In this episode, we have a guest speaker Tom Bilyeu.
Tom is someone I consider to be both a peer and a mentor who tremendously helped me in my journey – singularly, I can point to him and three other people who have led me to the place I am today. Through absorbing their content, being mentored by them, being in their communities, groups, programs, and the whole nine. He is the person in my life; I hope (A) will continue to be that person in my life, but (B) also become a person in your life outside of me, and this shows Think Unbroken that you can also look towards.
See show notes at: https://www.thinkunbrokenpodcast.com/e130-the-theory-of-impact-with-tom-bilyeu-cptsd-and-trauma-healing-coach/#show-notes
In this episode, we have a guest speaker Tom Bilyeu.
Tom is someone I consider to be both a peer and a mentor who tremendously helped me in my journey – singularly, I can point to him and three other people who have led me to the place I am today. Through absorbing their content, being mentored by them, being in their communities, groups, programs, and the whole nine. He is the person in my life; I hope (A) will continue to be that person in my life, but (B) also become a person in your life outside of me, and this shows Think Unbroken that you can also look towards.
Tom is a filmmaker and serial entrepreneur who chased money hard for nearly a decade and became emotionally bankrupt.
He realized that the struggle is guaranteed, but the money is not, so you damn well better love. The struggle to that end, he and his partner sold their technology company and founded Quest Nutrition. A company predicated not on money but rather on creating value for people.
The company's mission was to end metabolic disease, one of two pandemics facing the planet, despite not focusing on money. According to Ink Magazine, quest exploded, becoming a billion-dollar business in roughly five years, making it the second-fastest-growing company in North America.
If you align yourself with the right people, your life will change, your life will transform, your life will be different, but you're going to have to invest time, effort, energy, or money because if you want a moment like this moment that I'm having in real-time that you're about to experience with a person that from me, changed my life forever. When you understand what you are capable of doing, you will be fucking limitless. The only way you're ever going to understand what you're capable of doing is by facing your fear, gaining skills that have utility, leveraging those, and building the thing that points you towards the direction you want to go in your life. That is the only fucking way that this works. I'll tell you right now. If you never listen to another podcast in your life, listen to this one because we have a parlay and a back-and-forth that I know will bring a tremendous amount of value to your life.
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Hey! What's up, Unbroken Nation! Hope that you're doing well, wherever you are in the world today. I am super excited to be here with my guest, someone I consider to be both a peer and a mentor, Mr. Tom Bilyeu. Tom, my friend, what is going on in your world today?
Tom: That's a big question. I am just excited to be here, which I will tell you is the highlight.
Michael: Oh man, that means the absolute world to me. So for context before we dive in, I want to say this – So I came across you about six years ago, I was on the backside of what I would call my rock bottom where I was just trying to figure out what was next after kind of pulling myself from the ashes. And I came across this YouTube channel called “Inside Quest” and there was this guy called Tom Bilyeu and he was interviewing Tony Robbins, and I was like, okay, this is interesting, I know a little bit about Tony Robbins, let me dive in here and see what this is about and something happened at that moment that transformed my life in a way that has led me to where I am today, and it was this, you said Inside Quest, the goal is to help people get out of the Matrix and it was like, holy shit! Somebody else gets it because I remember being like 10 years old, seeing the matrix for the first time and that becoming a bastion, a safe haven for me and me thinking about this idea that through homelessness and trauma and abuse and all the things that I went through, somehow we're in the matrix. And I used to tell that to people and they would fucking laugh at me and then I heard you say that and I was like – okay, you get that and in that interview, which I watch very closely. Tony said something to you that to me made so much sense that it profoundly changed what was next in my life and he said; “At your core, you are a giver and that is why you are prospering.” Talk to me about your journey to getting to this place, to being a giver, Tom.
Tom: All right, so I know you've heard me talk about this before, but I really want to drive home for people, you're having a biological experience. So you are a product of evolution and I'm perfectly fine with God kicking off the evolutionary path. So I don't think that denigrates spirituality in any way, but you're having a biological experience and so there are things that feel good and there are things that feel bad and when you grow to understand what the evolutionary triggers are for the things that feel well good, then it becomes very simple to align your life with those things.
And we are a social creature and plugging us into a social Matrix, but is not the Matrix away, but like it, you know, an interwoven lattice if you will of realizing that we're not separate from each other in how our minds work and I heard that I think it was Lisa Feldman Barrett that said to me “We have a nature that requires nurture.”
So we have this interplay from the moment we are born to play off of other people and once you realize okay, I'm in a dance with everybody and part of that dance is adding value and when you add value to other people's lives whether you want it to be true or not, it really gives you something. And so realizing through business, ironically that I just enjoyed my life more, when I felt like the things that I was fighting for help, not only myself but helped other people as well. And so I had a moment of crisis in a business where I was like, this isn't fun and no matter how much money I make this isn't fun the way that I'm doing it now and so I push back against it emotionally said, I'll never do that again. I'm only going to do things where I can add value to other people's lives and of course wanting to add value also to my own life, but realizing at that moment that you can add value to your own life by adding value to other people's lives and that just suddenly put me in alignment with certainly my own idiosyncrasies in terms of how I'm wired, we're not all wired the same and so that suddenly brought me into alignment with the things that I was getting a natural neurochemical response from.
