What would you do if faced with an unfulfilling job, a tragedy at home, or a negative self-image that had been holding you back from true success your whole life? Bryan Falchuk tackled all three head on and in the process transformed his career and life - and worked off nearly 100 pounds at the same time. This coach, best-selling author, and founder of Newbodi.es did it by going to the underlying causes behind his issues.
And the techniques he used provide valuable lessons for overcoming your struggles at work and at home and achieving the personal and professional goals that matter to you - especially if they seem out of reach.
In this breakthrough interview, you’ll discover...
- How to uncover the opportunities hiding in plain sight
- Why self-compassion is the key to dreaming big and lasting change
- Tools for recognizing all the good in your life - no more dwelling on the negative
- The importance of letting go of the past to focus on what you can achieve today
- Ways to find the motivation you need to do the hard work necessary for success
Bryan Falchuk | Finding Opportunities in Your Biggest “Problems”
In this episode, we're talking with Bryan Falchuk. I'm really excited about this because all of our guests are all unstoppable, but Bryan has got some interesting things that we're going to talk about that will help you stay unstoppable. Bryan's got a really interesting story. He went from being obese and depressed to running marathons, which I can't even imagine that transformation. I can't wait to hear more about how he did that because I'm not even starting from that place and I can't even fathom how to get to the point where I could run a marathon. He's faced nearly losing his wife to illness, while their young son was there and present and watching. He has just changed all kinds of things in his life. While doing that, he has increased his education. He's moved into a senior executive position in a very successful company and he's got a best-selling book. He's a contributor to Inc. Magazine. The list kind of goes on and on and he's got a particular philosophy about how to accomplish all of that and I'm excited for him to share that with you. Bryan, welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. It’s great to have you here.
Thank you so much for having me, Steve. I'm really excited to be sharing with everyone.
You've got a really unique story. We've talked to a lot of successful business people, but out of all of them, I think you've got the most unique transformation. It's unique because you've transformed so many different parts of your life. I really want to dig into how you do that, but before we get into the meat of all of that, just to give everybody some context, tell us how you got to this stage in your career and in your life.
There's this mix of my personal and my professional that when you talk about I've transformed so many aspects or areas of my life, I don't see it that way. That's the whole point of how I got here is to me, you can't separate out individual components of your life. You're either going to transform the whole thing or you're going to end up wishing that you had because you keep falling back into the same old patterns. That's how I've looked at it. I've pushed myself professionally, in my education, my whole life at my core. I was unhappy. I was obese, depressed. I had a lot of inner issues that I wasn't dealing with and while I might achieve something in the short-term, I still wasn't getting there in the long term. I would keep falling back in and it took a couple of major things.
One is, you mentioned my wife's illness. In 2011, I was almost 33 years old. We were still really early in our marriage. We had a two-year old, really just starting out on a family journey. At some point, you lose your spouse. One of you is going to do it. One of you is going to lose your spouse. You just don't expect that when you're starting. You expect that you grow old together and then often, one goes first and that's something you have to deal with. You don't expect that in your early 30s. I was facing something I never expected to face and our amazing little boy was watching his mother go from being there 100% with him to being bedridden and wasting away and no one being able to help. I just looked at myself, I was miserable. Obviously, not happy with what was going on in my family situation. Who would be? I was really unhappy at work too. I was at a place that was becoming increasingly political and I'm just not cut that way.
My work life wasn't fulfilling and satisfying and enriching and my home life was really scary to put it bluntly. The two are colliding because the sense of pressure on me, medical bills piling up, her doctors had given up on her. I was looking at the very real possibility, better than possibility. It was looking like a reality that I'm going to be a single father in short order. That's a wake-up moment right there. Not only that, I'm the only earner in the family. How am I going to raise this little boy in a way that doesn't create lifelong issues for him? That losing a parent at a really young age can absolutely do and support us and have to continue on with this job that I'm not happy. It’s all these and’s, really negative and’s piling up. There was this moment where it all just hit me. It became crystal clear is this idea of who I am to this little boy? What I am and am not providing for him in terms of role model, life support, everything? I just found this clarity in my role as a father, the pride, the power of all of that. That really solidified purpose for me in a way that I just hadn't had throughout the rest of my life.
