“Legendary Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.’”
That was the introduction to my very first episode of The School of Greatness. Can you believe that my first step was over seven years ago? We’ve come a long way since then, and today, we’re reaching another milestone: This is my 1,000th episode.
Those of you who have been here a while will remember that podcasting wasn’t the dream I started out with. When I was younger, I dreamed of being a professional football player. And I was one for a while, but the dream ultimately shattered along with the bones in my wrist when I got injured in an arena league game in Huntsville, Alabama. Just about a year out of college, I ended up living on my sister’s couch dreamless, aimless, and completely disheartened.
But I knew that couldn’t be the end of the road for me. I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I knew I had to do something. So, I started reaching out to inspiring people for advice. First, I reached out through LinkedIn, then through a sports networking company I created, and before I knew it, I had a successful business.
And I just continued to grow from there. With nothing but my curiosity about all things happiness and success, I started recording my conversations with thinkers, scholars, mentors, performers, athletes, geniuses, and inspirational people from all over the world. I interviewed them about the routines, mindsets, habits, principles, and actions that have led them to lead fulfilling lives, and I’ve learned something powerful from each and every one of them.
When I look back at my early episodes, I cringe a little — but no one starts with mastery. I’ve learned a lot since that first episode — about podcasting and about life — and the journey has been its own reward every step of the way. This special two-part 1,000th episode is a testament to the last seven and a half years of learning and growth, commitment and courage. I’m excited to be looking back on some of the highlights from the last several years of making The School of Greatness and reflecting on the many lessons I’ve learned on this incredible journey.
In this special two-part episode, I’m taking a look at the top ten interviews I’ve done over the last several years. It was incredibly difficult to narrow it down to just ten, but I think the episodes we’re revisiting are truly something special.
First, I’m going all the way back to my first episode ever — an interview with author Robert Greene. He was the perfect person to start with because, as the author of six international bestsellers, including The 48 Laws of Power, he’s one of the world’s foremost experts on greatness. I know I learned a lot from him!
Next, we’re jumping to Episode 109 for an interview with the legendary Tony Robbins. I’m so grateful to have had the chance to sit down with Tony and learn from his genius! His charisma and business sense are unrivaled, and Tony taught me a lot about having a growth mindset.
After that, we’re going to revisit Episode 715 with one of the world’s best endurance athletes, retired Navy SEAL David Goggins. Although David has finished more than 60 ultra-marathons, triathlons, and ultra-triathlons, he says he’s not built differently from you or me. He’s just conditioned himself to ignore the limits his mind wants to place on his body.
Fourth, I want to reflect on my conversation with the brilliant Brené Brown on Episode 536. Brené Brown is a world-renowned researcher, professor, author, speaker, and host, and she taught me a ton about what it really means to build authentic relationships and heal shame.
And to round out part one of our 1,000th episode special, we’re going way back to Episode 36 with my friend Chris Lee. Chris is a successful leadership coach and a massive source of inspiration for me. He taught me a lot about visualization and its relationship to success, and I believe that much of my success took root in Chris’ wisdom.
These five guests are some of the best of all time, and I’m so excited to reflect on them today! If you’re ready to revisit some of the greatest moments in The School of Greatness history, join me on Episode 1,000!
My interview with greatness-expert Robert Greene was the perfect first episode. When I launched this podcast, I knew what I wanted the theme to be — I wanted to explore the keys to finding your purpose, achieving success, and building a great life. But Robert took things to the next level with his intelligent and insightful wisdom on mastery.
“We have this myth [about] people who are highly successful [or] are high achievers that maybe there’s something [different like] they had good luck, or they have a large brain, or there’s something genetically freakish about them. … I firmly believe … it’s not that at all. It’s a process that people go through, and it’s a very rational process.” – Robert Greene
Greatness and mastery are not just for people who are somehow exceptional. Anyone can achieve greatness. All you need is a dream and a passion, and you can succeed at anything you choose.