And so it shifted me into a period in a business where I realized that showing up in trying to make money wasn't motivating enough to fight through the hard times but showing up to at that time fight for my mom and my sister was motivating. And so I could build a business around something that felt like I was fighting for these two people that I really loved and then extends that now to Impact Theory, and it was shifting sort of who my prime focus was to other people in my life that had struggled with something completely different.
And so by doing that and feeling like I'm showing up in fighting for these people that feels really good. It also just switches your brain to optimize for value creation instead of value extraction. And then the irony of ironies is we're living through a period right now, which I hope lasts forever, where the more value you can create in somebody else's life that you can actually enrich yourself, financially, spiritually, in every conceivable way.
And so, you know, historically people that have been tremendously successful in business have been at sideways as if they had perpetrated some, you know, sort of great crime and maybe that was true in the past but now, in a hyper-connected world being a good person is the most powerful marketing vehicle that exists.
So, it is an era where I can thrive as an entrepreneur. I would not have thrived, you know, 30 years ago or 50 years ago, we're being extractive might have been a better technique from a get wealthy perspective. I just wouldn't have worked at that period.
Michael: Do you feel like so with that said, and I totally resonate with that because I look at the transformation of my life, very much being in deciding and making a decision to become of service to other people. And you said something really fascinating me, where I recognized one time, the parlays on our journey and this really interesting way that I think only you will get from this journey of you doing stand-up comedy, to selling prepaid legal, to have a photography business, digging in your couch for change, to go to a job interview sleeping in a closet on this blow-up mattress, this whole fucking thing, right? I like – dude on par have experienced pretty much all those, same things. And the thing that I recognized in that was I was still always looking forward to what was next, I was just always trying to figure out how to get there. What was it really that happened? Was there a pivotal moment or a turning point and when you recognize that value creation was the way that you were going to change your life?
Tom: Definitely, so I was showing up every day for almost a decade just saying I’m here to get rich and it was it didn't seem like a problem, like – I didn't recognize that why I was doing something mattered as much as it does. And so finally, I was just so fed up, my wife had pulled me aside and said, look, you're working through her lens, what it seemed like was your working so much, you're unhappy and because you're unhappy and working so much, it's now damaging the marriage and when she said, it's damaging the marriage, I was like, whoa! Time to pump the breaks, I need to really look at this and realize that I wasn't unhappy because I was working so much. I was unhappy because of what I was working on. And in trying to address what I was working on, you start asking the, why am I working this hard question? And once you get to WHY, now, you've got a foundation that you can build on. So at the time my language was, I want to feel alive and that was I had realized that I'd sort of numbed myself chasing money that it didn't make me feel alive, it took more energy than it gave. And so I wanted to do something that gave me more energy than it took and that brought me back to creativity to writing, you know, and it only ends up lasting like an hour because my partner's end up calling me and because I quit, I went in and quit and said, look, here's your equity back. I'm not going to cross the finish line. I don't want anything for this. I'm just going to move to some remote town in Greece, that was the plan somewhere where I could cut my expenses down to virtually nothing and I'd just write all day film and TV.
And at that moment the sense of liberation of orienting, my life around things that are fun even if I'm losing that, became the rallying cry for me and in mindset circles, at least, you know, whatever 15-20 years ago. Everyone was saying the question you need to ask is what would you do if you knew you couldn't fail? And asking that question leads you to do things is that like – our outcome-driven versus asking a fundamentally different question, which is what would I do and love every day even if I were failing? And so because I knew that no one could guarantee my success but the struggle was guaranteed it just really shifted my mindset. So I went in, I do the whole quitting thing, I'm driving home, my partner's call and say hold on. We actually feel the same like we want to feel alive too.
So what's going to be that thing that we can all do together, but because I had done the hard part, which I was actually really ashamed of going in and quitting, but I just knew I wasn't prepared to feel that way anymore. I wasn't going to go back now that I'd already done the hard part which was you know, looking at these two guys that I loved and cared for very deeply and say sorry like I can't keep doing this. I wasn't going to go back into a miserable situation. So I was like for me to do this, it's got you know, I'm putting these boundaries, it's got to look like XYZ. And so for me, that was creating value for other people, it was building something based on a passion, something that I knew that I could fight for every day, I get kicked in the face over and over and over and still have a deep sense of fulfillment. And so that became the north star that manifests as quest nutrition, learn incredibly powerful lessons doing that, take all those learnings and now and building the sort of ultimate thing that I never planned to sell, this is my forever company and it's optimized from the ground up to be the thing that I will love fighting for until my dying breath.
Michael: Yeah. I love it man, and it's been profound, impactful, intended in my life. Because I think about this often I read a book once and I cannot for the life of me remember, whose book it was but they said, “When you learn something, it's your obligation to teach it to other people.”And that sat with me in this really beautiful way. As you've gone through this journey, what do you think are probably the precursors that have helped you step into and attain not only the learner’s mindset but the growth mindset? Because I would have to think, at some period of your life, you were in your own way. I think that's true for all of us and I don't want to put words in your mouth if I'm wrong, but we're they are certain steps that you took to actually adopt this understanding of possibility in your life?
