What would you do if you knew you would succeed? If I could guarantee you absolute certainty that you would not fail, would you start a company? Would you start training for a marathon? Would you write that novel you’ve been dreaming about?
What if I told you that you already have everything you need to succeed?
My guest today is an expert in the power of the human mind to overcome any obstacle and achieve anything. His name is Colin O’Brady, and he recently walked across Antarctica, unguided, in just 54 days.
Yup. You read that right.
As of about two months ago, Colin holds the world record for the fastest ever solo trek across Antarctica, in addition to several other world records. He’s an elite endurance athlete at the top of his game, but he knows that the most important muscle is actually your brain.
“People love to ask me about my physical training. How do I get so strong? There [are] some fun stories about the crazy training I prepared for this and whatnot, but I believe it’s [about] the muscle 6 inches between your ears. It’s about flexing your mind — [that’s] really what it comes down [to]. … It’s about showing up. It’s about getting out there every single day.” – Colin O’Brady
Colin O’Brady is a master at tapping into his full potential and getting into that flow state of focus he needs to succeed. He’s also passionate about sharing his wisdom with others so we can all learn how to become superhuman like him! I’m so excited to have him on the show today. Let’s dive in!
Colin O’Brady is an endurance athlete, mindset expert, sought-after keynote speaker, and all-around superhuman. His athletic feats are impressive, but his heart is even more so.
Colin grew up in Portland, Oregon, playing outside and learning to love adventure. He was athletic even as a kid, and he competed in both swimming and soccer. Swimming helped Colin pay his way through college at Yale University, but adventure was still calling. After college, Colin packed up a backpack, surfboard, and eight summers-worth of lawn-mowing money to see the world.
But that’s when his life took a turn. While vacationing in Thailand, Colin suffered a tragic accident. He was badly burned in a fire, and he took most of the damage in his legs and feet. The doctors told him he was unlikely to walk ever again.
But Colin didn’t give up. When he returned home, his mother worked with him every day to make progress toward healing and eventually getting back into the active and athletic lifestyle Colin loved. Within two years, Colin not only completed the Chicago Triathlon, but he finished first overall. He was back in the game and ready to start a career as a professional endurance athlete!
Since then, Colin has undergone some of the most incredible adventures anyone could dream of. For one, he underwent the mission of completing the Explorers Grand Slam — an extreme expedition course that takes adventurers from the North Pole to the South Pole with hikes up the world’s seven highest summits in between. He completed that mission in just 139 days and the Seven Summits portion in 132 days, making him a world record-holder not once but twice. (Fun fact: He was also the first person ever to send a Snapchat from the top of Mount Everest — that snap got over 22 million views that day!)
For another grand adventure, Colin married the love of his life — Jenna. Driven by their enthusiasm for an active lifestyle and their genuine love for other people, Colin and Jenna started the nonprofit organization Beyond 7/2 to inspire kids to push themselves to their limits and reach for their highest goals. They’ve impacted thousands of kids through their excellent work.
And Colin doesn’t only reach out to kids! He’s also a popular keynote speaker who has shared his story at events for NBCUniversal, Toyota, Nike, Google, and more! And his TEDx talk, “Change Your Mindset and Achieve Anything” has over two million views online. This guy is reaching out to all the world to have an impact and inspire people to be their best selves.
Colin O’Brady knows what it takes to succeed. He knows that when you’re a few thousand feet from the top of Mount Everest or just a few miles from the finish line of a race across Antarctica, you’ve got to tap into your potential, get into that flow state, and keep striving for success.
Today, we’re talking about how you can do that too. You may not be ready to run a triathlon, hike Kilimanjaro, or brave Antarctic temperatures so cold boiling water freezes immediately (that’s true — Colin knows from experience!), but you have the capacity for success already built into your brain. You just have to access it. Let’s jump into my interview with Colin O’Brady to learn how to unlock our own potential to become superhuman!
I mentioned Colin’s tragedy earlier, but I think there’s a lot we can all learn from his story. As I said, while he was traveling in Thailand, Colin experienced a fire that left him with massive burns. It was one of the scariest experiences of his life — he was in a remote area with only a small nursing station. Someone got him onto a moped and drove him the short distance down a dirt path to the nursing station where he underwent eight surgeries. During all that time, there was a cat running around the bed.
Needless to say, the situation was terrifying. Colin’s ligaments, knee joints, and ankle joints took so much damage the doctors genuinely believed he would never regain full functionality. But that wasn’t good enough for Colin.
It wasn’t good enough for his mom, either. During his time in that nursing station, Colin’s mom sat by his side, encouraging him constantly. She helped shape his mindset away from fear and victimization to one of positivity and empowerment.
“She comes into my hospital room every single day with this smile on her face, with this air of positivity where she’s going, ‘Colin, what do you want to do when you get out of here?’ I’m like, ‘Mom, are you kidding me? My life is over.’ All I can see is the darkness … and she leans in, and she finally says to me, ‘Do me a favor. Close your eyes.’ I sit there [and] I play along, and she goes, ‘Visualize yourself … in a positive life doing something in the future.’” – Colin O’Brady
You guys, visualization is powerful. If you can stop for a minute and really imagine yourself achieving your goals — maybe in a quiet moment of meditation — you unlock potential you didn’t know you had.
In that moment with his mom in Thailand, Colin imagined himself crossing the finish line of a triathlon. He pictured himself achieving that goal, and even though it seemed impossible at the time, he decided to start pushing himself harder than ever before.
When he returned to the US, Colin was still in a wheelchair. He had to be carried on and off the plane in his chair — he definitely wasn’t ready to run a triathlon. But instead of letting him get discouraged, his mom put him to work.
“She grabs this chair from our kitchen table that I grew up eating around, and she puts it one step in front of my wheelchair, and she goes, ‘Your entire goal for the day is get out of that wheelchair and take one step and show me that you can sit in that chair.’ It was three hours looking at that chair, and I finally get up, and I take that step. And the next day, she moves the chair five steps away [and] each day a few more steps … and, sure enough, 18 months later … They’ve got a big triathlon — in fact, the Chicago Triathlon at the time was the biggest race in the country … I signed up for the race … [and I] placed first with 4,000-some participants.” – Colin O’Brady
Colin didn’t win that triathlon because he’s somehow better, stronger, faster than everyone else in the world. He won because he believed he could. He put in the work, a little at a time — remember, that first day, his whole goal was to take just one step — and he trusted he would ultimately succeed. That’s what makes him a superhuman.