I woke up completely changed because it was so clear and so powerful. I started to put that power towards the purpose of some really specific goals tied to what I was unhappy about. I didn't tackle any one thing. I started to remake my life from this platform of motivation and purpose. I went in two directions. One was the positive. The goals that I was heading for, that ultimately led me to doing a marathon that brought my weight back down. All those health and wellness things led me down a different career path. The backwards part was I did the self-work that I couldn't face before because I was too down and too depressed and too dark and crushed to face some stuff from my childhood. I was the youngest of four in a divorcing family. I was the marriage saver and it didn't work. Right off the bat, I failed in my first role. I say that jokingly, but the reality is, as a little kid, you're dealing with these emotions as your parents are splitting up, there are a lot of fighting, there's uncertainty. Children just need to feel safe and secure and I didn't. I didn’t know how to deal with that. That's where the depression came from. That's why I started gaining weight because I would turn to food. How does a five-year old cope with emotions like that? They don't. My parents really couldn't be there for me because they had their own stuff.
Fast forward 20 years, 30 years, I still hadn't dealt with it. Of course, I'm still going to have these issues. I pointed towards some really specific goals and I took the newfound motivation, direction and power and focused in within myself to try to unlock like, "There are some stuff that's been going on that you've never faced and you faked it until you make it, but that only goes on so long." That's where my transformation comes from and that's why it's not about like, "I lost weight or I got a better job, or I this or I that." Those are all discrete things. Those are symptoms, of the underlying and it's dealing with that underlying that transforms my life. That's how I go about things now. That's what I teach when I coach and mentor people. That's what I talked about in my book and through my Inc. articles as well.
It takes a lot of courage to be honest enough with yourself about what needs to change and to take that holistic approach. It sounds like it was this overnight thing. You went to bed one night and you woke up with this determination to make the change. I imagine that there was a lot leading up to that and then once you made the decision, probably a pretty long road ahead of you before you realize the results of that. Can you talk a little bit about the process?
The road ahead of me is my entire life and I'm great with that. That can be too much for people. That's the point of excitement for me is I've got plenty more to tackle and I always will. I am excited by that because I feel achievement now instead of feeling like, "I got to deal with that now?" It's excitement about the next thing I get to tackle. It doesn't mean everything is easy.
One thing with that is that, I see people take two kinds of mindsets with it. They look at it like, "I've got this whole list of problems I got to go fix," and it's all about fixing the negative problem. I think to your point, the real challenge, the part of why we're here on this planet is growth. It doesn't stop when we turn eighteen and leave home. It's a lifelong process of growth. I think that's really what you just described is that by embracing that idea and being excited about what's my next stage of growth, "Look how far I've come and everything I've come through. What's next? This is going to be cool." That to me is a key mindset.
I love that you called out the fixer bit. I am a fixer. I'm a strategy consultant originally before I got into the corporate side. What my whole career was based on saying what's wrong and fixing it. A lot of people have that. We come in to fix problems. You take over from someone and you make things better. You're paid to spot what's wrong and to turn it around. You're not paid to dream. You're not paid to just come up with a whole new way of doing things. You may stumble upon that anyway, but most of us are rewarded for finding the problem and rooting it out and that's great. You can have a lot of success in that, but it does train your mind to work in a certain way. It trains you to be really critical and really negative. Maybe that's part of why I was feeling so down in my life.
My whole career, while I was successful, was very much like, "This is wrong." It's all the bad. Instead of looking at it as opportunity. You said I'm a Senior Executive in a successful business. The reason why I'd call it successful is, yes, we have things that we need to fix, but we have so much opportunity in front of us and that's where we're focused. We fixed stuff along the way, but it's much more about seizing opportunity. We're in an industry that grows about 1% a year. We're growing 25% to 35% and profitably. More profitable than most of our competitors. It's a mindset shift. We look at it as opportunity and there's a place for fixing, but I'm just much more interested in the opportunity of it.