Tom: No doubt. So the good or bad news is that you know, Carol Dweck and the book mindset did not exist when I was going through all of this stuff. You know, I'm very excited for the generation coming up behind me that have the internet, they just grow up with all of this incredible information. What I had thought was nature's gift which was pain and suffering and so I was in deep emotional pain in my early to mid-20s and my pain was largely around that I didn't believe I was smart enough to achieve the dreams that I'd had since I was a little kid and that was a very dark and difficult realization. And the thing was, it was actually true, I just didn't have the word yet. So I wasn't smart enough yet. I wasn't good enough yet. I wasn't talented enough yet. And because I didn't realize that I could get smarter better faster stronger, it felt like – I had been cursed and there's this amazing moment in this movie called Amadeus, this is based on real characters, so Mozart, obviously Mozart Amadeus, and his contemporary guy named Salieriand in that movie Salieri laments to God saying, why make me just good enough to realize I'll never be as good as Mozart? And I remember that hit me like a lightning bolt in a way, that's funny now, but it wasn't funny at the time where I was like – yes, that's exactly how I feel. Why make me just smart enough to realize, I'll never be smart enough to do the things that I want to do? And that was crippling for no man, five or six years, I give us a really long period of time where it seemed self-evident to me that I wasn't smart enough to do what I wanted to do.
And so I didn't even try and so my life was just getting smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller to the point where, after graduating from film school, second in my class, by the way, which is a whole another thing. Graduated second in my class from arguably the most prestigious Film School in the world and I'm selling video games retail in like some hole-in-the-wall shop, you know, deep in the valley here in LA. And I remember the owner of that company actually pulled me aside and was like, what are you doing? Like – you could do more. But I longed for that. My ego was so fragile that I needed to be in a position where somebody would pull me aside and say, what are you doing, kid? You're smarter than this. And because I needed to feel smart, I just realized, oh, if I go put myself in these small rooms where people don't have dreams and they're not as smart as me that I'll get that feedback that I want and it was so self-destructive and so unnerving like – I used to, and I mean, look, I don't want to paint, you tell these stories and while they all are true, it becomes a mythologize version of your own life, but I would come home and some days just literally lay on the carpet, just lay, face down on the carpet. So, I'm like, what am I doing with my life? Like – if you've seen when Harry met Sally and he just sits there and moans, that's literally what it was like. I was so unhappy and had no sense of how I was ever going to get out of this. And so it just felt like my life was this one-way street to mediocrity.
And then I started reading about the brain and so I don't remember unfortunately what gave me the insight around, look into this idea called “Neuroplasticity”and it was being really debated at the time.
Now, of course, we call it a growth mindset, but it didn't have that name back then. It was debated in science because this is like – the late 90s early thousands and I decided, one day that I was going to act as if brain plasticity were real and to try to learn things and get better. And couple that with at that moment, I happened to get a job teaching, which of course, I got out of this, sort of desperation of those that can do and those that can't teach, which is a whole thing and teaching is this incredible profession, but at the time, I did not have the right mindset around it. So I wasn't doing it thinking, oh my God, this is gonna be this incredible way for me to prove to myself, that brain plasticity is real, but that's what it ended up being, that what I realized was, okay, I'm reading about the brain. That's a hugely transformational thing in my life.
I start reading about the brain and how it works and at the same time, I'm teaching these students how to make their films better. And so I end up having this aha moment of wait a second if I can teach the students and their films are objectively getting better, why can't I teach myself the same thing? And so that was that light bulb moment of oh my God, you actually can get better. And so it became this like and of course, it's not like one moment and now all of a sudden like I'm on the right path, but it gave me the signals of, hey like you need to keep pushing yourself, you need to keep trying, you need to keep reading and studying and like – really what I would now say (ABL) Always Be Learning, but it started me down that path of like – hey, don't think that you read your last book in college, start reading more now, start getting into this, start listening to people that give me what at the time just felt like hope. So, anybody that was like, of course, we can get better. I was like – I want to spend more time with this person. I want to be around people that are pushing me to get better, that are pushing themselves to get better. And then, dude, the nail in the coffin, I started going to the gym and when you realize, wait for a second, I can't pick up a 50-pound weight and curl it today, but two months from now, I can and you look at your arms and they're getting bigger and you're getting stronger and you can move weight that you couldn't move before because the brain is invisible. And so it doesn't feel like anything is changing because it's happening, so slowly. But if you're in the gym and you're keeping a journal and you can see four months ago, I was lifting 25s, and now I'm lifting 50s, you're like damn, like – it really becomes this thing. And then if you're married to my wife, she's like touching your muscles and it's like, oh my God, like this is so sexy. And so it just creates this reinforcing thing of like, hey, I know I am seeing the change in my body. I'm pretty sure I'm changing in my mind, all of this like plasticity ability to change become so tangible that then I just became a friend and it was like how fast can I learn and we get into sort of the modern era of Tom that people know me for of like, always be learning, optimize every for, getting the transition from potential to actual skill set, going and happening and then using that skill set in the real world and getting this feedback loop going off, I'm now capable of things that other people are not capable of and that allows me to do things and accomplish things that other people can't do and accomplish and then that changed my life, but it really was, that whole sort of messy like, having to read about the brain and figure out that just because I wasn't smart today, I mean I couldn't be a little smarter tomorrow.
