I’m sure you’ve had times in your life where you’ve felt broken. You may even be feeling that way now.
In those moments you may feel like you’ve lost the ability to be perfect. You may even feel like there’s no point, that the boat has sailed.
That’s not true.
You have the chance to come out more beautiful of a person than you were before.
In Japanese culture there is something called kintsugi, or golden repair. When someone would break something, especially of value, it would be repaired and finished with gold dust.
These golden cracks were revered, and objects were considered to be even more beautiful than when they were brand new. These golden cracks gave it personality and a new life it wouldn’t have had before.
On this episode of The School of Greatness I bring you a truly inspirational person with so much knowledge and love of applying this concept to ourselves: Candice Kumai.
Candice is a Japanese Polish American who struggled with racism growing up because she was different. She persevered and saw the beauty in herself that made her different from others in her school and used it to become a professional model.
From there Candice made a pivot to become a great chef, where she faced even more scrutiny in her new community for having been a former model.
Candice has developed the unique ability of emotional kintsugi, where she can turn emotional turmoil, racism, and negative situations into golden opportunities. I really appreciated her energy and passion for sharing this idea with as many people as possible.
Beyond being a well-known wellness influencer and chef, Candice has decided it’s time for her to tell the whole story of how wellness can come back into our lives after we experience being broken.
Learn how you too can create beauty from your own personal darkness, on Episode 623.
Lewis Howes: This is episode number 623 with Candice Kumai.
Welcome to The School of Greatness. My name is Lewis Howes, 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.
Cicero said that, “Diseases of the soul are more dangerous and more numerous than those of the body.” You have an opportunity to make your life and your body complete when you start to heal the matters of the soul.
And I’m excited about our guest today Candice Kumai, who is known as the Golden Girl of the Wellness World, from Elle Magazine and one of the Top Twenty New Role Models from Arianna Huffington. She is a classically trained chef, wellness writer and author of five books. She contributes to lifestyle outlets like Cosmo Magazine, Yoga Journal, Elle, Shape, Bon Appetit, Girlboss, and Well+Good.
She’s also a former judge on Iron Chef America and Beat Bobby Flay. She’s a regular contributor on the Dr Oz and E-News Shows. And she’s got a new book out called, Kintsugi Wellness. And in today’s episode we talk about why being broken can actually make us beautiful and strong. So if you think you’re broken, you’re actually just building yourself up to be stronger.
Also, why some women fear success and how to overcome that. What being real has to do with wellness. Why we’re so afraid to be ourselves, and the relationship between our emotions and what we eat and how to manage all this stuff that’s always happening in the food and nutrition space.
But before we dive in, I want to give a shout out to our Fan of the Week! This is from Jeff Schmidt, over at Seaside Audio and Video, and he says this, “We have all been at a restaurant and have overheard the conversation at the next table. It’s a casual conversation where each person is engaged in whatever the other person is saying, sharing and relating to it. And it’s such a compelling conversation, you really just can’t pull yourself from it.
“This is how it feels when I’m listening to Lewis Howes on The School of Greatness. Some podcasts have a list of questions. Some even have the same question every time. Lewis has a way of getting to know his guests, and bringing out the best in them, without sounding like an interview. Thanks again.”
That was from Jeff Schmidt, you are the Fan of the Week. Thanks again, for that unique perspective, I appreciate it. And if you guys want a chance to be shouted out as the Fan of the Week, all you need to do is go to iTunes, or go to applepodcast.com/greatness. You can go right on your phone as well, open up the podcast app and leave a review for your chance to be shouted out as the Fan of the Week.
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Alright, guys, I’m excited about this one! This is all about finding beauty when something is broken, or the broken perspective on wellness and how we can make it whole. With Candice Kumai.
Welcome back, everyone, to The School of Greatness Podcast. We have Candice Kumai in the house. Good to see you.
Candice Kumai: Good to see you too, Lewis!
Lewis Howes: I’m very excited about this. You’ve got some of the most energy I’ve ever seen in a human being. You just made us a cool Matcha Tea Latté that we poured some warm milk in and you came with treats, so you make me happy and my team happy and I’m excited. Yes! You’ve got a new book out, and tell me how to pronounce it again.
Candice Kumai: Kint-soo-gee.
Lewis Howes: Kint-soo-gee. But the “T” is silent or no?
Candice Kumai: Kintsugi, so in Japanese you typically wouldn’t say a “tsoo” the tsu is pronounced “tsuh”, very faintly on the “T”.
Lewis Howes: Kintsugi, kintsugi. Got it! Kintsugi Wellness – The Japanese Art of Nourinshing Mind, Body and Spirit. And you’ve been in the wellness space for a long time. You were on Top Chef, right? In one the the first seasons?
Candice Kumai: The first, that’s right.
Lewis Howes: You know my buddy Fabio Viviani, shout out to Fabio.
Candice Kumai: Love him.