Having that focus is huge. We talk with business owners all the time who are stressed because they feel like they got this whole basket full of problems and sometimes it takes an outsider to look at it and say, "You got these problems, but do you also see all the opportunity that's sitting here right in front of you? If you're focusing on the problems, you could go grab those opportunities and that in and of itself, gets you moving forward and the problems become smaller. It's when you sit there and dwell on the problems that you can't move.
That defines a lot of my response to the challenges in life. I had been about 100 pounds overweight initially as a kid. I lost weight. I gained a lot of it back. I never looked obese again. I always just say I looked American. No one would look at me and think twice. Whereas as a kid, people were like, "There's the fat kid." When I lost weight the second time, it wasn't about I'm fat and I need to be not fat. That's a very negative and fixed way of framing it is, "I don't feel good about my physical situation, how I feel, how I move, like all of it." Set that aside and more, "This is who I want to be physically." I had a place I was trying to get to. I did have a weight goal and all that, but it was more about a framing of myself in a different light. As someone who was in shape, active, felt good, uplifted. I started to use words like, "I'm an athlete," which felt so uncomfortable at the time. As I started to accept that more and more, I started to feel more empowered. You said about the marathon. I had a friend about a year before I decided to do it. He was like, "I've got a marathon in me before I hit 40." I was like, "That's ridiculous. Never in a million years. I have no interest in that."
As I allowed the framing to change in my mind, I allowed for the idea that I'm a runner. I hated running my whole life and I only got into it in 2012. Little by little, I run a couple miles at a time and I enjoyed it, but I still never really saw myself as a runner. I was like, "I'm an elliptical user who happens to run every now and then." As I allowed for the idea of being a runner to set in and being an athlete, suddenly it was like, "Could I do a marathon?" "Yeah. I think I could." It's going to take a lot of work and it's going to take dedication and training, but I've got that. I know how to make that happen because I've been doing it everywhere else. Why can't I allow that to exist in the running side? Once I looked at it that way, I never had the sense of impossibility around the marathon where it was just such an absurdity before. That's the way things go for me in general. Whether it's getting a new job or some physical thing. I do road cycling as well.
I picked it in the summer of 2013. I got my first road bike and I did my first century rides, 100 miles. I've never ridden more than 25 miles before. I was in the lead group the whole time. This idea that, "You can't do that. That's too far." You'll never do it. If you allow for the possibility, you might shock yourself. The truth is you have nothing to lose. I was telling someone the other day about my book. I was like, "What's my dream for? It’s to be on stage doing a TED Talk, sitting across the couch from Oprah in the middle of the woods talking about my philosophy with her." People will laugh at it. I was like, "I'm not sitting on a couch with Oprah right now." What do I have to lose by saying that? If it doesn't happen, big deal. It's not happening right now. If I don't say it, if I don't take the steps to at least try, it definitely won't happen. It's just flipping it. It's no problem solving. It's opportunity identifying and just allowing for the opportunity to have. It's not a TED Talk, but I have a TEDx Talk book. That's a step. It's one thing after the next one, when you just allow for possibilities and you focus yourself on that.
I find that so many people, they'll already discount themselves right from the start. They won't even allow that idea. They're like, "That's just not me." They may want to do it. They may have that thought, "Wouldn't that be cool or that guy’s so privileged because he's there or she's there." They don't understand often that it takes that first thought and as I'm listening to you, to me the real differentiator here is, "Am I going to spend my life running from or running to?" For somebody, it might not be that they need to run a marathon or that they want to, that may not be the thing. In everything that you're describing, to me, that's the theme that I hear is at some point you flipped it in your head and you stopped saying, "These are all the things that I don't like and how do I eliminate the things I don't like?" You just started saying, "Forget all those things. Here's what I want and I'm going to go do what I want."
