Tom Bilyeu (@TomBilyeu) is the host and co-founder of the new show “Impact Theory” exploring how different entrepreneurs are making an impact on society and culture. He was also a co-founder and partner in Quest Nutrition, the enormously successful brand for nutrition that grew 57,000% in its first 3 years. He is a huge advocate of “mindsets” and the recognition that a person successes are shaped by effort rather than talent. Listen to this episode to get further insight into the psychology of mindsets and Tom’s own journey to success.
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Mindset and the Entrepreneur
Hey folks, this is Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Welcome back. Thanks so much for your time today. I do not take it lightly. I know you have lots of things vying for your attention, so I really appreciate it.
The podcast now is available on Stitcher and Google Play as well as Soundcloud and from our website. So we’re out of just being an iTunes podcast. We’re starting to expand our universe.
We also have the beginning of a video podcast on our YouTube channel. You can find that at our website, unbeatablemind.com/podcast.
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So my guest today is Tom Bilyeu. Tom… I’ve known Tom for a couple of years. Tom is an amazing, amazing guy. Super-high-energy. Super-intelligent. And wants to make a big, big difference in the world. He’s the co-founder of Quest Nutrition, which is one of the fastest growing nutrition companies in the United States currently. Ranked number 2 in the Inc. 500. This number blows me away–but in the first 3 years, they grew by 57,000%. I gotta talk to Tom about that one. That’s still mind-boggling.
And one of his passions now is to really connect with and project into the world the really cool things that other entrepreneurs are doing a social impacters through his new show called “Impact Theory.” So we’re going to talk about all of this and how we can together with Tom’s help and helping Tom, influence our global culture for the better.
So it’s really in alignment with our passion and mission at Unbeatable Mind.
So, Tom, thanks so much for your time today. I hear you just got off of a 24 hour crucible experience of a Facebook live. (laughing) So how was that?
Tom Bilyeu: It was amazing. And thank you so much for having me on, man. You and I– as you said–go way back. And I don’t know if you know this, but you’re the one that convinced me to meditate, which has really been a huge influence on my life. I talk about you on the show very frequently–whenever meditation comes up, so…
Mark: Meditation is a game changer. And let’s talk about that some point as we dive down one rabbit hole after another.
But let’s talk about first the Facebook live. What was that? That sounds intense. So you were answering questions with a live feed for 24 hours, and running different content? Were you there for the whole 24 hours?
Tom: I was, yeah. So we just crossed 100,000 likes on Facebook and wanted to do something really cool to show the community, not just with words but with actions– how much we appreciate everything they’ve done to help us grow. And so wanted to do something that was not only unexpected, and over the top, but had a little element of suffering to it. To let those guys know that we were really prepared to do something pretty cool for them and so yeah…
I was literally on-camera for 24 hours and answering questions. We had like 9 different guests come on the show at different times. And filmed game shows and just all kinds of stuff. It really ended up being so much fun. And a little too fun for me to take any credit for suffering, if I’m honest. It just worked out and was really cool.
Mark: Now is that just a “run-and-done, or does it get recorded? And is there future content that you leverage out of that?
Tom: Yeah, we record it. And we’ll release it as 24 separate 1 hour blocks. So it’ll live on Facebook as 3 8 hour blocks. But then we’ll ultimately release it on YouTube as 1 hour blocks.
Mark: Oh cool. Well that’s one way to knock it out of the park in one 24 hour period…
Tom: Yeah, it’ll be really interesting to see. Cause we tried a bunch of different content styles. It’ll be interesting to see which ones really hit.
The nice thing is we’ve got that running tally of real-time feedback as it was happening from the people who were joining us live. So, it was pretty neat.
Mark: Very cool. Well, because most of the folks in the Unbeatable Mind audience probably don’t know you personally… I know we talked a year and a half ago or so. But the podcast was really small back then. And so I think that episode is a little bit buried.
Let’s start with the man behind you. Like, where did you grow up? What were your early influences? And how did you kind of get to the point where your current incarnation started to flower, let’s say? The Quest version of yourself.
Tom: Yeah, that’s a journey and a half right there, let me tell you. I grew up in Tacoma, Washington. And my parents taught me to be a good employee. Keep my head down, do as a little work as possible and avoid punishment at all costs.
And that’s really how I came up. And going into college…
Mark: Sounds like the American dream, by the way… (laughing)
Tom: Right? So, didn’t quite give me the results that I was looking for and when I went to college, things necessarily changed for me. I knew I was going to be taking on college debt.
“I was going to be studying the thing that I really cared about, that I had a deep passion for.”
And so it just didn’t make sense to me anymore to be coasting. And I cheated a lot in high school, and none of that added up for me as I went into college. I wanted to take it seriously. And I told myself, A or F. Sink or swim. I’m going to do this without cheating at all. And I’m really going to focus on crushing it in school.
So that was the beginning of me really beginning to shape my mind. That would take a very long time. And I wish that it had been binary, and I walk into the first day of my freshman year and I’ve just got it all figured out.