And that mindset set him up perfectly for a career as a professional endurance athlete — and a dangerous expedition across Antarctica.
First off — let me tell you, Antarctica is cold.
Colin shared with me that Antarctica’s average temperature is about -25° or -30°, and that’s without wind chill. If you factor in the wind, it gets down to -80°. And the thing is, at temperatures that cold, sweating can actually kill you. Any moisture on your body will freeze, and that can be really dangerous.
How does a person with no experience traveling in the arctic even survive a race across Antarctica — let alone set a world record for doing it in only 54 days? They’ve got to get into the right mindset.
When Colin was making his journey across Antarctica, he had a moment on the very first day when he didn’t think he could do it. He was afraid, and he doubted whether he could even make it to the first wave point, let alone the finish line. In that moment, he called his wife, and she gave him an essential piece of advice:
“She’s like, ‘Do me a favor: Whatever you do — I know it’s heavy, and you’re sweating and scared — get to that first wave point, and you will feel like you got somewhere on the first day. … Tomorrow, … try to find the flow even if just for a minute or two minutes …’” – Colin O’Brady
Colin knew he had to get his mindset right. He’d done all the planning and training necessary for the physical aspect of this massive journey, but he’d never make it if he didn’t relax into that flow state and trust that he could make it through, no matter how cold it got!
“And so … I went to sleep, and I was like, ‘I made it to the first wave point. I’ll get up tomorrow and regroup.’ And then I woke up — and I’m big on mantra — … I just said to myself, ‘Colin, you are strong, you are capable.’ And that ended up being my mantra every single day …” – Colin O’Brady
Just that simple mantra — “You are strong, you are capable” — helped Colin reach that state of maximum flow. For at least a few minutes a day for the rest of his journey, he was able to reach a place where he no longer thought about his fear or the cold or the heavy sled full of supplies he was pulling. He could focus just on striving forward and succeeding despite the insane odds just by telling himself he could.
Let’s go back to the first question I asked you — what would you do if you knew you would succeed? If you believed with all your heart that “you are strong, you are capable,” what incredible successes could you achieve? If you can adopt that mindset and use it to get into the perfect flow state, literally anything becomes possible for you!
Colin O’Brady believes we all have the potential for greatness. He wants you to know that you, too, can be as superhuman as he is. And when we all encourage and support each other in that effort, we can do the extraordinary.
“… I don’t see myself as special. … I realized we all have these reservoirs [of] untapped potential inside of us and can achieve extraordinary things when we focus, when we shine positivity in life, [and] when we lean into those we love and uplift and co-create together.” – Colin O’Brady
Colin O’Brady is an inspirational guy. He’s truly mastered the art of controlling his mindset and pushing himself to be as exceptional as he can be — on his athletic expeditions and in life. Despite Colin’s incredible feats of endurance, strength, and will, the most inspiring thing about him is his genuine humility. He’s just a normal guy! And he wants to spread the message that you, too, can tap into your potential and achieve greatness.
Here’s his definition of greatness:
“I think too often greatness is … the amount of dollars in your bank account, … the amount of Instagram likes, or whatever external metrics [there are]. But I’ll choose something that I sort of tap into, which is impact. And so you know the amount of millions or billions or trillions or whatever you have are [a] reverberation of your impact on others and that infinite love that you shine out there — that’s greatness to me.” – Colin O’Brady
Colin definitely lives up to that definition. Through his athletic career, he has a massive impact on people around the world. He pushes himself and the people around them to become superhuman, and that makes the world a better place.
If you loved this episode, make sure to share it! Take a quick screenshot and tag me, @lewishowes, and Colin, @colinobrady. While you’re there, go ahead and follow Colin so you can follow him on all his adventures!
More than any of his athletic endeavors or adventures around the world, Colin is passionate about sharing his message of strength and endless potential with the world. And today, he’s sharing that message with you and me! If you’re ready to reach your highest potential and become superhuman, don’t miss Episode 775 with Colin O’Brady!
Lewis: This is episode number 775 with world record holder Colin O’Brady. Welcome to the school of greatness my name is Lewis Howes, a former pro-athlete turned lifestyle entrepreneur and each week we bring you an inspiring person or message to help you discover how to unlock your inner greatness. Thanks for spending some time with me today now let the class begin.
“Success in not measured by what you can accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage which you have maintain against the struggle of overwhelming odds.” Orison Marden and Walter Bagehot said “The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.”
Welcome to this interview we got world record holder Collin O’Brady who’s a professional endurance athlete, motivational speaker and adventurer. He is a 3 time world record holder and in 2016 he set explorers grand slam in 7 summits speed records. He’s the type of guy who comes up with this extreme adventure and thinks about ‘how can I create results with something that no one’s ever physically done? How can I overcome the most challenging odds the physical body can endure and set record?” He just finished doing a solo expedition across Antarctica, unguided with zero help. He carried a sled across for almost 60 days by himself, the guy is a true leader in learning how to push the mind and the body beyond its limits.
In this interview we talked about how Collin and his wife came up with an idea to break the world record. The power to being able to adapt to all challenges physical and mental. How he overcame major injuries early on in his life. He endured an extreme fire where he almost all of his body been burn and said he would never walk again and now he’s doing this which is crazy. And the power of flow state and it can do for you on a daily basis, at the end of this journey Antarctica he essentially went for almost a day straight to finish out and push through what normally would take 3 days. And he talked about tapping into this flow state of mind and even when you have no energy, even when your body is weak, when mind is broken how do you tap into that? And I’m super excited about this make sure to share with your friends. Also, you can see the full journey of Collin’s recent adventure, every day he posted a photo in Antarctica which is crazy to see how he progressed day by day.
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Big thank you again to our sponsors and without further ado let’s dive into this one with the one the only Collin O’Brady.
Welcome everyone back to the school of greatness podcast we’ve got the legend in the house.
Collin: Great to see you. I’m doing great.