We don't even know ourselves. That's the reality of it. There's one fundamental piece that was missing from my life that when I coach people, 100% of the people I coach is the same problem. It starts with before you even get to the motivation, it's about self-compassion and self-love. That can sound as hippie as you want it to sound, that's the God's honest truth. The fixer mentality is, "What's wrong with you?" It's like, "Can you just allow for a moment that there's nothing wrong with you? That you are okay. That you allow yourself to be good.” People are, "I could never do that." It's like you've just defined yourself as incapable, or I'm a depressed person, or I'm dysfunctional, or I'm not good at that, or you yell at your kid and I'm a bad parent. Are you a bad parent or did you just make a choice in the moment that you're now regretting? If you frame it as you're a bad parent, you're going to keep making bad choices. If you frame it as, "I blew up in my kid because I had a bad day and it's not their fault and I wish I had responded differently to the situation, or I could have shared my disappointment with them without screaming and yelling and calling them names." Then guess what happens the next time? You've allowed for the idea that maybe you're not a terrible person, maybe you're even a good person, you can respond differently. It's framing yourself.
I was talking to someone the other day. She's like, "I've never achieved anything," and she stuck trying to find a new job. She's been out of work for a while and she sees herself as a total failure across her entire life, literally. She's like, "I've never done anything." I was like, "Really? You've never done anything?" Do you have a college degree? "Yeah, but." I was like, "Not but. How did you do in school?" "I did really well. My GPA was 3.8 or something." I’m like, "Wait. You've done something. You achieved something. You were at a good school and you performed really well. Why doesn't that matter?" "It was this long ago or it was this." I was like, "Before you disclaim it, just pause for a moment. You got into a good school and you did well there. Period, end of discussion. Do people like you?" "Yeah. I have a lot of friends." "Do people come to you for support when they're having a tough time?" "Yeah. All the time." "What you're telling me is people like you, they respect you, they seek you out because they know that you're a good, caring, supporting person. Is that a bad thing?" "No. That's a really good thing, but it doesn't." "No, no, no. Don't give me that it doesn't matter. It matters. Just allow for a moment that you're a good person."
It takes that reframing of yourself, not as all these problems that need fixing, but as potentiality. The idea that you can be good enough and it sounds so hokey and it's like Stuart Smalley from SNL. Stare in the mirror and like, "I'm good enough." You can laugh at it but there's a very strong reality to that. The truth is our brains are not that smart. We can trick them. They don't know the difference between dream states and being awake. That self-talk becomes really, really powerful. The more you talk to yourself in this allowing way, you start to create possibility to then start attacking those goals.
I'm a big believer in the idea that there really is no reality, that we create our reality. The desk is real, the computer's real, the internet that we're talking through is probably real. I think Al Gore invented it. So much of what we believe is real, is just the story we tell ourselves. It's all interpretation. Things happen and then we attach some meaning or value or judgment to it and that's made up in our heads completely. It's really difficult though sometimes to separate from that. Looking back, you can't see it in the frame on the video, but I've got four quotes on my wall and one of them that I look at the most often because it's, I think the most difficult one to live through is, "By three methods may we learn wisdom. First by reflection," which is a Confucius saying. I don't think we do enough reflection in this society. Even though I'm very aware of it, I find it very difficult to do because it requires that you turn things off and be still and just allow yourself to re-experience the events of the day and do it from a distance. At that point, interpret or just allow yourself to observe them if you can. Which I find is very difficult to do. I think these are all really, really important things.
We're here with Bryan Falchuk. Bryan has been sharing his transformation and as he's described, it's not just a transformation in one or two areas of his life, but of his entire life, business and personal and health and every other way. Bryan, I know you wrote a book and, in that book, you’ve got your approach to how to make that transformation happen. I'd love to get into some specifics so people can take what we've talked about so far and begin to put it into practice in their own lives.
The book teaches this philosophy that I've been working with myself and with people that I coach and it's called Do a Day. It's essentially about let go of the past, the mistakes, the judgment, the experiences, don't fear the future. All the things that are yet to come, they're not happening right now. Focusing on them doesn't do you any good at the moment, and that doesn't necessarily mean you're going to achieve something right here, right now. You free yourself of that, the anxiety, the judgment, the fear that‘s pulling your attention away from what you have to achieve in the moment. Then make your choices right here, right now in pursuit of your goals. It starts with a lot of what we talked about in the first part of the show around the self-love, finding your true motivation. I worked through that with people in the book. I asked a number of introspective questions. I can't give you the answer and it's not a workbook. People are like, "What's the equation?" It's not to answer question A, question B, add them together and then that's your mission statement. It's like, "I can probe and I can push, you get to go off and do the work."