Sadly, that wasn’t quite how it worked. And I end up graduating from college having had an emotionally traumatic experience in film school, which was my major. I had done well at the beginning of film school. And my final, thesis project, which only 4 people get to do in a year. And I was one of the ones chosen for that. And I just thought, “Man, this is it. I’m gonna be set.”
And then I embarrassed myself. And just crash and burn with that film. And it was really brutal emotionally to have… to be thinking, “Everything is set up. I’m going in the right direction.” And then to just feel like you fumble it all right at the finish-line. And that sent me really searching for…
Cause up until that point, I had a fixed mindset. So I believe I was born a talented film-maker and there was really nothing that I could do to improve that. But as long as I really rode that wave well of being talented, it should be able to take me wherever I wanted to go. And then run smack-bang into the fact that I’m actually not talented.
And what do you do with that, right? And so now my whole world-view–my vision of myself is crumbling.
And that actually ended up being a great thing, because it sent me on a quest to escape depression essentially by figuring out, “Is there another way to view myself.” And unfortunately, Carol Dweck had not yet written her seminal book “Mindset” so I didn’t have that as a guide-post. But those were the things that I began to figure out. That actually it didn’t’ really matter what I was born with. What really mattered was how hard was I willing to work? What skills was I willing to acquire? And going down that path and spending some time as a teacher and really seeing how not only could I improve but I could help other people improve. And just saw this really visceral expression of what a growth mindset looks like. How you can really, utterly transform your skill set.
And so that laid the seeds for then I meet the guys who would end up becoming my business partners at Quest.
Mark: What age group or year was it when you were a teacher?
Tom: I was teaching from like 22 to call it 25.
Mark: So the brain is not fully developed. It’s not uncommon to have a fairly fixed mindset at that young age. In fact, you and I have chatted that that’s the time period where I woke up to my little story, and my fixedness. Through meditation. Through Zen. And then, that’s what led me into the SEALs.
So right around that same age group. That’s interesting. I think there’s a lot of transformation happening in that time period.
Tom: Yeah. No question. No question.
Mark: Okay, so then you met your future partners.
Tom: Yeah, so they fortunately met me in the environment where I was giving a lecture talking about the techniques from a marketing perspective. How you could leverage media to influence anything. Buying behavior… whatever the case may be.
And they said, “Hey look… we’re starting this technology company. Why don’t you come help us? You seem like a sharp guy. And be a copywriter.”
And so I joined them as a copywriter. And they said,” but look. Don’t think of yourself as a copywriter. This is a startup. You can really have any job that you want in the company. You just have to become the right person for that job.”
And they really reinforced the growth mindset, and were very hardcore “This is your shot. Make the most of it.” So being around other people that were just that die-hard. Going hard. Was really interesting and intoxicating.
Unfortunately, at the time, I was really just chasing money. And their pitch to me was, “You’re coming to the world with your hand out. If you really want to control your art, you wanna make movies, then you have to get rich.” Of course.
And I had promised myself when I was a kid that there would be 2 things that I would make come true somehow in my life. Number 1, I was going to get rich, and number 2, I was going to have 6-pack abs.
And growing up in a morbidly obese family as the slightly chubby kid, that was a pretty distant dream. And these guys were ripped bodybuilders. And successful entrepreneurs. You know, really working with them to learn about lifting. To learn about nutrition. To go through that physical transformation as well, was really, really powerful.
But at about 6 years in, thinking the whole time, of course, “We’re going to sell the company in 18 months, and I’m going to be rich. I’m going to be rich.”
And just… when 18 months turned into 6, 6 and a half years, I realized, “All right, I just can’t do this anymore.”
So I went in and I quit. And I said… by that point I’d earned equity in the company. I was a 10% owner. I had worked my way to Chief Marketing Officer. And I was just like, “Guys, I can’t do this anymore.
“I’m living the cliché of money can’t buy happiness. I want to go do something that makes me feel alive.”
And, you know, just to keep from belaboring the point, I’m going quickly. But this was like emotional devastation. I was back in that same depths of despair that I was at in film school when I just felt utterly lost and I had no idea what I was going to do. And I had that same feeling.
So here I’m making more money than I’ve ever made. I’m a part owner in a multi-million dollar company. I should be ecstatic. Like, this is literally everything I’d been working for.
Mark: Yeah, it’s everyone’s dream. Entrepreneur…
Tom: And so, here I was just like wanting to tear my hair out. So, my wife and I had decided, “You know what? Forget that. We’re going to go do something that makes us feel alive. In the moment.”
And I just had this slew of realizations about the kind of thing I’d want to be involved in. Adding value to people’s lives. Finally admitting that money isn’t my highest priority. That I care much more about the camaraderie and the brotherhood.
And so when I went in and quit they were taken aback, and they said, “Look, we could do this without you. But we don’t want to.”
So that let me reconnect to something other than the money. It let me reconnect to them as friends, to the brotherhood. I said, “Look, I’m willing to come back, but only if we’re willing to change the way that we do business. And I want to do something that’s predicated on value creation. I wanna do something where we’re going to enjoy the process.”
