Have you struggled with balancing your relationship and business life? Is it hard to prioritize? Do you feel like you’re always falling short?
Tom Bilyeu, CEO and co-founder of Impact Theory, had a lot of amazing advice on how to succeed in your business and relationships. He and his wife have a strong marriage and working relationship after 20 years, and they are building their next billion-dollar company.
In this episode, we discuss the types of personalities that Tom feels are intoxicating, the keys to relaxation and balance, and advice on marriage and creating rituals for success.
Tom Bilyeu is a billion-dollar entrepreneur who built his success from the ground up. He is the CEO and co-founder of Impact Theory, a media studio created to influence the cultural subconscious by producing empowering nonfiction and fiction content across multiple mediums.
He was also the co-founder of Quest Nutrition, which he helped turn into the second-fastest-growing Inc 500 billion-dollar company, increasing the company’s worth by 57000%.
Tom’s life, beliefs, rules, and thoughts push him toward his master plan of becoming bigger than Walt Disney. Let’s dive in!
One of Tom’s passions is the brain, and how the lessons we learn from neuroscience can be applied to so many parts of life including business, relationships, and feelings of fulfillment.
He says one of the biggest lessons he has mastered in the last few years is the ability to self-soothe. He didn’t realize how uncommon of a trait that was, but it has helped him handle tough situations with grace and steadiness of mind.
One of the many marvels of the brain is that 50% is hardwired, but the other 50% is actually malleable. Brain plasticity is a real thing, and it gives us the ability to change our mindsets, our habits, behaviors, emotions, frameworks and so much more.
And this awareness of being able to change his brain is one way that Tom has been able to attain amazing success.
“I don’t know that I’ll ever end up being the greatest at anything, but acting like I can and like really practicing and moving through the world like I can become the greatest, has propelled me forward.” –Tom Bilyeu
He has labeled this mindset, “the only belief that matters,” meaning that if he puts the time and energy into gaining a new skill, he will actually get better at that thing.
“That’s become sort of my obsession: getting people to understand you don’t read a book to check a box. You don’t go to school to impress your parents. You do it because of the skill that you will acquire. It lets you do something in the world that other people can’t do or you wouldn’t be able to do. And that has a material impact on your life.” –Tom Bilyeu
Tom and I are very similar in this way. We both talk about skills and acquiring new skills a lot in our daily lives. It’s valuable to me because I see how a new skill set can transform people’s lives. When you think about a phase in life where you have broken down, or failed, and you are trying to pick up the pieces, that’s when you should think about the skills you are lacking that could benefit you in the next phase.
I was broke, sleeping on my sister’s couch in my early twenties. I had a lot of free time, so I just obsessed over skills. When you learn a difficult skill —, one that you don’t think you can accomplish — and you actually master it, you feel unstoppable. I did!
For Tom, he has learned how to turn his fears into superpowers, which is an amazing skill.
“My fear was connecting with people. As a teenager, I learned that in order to become successful in my life, I had to learn how to connect with people and build relationships. So I turned a fear into a superpower of building relationships, then translating that into interviewing skills. It was never my gift from birth. It was a skill I had to acquire..” –Tom Bilyeu
Another one of his fears has to do with success. When Tom helped build Quest Nutrition into a $500 billion company, he knew he had achieved great success. The question was, could he do it again? That’s when he and his wife founded Impact Theory.
When it comes to skills in the workplace, some of the best advice is to not just hire for skills, but to hire for culture. The famous basketball coach, John Wooden said to not look for the best player, but the best fit. Tom really believes this to be true in his experience.
When you get somebody who you can really relate to and who can say hard things and you know they are coming from a good place, it elevates you. And it’s fun to be around. As social animals, we just love that stuff.” –Tom Bilyeu
Another trait Tom really appreciates in his employees is the ability to be a relentless problem solver. Those are people who are “worth their weight in gold.” They will educate themselves over time, are proactive, and are not afraid to speak with power.
“I remember at one point in my career, someone said to me, ‘Slow down so I can lead,’ and I remember being so incensed that this person would allow themselves to say those words, like that’s so anathema to who I am. But I want people that will make me sweat. I want people that are trying to be so good for their own reasons that I’m like, whew, keeping up with this person is intense. That’s intoxicating.” –Tom Bilyeu
Tom admits that he makes mistakes routinely, and that he has made huge mistakes with building culture. His wife, who also works with him, sometimes can be his eyes and ears for him.
