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Patrick Sweeney on Overcoming Fear and Crisis

By February 25, 2021 March 7th, 2021 No Comments

Patrick Sweeney (@thefearguru) is a well-known expert on how to manage fear so that you can use it. He is known as “The Fear Guru” and is the author of the book Fear is Fuel. After a near-death experience, he decided that he needed to get past the fears that had always ruled his life.

Hear how:

  • There’s always a crisis to deal with, but you can choose to be a mouse or a leopard—let fear freeze you or use it to overcome
  • In the civilian world, the OODA loop also has a B for “belief”—believe in yourself
  • Breathing has always been essential to handle fear—it’s also scientifically proven

Listen to this episode to start getting out of uncertainty and thrive in this current VUCA world.

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Hey folks, welcome back. This is Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Super-stoked to have you here today. Thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

As you know, I really do not take your attention lightly. With everything vying for your attention out there, the fact that you are listening to the Unbeatable Mind podcast means a lot.

It also helps if you rate it, so please rate the podcast so other folks can find it. I think we have over a thousand five stars – we want to keep that trend rolling.

My guest today is a friend, entrepreneur, author… we have so much in common… in fact, I’m slightly envious of his lifestyle. I can’t wait to talk about it and have him share the life that he’s set up and all of its ups and downs… because for every positive there’s a dark side, right?

And it’s Patrick Sweeney. Patrick author of “Fear is Fuel” known as the “fear guru…” former Olympic level athlete, entrepreneur – started several tech companies – and has overcome cancer…

I mean, there’s so much about Patrick that I love about you. Your story is amazing and you’re in your home in Chamonix, France – like how many people get to split their time between Chamonix – one of the most beautiful places in the world – and Boston, right?

Patrick: Yeah, Boston’s the work…

Mark: So you were telling me before we started that you were mountain biking and ice climbing and swimming… or diving in the Mediterranean all in the last five or six days…

Patrick: Last week and a half. Yeah, it’s pretty incredible. And for anyone who’s looking for the ultimate place to live Chamonix is it for me. And that’s why what originated as a six-month exciting experience for our family turned into now 10 years of just living this incredible lifestyle. So yeah, I’m very, very blessed…

Mark: And do you have to be a citizen to own there? How does that work for you?

Patrick: Yeah, so for me… I’m really lucky and part of my story is being the son of first-generation Irish immigrants… so I got an Irish passport when I was training for the Olympics – and so I’ve got Irish and American passports – but it makes it easier. Makes it easier to own a house here…

Mark: Cuts out a lot of the red tape, right? Because you’re an EU member…

Patrick: It does, yeah. Exactly. But honestly Mark, any of your listeners who want to come and do six months or a year or a couple years here – there’s tons of Americans here and we do a New Year’s Eve party every year and there’s 13 different nationalities that show up. So it’s a blast.

Mark: Have you seen an uptick with covid related people – I don’t know – that’s probably not the right word – people during covid who’ve said “screw it. I’m moving and going remote, or I’m gonna go…”

Especially mountain towns in the united states are just booming. Because people are buying real estate and saying “hey, I can live and work here.” Is that happening there?

Patrick: It’s happening a ton in cham – especially with brits, right? Because of Brexit and Britain getting so hard locked down. As many got out and got over here as I think possible and are just enjoying the lifestyle…

Mark: And what’s the cost of living like?

Patrick: Ridiculous. You know, aspen-like. Yeah, I mean, property never goes on sale because the chalets have been in families for generations and generations. So it’s tough to find a spot.

But there’s valleys and areas around cham that are a short car ride or short bus ride. And I try and do all my mountaineering eco-mountaineering, right? So I’ll try and take the train or take the bus whenever I can to go do a climb or do a ski or something like that. And it’s easy to do that.

Mark: Is it? Yeah, that’s cool about Europe.

Patrick: It’s great for people who want to come and live this outdoor lifestyle.

Mark: Yeah, that’s neat.

Well, that’s not what we decided to talk about, but it’s fascinating to me… I don’t think I’ve ever disclosed this, but I’m very interested in getting an EU passport – I’m very interested in being a citizen of the world and not just of the united states – and I have nothing against the united states – well maybe a little bit, you know? (laughing) there’s a little bit of the politics that is just really…

Patrick: (laughing) we all have a few axes to grind…

Mark: Yeah, we’ve got a few axes to grind with the politics and with the negativity and with the media… but I love America and I love the places that I have here. I love to do some of the things that you do. I love doing that in America – out in Utah and up in lake placid, New York.

But I feel that we’re heading into a new era where we’re all global citizens – and I’m not talking about that from like an elitist globalism perspective – like a leftist elitist perspective.

I’m talking about this expansion of consciousness. People feeling what you’ve experienced with your work and the people you train – more connection to everybody and recognizing similarities as opposed to differences. And wanting to be a citizen of the world and to do good and be good, right? For all of humanity and the planet.

And so as part of that like why not have you know an EU passport? Or live in another country? And you’ve already lived that.

And what does that do to just your sense of self? To have two passports, to be free to roam between Europe and the united states without thinking that you’re a foreigner?

Patrick: I think, Mark, the most amazing thing to come out of it for me – and covid has amplified this for sure – is that I do definitely feel like a global citizen. Before covid I was going back and forth all the time and really taking advantage of globalization. I was in in the states two weeks, and then back over in cham for two weeks.

