This is truly one of my favorite interviews I’ve ever done. I’ve been a fan of John Assaraf for over a decade. Like millions of people did, I discovered him through his appearance in the 500-million+ copy selling documentary, The Secret.
John is also a NY Times bestselling author and the founder of NeuroGym, where he helps equip people with the tools to repattern, rescript, and reshape their subconscious patterns.
Today, John joins the podcast to talk about the neuroscience beneath goal achievement, how thoughts lead to behavior that generates results, and the “innercises” you can start doing now to figure out how to start forging a path forward, eliminate obstacles, and create a clear path to your goals.
- How John ended up in The Secret – and why he loves the movie, but also thinks that it can set people down the wrong path.
- Why you have to apply the law of GOYA – getting off your ass – in addition to the law of attraction in order to start seeing results.
- The difference between thoughts and how we think them – and why this matters so much.
- How John’s innercises give people the power to retrain their brains and break out of instinctual thought and behavior patterns.
- How to be adaptable in uncertain times – and how intention and skill can make all the difference.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
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- The Secret
- Having It All: Achieving Your Life’s Goals and Dreams by John Assaraf
- Miracle Morning
- Transformational Leadership Council
- My Exceptional Life Blueprint by John Assaraf
- Take 6 Calm the Circuits
- NeuroGym in Ottawa
- Innercise: The New Science to Unlock Your Brain’s Hidden Power by John Assaraf
- Innercise 9 Brain Training Audios
- Winning the Game of Money
- John Assaraf’s Facebook page
- John Assaraf’s YouTube
Hal Elrod: John Assaraf, how it goes, my friend?
John Assaraf: It’s great, Hal. How you doing?
Hal Elrod: I’m doing well. We were just talking and I was about to tell you that I discovered you, I first saw you in the movie, The Secret, as like millions and millions of people did. So, I thought that was a good place to start. So, we hit record. I want to go back to that time. Before The Secret, I had never heard of John Assaraf. And so, I want to know, what were you doing when The Secret came into your life? Was that 2007, by the way?
John Assaraf: Right around 2007, 2008, yeah. And at the time, I had just retired for a few years and I’d just written one of my first book, it was called Having It All, and it became a New York Times bestseller. And in the book, I actually shared the story of not just always having goals written down and the strategies of how I was going to achieve them, but I shared the story in the book how I used to create these vision boards or dream boards to be able to look at the pictures of the goals, things I want to do, have be or give in my home office, on my wall across from my desk.
And every day, I would sit there and I would read my goals. And I read the affirmations. And I’ve closed my eyes and I would believe as much as I could and feel as much as I could that those things were real, even though in the back of my head, there were voices, a lot of times it goes, “Bullshit. That’s not true.” You’re not earning that amount of money, you’re not living in that kind of home.
And I know, I learned how to let those voices go, the little inner critic through some of the trainings that I had in personal development as a student. And then, I would look at the vision board and I would walk through the houses or I would see myself in that first-class seat or I would see the charitable contributions I was going to be able to make as a result of the money that I was giving. And I just got into this routine.
You’ve got your Miracle Morning, I had my daily rituals of getting into this routine of seeing, reading, feeling, emotionalizing those things as being real. And then, all of a sudden, several years later, I think three years later, I got a call out of the blue from Rhonda Byrne. She said, she’s Australian, so in her Australian accent, I mean, she’s like, “Hello, John,” and that’s probably British. But she said, “I read your story and your book, Having It All. And I’m doing this movie about the law of attraction. And obviously, since you ended up buying your dream home and living in it, I want to talk to you about that.”
And so, what most people don’t know, is that entire movie was made in a hotel room, basically, where I was actually going to be at a meeting with a whole bunch of people that ended up being in the movie. I was part of the Transformational Leadership Council with my friend Jack Canfield, and Bob Proctor and a whole bunch of other people. We were getting together and asked them for a meeting, just a mastermind to share what’s working, what’s not, and to inspire each other.