“You can’t master any craft if your heart isn’t in it, because you’re going to peter out after five or six years. You have to find something that’s in your powerhouse. … A lot of it is your attitude right now. … You need a sense of direction … and it needs discipline. I call it self-mastery …” – Robert Greene
What’s your dream? Maybe you want to start a business or get a promotion at your current job. Maybe you want to succeed in sports or learn to play an instrument or read 50 books this year. Whatever it is, if you’re passionate and laser-focused, you can master anything.
The question is: What are you going to master? How do you decide what to pursue? Robert says it’s all about what you loved as a kid.
“You already know it. It’s in you already. You knew when you were a child; you were interested in certain things. I know for me personally, … I was just obsessed with history. … What happens in life is you grow distant from it. … At some point, you can come back to it, and you can reconnect with who you are and think deeply and say, ‘This is what I was meant to be doing.’” – Robert Greene
Think about what you loved as a child, and find a way to grow from there. You can develop the skills you need to live out that passion you had when you were just a little kid. You’ve just got to get into a mindset of success and growth.
One of the major themes that have emerged out of this podcast is that you’ve got to have a growth mindset. Once you’ve identified your purpose, maximizing your capabilities is all about getting into the right mindset. There is no greater expert on having a growth mindset than Tony Robbins.
As one of the most influential and charismatic business leaders in the world, Tony knows a thing or two about having a growth mindset. I’m grateful to call him a friend, and I learned a ton from my first interview with him here on The School of Greatness.
Tony shared with me a powerful story from early in his career. He’d been hustling for months to get a business off the ground, but he was down to his last few dollars with no idea how to bring in the income he needed to keep going. But one day, he walked into a restaurant to buy his last meal for a while, and he noticed a kid politely holding the door for his mother. Tony was moved by the boy’s sincerity and politeness, and at that moment, he handed every penny he had to the boy.
“The secret to living is giving. … And that’s the day I became a wealthy man because I didn’t have any money, but scarcity left my body. And I had plenty of ups and downs since that time … but I never went back to that.” – Tony Robbins
So how can we shift out of a mindset of scarcity into a mindset of growth and giving and abundance? Tony says there are two things we need to do: Feed our minds and strengthen our bodies.
“Number one: Every single day, you got to feed and strengthen your mind … Your brain is not designed to make you happy. That’s your job, right? The only way we’re going to do it is if you feed your mind … read 30 minutes a day. … I don’t mean internet crap. I mean, read something, a biography, something. … Then [you’ve] got to also strengthen your body. … Fear is physical, right? You know where you feel it. And if you go work out, if you go lift, if you go run … that experience alone changes your life every day …” – Tony Robbins
Feed your mind and strengthen your body. Work out that brain by interacting with some real, thought-provoking content, and make sure to exercise at least a little every day. You’ll find yourself shifting out of scarcity and into a growth mindset.
Building a healthy growth mindset is all about gaining confidence and dispelling limiting beliefs in your mind. But that process is not always easy. In fact, it’s often difficult and even painful. To build confidence in new skills, you have to get outside your comfort zone. This next guest knows a few things about that.
“You got to start diving into those things that you are afraid of. You don’t gain confidence by going to the spot that makes you feel good. … It’s in the discomfort zone where my confidence is getting built.” – David Goggins
I mentioned some of this earlier, but David Goggins is one of the world’s most incredible endurance athletes. He’s run over 60 ultra-marathons, triathlons, and ultra-triathlons in addition to surviving Navy SEAL training, Army Ranger School, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller training. He’s constantly out on a limb, pushing himself to the absolute limits of his mental and physical capabilities. How does he do it? By ignoring his mind’s instinct to seek comfort.
“We all have a dungeon — I’m just willing to talk about mine. … We all look for that cookie your mom used to give you when you were sad [or] when you were sick. We look for our wife or our husband. We look for comfort. It’s in those moments you must retrain your mind to think differently in Hell.” – David Goggins
A strong growth mindset and mental toughness come from training yourself to think differently in adversity. When you’re trying to run that last mile, launch that new business, or climb that highest mountain in your life, you have to intentionally ignore your mind’s desire to seek comfort and keep pushing through the struggle. Trust that you’ll get all the way through it, and you really can achieve the success of your dreams.