And now I think while globalization is still incredibly important and a big influence on our world – I think localization, in the way that you said it – being connected. When I’m in Chamonix, being connected to the people here…

Mark: In Chamonix, right…

Patrick: And it’s connected through all the things we do, talking about snow conditions, talking about availability or weather or new routes… or talking about politics that influence us here. Or wanting to know more information about the united states. And understanding other people’s beliefs and behaviors.

And so it’s amazing to come particularly to a place like Chamonix where there’s so much diversity in backgrounds, in nationality and religion and work… things that got people here, or allowed them to come here, that you really feel like everything you need is right here. You don’t have to go anywhere. You’re connected to this community and it’s an incredible community.

And I think that that holds true wherever you are now. I think being local – you know, eating local, buying local and engaging and impacting local is the new globalism.

Mark: I totally agree with that. It’s counterintuitive, but we’ve seen how globalism and the way our economic systems and supply lines are set up is just not sustainable. And a movement back toward local food production, and local distribution, and self-sustainability at a local level.

But at the same time, having the mindset that your actions where you are can affect the entire world. Someone clear across the world on other continents…

So that to have a global perspective, a global inclusiveness, a global care and concern – while having a local support structure and a focus on taking care of your piece of land, right? And your local peeps, right?

Patrick: That’s it. And we’re our own butterfly effect. So what we do here and how we engage in this community is going to impact people on the other side of the planet.

Mark: Wouldn’t it be cool – now this works for both an individual, as well as an organization, as well as a community like cham as you call it – or Encinitas – where I live – is if we could all endeavor to be the model for the rest of the world, right? If we could all endeavor to lead by example.

If every community, every organization, and every individual took that as a personal stand to lead by example in terms of holistic health, integrative health, fitness, all-around development of the mind body and the spirit. Develop self-sustainable and close-to-the-earth type policies.

And taking care of the elderly. And really, really digging into education and how to educate at a personalized manner, as well as personalized medicine and healing. Dealing with sickness.

I mean there’s just so many things that we already know to be good and right and just. But we just can’t do it from a top-down bureaucratic 20th century kind of model anymore. It’s got to be driven by pods of individuals and integral commons, type of thing.

Patrick: And if each individual takes a 100% accountability for it. It’s when you start giving away that accountability – which is natural, because…

Mark: Well governments want to take it, right? Governments will take as much as you give them. And they’ll take what you even don’t want to give them.

But again, that centralized craving for control, there’s a huge pushback against that in my opinion these days. I mean look at the whole decentralized movement with blockchain, and you know I think those are the graspings of a dying, dinosaur model, right? And you’re going to see that fall apart in the next 20 to 50 years, I think. Or sooner.

Patrick: Yeah.

Mark: Speaking of that – I want to talk also about your life and your work with fear – especially as it pertains to how to help people deal with fear of you know covid and the things we’re talking about – government overreach and the destruction from the economic shutdowns. As it relates to how people navigate that.

But when it comes to like you being a tech entrepreneur, and I’m fascinated with blockchain and the integration of blockchain and ai. This idea that the blockchain is creating a new internet that’s decentralized, that that will take the power back away from Facebook’s and Google’s of the world – which have basically completely raped humanity’s privacy as well as their content. And used us…

It’s probably not intentional. Like, I don’t think they did it on purpose. It’s just the business model turned out to be – you’ve heard this before – that we became the product, not the customer. Because they’re using all of our data, all of our information, all of our content.

We don’t get paid for it. We’re not sovereign anymore in the eyes of google and twitter and Facebook. And in fact, not only that, but they can censor us now. Which to me is one of the most mind-boggling developments, right?

Patrick: That’s the scariest part. I mean, I don’t think, and I’ve got Russian friends who will tell you this as well – I don’t think that the government should be getting involved in how to control private corporations, but I think there has to be a solution to the fact that when a social media company like twitter can shut down someone, just by choice. You know, who made Jack Dorsey the czar of what information gets disseminated, right?

Mark: I totally agree.

Patrick: He’s no more able to justify it than us. But on the same token, if I go back to me taking 100% accountability, like probably a ton of your listeners – that’s why I switched to telegram, right?

Mark: Right. You can vote with your fingers and your pocketbook, right?

Patrick: And so that’s what we got to do.

Mark: What do you think of bitcoin as a global reserve currency – like global gold. Not as a currency, but I think it’s become more of a store of value. And that’s the real value.

Digital gold, as opposed to thinking that people are going to actually buy a tesla. I mean, people have bought a tesla with it which is probably a big mistake (laughing) – just walking away from millions of dollars.

Patrick: Exactly. Well, I think bitcoin and blockchain obviously as many of your listeners probably know way more than I do about it – are two very separate things. And I think the notion of blockchain for security and provenance and being able to remove threat of mass hacks or ransom attacks or that sort of thing I think is hugely useful.

Mark: You know, it cuts out the middleman in a lot of cases – which is a big threat for the old model. But you know these decentralized finances, you’re going to be able to bank without a bank. You’re going to be able to get a loan without a mortgage company. And so on and so forth. It’s crazy.

Patrick: And that’s exactly right. And that’s where the value lies in being able to control your financial reserves, your financial future. And especially across currencies, right? And across borders. That’s the probably the most exciting thing.

