in there. 50,000 thoughts a day. Trillions of bits of… activities and information. It’s going to create a very, very active mind. So to learn how to calm that down and control it versus it controlling you is a practice.
And the good news is you’ve got an entire army… or Navy.
Mark: (laughing) thank you.
John: In your mind, and if you can get the troops working together it is mega-powerful. But if you don’t, they’ll run the city rampant. And so… and in our society, in North America, we really haven’t taught people the power that resides within them.
Mark: yeah, not until recently.
John: It’s just starting to come on. And that’s why the brain training stuff is so good. And the mindfulness is so good. And the meditation’s so good. And the visualization’s so good. And all the self-talk stuff is so good. Cause we’re starting to really put more emphasis on utilizing the tools that we have for the betterment of society, mankind and each other.
Mark: let’s talk about brain training specifically. Let’s first address it from the objective and the use of tools such as neural feedback, or biofeedback and neuro-stim. What is your take on the use of devices like that? Like the Halo or the Muse or things like that?
John: Since the beginning of man, woman, we’ve used tools. Rocks.
Mark: Yeah, it’s just a tool to project, to make things more effective.
John: It’s just tools. Tools to help our physical world. Tools to help our inner world. And so with the newest research that’s coming out on the brain. The electrical activity. The brainwaves of positive thoughts. Negative thoughts. Negative or unpleasant thoughts. Traumas. Focus. Flow states. Etc.
We understand that they’re all patterns in the brain. So anything that we can do to activate or deactivate circuits–patterns in the brain–is probably a good thing. And so if we can use biofeedback or stim for the brain in a safe effective way, it’s just a tool. And so I look at using tools to help us progress. To help us release what we need to release so that we have more fulfilling, loving, caring fun lives. And any time we can use a tool to help us perform better–whether it’s at work or at home or because of mental illness. Or any type of trauma that we maybe have faced in the past, then I’m all for using the right tools.
And there’s a lot of work right now with psychedelics as well. On opening up different parts of the brain that have been left untouched by most people in this part of society until now. And so I’m all for that.
The thing that I think starts to get really scary is when you have the man and mind/machine interfaces.
Mark: Yeah, I was just going to go there. That makes… there’s an uncomfortable territory. Because to me that’s… 2 things that really standout One is mass distraction. How do you turn it off if you’re interfaced with the Internet? Through some sort of implant?
And two is artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence has 2 sides to it. The good and the bad.
John: So do cars.
Mark: And so do cars, exactly. So the point is you’re going to see people get hacked in the future. The zombie army might be human beings who have been hacked. (Laughing) Coming after you. That’s just a… I say that tongue-in-cheek, but jeez…
John: Well, for me it’s not tongue-in-cheek. It’s a reality that I think we are marching towards.
Mark: Yeah. Fast.
John: Yeah. And so if you think about Star Wars, for example. And you think about the… my kids were playing video games when they were younger. And they were wanting to play for hours at a time. We were told, “That’s terrible. Get your kids off of playing computer games for 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 hours a day.” And I go, “Okay. I get that.”
But I’m also observing they’re using they’re using their left hand, right hand. Connecting with each other and making split second decisions. Their brains are trained differently. The neural patterns and the pathways that they’re developing are far, far greater. Turning on their neural plasticity switch and using curiosity, novelty. And they’re getting really a lot smarter than we ever were by using some of these games.
But I was forced to think, “How will this evolve the brain which–let’s say a thousand years from now. Or 2 or 3 or 10 thousand years from now. If I could place myself there. And see that… we’re evolving whether we like it or we don’t. It might be a million years from now. How is what’s happening right now going to affect that?
Mark: Interesting. Yeah.
John: So we all have had moments of intuition where we just know. We’ve walked into a room or into a situation… not a word has been said, not a breath has been taken and you know something’s up. How do you know? Well that’s your intuition.
Well what if that starts becoming a hundred times, five hundred times more developed than the average person? What if that thought that I’m having, that you know I’m having become more refined.
In the craft that you come from, you have to rely on that.
John: And trust it.
Mark: You trust it so therefore it develops.
John: And therefore it develops. I’m getting chills right now. Well what if everything that’s happening right now with AI–what if everything that’s happening with the gamification, with the games–what if all of that is part of the evolution.
Mark: I get that when it comes to virtual reality… I can see how virtual reality developing… I was just talking to a young lady this morning who want s to develop or help develop a Matrix style construct. Or a holodeck.
John: What if we’re in one already?