I’m like, “Look, the struggle is guaranteed. The success is not. So if we know that the struggle is going to happen, and we can’t promise that we’re going to have this big payout and we’re going to be able to sell the company. It doesn’t make sense to constantly be deferring my pleasure, my happiness, my joy, my fulfillment for some later date when I have money.”
So it was really amazing, because this wasn’t like I gave some amazing Jerry Maguire speech, and convinced them. They were like, “We actually feel the same way.”And so finally we were talking about it, and being honest with each other about what was really meaningful to us. And, you know, we said, “Okay. We’ll give ourselves 6 months. If we can hit certain revenue metrics then we’ll keep going to an exit. But if we miss those revenue metrics, then we’ll sell the company and we’ll start something from scratch that’s predicated on value and all those other things.”
So we tried for 6 months. We didn’t hit the metrics. We end up selling the company, and that new thing that we found that’s all about value. That’s about the camaraderie. That’s about really wanting to building community and help people and have a mission–ended up being Quest Nutrition.
Mark: Hmm. So you all agreed on that mission and what was that process like? When you sold the business and decided what was next.
Tom: So, it’s… of course, like anything, it’s a little less clean cut and Hollywood ready than that…
Mark: I’m sure. I’ve been through stuff like that and I know that there’s a few bumps that can occur in there. I have like a million entrepreneur questions that just popped in my head. That’s really interesting.
Tom: Yeah, so it was… I mean, you know this drill so well. It was, okay, rather than just sell the company and then figure it out–let’s figure it out now while we still have the security of the company and it’s doing well. So we started building it long before… we started building Quest long before we sold the technology company. We were testing the market. We were making sure that the product was viable. We were renting kitchen space by the hour, and really just seeing “Is this actually something people want?” before we make some huge investment. Before we sell the company and then don’t have something to keep us going.
And even then while it was very, very difficult. When we were manufacturing the bars, when we were making them by hand it was brutal. It only got worse for a while when we bought equipment.
But even at that phase, we were selling and we thought, “You know what? There really is something here.” And so we started the sale process of the company at the same time that we began building Quest. And finally when we sold and we had a new CEO come on and they locked us up in employment contracts. But the new CEO–who was the one that bought the company–and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on what marketing was. And this was like one of those moments that you always hope you’ll run into in your life, where somebody places a big bet against you. And you get to go work your ass off and figure out who was right. My whole thing was that social media changed everything. That marketing was storytelling. It wasn’t spread sheets. That it was about connecting and building community.
And he was just like, “You’re crazy kid.” So he’s like, “If you wanna go do it, I’ll let you out of your employment contract. Go do it.”
So I went and did it, and spent the first year building the company while my 2 partners were still back at the tech company. And really got a chance to see if this new way of approaching marketing–of building community–was going to fly or not. And it’s really incredible and was really at the very beginning of the social movement, which has just changed everything.
Mark: Yeah, no doubt. So, did you end up getting to re-jig the partnership basis and equity participation when you went into this, and you were such a big part of it?
Tom: Yeah, when we founded that, we founded it as an equal partnership. Cause everything was from scratch, and it just made sense…
Mark: Yeah, no doubt. Very cool. So what was your founding vision with Quest, besides wanting to do something meaningful?
Tom: So we wanted to have a mission… I’m sure you know Simon Sinek’s book “Start with Why.”
Tom: And the irony is we actually read that after founding the company. But we had that same sense. And he really codified it all and gave us the words to talk about it.
But we knew at the heart of this there had to be something that we believed in. It had to be something that we’d be passionate about. And looking at the just absolute pandemic of ill health that was going around, we saw that there was just a huge opportunity to positively impact humanity by ending metabolic disease. By making that the mission statement. By galvanizing everything around that. By only making foods that were metabolically real.
So instead of just “what will sell” which is what everybody else asked… “what’s healthy-ish that will sell?”
And we wanted to really ask a fundamentally different question, which is “if I were measuring your blood, what’s the ideal product?” And that really became our driving force and…
For me, growing up in a morbidly obese family, as I was saying. My uncle died of obesity related complications when I was, like, 12 years old. And so it was just like… it was so heart breaking to see and my mom and my sister both morbidly obese at the time. I just knew that I was going to lose them before I needed to, so with this new-found fervor to not chase money, but to really think about people that I loved and cared about. And put them at the center of what I was fighting for. So that I would have the energy to show up and to fight and to push.
And to claw my way through boredom. Which is one of the things entrepreneurs don’t often think about, is some of the things you’re going to have to do are just beyond tedious. And do you have something that you’re fighting for? That you believe in enough that you’ll not only fight through the hard stuff, you’ll fight through the boring stuff.
Mark: Mm-hmm. That’s so true. For me, I’m with you on that. Boring is harder than hard. (laughing) I’d much rather go on 50 mile run than do something tedious and boring for a week, you know?