Michael: Yeah, man, dude, I literally have goosebumps hearing that because for me that was very much in line with my experience and for your words, you always reference as a change of reference. I thinking about the way that you think about the possibility in your life. And for me, I think about visualization and journaling every single day, it's a part of my habits, my routine, it is led me to accomplish goals that took me four years, seven years, getting Tom Bilyeu on Think Unbroken, right? It all started with me visualizing and putting it into the world what role has like – journaling and like practical tools, journaling, meditation, visualization. What kind of role has that played in your change of reference of possibility in your life?
Tom: Umm, I'd be lying if I said that those things changed my frame of reference, but once I change my frame of reference, I started doing those things.So, whatever is the chicken and the egg for people, like – do your thing, I think everybody should be journaling daily. I think people should be meditating daily. I think people need to do those things because they will help you process through all of the things you're going through so that you can in Raid Darius' terms create principles, so it's what he calls another one of these. So life is but a string of things that somebody somewhere at some point in time is already gone through and the odds, they are have written it down, but certainly in your own life as you go through things, translate them into principles so you don't have to rethink through everything, every time you encounter it that you just know when I encounter this, I deal with it like that. Now, you want to stay flexible in your thinking and things will evolve over time, but having that baseline of like – cool, I'm starting from this frame of reference and recognizing that your frame of reference is constructed, it is not objective truth, which many people mistake it for and I think this is the great tragedy of the inner cities is they their become ideas about what the pass out of the inner cities, are for people ideas around money, ideas around success are passed down generation by generation and it becomes this cycle of a poor frame of reference. If instead, the just constant unending, unending message was you can do virtually anything, you set your mind to, that you will run out of time in your life long before you run out of potential and that you should just go and be learning every day, something that matters towards the life that you want to live. And if you do that every day, that skill set will stack and it will allow you to change class, to get out of that neighborhood, to go do whatever the hell that you want to do.
The problem is that we're not teaching people that like – day one if literally there's this guy named Geoffrey Canada who I'm so desperate to get on Impact Theory and have been stalking him for years and he realized – one of the most important things in anybody's life is the number of words they hear before the age of five.
And so because it impacts the development of the language centers of your brain. So I was like goddamn when you really start to look at things is why I'm obsessed with this idea, you're having a biological experience, your brain works some kind of way and if you fail to acknowledge the way that your brain works, then you won't do things like – learn every day because that allows you to create new skills and skills have real-world implication and you get paid, this is an Elon Musk quote, “You get paid and proportion to the difficulty of the problems you solve.”
So if you want to make more money, solve harder problems, how do you solve harder problems? Learn more stuff. And so getting people to be on this relentless quest to learn more is really the key to all of this.
Michael: Yeah, and I'd like to parlay and dive into this a little bit deeper looking at, and knowing my experience. So growing up in the inner city, being homeless as a kid, living in poverty, coming from a traumatically abusive household, I got high for the first time when I was 12, drunk at 13, expelled from school for selling drugs. The only thing I ever ever dreamed about doing Tom was don't die and then what happened is, I finally graduated high school, they literally hand me the fucking diploma there are you just got to get out of here, we're done with you.
And I found myself in this spiral because I didn't know what to do like – the only ambition, I had was to survive what I come from and I found myself in this position of like – okay, I'm going to chase money ended up getting a job with a Fortune 10 company at 20 years old, no college education, no high school diploma. I just got super pointed on this idea that money is the solution to poverty, right? But I want about it all the wrong way, because I was always leveraging, this idea, like – money and poverty are intertwined with cars and clothes and girls and drugs, and it totally destroyed my fucking life.
So, if I go in, I rewind back to 7, 10, 14 years old, when you're in this environment, the only thing that you're ever hearing is, you're not good enough, you're not strong enough, you're not capable enough. Right? And that's negatively reinforced from the community that you’re in, IE the ZIP code, being a determining factor and what your future is, and I understand your goal of empowering people with a growth mindset by the age of 15 to start to switch this like that's Impact Theory. How do you get that implanted in a way that creates a massive transformation for people before they end up in this position, where they're spiraling?
Tom: Yeah, so it's interesting. So, I over-simplified Geoffreyas a message. So his message is actually the number of words you hear by the age of five and the ratio of positive to negative. So it's interesting that you bring up like when you're hearing just this all this negative feedback like it really does shut your world down?
So it is incredibly important to hear these positive messages now, how do you accomplish that? So my first hypothesis was you just tell people to think like this act like this and it will change your life.Now the reality is that it actually is true, if somebody were to think and XYZ way, what we'll call the Impact Theory way, if they think like that, which is, around always identifying as the learner, turning your potential into a usable skillset, identifying what your goal is and then operating in accordance with your goal, like, they're just what I call the 25 beliefs.
If you do those things, it will change your life forever for the better like – it doesn't matter who you are, where you come from nothing, it is a universal truth of the human condition that if you those 25 things that it will put you on an upward trajectory. I tried it. And I told everybody at Quest.
