YAPClassic: Brad Stulberg on Emotional Intelligence for Entrepreneurs, How to Stay Grounded and Present

YAPClassic: Brad Stulberg on Emotional Intelligence for Entrepreneurs, How to Stay Grounded and Present

YAPClassic: Brad Stulberg on Emotional Intelligence for Entrepreneurs, How to Stay Grounded and Present

When Brad Stulberg was 31 years old, he suddenly developed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. His mind was plagued with thoughts of self-harm and depression. He quickly sought out therapy, and in the process of getting help, he learned about what it means to be grounded and how mindfulness can help us navigate the suffering of everyday life. Since then, Brad has established himself as a top expert in sustainable excellence, mental health, and authentic success. In this episode of YAPClassic, Brad teaches us how to be grounded through tactics like combatting heroic individualistic thinking, distancing ourselves from our emotions, and intentionally seeking out community.

Brad Stulberg is a bestselling author, coach, and co-creator of The Growth Equation, an online platform dedicated to defining and attaining a more fulfilling and sustainable kind of success. With more than 400,000 copies sold in 20 languages, his books have been helping people express their potential, avoid burnout, and attain a more sustainable and genuine kind of excellence.


In this episode, Hala and Brad will discuss:

– How getting diagnosed with OCD changed Brad’s definition of peak performance

– The problem with heroic individualism

– Signs of a heroic individualist mindset

– How to combat heroic individualism

– What does it really mean to be present?

– How hyper-productivity can harm your long-term goals

– The benefits of self-distancing

– Why you need to accept where you are in order to grow

– How to be emotionally flexible

– How community can keep you grounded and present

– And other topics…


Brad Stulberg is the author of four books: Master of Change, The Practice of Groundedness, Peak Performance, and The Passion Paradox. With more than 400,000 copies sold in 20 languages, his books have been helping people express their potential, avoid burnout, and attain a more sustainable and genuine kind of excellence.


Brad coaches executives, entrepreneurs, and athletes on their performance and overall well-being and spends his time as a co-creator for The Growth Equation, an online platform dedicated to defining and attaining a more fulfilling kind of success. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wired, New Yorker, Forbes, GQ, Time, and more.


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Resources Mentioned:

Brad’s Website: https://www.bradstulberg.com


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[00:00:12] Hala Taha: What is going on my young and profiting family? In today's the app classic, we're pulling my interview with Brad Stuhlberg from the archives. We're dusting it off and playing it back because it's a great episode. Brad is a best selling author, coach, and co creator of The Growth Equation, an online platform dedicated to attaining a more fulfilling and sustainable kind of success.

[00:00:35] Hala Taha: In this interview, we're talking all about the practice of groundedness. Brad will teach us how to be grounded through tactics like combating heroic individualistic thinking, distancing ourselves from our emotions, and intentionally seeking out community. We don't talk a lot about groundedness on the podcast because we like to hustle here at Yap.

[00:00:53] Hala Taha: But in talking to Brad, I learned that it is possible to stay grounded and also accomplish your goals. So I think you guys will like hearing this episode. It's a really important topic, especially for all of us entrepreneurs who are constantly on the go, go, go. And speaking of going, let's go right into it.

[00:01:10] Hala Taha: Enjoy my interview with Brad Stuhlberg.


[00:01:16] Hala Taha: Hey, Brad, welcome to young and profiting podcast. 

[00:01:19] Brad Stulberg: Hey, it's so good to be here. Thanks for having 

[00:01:21] Hala Taha: me. I am very excited for this conversation. So for those who don't know you, you are an author, executive coach, researcher, and expert on all things human performance, sustainable success, and well being. We're going to really focus on your book, The Practice of Groundedness, because I think it's something my audience really needs to hear about.

[00:01:39] Hala Taha: But before we get into it, I'd love to get more color about your background. 

[00:01:43] Hala Taha: So let's take everybody to 2017. This was a dark time in your life.

[00:01:47] Hala Taha: You were around 31 years old, uh, to the external world. You had. everything going on. You were an expert on human performance, already training elite athletes and coaching entrepreneurs. You were a bestselling author on peak performance, but inside you were suffering and you developed OCD and you actually started getting suicidal thoughts and self harm thoughts and anxiety and it kind of came up out of nowhere from my understanding.

[00:02:12] Hala Taha: So talk to us about that time in your life because I think that was really the trigger for you to start. 

[00:02:19] Brad Stulberg: Yeah, it definitely did, as you mentioned, blindside me from nowhere. I had no prior history with depression or anxiety, at least not that I knew of, and it was like a. Switch in my brain got flipped in a devastatingly wrong direction.

[00:02:37] Brad Stulberg: I was fortunate to have such a stark experience between before and after that it didn't take me long to get help. I was very quick to go to my partner, Caitlin, and say like, Something is wrong with my brain. This is scary. I need help. And I think that... In my story, the pivotal moment was getting help and getting a diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder because I thought I had some kind of, like, unrelenting depression.