So, without getting too deep into nutritional science, when you say something has to be metabolically sound and you reference blood. I assume we’re just talking about insulin balance and how people are out of balance from a standpoint of insulin spiking because they’re eating too much sugar, leading to hyper-sensitivity to insulin. Which leads to that little trail of deadly diseases. So it all comes down to sugar and things that process into sugar in your blood. And spike or disrupt your hormonal balance.
Is that what you mean by that?
Tom: That was definitely where we started. And glucose levels were our main focus. Later it really became looking at other things as well. Ketones being one of the most prevalent and really beginning to understand the role of fat. Looking at glycation of tissue. Things like that. And really beginning to push the…
Mark: So you broadened the product suite into some other areas. Cause I remember we were talking about that a couple years ago. About wanting to look into Ketogenesis and how stimulate that with the food that you make. Do you have a Ketogenic product or bar?
Tom: We did. To be honest, I left the company back in October, so I haven’t been there now for about 9 months. When I left we were really going hard on Ketones. Since then… I think keto’s going to be a long-burn, if I’m honest. So I’ll be interested to see what they do in the future. Like, if they shelve it for a while. If they pursue it. If they’ve just slowed down. But they’ve backed off of the product-line in keto. And I think that somebody is going to crack that market and I really hope it’s Quest. Just because the products that we were making are so good. In fact, I bought a huge stash. So everything that they were producing in what was called “Quest Labs” literally just cleaned the shelves, because man. As somebody who… I go in and out of ketosis, I will eat them until the last crumb is gone.
Mark: (laughing) That’s awesome.
Mark: So you… I didn’t realize you had left the company. I don’t see that in my notes here. So that took me by surprise. So you did that obviously to focus on this new mission of your with “Impact Theory,” but let’s talk about that. How did that decision come about? That must not have been easy for you?
Tom: No, it wasn’t easy. But it was exciting. But like anything, it starts from something not working out the way that you want. So, I had built Quest to be my forever company. I never intended to leave. And I thought that the brand would be flexible enough to be a platform company that would follow all 3 of our desires. As we expanded and grew as people, that the brand would be able to expand and grow. And address the things that we all wanted to do.
And that’s why “Impact Theory” actually started inside Quest and was exactly the same show essentially that we’re doing now. And as we were building that up and just really beginning to realize that for the audience–they thought of us as a protein bar company. And so for them it didn’t really make a lot of sense why we were doing all this stuff around the mind. Because we hadn’t been talking about it since the inception of the company. So it wasn’t baked into the brand ethos.
Even though behind the scenes. Even though as founders–as a company culture–we talked about it all the time. Outwardly facing, it didn’t make a lot of sense. I was a little early on personal branding, so people couldn’t really see the long-term.
And I thought that it was going to be huge. I wanted to place a big bet on it. And to do that I was going to have to drag my partners along in an expensive and potentially long-term endeavor. And they didn’t necessarily share that vision.
So we were very fortunate of having had level of success where we could all go and do whatever we wanted. So I spun the… we had built an entire studio inside of Quest and I spun that out into this stand-alone company that’s now Impact Theory.
Mark: Yeah. Well I was there. So I remember that. Taking the tour and then we did the little interview there with your live audience. What fun. That was really cool.
So your studio’s not that location anymore? Did you take it actually outside to a new location?
Tom: Correct. Yeah. So now we film out of my house. Built the set here in my house. We’re actually building a second set now in my house, to now create another show, which I’m pretty excited about. But that won’t come out for another month and a half.
Mark: Okay. And you still… you do it in front of a live audience still?
Tom: We do, but the audience is much, much smaller now. So before we used to have say 30, 40 people in the audience. Now we have, say, 10.
Mark: And give me your rationale for that. I mean, that’s a lot of extra logistics and work to get a live audience there. Does it help with energy? Or what do you get out of having a live audience for your show-slash-podcast. I know it’s more than a podcast, your show I guess.
Tom: It really does, I find, create a totally different dynamic. There is something about the audience being there. And I’ll be honest, some people perform better with the audience and some people perform worse.
Mark: (laughing) I could totally see that. I mean, I really enjoyed it. But I could see how people would seize up a little bit.
Tom: Yeah. So that’s always been a blessing and a curse. But I’ll say it brings out the best in me for sure. And it really creates just a different energy in the room. So, yeah… it’s an energy that I really enjoy. I don’t know… you really get that sense of trying to be of service to other people. You don’t have to think just about the person beyond the camera. I mean, they’re literally sitting right there.
And we’ve had some using that to really build some powerful, long-term relationships with people who come in, that want to check out the show.
Then the long-term vision is to build a traditional content studio. So think of Disney. So bringing people in from that world, from Hollywood. To see what we’re up to… has been really powerful for them to be able to watch the show first-hand.
Mark: Yeah. Finally putting that USC film degree to work.
Mark: That’s awesome.
So I see that there’s a little statement here that reflects I guess your vision for Impact Theory. “Leveraging the self-sustaining power of commerce to radically influence global culture.” What does that mean?
