Have you ever tried to make a big change in your life, and instead of easing into it and slowly building up the necessary behaviors and habits, you dove headfirst towards the goal and went all-out? This is common and it often leads to disaster.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having big goals, wanting to do things “right,” or giving something your best effort. However, trying to outperform and constantly chasing end goals is a recipe for burnout and never really feeling fulfilled.
So, how do we find balance?
Well, in this interview, I’m chatting with Brad Stulberg about a different approach—one he calls “groundedness” and which he has written about in his newest book, The Practice of Groundedness. Brad explains this concept in-depth in the interview, but “groundedness” is a way to harness your motivation and energy and help you become more process-oriented instead of end-goal driven, which can lead to improved well-being and outcomes.
In case you’re not familiar with Brad, he’s a researcher, writer, and coach on well-being and what it takes to succeed. As an author, he’s been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, Outside Magazine, Forbes, and more. He helps executives, entrepreneurs, and athletes work on their mental game, improve their overall well-being, and achieve excellence.
In our chat, Brad and I talk about . . .
- How to create an “internal dashboard” so you can stop chasing end results and outcomes
- How to discover and define your core values so you can enjoy the process more
- The role your environment plays in helping or hurting your groundedness practice
- Role-modeling behavior to loved ones rather than trying to convince others to change a behavior with you
- The power of acceptance and why it matters for lasting change
- Why patience actually gets you to your goals faster
- How to foster community and why it’s important for success
- And more . . .
So if you want to build confidence, find more balance in your life, be happier, avoid burnout, and learn how to realize excellence and more sustainable success, you’re going to love this podcast!
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5:22 – What is your most recent book?
5:39 – What is “groundedness”?
6:31 – Is the idea to tie it into some sense of purpose?
12:21 – What are your thoughts on finding core values? How did you figure out those things for yourself?
15:10 – What are some of the common barriers to groundedness?
19:41 – Do you have any advice on dealing with relationships that don’t support your core values?
23:38 – Why do you believe in no cell phones in the bedroom?
28:16 – How can people be more accepting of their own faults and problems?
44:17 – What does a positive community look like and how have you created that in your life?
55:07 – Where can people find you and your work?
Mentioned on the Show:
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What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Mike: Hello and welcome to another episode of Muscle For Life. I am Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today for an interview I did with Brad Stolberg on something that he calls groundedness. And that is the topic of his newest book, which is called The Practice of Groundedness. Now, what does that mean?
Well, let me ask you a question. Have you ever tried to make a big change in your life? Instead of easing into the change and maybe slowly building up the necessary behaviors and habits, have you ever just gone head first and all out toward the goal and tried to make as many changes as you possibly can as quickly as you possibly can?
Well, if you have, chances are… it hasn’t really worked out for you. That approach doesn’t work for me at least and for many people that often leads to disaster. Now there’s nothing wrong with having big goals. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do more and more things right. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to give something or give multiple things your best efforts.
But if we try to take on too much too fast, whether through impatience or excitement, we can burn ourselves out, or we can maybe not reach the point of Burnout, but find ourselves in a place of perpetual dissatisfaction with results. With progress, because it simply doesn’t match up with our expectations or our aspirations.
And so this interview is about finding balance between go, go, go, and slow, slow, slow. And Brad argues that groundedness. is the key to finding that balance and in case you are not familiar with Brad, he is a researcher, writer, and coach on well being and what it takes to succeed. And as an author, he has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post.
Post, Los Angeles Times, New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, and many more publications. Brad works with executives, entrepreneurs, and athletes, and he helps them improve their mental game, their overall well being, and their performative excellence, I guess you could say. And one other note on Brad is he is the co author of the book Peak Performance, which I really enjoyed.
and which I did a book club episode on back in 2017. So if you want to hear some practical evidence based advice for building up your confidence, for finding more balance, for being happier, avoiding burnout, and achieving higher levels of sustainable success. Then I think you’re going to like this episode.
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Hey, Brad, thanks for taking the time to do this. I appreciate you fitting me in because Damien said that you had some scheduling issues, but here we are.
Brad: Yeah, I’m really glad to be here, Mike. Thanks for taking an interest in me and the book.
Mike: Yeah, absolutely. Uh, so let’s, let’s, uh, let’s just start with when you say the book for people just tuning in now, skipping intros, um, what book.
Brad: so it depends I guess what book you want to talk about. But my most recent book is a book that’s called the practice of groundedness, and it came out a couple of months ago.
Mike: And what is groundedness?
Brad: So I like to think about groundedness as a strong foundation of identity, self worth and confidence from which you can strive.
And what this does is it situates and channels your motivation, your drive, your passion, your energy. So there’s less of a feeling that you’re just chasing the next bright and shiny object. And that your self worth is contingent upon you are reaching that bright and shiny object and hopefully more of a texture that you’re actually enjoying the process of chasing down a goal itself.
And this can be true for anything from a 600 pound deadlift to hitting a certain body weight to starting a company. Uh, so it is a cross domain type of concept.
Mike: And is the idea here to tie this into some sense of purpose? Or, uh, do you have a different take on that?
Brad: You know, I like to think of, um, you have all these external dashboards in your life.
So these can be things like sales numbers. If you’re a business person, they can be volume of cases. If you’re an orthopedic surgeon, if you’re an athlete, this can be your 5k time. Or your Wilk score. If you’re into strength training or powerlifting, um, it can be the number of likes and retweets that you have on a post.
If you’re on social media, all of these things that we measure ourselves up against that while we have some control over them, we certainly don’t have. full control. So these are all the external dashboards in our life. And we can become so obsessed with trying to win those games and score well on those external dashboards.
And groundedness says that, Hey, let’s balance this with an internal dashboard. And you’re dead on the internal dashboard is really based on something that I call your core values. And core values are the things that you aspire to the qualities that really make you who you are when you’re at your best.