And I’ve got a little bit of bitcoin, a little bit of Ethereum and you know I think bitcoin in the next year goes over 100,000

Mark: 100%. I totally agree. Yeah, I’ve been a big fan of bitcoin, and always kicking myself in the butt because I bought well over 100 a few years ago, and then I sold most of it. And I also inadvertently transferred four bitcoin to an Ethereum address and lost it. I’ve been all over the place with it, right?

But I slowly clawed my way back and I have some holdings. I think it is a store of gold – I finally heard that Michael Sawyer from MicroStrategy buying in – for replacing their cash treasury reserves for bitcoin. And then Elon doing it with Tesla.

And then a lot of major universities were quietly putting some of their endowments into it. You’re gonna find it, I think, in the next two to three years where if you don’t have a percentage of your reserves in your fortune 500 – in your pension fund, right? And you’re a mutual fund that you don’t have a bitcoin option – then you’re going to be toast. Because with all the money printing the value of the dollar is creeping down.

It always has. I mean, I think the value of the dollar is 10% today of what it was in the early 1980s… so if the value of the dollar is going to depreciate like that, and even accelerate that depreciation with all the money printing. And bitcoin, because it’s a fixed supply of 21 million – of which close to four million have been lost – like my four bitcoin… (laughing)

Patrick: (laughing) you’re sadly in that category…

Mark: Big supply with the potential to have you know trillions of dollars flowing into it. It’s just inevitable. Supply and demand says that bitcoin is going to be worth well over a $100,000 within 12 months to 18 months. And I believe some of the predictions that say 500 to even a million dollars per bitcoin. I really believe that.

Now unless governments come in around the world and say “screw this. We’re going to make it illegal.” And I think that would push more people into it, and I think governments would fall if they did that. The genie is out of the bottle.

Patrick: I think so too, but I don’t think you get those huge values until there becomes material usage. And that’s the problem right now. You can’t buy the house; you can’t buy the car…

Mark: It doesn’t have a good use case. Too volatile.

Patrick: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think that’s what – right now – puts a ceiling on bitcoin. And the fact that it’s high beta – so it can go from 20 grand up to 30 grand in the course of a month.

Mark: And back down. Shorter time.

Yeah, I agree. It’s going to take some time. But it’s fascinating to watch anyways, right?

Patrick: Yeah, but I mean the advice I give everyone who asks me – and I’ve invested now in almost 70 different startups – and people say “well what about VC investment? But what about this?”

And I say look take 5 to 7% of your liquid net worth and put it in bitcoin.

Mark: Yeah, I agree…

Patrick: And just ride it out and expect it to be there for 10 years. 15 years.

Mark: Yeah, and don’t wait for some perfect moment, right? You can’t time bitcoin, just like you really can’t time the market. Don’t wait, just start.

You know, I like these new platforms – there’s some great apps or blockchain solutions where you can kind of micro-invest and you can top off your credit cards – and you got to be very careful that you’re not getting scammed.

I got scammed by a company called Coinseed, which was taking like 20 dollars out of my account, they started taking 40 dollars out without authorization. And then I tried to get my money back and “chirp, chirp.”

And I’m like, “ah, I just got scammed. Good thing it was only 1200 bucks, and not 20 thousand…

So you got to be careful. Do your research, do your research.

Patrick: Coinbase is – a friend of mine started Coinbase a few years ago – they’re reputable…

Mark: Oh wow. Yeah, Coinbase is awesome. Coinbase rocks. Yeah, I totally agree.

Patrick: But you mentioned acting versus – taking the action and finding the right time to do it. And that’s what you know this whole year of covid has I think can be boiled down to. And split into two different camps.

I think that everyone that I’ve worked with so far in the past let’s call it 11 months, has definitely bifurcated across those two… on one side of the action or the other.

Mark: Hunkering down and waiting and riding out the storm. Or looking at it as a massive opportunity to pivot, and to move. Physically move, move their mind, do something different reinvent themselves – you know, I’ve seen the same thing…

leopard and mouse


Patrick: It’s how can we create an advantage out of this adversity? And one of the scientific facts I was just telling a friend of mine is when a mouse is scared, they freeze. When a leopard is scared, it takes massive swift and oftentimes deadly action, right?

Mark: It’s like the difference between a navy seal and I’d hesitate to say…

Patrick: (laughing) and a cook…

Mark: (laughing) and a cook, yeah.

Patrick: So yeah. Unless the cook is Steven Seagal. And that’s it. And I look at, you know… I was just with a fortune 500 company a couple weeks ago. And I said “look, you can either be the mouse or you can be the leopard.” And what happens is it starts with a level of fear and that fear elicits the response.

And then even after… with vaccines out and young people aren’t dying, and you’ve had a few friends who had it – so the fear diminishes – but it creates uncertainty. And you’re always talking about VUCA and the volatility and the uncertainty…

But you still have the mice of the world frozen. Not acting.

And the leopards of the world are sitting there doing exactly what you and I have been doing – and this is how I ran my companies – we’re observing what’s going on around us. We’re orienting ourselves in the best possible manner – we’re deciding, acting – and then doing it all over again.

And you can see people who are creating a huge advantage – you know? Friends of ours who are writers who are just cranking out in the past six months, because they’re not speaking, they’re not on the road so they’ve gotten more done in six months than they have in the previous three or four years. And those are the people that I want my friends and family to be like.