Mark: We could be in one. In fact…
John: We are 18 months away.
Mark: Mathematically, it’s impossible… there’s zero chance that we’re not. I read this somewhere. There’s zero chance that we’re not in some sort of Matrix construct.
John: I’ve been following the VR world, and the AR world. And AI world. And Deep Learning machine worlds for 6 years now. I go to all the conferences. I’ve met the players. We are 18 to 36 months away from us having virtual reality goggles that are as real as yours and my discussion in front of each other right now. So wait and see…
Mark: The experience is just as real as this.
John: It’s just as real. So how do we know? How could we be so arrogant as a species to think that in our 2 and a half million years on this little blue planet, that there isn’t a more advanced species? Let’s say 5 million years in the making, on their planet. In this galaxy of billions of stars and billions of galaxies. How could we be so arrogant to think that?
I like to stretch the imagination.
Mark: here’s another stretch. Do you think that artificial intelligence could gain consciousness? Or have the same type of consciousness…?
John: Hmm. what is consciousness?
Mark: That’s the really good question. Beyond my pay grade to answer that question.
John: What is consciousness? The awareness that you and I are talking right now? The awareness that my feet are touching the ground right now? What’s consciousness?
Mark: Partly its life-force infused with intelligence, you know? So you take away their life-force, consciousness goes away…
John: Says who?
Mark: Well, it goes away from this physical form.
John: And then back to what?
Mark: Good question. Back to it’s intelligent source.
John: if we are energy, and energy’s… one of the laws of energy is the transmutation of energy from ice cube to water to air, ether, gas, to H2O. It recirculates back into it. So you go back to sperm and egg combining, 26 multiplications. But what was it before? Energy, right? Just energy. We come from the centers of stars. But where do the stars come from? From the Big Bang? Well where did the Big Bang come from?
So we can just keep going down that rabbit hole and I think that… I don’t believe that I will ever die. My body will, but I won’t.
I’m not saying, “I” as John. I’m not saying “I” as the voice that you hearing.
Mark: It’s that awareness that’s within us.
John: Yeah, so I’ve got a little different construct. Mental construct of what we’re experiencing right now. And in the world that I play in, myself, there are no accidents in this universe. Like I said before, there are lots of I don’t understand. There’s lots of things that I’m unsure of, unaware of. But there are no accidents.
Neurogym and Brainathon
Mark: Man, I wanted to get more into the Brainathon and things you train. So let’s talk about that for a little bit. Because we’ve been going for a while and I need to wrap…
John: Hopefully we got some good stuff here.
Mark: This is really interesting. These rabbit holes we could go down all day long. It’s really fascinating to me.
What is the top 3 things that you seek to train with your Neurogym and through the Brainathon. Like, what are the really most critical elements when you approach a client or someone that engages with you?
John: Sure. Number one is that you have a brain. You are not your brain. You can mold it, and you can train it.
Mark: It’s there to serve you.
John: It’s there to serve you. So whether it’s your mindset, your attitude, your perception, your beliefs, your habits… you can train them to be stronger.
I coined a term a couple years ago called “Innercize.” and so exercise trains your cardiovascular system, your lungs, your muscles. “Innercize” trains your neural muscles.
So can you develop a stronger sense of self-worth? Yes. Can you develop more self-esteem? Yes. Can you develop your sense of confidence and certainty? Yes. Can you develop empowering beliefs–which are neural structures? Yes. Can you develop empowering habits? Yes. These are all neural structures. Most people don’t know how to do it, but we can strengthen them.
Then we go to emotions. There are only a few core emotions. Happiness, sadness, love, contempt, disgust, shame. But those are bio-feedback mechanisms that are there to keep you safe. Your number one priority of the brain is safety first. Energy conservation second.
So any time you’re doing something out of your comfort zone, you are going to meet resistance. That is neurological and biological resistance. Most people move away from that. People who learn how to get through it win bigger games.
And so the first thing I wanna share with people and teach them is that you can strengthen you neural muscles to achieve more the goals and dreams that are just goals and dreams right now. So that’s number one.
And then through daily practices–simple practices–whether it’s visualization, meditation, mindfulness, subliminal programming, self-talk, cognitive behavior modification, mental contrasting… a variety of proven by science to alter neural patterns, and to alter structures in the brain. That they are used right now with CEOs that like to invest a lot of money in this. Astronauts. Navy SEALs.
And we’re already using a lot of these tools. So I let people know that the tools that used to cost thousands of dollars before. Or tens of thousands of dollars before. Are available for a fraction of the cost now for individuals.
