Today on the Achieve Your Goals podcast, James Colburn is here to talk about the 5-minute epic evening ritual that transformed his life and how it can help YOU find purpose and connect with what matters the most.
James Colburn has worked for more than two decades in executive and entrepreneurial roles in marketing, real estate, nonprofits, and consulting.
Along the way, his experience revealed to him the trap of success: After becoming his company’s top performer in sales, breaking records and selling tens of millions of dollars worth of real estate each year, he came to understand that conventional measures of achievement can keep even the best performers from finding fulfillment. He wrote RESUCCEED to share his insights with others so that they can fulfill their own potential.
James has a bachelor’s degree in business and a master’s degree in international community development. He and his wife, Maurita, are active in charitable work focused on families and global health. James is also a guest lecturer in the graduate program for global leadership and entrepreneurship at Northwest University. He lives with his wife and three children in the Seattle area.
In this powerful conversation, James breaks down his transformational evening ritual, including the BIG questions that are helping to solve the “purposeless epidemic.” His simple, yet highly effective process, will teach you how to embrace the life you have, tap into the joys of life, and redefine what it really means to be successful.
- [02:44] On the outside it looked like he was living the million dollar dream, but his happiness was at an all time low! James shares the defining moments leading up to his new book and how he lost sight of what matters the most.
- [05:56] The shocking question his coach asked that left him disgusted with how he was living his life.
- [08:35] James explains why the topic of purpose is being discussed more today than ever before.
- [11:28] The 5-minute epic evening ritual that’s solving the purposeless epidemic!
- [13:50] Discover the 3 most powerful types of questions you can ask in order to answer the unanswerable.
- [15:34] Why celebrating your existing moments of brilliance is so important.
- [16:48] What’s the one thing you should focus on that makes everything else seem unimportant?
- [17:10] The BIG question high achievers who are constantly chasing the next big thing should be asking themselves.
- [20:41] Why leaning on your past accomplishments could be holding you back.
- [23:23] How to use the rocking chair test to fully embrace the life you have and connect with what matters the most.
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[00:00:31] Jon Berghoff: Achieve your goals podcast listeners, Jon Berghoff here. Some of you might be watching this live stream through the Miracle Morning Community. I’m here today with a brand new friend and guest, James Colburn. James, you want to say hi?
[00:00:44] James Colburn: Hi there everyone.
[00:00:45] Jon Berghoff: Hey, I’ve got to tell you if you’re watching the live stream, I may have mentioned to you a minute ago, I’m already a huge fan of James because in the background, I see a big poster from the movie, Tommy Boy. So by default, by definition, immediately James is one of my new best friends. We were chatting earlier that I remember, I think I was in high school, I think that was the time in my life we used to replay that movie over and over and over again, an instant classic. So…
[00:01:12] James Colburn: Oh man, you know it was not planned but I love hearing that.
[00:01:16] Jon Berghoff: That’s so great. So we might end up back to Tommy Boy at some point during this conversation.
[00:01:16] James Colburn: I got some sound bites for you.
[00:01:22] Jon Berghoff: He’s got some sound bites. Hey look, more importantly for now to help all of you to achieve your full potential. So I was introduced to James by Hal and James actually got some coaching from Hal on his book. James correct me if I misheard this. Did Hal also write the foreword to the book? Is that right?
[00:01:40] James Colburn: Yeah, Hal endorsed the book and wrote the forward. He was kind enough to write the foreword for the book and then I coached with Hal about three months. Just, I knew Hal through friends but then when I started the process of really honing in on subject matter and finishing my book, I was about three quarters through when I hired Hal just to kind of help sort out a few things. So he was an amazing support through the process and then at the end he felt that the subject matter works so well along with the Miracle Morning that he decided to write the foreward.
[00:02:10] Jon Berghoff: Awesome, awesome. Well it’s great to have you here and I want to talk about the book and the title of the book by the way is called, Resucceed, Resucceed.