Mark: Totally agree.

That’s interesting. You bring up a good point. It’s almost a learned response, right? That then becomes a habitual pattern. So if you’re a mouse and crisis strikes and you freeze, okay no problem. You’ve learned a behavior. It’s going to take you a while to unfreeze, but you’ll go back and run your business.

But the next time it happens, you freeze again. And now you’ve created a pattern. Because there’s always going to be crisis – there’s always crisis, there’s always challenges, always ups and downs.

Covid’s just the latest example of that, right?

And so the mouse gets complacent, and it freezes, and then it freezes, and it freezes again. And pretty soon it can’t get unstuck. And you get into that fixed mindset and that stuckness.

Organizations can have that same response, right? Because the organization’s just a collective mindset – and that collective mindset could either be the leopard or the mouse. Have you found that?

Patrick: Or organizations and governments. In two of my companies, we did a lot of government contracting. And a lot of work with different branches.

And it’s the same thing, the complacency and the analysis paralysis. And you boil it down to one thing, Mark.

And that’s fear, right? People are afraid to make a decision, because it hasn’t gotten approval. Afraid to make a decision, because we’ve never tried this before in our organization. Afraid to make a decision, because we’re going to fail.

And what they’re doing is failing to act. And when you fail to act, you’re not able to pull in all this new information, as you know. We’ve talked about the OODA loop a bunch and we hit on in the audio version of “Fear is Fuel” coming out. And one of the things that I’ve always said – and I can’t remember if we’ve talked about this in the past or not – I’ve run my companies and my athletic endeavors and everything else by the OODA loop.

But I believe there’s a “b” that has to go before that for normal people. So when John Boyd came up with the OODA loop, he was talking about highly trained fighter pilots. And that “b” that I put in front of it is “belief.”

And fighter pilots have a belief in themselves. You won’t find anyone cockier than maverick and goose, right?

So they have that belief already. Not everybody has that. And not all of the people come naturally. Some people have it through faith, and they believe things will work out. We’ve got this CEO whisperer, who’s in one of my chapters as well, named Diana Chapman. And she works with tons of Silicon Valley CEOs – from Tim Ferriss to guys at tesla, and everyone in between.

And one of the things she always says is “the world’s a very friendly place.” And if you believe that, then you start to have this belief and this understanding of how your life can change when you start to use that OODA loop.

But if you don’t have that belief, and you try and jump into the OODA loop, you get fragmented. You stop in the middle of observing, and then you go back to trying to decide on something new. Or you just don’t take the action.

And it’s that belief I think that a lot of people need in these times of uncertainty. If you want to change and get your ass off the couch and stop waiting for the end of covid. And stop waiting for the next PPP check. And stop waiting for what’s going to happen next, then you’ve got to believe that whatever action you take is going to work out for the better.

Mark: Well ultimately everything comes down to mindset. And the thoughts that you allow yourself to have, which is basically what a belief is, right? And curating those thoughts through mindfulness and contemplation and self-awareness… you know, the self-examined life. Whether you’re an individual or an organization – not worth living. Socrates says.

The unexamined organizational life will lead to you know being frozen in fear and extinction before long. I would add that there’s two more steps that are really important. In the seals we use the acronym “pbta” in addition to the OODA loop.

But the OODA loop kind of covers the “t” and the “a,” and I’ll explain. So “p” simply means “pause” – and you’ll love this, because you know that by pausing, you just stop the insertion to the amygdala. You just stop everything. Because the information comes to the amygdala – as you describe in your book “Fear is Fuel” – immediately it triggers that fight-or-flight response.

Well, the amygdala is searching for risk or reward. Good or bad. And anything that’s a stressor or trigger like covid is going to be perceived as bad, immediately triggering the sympathetic nervous system. And at an organizational level or leadership level, that sympathetic nervous system looks like all stop, right? Three alarm fire. Freeze what you’re doing, massive confusion, “what do we do now?” Looking for answers. Looking for the fear guru to help you out, but not being autonomous and moving forward. Using doubt to be limited through action.

And so pausing and just pausing to digest and to stop and to interrupt that fear loop. Then breathe into it, right? So for an individual that literally means breathe. And I know you recommend breathing practices. That’s like slow down and now let’s reverse the fear loop and activate the courage loop.

These are words that I use in my book, my writing. Once you’ve got the courage loop going, that’s where belief kicks in. “I got this. We can figure this out. This is going to make us stronger,” right? “this is an opportunity.”

As opposed to “holy crap, we’re going to be dead” so “pb,” pause, breathe – and pause breathe activate belief so maybe it’s double “b” there.

Then you think and you act. The “t” and the “a.” And the think is observe – this is where the OODA loop comes in handy – observe what’s really happening in the environment. Study it, research it – you don’t need to… unless someone’s pointing a gun at you – you can take you know a few cycles to really think through, but then you’ve got to act.

So we’re looking like for an 80% solution, not 100%. You can’t be perfect in a crisis; you can’t be perfect anytime. So you observe, you orient and then you make a decision. And you stand by the decision.

And here’s the key. When you decide like in the seal team – you might have two-thirds of the team who thinks it’s a great idea, and one-third is like “that’s going to get us killed.” Or “I don’t agree with it.” Or “it wasn’t my idea.”