My book's not very long. It's about 135 pages. That's the point. Don't spend the time reading my book. You'll get through it quickly. Go off and spend the time doing the sub-work. I asked these questions and the simple one that if I had to boil it down is, "What you will always care about no matter what?" When you answer it, you probably haven't really answered it. Ask yourself, "Why?" It's like, "My reason for working is because I need to be the breadwinner at home." "Why do you need to be the breadwinner at home?" You'll go through these series of deeper answers until you get down to the core and it probably isn't what you thought it was when you made that first answer. Really getting tough and introspective with yourself. That's my role as a coach really is to be that annoying, nagging, why asker, just to keep pushing people to be more honest with themselves. You find that motivation and then you define the goals that tie to the things in your life that you seek to be better in. Going back to what we're saying before, it's not where you've been a failure, it's where you want to achieve.
It's not, "I'm fat. I don't want to be fat. I'm got fired. I don't want to get fired." "How does not wanting to get fired get you to a good job?" I promise you, if you put that down in your cover letter, like, "I'm applying for this job because I don't want to be fired." You're probably not going to get an interview. That's my guess there. For me it was some physical stuff. It was about recognizing that I'm in a job situation that ultimately is not where I want to be. Understanding what I do want to be in and how do I get myself there. It was the self-work that I need to do on the emotional side to unpack the things from my childhood that I know we're defining a lot of the today in me. Just generally trying to be a better support to my wife who I don't think we mentioned this, she is still alive. Not to spoil it, but that's an important fact. We are still a family of three, really crucial and that's because our lives have changed dramatically for the better through what she went through.
I set these big goals, the weight goal. I had gotten up to 222, I'm about one 180 now. Roughly 45 pounds overweight. Not 100 anymore, but almost halfway back to where I had been. It was the summer, so I said, "By the end of the year I want to get down to 185." I think that's a fair goal. I plotted it out, so I knew roughly what it meant per week, and because I felt this invigoration. When I went to work out, I didn't just get on the elliptical or whatever machine set the timer and open a magazine or turn on a show or something. The next thing I know the thing's beeping because it's over and maybe I've sweat, maybe I haven't. I went in with purpose. I chose an interval program and when the interval hit, I really pushed myself and I found itself reinforcing. The better I did, the better I did. Each success led to another success because all of the sudden I was looking at myself in terms of possibilities and I saw them shaping up and that's really exciting.
Each day, I didn't look at, "I still have 43 pounds to lose or whatever." I look at now, "I'm going to work out. I'm going to do this. I'm going to do that. I'm going to do that." Not, "I'm going to work out every day for the rest of my life. That's a lot of days. That's a lot of weight that I have to lose or keep off." That's the future piece of it. It's really crushing. I'm a vegan and I did it in one day. That's the time when Do a Day got its name. I was reading a book by this vegan. I've done others and just never really got inspired enough to give it a try because I was so focused on what about my son's birthday and who want me to have cake with him or this business trip and everyone's going to Ruth's Chris and I'm not going to be able to eat anything. What do I do then? I’m driving across Indiana and the only things I can eat are at gas stations and I'm pretty sure they don't have lots of fresh vegan options.
It hit me. I'm reading this book and I'm like, "I'm not going on a business trip. It's not my son's birthday. I don't have a work dinner. None of those things is happening tomorrow. None of that's going to happen, why don't I just try it for a day.” I literally said out loud, "I can do a day." I released all of that future anxiety and I went for it and I found it's way easier than I thought it was. All that fear and like the future issues that I hadn't foreseen that weren't happening, those were what’s keeping me from doing it. When I released that, I was able to go for it and found it was easy. There are times where I've not been Vegan. I'm not 100% Vegan a 100% of the time. We went to Disney World, where the character breakfast and I had waffles with ears on them.