Hey! We've got the same called Quest University, I will come in early, I will stay late, I will do whatever, I will teach you everything that I know of what took me from scrounging my couch cushions to find enough change, to put gas in my car, to building a billion-dollar business, it is teachable, it is repeatable.
Literally, now, I have done it twice back to back, so it's like I'm telling you, this is something that you can do, this is a learnable skill and remember I'm the guy that was like convinced that he didn't have the intelligence. So I get it, they're feeling exactly the same way. And so I just thought I just need to tell them and then it will change your life forever. And if you take a hundred people and you give them all this real information that if they did, it would work, only 2% of them, do anything with it because it's hard, it's confusing, right?
When you first learn, it's like I'm overwhelmed, I don't know what to do, like – my friends are making fun of me, I had one guy that actually got into a fistfight because his friends in the inner cities were, like – you've changed and he was like, in what way and like, you started reading books, what? Like, he got in a fight over reading books, that's insanity. But that lets, you know, the kind of like difficult part of hitting people that late with this just sort of top-down ideas. So anyway, 2% will do something with it, 98% don't. And so my wife and I started asking, okay, well, no bullshit. What would it take to make sure that we get to the 98% and that they actually make this change now?
I wish this weren't so Michael because you and I both have deep empathy and compassion and maybe a little bit of an obsession with helping people that have already been damaged. And so it's like how do we help those people? They are helping people, it's all good, but when I'm looking at the 98%, I have to be honest with myself and say you're having a biological experience from the age of 11 to 15, your brain goes through a very interesting developmental period called the age of imprinting. Where now instead of sort of drinking of your environment, right? Your parents, their attachment styles, whatever it is, you're going through feast famine, all of that stuff, you start drinking from the culture.
And now this is like – you get to choose what culture, you surround yourself with but by default, most of us are in the culture of our ZIP code. And so, this is why the ZIP code ends up mattering and why I'm so fiendish about this idea of fuck you, zip code but you have to catch them in the ages of 11 to 15 with story bypassed The Logical mind, get to the emotional centers of the brain and there you can implant ideas of a growth mindset.
And once you've implanted ideas of a growth mindset, then they can graduate to the think like this act like this, but you have to first hit them, emotionally hit them young, get them to attach to a story, that becomes a part of them in the way that, you know, Star Wars or the Matrix or Karate Kid became a part of me. And now we're trying to create a studio and this is literally why the company is called Impact Theory.
My theory on how to impact people at scale, is you have to be able to sway culture and make cool, a growth mindset in a way through emotion and storytelling that people make a part of them and carry on into their adult years. And that's what we're trying to do, is just tell those stories that like Disney told one kind of story over and over and over from a thousand different angles and they created, what has commonly referred to Americana that sense of like a simpler time, whatever, can we tell one, kind of story over and over and over but instead of creating Americana, create the most empowering place on earth and so that is the stated mission of Impact Theory.
Michael: Yeah. I love that and I'm a proponent of this I sign me up, I'm in right. I think about it because I do reference, those points Karate Kid, The Matrix, Teenage Mutant, Ninja Turtles, like – these were things that got implanted in me as a kid, that made me go, maybe it's possible. I don't really know how yet but maybe someday, someway, and you'll notice for those listening, you won't see it but I have a copy of neon future behind me on my bookshelf. And I recognize when I first read that graphic comic that it was a graphic novel, excuse me, that it was very much about this depth of storytelling in a way, that helps people understand something like this all starts with the way, you think I'm such a believer, that what you think becomes what you speak, what you speak becomes your reality and that is what it is, that it is to be a human being. And in that, as you start to, let's say, plant these seeds to grow this forest of a growth mindset for people in the narrative stare at storytelling. What is it about this that you believe is going to set you apart from the other people who are trying to do it? Because I have like so much fucking respect for the fact that you called your shot, it's public, it's on the Internet, it's part of your master plan, you're laying out the game plan. So why are you going to win?
Tom: I mean at the end of the day that is a very complex question that gets into being business savvy as well and so trusts me, I wish that the punch line was you just have to want it enough, you just have to be pure of heart, but that won't be enough. And so it's the fact that I know how to galvanize teams, I know how to motivate and inspire people, I know how to build a business, I know how to create things that are profitable, I know how to read cultural energy and where it's moving to, I know how to tell stories, I know higher well, I know how to build a business culture. And so, because I can do the gestalt of things that are required, it isn't one skill set unless you're going to just lump everything in and say because you could say, there are three things that I do well, mindset, business, and storytelling. And it's the fact that I can do those three things but each one of those is this gigantic world unto itself, but I do those three gigantic worlds of things very well and better than the average person and it is extraordinarily rare to see those three things come together in one-person sort of quest and because those things I've been focused on for the last. I mean filmmaking since I was 12, so, storytelling since I was 12 mindsets since I was, I don't know really getting serious about it in my early 20s and business I've been doing now for over two decades. I've scaled companies from nothing to multi-million from nothing to a billion and now, again, build my second hyper-growth company, you know where it's tens of thousands of percent ask me at the end of this year and I'll tell you exactly how many percent but as of the time of this recording is north of 30 thousand percent. So it is spending time building a very particular skillset. And so now it's like – bringing that moment from the movie Taken, where he says, I have a particular skill set, that makes me a nightmare for people like you.