Tom: So, the one thing that I find that… today, people really, sincerely want to make an impact. They want to do something good. They want to have impact on culture.
But the natural tendency of younger entrepreneurs is they end up with these models that are much more like a 501(c)3 non-profit. And not really understanding that at the end of the day, whatever it is that you’re trying to do. Whatever good you’re trying to do in the world, you’re either going to be finding a way to sell something of value, or you’re going to have to go beg money from people who’ve found a way to sell something of value.
So either way, you’re a salesperson. Either way, you have to convince people to give you money. But the only one, to me, that’s self-sustaining…where you can have your own way of doing things. You can have your own North Star. Nobody gets to tell you what to do other than the community of people that you sell to.
And to me that’s just a much simpler relationship that allows me to have the kind of control and directionality that I want. So to do that you’ve gotta sell thing that people would rather have than the money that they’re trading for it. That hopefully really does add value.
Can in and of itself begin to sway global culture. So that sentence in particular is meant to signal to the world and to the company that, at the end of the day, we sell things.
So I consider us a merchandise company. And if you look at Disney, that’s what Disney is. And Disney has provided just a ton of modeling for us. In terms of… Look, I’m well aware that it’s going to take a very long time. Disney’s been around since the 1930s. It’s going to take us a very long time to be able to compete at that level.
But we’re sincere in our approach to doing that and one of the things that that model demands… it’s called the “total merchandising strategy”… is to have every piece of content that you put out build into the brand ethos.
So if I say to you, “Hey, I’m going to go see a Warner Brothers movie…” Or “I’m going to go see a Sony movie…” You don’t know anything about those movies. But if I say “I’m going to go see a Disney movie,” you already know something about it.
So they had the discipline to tell one kind of story over and over and over from a thousand different angles, and that’s really our goal. But instead of capturing the magic of childhood, we want to capture empowerment.
Mark: Nice. This whole conversation has brought up a couple of things for me. One, I’ve long been kind of critic of philanthropy driven by tax code. I think it’s a mess, you know what I mean? And the “why” is all gooned up, because you’re doing it to save money and not give it to the government. And so, right there, it’s a corrupted model. Although I’m sure it’s done some good, and it has a purpose. And I even have a 501(c)3. And it’s the only way I could entice corporate donors. So they could get the tax benefit.
At any rate, that’s one thought. And I applaud you on that. And I think a lot of social entrepreneurs these days are starting to take the same approach and saying, “You know what? I don’t need to follow the US government’s guidelines for a 501(c)3. I can do this as a for-profit. I can make more of an impact as a for-profit.
And I just noted that Jeff Bezos said basically the same thing. Cause people were criticizing him for not signing on to that pledge to give all of his money away. You know, like Mark Zuckerberg did, and Bill Gates and the others.
Instead he said, “You know what, I wanna actually have an impact with my money.” So he’s soliciting entrepreneurial ideas on how people can actually directly impact–mano a mano–the world in a positive way. And he’s going to fund them. I think that’s brilliant.
Tom: I love that.
Mark: I love that too. Very cool.
Mindset and the Entrepreneur
So let’s talk… let’s move from kind of the structural, commercial realm. And now that we’ve brought you up to the present and talk about developing mindset and the skills of the warrior-entrepreneur. The entrepreneur… some of the things that you’ve talked about already remind me a lot of the principles that I teach around warrior development. The long-term vision. Knowing clearly why you do things. Having a very disciplined approach to your day. Taking care of yourself so that you can take care of others. Service.
Those are really distinct warrior disciplines whether you know it or not. I’m sure you do. But let’s talk about some of your disciplines and how do you take control of developing Tom so that you bring your best game to the table every day?
Tom: Yeah, one, I just want to say that I really like the phrase “warrior-entrepreneur.” That resonates with me quite a bit. I’ve never heard that said quite that succinctly before. So thank you.
Much like I learned meditation from you now, that’s another nugget that I’ll carry with me.
Mark: (laughing) No charge.
Tom: Thank you. The way that I develop myself is I am very religious about how I structure my day and how I spend my time. So step one is I go to bed at 9 PM. And for me getting to bed early is the key to not needing to set an alarm. And still being able to wake up early. So I haven’t used an alarm in 14 or 15 years.
And so I wake up when I wake up. It’s usually roughly call it 6 hours. I get out of bed. I give myself 10 minutes to get out of bed. I don’t have an alarm though, so there’s no “snooze.” This is all identity that drives that behavior.
Mark: Right. So you’re getting up at 3 AM?
Tom: Roughly, yeah. Sometimes earlier. So there’s times that I’ve been in the gym at 1:30 in the morning. And then there’s time that I’m not in the gym until 5. So when you don’t sleep with an alarm it has everything to do with how you’re eating, what you’ve been doing, how hard you’ve been working out. But on average I’ll say I get about 6 hours sleep.