Lewis: Now for those who don’t know about you just finished an incredible journey in Antarctica, crossing 60 or 55 days right?
Collin: 54 days.
Lewis: 54 days in an unaided journey dragging out a 300 pound sled or no one was able to touch you or support you in the process of crossing this part of Antarctica and it was 54 days. You got like a 60 day plan, did you sprinted the last like 2 days or something?
Lewis: And it was incredible watching this journey. You’ve been all over the news lately and you were kind of racing with another guy who’s doing the same thing and what an incredible journey.
Collin: Thank you. It was a wild ride to say the least. Now, a few other world records to my name in the mountains but this was a world record first, this is something that no one in history has ever accomplished. And going back 100 years people have tried, you know Ernest Shackleton a hundred years ago one of the early pioneering of sports said “Man should cross the continent of Antarctica.” And it’s been done now in teams of people as well as using winded kites, but has never been done in its pure form which is solo, unsupported and unaided. So, it was a beautiful challenge to take on as I am really fascinated of myself, just tapping into the potential that I think we all have inside of us and unlocking that curiosity inside of me as an athlete led me to want to go after this, and I didn’t know if it was possible.
Lewis: Amazing man. Now, Antarctica is huge right? How big is it?
Collin: I think, yeah it’s massive. The traverse that I was making was basically one side of the ocean via the South Pole to the other side was under 1,000 miles.
Lewis: Thousand miles pulling a sled in the snow. What was the temperature most of the time?
Collin: So the average temperature in Antarctica is -25, -30 and that’s with no wind. Antarctica is the windiest and coldest continent in the world, and so often it’d be 50/60 mile wind gust and you literally -80 degrees of wind chill. The easiest way for me to describe, I know you’re from Ohio so I know you know a little bit about cold weather. But what I would say is that I can experience that cold until I realized I took a cold boiling water from my tent and I would throw it into the air and would turn into ice. That’s how cold that is.
Collin: For me that’s like sometimes it’s hard to put that in perspective. So cold that boiling water can turn into ice in a second.
Lewis: Now how do you make sure that temperature regulate it? I sweat even in snow, can you sweat in temperatures like that?
Collin: No. There’s sort of an added in the world of polar exploration which is if you sweat you die. If you’re pulling 375 pounds of sled it’s amazing you can stay pretty warm while you’re moving, but you stop for 5 seconds, 10 seconds to get water and eat a little bit of food and you can immediately get hypothermic. So, it’s a matter of what I say staying comfortable cool, so it’s moving at a phase that keeps you warm enough but also being aware enough of your body temperature.
Lewis: How many world records do you have before this?
Collin: So, I set the world record for something called the explorer’s grand slam in 2016. The goal there was to be fastest person to leave the explorer’s grand slam which is to climb the tallest mountain in the 7 continents, as well as complete expeditions throughout the North Pole and the South Pole. This polar journeys were just a [?] latitude, but 69 miles to reach each of the poles.
Collin: Unaided. Seemed hard at the time but now when I’ve done a thousand mile journey that project was 139 days consecutive so all 9 of those expeditions without any rest 139 days.
Lewis: So you broke the world record for the fastest?
Collin: Accumulative time. Fewer than 50 people or whatever completed the grand slam, most of those people have done so in 5 years or 10 years and I built it to do it all consecutively throughout.
Lewis: How long does it take to get to the top of Everest?
Collin: So generally Everest last about 2 months and in my case I was coming off straight the North Pole, so it’s crazy the North Pole is at sea level it’s literally ice floating around the middle of the ocean and I had to go straight from there to Everest, and because I was at sea level I was not [?]. You have the North Pole and the ice is floating around you actually removing it from the pole and having to walk about because this is a GPS point in the middle of the ocean basically. From there to Everest I only had 3 weeks rather than 2 months to climb it and that in itself was just an epic battle. So Everest was the 8th of 9 expeditions, but what happened up there was I waited into the death zone which is above 26,000 feet zone because like the human body even with supplemental oxygen can’t survive for long.
Lewis: How many feet is that up?
Collin: That’s at 26,000 feet where the death zone starts but Everest is 29,000 feet. And so I push for the summit for my very first push I have no guides with me. And we get caught up in a massive storm, I mean the weather came in winds blowing you know 50/60 mph and we quickly know that we got to abandon our summit attempt. We were lucky even to get our tent up, it took 2 or 3 hours had to descend of the mountain. I thought my entire project had disappeared but we kind of found the strength and courage to go back up in another massive, challenging storm but made it to the summit 3 days later. So, I come back down I get back into camp 4 and into the death zone in the summit of Everest, you know a beautiful moment for me and I’m 1 mountain away from setting the world record and I’m about 2 months ahead of schedule.
My wife Jenna who is not just a supportive partner but really the co-creator with me, we dream up these projects together, we build a non-profit around inspiring young people and kids. A hundred thousand public school kids falling along the project at the time and that’s really where our passion. But anyways I call home to Jenna and I said “Jenna, I just got to the summit of Everest we got 1 mountain to go.” And then she goes “Ok great, how are you feeling?” and I’m like exhausted and I’m like in 26,000 feet and it’s gonna take me a few days to get down and we can regroup for this next mountain. She goes I’ll never forget and she goes “I actually need you to put your boots back on right now. I’ve been doing some calculating back home and it just so happens that if you can get down from Everest today, I’ve arranged for a helicopter to come pick you up at base camp.” Helicopters take you to Katmandu but there’s no time for you to rest in a hotel and evening flights is going to take you to Dubai, Seattle and Anchorage. So instead of 3 weeks to climb Denali you have 3 days, but if you can do all that you’ll set not 1 but 2 world records, you can have the 7 summits record as well. So this is the moment where I just laugh now.
Lewis: 3 days later started climbing Denali?
Collin: Yeah, a hundred hours the summit of Everest I got to the base of Denali, and then Denali usually takes 3 weeks in itself to climb best case scenario and only about 30 or 40% of people attempting it even make it to the summit and I manage to get to the summit in 3 days battling this ridiculous storm there.
Lewis: How did you get there in 3 days? How is that even possible?