So, for the people, trying to out-compete me, which is fun and I love, and I welcome. But I've spent my life building a particular skill set that makes me a nightmare for people trying to outdo me in this space.
Michael: I love that man. It's so great to hear you say that and I'm going to happen to something here, and I'm wondering if the terminology is still what you use because I see what you're saying; I hear it. I feel it, like – I'm like, yes, I fucking believe this guy's gonna do it because if you don't believe in yourself, nobody is going to like – I believe that entirely and vehemently in myself, and sometimes people go, well, you're cocky or arrogant and I go, no, no, you just don't understand. I'm going to push fucking through this, no matter what to reach this goal, until I determine either (A) my hypothesis is that I do these things to reach that goal or (B) It's disproved and I can't do it. So, is it still true that you think about this in terms of the arrogance of belief?
Tom: Yeah. The mind is a very bizarre instrument shaped over millions of years of evolution, it is designed to keep you alive, long enough to have kids that have kids. It isn't optimized to make you feel good, it isn't even necessarily optimized for you to, like – climb the ladders of success. That's definitely part of it, but it gets very complicated and so in any one day, you vacillate between, I'm the man and I'm going to pull this off to, I'm a loser and what was I thinking? Why do I ever say this out loud so that it is on the internet? People can hold me accountable. What was I thinking?
And I know that I will vacillate between those two states, 50 times a day, every day and so the arrogance of belief is not a belief that you are cool. It is the arrogance of believing that you can get good at anything that you point yourself at.And once you have that, then you're really unstoppable. You can stop yourself, right? Because people are going to come at you at times like there are times where people are celebrating me and there are times where people are denigrating me and there are times where it's happening on the same day and some people are celebrating and other people are hating and it's like – it just is that is the nature of things and so how can you put that arrogance of belief at the core of your life that if you can get good enough at something that you can't be stopped and that something that you've gotten good at, good enough, adds value to other people's lives. If you really get there, then you get into Kobe Bryant territory of booze, don't block dunks. And once you recognize that all the hate in the world for me, should it arise? And look I am so grateful. There's so much kindness thrown at me but whether it's hate in my own mind of me, like tearing myself down or coming from the outside, it's like in those moments where you are embattled whether internally or externally, you have to be able to come back to, I can get good at anything I set my mind to.
And so if I'm in battle at this moment because I have failed at something, I've made a mistake – great! No, problem. I'm going to stare nakedly at my inadequacies, learn from that mistake and get better. So, this goes back to that idea that there are 25 beliefs, that if you have them, your life is going to be moving in the right direction and one of those beliefs is, that mistakes are an incredible teacher, right? And so, I often say that mistakes are the most information-rich data stream on planet Earth.So once you understand that then you know that failure is going to be a part of this.
So to survive that failure, you must have that arrogance of belief around what I call; The only belief that matters, which is that if I put time and energy into getting good at something, I will actually get good.
Michael: Is there a part of that in which you're convincing yourself that's true? And if so, how do you reinforce that?
Tom: That was true at the beginning where I was like – I think this is true. I hope this is true. I want this to be true but at this point, but it is the nature of the human-animal. So there's enough science around brain plasticity around the idea; this is often attributed to Darwin, he didn't actually say it, but you'll get why people attribute it to him, but it's not the strongest of the species that survives nor the most intelligent but rather the most adaptive to change. And while we are not blank slates, this is a quote; “While we are not blank slates, we are the blankest of slates.” – Heather Heying.
So as a species, the human-animal is truly the most adaptive to change and that's why we have become the apex predator of all apex predators and the fact that we can go to, you know, distant planets, which is bananas to think that we've put humans on the moon man and brought them back, that's so crazy and people just grow up with it. So they don't realize how bananas that is, but now, the only sort of last remaining piece is to remove the idea that other people are more extraordinary than you.
Now, there are people smarter than me. Okay, and I have now found a way to deal with that emotionally, that intelligence matters, and that if I were more intelligent, I would be able to accomplish even more in my life. Great! I am where I am. And so, it really becomes about this idea, this is a great quote. I forget who said it, forgive me.
“You can't make a racehorse out of a pig, but you can make a really fast pig.”
And once you realize that all of us are going to be fast pigs right? There virtually none of us will be the best in the world at anything. Right?
So I'm not going to be the LeBron James of anything as far as I can tell, but my life has changed so dramatically just by focusing on being better and as you focus on getting better and better and better then like all these different mechanisms kick in.
So yeah at the beginning that would have been something that you know, I was looping around but now I've just seen it play out in science, I've seen a play out in my own life, I've seen a play on other people's lives, it just is the nature of the human-animal to adapt to change. So maybe a better way to think of it right now is to adapt to a stressor. So that if you're trying to get good at something, you put yourself in a position where it's essentially adapt or die.I must get good at this thing and then you actually do get good at that thing.
If you put the time and energy into it, you will get better. So I don't need to convince myself of that anymore, but there was a time.