[00:02:18] James Colburn: Re.
[00:02:19] Jon Berghoff: Resucceed, so James, here’s what I want to ask about before we get into the book and what the book is about and we’re going to have a conversation today for those of you curious where this is going to go. I imagine we’re going to be talking a lot about what it means to live a life of purpose. We’re going to be talking about the importance of identifying and using our unique talents and skills and tapping into what brings us joy. But before we get to that James, I’d love to hear the part of your story, maybe it is or isn’t in the book but what was your journey before the book? What was your life experience or the lessons or the defining moments that put you in a position where you wanted or needed to write this book? Tell us a little bit about life before the book.
[00:03:03] Jon Berghoff: You know 2006, by trade I was in real estate. And 2006 was by far my very, very best year. I had sold a 120 houses just with an assistant. That year I had made well over a million dollars that year and Christmas Eve 2006, we were at our lake house which was primarily a vacation home. It was a home that we had decided not to have a television or a VCR or anything. I say VCR, DVD or anything like that. Just a place for family and on Christmas Eve 2006, you’d think I was living the dream. And I was sitting on my couch and I was looking out to the water, my wife and my mother in law were kind of tidying up, getting ready for Christmas festivities, get the kids to sleep and then with the process was starting to build all the toys. Put them all together and get them, the Santa gets there of course not wrapped.
So if you looked at me, if you were a fly on the wall, you’d think I was living the dream but what I was really doing was, I was going insane. I was so wrapped up in my kind of achievement, my purpose that I had assigned my identity to it and I was so uncomfortable by that. And the never ending need for more, that I was literally trying to will my phone to ring. I was staring at my phone and just trying to make it ring, thinking if it rang I’d write another offer and I would feel purposeful again. Of course my phone did not ring on Christmas Eve and I ran down, I asked my wife how late she thought Costco would be open and she said probably 9 o’clock and since it’s Christmas Eve.
[00:04:47] James Colburn: So I ran down there at 8:30 and I grabbed a TV and a DVD and a stack full of movies and brought it home and I just wanted to get my mind off of this whole not selling another house, this chase for more but I realized at that moment when I got back to the house and plugged in the TV and my wife said, I thought we’re not going to have TVs at our lake house and I said we’re not but I need to get my mind off of not selling another house tonight. She didn’t understand me but I realized right then that, my chase for more had confused a little bit in my head and the purpose and the fulfilment aspects of my life had gone missing.
[00:05:22] Jon Berghoff: So, I want to hear what happened next and before you share that, what you just shared I think it’s something that a lot of us can relate to. As an entrepreneur or anyone who has any goal, sometimes we can get so attached to the outcome, these external tangible things that we’re trying to achieve or obtain or things. Material reasons to keep doing what we’re doing, that I can certainly relate to losing sight of maybe what matters even more which is what do I value and how do I align with those values and sometimes we can get those confused and so I’d love to hear, so what happened for you? What movies did you watch? Because…
[00:05:58] James Colburn: Well that was a great question because I actually bought the movie, World Trade Centre with Nicolas Cage, which is basically a movie about people jumping out of windows because the World Trade Centre is on fire. And I plugged it in and put a kid under each arm and I was ready to watch this rather gory movie on Christmas Eve and my wife said, “Oh no we’re not watching a movie about 911 on Christmas Eve.” I said, “Honey I got to get my mind off the fact that the phone’s not ringing,” and then of course I knew she was right. Even though I didn’t like that she was telling me, do not turn that movie on. And the next year I ended up hiring a coach and you’d think I would have learned that I’d kind of been chasing the wrong thing here, not that earning money and having achievements and successes is not important.
In fact, I would never say abandon those things. I would just say that success without fulfilment as Tony Robbins says, is actually failure. We owe it to ourselves to build fulfilment into our business plan and often times, not only do we not build fulfilment or purpose into our business plan but we also don’t even build in ideas like celebration and gratitude. And just working on those areas, our language that we speak to ourselves and just that type of business planning. It was a huge awakening for me through that process. Hired a coach, the coach ended up helping me discover what I had lost over the years.