And she says, “Oh, you’re going to be at that meeting. Great. Well, I’ll film you there.” And basically, I walked into a hotel room, in a chair with a green screen behind me. She asked me a bunch of questions. I shared this story, story makes it into the movie, and all of a sudden, 500 million people see the movie over the next seven or eight years. I was retired at the time and it took me from being retired to having a lot of people asked me about setting goals and achieving goals and what works and what doesn’t work.
And I’ve been fascinated for 40 years around quantum physics in neuroscience and trying to understand the physical world and the non-physical world. And using whatever I learned to make my life better and the life of my family and friends and employees at the time, and then I started teaching the stuff that I’ve learned. I haven’t stopped for the last 25 years or so.
Hal Elrod: That’s incredible. So, I mean, when you got asked to be in the movie, I don’t even know if Rhonda had any idea, nobody had any idea how big this thing was going to get, right?
John Assaraf: Nobody had any idea. We didn’t know what the budget for it was. Nobody had a contract saying you’re going to get X percent of… I mean, listen, I wish we would have gotten like a buck for each movie, I wish, but that wasn’t the way it was. We were all just wanting to help others. We were all wanting to give people, here’s some things that we’ve discovered, here’s some stuff that’s worked in our lives, here’s how we overcome tragedy and trauma, and here’s how we became more so we can have more and give more.
And so, it was a labor of love for her. It was a labor of love for us. And none of us and, I mean, nobody saw what she saw in her head when she was putting us all together. She was like a master of putting talent together and then, telling a story in a way that captured people’s imagination. And I love the movie, The Secret. But I also think that it sets a lot of people off on the wrong trail. And we can talk about that.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. And that’s a great next place to go because I felt the same way. I loved the film. It was very inspiring, but I felt like it left the other half of the equation off. It was like kind of the visualize it, imagine it, see it, and then it kind of left it, and then just sit back and magically let everything happen. In fact, in a perfect segue, I’d love to talk about vision boards because one of the practices of the Miracle Morning is visualization. And I talk about vision boards as an example. But I talked about how I call them, they often become invisible boards where they become like background noise on the wall, you walk by it, you stop looking at it.
And I think they’ve gotten a lot of criticism for that reason, but I do, I have one, I look at it, I believe in it, I understand it, how to use it, but I want to ask you, where did The Secret fall short? And even if you can tie in, where do vision boards fall short? And then, what what’s the answer? What do we need to do to achieve our goals? And how do we use vision boards as a tool that will aid us in that pursuit?
John Assaraf: Sure. So, The Secret, the law of attraction, many people don’t look at the word attraction deeply enough to realize that the last six letters of attraction is action. And so, I learned when I was in my early 20s that in addition to the law of attraction, you have to apply the law of GOYA, G-O-Y-A, and very few people are talking what that is or how to use it. And the law of GOYA is to get off your ass law and do the right things in the right order at the right time.
So, if we want to say that there’s magic in believing, okay, there’s magic and feeling, okay, but there’s also magic in doing the right things. And if it’s true that we are living in this quantum field of intelligence, and we are nothing more than 100 trillion cells that are vibrating and oscillating at the level of our thoughts or emotions or behaviors or the combination and that that is somehow having an effect on the invisible world, not the visible world, but the invisible world, the question then becomes is, if this world of ours is nothing more than vibrating packets of energy that we call is quanta, which we know is what it is. And if quantum physicists are accurate in their hypotheses that everything is vibrating, nothing is at rest. Is it possible if we use the analogy of music?
That when you get the piano and the strings and the vocals in sync, in harmony, in coherence, we have resonance. We have this attractive force that the collective combination of things being in resonance, vibrating at that frequency is beautiful and people resonate with it. And if we’re out of coherence, it doesn’t feel right, doesn’t sound right. So, if that is the case and Tesla was right, which I believe he was, and we start to understand that if I can get my thoughts and my emotions and my feelings and my sensations and my behaviors all aligned, I could then be in harmony with everything that I want to achieve.