Lewis Howes: You were a model before that, then you got into the nutrition world, chef world, you know, you worked at restaurants, you’ve done it all right? And you’ve been in media for a long time, talking about nutrition, the body, wellness, but now you’re transitioning to just be more into this topic, which is kind of bringing it all together, without it being a pun, putting it all back together.
So tell me what this is all about.
Candice Kumai: I love that you bring that up, because it’s taken me my entire career to put myself back together and it was also little moments in my career that tore me apart and when you start getting down to it, we try to make everything look pretty, but it truly, at the end of the day, it never really was, and it’s still a work in progress.
So, kintsugi is the art of golden repair in Japanese. So it is based on the metaphor of an object breaking in Japanese culture. If an object was broken they sometimes would put it back together, if it was valuable or loved or beloved, and then they would seal it with lacquer and dust it with golden powder. And in certain cases, back in the day of the feudal lord era, a servant, if they broke something of a master’s would get it fixed with kintsugi, return it and then they would kill themself, which is…
Lewis Howes: No way!
Candice Kumai: It’s true and very shocking. And the first time a kintsugi master I studied under in Kyoto told me that story I said the same thing. I was, like, “There’s no way!” And he’s like, “It is true.” It’s not in every case.
Lewis Howes: They don’t do that any more?
Candice Kumai: No. Thank God! That would be crazy! But when I started to research it, it’s done with pottery, with ceramics. They believe the object is more beautiful after it’s been golden repaired.
Lewis Howes: After it’s been broken. Not by looking perfect.
Candice Kumai: Yeah! It’s essentially the process of putting it back together and looking at the object put back together, with the golden cracks, that makes it more beautiful. Because if something was just so perfect, an object of perfection in Japanese culture is not foreseen as beautiful all the time. Whereas something like wabi sabi, which means looking at something and celebrating its imperfections, that is more beautiful in Japanese culture.
So, what I’m trying to do as a Japanese-American, is now look back at my life and say, “I don’t look like everyone else. I wasn’t raised like everyone else.” I was discriminated against tremendously. Not so much in the modelling world, but more so in the food world, just by being a girl that wanted to transition.
Lewis Howes: From a model to cooking, yeah.
Candice Kumai: Yeah. That was not easy.
Lewis Howes: It was like, “Go back to your modelling thing.”
Candice Kumai: Exactly! I’m sure. And it would have paid for all my culinary school. So that was the buy out, was modelling also taught me how to hustle, and I wouldn’t know how to hustle if it wasn’t for all my colleagues in modelling and the agents and stuff, that were pushing me to work hard, to build clientele, to work with my heart.
But also, back then it was about material things, it was about physicality and beauty on the outside, and inside, with the art of kintsugi in mind, I was broken, I was not happy, I tortured myself to be perfect all the time. There are glimpses of those moments that still haunt me to this day, and I kind of realised, if I’m speaking to young women and women about kintsugi wellness, what can I do to be honest and vulnerable and to change the industry.
Because for so long I did just write for Shape and Women’s Health and Self and Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness, and now Cosmo, Girlboss, Well+Good and it’s like everything was so basic and safe, and I was never that girl.
I was raised by a Japanese mom, Polish-American dad. He was in the US Navy, she was in Japan. They met in Japan and then he brought her back to the US and my sister and I were raised by immigrant parents, were raised by a tiger mom.
And I was raised in San Diego, which was predominantly Spanish and white, so I got teased and I remembered while writing this book, I felt all the pain on every page. More than any other book I’ve ever written, because it wasn’t basic any more. It wasn’t safe any more.
Lewis Howes: It wasn’t just “Five Simple Ways to do XYZ,” I got you.
Candice Kumai: “Five Great Ways to Have Had Sex.” It’s like, “Come on, guys! We’ve put this on every cover for the last twenty years!” Like, by now we should know how to have great sex.
Lewis Howes: Exactly! What was the hardest thing for you to reflect on?
Candice Kumai: Well, I cried during many of the chapters. I wrote an intro chapter on my break-up, which was diluted so much when it came to the final rounds. Because most of the people that really care about me, including my team and my publisher, and just my friends and colleagues, they said, “You don’t need this person to be a part of your story.”
And I had to stop them and I’m like, “Look, this isn’t glorifying anybody. This is me being really real.” People do sh**y things to other people and it’s not all golden, and being a public person while those sh**y things are happening to you, I didn’t even actually know what to do.
So, I remember being on a flight from New York to San Diego and crying the entire way, writing one of the chapters. I probably had tears and snot all over my face, and people around me probably thought I was insane. But I would put on headphones and sit in front of my laptop for hours. So it was almost like drying out the sorrows and the pain and the agony into the pages.
And then, I also really hurt when I was teased for being Japanese. Because, as early as pre-school, I can remember being teased for looking different. And the sad part was, I always liked who I was. And I didn’t understand why children were mean to other kids, just because of the way that they looked. So it was amazing when I started to write about discrimination against Asians, because some people would write to me on Instagram comments and say, “Hey Candice, thanks for bringing this to my attention. I didn’t know that Asians were discriminated against.”