A strong mindset is essential, but there’s a whole other side to greatness that happens outside your mind. A massive element to overall happiness, health, and success is the relationships you have in your life. Our relationships with our friends, families, and partners, and kids have an enormous effect on our lives, but they’re not always easy. Authenticity and vulnerability are challenging but crucial. I got to sit down and talk about vulnerability with the brilliant Brené Brown, and her words of wisdom are incredible:
“You cannot be a courageous leader if you’re not vulnerable — if you’re not willing to have hard, uncomfortable conversations, give hard feedback, receive hard feedback. Discomfort is the great enemy of courage. My motto is — we say it here all the time — choose courage over comfort because you can’t have both. And if you think you’re being brave and you’re super comfortable, you’re not being that brave.” – Brené Brown
“Choose courage over comfort because you can’t have both.” That sounds a lot like what David Goggins said, doesn’t it? You have to push yourself out of your comfort zone to be great and successful — both in your own mind and in your relationships with others. In order to show up and be a leader and have successful, happy relationships, you have to demonstrate vulnerability. You have to be willing to be honest and show the world who you are.
It boils down to the difference between “belonging” and “fitting in,” which Brené says are actually opposites.
“… The opposite of belonging is fitting in because fitting in is assessing a group of people and thinking, ‘Who do I need to be? What do I need to say? What do I need to wear? How do I need to act?’ and changing who you are. And true belonging never asks us to change who we are. It demands that we be who we are because if we fit in because of how we’ve changed ourselves, that’s not belonging. … You have to show up as you are.” – Brené Brown
That’s so true. When we show up and allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we find the people who will not ask us to change who we are. And when we find those authentic relationships, we find a true sense of belonging.
The final element of success I want to talk to you about today is visualization, and there is no better guide to the practice than my friend Chris Lee. Chris is a leadership expert and a master of the technique of visualizing the future you want to achieve to get yourself in the right mindset to achieve it.
“Once I’ve identified the breakdown [between where I am and where I want to be] and acknowledged it in a positive way … I’m evaluating, ‘Okay, so how did I create this? What was missing from me or what could I have done [differently] … ?’ … Now I’m ready to make a new declaration. … What’s my new commitment to my body, my new commitment to my relationship, my new commitment to life? … It’s important to visualize [a new commitment]. And one of the things that I recommend is closing your eyes and doing a visualization.” – Chris Lee
One of the coolest experiences I’ve had on this podcast was when he led my listeners and me through a visualization exercise on the spot. And you can do one right now! Close your eyes, ask yourself a few questions, and don’t be afraid to get creative with your answers.
When you imagine your life a year from now, what do you want it to look like? Have you gained or lost weight? How much money have you made? Who are you with? Have you found your soulmate? What is that person like? What is your job like? Are you your own boss? Do you work for a company you love? What do you do for fun? Where do you live? Do you travel very often?
Think through all the details of your life, and fully imagine what it feels like to be you in that situation. Then, write down your thoughts. It only has to take five or ten minutes, but if you can do that every day, you’ll get yourself into a much stronger mindset.
“If you’ve got the power to imagine it, [you’ve got] the power to create it.” – Chris Lee
The last seven and a half years of podcasting have been incredible, but the five interviews I talked about today were definitely highlights. My mind was blown by the insight and wisdom of each of these remarkable people, and I learned a lot about what makes a successful life. We covered a lot in this episode — I hope you got as much value out of these interviews as I did.
I also hope you’ll stay tuned for next time, when I’m taking you through five more of the all-time best conversations in The School of Greatness history. In this episode, we talked a lot about mindset, vulnerability, and success. In the next episode, we’re diving into mental health, spirituality, and perhaps the greatest moment of vulnerability and courage in my life. It’s a powerful episode, and I know you won’t want to miss it.
But before we get there, make sure to listen to this extraordinary 1000th episode! If you’re ready to achieve mastery with Robert Greene, develop a growth mindset with Tony Robbins, overcome your limiting beliefs with David Goggins, learn how to build authentic relationships with Brené Brown, and visualize the life of your dreams with Chris Lee, join me, Lewis Howes, on Episode 1000 of The School of Greatness!