So, let’s step back for a moment, talk about visualization and vision boards. So, right over here in my Exceptional Life Blueprint, I have all of my life’s goals and dreams, my guiding principles, my outer mission, my inner mission, my AM rituals, my contribution, the charity, the business goals, relationship goals, and I want to achieve, and I create images for my family and stuff that already is in my life, that I’ve already achieved, already have, already do, audience and being, and I have other stuff that I’m aspiring towards, like flying in a MIG and seeing the earth from the moon is just on my big vision board as well.
And I have either stuff that I’m doing now, stuff that I already have to reinforce, the resonance that I have had to have in order to have what I have. Is it possible that when I take a picture of something that I want to achieve, do, be, have, or experience, is it possible that in doing that, I’m activating the motivational circuit in my brain, which is connected to the motor cortex of my brain, which is connected to the occipital lobe, the biggest part of my brain that if I see it and feel it and move towards achieving it every day, is it possible that I can create deliberately a pattern that goes from initially consciously choosing and wanting something to a subconscious pattern that I am priming my brain and giving it the instruction to help me move towards that? Not only is it possible, but that’s exactly what happens from a neurological and biological perspective.
So, all the work that I do around my blueprint is I’m cognitively priming my brain every single day by looking at it. I’m cognitively priming my brain by recording it and listening to it. I’m cognitively priming my brain around the beliefs that I need to have in order to achieve it. I’m cognitively making decisions every day of how can I achieve this, have this, be this, feel this, or move away from certain things.
So, what we’ve discovered how around the neuroscience of performance and the neuroscience of behavior, is that we have circuits and networks in our brains that turn on or off based on either external cues and stimuli, or what’s actually happening in our brain around our thoughts and how we think about our thoughts, which are two different things. So, I take the idea of electrical activity that gives spark to every cell in my body or the hormones that are released in my bloodstream as a result of positively thinking about something or being in a state of fear very seriously, as it relates to, am I in harmony with what I want to achieve or in chaos? Am I in coherence or not? So that is how I see the law of attraction. Law of attraction is all about coherence or not, versus this attractive force that works like magic, which I don’t believe. I mean, it works like magic when you are in harmony and it works like the devil when you’re not.
Hal Elrod: Lots of fact there. That’s fantastic. What did you say?
John Assaraf: That’ll give you some stuff to unpack and think about.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. I got to go back. I don’t know about you listening, but I’m going to go back and relisten to that and take some notes and Google some words. But you mentioned in that that, I think, yeah, if I heard you right, you said something about that there’s our thoughts and then how we think about our thoughts, and those are two different things. And I think that that I want you to unpack that because there may be nothing more determining in terms of how people think and live and experience life than obeying their thoughts.
What we think, we tend to think, well, if I’m thinking these negative thoughts, then I’m having a negative experience and versus observing the thoughts and creating that separation between what I would call consciousness and thoughts in mind. To talk about that, what’s the difference that you’re talking about between thoughts and how we think about our thoughts? And how is that relevant to us?
John Assaraf: Sure. So, the way I think about thoughts is we have trillions and trillions of neural connections in our brain. And those neural connections are firing off ideas, sequences, patterns, that are being called upon because of the cues that’s coming in from the external world, whether it’s something we smell, see, hear, taste, etc., or something that percolates up from the effervescent part of our memory bank. So, we have these random thoughts all day long, 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 of them, some are positive, some are negative, some are empowering us, some are the little gremlin called our inner critic, some is the Einstein imagination side of our brain that can say, I want this. I can achieve this. This is amazing. We can do this. And then, those are just random thoughts. Now, what if I just stopped and I took a thought that percolated up in my mind? I would say, “What am I thinking about right now?”
And so, if I say, “Well, I’m thinking about this vision and this goal,” and I said, “Well, why do I want to achieve that?” That’s thinking. “How can I achieve that?” That’s thinking. Who can help me achieve that? What book? What coach? What strategy? What tactic do I need to implement to achieve that goal? What could hold me back? Well, my fears could hold me back. Well, what could I do about those? My limiting beliefs could hold me back? Well, what are limiting beliefs? Where did they come from? Can I deactivate them? Can I start new ones? Well, what if I feel like I want the goal, I’m not afraid of the goal, I believe that I can achieve it, but I really don’t know if I deserve it? So, where does my self-image come from?