And then it takes me back to even reading about the Japanese internment camps and how this entire generation of Japanese-Americans, they weren’t even Japanese, they were actual American citizens, had to pack up their bags and leave and go to camps and nobody did anything wrong. Actually, all the spies during the war were from other parts of the world, including the US.
They didn’t find one person who was Japanese that was spying on the US. And in the end it scarred and entire nation. But, in coming out of it, like kintsugi, this is a country that has survived two atomic bombs, not just one. In the history of the world, it’s the only country that’s had two [atomic] bombs dropped on it. But look at how they’ve come out. You don’t see them, they don’t harbour on it, they don’t hate the Americans, in fact, they love us more than anyone.
Lewis Howes: Crazy! Why is that?
Candice Kumai: You know what? My aunt went through the war, my great-aunt, Takuko Neechan is what we call her, which means Takuko Big Sis. She said that during the war they had radio, and radio in Japan back then said, “We’re winning the war! Can you believe it? We’re winning the war! Everything is great! We’re winning!”
So they thought we were winning. And then when the bombs started to drop, which, by the way, my mother’s home town was one that was on the list, or around her home town. The only reason why they chose Hiroshima, was because the weather was clear in that area that morning.
Lewis Howes: So they could see it.
Candice Kumai: Crazy! There was a T-shaped bridge that they used as a target, and you could see it. It’s fascinating to learn about the history of the bombing. The pilots that dropped the bombs had nightmares for the rest of their lives.
Lewis Howes: I can imagine.
Candice Kumai: Yeah. What a horrific job to have, and responsibility.
Lewis Howes: How many people died?
Candice Kumai: Oh, thousands. In an instant. It was like a flash, they had a demonstration at the Peace Memorial Museum and basically your skin would melt right off of your body. And that was if you lived. And then after that, radiation haunted them for many, many, many years after.
But the recovery of Hiroshima, I have not been in Nagasaki, but I have been to Hiroshima and Okinawa, which both served as different places in Japan who have survived a horrendous amount of turmoil and trauma from war. And they don’t talk about it in a way that they’re shamed or scared or crying or whining.
There’s a Japanese term in the book called, gaman, and it means “with great resilience”. And so they show, they never tell in Japanese culture, they show you their honour and pride. And so my Aunt Takuko said, “While they said, ‘We’re winning, we’re winning,’ we just knew it was war. So we have no ill will towards you. Even George San,” is what they called my dad. George San wanted to marry my mom, they were actually open to it, which is insane. Because my grandparents even had to flee.
Lewis Howes: Because your dad’s American.
Candice Kumai: Yeah. My grandparents had to flee from Tokyo back to the countryside, because they started dropping bombs on them. So there’s a lot of history between the US and Japan, which is why it’s important to postmark even what the US-Japan Council does, their work is to serve as a bridge between the two countries.
We have a lot of imports from them. They’re still, in my opinion, the leaders of technology. One of my greatest mentors, James Higa, used to work amnesty jobs at Apple for thirty years, and he was born in Okinawa and raised Japanese-American. And he, among many other people, including Steve Aoki or Ann Curry, there’s a couple of high profile, even like, say, the governor of Hawaii, the former governors, that have done a really good job of implementing the bridge between the US and Japan.
Lewis Howes: Oh, that’s cool.
Candice Kumai: Because, if you can imagine, there’s probably a lot of pain that turned into progress later on. And then as a child of war, my father was stationed out in Yokosuka, which was close to Tokyo, when he met my mother, who was just a really pretty Japanese schoolteacher visiting a temple on the same day as he was. I feel that now, like we were saying, it was so basic to write those cover lines and “Candice, we want you to write a story on…”
Lewis Howes: Making masho.
Candice Kumai: Yeah! Instead of that assignment, I mean, who would give me the life assignment of being a bridge, or a messenger? So I said, “I have to do this!” And I wasn’t even ready to do it because I was in that break-up a few years ago, and I was crying and I was sad. I was on a couch at Harper-Collins, and Julie, my editor, goes, it’s time to write your Japanese book.
And I was, like, “Oh, no. I’m going to write Clean Green Wellness.” And she’s like, “No.” And then I was like, “Oh. I’m not in my twenties any more.”
Lewis Howes: So what happened after that? So you were in a relationship for a long time, is that right?
Candice Kumai: Couple of years, yeah.
Lewis Howes: A few years. And then you just had a challenging break-up. You don’t have to go into the details, but it was challenging for you. It was heartbreaking, it was identity shifting and all these things, and then what did you decide to do? Did you go back to Japan?
Candice Kumai: It was a really confusing time, because I actually was in that moment, and I know everyone’s been there through a break-up, where I didn’t even know what to wear, I didn’t know what to eat, I didn’t wear make-up for months, I didn’t eat any meat and I didn’t drink alcohol, because I knew that that would make things worse. It would magnify.