Doesn’t matter. That one-third gets behind the idea and you execute with full support. 100% buy-in. Even if 30% don’t agree. Does that make sense? So the action – how an elite team acts is really important. You don’t have to agree with the leader or the decision that was made. You just have to back it 100% with your efforts.

And then of course that gets into the action phase. I think we just came up with a really good model pbbta…

And the “t” includes that OODA loop.

Patrick: Yeah exactly. I like that.


Patrick: You know, there’s a ton of neuroscience behind that too, Mark. In the book – the breathing, what that does is there’s two ways our brain processes information. Top-down, which is taking information that you see, or you hear, or you read, or that you touch or that you smell from your senses. And that comes in as neuroscientists say it on the top.

And then bottoms up. And bottoms up is your brain looking at your heart rate, looking at your breathing rate, looking at your digestion, looking at all these things that are happening and wondering if they’ve stopped too. So have they switched to the fight or flight.

So when we do breathing – which, as you know, my acronym that I use for people to deal with fear and uncertainty is “base.” B-a-s-e.

And the “b” is just like you and thousands of other mindful people and yogis and everything through the years is to breathe. And what you’re doing is if you start doing a 4×4 box breathing, as you call it, or any other set of breathing, you’re sending a signal to your brain that says, “we’re not under… because if we were under threat, we’d be doing rapid shallow breathing, so everything must be okay.”

That helps clear the working memory, which is basically where our instructions are coming from. Because the amygdala wants to put up fight, flight or freeze up there. So the breathing helps clear that out.

And then, what you’re talking about is… one of my favorite books is Victor Frankel’s “Man’s Search for Meaning,” which you know is an awesome book. And I talk about his book in the new audio version with the psychologist from the US Olympic training center. And he said the number one thing across all the athletes – if you look at every athlete that he’s trained from Michael Phelps to what’s his name…? Ohno, the speed skater. To all these guys – down to, you know, knuckleheads like me…

He said the most common thing they have that works for them is self-talk. And that’s just what you were talking about earlier – you didn’t call it self-talk – but it’s the belief, it’s the understanding, it’s the mindfulness to put in your head what’s going to serve you at the moment.

Mark: Yeah, fear-based code is corrupted, right? It’s almost like code that’s got broken codes in it, right? Because as you run those loops, it just keeps weakening your body and then corrupting your belief systems… to where you utterly believe you can’t do something.

Because whatever you’re doing isn’t working. Because your self-talk is corrupting the entire system, energetically.

Patrick: And you know what? Not just energetically, Mark – this has been happening for 11 months with covid. People don’t understand – one of the things that I’ve been screaming about for the past year is that covid can make our immune system stronger.

Mark: I agree. 100%.

Patrick: So there are people who are doing just what you’re saying – they have this non-stop cortisol and adrenaline and DHEA and all this stuff going through their body, because they’re constantly afraid. They’re constantly worried about the ups guy giving them covid, or catching it from their kids going to school, or hockey practice, or whatever…

So they’re always worried about it. That’s killing their immune system. They can flip that on its head by reprogramming… the amygdala is running a two-million-year-old piece of software, right?

Mark: (laughing) so it’s got some bugs.

Patrick: Right, it’s got some serious bugs. And so we have it’s incumbent on us to reprogram that, because if we’re living with that in this day and age – when there’s way more stimulus, way more threat, way more diversity than we were ever designed to do – then we’re just gonna be going down a rabbit hole that we won’t come out of.

Mark: 100% agree. Because this covid will be replaced by the next one, and the next one and you know, human beings were designed to deal with nature’s vagaries, like that. We’re designed to do it.

I mean look at what’s happening in India right now. They’re like we don’t understand why the cases of covid infection and symptoms are like plummeting. (laughing) and the best they can come up is this like “we have a pretty damn resilient population. Because our medical sucks and people are you know living in the dirt.” A little covid’s not going to bother them.

It’s pretty interesting. Of course, I’ve been hammered for saying things that aren’t backed by science on this podcast. So I’ll just caveat everything. I don’t really know what I’m talking about when it comes to covid. (laughing) so don’t cancel me, just yet.

Patrick: (laughing) exactly. Don’t stop listening to us.

Mark: So last time I spoke to you – and you’ve mentioned this before – we were doing an audio recording for your new audiobook – for “Fear is Fuel” – coming out in audio form.

Which is great. I love audio books… and more, and more people are accessing books through audio. It’s just a huge platform. I love it.

And can you share you already shared the Olympian that you talked to but share some of the most insightful… because you did a really neat thing – I’m kind of bouncing on here – but you did a really neat thing. You read the book, but then each chapter you also had a bonus interview.

So ours was a bonus interview for chapter one – which is really cool. Because those bonus interviews probably opened your mind and added new insights, which of course people get to share.

So what were some of the top things that you talked about with the people you interviewed for the audiobook?

Patrick: So just like you said, Mark – well, first of all the guy in chapter one just hit it out of the park.

Mark: (laughing) that’s good to hear. I’ve heard he’s a pretty cool guy, but…

Patrick: (laughing) he’s a pretty cool guy. He doesn’t know shit about covid, but…

Mark: (laughing) yeah, he’s not a covid expert and anything he says that seems culturally or racially incentive sensitive you cannot hold him accountable, too.