These can be things like creativity, intellect, health, community, trust, authenticity, vulnerability. I could go on and on. There’s infinite options. And what you want to do is come up with no more than five, no less than three of these values, and then get really concrete about defining them. So these shouldn’t just be like poster board.
You know, on the wall, we value respect. A lot of companies do this with core values, and the people that work there don’t even know what they mean. If you want to develop a solid internal dashboard, but you got to know what the measures mean. So you get really granular and defining what does it mean to be present?
What does it mean to practice acceptance? What does it mean to be creative? How do you do this in your day to day life? And then you can show up and focus on nailing those core values. And that becomes the thing that you judge yourself against. And then all the external stuff tends to fall into place on its own.
Uh, I know you have a lot of people that listen to this show that take training very seriously. In the sports world, this is often the difference between focusing on the process and focusing on the outcome, right? So the outcome is, Hey, I show up at the meet and I lift X, Y, Z, or I run a 245 marathon, but the process is nailing your workouts, taking care of your nutrition.
Um, all those things that you can control and core values. It’s really like the process for living your life.
Mike: You know, that makes me think of some research. Um, I was just reviewing some notes from some highlights and notes from book, but, uh, just fresh in my mind, some research showing that it was with athletes in particular, simply trying to envision the desired outcome, winning a race didn’t help them perform better, but envisioning the process, the work that they would have to put in to, to, to your point, putting in their workouts, making sure they’re eating well, that that helped them perform better.
And, uh, You know, I can say in my own experiences that that has been, it’s been a lot more useful for me to do the latter rather than the former. I mean, you start with a little bit of the vision and you get excited for, um, producing some, some, some sort of outcome, but, but, you know, it’s far off in the future and that to, to.
Be able to do the work that it’s take that it’s going to take to get there visualizing that has, and just more focusing on that has been helpful for me personally.
Brad: Yes, it’s so so true. And another big component of this is that if you focus on that process on those core values, then you get to judge yourself.
And something that you control
Mike: like, did I put in my best effort today, but even though I missed my deadlift or whatever, you know,
Brad: exactly. And what the research shows is that individuals that are more process focus and sport, they tend to, um, use less performance enhancing drugs. So they don’t cheat. And in the business world, people that are more process focused, don’t engage in fraud as much as people who are outcomes focused.
And this makes total sense because if you’re tying your whole self worth, your sense of confidence, self esteem to some external results, Well, then you’re going to do everything you can to chase it. I mean, I, I, I, before the show, I was doing my homework on you. Um, cause as you know, like there’s a lot of bro science out in the fitness world.
And something that I loved is you kind of poking fun at fitness influencers that tell you that it’s, uh, the vitamin D that they’re taking that makes them look like Hulk Hogan and not the steroids. And there’s all this fascinating research that shows that in the literature, it’s called obsessive passion.
So people that are really focused on an outcome. I need to look a certain way. I need to lift a certain amount of weight. They’ll do whatever it takes to get that outcome. Whereas people that are more internally driven and focused on the processed, they don’t get thrown off the path, um, chasing some goal of it that may or may not be realistic.
Uh, and again, this isn’t just in sport. We see this as well, uh, with, with, um, the traditional workplace, whereas I mentioned people that overly focus on achieving results that are external are much more likely to engage in fraud.
Mike: You know, this makes me think of, I believe this was in the seven habits for highly effective people, but, but, uh, if people listening, if you search for personal constitution, I actually wrote a little article on this some time ago because I went through the little exercise myself and found it helpful.
And it’s exactly what you’re talking about. It’s, it’s identifying core values, things that, um, principles, precepts, uh, guidance for, for living that resonated with me and. This is a question that people have asked me after I posted this and shared it on my podcast. What are your thoughts on, on going about finding these core values?
And I totally agree with you that if you, if, if you try to find too many, it kind of becomes watered down. So finding that three to five that really speak to you, maybe you can speak personally. How did you go about identifying those things for you? Because that’s, that means saying no to a lot of. Good candidates as well.
Brad: Yeah. Well, um, a couple of things. The first is in, and I have this list in, in the book itself, but there are some really good research based lists of between, I don’t know, 50 and 200 core values, and they’re not exclusively But they’re really good to get the brainstorming juices going. So I think starting with a a, a somewhat condensed list, so not just looking out into infinity can help.
And then from there, I think most people, it’s a combination of, oh, I just kind of know these things when I look at them like, this is who I am when I’m at my best. This is who I wanna be. And for people who struggle, I like to think about, well, think of someone that you really admire. That you look up to that you want to be like, and what do you admire about that person in those?
Might be values that you hold really deeply and that you might want to practice. Another way to do it is to imagine that you’re an older, wiser version of yourself. So you’re 20, 30 years down the road looking back on yourself today. What, what is older, wiser you want to look back on? What kind of qualities do you want to say?
Oh yeah, like I’ve done that throughout my life. That’s a really good way into your core values. And then another important thing is when you define the core values. You want to be very concrete, but also broad because this allows for change over time. So to stop talking in hypotheticals and make this real, one of my core values is health.
And I define health as having a, uh, a physical practice throughout my life. engaging in community and avoiding processed foods. Now I stay physical practice. I don’t say strength training. Why? Because I don’t know what’s going to happen. Maybe I’ll blow out an ACL and strength training won’t be an option.
Uh, maybe I’ll get really into endurance sports again and I want to run marathons. That’s fine. So it’s concrete enough where it’s like, Hey, I’m going to show up and do something active for 45 minutes a day. But it’s broad enough where that thing can change over time. So there’s like a real dance between getting really concrete.
So again, it’s not just a motivational aphorism that you hang on your bathroom mirror, but getting broad enough that it allows for changes, life events happen is in as you change.
Mike: And what are some of the common barriers to groundedness to really implementing This because this is, this is one of those things that I’m sure a lot of people listening, uh, would, would agree.