So head straight to the gym, and usually workout for about an hour. And then I immediately go to meditation. And I’m certainly not explaining the benefits of that for your sake. But I find that the juxtaposition of working out and being in the sympathetic nervous system, and trying to rapidly get into the parasympathetic nervous system. And that juxtaposition has been really effective for me in everyday life.
As somebody who has struggled with anxiety to be able to get calm very fast has served me very well. And after I meditate, I do what I call “thinkitating.” One that I found frustrating about meditating was I get into that calm, creative state and my mind starts hitting on great ideas. But I’m trying to bring myself back to the breath. Back to the breath.
And so I found that if I knew that, “Okay. Once I’m done.” 20 minutes is about how long I meditate. If I know once I’m done, I’m going to have the time to let my mind wander on these things. I’m not going to try to stop it. And I’m going to take notes.
That allowed my brain to go, “Okay, don’t worry about thinking all those thoughts now. We’ll do that in a minute.”
And so that’s become very powerful. And I’ll thinkitate for say 20 to 40 minutes. So sometimes I’m doing that up to twice as long as my meditation. . Depending on if my mind is just really hitting on things that are clicking for me, and I feel like I’m making progress on a given problem.
And then, after I do that, I read. Which is super-important to me. And I usually read for about an hour. Sometimes a little bit less, sometimes a little bit more. And then after I finish reading–which is all non-fiction–after I finish that then I keep a list of important things. So what are the most important things that I could be working on to move the business forward? And I just relentlessly go through those. There’s times I’m in that list by 6 AM.
And so I don’t take meetings before 10 AM, so depending on when you start the clock–whether you start it when I start working out, or you start it when I go into my important things–either way, hours and hours and hours before the first employee shows up, let alone the first meeting that I take. And I never check email, which I think is an important thing to leave out.
Mark: Mm. Okay. I wanna come back to that. But you’ve sparked a few thoughts.
Email’s something I’m trying to get out of my life. I haven’t done a great job of it though.
So meditation… now first thing that came to mind when you were talking about that is that you’ve hit upon something that’s really important that most people have missed in that meditation as it was traditionally taught–through Zen, through yoga, through the Eastern traditions–came after the work. So we went from the gross to the subtle. So you do the physical movements, you move your body. You workout. You sweat. You calm the nervous system, like you said. You bleed off nervous energy. You open your hips and joints and your spine. You prepare your body to sit in silence through the work.
Now a lot of people just get up and think, “Okay. Somebody somewhere said that I’m supposed to meditate first thing in the morning. Cause the morning’s the best time to meditate.”
True. After you move your body, you’re going to get better results. So good for that.
And that’s the way we teach it at Unbeatable Mind and with our Kokoro Yoga program. First, move the body. Then move the breath. Then you begin to move the mind, through concentration. And then you basically drop out of the active mind and into presence or a deep state of awareness. That’s when you’re truly in that meditative state.
And that’s when those insights come up that you started talking about. So that was… it makes perfect sense that after the breath-awareness, which is really more of a concentration practice–that then when you’re sitting in silence, that’s because you’re tapped into kind of your higher self, your insightful self. All of that intuitive, all that information, all that stuff that wants to flow you’ve stirred up and now it’s flowing. And that’s an awesome time to sit with a journal. And to write and to draw pictures and to think.
And I love that term, “thinkitate.” I went off on a little tangent there, sorry. I went into kind of like lecture mode for a second. Sorry about that.
Tom: No man, I love it.
Mark: (laughing) Sometimes I do that on these podcasts. Anyways.
Mark: So that’s cool. So what an incredible morning. I call that “thinkitating”, “sitting for ideas.” And then you spend an entire hour reading. Nurturing your mind. And guess what? Your mind is so receptive after all that, isn’t it? So when you’re reading, you’re just soaking it up. And you’re paying attention to the right things. And then you get to the important stuff.
Wow, Tom. I think that’s a powerful, powerful morning routine. I like that a lot. Very cool.
Now what about this email? How did you…? Help me out. How did you get that out of your life?
I’m struggling… I said, “Okay. At least I’ll check it just 3 times a day.” (buzzer sound) No. I find myself just gravitating to it. I like to keep a… I’m weird, I just like to keep a clean inbox. It’s like my task list.
And I know that it’s not, but I’ve got all the good reasons to not use email. I even have an assistant–and I still use it. Because it seems like I’ve set it up as a primary mechanism for communication.
Tom: Yes. So, one, I use a deep sense of shame around email. And I’m being serious. So when I think about what I’m trying to do with my business. And once you believe that you can do anything you set your mind to without limitation, how you spend your time becomes a spiritual consideration.
So I’m really trying to build something–content–that I believe will help shape the belief system of anybody who encounters it. And help them develop and empowering belief system. And do more in this world, and for themselves than they would be able to do if they hadn’t encountered that.
So I really believe that we have a big mission. That it’s an important mission. And I can really have grand impact. So what’s the likelihood that someone is writing me an email where they know better what I should be doing to build my business on that very specific trajectory than I do? And if they do? Shame on me.
So when I’m going into my email, I’m saying, “I don’t know what I should be doing with my time. So I’m going to now be reactive to people writing in.”