Collin: Like I said I come straight down from Everest not sleep at night and go all the way back to the base camp through the other 4 camps and there’s a helicopter waiting there, it took me to Katmandu. Jenna is there in Anchorage to drive me to the base of the national park but Denali have to fly in the base of the mountain, like I said Jenna is a mastermind not just of pushing my body knowing my mindset and knowing how to support and love me and be compassionate running on non-profit. But logistics like we’re talking about 9 locations, 7 continents I mean all these sort of stuff, I mean it was an incredible project for us to caught our teeth on that.
Jenna and I dream this up with nothing, like we dream this up on a white board. We literally wrote on a white board on our 1 bedroom apartment like “What if we can set this world record but build a media campaign around it that has a lot of impact.” And it sounds like this great idea but I haven’t really climbed a mountain, we haven’t started a non-profit like 200 Instagram followers we don’t have a platform. We know nothing about media, we know nothing about PR we’re literally googling on day 1. But in the end it was a year of no, everyone is saying no like no support but just built it day by day, kept showing up and ultimately a year and a half later I’m on this project. She build it into a 500 million earned media impression, we had a non-profit, we had a partnership with non-profit where there’s millions of kids following along all these things. But it came out literally nothing, I mean we both didn’t grow up with money and don’t have this background on any of these things but there was this belief like ‘We want to create this and put this love and impact out into the world through the story telling.’ It was fun when it came to life and now this Antarctica project is the latest version or iteration of this passion for us.
Lewis: How many of these journeys have you done so far?
Collin: So the other world record that I set between this, we did something called the 50 points. And so I set the speed record for climbing the tallest mountain in U.S 50 states.
Lewis: Some of those are like little hills.
Collin: Yeah, some are little hills. It was fun we did it in, I did it in 21 days the previous record was 42. But the funnest part for me, I don’t think of myself as this athlete. In fact, I started thinking of myself way less as an athlete and more so as an artist. I started thinking to myself my canvass just so happens to be endurance sports but through that I want to paint this masterpieces that I can share with people out in the world that have this reverberation of positivity and inspiration. And so with this 50 high points project before Antarctica, our goal with that masterpiece we did something called the Forrest Gump effect. So, we literally got on social media and like “Hey, join us. We’re gonna be going all around the country.” And we met thousands of incredible people. I remember in Virginia in the summit of Virginia, you know 50/60 school kids students who have never camped out before, never have hiked. They came and joined us on a 7 mile hike, I met an 85-year-old great grandmother in Illinois, granted the hike in Illinois it’s pretty flat out there. And so it’s this way of ‘yes’ I am doing these art projects of these athletic feats world records or world first whatever that is. But the way that connect with humanity have these amazing conversations and meet people both in person and virtually.
Lewis: Amazing man. Why do you want to do these things in the first place?
Collin: So it’s like a mile up, it was 79 feet per lap and you have to do 17 laps of it uphill which equals 29,000 feet the equivalent of Everest.
Lewis: This is like you know the dad club’s version of climbing Everest but I’m telling you I was dying.
Collin: We met there we shared a tent and obviously we get to know each other and having a good time. You guys were coming up your big event and I remember I was 2 laps ahead of you guys and I’m gonna go get a little bit of sleep, and it was 11 pm and you’ve been going at it for 15 hours straight. And then 6 hours later I woke up and I thought like you were way ahead, sure enough you unzip your tent and you’re shaking.
Lewis: I thought I had hypothermia dude. There was no heat and you were just smiling, cozying your tent.
Collin: I was like “Bro, did you finish?” And you were like “No, I just did the 2 that you said.”
Lewis: It was like so wet outside, we were just walking through water and mud and it was like snowing or whatever and it was miserable. But I knew if I buy time to sat I was like ‘I need to get a certain amount of hours of sleep, I don’t think I can get to 13 laps.’ And I remember waking up and I’m like want to lay here all day. I almost had a moment where I don’t think I’m gonna finish, I had that moment in my mind and I was like I gave an amazing effort and my body is busted, broken. I think then you left after.
Collin: But in the end you guys got out there. That event is tough like 50% of people finish and don’t. What I love about that event though is that it is a celebration of everyone out. It was like a great experience.
Lewis: We didn’t have a strategy going into it, until day 2 when we had to stop like every 20 feet. Once it got steep I had to drag my legs up the hill and you’re like walking up and having fun, I’m dragging my legs and I feel like I tore both of my hip [?] and I realize then like you got to have a strategy. You have a strategy every time you’re doing this and it sounds like Jenna is really helping you with the strategy. But how does someone you know for me in this physical challenge like I got up and I did 1 lap, how do people push through this mental and physical challenges when it seems like it’s gonna take me 10 years to launch? How do people push through that barrier and how do you do it?
Collin: For me people loved to ask me about my physical training, how do I get strong? There’s some fun stories about the crazy training I prepared for this and what not, but I believe it’s the muscle 6 inches between your ears. It’s about flexing your mind is really what it comes down. When I describe that moment Jenna and I are writing our dreams into this white board, sadly as you know that’s where 99.9% of dreams die as an idea, because all of sudden we have our doubts in our minds. But it’s about showing up, it’s about getting out there every single day. So, actually my first day in Antarctica I think is really emblematic of that and to be fair. So, I was pretty trained at that moment but I get out there we’ve been playing this project for well over a year, it’s a world first no one’s ever done it. There’s so many doubters and naysayers, someone actually died 100 miles from the finish line 3 years ago trying this project. Another one of the best explorers in the world went out there and after 52 days ran out of food and had to be picked up and didn’t make it. So, there’s a lot of people and lot of magazines saying it is physically impossible to do this thing. So, I know that going in so we built this strategy, and the un-supporting nature means you can’t bring any extra supplies with you, basically what you have in your sled to start, no one can give you anything essentially. So that case weight is the essence, and so I packed as much a food and fuel, the fuel I melt the ice into water and I don’t bring extra anything. I literally don’t even have an extra pair of underwear with me for 54 days, because I’d rather have a hundred more calories in my sled of food.
Lewis: Same underwear straight?