Hey, this, yeah, that makes sense. That is something I should do. Um, but there, there’s certainly a gap. And in some, with some people, it feels like a bit of a chasm to go from where they’re at to living these things, you know?
Brad: Yeah. I mean, it’s a practice. So, uh, let’s talk in terms of, of training, right? Like, it’s not called get grounded.
Just like there’s no such thing as get a 500 pound deadlift. Uh, even, even with vitamin S, you know, it still takes a little bit. You still got to train a little bit, you know, um, believe you me, like you’d have the most popular fitness program and I’d have the most popular book if people could get the deadlift and get grounded.
So I actually argued with my publisher, right? They wanted to call it grounded or get grounded. And I’m like, no, no, no. I kind of misses like. It misses the message of the book, which is this stuff is a practice. So the first thing is don’t expect to get grounded view. It is a practice view. It is a long term progression.
Uh, you’re going to be on the path. You’re going to fall off the path. You’re going to try to get back on the path and just rinse and repeat. So that’s thing. Number one, the second thing. is to realize that the environment that you put yourself in has a huge impact on how you feel and what you do. So if you are swimming in a sea of shallow superficial dopamine triggering Instagram post in metrics, then it’s going to be very hard unless you’re a Zen monk to stay grounded.
So it’s often about evaluating, Hey, are the environments that I’m in, are they conducive? To my values. No different than in training. If you go to a gym where everyone is doped up the wise you and flexing in the mirror, it’s going to be really hard for you not to care about how you look and not to care about how fast you’re making gains.
So it’s about identifying the things to finding them clearly realizing that the goal isn’t to be perfect. It’s to use these as North stars. To show up, execute on your workouts. So that’s the personal part. And then the community part is to say, Hey, am I putting myself in environments? Am I putting myself in situations that are in alignment with my values?
Cause if not, you’re swimming against stream. And it’s not to say that you can’t swim upstream, but it’s a lot harder. Uh, so that that’s where I start with actually instituting these things and then, um, getting, you know, it’s again, no different than fitness. Like it’s progressive overload, man. You start really small.
So if one of your core values is presence and you hear presence and you want to be like the Buddha, you want to be fully there for the people and things that matter to you. Well, trying to be present 16 hours a day. If you’ve been living in a world of distraction, it’s never going to work. You’re going to burn out.
You’re going to fail. You’re going to quit. Whereas if you can say, Hey, I define presence, again, being fully there for the people in pursuits that matter most to me. And then maybe for the first month of implementing this, this simply means that you put all digital devices away during dinner, just for an hour, do that for two weeks, see how that feels.
Then maybe it’s, I’m going to take 45 minutes during the day. Where I pick out something that really matters to me, I’m going to focus on it deeply again, no devices. So you gradually build these capacities
Mike: and you mentioned, uh, environments and people and you know, it’s funny. I just had commented on this that, uh, I think many people, they miss just how powerfully our environments incline us towards certain behaviors.
And then how easily those behaviors become habits and then how easily those habits can become shackles. And. Something that, um, some, some commentary that I got back is, uh, like one person, they mentioned that something they struggle with is people in their inner circle. If I remember correctly, in this case, uh, it was, it was somebody’s immediate family who don’t share their values, who live very differently, who, who have, um, uh, harmful, uh, Harmful habits and they don’t take care of themselves.
And, and this person struggles to, to deal with that. And, and that’s, I just think of that because I’ve heard that from many people over the years, particularly people who are starting out newly on a fitness journey, so to speak. And the, the people that they’re around make it more difficult than it would be.
Otherwise, do you have any thoughts on or any, any, any, any just advice for people on how to navigate? Those relationships, because it’s one thing just to go. All right, I’m going to stop buying the Doritos. So they’re not in the house. So I don’t eat them. And that helps me with my dietary compliance. All right, that’s that’s a pretty easy way to control my environment.
The Doritos feelings will not be hurt. They’ll be there for me 1 day in the future, but it’s tougher when it’s people, especially people https: otter. ai You have a closer connection with, it’s not just someone in the gym, you could just not talk to anymore and not even think about it. You know?
Brad: I do. Uh, this is, this is really tricky.
So there is a cost to getting healthy and there’s a benefit to getting healthy and some of the cost is shedding old habits that you enjoy. And sometimes those old habits are relationships with people. Now, it’s not all or nothing. You can, you can still be in relationship with someone and hang out with them once a month instead of twice a week.
Um, you can still enjoy spending time with someone, but have it not. eating fried chicken and doughnuts at their house. So that’s for more casual relationships like friends. I think where the rubber really hits the road is with intimate relationships. So partners, children, people that you live with in here, what I found, whether it’s in fitness or any other behavior change, the worst thing that you can do is try to talk that person into changing with you.
Just never going to work. You become irritating. You become a thorn in their side. The best thing that you can do. Is make the change in yourself and just role model the behavior and let that person see the difference in you and let them get interested on their own time. Now, if you’re romantic, intimate partner is filling the refrigerator with cookie dough ice cream, that’s like heroin and you’re trying to get your diabetes under control, then that’s probably a real sit down conversation with that person.
But don’t necessarily expect one, someone to jump the chasm at the exact same rate in the exact same time that you do, um, particularly if it’s a spouse. I mean, in my own life, right? I write about this stuff. A big thing for me is the digital device hygiene in my own life. And I’m like the staunchest believer.
I’m on the record in the freaking New York Times about this, that no one, unless you’re a transplant surgeon, right? should sleep with a cell phone in their bedroom. I feel so strongly. My wife would fall asleep listening to podcasts on her cell phone for about a year. That’s exactly what my wife does. So we’re still married.
I love my wife to death, but, or, and when I finally shut up and stopped bugging my wife about this, she, one day asked me, she’s like, you never wake up in the middle of the night. Like I’m waking up to pee. How do you sleep so well? I’m like, why don’t you just try? phone. She’s like, well, because I like to listen to podcasts.