So, whenever we have a thought, you’re 100% correct, is don’t get caught up in your thought because you’re not your thoughts. Don’t get caught up in your emotions because you’re not your emotions. Your emotions are triggered in your subconscious mind to give rise to feelings that you could be aware of. And if you don’t like them, okay, that’s I’d say, I don’t like the apple at the end of the tree at the end of the branch. If you don’t like the apple, change the seed.
So, don’t get mad at thoughts, don’t get mad at emotions, don’t get mad at feelings or sensations, you can innercise, which is what I like to teach. You can innercise your brain to be able to be in an observation mode. So, then you could be deliberately choosing what you want to do, how you want to feel. So, thoughts or random thinking is deliberate. And most people are afraid of thinking or they haven’t been taught to think in ways that doesn’t put them down.
So, whenever we get into wanting to expand our awareness, our awareness is what gives us choice, choice is what gives us freedom. And so, if we really want to personally develop or self-develop ourselves, then what if we said, I’m going to observe my patterns, my thought patterns, my emotional patterns, my behavioral patterns which causes me to behave or not take action, which is what causes my results. So, I’m not going to get mad at my results, I’m not getting mad at my behaviors, I’m going to observe the cause of behaviors, and then I’m going to go to higher cortical functions, saying, “Okay, how do I change a belief system that’s holding me back?”
In 2020, we know all of the how-to, unless you’re trying to colonize Mars right now, you really don’t need to be innovative. So, if you are serious about developing the beliefs, the habits, the behaviors that need to be lined up with the results that you want, all the how-to already exists. So, the how-to is not your problem. It’s everything else that’s preventing you from actually taking inspired action. And that’s why it goes so deep into the neuroscience and neuropsychology is to understand what really prevents people from achieving the goals that we know are achievable today.
So, whether it’s lose weight and keep it off, leave a relationship you’re not happy in, and find one that you’re really happy, starting your business, becoming a coach, leaving a job you don’t like, these are all things that people do every day, but the average person is so afraid of the change, they prefer to mask their disappointment instead of learning how to master change. And so, we know what change is in the brain, we know the circuits that turn on or off, we know that we can get better at change when we innercise just like we can get healthier when we exercise. So, that’s where I love to play in going a little bit deeper than the surface and saying, “Okay, what do you want to achieve?” “Why do you want to achieve?” “How are you going to achieve it?” “When are you going to achieve it by?” “What do you need to shift in order to be able to make the process effort less, not effortless, but effort less and stress less?”
And in order to be effort less and stress less, you have to know how to create coherence between your thoughts, your emotions, and your behaviors. And when you get that in harmony, now, it’s like solving a Rubik’s Cube because you’ve learned the algorithm versus randomly trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube. And whether it’s a two by two or three by three or 10 by 10, the algorithm for solving it already exists.
Hal Elrod: Beautiful. Now, so this, what you’re talking about, I mean, you’re looking at the root. What’s the cause of the thought that causes the behavior that generates the result? And then, let’s deal with it at the root level, so you’re…
John Assaraf: Cause versus the effect.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. You mentioned innercise which is a term that you coined that, I think, to your most recent book, 2018?
John Assaraf: 2019.
Hal Elrod: When’s the next book coming out? There’s a question for you.
John ASSARAF: My 60th birthday is the September of next year and so, I have the formulation of The Second Half is what it’s going to be called. How to make the second half of your life the best half of your life.
Hal Elrod: Nice. That’s fantastic. Awesome. All right. I’ll get that for my mom and dad for sure. Actually, I’m going to need it soon. They needed it a while ago. I’m going to need it soon. So, it’s right in the middle. And then, you talked for a few minutes about NeuroGym. NeuroGym is the company that you run, you founded it, I don’t know, handful years ago. I’ve just watched you online, talked about what that is and what it does. It sounds very similar to what everything you’re talking about.