Collin: Straight. So, you got to look after your body. When I get out there I fly this plane lands me on the edge of Antarctic continent, takes off and I’m all alone out there. Well, actually you had mentioned before there was another guy out there which is important to mention at this point, because another British explorer the most experienced in the world in terms of amount of miles traverse in the Antarctic continent, he also decides that he wants to try this first. And not only am I not racing history but this guy is a British navy seal equivalent Special Forces guy named Lue Rodd, and he’s like a badass and he wants to do this as well. It was his friend who died a few years ago, he’s doing it to honor him. We both know what we’re going through but we both know we want to be first. And he’s looking at me like who’s this younger guy who doesn’t have the real experience in Antarctica. And so plane drops us off in a mile apart from each other, equal distance from the wave point and I get out there and I’ve got this video of me.
So, then I strap into my sled and the sled is the heavie:st on the first day 375 pounds to start, it was about the maximum that I thought I could pull, so I put as much food as I can even though I knew I was gonna burn 10,000 calories per day and I factor I could carry about 7,000 calories, so I was gonna lose weight every single day straight from the get go. And so I start pulling my sled and you asked me before about sweat, about 1 hour in I’m sweating and I’m like “This sled is so heavy but I can’t not pull it without sweating.” So, I started sweating, then I realized I actually can’t pull the sled and I started crying. I literally start crying, but what happens when you cry and its -25 degrees out. So, I have frozen tears to my face and I’m 1 hour or 2 hours into this journey and so I do the only thing I could think of is calling Jenna. Meanwhile I’ve seen Lue disappear on the horizon with this beautiful like key stroke and knows what he’s doing and like strong and steady out there. At this point I can’t even think about the fact that there’s a race in place, I mean I’m just like trying to get through the first day. And so she says to me “Collin how far are you from the first wave point?” Like she knows the route, we studied it. The first wave point is only a few miles from the drop off point and I’m like “.63 miles.” And she’s like “Do me a favor like whatever you do, I know it’s heavy and you’re sweating and scared, get to that first wave point and you will feel like you got somewhere on the first day.” So, for the next hour I struggled and battled in getting to that first wave point, set up my tent get inside to my tent. I actually went out there intentionally with not a lot of music, not a lot of podcast because I wanted to explore the silence of this flow states that I hope to tap into my mind, and she goes “Tomorrow do me a favor, try to find the flow even if just for a minute or 2 minutes. It’s actually gonna be a hard day.” And so just those words I went to sleep and I was like “I made it to the first wave point, I’ll get up tomorrow and regroup.” And then I woke up and big on mantra, but this mantra never been with me before this and this came to me out loud wake me up from my first real full day out there. And that ended up being my mantra every single day with waking up for the rest of the entire 54 day journey, and sure enough that next day ‘was it stupid challenging?’ Yes, but instead of 2 miles I made it 8 miles and I found that flow state for a minute. The next day was 9 miles and I found that flow for 2 or 3 minutes and so we had a strategy, it went out the window on day 1, had to refocus on the mind adjust a few things with our strategy because I was hoping to go the distance.
So, how do you strategize and plan something that’s been told impossible stepping in the unknown, it’s by being adaptable and ultimately realizing that these things are happening in our minds. I wake up every day like doubts and fears and challenges but it’s that being able to quiet that in my mind and continue to get to that first wave point or get to that next step.
Lewis: What did you do to get into the flow every day then? Besides the mantra, how did you get in the flow and stay into it?
Collin: That’s something that I’ve been just fascinated with. So, I grew up as a kid as a swimmer, it’s funny I have 5 older sister actually and I’m the baby boy. My sisters and my parents will always be like “You’re always talking all the time.” Like I was hanging out with them and follow my sisters into the room and always like chatting and all these kind of stuff. But what I realize is I spent 4 hours a day as a kid swimming 2 hours for school, 2 hours after school putting all those reps of quiet. So swimming is this weird sport where you are staring at the black line and you can’t talk, there’s no eye contact. And so before I knew the word flow state or high performance, as a kid I realized I was sort of tapping in and out of those states and I became more conscious of that as I went through my life became a professional triathlete.
So when I was racing in triathlon freshman she said “You know I recommend you go to this retreats.” And I said “Cool, I’m interested in meditation but I know a lot about it.” And so me being kind of like jump in head type of person you could probably tell here. So my offseason in triathlon I try this meditation retreat and my step-dad, he drives me to the retreat and he goes “Hey, Collin I’ve pretty much never heard you shut up for a minute in your life and so I’m gonna wait here in the parking lot for an hour.” He was joking, amazing step-dad a mentor in my life. Sure enough I stayed for those 10 days and I had just a profound impact in my life of learning out that self-awareness in my life, in my brain etc. And so from that practice which I’ve gone back from the 10 day retreat I try to go every single year. I’ve kind of taken that into my canvass, into my artwork into my sport and this curiosity of the mind and where we can go with our mind and brain.
So, one of my deep curiosity about Antarctica honestly was ‘yes unlocking the physical potential inside of me’ but as a gateway to do that exploring the mind, and what better place to be alone in this endlessly white landscape, the sun never sets there’s no change of days, there’s no dark it’s a blank white canvass, and like I said I literally deleted almost all the media from iPhone. Actually I got a couple of school of greatness podcast, a couple of podcast and a few albums out there but 80 or 90% of the time is complete silence. It was a beautiful thing to explore that, so how did I tap into that flow? Like I said some of the times it was 30 seconds, some of the times it was a minute or 2 but I as I kept on this repetition of days exploring this place in my mind, sometimes it was days. And the stakes are high it was 50/60 mph of winds and if I let go of my tent I had no shelter. But I am finding the space in my mind was locked in and calm and the most profound experience of that was actually on my very last day. So, it’s worth mentioning after this 6 day I did catch up to Mr. Lue Rodd and surpass him and ended up in front of him the rest of the time. On the 52nd day I woke up and I’m 77 miles away from the finish and I’m thinking it was about 3 days probably give or take, that Christmas morning and I wake up and I get outside of my tent and the deepest flow state of my entire life just comes over me. I just realize I recognize it, I say my mantra and I tap in and I start exploring in. In the deepest flow states I’m also hyper aware and so I started thinking like, how many more miles do I have to go? How much time would that take? I’d never gone in more than 33 miles in an individual day and I averaged about 15 to 17 miles a day, so I’m 77 miles away from the finish line and I’m 53 days in this expedition but I get into this place in my mind that so deep where I feel the strength and this power and this flow that I start to say to myself “We have this capacity as humans.” And for the next 32 hours I don’t stop, I continue onwards, I have to stop at hour 18 to put up my tent to melt a little bit of snow to get some more water because I ran out of water. And my mother who’s been a huge influence in my life and certainly Jenna, my sisters this strong women who have been amazingly positively influences in my life and they just said “I can’t wait to hear from you in 12 hours, you’re gonna cross this finish line and create history.”