Now full disclosure, I have an assistant and so she checks if there’s some big opportunity. Cause I know the outside world uses email. So she’ll check it.
But when I say that I see less than 3 emails a week, that’s not an exaggeration. I’ll get 1, 2, maybe sometimes 3, but that’s really, really rare. So this week I haven’t seen a single email.
Mark: What about the tactics? Cause I think this is really interesting to a lot of professionals who are listening to this. They’re like, “Okay, that sounds great in theory.” But tactically speaking, how does it work? What have you empowered your assistant to do? How does she communicate to you the things that you need to know, or don’t need to know?
Tom: It goes like this. So first of all, if somebody’s actually somebody that I would really like to hear from at some point for whatever reason, I’m going to tell them, “don’t ever email me. Send me a text.” And the thing is, like, over time you’ll train people. So I’ve been email free for probably about 3 years. I’ve been aggressively anti-email for 5. So over time, if you look at my inbox, I don’t get that many emails per day, because all the people that I actually know, they know not to send me email.
So the team… the internal team… either we communicate face-to-face which is always my preferred method of communication. But if you just need to zip me something quickly we use Slack. So Slack just allows for easy dialogue. People know if you really need me to know something either turn to me… I mean, we’re sitting together. Turn to me and tell me what you want me to know. Shoot me a text. Or if it’s not time sensitive, then you can Slack it to me.
So that’s how I deal with it in the team. Anybody outside knows to just shoot me a text. And then when it comes to scheduling things… cause so much of my interactions are social. So they’re happening in the DM on Instagram. They’re happening in a Tweet. So I’ll tell them, “Take a screenshot of this communication and send it to my assistant so she knows it’s real.” And so every now and then my assistant will get that, and she’ll know, “Okay, this is actually somebody that he wants to schedule.” She is the entire keeper of my schedule. And so if I just send everything to her, and don’t have multiple people trying to schedule me, then you may get some busy days, but you don’t get conflicts.
Mark: So help me understand, how is it different spending time in email versus spending an equal amount of time in Slack, on text, or on Instagram…?
Tom: So the real tricky one to answer is going to be in the DM on LinkedIn or Instagram. So here’s…
Mark: Yeah. That feels a lot like email.
Tom: Yeah. I totally understand that. So here’s why I find that that’s very different. So these are people in my community. They’re the people that I believe that I serve. And so if they want something from me… this is where I’m going to be able to identify trends. Things that need to be answered. And my answers are usually, essentially, “Thank you so much.” Because it’s often, “This piece of content changed my life.” Or, “Thank you for this.” Or that kind of stuff. So it’s going in, it’s showing…
Mark: So that’s a different energy. That’s you connecting with your tribe as opposed to just responding to some random…
Tom: Correct. So it has nothing to do with the trajectory of my business. I save it for moments of… like, if I want to reward myself. I can go spend time in there engaging with the community. And that is very rewarding even when it’s like criticism. That whole thing… feeling like, “Holy Hell. I’m connected to all these people. And we’re really communicating and building something. And they’re helping amplify and echo this.” And I really think that that kind of high touch way is really the only way forward.
Email, on the other hand… like you said, it’s a very different energy. What people are sending there is just so, so different than what they would do in a DM. It’s always… they want… they’re asking for attention. They’re trying to sell me something. So it’s just a very different thing.
Mark: Beyond an event, like you did last night. The 24 hour live Facebook. Do you engage in the public side of your Facebook account and LinkedIn where you’re posting and responding to the public?
Tom: Yeah, comments and things? Yeah. Definitely. I do both.
Mark: You do. Okay. Interesting.
Cool. Well, I’ve learned something there. So, I’ve got a little work to do. Ha-ha. But you’ve inspired me. Thank you.
So let’s talk a little bit about trend-setting and what you think are the biggest issues that you want to hit on in the next 18 to 24 months through your work. So, where are we at in the world? And what are the most urgent and interesting things that Tom sees?
Tom: So, I think that we’re… just like we’re facing a pandemic of the body; I think we’re facing a pandemic of the mind. And the fascinating thing is how intertwined those 2 problems are. So really beginning to help people address the issues that they’re suffering with whether it’s anxiety, whether it’s depression or whether it’s what I call being trapped in the Matrix, which is just having limiting beliefs. You think yo’re not capable of something and therefore you actually aren’t capable of it. Which is the way the human mind works.
So going in and really trying to assess, how do you address that belief system? Now the fascinating thing is… Now, I play a game called “No BS, what would it take?” So if you actually want to solve the pandemic of the body, if you want to end metabolic disease, what do you have to do?
So most people tell you to tell people to eat less and exercise more. But we’ve been saying that for 50 years and it’s just not getting us anywhere. We’re going backwards.
So, okay. We can tick that off. Tried it, didn’t work.
What else could we do? We could make that food that people choose based on taste and it happens to be good for them. We know people will do that. That’s leveraging behavior instead of trying to change it.