[00:03:07] Brad Stulberg: But it actually is a fairly common theme in OCD to become obsessed with The potential to hurt yourself or to hurt others and constantly have these intrusive thoughts and then try to make them go away and then the thoughts get worse and it's just this vicious cycle and um, I was fortunate enough to see a wonderful therapist and psychiatrist that fairly quickly diagnosed me with OCD, began treating me based on the evidence for OCD, and though at the time it felt like forever, each minute felt like a day, each day felt like a year, it was probably about six to eight months where I was really in it before I started to see out of the the dark forest and get to the other side.

[00:03:51] Brad Stulberg: And during that time period, as you said, I began to just re evaluate, well, what does success even mean, and what does it mean to be excellent? And before I had this experience, I thought that I knew what depression or anxiety or OCD was, and it's as if you look across a river and you see people on the other side of the river, and you're like, oh, I can see what they're going through, I get it.

[00:04:17] Brad Stulberg: But it wasn't until I myself was on the other side of the river that I actually had any idea what it meant to be depressed, what it meant to be anxious. And, um, it really did lead to like a re evaluating of kind of the basic principles that I think and that I write about. And it's not to say that the first two books aren't defensible.

[00:04:37] Brad Stulberg: The way that I like to talk about it is those books are for when everything is clicking and everything is going well. Groundedness is much more about what's the foundation. That is going to hold you not only when things are going well, but also when things aren't. And what's funny is because it recently came out, everyone thinks it's a pandemic book.

[00:04:54] Brad Stulberg: So they think I wrote this book because we're all going through this pandemic and, um, outside of people in book publishing, that makes sense. But the truth is it takes like three to four years to publish a book. So the manuscript was mostly done before the pandemic. And I think what the pandemic has shown is that yes, while we experience these things differently, suffering is universal and anxiety is universal and it ebbs and flows for different folks at different times of their lives and yet it is part of the human experience.

[00:05:23] Hala Taha: Yeah. So I'd love to learn how you pulled yourself out of it. Was it the writing of this book that really helped you figure it out or how did you get yourself out of that or, or is it something that you never get out of?

[00:05:36] Brad Stulberg: I think it's a little bit of both. So what I'd say is that I still have OCD, but my experiences of it are much less frequent, and when I have them, I have tools and they're less intense. So if these intrusive thoughts and feelings used to take up eight, nine hours of a day, and that's what it was like when it was bad, now maybe it's a few hours a month.

[00:06:01] Brad Stulberg: How did I get there? The short answer is through eight months of therapy and medication. And um, I am so grateful again that I got the right care. I got in treatment early. And um, now I meet with my therapist about once a month. But now it's more just like a coaching relationship since I do have the skills to navigate the OCD when it comes on.

[00:06:25] Brad Stulberg: But yeah, for those eight months it was pretty intensive therapy. And then the book... Helps me make sense of all this. So at first I'm going through this and I want to intellectualize it And I want to problem solve and actually that just makes it worse So when I was in the thick of it the thought of writing it I would be faking it going through the motions like there was no I was not in good enough mental health to create any kind Of good intellectual work when I got to the other side of it.

[00:06:51] Brad Stulberg: That's when I could look back And examine, hey, here are the things that I've learned in therapy. Here are maybe some of the things that I've overlooked in the past. And, oh, when I hear so many people that I work with in my coaching practice complaining about being restless, or never being able to turn it off, or constantly checking their email or social media, I now have this new framework to think about it, which are, sure, these aren't extreme clinical obsessions, but so many of the things in day to day life that make us feel restless and anxious.

[00:07:21] Brad Stulberg: are very similar in the fact that they're things that we don't want to be thinking about or we don't want to be feeling, but we feel like we get sucked into them and we're not really sure how. And that became the operating hypothesis on the book. I think something else to say that's really important is about four to five months, let's see, no, actually it's closer to seven months into experiencing OCD, I decided to write, uh, an essay.

[00:07:45] Brad Stulberg: That went into pretty like intense detail about my experience and the genesis of that was exactly what you said When we brought up this topic to the outside world. I'm like 31 year old whiz kid coaching World class athletes and executives and best selling book and another one on the way, but inside I'm totally falling to pieces And the cognitive dissonance that I felt when I get emails from people along the lines of, how'd you figure it out?

[00:08:13] Brad Stulberg: Tell me about your path, especially young men. Like, how did you get to do what you did? it just, that became almost as bad as the OCD itself. And at that point, I'm like, I'm either going to stop doing this kind of work or. I need to reconcile that this is a part of me, but I can't hide it.

[00:08:33] Brad Stulberg: And a psychiatrist told me that a huge part of peak performance, which was literally the title of my first book, is the ability to play through the pain. And that really stuck with me. So I wrote this essay saying, Hey, some of you might think that I'm a fraud, I'm a fake, you're never going to want to work with me again, but this is my experience, this is what I'm experiencing right now, and I believe that I can...