Michael: Yeah, and I think that comes from the learned experience of the repetition of doing it, right? Because you just go. Okay. I know what I'm doing, get into the game and see what happens.
Tom: Because it's about seeing a play on science because what's going to happen is, people are going to think of me as being extraordinary as a means to let themselves off the hook. So if you say well, yeah, of course, Tom can do it because he's really smart and when Tom was young, something happened and he just didn't realize how smart he was. Okay, that would be like, looking at me, you know, when I weighed, you know, whatever I think at my heaviest I was what 229 or something like that and saying, well, Tom is really skinny on the inside, it's like – no, you still have to do the work, like, you actually have to lose the pounds or when I couldn't lift a 50-pound you know, I couldn't curl a 50-pound dumbbell and it's like – well, no, Tom is really strong inside and he just doesn't realize it, no, like – you have to do the work to get stronger.
I wasn't smart enough to do the things that I wanted to do and I'll abstract smart for my cue, maybe I even IQ isn't set. There's plenty of things that show that you can increase your IQ. So anyway, all of this stuff is so malleable science proves it and I want people to stop making others extraordinary as an excuse not to do the work. If they do the work, they will get the results.
That is not to say that somebody who's 5’4 is going to be in the NBA and be able to dunk better than LeBron James. What I am saying is that that person can get a hundred times better at basketball, and when you pick something, in your life, and get a hundred times better at it. If you pick the right things, it will be utterly transformational.
Michael: Yeah, that's so beautiful and powerful, well said, and I'm right there with you. I think about this constantly, like – what do I really have to do every single day to move towards my goal, which is ultimately to end generational trauma in my life and that means just, I have to make like all these changes in my life to get skills that have utility, that put me in this position that I can have impact through storytelling, through my media platform, through all of these things and that's what kind of becomes my North Star.
And so, what I'm thinking about is your North Star of like – having this company and Impact Theory that you never sell, and I want to switch gears here a little bit understanding and looking at the fact that education obviously changes dramatically with the advent of technology, and as this grows and web, three NF T's, and all these things, like – when people look back on the legacy of Tom Bilyeu, Impact Theory, your wife in 200 years. What role are you going to play and what's next?
Tom: You know, it's interesting. So I don't think about life like that. So my gut instinct is in 200 years, nobody will know my name and especially because I don't have kids, so it's like when you have kids, you at least get, whatever two generations but my gut instinct are nobody will know my name that I don't find that distressing.
So to me, it's like – I want to do things right now that make me feel fulfilled, and to feel fulfilled, you have to work really hard to gain a set of skills that matter, not only to yourself but to other people. And so I spend all my time thinking about that.
Now, LEGACY enters my mind in the following way that I would love to do something that was so joyful at the moment.
So, based on fulfillment, meaning that I'm serving, not only myself, but other people as well that I become remember for two or three generations, after my death, that would be absolutely wonderful. I would love that, but I'm optimizing for fulfillment and so, if joy and fulfillment mean that I'm forgotten 9 seconds after my death, then so be it.
From a technology standpoint, it moves so fast, I'm not focused on creating new technology. I'm focused on using technology better than other people in a very specific way. So I think at the moment, people might go, Yo! Look at how fast Tom moves and look at how much he's trying to educate everybody else. So I don't learn shit and keep it a secret like I'm out here, motherfuckers are not going to be able to say that, I didn't tell you to look into cryptocurrency, people are not going to be able to say, I didn't say. Hey, businesses, make sure you understand what's going on with then NFTs, nobody will be able to say that, as I learn it, like to your point and you learn something, teach something. I'm out here with the biggest megaphone I can build, telling people exactly what they need, do to keep upbeat me, go past me, I just want to make the world a better place and I have a very specific vision on what that is and that's what I want people to think of, not necessarily think of me, but I want them to think of the answer to the following question.
This is another great quote. “Don't ask what the world needs, ask instead what makes you come alive because what the world needs is more people that have come alive.”
I want to live in a world where people have come alive, man. They feel alive! They're excited! Their heart is full of love! They're trying to like spread that to other people, they're going hard like they're trying to really do something that matters, but they're doing it with love, they're doing it with, this whole understanding of like what The Human Experience is and that we have like this nature that requires nurture and that need to like love each other. So when you get into that shit, like – being my part of that, so that I'm echoing kindness, I'm echoing love, I'm encouraging people to push and to develop their potential into an actually usable skill set that would be dope, but I don't think on that like that 200-year time frame.
Michael: Yeah, that's such a fascinating. I mean, that just comes and comes full circle, this idea that you're about service and remember you want to tell me if I ever made this about me, I was going to fail, and that hit me so fucking hard and the number one thing I want people to take from conversations like this is just recognizing, like – it's right here in front of you, fucking red pill, blue pill, make a decision because like the truth is, you can have the life that you fucking want to have, nothing is stopping you except the choices and decisions that you make.But I’m going to ask you a question that I don't know if anyone's asked you, but I'm really curious about it just because of our experience tied into this. If I ask you to define what it means to say, there is no spoon, what would that mean to you?