Collin: And it was just this beautiful moment of the mind and I think, I mean I’ll say the you know coming back home and ask all these questions in the media and press and you know super humbling and this question that keeps coming up which is “Collin are you superhuman?” And I answer “Yeah, I’m superhuman and so are you.” Like when I’m tapping into in my mind is accessible to all of us, and like yes you may not want to cross Antarctica by yourself, in fact I don’t blame you for not wanting to do that. But like whatever it is you’re talking about business, entrepreneurship, art, music, love, creation whatever that is like that is within us and that’s what I tap into out there which is the most special thing for me to come back.
Lewis: What was the things you were saying to yourself the final 12-15-20 hours? Like are you saying the mantra over and over? Are you having conversation with yourself?
Collin: What was cool about that really deeper flow and the clarity, and so it was actually 2 things happened: 1 the passage of time started to feel different.
Lewis: So you’re looking at a compass the whole time?
Collin: Pretty much because it’s really hard, you can’t even really see the distance in front of you especially when it’s whiteout. So it was blank.
Lewis: You’re pulling your weight?
Collin: pulling around your shoulders, I’ve got a compass tied to my chest and I’m staring at white on white and sometimes, skiing but with skiing. So, anyways the point is sled but in that flow state I’m thinking about, what actually happened those last 15 to 20 hours and this was really cool is that. In that quiet space in that flow state, the memories in my mind even undrain became so rich. And so I started thinking about all the points in my life. But I’m a 5 year old kid on a swimming deck with my mom encouraging me to swim race, but I’m not there for a flash instead my mind I’m there and I can feel the wind blowing and I can see my mom on the other side holding a red towel, and I can see you know my sister who’s gonna race behind me and all this. I started going back to driving to school with my sister and we did that every single day for years and years and years. I actually could start to remember full sequences of 10, 15 minutes this drives over and over again. So, in this flow state I was almost in this lucid dream state where I discovered that the memories, everything we’ve been through even those memories you think of like that’s not a part of me, like they are there and enrich detail. And so in this flow state I’m actually remembering all of the things that happened to me that lead up to this moment. It was an unbelievable experience.
Lewis: Crazy man. Tell me about this burn in Thailand, what happened? When was this?
Collin: Definitely a pivotal moment in my life to say the least. Just after graduation from college, I’ve been a swimmer in college and didn’t grow up with a lot of money as a kid but I’ve always dream like one day I want to see the world. I had this wanderlust inside of me, I grew up in Portland, Oregon I’m glad I grew up there because even though we couldn’t travel far and wide, you know my parents would take me hiking and biking and the outdoors and things like that. I never been really abroad, I haven’t seen countries much. So, I’ve been painting houses since I was 15 years old and every summer I would save like a thousand bucks in my life savings account, and when I graduated from college I had 10,000 dollars.
Lewis: Pretty good.
Collin: From 8 summers of painting houses and that was the money I had to pay for books and you know day to day expense. So, I bought a one way plane ticket and the first plane ticket was from the west coast to New Zealand. Your birthday is March 16? Me too.
Lewis: No way, what year?
Collin: My sister Kaitlynn March 15 of 83. So we’re both March 16th. Anyways, so I set off the world and the first stop and STA travel is telling me “You’re buying a one way ticket for student, you can actually stop in Fiji for free.” And I’m like ‘great.’ So, I stop and sure enough on this tiny little beach on Fiji on this island where you can walk circumference in 5 minutes, I meet Jenna in 2006 who is now my wife.
Lewis: In Fiji?
Collin: First stop of my trip I meet this 20 year old, beautiful college girl who’s on a study abroad in Australia, she’s American. I continued to travel and she moved back to Australia but our lives continued to intertwine and here we are married and she’s the light of my life and the strongest anchor of everything. I say this trip started off to a good start. But I went hitchhike around New Zealand, I basically have no money I’m hitchhiking, but just to be out in the world.
In Thailand so there’s fire dancing and all these kinds of stuff, and a 22 year old with a bunch of people are jumping off a flaming jump rope but I thought to myself ‘why not? That looks like fun.’ Clearly the hindsight was 20/20 because the rope was wrapped around my legs, lit me on my but spayed kerosene the length of my body and lit me on fire completely to my neck, I jumped into the ocean to extinguish the flames which ultimately saved my life but not before 25% of my body was severely burn predominantly my legs and feet. And I’m in Thailand, I’m in the middle of nowhere in a beach on an island. There’s no hospital in the island nor ambulance, so I’m on a moped ride down a dirt path to a 1 room nursing station. I have to go 8 surgeries there where a cat running around my bed.
Lewis: Oh my God.
Collin: And the worst thing is the doctors are looking at me through this sort of broken translation of cultural and language barrier and they’re saying that “You’ll probably never walk again.” Like the damage to my ligaments, the knee joints, ankle joints like honestly I’m not gonna be fully functional full mobility back again. The heroine of the story is my mother who’s this incredible woman. My mother comes in and I can only imagine what’s it like to be mother and to see your kid on the other side of the world in this makeshift hospital, and I know that she’s afraid she’s always crying and pleading with the doctor asking for good news. She comes in to my hospital room every single day with this smile on her face, with this air of positivity where she’s going like “Collin what do you want to do when you get out of here?” I’m like “Mom are you kidding me? My life is over.” All I can I see is the darkness and she just fills me with this love and this positivity and she leans in and she finally says to me “Do me a favor, close your eyes.” I sit there I play along and she goes “Visualize yourself, picture yourself in a positive life doing something in the future.” And in that moment for whatever reason because I probably an athlete I guess, I see myself crossing a triathlon finish line. And I said you know I’m gonna race the triathlon, and instead of going like ‘I said set a goal but within the doctors parameters.’ She’s like “That’s what you’re gonna do.” So it was 3 months I was in that Thai hospital and I was finally flown back to the United States, haven’t even made a single step I was carried on place on a wheelchair when I got home. And my mom goes “Collin, I know you got this big triathlon goal but you got to figure out how to take your very first step.” And she grabs this chair from our kitchen table that I grew up eating around and she puts it one step in front of my wheelchair and she goes “Your entire goal for the day is get out of that wheelchair and take one step and show me that you can sit in that chair.” It was 3 hours looking at that chair and I finally get up and I take that step, and the next day she moves the chair 5 steps away, each day a few more steps and it went on like that for a year and a half. The steps turned into moving through the couch in the living room to the dinner table at night, and then one time I was jogging and I feel like I’m on top of the world because I imagine myself racing this triathlon. And sure enough 18 months later a year and a half after my accident I try to like get my life together. I take a job and finance.