Jon the main thing that my coach asked me was and it’s funny enough when I hired the coach, you’d think then I would have just had a clear understanding of why I was hiring her, but I didn’t. I told her, her job was to help me make another $300,000 a year. So I still was kind of the undisciplined pursuit of more if you will, the essentialism concept. I just wanted more and more and more, just to realize that by hiring this coach. I then said it to her, I said, “Hey listen I want you to help me make $300,000 more,” and she said, “James I tell you what, I can help you do that, but first I need to ask you one question.” I’m like, “What’s that question?”
[00:07:57] James Colburn: She said, “James, do you play Legos with your kids?” And I said, “I can’t, it’s so hard. When I sit down, it’s like when I get on my knees to play Legos with my kids, that’s when I think of all things that I need to be doing for work and it just drives me insane. It’s almost like the stillness of playing Legos with my kids ignites the need to go and not play Legos with my kids.” She said, “James I tell you what, I can help you make another $300,000 a year but only when you can play Legos with your kids.” And that was this huge moment for me.
[00:08:32] Jon Berghoff: Wow.
[00:08:33] James Colburn: That was kind of my moment of disgust.
[00:08:35] Jon Berghoff: Wow, one of the things that gets me thinking about is, and I guess I’ll turn this into a question for you. Is this a trend in that entrepreneurs specifically are realizing more and more how important it is to connect with purpose? Is it a generational thing? Is it millennials and the fact that they care about finding more meaning in their work? Is that something that is also causing this to be more of a conversation than ever before? Because I don’t think 10 years ago it was as popular on a podcast like this to be talking about purpose. I think 10 to 20 years ago, it was far more popular. There weren’t podcasts but to be talking about success and achievement, which is what you’re pointing out. You realized, you were so caught up in that and that you lost sight of things that mattered more. So since you published the book, are you finding people really resonating with this topic?
[00:09:30] James Colburn: Yes, it’s a great question. In fact, the millennial group is a huge group of support that I’ve received in. I just published a book on March 26th.
[00:09:39] Jon Berghoff: Congratulations. So that’s just a few weeks ago?
[00:09:41] James Colburn: Yeah. So, but I’ve noticed that, because we have a Facebook group, a community and slowly but surely those groups are growing and actually the millennial audience is a huge part of that. Although I believe that there is still quite a divide. There’s a divide there of folks that want to build purpose and fulfilment into their daily life. They believe that, it’s not as much, I mean as Daniel Hartley once mentioned. It’s not the 9 to 5 but rather the 5 to 9 that matters more. You know it’s what you do when you’re not at work that really sets you up and that really that spoke to me especially when I think about The Miracle Morning and setting yourself for the day and then with Resucceed, it’s really the thing you do the last five minutes before you go to sleep, that really sets you up for your morning ritual.
So which is what the book’s all about. But what I’ve noticed is the divide is still there, where you’ve got a large group of people that think that it’s for another day. I have too many things at stake right now. I’ve got to save for college for my kids, I need to be unhappy for a few more years. I need to not be fulfilled for a few more years. I’ll set that aside for later type of thing. There’s that group and then there’s the I mean not to generalize, but there is the younger group or for sure the millennials that say, “Hey listen if the fulfilment and joy and purpose don’t show up here, I don’t even know why I’m doing it and I’m willing to abandon success if it means I’m going to have to go without fulfilment.”
So it’s really meeting in the middle there and giving permission to the folks that are kind of stuck in the rat race and then also honoring the millennial audience, the folks that are out there, that are looking at this as literally an alignment they grew up with. You know how they already feel and that it’s not a crazy idea.