So instead of partying and rebounding, I mean, I couldn’t even think about looking at another man. It took me a while. Now I’m great! But then I was like, “Oh gosh! This is terrible! I’m like a vegetable!” So, I already had a Japanese trip planned to go see my mother and my grandmother, who was passing away, and I also had this random trip to Okinawa planned before I saw my mom.
So I went there and I…
Lewis Howes: Had you been in Japan before?
Candice Kumai: Oh, yeah, since I was five. So, mom was smart, and she started introducing the culture to Jenny and I when we were babies. So that’s why I keep asking my parents, “What did you do to us when we were little?” Because there’s no stopping… My sister’s an entrepreneur in London and I’m, who knows what I am here? But, she took us there when we were little.
So there was a lot of healing, there was a lot of hand-holding with my grandmother at the hospital, so she couldn’t speak at a certain point. So we would just go and see her, and we knew, when she saw us, she knew we were there. So there was a lot of acknowledgement of what we call, mono no aware, in Japanese which means “the pathos of life”. It’s kind of like accepting the sad. And they often write about the rain over the mountains from a hospital window.
And I remember my ex at the time, or on one of the trips, because I would go there many times, he was out on a press trip, partying it out with his friends, and the crazy part about social media is, you can see what people are doing real time. And while I was holding her hand, mourning, in hospital, he’s just out and about doing his thing and it really, I still remember it, and it brought so much pain and sadness to me.
To, when I did go on the trip to heal, the intent wasn’t even to heal, I saw my dad before I left, so he was holding down the fort in San Diego and he’s like, he barely said anything to me, because he knew how much pain I was in. But he just, he was like, “I need you to get over this soon, and I need you to focus on work, and move on.”
Lewis Howes: Your dad said this?
Candice Kumai: Yes. And he said, “You are going to come out of this better.” And I never ever believed it. Because when you’re in the middle of a break-up you just think…
Lewis Howes: It’s the worst time in the world.
Candice Kumai: Yeah. I mean, I look back and laugh, but it was terrible! So, I get there and I didn’t tell my mom that he basically lost his job and visa and bailed one day. The day before one of my books came out, he left. And I had a book release party that next day in front of 200 people at the Deepak Chopra Centre at ABC Home and I think Michelle Peavy put it great. She’s like, “Candice, you definitely went on autopilot.”
And I remember also, a lot of my girls said, “You’ve got to call a spade a spade, and you’ve got to, if somebody does that to you, you know you have to move on.” Because there isn’t another person, people like us are not wired to be with people that would not withhold, or just somebody who gives up so easy. I could never be with somebody like that.
And when I went to Japan I told my mom and she’s like, “Oh! It’s okay. You are going to get through this. And maybe next time you should date a short baldy.” She kept telling me that a short bald guy would never leave me. I was like, “Excuse me?!” I’m crying, you know, like, “That is not what I want to hear!” But humour was always her way of coping and also being, like, “You better move on now.” In Japanese culture, there is no time, again, gaman, with great resilience, there is no time to feel sorry for yourself. They hold pain in.
Lewis Howes: Wow. Is that healthy?
Candice Kumai: I’m not sure, but…
Lewis Howes: I don’t know if that’s healthy…? I think there should be a time of grieving and allowing yourself to move through your emotions and feelings, and then, okay, there’s a time of, “enough is enough”, you don’t need to hold onto this for years, to hold you back from living a beautiful life, but I think there’s a balance between resilience and allowing yourself to express yourself. And to feel.
Candice Kumai: You are right. Because without the grieving and the sadness… There’s a beautiful contrast to life, my sister says, “Without light, darkness cannot exist and vice versa,” and so we must mono no aware, appreciate the pathos in life when it’s there, because it makes the joyous times and the bright times brighter and more colourful, more real.
And I’ve never been this mindful and this present in my entire career. I’m no longer basic. I’ve got the light in me and I’m just ready, in divine timing, right? You would agree, it doesn’t happen overnight.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. It takes time. You need those lessons. So how long were you staying in Japan, then? After this break-up?
Candice Kumai: I stayed there, I usually stay there for about a month with mom, and sometimes I go places by myself. I cry almost all the time when I’m alone on the train, or when I’m listening to a song, and reflecting, and that particular trip was really gnarly and sad, but it started to open up a light in me, and I said, “Wellness is so crowded, I don’t want to do this any more. What am I? Who am I? What do I have to offer the world that’s different?”
And I didn’t even have to try, because, you know how they kind of say the magic is in you? Everything is in you, the light, even the darkness. This book was always in me, but I wasn’t ready to write it or tell it. And, in fact, a lot of it came from shame, and being different and not knowing how people would expect, or how they would react. So, mostly fear is what holds me back from pursuing.
Lewis Howes: Oh, really?