I’m like, okay, bring up your iPad. Well, I don’t ever actually like text or get phone calls. Caitlin, like you, you asked me, I’m not going to tell you anymore if you want to do it or not. So now she uses her iPad and she sleeps a lot better, but that was like a year and a half. So I’m out there. I’ve got these books again.
I’m on the record saying this is terrible. And my own wife is. Doing it and I can sit there and judge her and be passive aggressive or I can just be like hey Here’s what I believe like you’re gonna come along at your own time. And maybe you will maybe you won’t now to be clear If a partner is like if every single one of their values is in conflict with yours Then maybe you need some like marriage counseling and that’s out of my wheelhouse Yeah, but I do think that when people make these positive behavior,
Mike: If you’re not married yet.
You might want to consider this.
Brad: Yeah, but, um, but I think a lot of people jump the gun and they’re like, Oh, I’m, you know, I’m a, I’m a vegetarian now. And my partner’s not, well, you fell in love with that person. You’ve been married for 10 years. So it’s probably not like worth judging them too much for. But role model the behavior and maybe it’ll come along.
Mike: I have to follow up on the, the no cell phone in the bedroom, because I know people are going to be wondering, and I’m wondering, uh, why, why is that?
Brad: So there’s a couple of reasons what certain people, I know Andrew Huberman’s like a big, a big fitness influencer scientists, what someone like that. And he is a neuroscientist that So, you know, he’s a hammer and, and, and, and he’s looking for nails and he’s right.
Some reason is purely from blue light and blue light throws off your circadian rhythm. It tells your body that, Hey, it’s not actually nighttime, blah, blah, blah. So most people say, all right, I’ll put on the blue light glasses or the dimmer on my phone if they still struggle to sleep. And I look at this much more from a psychological perspective in a phone represents everything else that’s going on in the world.
It represents social media. It represents news stories. It represents the fact that your mom might call you at 1 a. m. because your dad’s having a stroke. So much stuff.
Mike: It represents work, email, endless, never ending email.
Brad: Falling behind, having to wake up the next day to a full inbox. All these things that cause little micro hits of stress.
And just the view of the phone, and studies have shown this, just the view of the phone triggers in your brain all those thoughts and feelings. And trying to fall asleep with those thoughts and feelings there is a lot harder than when they’re not. Now, I talk about this like really clearly, because again, I want to be nuanced here.
If you go from sleeping with your phone in your bedroom to not sleeping with your phone in the bedroom at all, and you’re 35. Let’s say you’re going to be a long and healthy life. You’re going to live to be a hundred over 65 years. You are going to miss some stuff. There will be a call in the middle of the night for an emergency that you don’t get because the phone’s not in your bedroom.
That is a real cost. I argue that the benefit of 65 years worth of much better sleep and much lower stress far outweighs that cost, especially because again, unless you’re like a transplant surgeon on call. Very rarely is there something that you’re going to act on at 2 a. m.
Mike: And, uh, I haven’t, I haven’t looked if this is a setting, but I’m assuming there’s some way to set this up where, okay, if your phone is not in your bedroom, you could tell it to ring, ring if one of these three people call.
Like, that’s what I would do personally. The only reason my wife is calling me, uh, if I’m not at home. In the middle of the night is because something is really wrong and I wouldn’t want to miss that call. But again, that I’m sure that that could be set up with, uh, it’s probably just in the default settings of the phone.
I haven’t looked, but I’m guessing.
Brad: Yeah, there’s probably a way to do it. And you know, everybody has a different risk tolerance, right? So, like, we have, we have a young kid and same thing when I’m traveling, right? Yeah. Yeah. Well, one, I’m in a hotel room, but my phone’s still on silent and I can’t come on a plane at 2 a.
m. and do anything. So God forbid my kid had to go to the hospital in the middle of the night. From a comfort standpoint, of course, my wife’s going to want me on the phone. But I mean, I’m there. She knows I’m there with her, even if I’m not on the phone. So I just think that we only see the benefit of constantly being in touch, but we don’t see the cost.
And the cost might be that I’m a grumpier husband because I don’t sleep as well, or I’m more stressed. Um, the other thing that I’ll say is that, you know, cell phone, like for, for, I don’t know, 2000 years, we didn’t have cell phone in modern recorded history, right? Cell phones came along right around 2000, 1999.
And we managed life expectancy in America has actually gone down since then. So it’s not like, I think there’s a lot of perceived need to be there, but not a lot of real benefit. But the cost is really, is, is, is real. And again, there are of course, extenuating circumstances. Someone you love is in the hospital.
Yeah, that’s probably a time to sleep with your phone. Again, I use it, but it’s not the only example. If you are in a profession where you are on call and there’s a very real chance that you’re going to need to act on something, then yeah, you need to have your phone on during those periods.
Mike: Hey there. If you are hearing this, you are still listening, which is awesome.
Thank you. And if you are enjoying this podcast, or if you just like my podcast in general, and you are getting at least something out of it, would you mind sharing it with a friend, or a loved one, or a not so loved one even, who might want to learn something new? Word of Mouth helps really bigly. in growing the show.
So if you think of someone who might like this episode or another one, please do tell them about it. Can you talk to us about acceptance? You talk about this in, in the book and, and particularly how people can work on being more accepting of their own faults and problems because so many of us are our own worst critics.
Many people, they don’t realize that, that. So many other people are, are much harder on themselves than you talk about being judgmental. Um, at least that’s been my experience again, having worked with a lot of people on, on their bodies in particular, you know,
Brad: do you want me to talk about this in a, like a health and fitness context or more broadly?
Mike: Uh, I would say either, either or, I mean, um, obviously this is primarily health and fitness podcast, but, but people listening are a lot of people are just interested in self development.