So the same game, “No BS, what would it take?” to end the poverty of poor mindset. What would that look like? And I actually think that it’s twofold. One, it is the addressing the belief system. And I think that the way that humans assimilate truly disruptive information is through narrative. So if you believe that humans assimilate disruptive information through narrative… You can read Joseph Campbell, you can look at modern neuroscience. All this stuff that’s coming out that shows that the way that people take on new beliefs, the way that they bond in very large groups is with fiction. And you can think of any of the major stories that we tell, whether that was 10,000 years ago and we’re telling stories about the moon-god and the sun-god. Or whether it’s a modern day fiction about what sports team you support, right? All of those things are galvanizing ideology. So people rally around them.
And I can’t believe I didn’t use this example. The military, right? You have an actual brotherhood with people you’ve never met because they’re also a SEAL. So there’s something really core in that, but it’s based around a series of beliefs. So how do you go in and create a tribe at scale. And I believe that the answer in a modern context is addressing people’s belief systems through the cultural narratives that we tell.
And the major drivers of those narratives are traditional fiction. So it’s movies, TV show, books, comic books, video games. That’s the behavior that people are already using to digest ideology. But it’s happening in the form of pure entertainment, so most of them aren’t extracting as much powerful ideology as they could. And so what I think there’s an opportunity to do by marrying social commentary… the content that we do socially. So for instance, during the 24 hour live, one of the things that we did is walk people through what can you learn about leadership from Game of Thrones? Is but one example.
And that’s content where they’re not making an effort to put that at the forefront. So you can imagine, if you take the Disney approach where every piece of content has to feed into the brand ethos. So that the brand name itself means something. If we can do that with empowerment and make the brand name of Impact Theory… You know that if Disney is the most magical place on Earth.
If we were… we’re not… but if we were to do an Impact land, that it would be the most empowering place on Earth. And so what does that content look like that feeds into that belief system? That feeling? That sensibility? To the point where people could actually articulate it.
Mark: Mm-hmm. Interesting. So creating a media company that can essentially craft a positive story based upon a positive vision of the future. Of empowerment. That can then influence culture through media.
Cause most… as both of us are well aware, media doesn’t right now give a shit about positive outlook on the future. (laughing)
Mark: Traditional media is negative because that’s what’s been selling.
I like it. Fantastic. Well, let us know how we can help, Tom. And we’re all here for you. I have one more thing for you, which is pretty interesting. This morning I did a solocast. Every once in a while I just kind of like to riff on stuff.
And I was reading Marcus Aurelius and some of his Meditations. So this is a little thought project. At one point he says, “Whether a man lives a hundred years or 3,000 years, when he dies he loses just one thing.” Can you guess what that is?
Tom: The first thing that came to mind is his life.
Mark: Right. But beyond the life. What’s the one common thing between a man who’s been alive for 3,000 years or 30,000, and just a hundred years…
Mark: Yeah. No but time in the sense that the only thing we have–is his point–is the present moment. The only thing we have is the present moment. Whether you’re a hundred or 3,000. The only thing you lose when you pass on is the ability to experience the present moment in this human form. Isn’t that wild?
Tom: It is. I’m sure you…
Mark: From Marcus Aurelius. 180 AD…
Tom: It’s pretty crazy how ancient that realization is. Have you read “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle?
Mark: Yeah, absolutely.
Tom: Yeah. That really hit me. Just that…yeah, you’re right. This is it. There is nothing else.
Mark: Yeah. This is it. Everything that we just talked about about your past, you know, it’s an impression. It’s a memory. It’s a mental thought that happens in the present when you reflect upon it. And every vision or imagination that you have about the future, about Impact Theory, is a thought that’s occurring now in your mind space, in the present moment. Ultimately, that’s all we have. Is this moment. Right now.
And then this. Now how cool is that, you know?
Tom: That’s a trip. Especially when you compare a hundred years to 3,000 years and really think that t the end of the day that really is exactly the same.
Mark: Yeah, exactly. How cool is that?
There’s a thought for our listeners and Tom I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your time. And I know you’re super-busy. And I just love what you’ve up to. And we’re totally in sync with you. Let me know how I can help out. Or if you need anything from me from us, let us know, because we’re traveling the same journey on different paths. And we’re going to keep on intersecting, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. In the present moment, right?
So people can find Impact Theory by Googling it. Do you have a website? What’s the easiest…?
Tom: You can go to impacttheory.com. But if you want to engage with me, the best way is @tombilyeu across all socials including YouTube. And YouTube is where I put out all my content, and it’s at /tombilyeu.
Mark: Okay, Tom. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Thanks so much for your time.
I hope to see you again in person soon.
Tom: That would be fantastic.
Mark: Just let me know. Hooyah.
All right, folks. That’s it you heard Tom Bilyeu. Impact Theory. Check it out. What a neat guy. Really, really cool.
So until next time, stay focused, remain present because that’s all you got whether you’re a hundred or 50 or 3,000 years old.
And keep on developing that Unbeatable Mind. See you around.