[00:11:27] Jon Berghoff: So share with us and you started to do this here. Share with us maybe some of the specific lessons that you teach in the book about what are the action steps that we need to take and maybe that means questions we need to ask ourselves. Decisions to make or paradigms that we need to shift in order to live more of a life of purpose. You were sharing with me a little bit earlier that life it has to do with what we attach our identity to. I don’t know if it’s that or if there’s anything else that you could share with us that we could immediately think about to maybe connect with more purpose in our work.
[00:12:00] James Colburn: Well I mean first of all, what I realized in working with Hal, I was telling Hal about the epidemic, about living a life that has purpose-less, that it has not built fulfilment within it, is putting that aside for another day and Hal said, “James you’re talking about a real epidemic but I kind of just want to go blow my head off.” Now I mean there’s no solution here and I said, “Well what do you mean?” He goes, “Well you know The Miracle Morning for example, I mean there’s this solution and it’s called waking up one hour before you normally wake up and kind of go through savers and you know that,” and he goes, “So what’s your solution to this epidemic if you will?”
And I said, “Well there is this one thing I do,” He said, “Well what’s that?” I said, “Well every night before I go to sleep, I write down three great questions. And so instead of regurgitating my to do list, instead of going through my calendar and figuring out what I need to do tomorrow, I just put down three great questions on a three by five card and I put it on top by my phone,” which by the way is across my room kind of Miracle Morning ask so they don’t hit the snooze button too many times or ever. I put my three by five card with my three great questions right on top of my phone and those questions follow me through the day and what I realized is there’s actually a science behind it.
So asking three great questions right before you go to sleep, actually has your brain subconscious working on those questions all the way through the evening until the morning. Gaining access obviously to your bit of subconscious but also the miraculous. I use the word miraculous for that intangible creator of universe. So our faith beliefs and giving ourselves access to that on a daily basis, quieting ourselves enough to ask right questions rather than just chasing all the right answers.
[00:13:50] Jon Berghoff: I love that. What would be maybe some examples, when you say three great questions? What are the types of questions that you might write down?
[00:13:56] James Colburn: Well I broke it into the three Re’s if you will. So re-affirming, re-engaging and re-assessing. So there, you basically ask a reaffirming question, a re-engaging question and then a reassessing question, each evening. The book is broken into little sections basically giving example questions for each of those areas but certainly there’s not a special way to ask a question. It’s about asking questions without trying to chase after the answers. What I found is successful. Highly achieved individuals, they just want to have all the right answers. So they actually pride themselves and I as well pride myself on having all the right answers. But sometimes at the lack of not asking great questions not… It’s the quality of our questions that really matter at the end of the day.
And so what I, by me just opening myself up to a question that I don’t have the answer yet and then expectantly waiting, hold myself back from trying to engineer an answer right before I go to sleep but instead opening myself up to the answer and saying, “Hey tomorrow maybe that answer will come.” It’s amazing what will happen. I mean Jon, we’ve all slept on a big decision. The difference is that the five minute epic evening ritual challenges you to sleep on a great question or three every single night of the week. And so for me, the only difference is I’m sleeping on things every single day of the week and it’s amazing how that, as you work on that sleep-on-it muscle, how answers to the most unanswerable questions in your life started to be answered. So it’s going…
[00:15:34] Jon Berghoff: I love this at a very deep level and some of our listeners know why. James, you and I just met minutes ago and so you don’t even know all the reasons why I love what you’re sharing and if you’d share a few of those. A big fan, music to my ears. Let me just repeat back tell me if I got this. So there’s three types of questions that you share in your book that you’ll ask these at the end of the day. One of them is called a re-affirming question, a re-engaging question and then last would be a re-assessing question. Could you give us maybe one example of each of those types?
[00:16:04] James Colburn: Absolutely, yeah. So with reaffirming, one of the biggest parts of reaffirming is realizing where you already are. So really this is the conversation that you have with yourself about gratitude and what you’re already grateful for or the moments of brilliance that you’ve already experienced and the miraculous in your life and what that means, what that means for everyone is different. And then obviously celebrating the wins if you will or the successes that have already occurred. Sometimes we skip celebration because we’re worried that when we jump up the ground will be removed from below. So there’s this if we’re successful “shoot, don’t celebrate too much or it might jinx it for the future.”