Lewis: How old were you?
Collin: 23 and I just turned 24. I take a job in finance in Chicago and studied economics at school and kind of figure out my future you know, like I try to do something I guess. They’ve got a big triathlon, in fact the Chicago triathlon at the time was the biggest race in the country. So, I sign up for the race I train at this local gym asking these random people. I show at the Chicago triathlon and I finish the race, my grandmother who since passed away congratulate me. We go and collect my bike on the way to triathlons work is like people starting different staggered waves of a hundred or so people and we come back around after having lunch. So, I’d placed 1st with 4,000 some participants and on my first race ever it was a complete and utter surprised, even crossing the finish line because of the staggered start I had no idea. It was just this incredible moment when I really think about the entire sequence there and I look for you know this was 11 years ago when this happened. And so it’s this moment when I look back and then I was like “Wait I was able to do this?” but I don’t of myself as special, as humans I realized we all have this reservoirs, untapped potential inside of us and can achieve extraordinary things when we’re focus, when we shine positivity in life, when we lean into to those that we love and uplift and co-create together.
So really this journey I’ve been on this world record projects, ultimately I quit my day job as a finance and later became a professional triathlete. It was an incredible journey beyond but it really started in that moment of turning the tragedy into a great lesson for unlocking potential inside of myself. What I want to shine in the world is this essence we have inside of us that we really all have this ability inside of us to create and do incredible and extraordinary things in our life. And that doesn’t mean like your name on a newspaper or having a tech expert, but I mean like loving each other and leaning in and being happy and playful and co-creating inspiring and lifting up, all of the different ways that aren’t necessary key metrics of success.
Lewis: Do you think it’d be possible to achieve everything you have without Jenna in your life?
Collin: Absolutely not. That’s the easiest answer.
Lewis: How much could you create on your own without her support?
Collin: You know I think that, you know there was 20 years of my life before I met Jenna and it’s not like I was doing nothing. But ultimately the next level came from this partnership, from this teamwork and that before I even met Jenna, although I had just met Jenna previous this strong mother, these 5 sisters who brought me under their wing and tease me and ultimately loved me and uplifted me. You know my mom when she’s interviewed about certain things she says “Careful what you wish for when you tell your kids they can do anything they set their minds to.” But Jenna in that partnership that coming together of love and romantic love, as well as business savvy and strategy and support, I could never have done it without that and I recognized and saying that we all don’t in this moment in life.
Lewis: What’s the mission moving forward?
Collin: For me I finished 2 months ago yesterday. So, it’s been only 2 months since I finished and actually after finishing I knew that Lue was just a few days behind me and so as badly as I wanted to change underwear and get out and more meal and get the heck out of it, I wanted to honor him and I waited at the finish line until he crossed. I stayed there a couple of extra days waiting for him to cross, he ultimately completed becoming the 2nd person, the only other person has done this crossing and it was so amazing to be there to be the 1st person to congratulate what was an extraordinary achievement. And then finally flew back to the United States and you know I’ve been incredibly humbled by the press and the media and interviews and things like that, it’s been amazing in that regard and the reason that I am proud again is not just because I like seeing my name in print but more so it validates this art piece and verb ration of positivity and giving me this platform to speak about the things that I care about. And so having the opportunities now you know I always do a bunch of public speaking before but you know speaking at businesses and corporations and all the stuff and school kids and continue my non-profit work with Jenna. All of these type of things is an amazing way to share this story. Are there other adventure on the horizon? Yes, I’m already course scenes of those next adventures and way that I can push my limits. But what I am really passionate about at this moment is having this ability to kind of take a breath and take it all in and enjoy this moment and enjoy the ability to build off this platform I’ve created to really share those human messages out in the world I think are so important. One of the other things that came into my mind when I was out there, it wasn’t so much the mantra but idea that kept hitting me was these two words which was infinite love. It’s amazing to have that comeback and people having ‘I followed you along and now I have started that business.’ I’m going to the gym for the first time in this and just having that sort of, I sent out this interview into the world and that’s coming back not to pat me on the back but like. So that’s what I am excited about doing and I think you know that better than anyone at the power of that.
Lewis: Who is the athlete you admire the most in the world or respect?
Collin: I’m going to say 2. When I passed Lue on the 6th day out there I said I spent most of my time in silence and this is a true story. I happened to pop on your podcast and I download 10 episodes randomly, but again I limited the content I have with me and the first one I played is your Kobe Bryant interview. So, I had it up there and you know I admired Kobe from afar, from a Portland Trailblazers fan. So you know we have a little problem with the Lakers but they would beat us a couple of times and you know down the stretch in early 2000’s when I was a kid, but there was something in that interview with his ethic that was so pertinent to where I was in that day.
Lewis: Perfect you.
Collin: Literally says, I’m trying to get ahead of Lue and he’s kind of more badass and more experienced outdoors man than me, you know with all the miles in Antarctica. And Kobe says in that interview “I’m just gonna stay here longer than any other guy. I’m gonna outwork them more than any other guy.” And so right in that moment when I’m in front of Lue, I actually click and “Okay, Lue and I are tied now and I’m supposed to be here for 10 hours, how long am I gonna stay out here today? 1 hour longer than Lue.” He goes 10, I go 11.