Patrick: So yeah, we started with Mark in chapter one which was fantastic, but the idea of this bonus content was I spent six years researching the book and interviewed three dozen neuroscientists across the world – from Stanford, MIT, University College London, Bordeaux University, Harvard… you name it.

And the top neuroscientists contributed their information and basically what I did was translate it into plain English, so people could understand how to reprogram your brain and live this life of your dreams…

Because let’s face it everyone was hitting snooze on 2020 – saying “wake me up when this thing’s over.” You know, that is no way to go through life.

So the book had all this information pre-covid. No idea that we were going to be set with this level of uncertainty. And so the people who came into it – I’ll give you a couple great examples – one is Karl Friston. He’s one of my favorite neuroscientists of all time. He was on the cover of “Wired” magazine last October and he’s got more citations of his research than Einstein, right?

Mark: Wow.

Patrick: I mean – you can’t say anyone’s a shoo-in for a Nobel prize – but Friston is – he’s incredible. I’d go to his office in University College London, I’d ask him one question. He would talk for an hour and a half and 90% of the words I wouldn’t understand. So I’d come home I’d get on my couch and I’d listen to it, I’d write down notes, I’d listen to it, I write down notes – I’d do that four or five times. And until I got his… and that’s where some of that bottoms-up and top-down information.

His biggest takeaway is that our brain is a prediction engine. And we have something called prior beliefs – our past history that helps us predict the future. So if our past history is being an Irish catholic kid who stayed in Boston, in the same neighborhood where he was baptized and went to school – he’s going to have a very one-dimensional view of the world. And his predictions of the outcome of uncertainty is going to be based on that.

So if you want to really have the ability to predict the future and to get out of uncertainty, you’ve got to increase your prior beliefs. Which means your experiences.

Mark: That supports what we said about wanting to be a global citizen, and travel, and live-in different places, and communicate with different types of people. And open your mind basically.

Patrick: And replacing – the key thing is replacing judgment with curiosity. And if you replace that judgment with curiosity and you think “wow, why is this person doing this? That’s really interesting. I want to find out about it.”

And so Friston’s a great guy. We have a one-of-a-kind interview with a Texas billionaire who was just great. And so my partner in reading the book is a former Boston red sox player and professional baseball player for 13 years Lou Merloni, and he’s an ESPN color commentator for baseball…

Mark: What do you mean partnering in reading the book? Did you share the reading with him?

Patrick: We shared the reading, yeah.

Mark: Oh, that’s cool.

Patrick: Yeah, yeah. And he’s got he’s got a great Boston accent. And so we go back and forth and then we both do the interviews at the end of the chapter.

And so some of the interviews are spectacular, but this this billionaire who we interviewed was very reclusive. I worked for his company 20 years ago and so that’s how I got the interview that everybody in the world had wanted. We started talking and he was “I don’t like to talk about myself. I don’t want to brag about this…”

So it was going nowhere. And we’re thinking “oh man, we’re fucking dying out here. Lou, give him a baseball anecdote or something.”

And Lou said to him, “well, what would you tell your kids?”

And as soon as he did that… well, first thing he said was “well, I don’t know – what I told my kids I don’t know if it would be that that relevant.”

He said “well, what would you tell them?” And it was just gold from there on, you know? He answered those next three or four questions just like he was talking to his own son or his own daughter.

And so we got some incredible insights about giving back and philanthropy and how being able to generate happiness affected him as much as you know the altruism of doing good things as much as it affected the people that he was helping.

So he was a great one, as well. We had a good friend of mine who retired as a commander – was one of the first women f-18 pilots Laurie Coffey – and then she went to Pensacola and became an instructor, and the best part of her interview is we started out and we said, “okay, what was your biggest fear growing up?”

And she said, “scary movies.”

And we said, “well, what do you mean?”

She said, “my mother used to make me sit on the couch and watch ‘creature double feature’ on Sunday mornings in black and white.”

And we’re thinking, man, she’s done – whatever – three tours of Iraq, she was in Afghanistan – she’s been shot at, she’s got however many confirmed kills and all this other stuff. And she’s afraid of black and white scary movies.

So you know some of the insight was great.

Mark: But you know back to that, something like that helps shape who we are. And so she obviously compensated for that. Which helped her deal with the fear of flying an f-18 or even going for a challenge like that. That’s fascinating.

Patrick: She talks about her skill set, which she was training new pilots to do. Particularly their first carrier landing, which is, you know…

Mark: The most dangerous moment, right?

Patrick: Exactly. And so she said she learned very early on to compartmentalize her fear. And like everyone I’ve talked to that has the right attitude around fear, we’re not trying to become fearless. You and I definitely aren’t fearless. We do a lot of things that other people wouldn’t do.

But it’s because of courage. Which is acting rationally in the face of fear, and not letting fear dictate the action response. And so still being aware of that fear, she learned, and she explains in the audiobook how to compartmentalize the fear.

And I thought that was really useful, because she’d been practicing that on new f-18 pilots for seven or eight years.

Mark: And how does she do it? Is there a simple explanation?