And then regardless of what your life is like right now, your brain is at the center of what’s driving the behaviors and the thoughts and the emotions. So if it’s your brain, and we have better tools for helping you use it better. When would be a good time to learn how to do it?
John: Now. Like, you’ve got yourself the most sophisticated tool in the universe and why not use it to be happier. To be healthier? To be more compassionate? To be more loving? To be more kind? To do more good in the world? To enjoy your life more? So that when your life is over as we know it right now, you can pump your fist and go, “What a fucking great journey that was.” As opposed to going, “that was so average. That was so ordinary.”
And so everybody who’s listening right now has the ability to make a decision. To be committed instead of interested. And say, “I wanna get better at this.” I know if they’re listening they already have…
Mark: They’re likely committed. But everyone’s looking for a tool and an idea or a pathway or an inspiration to kind of deepen that commitment and steer them in a new direction. Even if it’s 1 degree new.
John: (laughing) Or move them in the same direction faster.
Mark: yeah. Exactly.
I’ve often said that if you wanna know why things are the way they are today in your life, look at how you were thinking 5 to 10 years ago. And if you wanna see where you’re going to be in 5 to 10 years, look at how you’re thinking today. Right?
So if you don’t like where you are, then check into your thinking. And if you wanna be different–like you said earlier–if you wanna have a different life in 5 to 10 years then override some of the patterns that got you where you are. Unless you like ’em. Keep ’em. But amplify ’em. So amplify the good and override the negative. But be clear about where you want to go directionally too, and that’s a whole different subject…
John: yeah, when we start talking about why is it important to have a vision. Why is it important to have goals? There’s brain-based reasons why. We know why.
Mark: That’s right. They’re an attractive force. It’s like the target out there–we use the term in the Navy SEALs. You’ve gotta know where you’re going to point your weapon. And if your brain is your weapon, it can go all over the place. And these tools will literally whip-saw you all over the place unless you know where to point them.
John: Yeah, you can use waves to surf. Or you can get beaten up by them. Your choice is, are you going to learn how to surf?
Mark: Exactly. (laughing) Are you going to learn how to surf? I love that.
So what’s the Brainathon. Cause I saw that… Your company’s neurogym.
John: Yeah. Myneurogym.com.
Mark: And what’s the Brainathon?
John: The Brainathon is something that I came up with 5 years ago. Where I invite some of the top brain researchers in the world from… whether it’s Harvard, Oxford, Princeton, Yale… wherever. Wherever the best brain research is happening. That is applicable to our day-to-day lives. How to think better. How to let go of emotions that don’t serve us. How to change habits. How to be more creative. How to have more focus. Lot of stuff we talked about.
And I brought brain experts together every year.
Mark: So it’s not just you teaching. It’s all these other experts.
John: I usually have 5 to 7 other brain experts.
Mark: That sounds like our annual summit, where we bring in subject matter experts from a variety of topics. Covering our 5 mountains.
John: Yeah, and so we do a free, web-based training. For usually 6 to 8 hours of one speaker after another. Plus, we bring clients of ours that are using what they’re learning on the Brainathon to transform their lives. And so, you know, we’ve got one coming up. And love to invite your followers to join us if they’d like.
Mark: Awesome. I think they would love that. So the training itself is free. I imagine you ask for email and that kind of stuff, of course.
John: Yeah, if people want to take a look at what’s going on. We’ve set up a page for you.
Mark: I think the… correct me if I’m wrong… it’s brainathon123.com/markdivine.
John: And they can register for free. Come for an hour. Come for 2 hours. Come for the whole day. We’ll have about 125,000 people from around the world.
Mark: So if they go to that URL will they sign-up for an actual day? An actual event?
John: yeah, it’s an actual event that they can watch off of their computer or cell phone…
Mark: If they miss the event will they get to watch a recording of it?
Mark: That’s cool. Thanks for that offer.
John: yeah, we’ll make that available for them for free. They’ll be able to find out some of the brain training tools we have. And fascinating stuff.
Mark: Thank you very much. Awesome John. Thanks so much for your time today. It’s a pleasure.
Awesome stuff. I look forward to more interaction with you.
Awesome guys. Thanks for your time today. Unbeatable Mind tribe. SEALFIT tribe. You rock. Remember your life depends upon how you think. So start thinking with an Unbeatable Mind. Use the tools and check out John Assaraf at myneurogym.com.
Till next time, train hard, stay safe and focused.