[00:08:54] Brad Stulberg: No one coached towards these concepts and struggle myself. And I was a little bit scared about the response to that essay. Of course. But it was so overwhelmingly positive and I think that was another aha moment when all these people that I never would have guessed come out of the woodwork emailing me about, Oh, me too, or I have bad depression or I've experienced anxiety or, Oh, I've never felt like this, but my colleague has, and you've given me a whole new way to think about it.

[00:09:22] Brad Stulberg: I think that my own experience plus that. That was the juncture that led me to say that, hey, I've spent enough time exploring the evidence based principles for when everything is clicking the top of the metaphorical mountain. Now I want to explore the base. 

[00:09:36] Hala Taha: Totally.

[00:09:36] Hala Taha: let's get into some of the key phrases that you talk about in this book and some definitions. So you talk about heroic individualism and you say it leads to unhappiness and burnout and is perpetuated by modern culture that relentlessly says you need to be better, feel better, think more positively, have more, and optimize your life.

[00:09:55] Hala Taha: I'll confess that Young and Profiting podcast talks a lot about that kind of stuff. So talk to us about heroic individualism and what's wrong with that. 

[00:10:05] Brad Stulberg: Hmm. Well, so you defined it from the book, and I think that the The way that I think about it when it becomes problematic is when you're more worried about beating yourself or other people than you are about the actual effort and your level of presence in the moment.

[00:10:27] Brad Stulberg: And this manifests in what I call if then syndrome. So if I just get 5, 000 subscribers to my newsletter, then I'll be happy. If I just publish my first book, then I'll be content. If I just win that NBA championship or that Olympic gold medal, or if I just get that Series B round of funding, then I'll feel like I have real self worth.

[00:10:51] Brad Stulberg: that is an illusion as old as time. Literally, Stoicism and Buddhism were both, in some ways, created to address that illusion. Modern science, we call this the arrival fallacy. And it's just that. It's this notion that if I just do this, then I'll arrive. And I think that heroic individualism often can perpetuate that.

[00:11:11] Brad Stulberg: by telling us that we need to get something out in front of us for ourselves to feel whole. And groundedness is not about checking out into a monastery and letting go of striving and desire. What it's about is trying to channel striving, desire, motivation, energy, drive. in more skillful, productive ways.

[00:11:32] Brad Stulberg: So, if you think about, there's two ways to climb a mountain. And this can be a real mountain, but it can also be a metaphorical mountain. You can think of this as career advancement, relationship advancement, you name it. And one way is to constantly be thinking about the top of the mountain. And thinking about the selfies that you're going to take when you get there.

[00:11:51] Brad Stulberg: And how good you're going to feel when you finally arrive. The other way is to just be where you freaking are and to even enjoy the view from the side to have fun as you're Climbing and what I argue in the book and what the science supports is not only do you obviously feel better If you're having fun and you're grounded as you're climbing But you also perform better because carrying the weight of that anxiety to need to get somewhere is Never never never ever helpful.

[00:12:17] Brad Stulberg: Whereas if you can be free and you can be both good enough now And truly have self confidence and believe that you're good enough now and want to get better because you're curious and it's fun. That kind of energy and drive is so much more sustainable. The last thing I'll say, because I think that it is such a ripe topic for listeners of this podcast, is it's not all or nothing.

[00:12:36] Brad Stulberg: Right? We're all on a continuum between, like, heroic individualism and groundedness. And the point of this book is just to help people shift a little bit more towards groundedness. I know this myself. The week that my book comes out, I am spending more time than I want to admit in heroic individual mode.

[00:12:53] Brad Stulberg: I'm checking my sales rank. I'm trying to get app ads placed in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and I'm constantly checking to see if I got emails back from editors. I did it for a week, but then I put this really hard boundary on it because I know that that's ultimately unhealthy. And I'm using myself as an example to elucidate that A, it's very hard to be like 100 percent on this, and if you get it 60 percent right, it's good.

[00:13:18] Brad Stulberg: And then B, so much of heroic individualism is the environment that we operate in. So it's all fun and good to say, be where you are, so on and so forth. But then when you try to sell sponsorship for a podcast and they're like, how many downloads do you have? Well, that number matters. So it's not saying that these end results, these peaks don't matter.

[00:13:37] Brad Stulberg: It's just trying to help us feel a little bit better as we strive and have our self worth be something more than an external result, which again, the big paradox is that gives you the best chance at getting the external result and actually enjoying it when you do.

[00:14:00] Hala Taha: So sticking on heroic individualism, we love actionable advice on this podcast.

[00:14:05] Hala Taha: So what are some questions that we can ask ourselves to see if we are in this frame of mind? 

[00:14:11] Brad Stulberg: So there's a few that immediately come to mind. So, these are like the key signs of heroic individualism. One is you're exhausted but you have no idea why and you're actually sleeping well. Another is that you don't feel good when you're working all the time, but when you try to turn it off, you don't feel good either.