So, I would never have said before that Kobe Bryant was my favorite player, but influentially in this moment, Kobe Bryant in his message of working and beating on the crap and him talking and studying the game film and all these things is reflection of me as I work on my craft of public speaking, or writing or creating these other projects. It’s not only to look forward into the future but to look back and learn these lessons from that, but that work ethic of working hard or harder than somebody else was really valuable in that moment. The second one I’ll say which is more kind of [?] related to the same space I inhabit. Shout out to [?] who just won the Oscar for best documentary with free solo. I mean highly recommended.
Lewis: Amazing. It’s that on Netflix yet?
Collin: I’m not sure. That story is very easy again to look at that ‘what a risky thing to climb El Capitan without ropes.’ But I look a level deeper of that and the focus and the mindset and the true high performance it took to pull that off wasn’t some crazy thrill seekers, like that’s a humble kind quiet guy who has been beating on his craft to such a level that he felt, I mean maybe I’m biased because I love the outdoor community and stuff like this, but to me as a lifelong sports fan. That performance on El Capitan I believed stands above perhaps every other athletic achievement on the planet. As a true compilation of both physical craft but the highest order of mental focus and acuity or something like that.
Lewis: Life or death.
Collin: The stakes are so high like a finger crimp, but the style that which he did it to me was so authentic in the way that he memorized steps and the movement was almost like a dance out there. If you haven’t seen the movie I highly recommend it, but those 2 things pop in my mind, really influential things to happened recently.
Lewis: And when do you feel the most loved?
Collin: I was just having a conversation of this yesterday, Jenna of course is the nucleus of this. But a dear friend of mine a guy named Brett Brinker has been a huge influenced in my life over the past couple of years and particularly with some of my public speaking and we’re talking about one of the times that I felt the most loved actually was a couple of years ago I had the opportunity to give a Tedex talk.
Lewis: Waiting for.
Collin: The right one yeah. I was honored by the invitation to do that and that’s not something you get paid to do or whatever but again it’s a format that I love and have always found inspiration in. So, I want to take it very seriously and we ended up having you know, he was a tech founder and working on something else or whatever and he kind stop what he was doing for a couple of months and really dove into the ability to help me craft this story and this is the story of the 7 summits explorers grand slam. It is something I am really proud of but it’s not, the essence of the fact [?] that doesn’t matter. The fact where I felt love in was that in a moment of creativity where I had something I want to say but didn’t know exactly how I want to say it and express it in the world and Jenna was right there with me supporting me. A friend who has no stake in this who has nothing to gain from this just love me and said “Let’s create together.” And it ended up me, Jenna and him for 2 months probably spending around hundred or 200 hours and yes we created a ted talk in the world that I’m proud, but the love was this playful space of creation behind the scenes of us laughing and we cried and got into real stuff, not just about me and my story but him and his story and Jenna’s life. So, I love this aired experiences whether that’s coming out with a friend. Those are the moments where I feel I think I’m also [?] joy, but joy and love is these moments of work and play and innovation together.
Lewis: Cool man. Where can people support you right now?
Collin: Just base level follow on Instagram and that’s the platform I am active on @CollinObrady. I love sharing my insights, images, visuals and my journey and certainly my next expedition.
Lewis: Well your Instagram just blew up I think you have 10,000 followers.
Collin: I think it was 30,000.
Lewis: Every day it grows.
Collin: It’s been fun to kind of dive in that platform, it’s a fun way to reach people.
Lewis: This called is the 3 truths the question. So imagine it’s your last day you’ve accomplished every dream that you’ve written up on a white board and whatever you want to do. You’re the first to do the crazy things but you got to pick the day you got to go. What would be your 3 truths?
Collin: I think the first one I would say is achievement is not for the select few, it’s for the person who can overcome what I think is the greatest obstacle of all that our own minds. And the second you can tap into that mindset there is that reservoir of untapped potential waiting to be released, you are the creator of that. So that’s a lesson that I would definitely share.
Second of all I’ve said this before but infinite love. This reverberation of the abundance of love that we have the capacity to both love ourselves, share out in the world, and the importance of that and how we can all uplift and create in that way.
And third I’m gonna go with this mantra that certainly just change my life. I would just write it down on paper that I could leave behind for someone else to read “You’re strong, you’re capable.”
Lewis: I love that man. I got to acknowledge you Collin for your infinite love when I first met you in the tent you just exuded this joyfulness, even when we’re climbing up and just dying you were just smiling and talking along pushing us forward with your energy, so I appreciate your inspiration. I acknowledge you for your completeness. It’s unbelievable that you completed this thing when no one’s ever done it and the push you give people, you know you string to be the best and superhuman allows other people the same. So I acknowledge you for all the gifts you bring in the world. And I also want to acknowledge you for not like this specimen of a freak athlete, you’re not like this prototypical looking shredded like super speedy fast guy. You look like an average looking dude.
Collin: I know what you mean I appreciate that.
Lewis: You look like an average looking athlete but you’re able to push your mind past boundaries that most fit athlete can’t and that’s what I acknowledge you for showing us it’s possible even when it doesn’t seem that way, so I acknowledge you for that my man.
We can follow you on Instagram @collinobrady and get your book when it comes out. And what’s your definition of greatness?
Collin: I think too often greatness is thought the amount of dollars in your bank account, through the amount of Instagram likes or whatever external metrics in there. But I’ll choose something that I sort of tap into which is impact. And so you know the amount of millions or billions or trillions or whatever you have are reverberation of your impact on others and that infinite love that you shine out there that’s greatness to me.
Lewis: There you have it my friends I hope you enjoyed this episode with Collin O’Brady. Inspiring story we can all tap into our potential so much more than what we’ve done in this life today. You can become that super human you’ve always wanted to if you just learn how to tap into it the way Collin has here. Anything can be possible continue to push beyond the limits of what you think you’re capable of, you’re body and mind can endure so much you have no clue until you are willing to put yourself out there and see what it can endure. If you enjoyed this share this with your friends’ lewishowes.com/775.
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Again thank you all so much for being here and let’s wrap it up this quote from the beginning “Success in not measured by what you can accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage which you have maintain against the struggle of overwhelming odds.” Orison Marden. I love you all so very much, you’re capable of more than you know and as always you know what time it is, it’s time to go out there and do something great.
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