Candice Kumai: Yes. But no more, I also was always afraid to be successful, because I thought it would hold me back from finding a good man. Which is a really weird thought. I’ve never brought that up, but speaking about it, I said, “I’m actually going to bring this up because I am sure there are other women that do the same.”
Lewis Howes: Yeah. They don’t want to be too intimidating to men, right? Push men away or something?
Candice Kumai: Yeah, but everyone keeps saying to me, “Candice, you can’t do that, because the person that you end up with is going to love this about you.”
Lewis Howes: Yeah. Or they’re not the right fit.
Candice Kumai: Yeah, well, when you find him, call me!
Lewis Howes: Sometimes you got to change your environment, you know? Maybe you’ve been in New York for too long?
Candice Kumai: No! I don’t know!
Lewis Howes: So, why did you want to do this type of book then? You know, you’ve been in the food and nutrition space for a long time. How is this different from anything else?
Candice Kumai: Omigosh! It’s so unique! So, it’s twelve Japanese lessons or sections of kintsugi, kaizen, gaman, shikata ga nai, which means “it cannot be helped”. That’s Donald Trump, all the way. We don’t have to open up that can of worms. There’s yui mato, which is your circle of friends. Kaizen is “continuous improvement”, gaman is “with great resilience”, and then, towards the end of the book we get into kan cha, which is “gratitude”, and osettai, at the end, means “welcoming gifts”, or “being of service”.
So, in Japanese culture there’s a lot of untranslatable words, and I was like, “Oh, I get it, mom! All the stuff that you taught me and Jenny,” she’s a Japanese language teacher in San Diego. So she’s like, “Well, you know, me and your father, we kind of like just raise you. I don’t know, but we did.” Like, “Well, whatever you did, it must have been great, because there’s no way that Jenny and I could ever fail.
But also, with that, the pain came out while I was writing, the truth came out. I said, “No more playing basic. That’s just not me, and this is the time. If not now, when?” And I don’t think there’s a better year to come out the gate strong with a book that’s about embracing our differences and celebrating our imperfections.
Lewis Howes: Wow! What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself through the last couple of years, then?
Candice Kumai: What a great question!
Lewis Howes: From the break-up, or of things you discovered from the rituals that you talk about in the book, or from a conversation late at night with your mom?
Candice Kumai: I mean, it’s great that you bring her up. One thing I know for sure: My mother’s principal at school said this. He said, “If there’s one person that I could pick to inherit the world, it would be Miho Kumai,” my mom. She’s probably more powerful than I am, but she’s not somebody who wants to be public, so she would never write a book or share Japanese heritage, but it’s bizarre that the universe, God, whoever it is, chose me to be her daughter, because I could write and I could speak and I could be in front of the camera.
And so, I think one of the greatest gifts was having her, Kumai sensei, my mom, relay, and my father too, and incredible guy of integrity and grace and philanthropic soul, I watched them. And in Japanese culture they say that children learn from what their parents do, not by what they say.
And so, I believe the greatest thing is probably paying homage to my parents and saying, “You did really well! And although I’m not perfect, and neither is Jenny,” she has, like 3,000 tatoos and piercings and runs a cycling shop in the most hipster part of London, and still doesn’t know she’s a hipster, which makes her more hipster.
So, it’s just saying that, “I’m so happy that you stayed Buddhist, and you stayed Christian,” so mom’s Buddhist and dad’s Christian. I’m so happy that mom chose to raise us Japanese. I can’t imagine what it was like to raise two American girls in the middle of San Diego, when you’re full Japanese and your husband is an American going off to work every day. But I feel like they did a good job. And I’m not successful, but I’d like to acknowledge that they are successful.
Lewis Howes: Right. That’s cool. That’s really cool. How do you think being broken makes us actually stronger?
Candice Kumai: Well, if somebody has got this perfect life where everything’s handed to them, maybe their dad gave them a million dollars to start their business, maybe they were sort of under the impression that life was, like, they were entitled, let’s put it that way, that life was going to be easy and everything should be handed to them, I don’t find that to be attractive at all.
And, in fact, the people that I really am drawn to the most are the ones who had grit and grace written all over them. Because the people that overcome the obstacles are the most humble and loving and caring people and I think their stories are what make them great.
And so, when you’re broken you have a story. And one day, when you share it, you’re going to help other people to heal and you’re going to open and allow. And when we open and share, we allow others to do the same. It’s like that Marianne Williamson quote. And it’s my favourite quote ever. Like, when you shine, you allow others around you to shine and we are all liberated by our light, not our darkness.
Lewis Howes: That’s powerful, yeah. What’s the thing you’ve learned about wellness in general in terms of nutrition, mind-body connection, you talk about community in here and how community makes us healthier. What is the thing, again, with all the information out there about nutrition and wellness, what’s the real principles that you believe we should be thinking about with every different diet and fad and technique and strategy, what’s it come down to?
Candice Kumai: This is another great question, because, for so long we’re taught, you know, X amount of calories, X amount of workouts, X amount of sleep, and it’s like, “Okay, great! Now that I got that down…” So, meditation added another layer of, I don’t know what it’s doing to me, but I like it. So I always say, “If it feels good, do it.” And that could be many things.