John Assaraf: Yeah, so myneurogym.com is our website. The company’s called NeuroGym. And so, over the last 40 years, I got into real estate when I was 19, started my own real estate company when I was 26, called RE/MAX of Indiana, built an 85-office, 1200-person company, was doing four and a half billion a year in sales, retired to another company. And all the while, not only was I developing myself, but I was teaching my agents and my employees how to win the inner game. And it quickly dawned on me that most people were trying to win the outer game of behavior versus the inner game that drives behavior.
And so, in the 70s, Jack LaLanne came up with exercise basically for the 60s and 70s to strengthen your physical muscles and your organs. And I realized that from the time I was 19, for the last 40 years, I’m 59 now, for the last 40 years, I have been innercising every day. I review my goals every day. I read my affirmations. I listen to them. I mentally contrast out of obstacles into success. I use every method that science has proven, helps us strengthen our core neuro muscles.
And so, when I wanted to get into personal development at a deeper level, I asked myself, how do I give people the little hinge that swings the big door? So, whenever I ask people, do you believe that mindset is what separates the best from the rest? Everybody says, “Yes, I go great.” What do you do every day to strengthen your mindset? “Nothing.” Do you believe that exercise is good for your health? “Yes.” What do you do every day to exercise? And most people, they don’t have a routine.
And so, when I looked at my success and my failures, and I looked at how I’ve helped my employees, my children, my friends, and my followers around the years, the ones that innercise plus do the right things, the mindset plus the skill set plus the action set, the ones that follow that pattern achieve success so much faster and easier than everybody else. But if you have any mental or emotional obstacles that are preventing you from taking inspired action, it can only be one of four things, it’s not 50 different things. It’s one of four things that actually puts the brakes on our motivational circuit. There’s only one of four things.
So, if I give you the blueprint for success, and I tell you, here’s step one, here’s step two, here’s step three, here’s step four, here’s step five, I’m going to hand it to you, 95% of people will not follow through to completion. So, the question is why? Like, why won’t you do what you should do that’s going to get you the result that you want? And the answer is because of what’s happening in their brain.
So, the reason I started NeuroGym is to give people the innercises to actually repattern, rescript, and reshape their subconscious patterns, which is what’s actually driving their perspectives and behaviors. So, when we do a simple innercise, for example, which I call is Take 6 Calm the Circuits. Take 6 Calm the Circuits is a very simple innercise you can do every 30 minutes or every 60 minutes to deactivate the stress circuit, which is the circuit of reactivity and automatic habits versus the circuit of calmness, so you can respond to the stimuli in the moment and the awareness in the moment.
So, when somebody takes six deep breaths as slowly as they can in through their nose and then out through their mouth, like they’re breathing out through a straw, we can actually see in an fMRI brain scan imaging machine that blood flow moves away from the stress centers and repopulates what I call the Einstein part of the brain, that left prefrontal cortex, which is the executive functioning part of the brain. So, when we deactivate stress and reactive centers and we activate common responsive centers, now, we recalibrate that motor cortex which can cause us to take action. Now, we can use our imagination or our deductive reasoning to override our instinctual automatic self-neural circuits, which is called the default mode network.
So, when we do innercise number 1, we calm so we can respond. Innercise number 2, for example, is called AiA, Awareness, Intention, Action. So, imagine if every 55 minutes, you just stop what you’re doing and you ask yourself a question after you do your first innercise to calm so you can respond, you ask yourself in a state of awareness, what have my thoughts been the last 55 minutes? What are my emotions been in the last 55 minutes? What has my sensation and what have my behaviors been in the last 55 minutes?
And if you do this in a state of no judgment, blame, shame, guilt, or justification, just pure awareness, now, I can observe a pattern. And everything in life is around pattern recognition and adjustments of patterns. So, if I’m aware that I’ve not been really productive, I’ve been active or I’ve been messing around with some time… Are you still there?
Hal Elrod: Yep, can hear me?