“Lisa really had to show me. She was like, ‘When you speak, people don’t hear Tom Bilyeu the teammate, they hear Tom the CEO. Some of your staff has only ever interacted with you when you’re on camera. So you’re their boss, you pay their paycheck, but you’re also a celebrity in a very micro way.” — Tom Bilyeu
So Tom pivoted the way that he built a culture in his company based on that feedback. He wanted it to be more of a partnership feeling at work.
Working with his spouse, Lisa, has been one of the best decisions Tom has made in his life. It’s not a good decision for everyone, but the strength of their marriage was a good foundation for becoming colleagues.
“When Lisa and I created Impact Theory, we said to the lawyers: ‘Make this the ultimate divorce nightmare.’ The lawyer said, ‘No one of you should take 51%. Trust me. Everybody thinks that this is all gonna be sunshine and rainbows.’ Lisa was like, ‘Yay, absolutely Tom should have 51% and I’ll take 49%.’ And I said, ‘Over my dead body, you are taking 50%. This is half your company and you have earned this over the life of our marriage.’ Like if my wife cheated on me with an entire football team, I would still give her half because she has earned that half, and becoming a horrible wife does not negate her from earning that half.” –Tom Bilyeu
Tom also understands his strengths and weaknesses in balance with his wife’s strengths and weaknesses.
“Lisa is an unimaginably good executor. And she has also amazing visionary ideas just as I know how to execute. But when you look at the dominant trait, I am dominant when it comes to vision, she’s dominant when it comes to execution. So if it’s something around execution and I think she’s crazy, we’re going to go with her idea because I know she is the right person to listen to.” –Tom Bilyeu
Tom always puts his marriage before his business, and that is what has kept it so successful. He has his priorities in place, and it’s inspiring to see how much he loves his wife and outwardly proclaims that love.
“If your relationship is high functioning, you’ll just learn the lessons in a business context, right? So a marriage is way more high stakes in business. All that’s at stake in a business is money, but all that’s at stake in a marriage is a shared life. And there’s no way to fast-track that. So you can break up and start over, but if you stay together for 10 years and then you break up, the only way to get to an 11-year relationship is to start back over at one. Whereas by then, that marriage would have been a 20-year marriage. So with my value system, the thing that I protect most ferociously is my wife and my marriage.” –Tom Bilyeu
Protecting his marriage “ferociously” has garnered Tom and Lisa some public attention. They often give marriage advice during talks and interviews and want other couples to be able to become high functioning together and take the “D” word (or divorce) off the table forever. Tom knows he will still love Lisa more than any other woman when they are in their 80s because of the foundations they have laid, and the way they put each other first.
During this interview, Tom talks frequently about his passion for intelligence. He thinks he meets the “minimum requirements” for intelligence, but he wants to leave a huge legacy and “play with the big boys.” Impact Theory is all about storytelling, and he wants to build a media company that is bigger than Disney. His calling is big, and he is going after it with everything he has.
“My greatest insecurity has been the same since I was 12 — that I’m not smart enough to play with the big boys.” –Tom Bilyeu
When I asked him who the “big boys” are, his shortlist includes Steven Speilberg, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Albert Einstein, and Walt Disney.
His definition of smart is “the ability to process raw data quickly,” and he says he routinely meets people who can do that better than him. What he loves about Walt Disney though, is that he didn’t need to be the smartest: he was simply the one that didn’t give up when everyone else did.
I’m going to enjoy seeing where Tom goes next. I believe he will be unstoppable. I asked him about the three truths he would leave behind to the world after he is gone, and here is what he said:
If you found value in what Tom and I talked about today, please tag Tom Bilyeu and me, Lewis Howes, on Instagram with your key takeaways. Please also go to Apple Podcasts, give it a five-star rating, and don’t forget to subscribe!
I always ask my guests about their definition of greatness at the end of each interview and this is what Tom had to say:
“My definition of greatness is leaving it all out on the field. You can’t guarantee the results, but did you really play to win? Greatness to me is not about achieving something. It’s about sincerely pursuing.” –Tom Bilyeu
If you’re ready to learn about the mindset of success in marriage and business, you can check out the entire podcast here. You can also browse the entire library of podcasts on The School of Greatness! Until next time!