Then there’s the re-engage question, which really is that, what’s that first, I call the first things first question. So in Gary Keller’s words, what’s the one thing that I should focus on, that if I did focus on, that if I did ask and achieved, everything else would become non important. So there’s that kind of that what’s the first thing that we should be focusing on. Also reflection, we’re really spending the time to reflect and reflect on what is most important and then one of my favorites would be enoughness.
So what I learned last year is that sometimes achievers and highly successful individuals, really are struggling with the concept of being enough. So the achievement or the success has to do with proving our enoughness to ourselves, to our spouses, to our significant others and to the world. What I realized though is, what if we show up already enough and here’s the deal, we are already enough. We were enough the moment we were born. We cried our first cry like we were enough because enough. So that was that huge moment for me in realizing that enoughness is something that is bestowed upon us not something earned.
[00:18:04] James Colburn: We’re not in a perfect. Our enoughness is despite us, but we’re enough because we are here, we were born. So what if you show up already enough rather than trying to earn your way into the club of enoughness? And lastly reassessing. So obviously the language we speak to ourselves is much more powerful than even the words we hear from others and managing our energy. So assessing you know, what is my energy level? You know, for example does my workouts produce more energy or take from me? And then reassessing the areas in our life that we use comfort zone to avoid progress.
[00:18:44] Jon Berghoff: Awesome, awesome. So James what I love about your approach here, number one is the power of questions. And a lot of the work that I do in my day job over at Flourishing Leadership Institute is, we bring questions to whole systems of people. So we bring questions into meetings, large groups, even hundreds of people where those questions will lead to conversations and then eventually designing innovations and solutions. But at the essence of it, the way that we can transform the potential of an entire organization in our work, is the same answer that you found help individuals to transform is by staying with new questions or better questions.
And I believe that questions are faithful. In other words the moment you ask a question, your future is changed even before the answer arrived because the question is like a lens. Like I have contact lenses on my eyes right now and anyone who’s ever worn glasses can relate to this. At the moment you put on a lens, you stop looking at it, you look through it. You never look at it. Unconsciously that lens guides and it changes how you see the whole world. Questions are the same way, right? So as you’ve just coached our listeners, when they ask themselves a question like what can I celebrate from today they are now putting on a lens that says let me go look for what is right in the world.
The beauty of that, my opinion is that if we look for what is right, number one is it lifts our emotional state which we have the science to tell us we’re going to be smarter, better people when we’re in a positive state. It’s not just about feeling good, we now know it’s more than that. But the other benefit of asking well what’s working or what we’re celebrating, is now what we’re doing is, we’re drawing into our minds the answer to the question of what do I need or want to be creating more of in my life. Because what we focus on expands and our questions are the fastest way to give us a new focus. So I love that. James I want to ask you another question or two about your book or about your work around purpose.
[00:20:41] Jon Berghoff: Is there anything that we haven’t talked about around creating more purpose or meaning or joy in our lives that you enjoy teaching, that’s in the book or that maybe I was going to say your readers have enjoyed reading but the books only been out a couple weeks. So is there anything else on that topic of finding more joy or purpose or meaning in our lives that you could share with us? It’s such a big topic. There could be so much to say about it. Anything you’d like to add?
[00:21:08] James Colburn: More than anything what I realized is that for the high achiever, high successful individual that of course is a moving target. You could be highly achieved volunteer. You can be a highly achieved mom or dad, a soccer coach. So this isn’t just for you know high income earners that’s whatever your definition of success is we tend to attach to it. We tend to kind of cling to that as our purpose while we are here. What I realized though, is that by being attached to our successes and our achievement, we begin to slowly become invisible and we are overshadowed by our past, our past successes. And what I realized is that our past is over. That’s already occurred but what we try to do, is we try to predicate our future based on the work that we’ve already done. Which kind of holds us back if you think about it.