John Assaraf: Yeah, I can. Something just happened to my screen. There we go. So, if in a state of awareness, I could observe thoughts, emotions, feelings, sensations, behaviors without judging myself or blaming the pattern and that I said, “What’s my intention for the next hour?” Well, my intention is to be productive. My intention is to be happy. My intention is to be focused. My intention is to get one thing done. What’s that one thing?
And then I say, okay, the A in AiA is that action, if I could deliberately interrupt patterns, be aware of them, not judge them, and then deliberately move myself into a productive, empowering construct of pattern, if I just did that every day at the top of every hour, I’d have about 100 practices in a week. Within 10 weeks, I’ve developed a thousand pattern system in my brain that goes from conscious effort to a subconscious default mode network, which operates automatically. So, now I can be in a heightened state of awareness most of the day, I could be intentional about what I’m doing, and I could be deliberately choosing an action step towards what I want to achieve.
Well, if you did that 10 times a day times five days, times four weeks, you can quickly imagine what that does to set up a habitual way of being as it relates to productivity versus activity, versus being an autopilot all the time, versus deliberately and consciously evolving yourself. That’s the new science of neuroplasticity and what we can actually train our brain to do for us and since we have the most powerful bio computer or organism in the known universe, everything I do is around teaching people how to use what they already own better, their brain.
Hal Elrod: I just want to mic drop that, John, that was incredible, man. Awareness, Intention, Action. By the way, the first activity that you gave, what do you call it, The 6…
John Assaraf: The first innercise is Take 6 Calm the Circuits.
Hal Elrod: Take 6 Calm the Circuits. So, I did that breath with you and felt that calming effect and then the Awareness, Intention, Action, I love that practice. And so, these are just some examples of NeuroGym. Now, I tried to go to neurogym.com and it’s some old man with a…
John Assaraf: Yeah. I own the trademark for NeuroGym. There’s a company out of Ottawa that owns NeuroGym. So, we have a working relationship. Our website is myneurogym.com.
Hal Elrod: Beautiful. Okay, myneurogym.com.
John Assaraf: I had to settle for myneurogym.com and still own the NeuroGym trademark.
Hal Elrod: Got it. That’s fair. Yeah, that’s fair. This is so good. And I think that one of the things that was coming up for me as you were talking, really, for the last few points you’ve been making, the last 10 minutes or so, was that if you, in fact, it started when you were talking about our thoughts versus thinking, if we don’t have the awareness, the knowledge of ways to think that you were describing, so as I’m listening to you, I’m going well, if I’m someone that hasn’t engaged in a lot of personal development, I don’t even know these questions that you’re asking. And so, I think it’s so important for anybody to listening, if you want to elevate your consciousness that I think that, first and foremost, does come through knowledge because you can only elevate your consciousness to that what you are conscious of.
John Assaraf: Exactly.
Hal Elrod: And your book, Innercise, I would imagine is that’s giving you all of this language, all of these tools, all of these strategies. So, they become part of your thinking so you can use them in the moment when you’re faced with a challenge or a decision and that way you can guide your thinking in a way that is proactive and moves you forward.
John Assaraf: In the four layers that we all go through of learning or not, is we could be in a state of what we call as unconscious incompetence. We don’t know that we don’t know. So, we’re like in the prison, we don’t even know we’re in the prison. And then, if we really say, you know what, what’s going on? I want to like, figure out some stuff. Then, we go to conscious incompetence, where we realize that I don’t know a whole bunch of stuff and therefore, I’m incompetent.
Then, if we want to get better, we move to conscious competence. And that is where we practice being better. And practice is not what makes perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. So, it’s not just important to do things, it’s important to do the right things, it’s important to learn the mental models to be able to empower us versus disempowering us. And so, when we learn how to think, when we learn how to manage our emotions, when we learn how to change so that our change in our behaviors matches the vision and the goals that we have and we practice that, then we become unconsciously competent. That’s when all of the neural patterns that we have, create the behaviors that we want naturally.