[00:14:31] Brad Stulberg: This is something that comes up for me when I'm writing. I have a really hard time turning it off. Another tell tale sign is that you dread working, you dread going on social media and posting, but you also dread not doing it. So it's a feeling of stuckness. Like I have to keep pushing, but I don't really want to push, but if I stop...

[00:14:50] Brad Stulberg: I'm scared, but if I keep doing it, I feel like crap. Another is restlessness or inability to focus. So a lot of people will now come to me and say, I don't know what happened to me. I used to love reading and I can't read a book anymore. I'm reaching for my phone every two minutes. I don't have the attention span.

[00:15:06] Brad Stulberg: And then I think one other one that's really important to mention is, um, feelings of not being enough. In a way that isn't healthy and motivating, but in a way that is really self judgmental. So it's one thing to say, Hey, I'm at point A and I want to expand and get to point B because I'm curious and I'm going to grow.

[00:15:28] Brad Stulberg: That's wonderful. It's another thing to say that I'm at point A and I won't feel like I have internal inherent worth until I get to point B. And that is like, by definition, the wrong way to strive. And, um, we often end up less happy than more, even if we get to that place. Yeah. 

[00:15:49] Hala Taha: I don't feel like I have heroic individualism because I love accomplishing the next goal, accomplishing the next goal.

[00:15:57] Hala Taha: like I love the moment and I love accomplishing my next goal. So is there like a personality type thing that we need to be aware of in terms of like who actually gets impacted by this? 

[00:16:07] Brad Stulberg: So what happens when you don't accomplish a goal? I just 

[00:16:11] Hala Taha: figure out a new solution to like keep going at it.

[00:16:14] Hala Taha: Like I, I don't get that low because I faced a lot of rejection in my life. So I kind of know how to like quickly just figure something else out and either focus on a new goal. very quickly or try to figure out how to accomplish the goal that I originally wanted. So, 

[00:16:29] Brad Stulberg: and then I hope this isn't like turning into like a personal coaching session, but then how do you define success?

[00:16:35] Hala Taha: Um, success to me is working on the things that I love and Don. 

[00:16:41] Brad Stulberg: All right, Don, I'm interjecting. So that is beautiful. And that's likely why you're not experiencing this. So if you love the work that you're doing, if you love climbing, then yeah, you want to get to the top of the mountain and it will feel good if you do.

[00:16:55] Brad Stulberg: But if you don't. You're going to be like, whatever, I didn't get to the top of that mountain. Maybe it'll hurt. Maybe you'll be down for a day or two, but then you'll start climbing again because you genuinely like climbing. Heroic individualism comes into play when you are so worried about the goal that you cannot any longer enjoy the process of getting there.

[00:17:15] Brad Stulberg: And it's like this, this thing that often creeps in. Because the path that a lot of people take... is you start doing something because it's fun and you like it. You start a podcast, you literally, when you start, have zero subscribers. But you like podcasting, it sounds like an interesting thing. And then you get good at it.

[00:17:32] Brad Stulberg: And suddenly you get subscribers, and you get media coverage, and you get people talking about you. And it's at that point that it gets harder to focus on doing the work itself. to focus on the process of the work, not the outcome, because suddenly you've got all these bright and shiny objects around you that you can chase.

[00:17:49] Brad Stulberg: And the job of groundedness is to, if you think of it on one end, you're just chasing the bright and shiny object. On the other end, you're just focused on the work. Groundedness tries to keep you closer to the end where you're just focused on the work. And I think it's an especially important quality. In today's world, because more and more, people do have to be their own publicist, and they do have to be their own marketer, and they do have to develop their own brand.

[00:18:14] Brad Stulberg: So, if you want to go into a creative pursuit, it's not like the days of the old, where you can just go into a hermitage and write a great book and it'll sell a million copies. If you don't tell people about your book, it's not going to sell any copies. So, how do you arm yourself to go out into the world to swim in this water of dopamine and external validation and results?

[00:18:33] Brad Stulberg: without getting completely drowned by it. Does that make sense? Yes, it does. So it's like centering yourself on doing the work more so than the external stuff. But I think that oftentimes, too, people get into this trap where they're like, Oh, I don't care about results. All I care about is the work. It's bullshit.

[00:18:49] Brad Stulberg: Like if you're saying that you're projecting because it's normal to care about results. So the goal isn't to be perfect. The goal is just never. To let that obsession with results become a more important force than the obsession with the work itself. 

[00:19:04] Hala Taha: Totally. So I'd love to get to those six principles that you researched so diligently for your book. Uh, they're super interesting.

[00:19:12] Hala Taha: The first two have to do with presence and patience. Patience is something that I really have a problem with. So if there's anything from your book that I really learned from was this patience thing because I have zero patience. So I'd love to hear about those first two principles. 

[00:19:27] Brad Stulberg: So presence is owning your attention and energy.

[00:19:31] Brad Stulberg: And I think a lot of people hear presence and they think of it as just being where you are. And that's true, but it's hard to be where you are if where you are is an environment where you're constantly being distracted. So in the book, I argue that presence actually happens upstream of the moment. And if you can own your attention by designing your environment, and you can own your energy, By being really diligent about what you say yes to and what you say no to, then that actually gives you a chance of being present in the moment.