Lewis Howes: Ice-cream feels good. No doubt. I don’t know if that means I should do it, though, because it doesn’t feel good, like, four hours later.
Candice Kumai: Hey, I’m there too, and that’s another good point. Everybody needs to let up on yourself a little bit. In the wabi-sabi chapter about celebrating imperfection, it’s like, well, I am a model, a former fit model, and I don’t look like that every day. And I want people to know that. I have different days when I’m gaining weight and I catch myself, when I’m like, “Hey, you need to go work out a little bit more,” and there’s that line of balance which everybody talks about.
But here’s the problem with our industry is, we tell people to do X and Y, but we don’t actually show them how to do it. And so, by being a living example, I’ll meditate, I will work out, I will socialise, which helps me to feel good because I’m connecting with girl friends. You don’t have to do this part, but what helps me to feel good is helping other people every day.
I really believe in that osettai chapter, which means “welcoming gifts and being of service”, so my dad volunteers at a shelter and my mom helps out all the pets and animals and the kids at school and my sister runs a non-profit in London, and it’s like, if I didn’t give to my community why am I even doing this? So there’s this element of, helping others feels good, so I’m going to keep doing it.
And when I said that earlier, sure, some people will say, “Drugs feel good, I’m going to do them.” Fine, in moderation. Like, I’m also, really honest and open. Like, “Sure, I’ll go on a bender with some hot guy over the weekend, no problem.” I still want to do those fun things.
I’m not going to let go because I’m the “Golden Girl of Wellness”, I’m going to be as real as a possibly can, because being real is also wellness. You can’t tell people that you’re going to stay the same size and weight and shape for the rest of your life. You won’t. That is a sure thing. The wrinkles will come, the under-eye circles will come, you’ll get a little muffin top, you’ll start to see your ass is going to start dropping, all that. And so you will have to work on keeping it real, but you also need to let up a little bit and have some fun.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. What do you think is the biggest challenge that a lot of Americans face specifically with food, nutrition, balancing their lifestyle, with so much information and people saying different things? You know, different strategies about how to live healthier, again, specifically with food nutrition and things like that. What’s your feedback for people?
Candice Kumai: Well, we know that “staying fit and healthy” is a mathematical equation, so it’s like, what you take in, what you burn off, is what you you’re going to be. And it’s true. Your body was meant to move and so I will always tell people, “Find something you love.”
My dad’s a cyclist, he does 13 miles a day, so does my sister. My mom gardens and has this beautiful adoration for flowers and gardening. I’m a bar junkie, so, pure bar, bar method, any kind of bar, not that kind though, but sometimes. And then I’m also a yoga girl. I went this morning, I was around like-minded people, we sweated it out. I love it when they adjust me. I won a shirt that says, “Please adjust me,” on the back.
If you find what makes you feel good, it doesn’t feel forced. Because I know a lot of people hate working out, but I will say, staying active is going to keep you young. By studying the Okinawans over the last few years I learned from them, lots of vegetables and fruits, they garden themselves. So, sweet potato, the emo, kept them alive through the war. And many of them live long because they socialise their whole life, so they have a community.
Lewis Howes: Yeah. They’re part of a community, which keeps them healthy.
Candice Kumai: And then I also thing that they believe in changing your mindset. So, that we know also. I think Deepak Chopra is one of the best teachers that we have because he actually shows us how we can change our mindset. And a lot of it is meditation and practice, and focussing on the notion that everyone is trying their best.
And if we can stop trying to be somebody we’re not. I really prefer to be just this Candice, rather than the one that you see on TV for five minutes while I’m on the Today Show or on Dr Oz, or judging Iron Chef or something. Because that Candice is like, buttoned up and perfect and, “Oh! Love the knife cuts on this. Looks great!” Nobody gives a s**t about knife cuts. Let’s just talk real.
So this is much more my speed, but that’s the other thing I think we should remember, is find what makes you feel good in your career, in your personal life, and in your physical life, as in fitness. Personally too, like if your mate and partner is not supporting you and loving you for the most part, you probably shouldn’t be in that relationship.
I feel better being single now, and loving myself and having the right people around me before I meet the right person. So, I also want women and girls, especially young girls, to know, you don’t need a man to make you complete. And, in fact, when you have options, it’s fun! Of course, it sounds so “now” to be this girl, but it is exactly who I am. Before I settle down, I’d love to play the field.
Lewis Howes: There you go!
Candice Kumai: Right were I am. Discreetly.
Lewis Howes: Well it sounds like you’re being who you are, now. Why do you think so many of us are afraid to be who we really are?
Candice Kumai: I love this question. And my brain has tried to think, okay, so young age, we grew up seeing, say, models or actors on TV and we’re like, “Oh, I should be like this person.” I mean, growing up, my parents were really cool and laid back, and they were honest. Honest, honest, honest, which, later in life, comes into play. My sister and I had to help others, we had to be honest, and we had to work hard, because we watched my parents do that.