Brad: Yeah, let’s start with health and fitness because it makes it kind of
Mike: just a good concrete example,
Brad: and then we can go broad in health and fitness is an area that I think a lot about all the time too.
So, um, there’s 2 reasons to practice acceptance. So first defining acceptance is seeing clearly where you are, not where you want to be, not where you think you should be. Not where other people think you should be, but where you are. And the first reason is because if you don’t start where you are, you won’t make sustainable progress.
So this is the person that has never focused on their nutrition, that suddenly is going to get on a super rigid, restrictive diet. Uh uh. You can’t go from zero to 10. Maybe 1 percent of people can, but what happens with most people is they last two weeks, and then they’re back to square one because they, they push too hard.
This is the person in the gym that’s never deadlifted with proper form, that can deadlift 300 pounds, but might throw out their back that says, Oh, I’m going to deadlift 340 with proper form. Uh, where you are is like the bar.
Mike: There’s a, there’s a new girl in the gym today. What’s right?
Brad: Because you’ve never deadlifted in proper form.
So oftentimes we view ourselves in our situations with rose tinted glasses. We’re very optimistically wired. And what happens is we start a little bit ahead of ourselves, which again gets in the way of long term progress because Uh, we’re, we’re doing something we’re doing too much too soon. So that’s the first reason acceptance is so powerful.
The second reason that you alluded to around self acceptance shows very clearly in experimental literature that the more we judge ourselves harshly for messing up, the longer it takes us to get back on the bandwagon. And this makes so much intuitive sense. If you mess up and you’re going to sit there and beat yourself up.
And judge yourself. Those are just extra heartbeats of stress, more wasted time and energy. The second thing is you’re never going to take productive risks because if every time you fail, you know that you’re going to beat yourself up. Well, then why would you risk failing? So a huge part of lasting progress and sustainable change.
Is having this mindset of, Hey, it’s hard to be a human. It’s hard to make changes. I’m going to give it my best and I’m going, I’m going to expect to fail. Like I am on a path. I’m on a path of health and fitness. I’m going to get injured. I’m going to eat like shit every now and then I’m going to fall off the path.
And that’s all part of playing the long game. My job, when I fall off the path is to realize that I’m off. to learn from it and then to quickly get back on the path without beating myself up. So I blew it doesn’t mean that, oh, I’m delusional. It doesn’t matter that I blew it. You take note that you blew it, but then the beating yourself up, the firing of second, third, fourth arrows at yourself does no good and only causes harm.
So again, twofold starting where you are so that you’re not starting from a false bar doing too much too soon. And then when you mess up being kind to yourself, so you’re not wasting time and energy. And you don’t degrade yourself away from taking risks
Mike: with that 1st point of starting where you are. It seems like this is something I’ve commented on up here and there that, um, it makes me it makes me think of the, the, the, the little, uh, I guess maximum that every problem has a solution.
The, the, the. The off the problem that we deal with the difficulty often is that we just don’t want to face the solution. The solutions are not are pretty easy to come by. Right. And, um, with with many people, and this is something that I’ve done. We all do this to some degree. And it’s something I’ve tried to, uh, I would say, be, uh, practice, I guess might be the word.
And that is being willing to face. Reality being willing to face circumstances as they are not as I wish they were and, you know, I don’t want to hijack conversation, but I could give personal examples of situations that, um, were, uh, you know, difficult situations that that were only because they only existed because I wasn’t willing to face.
There was something that I wasn’t willing to face. And when I, when I finally did face it and was able to just look at it comfortably and acknowledge to your point of this is how it is and, and, and get rid of the, uh, the, the delusion, um, then I was able to deal with it. Um, yeah.
Brad: Do you, do you, do you have.
I think I go ahead.
Mike: Yeah, I don’t know. I just want to give it back to you because, you know, the reason why I bring that up is we can just talk about in the context of fitness. You brought up a good point of somebody. They’re brand new. Let’s say they have a lot of weight to lose. They’re very out of shape and they decide that they’re going to start as if they were a professional bodybuilder.
They’re going to make their meal plan. They’re going to count every calorie. They’re going to do, you know, two hours of cardio every day, et cetera, et cetera. And. It sounds nice until it just till the wheels fall off. And, um, and so, so part of this process, I think it has to start with being willing to face reality again as it is not as we wish it was.
Brad: Yes, 100%. Um, and, and again, the environment thing is real because like in the fitness world, there are so many bros out there that are happy to feed you the radical program. Yep. And you’ll see great results for 30 days, muscle confusion. I don’t know what the hell they call it today. And then on day 32, you plateau.
And on day 35, you quit. And then you go on to the next program. That’s why it’s a billion dollar industry. Um, good coaches like yourself, like it’s not as bright and shiny and sexy right off the bat. And that’s the whole point. It shouldn’t be. Um, so that’s a fitness example. Another example that I’ll give for my own life in, in a lot of listeners will probably relate to.
With like facing the thing is when I first became a parent for the first time The and I never fight with my my partner caitlin. We have a great relationship, but we started butting heads more often And a part of the reason was that though I intellectually accepted that my life would change like viscerally in my bones, I still thought I could be as productive and have At least 70 percent of the autonomy that I did instead of realizing that that number was probably closer to 30 to 40.
So instead of just saying like, this is hard, I’m grieving my autonomy. I would get really frustrated and I’d like hold it against her. And these are very common problems when people first have kids. But once I faced the actual thing, which is, Hey, we have a kid. There’s a lot. That’s great about having a kid.
One thing that can be challenging is you lose autonomy. And I reset that expectation that, you know what, I’m going to have to start operating on a five, six hours of sleep, maybe for as much as a year, and I might not be my best, but I’m not going to die. And that’s okay. Like all the, all the arguments stopped.
Um, so that’s an example from life. And then we obviously talked about fitness.