I wasn't planning on it. I was Vegan every day except that day. If you want them to, they're really good at accommodating alternative diets and because my wife is on a really restrictive diet, we had to do that anyway. Shockingly, it was super simple for us. For me, I'm the only Vegan in the family. What I didn't do is say, "I just had that waffle. That's it. I'm done. I've ruined everything. I made a bad decision and now it's over." You hear this with people who are on a diet and they're like, "We went out to the bar last night after work because Jimmy's retiring and I had a beer and three nachos and a buffalo wing. I destroyed everything. All the weight I lost is out the window. I went home crying and I ate a pizza and two cheesecakes and drink a bottle of coke." Then you did do some damage, at the bar, not so much. Instead of beating yourself up and saying, "I've ruined everything." Put it in context. Understand why you made that choice. Maybe it wasn't for a bad reason. Maybe there was an emotional reason for it, or a social reason for it. This is the situation I was in, I made a decision. I wish I hadn't made, looking back on it, but I understand that. I'm going to put it where it is and I'm going to grow from it. You don't have to throw everything away because of the past.
I think some of that comes from just a habit that we seem to have gotten into. Maybe it's worldwide, maybe it's just in Western culture in the US, we like to label things. We like to say, "I'm a Vegan."If I'm a Vegan and then I do some behavior that is not congruent with that label that we've attached to ourselves, what we did is we created this really difficult to live in black and white world where there's right and there's wrong and it's a series of absolutes. When in reality, life is really gray. There are reasons that you might make a decision to do something that make total sense and are in total alignment with overall where you're going, not where this one little tiny label for this part of your life might place you. I think it's important to understand that. I appreciate you sharing that experience, that side of it. We all go through that personally, in business particularly for entrepreneurs or anybody that's working in a high level in a business.
The two parts of that life gets so closely intertwined because of what you're asked to do in those roles that you've got to maintain some flexibility and some perspective on this is a total package here. I'm optimizing for the total equation, not for this one little line. You've taken this philosophy and you've outlined it in your book and I want to make sure we tell people where they can get ahold of the book and where they can find more about you. You've written a whole bunch of articles on Inc.com. I was going through them. I hadn't realized this, apparently, I've been following you for a long time because I've read a bunch of your articles. In fact, I have your Warren Buffet article on Columnists printed and sitting on my desk.
I'm waiting for him to reach out and be like, "I'm not a Buddhist. Why did you say that?" Probably not going to happen.
A great article though. Definitely worth the read and you've got some great stuff up there. First, where's the best place for them to go find more about what you're doing and this philosophy that you've developed?
The book is called Do a Day and it's a book. If you go to DoADayBook.com. I've got everything there so you can find all the social media links, links to Inc. Magazine. My names a lot of fun to spell, it's probably easier if you just go to Do A Day Book and link off of there. The book’s everywhere. You can get it at Do A Day Book. You can find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble. It's on Kindle and Nook and Google Play and iBooks. It's on Audible. It's super easy to find and it's not expensive and it's not long. The point in writing the book was not to sell a ton of books and make a ton of money. It's just I love what I do with the coaching. I love what I do helping people change their lives and I can't help everybody. Even if I did this 24/7. I put the book out to spread the message. However, people want to get it, makes me happy. The Inc. articles are all inspired by the book. You can get a feel for it that way too. For your audience, I want to extend a discount on the paperback. The e-books are still cheaper, but a lot of people like having that physical book. I try to help out with that $4 off, just go to DoADayBook.com/UnstoppableCEODiscount. You can get the code to buy the book at $4 off.
Thanks for doing that. I really appreciate it.
It's my pleasure.
Bryan, this has been fantastic. We could probably go all day on these topics and unfortunately, at some point people would stop listening because we'd be going on and on. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your philosophy. I think the things that you've shared with us today are really important and I'm glad that you took the time out to spend it with us, to invest it with us. This has been fun.
Absolutely my pleasure. I'd love to come back. I've just started working on my next book that I think would also be really interesting. At least for that, it'd be great to come back and share with you again.
When you're ready to launch that, come back and we'll have another conversation about the next evolution of your thinking on this stuff.
Thanks and it’s great to have you on.