I think there’s a weird, distorted period of school with other kids where you start reading the teen mags and you start having the crushes on the boys and the girls, and you’re like, “Oh, I don’t fit in, I’m different. Nobody likes me because I’m Asian,’ and when I got teased for it when I was younger, the flip happened and in high school these boys started to be, like, “Oh my gosh, Candice!” And I’m like, “Oh, you didn’t think I forgot? I remember you used to tease me.” And that was weird, because I identified with being different my whole life, and mixed.
And so I think there’s a lot of, “Oh, I wish I was…” like my friends were blonde-haired and blue-eyed and then when I got older, I met girls who were like me at Long Beach State, and Christina, and Tina and Casey and all the cute Asian girls in our group, Kelly, they were all mixed, and I was like, “Wow! These girls are gorgeous!” And they’re like, “Yeah, but, you’re like us!”
And so, confidence isn’t always built up during those young years and when you get older, I think a lot of us are, like, I think people probably look, even at you, Lewis, and they’re like, “Wow! What an awesome guy! I want to be like him. I want to grow up and play football.” And then there are many people who have the same things happen to them. Their dreams get crushed by an injury and they don’t live up to this standard.
So, wabi-sabi is the celebration of imperfection. I started to realise that I like who I am in real life, more than I like the Candice that is trying to be this persona, and so a very wise therapist once told me, “The best people keep their persona and their person close.” He said, “Don’t let your persona leave who you are, leave who you are as a person. Keep them as close together as possible.”
Lewis Howes: Yes. So that your persona is who you are.
Candice Kumai: Yes. Because that’s you. That’s Fabio, that’s Gaby, that’s half our friends that are living. And I find that to be attractive.
Lewis Howes: Yeah, it’s hard to live two different lives. You know, it’s hard to have a persona that you turn on and then be yourself the other half of the time. That’s why I think you must just always be yourself. It’s just a lot more challenging and stressful to manage it any other way.
Candice Kumai: Yeah, but like, when did we all hit that button? Even Arianna. I was scared to meet Arianna for the first time, and then when I met her, I was like, “You’re the nicest person!” And that’s another thing, is just kindness and empathy and compassion go so far. You don’t have to be a s**thead to make it in this industry.
I had a producer on set scream, “There will not be another poached egg!” so loud that it rattled the entire set. And when I went home that day, I was so grateful that I was not that way. And I don’t care what anybody says, I find that you can be a good person to the core, and still make it, even if you get trampled on. I truly believe someone is taking notes.
But that is such a mysterious question, Lewis, that I don’t really know if we can answer it, because I feel like it’s different for every person.
Lewis Howes: True, yeah. I’m going back to food for a second. How closely related is food and our emotional stability? How are they connected?
Candice Kumai: As in?
Lewis Howes: The foods we eat, how much does it affect our emotional stability? Our emotions, the way we feel?
Candice Kumai: Well, I know that I like to eat well 90% of the time, which means fruits and veggies, because it makes me feel good and my body always seems to look better and I feel better. My gut, I like to keep very healthy, so I eat a lot of probiotics, but they’re not in pill form or anything like that. It’ in miso, it’s in soy sauce, it’s in yoghurt, it’s in fermented pickles, we call them tsukemono in Japanese.
I believe that when your body is feeling good and you’re moving every day, and you’re digestion is really good, and you’re sleeping well, that you will feel your best also, and of course disease can plague anyone through genetics, and that’s almost like a lottery.
So, I’d like to think if you have your health right now, you have everything. Your family and your health. Those are the two things that you should be the most grateful for because if you don’t have one or the other, you’ll go down, so it’s important to have the support system along with the health.
But you do have to take care of yourself and I think that alcohol is something that, that was the first thing I thought of when you brought up emotion and food, because we like to drink in our American society, amongst the Japanese and the Brits and everybody, but it doesn’t do us any good to over-consume alcohol and so instead of accepting the fact that, “Oh, maybe alcohol will help me to relax,” sometimes I think abstaining makes you feel a thousand times better in the long run.
Celebratory, fine. Smoke weed in Cali, great. It’s legal here, have fun. I’m stoked. But I certainly think that it’s not something that’s going to add plus value the way a balanced diet will. I’ll be honest, I’m not going to eat those cookies I made all day every day, but I do love them and I had, like, five of them already. So, it’s all things in moderation, yeah.
Lewis Howes: Of course. Very cool! I want to make sure you guys check out the book. I want to try to say the name again, kintsugi, is that right?
Candice Kumai: Kintsugi. Yeah!
Lewis Howes: Kintsugi Wellness – The Japanese Art of Nourishing Mind, Body and Spirit. Check it out. A couple of questions finally for you: This one’s called The Three Truths. You’ve written many books, you’ve done a lot of videos. I’m sure you’ll do many more books and content for the rest of your life.