Mike: Yeah, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a good example. And you know, something that I’ll, I’ll just say personally that I like to think I’ve improved at, at least over the years is not, not giving in to. Uh, or at least not easily giving into the emotional appeal of a decision that I intellectually know is not the right decision.
And I’ve had to learn that lesson the hard way, uh, at least a few times. So I wish, I wish that, that there’s something that, uh, if I could go back to my earlier self and give a piece of advice, it would be, uh, something along these lines. And. You know, I, I do think that that coming back to this word practice, I do think that that is something that we can practice and get better at, even though it seems like as humans were wired to, to just go after the impulses.
I mean, we’re wired to eat everything. You see, we’re wired to like punch anyone who upsets us. We’re wired,
Brad: right? But you see this in fitness too, not just with newbies. I mean, this is whenever I fall into a trap and I’ve been training, uh, you know, pretty, pretty hard across sports for the last 15 years. Uh, I’m much better at it.
But there are still times when it’s like the program says, stop at three reps, but you’re just feeling great. And underneath that, you’re a little insecure. You’re like, Hey, I don’t know if I could get five, but like, I think, I think my squat’s gone up, but I can use the rep calculator and take the set to four reps and RPE nine instead of RPA.
And then you do it and you hit the rep and you’re stoked for like a week. And then your fitness test comes along four weeks down the road and you flop. And you can look back and it’s because you took that workout and sometimes if you’re training like where there’s lower margin for error, it can be as much as one rep or as simple as one rep, as little as one rep.
So it’s not just newbies, but I think that that’s a great example too, of like when the emotions are just like, ah, I’m going to do this. And I think that for both beginners in health and fitness. And for experienced veterans, it tends to be holding ourselves back early is hard, and if we don’t hold ourselves back early, then when it’s time to really put the gas on, there’s not enough juice there.
Mike: I’ve, uh, I’ve made that mistake many times, whether it’s loading the bar more than, uh, I was. Quote unquote supposed to, or pushing too close to failure just because that, you know, it feels, it feels like a little bit of progress, but you’re kind of robbing Peter to pay Paul because you know, I, I track my reps and I like, I like just doing it for my strength training and reps in reserve.
I find that a little bit easier than RP as well. Yeah, and, and so I track that in my, in my spreadsheet along with my weight and reps. And so I’ve, I’ve reviewed, you know, I have a lot of training now in this spreadsheet of just never ending tabs. And I can, I can find, um, find times when I, when I did that, when it looked like I was progressing, but actually, if I looked at what was happening with my reps and reserve, Not really.
I was just, I was just training a little bit closer to failure and probably a little bit too close. You know, like a first set of deadlifts. Let’s say I’m doing four sets and taking that first set set to like one rep shy of failure. Just not a great idea. Just not. And now I like that first set to be two or three reps still in the tank because I know that fourth set is going to still be tough, you know,
Brad: and this relates to another principle in the book, which is be patient to get there faster.
And what’s true in fitness is often true in life. Yeah. And, uh, there’s real trade offs between acute productivity or acute gains and then long term productivity and long term gains. So if I wanted to have a Instagram worthy influencer style workout tomorrow, I could do it. And it would be a great single day workout.
But if I want to make physical practice a part of my life and make progress over the next decade, that workout would incontestably set me back. And I’m here to coach toward the long game because anyone can train till they puke. Anyone can pull an all nighter starting a company. Uh, anyone can write 4, 000 words in a day.
But if you try to do that more than once, twice, three times, four times a week, a month, you just end up burning out. And I think that this is such a big problem of like this heroic culture. You see it in fitness, but you also see it in, uh, like the tech industry and finance really across the board. Um, where it’s like this constant, look how great I’m doing acutely in the moment.
But what you don’t see is what that person looked like and felt like one month, two months, three months, one year, two years down the road. Uh, and I think that sustainable excellence in whatever you do really requires patience, progression, and a lot of stopping one rep short. It’s funny. You mentioned that I literally use that metaphor in the book.
I’m not talking about fitness in the book. I’m talking about. All pursuits, just the power of stopping one rep short so that you can pick up where you started in the same rhythm without needing to really accentuate your rest and recovery. Not to be clear, just like there are times in fitness when it makes sense.
I call it like going and going to see God, you know, once or twice, maybe 3 times a year. You should go to see God. I think it’s really good for your brain to learn what it’s like to just go super hard, uh, and, and probably good for your body too. And fitness and same thing in the workplace, there’s nothing wrong with a streak of all nighters.
If you’re starting a brand new company and you’re about to get funding. You’re going to have to burn the candle at both ends, but that, that needs to be the exception. And if that starts to become a normal thing, that’s when you know that you’re sacrificing long term progress.
Mike: And I would extend that to, to picking a trainer or picking a coach as well, because to your comment earlier, anyone can make someone else really tired, really sore, you know, puddles of sweat, no pain, no gain.
That, that is. Something that, um, that, that bad trainers will do, maybe some of them don’t realize that it’s bad, but it, it often gives that instant gratification, that feeling of acute progress to the client, but it’s not sustainable. And if they have that person and, you know, many people, they want to be good clients.
They’re, they’re going to do. They’re best to do exactly what they’re told. Most, most people who sign up for any sort of coaching like this. And, uh, so just something for listeners to keep in mind regarding picking a coach. Anyone can make you really sore. That does not mean that they’re a good coach, necessarily.
Brad: And I know you well enough to know that you’re not, uh, you’re not sponsored by soul cycle, but like, this is the secret of soul cycle. Like put a bunch of people in a room, turn up the temperature to 120 degrees. Have them ride a bike for a half an hour, and they will feel worked, but they’re actually just dehydrated.
Mike: It’d be funny if that was actually part of the master plan, is, uh, to get to that point of maximum perceived exertion. What can we do? What could, oh, we could put them in a sauna, basically, and then spin the shit out of them.
