Dec. 24, 2022

Find Purpose and Fulfillment in the Face of Trauma and Adversity with Tanner Chidester, Joseph James, and James Connor on the Think Unbroken Podcast

In this episode, we dig into the topic of living a meaningful life today. How do we find purpose and fulfillment in the face of trauma and adversity? Our guests Tanner Chidester, Joseph James, and James Connor shares their insights and...
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In this episode, we dig into the topic of living a meaningful life today. How do we find purpose and fulfillment in the face of trauma and adversity? Our guests Tanner Chidester, Joseph James, and James Connor shares their insights and practical strategies for healing and finding deeper meaning in life. Join us as we discuss the importance of self-compassion, mindfulness, and self-care in the journey towards a more fulfilling and meaningful life. If you're looking for inspiration and practical tools to help you live a more purposeful and authentic life, this is the episode for you.

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Tanner Chidester | Overcome Failures by Living a Meaningful Life

 Michael: Going through therapy, coaching, reading, like fucking every book ever made and just trying to figure out who I was. Was there a process for you? Like when you're in this window and I know more in depth of your story from reading your book of just those massive struggles fucking working at Olive Garden, knocking doors, doing that lifestyle like what were you learning if you like, rewind and put your brain into like a decade ago, five years ago, seven years ago, like what were you learning about yourself in those moments of struggle? 

Tanner: Yeah, I mean, I think I just learned that I honestly felt like I just had more mental fortitude than most people. I think what I went through like getting to that kind of financial success is that most people are not willing, I think to go through that. I learned a lot about myself but I think also, it's cuz I'm insecure. I mean, the whole reason I wouldn't quit is not because I didn't want to quit, it's because I wouldn't quit because I was so embarrassed if I had to go back and basically let people see that I failed because to that point, I hadn't failed at anything. I mean, even the NFL, yeah, that didn't work out, but I felt like it was a little outside my control based on my injuries like I could not stay healthy. I've gone in college and I did not get to get on the field for a single college down because I was literally always hurt, always. And so, I don't know, I guess in that point, I don't know how you feel about your journey, but I felt, when I started getting into this business, I was like, Man, you know, if I struggled that much and I have this level of mental fortitude, which I think is in the top 1%, I can only imagine how other people feel. And it became apparent to me why a lot of people quit, it became apparent to me why a lot of people aren't successful, not because they're not special, but because they're not willing to push through the pain ‘cuz it sucks, dude. I mean, I just remember I didn't date, I was embarrassed to hang out with girls cuz of my car, I couldn't afford stuff. I mean, Oliver paid me a hundred bucks a day. I would go on a date with a girl and blow the cash on a date. And I was like, Man, I don't wanna do that anymore. I was working 16, 18 hours a day with no results. I mean, I would work half a day and then come home and work dead tired and it wouldn't work. And so, you know, two years doesn't sound long, but when you're working every day of the week, 18 hours a day, and you rarely take breaks, it just feels like the end of the world and it doesn't feel good and yourself esteem's low, people ask you what you're doing, you know, oh, I have a business and they're like, well, you're working at a garden, how's that going? You know, not going great. I don't know if that's the answer you're looking for, but I guess I learned a lot about myself and my mental fortitude and when I finally did hit success, that did a lot for me because I realized, I was like, you know what? Like as long as I don't quit, even if I'm not the smartest person, even if I make mistakes, like I will get there. And I'm lucky I had a mentor who kind of like kept pushing me because I called him four to five times over that two years and I almost quit. And he just would talk me off a ledge and it's crazy cuz I was on a podcast the other day and I said, Dude, you know, the difference in opportunity cost is about 49.6 million dollars because that's what I would've made in my engineering job is about 400 Gs and I've done close to 50 and it's not all about money, that's part of why we're on this show. But, I mean, that kind of stuff's crazy. I think people do that all the time where they make these decisions that they have no idea the lasting impact and they'll never know and that's scary to me.

Michael: I love that. Take the space please because I like, this is what this is about. You know, I think about so often the difference between success and failure in pretty much everything in life is just timeline. You know, a couple years ago, Grant Cardone, who I know that, you know, he invested into Think Unbroken so, he's a business partner, right? And he tells me something really important, dude. He goes, look man, the only time you ever lose is if you quit. And I'll tell you this, building the business like the podcast, obviously this is about value, this is about helping people and changing their lives, but I don't know about you, dude, I've never listened to a podcast that ever changed my life like entirely. I've always had to get the book or go to the coaching session during the seminar, do whatever the next thing was from these people that I look up to that mentor me. And I think that a big part of it is just the willingness that I've discovered that I'm just not gonna quit like, I'm just not going to stop. And I think that a lot of that comes with the resiliency of maybe just the suffering that I endured as a kid like it's hard to grow up Mormon and fucking poor, and biracial. Right. And so, you know, being in that boat made me just go for a long time. And I don't know if you related to this, but for a long time, dude, I just hated people and I was like, I'm gonna go on my own. I'm gonna figure it out. Nobody's gonna help me cuz I don't love or trust anyone. And then I realized like one of the most empirical truths of life is that you have to have mentorship, you have to have community, you have to have coaches and partners and friends and family and love, because without those things, like nothing's gonna be different. Was it because you grew up playing sports that you went and found a coach or a mentor, or was that just like happenstance? Like how did that evolve for you?