[00:20:03] Brad Stulberg: So I think, obviously there's so much more in the book, but from this podcast, the important thing to take away is we can't just think about present in the present moment. Ironically, we have to think about presence upstream of the moment in trying to design your physical environment. and your mental, your psychological environment to allow you to be present.

[00:20:21] Brad Stulberg: If you want to be really present to meditate, probably not great to scroll political Twitter for the 20 minutes before you meditate. Yeah, we think that presence is just this thing that we turn on, but it's actually a lifestyle that, again, says, what does it mean for me to be successful? What does it mean for me to profit?

[00:20:38] Brad Stulberg: And how can I then start building a life that allows me to be present for those things? And for a lot of people, it comes down to identifying the things that distract them, that encroach upon their attention, that are almost like little addictions, where it feels good the first little hit that you do, but eventually it makes you feel bad, and then trying to gradually make those things smaller parts of one's life.

[00:21:02] Brad Stulberg: So that's how I think about presence. Um, so patience is Really about this paradox that for most big meaningful projects in life Going slower today helps you go faster tomorrow. So the principal title in the book is be patient to get there faster So often we don't correctly define the time frame for our endeavors so if I want to be the best writer or the best coach that I can be Or the best interviewee on podcasts like this for the next month, I would slam four Red Bulls every day and work for 20 hours.

[00:21:42] Brad Stulberg: And I'd be great for a month. I'd get so much done and I'd be on my game. But what would happen on day 32 or 33 or 34? I'd totally fall apart. Whereas if I define excellence, performance, success... Over a year, or a decade, or a career, suddenly, the way in which I work has to look a lot different. So, it helps to be able to zoom out and ask yourself, Alright, I want to quote unquote optimize, or I want to be efficient.

[00:22:11] Brad Stulberg: That's great, but on what time horizon? Because often being the most efficient I can be today actually is inefficient for the long haul, especially in creativity. We know that creative thoughts and creative feelings happen. Not when we're doing the work, but when we're daydreaming. So if you're so focused on productivity and efficiency, again, you get a lot out of yourself today, but perhaps you shortchange yourself over the long haul.

[00:22:33] Brad Stulberg: So the first step of patience is really defining the time horizon that you want to operate on. And then the second part is having some restraint. So stopping one rep short. You know that you could crush yourself every day and it feels really good.

[00:22:47] Brad Stulberg: It's like in a gym workout where you just go to fatigue. You feel so worked. But if you try to do that every day and you chase that feeling in sports, you end up injured in the business world. You end up burnt out. So patience means stopping one rep short today so that you give yourself a chance of building an inertia and building a rhythm that you can pick up tomorrow.

[00:23:08] Hala Taha: I love that analogy. That's so good. So I did skip around. I missed the first principle, and that's acceptance. And I think it's super important for us to discuss this as well. So you really have to accept where you are to end up going where you want to go. So can you tell us about that? 

[00:23:22] Brad Stulberg: Lots of people struggle to see their situation clearly because you become so close to it.

[00:23:28] Brad Stulberg: what ends up happening is for those that are watching on video is you fuse with your situation. So, this is the situation you're in, this is you, and there's space between, but sometimes you fuse. And when you fuse, it's very hard to see clearly. And if you can't see where you are clearly, then whatever actions you take, whatever habits you try to develop, aren't actually going to help.

[00:23:49] Brad Stulberg: Because you're working on the wrong thing. You're not starting where you are. So acceptance is really about being able to objectively and clearly see your starting point. Now, how do you do this if I just said how easy it is to fuse, especially in meaningful, emotional situations? Researchers call this self distancing.

[00:24:06] Brad Stulberg: And what self distancing means is creating some space between the thing you're experiencing and your wiser self. A couple ways to do this. One way that I'd love is to pretend that a close friend is in the exact same situation as you and really visualize that friend going through what you're going through.

[00:24:23] Brad Stulberg: and then give advice to that friend. And then of course you actually have to take that advice yourself. Another way to do this, if you're making, especially if you're making an important decision that feels really tough, is imagine yourself 30 years down the road, looking back on current you. What is 30 years from you now going to be proud of?

[00:24:44] Brad Stulberg: And then that's the thing that you should do. A third way to do this is through some sort of mindfulness meditation or contemplative practice, where your focus is on the breath, you have a thought or feeling, you recognize it, you come back to the breath. Ultimately, what that's training you to do is to be able to see thoughts and feelings as separate entities from yourself, and it's creating that space.

[00:25:05] Brad Stulberg: And then the fourth thing to do that is supported both by ancient wisdom and modern science is to simply name what you're going through. When we name something, researchers call this affect labeling. Back in the Bible, the quote is, if you give something a name, it loses its power over you. And basically, what you're doing is, once you give something a name, once you put language to something, You allow yourself to wrestle with that thing, and if you're wrestling with it, then it's separate from you.