Brad: Um, yeah, so there’s a lot of that. And, um, and it gets back to, like, this, the culture is there for, like, the hack.
Or the quick fix, um, or chasing that feeling of having worked hard. Um, but there’s a big difference between that feeling and like the, the chronic accumulated hard work. So I feel like as a writer and as an athlete, I’ve worked really, really hard over the last three years. But I very rarely end a day feeling like I’m totally worked because if I ended days feeling totally worked, then I wouldn’t be able to string together the years.
Mike: I want to I want to find a question that I want to want to ask you about is community. And and I think we could start with it with the definition. I always like defining terms. But, um. I want to get your, I just want to hear your thoughts on what does a positive community look like and how have you gone about creating that in your life?
Brad: Uh, yeah, let’s define the term. So the way that I define community in the book and the way that I like to think about it is having two components. So the first component is the very conventional one, which is people that you see and are in constant contact with. Ideally in real life, obviously during COVID times, a lot of this was digital.
Now for most people in most places, it can resume in person. I think that’s really important. And then the second element of community is a feeling of connection or belonging to something beyond yourself. So this can be, you’re in a coaching tree. This can be you are in a writing tree of philosophers or other intellects that wrote the same type of stuff as you.
This can be spiritual. You can be in a, a religion or a spiritual community. Um, CrossFit has done a really good job with this. CrossFit has done some really bad jobs too, but one thing that they nailed was community. People really feel connected to CrossFit. It empowers them. Sometimes they take it too far.
But on balance, that’s a really good thing that CrossFit did. They don’t have to be in a CrossFit gym to feel that connection. We know that a sense of belonging in life gives us meaning and fortitude, and we can find that sense of belonging in all sorts of places. So it’s a sense of belonging, a feeling of belonging and connection.
And then it’s the real thing, being in connection with people. So those are the two elements of community. Then in terms of how I like to go about building it and finding it. Is it gets back to where we started with the core values. So ideally you’re building communities of people that share similar values to you and are walking a similar path and in the fitness world, it’s really pretty like polder.
Like it’s very easy to find. People that are so called in health and fitness that have nothing in common with your approach or people in health and fitness that have a ton in common with your approach. And sometimes
Mike: many people who actually, they don’t have much in common with just health and fitness,
Brad: right? In general. Right. And listen, so there’s charlatans, you know, this better than me and hucksters out there, but even amongst really good coaches. There are like different approaches and that’s fine. And people have different values and that’s fine. Um, but it’s about finding a cohort, a group of people that share those values, that share that approach, that are going to walk the path with you.
That when you’re scrolling, the CrossFit message boards are going to be like, dude, get off the message boards, listen to your coach. Um, that’s really important. And that’s important for a couple of reasons. The first is that if you’re pursuing a goal. With like minded people, you have fun. And if you’re having fun, you’re more likely to endure the challenging times.
Nothing was worse than COVID for me because I started training alone in my basement and I realized that I don’t actually like training. I like two things. I like the feeling of having trained and I like being in the gym with other people. And during COVID, the ladder was taken away. So in order to get the feeling of having trained, I actually just had to train alone, which sucked.
So having fun makes doing hard things easier. And then there’s obviously, it’s been studied and discussed at length, there’s an accountability mechanism. So you show up because you know other people are going to be there. And then there’s also a compassion mechanism. So when you fail, other people are there to provide a support structure to lift you back up.
Because they too are walking the same path, they know it’s hard, they’ve probably failed too, they can help you dust off and get back on.
Mike: Yeah, I think of, uh, of research that I’ve, uh, I’ve written about that showed that people who embark on weight loss, uh, journeys together. tend to do much better than people who try to go it alone.
And this has been looked at, um, in terms of bottom line results, like, you know, the, the people who are doing it together tend to lose, lose more weight and keep it off.
Brad: And even with like a topic, like, uh, with weight loss, there’s, I can think of just off the top of my head, like three kind of. Prominent communities.
And really, unfortunately, two of them are the most prominent in, in, in the one that you’re in is I would say not prominent because again, it’s more nuanced and less bright and shiny. So there are the people out there that are body positive to the extreme. That think that weight is just the social construct and diabetes is a creation of the diet industry and is not real.
And to those people, I say like spend some time in an urgent care center, looking at people who are suffering. Um, with, uh, with abscesses on their, on their limbs and who have had diabetic amputations and then tell me if a diabetes is a social construct. On the other extreme, there are people that so over index on weight and they make it seem like if you just achieve a certain weight, then you’ll be happy.
Then everything in your life will be perfect. And that’s also bullshit, but in the middle, there’s all this nuance, which is, Hey, you can be, you can love yourself and be confident and comfortable in your body. And at the same time, want to change your body in alignment with your core values. And in everything I do, I always try to find that middle way community.
So if I’m going to embark on weight loss, I find someone that’s in that group. If I’m going to go on a fitness goal, I’m in that group. If I want to find somebody that is a researcher. I never go to the crazy ass contrarians. I always try to go to a researcher if it’s looking at a topic from both angles with nuance.
And, um, I think that that, you know, I haven’t said this before because it’s just coming to me. I almost think that like for, for holding different ideas at once, it’s really important to also say like, hey, are the people I’m surrounding with myself, are they in alignment with Kind of how I fashion myself as a thinker.
So if you’re an extreme thinker, then yeah, you might, you might really love chasing those extremes and all the best to you. Um, but I think that for people that fashion themselves as fairly reasonable, then in the world of health and fitness craziness, it’s hard to find the reasonable people. Because they’re not shouting the loudest because they’re reasonable, but those are actually the people that you have to look for.
Mike: Yeah, and those people often don’t have big social media accounts. Uh, just you’ve been commenting about social media and, um.
Brad: One of my famous coaches, I, I don’t know if you’ve heard of him or not. Um, not one of my famous, he’s not famous. One of my favorite coaches has no social media and it’s a guy named Dan John.