Tom: Yeah, it's a really amazing concept. So for anybody, that doesn't know in The Matrix, Neo the main character is going to see the Oracle, and the oracles going to tell him whether he's the one, the chosen one, that's going to save the world or not. And he goes and he's sitting in the lobby before he meets the Oracle and he's with this little kid and this little kid is looking at the spoon and with his mind he's like, bending this moonrise, not touching, his just bending it with his mind and Neo basically says; ‘You know, how are you doing that?’ And the kid goes the trick is to remember, I'm not bending the spoon, I am merely realizing there is no spoon and in the contact and this is so important, this is a frame of reference.
So in the movie, what the kid is reminding Neo, is that we're in a computer program. So the spoon isn't real, its code, and want you to know that it's code, then at there are certain rules and you can bend the spoon with those rules because the spoon isn't real, it is only code.
Now, I'm here to tell you that all the things that people think are objective truth are not objective truth. So you think you're a loser? That's not objectively true. Do you think you're not smart enough? That's not objectively true. So, I'm not saying that there isn't objective truth. I'm just saying that your mind is not optimized to reveal that truth. Your mind is optimized so that you can walk around without bumping into too much shit.
So, there's this guy, Donald Hoffman wrote this incredible book.
I forget the title, but the punchline of it is ‘You think you're seeing reality? you are out of your mind.’ Even what we considered time and space aren't real, his hypothesis is that we so fundamentally, misunderstand the nature of reality. He said; ‘if you were looking at reality, it would be pure mathematics. You would see the number of photons bouncing off of a given object instead of color’ and he was like – so if you think when you look and see red that's objective reality? He's like that's what's called a loom belt.
So first of all, humans can only perceive like this, a really narrow, band of light and radiation and electrical signals and like, all the shit, he was like homie, you were not seeing reality, not even close and once you understand, okay, wait for a second, so my brain isn't trying to represent objective reality, my brain is trying to paint a very subjective experience to keep me alive, long enough to have children that have children, okay? So that's what nature is incentivizing, so then you start to ask questions. Well, if I think that I'm dumb, is it really true, or is that the spoon and it doesn't exist? And the whole way that my brain is working to create a sense of beliefs around myself and the world has a totally different outcome in mind than say fulfillment or joy, these things that I believe to mitigate as much human suffering as humanly possible we should be focused on.
So that's the whole, there is no spoon is all these things that you think are objectively true, simply are not, that doesn't mean that gravity isn't real gravity seems really fucking real to me.
I'm just saying the way you think about yourself, is the spoon and you can change the way you think about yourself, and that will change the actions you take, which will change the outcomes that you get. This is why I say comes back to those 25 beliefs, but people think, that the things that they believe represent what is real and that just isn't true. The number of people I see, that don't think they can change don't think they can ever get better, and they think that it's simply is true, and it's not, there is no snow.
Michael: Yeah, that's a beautiful man. And that's so much why I believe that we are parallel journey while into different arenas and in a way of showing, just a tremendous amount of gratitude for you. One of the things that I did with your NFT project is (A) I'm all-in, I am one of those and (B) I bought multiple relentless tiers 2, NFT's to give to the Think Unbroken Nation because I believe in you and I believe in this project. I believe in a growth mindset. I believe that we all have the ability to change our minds, there's a giant poster in front of you cannot see, it says; mindset is everything, I believe that to my fucking core more than anything I believe on planet Earth and so huge amount of gratitude for you, my friend and I'm super proud of you. I see what you're doing, I see what you're building and you've impacted my life in a way that I don't know that there are words that convey. How thankful I am that you fucking exist. That said before I ask you my last question, can you tell everyone where they can find out more about you?
Tom: Yeah, so @tombilyeu on basically, every platform, YouTube is where my videos live. If you want to see what we're doing in, NFT is going to Twitter, Instagram is like all my mindset stuff. Yeah, that's all, nice and easy.
Michael: Amazing! And we'll put all the notes in the show notes. Of course, Tom my last question for you, my friend is what does it mean to you to be unbroken?
Tom: To recognize that you are going to constantly struggle with the trauma in your life with the difficulties, with the failures and that the idea is not to optimize for a lack of being broken. It's the optimized for putting yourself back together every time and so I know that the answer that you get a lot is consignee the reason that you get the answer a lot is because you're bringing on wise people to your show.
And the only real answer is that if you can become stronger in the place that breaks more beautiful in the place that breaks rather than focusing on never breaking, you will be way better off because the world breaks us all and this is a paraphrase. I remember the exact quote, but“the world breaks us all and some of us become stronger in the broken places.”
And so if everybody could just focus on that like it doesn't devalue you that you have been broken. It does not devalue you that you've been through trauma. In fact, it gives you an opportunity to come back better, stronger wiser, than before more empathetic, more compassionate, you can now speak to people in a way that somebody who hasn't been through something like that, could never hope to be able to communicate and so focusing on that on coming back together better than before is the most powerful thing any of us can do because none of us can avoid being broken, it just comes down to how well you put yourself back together.
Michael: Oh! dude, literally fucking Goosebumps Tom, my friend, thank you so much for being here. Literally means the world to me.
Unbroken Nation, thank you so much for listening.
Please like, subscribe, share, tell a friend.
And until next time.
My friends, Be Unbroken.
-I'll see you.
Michael is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.
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