[00:25:31] Brad Stulberg: So, a big part of what I try to do as a writer, actually, is to help people name things that they're experiencing. Because once you can say, oh, that's heroic individualism, then instead of just being it, it can be something that you're experiencing or something that you're struggling with, but you're separate from it, and therefore you can, um, see it more clearly and take wiser action as a result.

[00:25:52] Hala Taha: Yeah, so I interviewed Ethan Cross, he wrote Chatter, and he talks a lot about this, basically like trying to get out of your head, trying to quiet down the chatter in your head by being objective, kind of taking that wider view like you said, pretending it's your friend or pretending that it's not necessarily you and separating you from your thoughts.

[00:26:11] Hala Taha: So I think that's really good advice, but you also need to make sure it's neutral, right? I think this is a really important part, making that feeling neutral. Why is that important? Can you explain that to 

[00:26:22] Brad Stulberg: us? the neutral feeling is important because If you're really charged up, that's going to influence the action that you take.

[00:26:32] Brad Stulberg: So, if you're like in this state of anger, or resentment, well, you have to let yourself calm down first. Because if you're angry, you're going to give your friend an advice that would say, Yeah, go punch her in the face, or go punch him in the face. Whereas if you can try to come at it a little bit more neutrally, then again, you can be a little bit wiser.

[00:26:53] Brad Stulberg: you know, in the book, I write about all these decisions that people end up regretting tend to be like heat of the moment decisions, right? The one that is the most commonly discussed is like extramarital affairs. And the reason that we make poor choices in those situations is because. In that moment, you're just completely overwhelmed by passion, by feeling.

[00:27:16] Brad Stulberg: So whatever advice you're going to give to your friend, you don't even have, your brain can't even turn on. And it's about, again, creating that space to then let your brain turn on and make a wiser decision. And that's where meditation is so effective because you strengthen that muscle. So a lifelong meditator is going to have a much easier time creating space in the moment than someone that's never done it 

[00:27:36] Hala Taha: before.

[00:27:37] Hala Taha: what if we find ourselves kind of resisting accepting where we are right now, like we're in denial or we, we just can't get ourselves to get to that point. What do you recommend? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:27:49] Brad Stulberg: I think the first is just the mindset shift that you're never going to get better unless you start with acceptance.

[00:27:55] Brad Stulberg: So it's the first principle of Buddhism is acceptance in many ways. It's suffering exists, which is accept suffering. Uh, Stoicism teaches us that we have to be able to see our situation clearly to do anything about it. All the more recent, um, evidence based programs for behavioral change all start with acceptance.

[00:28:15] Brad Stulberg: So I think a lot of people can tell themselves a story that if I just pretend it's not so it won't be. And what I'm here to tell you is that the research says that eventually you're going to hit bottom and you might as well realize it now than wait six months to hit bottom and then do something about it.

[00:28:32] Brad Stulberg: And the last strategy that is perhaps the most powerful is to have people in your life that you love and trust. That can say, like, you're seeing things wrong. You're delusional right now. And then you actually have to listen to those people. Yeah. 

[00:28:49] Brad Stulberg: Um, there's this concept you talk about called emotional flexibility. Can you help us understand what 

[00:28:54] Brad Stulberg: that is? It's in simple terms, it's the ability to, um, to hold two competing strong emotions at once.

[00:29:01] Brad Stulberg: So joy and despair, anger and love. And it's an extremely. counterintuitive thing, but the more that we can embrace the full catastrophe of all these emotions, the more free we become, because we don't resist the bad. if you try to resist something, it just gets stronger.

[00:29:20] Brad Stulberg: Whereas if you can say like, oh, there's sadness. Sadness is here. Sadness hurts. It's okay to be sad. Then it takes the edge off the sadness, and when you experience happiness, you're not scared to be happy. You can fully experience happiness. So, it's this ability to be flexible in, within the course of a year, a week, a day, even within the course of an hour.

[00:29:40] Brad Stulberg: To be able to have a wave of sadness, let it course through you, feel it, and then be really happy. There's this story that I came across, it didn't make it into the book when researching, about the Dalai Lama. And, just, I think that this exemplifies emotional flexibility, is genocide came up in a conversation with him.

[00:30:02] Brad Stulberg: And he just started weeping, just weeping, like crying full force tears of sadness and sorrow. And then they were brought cookies by his attendant. And he took a bite of a chocolate chip cookie, and the biggest smile came on his face. And within the course of a couple seconds, so being able to hold it all, like the despair and the sorrow of genocide and the joy of a freshly baked cookie.

[00:30:32] Brad Stulberg: And just to create enough space for all that, that is another capacity of wisdom. I'm not there yet. I intellectually know enough about it to write about it. So much of my own practice of groundedness is this notion of emotional flexibility, of being able to hold Everything at once, so that I don't get pushed and pulled around by it.

[00:31:01] Hala Taha: So let's move on to your next principle, which is having a sense of deep community. How does community keep us grounded? 