Mike: Yeah, sure. I’ve had him on the podcast.
Brad: Yeah. Dan’s a great guy. Do I agree with everything he does? No, but like, I love Dan, but Dan doesn’t give a shit about any of this. He’s like all this stuff out there is so dumb. So he just has his, and he’s an old timer. So that has something to do with it, but he’s got his newsletter and he’s got a bunch of old timers that come train with kettlebells in his garage.
And that, to me, is so much more attractive than, um, a lot of like the bro science that’s out there right now.
Mike: Yeah. Then, uh, then the kind of stuff that goes viral on TikTok, you know, I, I’m, I’m conflicted myself on being on social media. I mean, if I didn’t, if it had nothing to do with my work, I would not be on any social media.
Brad: The same way I think about this all the time. Um, I think that if that’s where attention is, and that’s where people are, and you want to reach people, then you have to be there. Then I think it’s about what boundaries do you set around how you use it, and particularly, how do you not get frustrated and not get sucked into the cesspool?
When you see something that is so egregiously wrong and how do you not take the bait to engage or when you do engage, how do you do it in a way where you know that you’re doing it? You’re not going on autopilot. Yeah.
Mike: Yeah. I don’t know about you, but for me, I’ve looked at it exactly in the same way in that.
It is, it is a great way to spread, um, what, what I hope is helpful and, and accurate information. And it’s not information that everybody is ready for. Uh, there are still a lot of people who are still on tick talk, trying the viral workouts and a fad diets and so forth. But a lot of those people eventually seem to find their way more to people like you and me.
Um, when. They’ve tried and failed with enough of that stuff to, to, to then come to their own conclusion that maybe, maybe the unsexy, maybe the boring workouts. Like this guy, Mike, he’s, he’s always posting his workouts and they’re boring. He’s always doing the same kind of stuff. He does like, there’s like 20 exercises.
He rotates through every year. And I wonder if there’s something to that. Right? So, you know, I try to do it. I try to do it more, I guess, from a place of, of service. And, um, I’m happy to reply to, to comments. I, I. Ignore troll bait as much as I can. I don’t get much of it, fortunately, but what I do get, I just don’t take it personally and don’t engage because that’s where the time suck.
You know, when you get into these little debates with people, you can’t help but want to load up Twitter every 5 minutes to see what, you know, so I try to avoid that and, uh, and try it. Try not to really do anything in the way of scrolling. I just try to use it as an outlet for my content creation and, um, and and then a way to engage one on one with people who
are not just trying to get a rise out of me.
Brad: I think that’s wise.
Mike: That’s the best I’ve been able to come up with. I think that, uh, that to me, they’re the, the benefits outweigh the, the downsides to, and so that’s why I don’t just delete all of my social media, but if social media were to just go away tomorrow, um, I would, I would, I would be happy actually, but that’s, uh, That’s not going to happen.
Brad: Don’t cross your fingers.
Mike: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. Anyway, um, that’s everything I, that I had for you, Brad. This was a great interview. I really appreciate you taking the time and the book is the practice of groundedness. Anybody still listening probably liked the conversation and probably will like the book. So I’d recommend go to the, you go and check it out.
And you know, the, uh, I also, I did a, a book review on peak, which I really enjoyed. As well, and we didn’t talk about that because I wanted to focus on your new book, but I also would recommend that book for people listening. And if you want to anybody listening, if you want to hear, uh, I shared 5 key takeaways that I really liked and some of my thoughts on them.
That’s, uh, that’s up on the podcast. Oh, it was probably posted some time ago, but if you search in the feed, you’ll find it. So, um, anyways, Brad, uh, why don’t we just wrap up here with anything else you want to let people know about where they can find you and your work, um, where they can find you on social media.
Brad: Yeah. Thanks so much. Uh, again, I really enjoyed the conversation too. Um, best way to go deep on the work is to check out the practice of groundedness. Um, it’s the three books I’ve done. I do think it’s the most important. Followed by Peak Performance in a close second place. Uh, I’d love to hear your five bullet takeaway.
Sorry. It’s alright. I sometimes call it Peak. Peak was, uh, it was Erickson. Carter’s Erickson. But I call it P P, Peak Performance, Peak. They’re all good books.
Mike: I really did read it though, and I really did, uh, do a book club episode on it. That, uh,
Brad: And then, um, and then on Twitter, I’m at bstahlberg. It’s the only social media platform that I’m really active on at all.
And, uh, my website is just my name and, um, yeah, I think the, the, the parting words are just, um, really try to focus on those core values, put yourself in environments that make it easier to show up and practice them and just ask yourself, are you playing the short game or the long game? And uh, that makes a lot of the, the in the moment decision making a lot easier.
Mike: And I’ll add that, I’ll add to that with a little, a little tiny habit, uh, challenge kind of approach to this where people could pick just one core value. What’s just one. And then what’s just one thing that you, uh, dear listener could start doing regularly And it could be really simple. In fact, it probably should be really simple.
I think you would agree with that. Uh, something that does not generate any sort of internal friction, something that you immediately are like, yeah, I could do that. No problem. Um, well, if it’s health, let’s say, and you’re not doing much for your, for your health right now, maybe it’s just going outside for a walk every day.
That’s it. That’s where you start. Um, and if you start there, then once that is. Uh, a habit, then you can add to it and I’m just echoing your words here, Brad, but if you do that consistently, if you apply the progressive overload, a year could go by and you look back and go, wow, uh, I’m, I’m really a different person.
Brad: A hundred percent. Couldn’t agree more.
Mike: Thanks again.
Brad: All right, thank you.
Mike: Well, I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful. And if you did subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes. And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people.
Who may like it just as much as you. And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you have ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share, shoot me an email, Mike at muscle for life. com muscle F O R life. com. And let me know what I could do. better or just, uh, what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future.
I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode and I hope to hear from you soon.