So, if you think about, take a scenario of two people. One person has learned how to make a million dollars a year and the other person wins a million dollars. And imagine after one year, they both lose the money. The person who won the million dollars has no idea what the patterns were to earn a million dollars, all they knew was to buy a lottery ticket, won the million dollars. They don’t have any other frame of reference, other than if I buy a lottery ticket, I might get lucky, I might win a million dollars.
Take the person who built whatever he or she needed to build to earn the million dollars. They know the thinking, they know the trials, the tribulations, how to overcome adversity, how to plan, how to fail, how to pick it back up, and chances are they’ll do it again because the pattern already exists. So, success leaves clues, as you know, and our patterns determine what we do or don’t do. And so, if you’re not achieving the goal that you have, whether it’s health, wealth, relationships, career, business, whatever it is, then is it possible that either you don’t have the beliefs required to drive behavior.
Is it possible that you may not have learned how to manage your emotions yet? And that’s what’s preventing you from taking action. Is it possible that your self-image and the vision and goals that you have is mismatched and your self-image that you currently have is preventing you? And is it possible that you just don’t have the knowledge and skills yet. Those are the only four things that will hold people back, limiting beliefs, self-image, fears, or lack of knowledge and skill, all of which are solvable right now. In this day and age, it’s the easiest, best, most amazing time to be alive because we’ve figured out all the how-to to eliminate all the obstacles in our lives right now.
And the question is, are you interested? Or are you committed? If you’re interested, you’re going to do what’s easy and convenient and you’re going to keep doing the same things over and over again. But if you’re committed, you’ll do whatever it takes to figure out what the obstacle is and forge a path forward to eliminate the obstacles so you can have a clear path towards your goals.
Hal Elrod: Yeah, and it is an inner game. That’s where it begins and ends. It all starts internally. You put out a video every Friday on YouTube for your NeuroGym community and one of the things you’ve been talking about a lot since COVID, it’s kind of in your theme that I’ve picked up on is adaptability. And so, I wondered if you would… I’d love for you to talk about, what do you mean by adaptability? What’s the context as it relates to what’s going on in the world right now, this uncertain crazy time? And how do we embody that adaptability that you’re talking about?
John Assaraf: Sure. So, a couple things we need to keep in mind. We have sensors in our brain that are activated based on a hierarchy of how our brain works. So, number one, is, if there’s anything in the physical world or anything we’re thinking of doing, like maybe jumping out of the plane for the first time in parachuting, these sensors in our brain set the alarm bell off of danger, danger, danger, danger, you might die. So, when we have something like coronavirus, where you could die if you got it, then our anxiety centers and stress centers and fear centers on high, high, high alert.
When we’ve got jobs being lost at unprecedented rates and businesses being closed at unprecedented rates, and the economy may be good and maybe bad, depending on which political entity gets into the White House or stays into the White House, the changes in technology with AI, the changes in biology, the changes that are happening right now are creating a brain in stress because any type of change sets off this trigger. It’s a cybernetic trigger in our brain. And so, the question that we ask is, what is one of the things we know for sure about humans? And the answer is humans hate change. The only human that likes change is a wet baby.
And so, now that we are in this arena of massive, unprecedented change, unprecedented risk, unprecedented uncertainty, unprecedented unpredictability, then our brains at high alert. And so, what do we have to learn or activate more of? And that is, how do we adapt faster? How do we surrender to what is, accept and allow what is, so we can get out of this reactive protective state into a calm responsive state where we can say, “Okay, what’s happening out there?” And we can assess, here’s the risk, I get it, there is risk there. But we are not victims of the risk, we’re victims of poor planning.
So, what does every military leader do? What does every CEO do? What does every surgeon do? There’s risk in every one of those scenarios. But they think through what happens here, what could happen there, what could happen there, and then how do I shift adapt? What am I going to do if everything goes the way I like? And what am I going to do if things don’t go the way I like? How do I adapt is a skill that you can develop and you either resist and fight change or you learn how to flow with it.