So it actually holds us into a pattern of repeating or at least attempting to repeat what we’ve already achieved in whatever area of our life. So one of my favorite books last year, I read several in preparation for completing this book. But one of my favorite books was called Chasing Daylight and the author of that book was a highly successful accountant, CEO for KPMG, I think I’m saying it correctly and he realized that he only had three months to live. And so he wrote a six chapter book and in the six chapters the entire book was about, I no longer can lean on my past and I can no longer plan my future. So how do I show up differently now that I no longer can lean on my past and no longer my relationships are different now? How I present myself to others?
[00:23:06] James Colburn: I am a completely different person when I don’t lean on my past or my future and hang my hat on that. And then his wife actually wrote the seventh chapter because he was gone and it was such a powerful book to realize that sometimes we’ve got to take that rocking chair test now. And my last chapter talks about unfinished melodies, that all of our lives will ultimately be like an unfinished melody, if we live it right. The melody will continue on others will hum that melody if we live our life right. But it will be ultimately unfinished. So yeah, unfinished part of our life that by the way it’s not like we hit a finish line. You know it’s an unfinished melody but in the unfinished melody, how are we living now?
And so what I do, is I take the rocking chair test. I mean I literally close my eyes and imagine sitting on the rocking chair on my future covered porch when I’m older and I imagine that process of you know, as I mentioned in the book like literally just noticing the trees swaying. Like being grateful for that and really just got fully embracing this life that we already have and that’s the type of fulfilment that I’m talking about that is due to all of us if we just open our eyes up. And it doesn’t take away from achievement and it doesn’t take away from success. It just gives us more of that. We become more of who we already are.
[00:24:33] Jon Berghoff: Wow, James what a powerful way to remind us to connect to what matters most and if you remember the name of that book again we’ll put it in the show notes from this conversation.
[00:24:45] James Colburn: Yeah, Chasing Daylight.
[00:24:47] Jon Berghoff: Chasing Daylight. Okay, cool. Really cool. Thanks for sharing that with us. What a powerful example to connect us to what matters most. I can just respond personally but that’s something that I think about a lot. I feel like I’ve been thinking about it for 18 years which is you know the end.
[00:25:02] James Colburn: Eugene O’Kelly sorry about that.
[00:25:04] Jon Berghoff: Okay, great, great cool. Yeah, that’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. Which is, it’s all going to end and a good friend of ours through this podcast and through Hal and I Jon Vroman just published his book, The Front Row Factor and it’s life lessons that he learned from 100 people that he’s helped who were fighting for their lives. And the essence of the book is about becoming a moment maker.
It is about celebrating the past, it’s about hope for the future but it’s ultimately about embracing and bringing the best to the present moment and your example just gave us a really powerful way of realizing that later on in life for all of us what matters most then might be different than what we get caught up in telling ourselves matters right now. And that’s a fantastic reminder. I appreciate that personally the way you shared that. James one more time the book is Resucceed and then go get it now. It just came out a couple of weeks ago, yeah, yeah.
[00:25:58] James Colburn: Yes, Resucceed, out on Amazon both Kindle and paperback and about a month it’ll be out as an audiobook and then obviously for a few free chapters, If you’re interested in reading a little bit, see how it reads, you can go to jamescolburn.net and you can get actually a checklist, what I call the five minute epic evening checklist. If you like to see what that’s all about or you can download the free chapters of the book.
[00:26:25] Jon Berghoff: Awesome, awesome. James, hey thanks for being here today. It was great to get to know you and next time we talk, we’re going to talk about Tommy Boy.
[00:26:34] James Colburn: All right, well sounds good. Thanks for the time and I appreciate meeting you as well.
[00:26:38] Jon Berghoff: James, awesome. See you buddy. Take care. Bye, bye.
[00:26:41] James Colburn: Bye, bye.
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