Patrick: Yeah, so she had two different explanations, but the short one is she taught people to basically put a chest of drawers in their mind. And put different things in those chest of drawers. And she’d have procedure for landing in this one, she’d have communication to wingman or whatever in that one…

And then she’d have fear in another one. And she’d say “anything that starts to comes up, that feels like fear – whether it’s sweaty palms or heartbeat or whatever – put in that.

Mark: You know what? By the way, that’s a classic technology that’s been around forever. I love that.

It shows up in silva mind control method, it shows up in gateway project – which has just been declassified around synchronizing left and right hemisphere of your brain through audio input. And as part of the process, they do this kind of compartmentalization of different fears and things like that. In almost an identical way that you just described.

That’s cool. So I love how these things show up. Whether she figured that out herself – like there’s very little new information in the world, right Patrick?

Patrick: Well, that’s one thing, Mark, from all these neuroscientists I took the breathing’s the best thing – you and I have been doing breathing for 25 years – and getting other people to do it. And yogis have been doing it for thousands and thousands…

But yeah, now there’s all this neuroscience research that it’s bottoms up information. Here’s how it feeds the brain. Here’s how it reprograms…

Mark: So I guess in that respect, there is new information on the old information, right? New ways of looking at it. New proof, new language around it.

So I refine my statement. That’s cool.

what’s next


Mark: What’s next for you? What’s your next project? Is there a follow-up or a sequel to “Fear is Fuel”

Patrick: Yeah, so there’s two things that I’m working on – one is a series of master classes to put some of the neuroscience to more practical use.

Mark: That’ll be very valuable.

Patrick: Yeah, and the first ones oddly enough – we just finished – it’s on parenting. So it’s basically 10 hours of video about how the child and adolescent brain develops. And what to do and why you know things happen and most people don’t know that the amygdala is fully developed at birth, and the prefrontal cortex doesn’t fully develop until we’re in our mid-20s…

Mark: That’s right. So that’s why I give my son some slack still, because he’s only 21.

Patrick: (laughing) exactly. And you don’t engage the fight response, because that’s exactly what you’re going to get back, right?

But that’s tough for parents to do. Believe me, I’m at the head of that list. Especially with my youngest kid, who’s exactly like me when I was his age. So you can imagine how nuts that drives me.

Mark: That’s the worst, totally.

So you said there were two things, and that’s one. What was the other thing?

Patrick: The other is a more personal memoir. So going back…

Mark: Yeah, you don’t really tell much of your story in “Fear is Fuel,” do you?

Patrick: No, I talk a little bit about the Olympics and then the big thing for me was – my biggest fear was fear of flying, because I saw a plane crash when I was a kid. And I avoided it most of life, until I got the leukemia. And then when I was in Johns Hopkins and they were telling me to get my affairs in order and say my goodbyes – my daughter was a year old and my wife was six months pregnant, and I said, “you know, if I get another chance, I’m going to be the kind of dad that can take my kids to see the world. To Disney world, to Dublin…

Mark: To Chamonix…

Patrick: To Chamonix, yeah. And so I got out and I started flying – I started taking flying lessons to get over this fear. And as scared shitless as I was, after four or five flights, I fell in love with flying. And I couldn’t believe…

I got my private license, I got my instrument rating, I got my commercial license… and now I do competitive aerobatics. And I couldn’t believe that for 35 years – all of that joy, excitement, passion had been locked away from me because of fear.

And that’s actually the genesis for the book, I wanted other people to not have to go through a near-death experience to figure out how to get past their fears and find out that all their dreams were on the other side of fear.

And so the next book is going to go much more in-depth about me growing up… and I know your friends and you’ve had Goggins on a couple of times – it’s kind of the same idea. How I went from blue collar Boston to afraid to fly and now a stunt pilot, and world record holder, and all that other fun stuff…

Because I think anyone can do it. Anyone who has the mindset and the desire.

Mark: I love that and there’s a certain type of person who will learn more from that approach… looking at the intimate sharing of your life and gleaning lessons from that… which of course, you’ll bring out.

Versus kind of a more formulaic self-help, personal development book… which there’s a ton of them out there.

Yeah, good luck with that. That’s cool.

Patrick: And I keep waiting for when I can come out and roll around on the on the beach with you for a few days. But what’s next for you? What do you have on tap?

Mark: I’m reorganizing my company so we can really begin to scale Unbeatable Mind into corporate leadership and team development. Because that’s what we do better than anyone else in the world.

And so we’re working on that and looking at a rebranding. Probably won’t change the name, but just really tightening the ship. And I’ve spun SEALFIT back out, and I’m going to take SEALFIT back on as an entrepreneurial project to reboot that.

And come up with a different business model. Because I started in 2006 and it’s ready for the next generation, so I’d love to pick your brain on that by the way. Get some ideas.

And I’m really diving into kind of differentiating the personal branding of Mark Divine – I consider myself an accidental influencer, right? I started out as a trainer to train world-class people. And starting with creating the next generation of future special operator warriors – through SEALFIT…

And the training we put together – as we were talking about earlier – was so darn effective and so innovative, because it was multi-dimensional. And led to vertical development – growth of consciousness, growth of awareness – because of the approach we took. Which was the integration of physical, mental, emotional, intuition and spiritual – those five mountains.

So that led to me having now six different books with New York times bestseller, wall street whatever – all that kind of story… I’m like “wow, how did this happen?” Got a little bit impostor syndrome here, because I’m just a trainer.