But imagine that this was the last day for you and you’re a hundred-and-something, and you have to take everything with you on your last day. So, all the content you put out there, the videos, the books, everything you’ve done, you can’t leave it in the world, you have to take it with you.
But you have a piece of paper and a pen to write down the three things you knew to be true about your existence, that you would pass on to the world. You can have three lessons to leave behind, from everything you’ve learned, whether it be from your parents, or Japanese rituals, or a break-up, what would you say are the three things that you would leave behind if it was your last day?
Candice Kumai: For the record, I did not know this question would be asked. But, I will say, I love a good challenge and a curve ball. Right now I’m going through that transition of watching a lot of my friends and colleagues in relationships, and it doesn’t mean that they’re all extremely happy, or sad, either way. I just want people to know that being in a relationship is work. It changes who you are as a person and I have learned that being single is a wonderful gift and if somebody doesn’t want to be with you, let them leave. Bye.
Number two: I think being “different” is also a gift. But you must accept that the way you look and who you and how you were raised and where you came from and what your parents were like, all of it, good, bad, ugly, is happening to you for a reason and so if you can make lemonade, please make it and share it with others.
Because life is so much better filling your cup first, and then serving others. We leave this world, all of us will, that is a sure thing, and if we can leave it better than we found it, whether it be education, this amazing podcast work that you’re inspiring people with, whether it be books, children, gardens, whatever it is, I’d like for people to leave the world better than they found it.
And then I think, lastly, my mother says that life is easier when you always do the right thing. And so, if we can be more honest, and if we can be real and live in the present moment, that in itself is a gift. I don’t know if I’m going to get married in two years, like that psychic told me last week. I don’t know. She also said that he was in Cali and I had never met him before. She’s British, her name was Marian. I don’t know if I will have everything that I’ve ever wished for, but I know that I have to just trust. Because if I don’t, I have to believe, right? If I don’t, what’s the point of worrying?
My father wrote my sister and I letters when Donald Trump was elected, and at the very end of it, he barely speaks, so when he writes, you listen, he said, “No politician will ever affect your lives or your daily lives. Other people will be president, including a woman, and you will not let this affect you. And please remember this: Don’t sweat the small stuff, because life is full of surprises.
Lewis Howes: That’s beautiful. That’s very nice of him.
Candice Kumai: So, that’s how I have to just trust. I don’t know who he is, I don’t know where the kids are going to come into the picture. All I know is that I’m having fun right now and I’ve just got to keep going and I wrote this book, so it’s time to promote it, with my whole heart and I can’t miss a beat. I want to do everything I can to help. So I really believe in others letting that mask come off. Especially in the next few years. And just start helping other people. Don’t be such a s**thead.
Lewis Howes: There you go. Well, I want to acknowledge you for a moment, for stepping into who you are and for allowing yourself to be okay being broken, and putting yourself back together with gold, because it’s a beautiful journey that you’ve been on, and you’re learning so much and teaching so much to so many other people, so we acknowledge you for that.
Make sure you guys get the book, Kintsugi Wellness, and follow you on Instagram and Twitter, what’s your handles?
Candice Kumai: It’s @candicekumai. It’s C.A.N.D.I.C.E.K.U.M. as in marry, A.I.
Lewis Howes: There you go, @candicekumai, you can get the book online at her website, you can check her out on Instagram, Twitter and find it there as well. The final question is: What’s your definition of greatness?
Candice Kumai: Well, I’d like to think that greatness is that moment at the end of the day when you say, “Did I do good? Do I feel good? And can I go to bed with peace?” And I think, really, peace is the definition of greatness, for all.
Lewis Howes: There you go. Candice, thank you so much for coming on.
Candice Kumai: Pleasure! Thanks, Lewis! This was so good!
Lewis Howes: There you have it, my friends! If you enjoyed this one, make sure to share it out with your friends. The link is lewishowes.com/623. You can get the full show notes, watch the full video over there, check out all the quotables, the tweets, all those things are back at the website, lewishowes.com/623. Let me know what you think, tag me on Instagram, tag Candice as well, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this one.
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As always, you guys know what to do. Leave a review over on iTunes if you haven’t gone there yet. That’s applepodcast.com/greatness to leave a review, and spread the message of greatness. Spread some inspiration today. Smile at someone that is looking down. Give someone a hug who maybe needs one. Be kind to people.
You have the opportunity to change the world around you. You may not feel like you have an impact to change the world at scale, but you can make a difference to people’s lives around you. Everything you say, how you look at people, the things you do. All these things matter. Take one step forward to helping yourself improve your own life and improve the lives of [people] around you.
And as Cicero said, “Diseases of the soul are more dangerous and more numerous than those of the body.” Make sure you are taking care of your soul today. On a soul level, are you healthy? Are you loved? Are you calm? And are you at peace?
I love you so very much, and you know what time it is: It’s time to go out there and do something great!