So, I recently have been learning how to surf. I live in San Diego and you see people getting hammered by the surf and you see other people riding the surf. What’s the difference? Intention and skill. So, in this unprecedented time, is your focus on you being a victim of it or you being victorious because of it? Is your focus on why you can’t because it’s hard and unpredictable? Or is your focus how I will because I must end in great times of uncertainty, there’s also phenomenal opportunities? Why? Well, guess what, 95% of the population is not skilled at adapting, is not skilled at seeing opportunity in crisis, is not skilled of preparation for all of the opportunities that will arise in the next six months, 12 months, 18 months, 36 months. But the person who is skilled, who has the knowledge, skills, and awareness can actually thrive in chaotic times. So, adaptability is first and foremost a choice and secondly, a skill that you learn. So, you either learn it or you get crushed by it.
Hal Elrod: Is it safe to say that everything you’ve talked about today is what would enable someone to become more adaptable, developing their mindset in a way where they can deal with adversity, they can manage change, they can take on challenges and turn them into opportunities because they’ve conditioned their brain to be able to do all of the above?
John Assaraf: That’s exactly right. And like I said, it’s a skill that you learn. I want to give people just a visual and an idea. Let’s take the word stress. A stress. What is stress? So, we know in the brain, there’s a stress circuit. So, something triggers this stress circuit. And that stress circuit releases cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, the stress hormones. But it’s a trigger, it’s something that flips that switch, and the question is what flips the switch of stress? Because what stresses you out, Hal, may not stress me out. And what stresses me out may not stress my sister or your mother out. So, it’s not the thing. And so, let’s play with this sentence. Stress happens when demand exceeds capacity.
Stress happens when demand exceeds capacity. So, if the demand of what’s happening in the world right now exceeds your capacity to mentally, emotionally, and physically deal with it, you’re a mess right now. If you know how to think, if you know how to manage your emotions, if you know how to navigate through the uncertainty and unpredictability, then you’re feeling calm right now, like holy shit, this is incredible opportunity. The opportunity or the crisis is only in the eye of the beholder and the person who is experiencing it based on their abilities and skills, their mental, emotional and physical skills.
So, if I want to shift from stress to calmness, from fear to courage, I must shift my mindset first, I must learn how to manage my emotions next, and I must learn what to do. And if I do those things like a Navy SEAL does, like an astronaut does, like a firefighter does, like a CEO does that’s been hit with a tsunami of things happening wrong, you need to learn how to navigate calmly instead of reacting stressful.
Hal Elrod: Beautiful. Well, this is invaluable, John, and I want to go deeper with you. Anybody listening, where can people learn more about what you’re talking about so they can put this into practice in their own life?
John Assaraf: Sure. So, a couple of things, if anybody wants to pick up my newest book, Innercise, or my New York Times bestselling book, Having It All, there’s some killer content to there. With Innercise, I actually am giving people nine brain training audios for free as well and there’s a link in the book. If you want to follow my work and some of the brain trainings that we do, every Saturday, there’s an eight-hour training called the Brain-A-Thon, and people want to learn how to unlock your brain’s hidden power so they achieve more financial freedom and the lifestyle, their dreams, go to brainathon123.com. And I put together a phenomenal training that also introduces people to our brain training program called Winning the Game of Money. And then I’m on Facebook, I’m on Instagram at @johnassaraf. I’m on YouTube and trying to get better at social media like you are, Hal.
Hal Elrod: And I’m trying to get better like blank is, I don’t know about. Don’t let me be your standard. Awesome. Well, John, hey, man, this has been a pleasure. Thank you so much for the time and the wisdom that you shared today.
John Assaraf: Thank you, Hal. Great to be on your show.
Hal Elrod: Cool. All right. Goal Achievers, thank you for tuning in. Wow, I’m so excited and grateful for today’s opportunity to connect with John. And I’m going to go deeper. I’m on myneurogym.com right now. I’m going to Amazon, sort of pick up Innercise. I’ll probably get Having It All while I’m there too and head over to brainathon123.com as well. Goal Achievers, I love you, I appreciate you, and I will see you all next week. Take care everybody.
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