[00:31:07] Brad Stulberg: It's hard to go at it alone. You know, it's hard to stay on the path. It's hard to have fun.

[00:31:12] Brad Stulberg: It's hard to be consistent. It's hard to accept where you are. It's hard to be present. It's hard to be vulnerable. So let's make it easier and more fun. And how do you do it? You find people that get it, that are walking a similar path as you. And you say, Hey, let's do this together. So before I get into any of the science, I like to say it like that, like, it's just more fun.

[00:31:34] Brad Stulberg: And on our deathbed, no one remembers that they had a hundred million podcast downloads or if they won a gold medal, what they remember are the guests that they had in the show, the training partners, the coaches, it's all about the relationships. And this gets back to this broader theme of heroic individualism, like on what time horizon are you looking?

[00:31:52] Brad Stulberg: Because the most optimal, efficient thing to do in the moment is very rarely community.But if you don't make time for that, then come one year or two years, three years, you might find yourself lonely.

[00:32:05] Brad Stulberg: like our culture of efficiency and productivity, so often crowds out deep community, whereas when you're playing the long game, not only does it make it more fun, but it also supports grounded striving. And I think it's important. There are two ways to build deep community. So, one is actual physical in person connection.

[00:32:23] Brad Stulberg: The other is a sense of belonging, and that can be to a spiritual tradition, to a religion, to a lineage of intellectual thinkers, to a group of other podcast hosts that you kind of like have a mastermind group and you're all helping trying to share a similar message. And deep community is the combination of both those things.

[00:32:42] Brad Stulberg: So according to the literature, it's not enough just to have people that you see in person, and it's not enough just to feel like you're a part of something larger. Both of those things put together, that's what supports mental health and sustainable excellence. 

[00:32:56] Hala Taha: Totally. I think community is so important.

[00:32:59] Hala Taha: It's been so important on my journey and especially as an entrepreneur, we have a lot of entrepreneurs that are tuning in and a lot of you entrepreneurs out there think that you've got to do it all on your own and, and that like everything's just on your shoulders. When you start to have a community and you can bounce ideas, it's to your point, you don't have to go at it alone.

[00:33:17] Hala Taha: And I think that's so important. 

[00:33:18] Brad Stulberg: So I'd be curious because you've built your company really fast and you're quote unquote successful. How do you balance this tension? between pushing, pushing for work and optimizing today versus carving out time and space to cultivate relationships. Oh, 

[00:33:35] Hala Taha: it's, I'm, I'm failing miserably.

[00:33:37] Hala Taha: I'm failing miserably. I've lost, like, in the last three years, I've lost so many friends and I've, uh, you know, it's hard. Like, I'm trying to carve out the time to keep my relationship strong. I really only have time for family because sometimes I'm working 18 hour days. And that's why I kind of called that out to entrepreneurs because it is really tough.

[00:33:56] Hala Taha: And for me, the relationships I have cultivated have been other podcasters and like, even like my clients and, and like my team members and my business partners, because I've created this community around the people that are doing the same types of stuff that I'm doing so that I'm not distracted with my goals and still accomplishing my goals with people who also love.

[00:34:18] Hala Taha: podcasting and things like that. So I actually created a mastermind of podcasters with 70 podcasters, and I'm the one who started it. And that's one of my secrets to building communities to actually be the glue who creates that community. And I'm very good at that. But not everybody has that like natural skill to like get a group together.

[00:34:36] Hala Taha: So I definitely encourage everybody out there to join a group with people with similar interests or start one if you're if you're that type of person. 

[00:34:44] Hala Taha: Yeah, 

[00:34:44] Brad Stulberg: love it. You're alluding to a really, um, an important point here, which is that If you're in a period or a season of your life where you're going all in on something, and building a business is a great example, um, parenting an infant is another good example, training, um, for a big athletic accomplishment is another good example, your community can be a part of that endeavor.

[00:35:06] Brad Stulberg: Just don't go at it alone. So, it's okay for a season of your life to perhaps leave behind other sources of community outside of your goal. But when you go towards that goal, have community within that goal. So don't train alone for your Olympic medal, train with a group. Don't just do a solo podcast, team up with someone else, create a mastermind group.

[00:35:31] Brad Stulberg: Don't just view your staff as people that you work with, view them as friends, particularly if you also want them to be all in. And then Holly, you're not going to like this advice, but like my advice to you would be do everything that you can to carve out, even if it's just like two hours a week for non work related community.


[00:35:49] Brad Stulberg: And the reason I say that is because God forbid. Something happens and you have a huge failure in work. I don't think this is going to happen because you're great, but let's just imagine that it's so helpful to have another part of your identity that you can lean on when that happens. I see this all the time with the Olympians that I've worked with is they're so singularly focused on the metal.


[00:36:11] Brad Stulberg: And then after the Olympics, it's just empty because their entire identity was this one thing. So I counsel entrepreneurs. I counsel the athletes. It's okay to go all in. Part of what makes life meaningful is intensity and building something and giving something your all. Just protect a couple percentage points of yourself, of your identity, outside of that thing.