So I’m trying to step in – probably like you are – I’m trying to step into that reality. That “holy shit. I actually have become an influencer.” And my podcast is rated in the top 10.

And I’ve got a lot of humility around that, but I also need to own it and I didn’t have a personal website until last year. And it still sucks so we’re going to rebuild all that. I didn’t have my own social media channels until last year.

So we should have hundreds of thousands of followers, and I have 30,000. Because it’s all brand new. Everything was all kind of wrapped up in my business, and I was just heads-down, focused on trying to make people better.

And so it’s kind of like differentiating where I’m going to take myself and my business seriously. And step into becoming the person who’s worthy of training and inspiring 100 million people – which is my 25-year goal.

Patrick: See and I think that – from my perspective I’ve taken a similar and maybe accidental approach as well – but I do think if you look at it from the neuroscience perspective, there’s top-down and there’s bottoms-up, right?

So the top down, the influencers – the guy who’s a trainer at the gym who’s been you know working with two housewives and starts his podcast or his YouTube channel. And all he wants to do is become an influencer, right? So his main goal is to try and take advantage and get as many followers and impact as possible…

Mark: There’s a lot of that going on…

Patrick: Top-down approach. There’s a ton of that going on.

And then there’s the bottoms-up approach, which is do some real stuff, make a lot of mistakes, learn a ton, try and figure out a way of sharing that and impacting the world to the best of your ability. And that’s what I call reaching your full potential, and going from success… maybe you start a few companies, maybe you won a bunch of races, maybe you did some stuff…

And I would have considered myself successful, but I wanted to be significant. I wanted to use my experiences to help change the world. And so going from success to significance is critical…

And then the following can come.

Mark: Yeah, it should show up as it’s meant to, right? Not to say you don’t do certain things – like I was just talking about – like, yeah, you actually got to start an Instagram channel. And hire someone who knows how to do that.

(laughing) I fumbled through an Instagram live yesterday. It’s the second one I’ve done, but the first one was like interview where I just had to click on accept and then we were talking. This one I was supposed to be like taking questions from the crowd.

And that’s probably why it’s a good thing we didn’t do that clubhouse chat today. It’s like I was just fumbling all over the place. I don’t use social media myself.

Patrick: Well I haven’t done I haven’t done clubhouse. I got the invite I don’t know a month ago or something… I’m afraid of it, Mark…

Mark: Me too. I have to I’ve got to learn Stereo. Stereo is a competitor, and they want to sponsor my podcast, so in order to do that, I’ve got to do you know like 10 weeks of like Stereo chat. So maybe we can come on and do a Stereo chat.

Patrick: Oh hell, yeah.

Mark: That would be fun. It’s the same thing as clubhouse, it’s just a different platform…

Patrick: Different platform. Yeah, I actually think from a technology perspective a lot of people have been talking about it – I think it’s a feature…

Mark: Yeah. It’s a feature. Because it’s so easy to replicate…

Patrick: That’s it. If I’m LinkedIn, actually, I would buy clubhouse, I’d pay whatever they want to get clubhouse and get that moving on to LinkedIn’s platform. And then I think they’ve got a goldmine.

Mark: Yeah, I’m with you.

Well we got to move on. So “Fear is Fuel” has been out for a year and a half now, and you can find that everywhere books are sold. And I highly recommend it.

But the audiobook – for those who want all these bonus interviews – definitely want to get the audiobook. You said it’s on pre-sale, so you just go to and order the book?

Patrick: – it’s exclusive on amazon and audible, which I think goes to iTunes as well. And pre-order now, and it is available March 1st.

Mark: Oh that’s coming up quick.

Patrick: Yeah.

Mark: Awesome. Well congrats and it’s so good to see you – in Chamonix, France – that’s where you are…

Patrick: I’ll wake your ass up early so you can get the view of the mountains when it’s not dark out here…

Mark: I’d love to see that. You showed me a picture. It’s stunning. It’s beautiful.

I’d love to get over there sometime, but we’ll see. We’ll see what happens with travel and all that. And timing.

Patrick: Yeah, I definitely think we could have some fun adventures. And actually for your listeners pre-covid, I did a couple of executive forum retreats for YPO as you know – young president’s organization.

And one other fortune 500 where they brought eight or nine executives over here to Chamonix and we did paragliding, and then neuroscience, and then had a five-star Michelin dinner. And then woke up and did it again.

Mark: Oh wow, that’d be fun. Let’s do that. We could recruit a few people each. Then we could have a combined Mark Divine/Patrick Sweeney event. I think that would be a blast.

Patrick: If anyone out there is interested, let’s get in touch, we’ll plan that out.

Mark: Yeah, please do.

Awesome pat. It’s great to see you my friend. And best of luck with everything. Take care of those kids. And we’ll talk soon. Hooyah.

Patrick: All right. Thank you, Mark. Thank you everyone for tuning in and look forward to catching up soon.

Mark: Yeah, likewise. Hooyah.

All right folks. That was Patrick Sweeney. Go check out the audiobook “Fear is Fuel,” and follow Patrick on social media. He’s easy to find. He’s a great guy, as you’ve just heard. And doing some really important work in the world.

And thank you for following the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Really appreciate your support. And hopefully it is making a difference. Pretty sure it is.

Until next time, stay focused and make fear your fuel for greatness.


Divine out.

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