[00:36:33] Brad Stulberg: It's really hard and really important. 

[00:36:35] Hala Taha: It is really important. I totally agree. I'm on the same page. Speaking of Olympians, let's talk about your last principle. Move your body. 

[00:36:44] Brad Stulberg: Don't have to be an Olympian to, to move your body. Thankfully this was a, an interesting back and forth with my publisher 'cause the first five principles are like these broad.

[00:36:53] Brad Stulberg: ambiguous, but also really aspirational. We get to create our own definition principles. And then it's like, you're telling people to exercise. But the reason that I felt really strongly about this is that All the recent academic inquiry on mental health and groundedness, when you actually talk to people that are grounded, whether they have always been that way, or whether they've experienced heroic individualism and worked their way out of it, or depression or anxiety, what have you, some sort of physical activity is generally a part of their process.

[00:37:27] Brad Stulberg: Then I got looking to the ancient wisdom traditions, and particularly in the West, so Stoicism in the Greeks, they didn't separate mind and body. School was the gymnasium and intellect, and it always fascinates me because you look back thousands of years and then today there's all this research that shows that when we're regularly in movement practice, we're more creative, we have better emotional control, we remember more.

[00:37:52] Brad Stulberg: There's studies of kids that show that when they vigorously exercise, they score better on tests. So I think that we separate the mind and body at our own peril, and it's actually in the book I write, it's not mind or body. It's not mind and body. It's a mind body system. So if we want to take care of our mind, our psychology, we have to take care of our body, our physiology.

[00:38:13] Brad Stulberg: And movement does not need to be CrossFit. It doesn't need to be powerlifting. It doesn't need to be triathlon. It can be as simple as a brisk walk. Just something that elevates your heart rate a little bit and puts you in your body. It's so, so impactful for your whole being. 


[00:38:29] Hala Taha: Totally.

[00:38:30] Hala Taha: I couldn't agree more. 

[00:38:32] Hala Taha: We are wrapping up. Uh, running out of time. So the one thing I want to ask you that kind of wraps this up nicely is, uh, your analogy for redwood trees.

[00:38:40] Hala Taha: I think this really summarizes everything very nicely. 

[00:38:43] Brad Stulberg: So, um, I was at this beautiful redwood park one day and it was super windy and you look up and the overstory of the trees is blowing in the wind, but you look down and they're held to the ground. and they're solid. And these trees are 100, 200, even the old growth redwoods, 300 feet tall.

[00:39:05] Brad Stulberg: And what's holding them to the ground are roots. And you don't see those roots. But if those roots aren't nourished and watered, then the tree's going to fall over in rough weather. And the principles of groundedness are really like those roots. These aren't things that you necessarily see when you look at someone.

[00:39:24] Brad Stulberg: But if you internally take care of patience, acceptance, presence, vulnerability, community, movement. It helps you stand strong throughout all that weather. The second thing that's so beautiful about redwood trees is the roots only run six to 12 feet deep. So the tree 300 feet high, the root structure quite shallow.

[00:39:45] Brad Stulberg: And I'm like, I literally like asking the park ranger, I'm like, well, wait a minute, how did the trees hold to the ground? And she said, it's because the roots. intertwine with the roots of all the other trees in the park. So, there are a system of roots that are all holding each other up throughout all kinds of weather.

[00:40:03] Brad Stulberg: And, man, if that's not beautiful, and that's not what we ought to strive for, is like, taking care of our own root system, but also doing it with others, so that we can help hold each other up, then I don't know what's the point of any of it. Um, so that really became the overarching metaphor for the book, and for how I try to live my life.

[00:40:22] Hala Taha: I love that. That is super beautiful. So last couple of questions I ask on Young and Profiting podcast, what is one actionable thing we can do today to be more young and profiting tomorrow? 


[00:40:34] Brad Stulberg: I think define profiting. So what does it mean for you to be profiting? What are those values? Is it a certain amount of money?

[00:40:42] Brad Stulberg: Is it a certain amount of autonomy? Is it living in a certain geography? Is it starting a family? Is it staying single and curious so that you can explore? The point is there's not a right or wrong. What's wrong is not taking the time to regularly step back and be able to define what profiting means for you.

[00:41:03] Brad Stulberg: Because how you define that will then dictate the actions that follow. 


[00:41:08] Hala Taha: And what is your secret to profiting in life? 

[00:41:11] Brad Stulberg: It's going to be the answer to that forward question. And so knowing, knowing my values. and what it means to live in alignment with them. And I find that when I'm not living in alignment with those values, I feel dis ease.

[00:41:22] Brad Stulberg: And when I am, I feel wonderful. 

[00:41:25] Hala Taha: Amazing. Well, thank you so much. This is such a great conversation. Appreciate your 

[00:41:29] Brad Stulberg: time. Thanks for having me. I really enjoyed this. 

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