Tanner: I just hit rock bottom. I mean, so, I left college thinking that I could figure everything out and I had a very big ego because to that point, I've done everything on my own, so to speak I mean, I built my body, I got scholarship offers, I had straight A's, like I got the girls. So, I just was like, I can do anything and that's a good mindset to have and I think to a degree I did. But then, you know, two years trying to start my business, having no success, I was like, dude, I just got to a point where, especially knocking doors, I think that's really what pushed me over the edge is I mentally was so tired that was like, dude, I will do anything and I literally would've done anything, like anything. And so, when I saw that ad and it was like how to build an online fitness business, it was just happenstance I saw it, it was like that's the industry I'd been in. And so, I got on the call and I just gave them every dollar I had because I just was like, there's no other choice. Like sometimes, you know, my sales team and probably your sales teams, you know, they're telling us about something's like, yeah, they said it was too. I mean, I just didn't even care. I just was like; I'd rather be homeless than continue to live the way I'm living because I hated and I just felt like a loser. And I think a lot of people are successful, honestly, they have similar stories where it's some type of insecurity or fear driven decision making that just pushes them to like crazy heights and crazy levels where they can just endure massive amounts of pain for short periods of time. And like, I mean, door itself sucks. I mean it was six days a week, 12 hours a day, including the travel and we have one day off and I did that for seven to eight months straight in the Alabama heat. I mean, it was hot, man and it is like the stuff that happened out there, like people pull knives on me, guns. I just think it was all those things. I don't know if I wish I had better answer, but I just think it was that I just hit rock bottom and I was so sick of that crap. I was like, dude, I'll lick a floor if I know it works. And I think most people, they're unwilling to do that like they say they will, but they won't. But I was that guy and I remember my mentor David, he used to rip into me and he even said Tanner and he is like, you know what your best quality is? I was like, well, he is like, I can rip into you and you just don't care. And I was like, maybe it's cuz of sports cuz coaches will just cuss you out but I just didn't care, I had no ego when it came to finally that moment, like I had an ego getting help like, I was like, I don't need help. But when I finally had help, I was like, Dude, I'm an idiot, obviously because I'm not, it's what I thought would work isn't. So, you tell me what to do and I will be your best student. And it was like, that's how it was for me in every program, I was always the best student because I just like implemented like a psycho.

Michael: Yeah, I mean, that's like 99% of it. So, I relate to the knocking doors, man, I did cut co when I was like 18, ‘cause I was just like knocking doors all day, dogs barking at you, people freaking out, old naked ladies hands from the door.

Tanner: Like, I got stories about that like, I can't even share them here. I got bad stories about that.

Michael: Yeah. They're just the most gnarly stuff and just being like, is this what I'm supposed to do? And then, you know, progressing and, you know, eventually landing a job with a Fortune 10 company doing really well in sales, you know, I kind of figured out how to navigate the corporate environment and then what I decided to do without really understanding how poor of a decision it was at the time. I was like, I'm gonna quit this job and I'm just gonna open my own business. Right. And I think that was a - it's the greatest mistake I've ever made. And b - I learned a lot in that because, you know, Tom Bilyeu, one of my mentors, a great human in my life, says something that I think everyone really needs to hold onto and that is that the struggle is guaranteed and the success is not. And so much of this journey really is about the struggle and being able to go through it. And I don't even think just necessarily financially, dude, I've struggled in relationships. I've struggled with my weight. I've struggled with the way I feel about myself when I'm by myself. And the only way I've been able to get through any of that shit is just like, keep going man, just keep going the next level. But it was in getting mentorship and getting coaching and investing in myself, that really changed the game. And I think that you're spot on, dude. Most people would not have made the decision that you made, but like, I've always thought about it like this. I'm like, I'm already at fucking rock bottom what's another two grand? Right? What's another five grand?

Tanner: It is not gonna get any worse. And it drives me up a wall because I just wish there's something you could say sometimes where it's like, Dude, you have nothing to lose in everything to gain, right? Like, you have nothing to lose like you can go back to your bad job that you're on the phone call that you ate, it just drives me nuts. But that's also just like, it pushes me to be better cuz I'm like, you know what? I need to get better at sales, I need to get better at marketing ‘cuz like, if they are saying that, I still can't convince them it's not good enough. But I agree and it sucks because like, they don't know, but we're on the other side, so we're like, Dude, like I was there and you just like, you don't know, but like if you go, like you'll get there and then you'll see how smart of a decision it was.


Joseph James | The Purpose Through Pain

 Michael: What was it like for you? What were kind of some of the cornerstones or the key pillars that have helped you get to where you are today?

Joseph: Great question, Michael. You know, when I kept on getting the question from people after my wife passed away, and of course I'm traveling, I'm going to all these different events and I'm trying to find myself right, and after about six weekends of being gone somewhere in the world six straight weekends, I just realized, I'm like, well, traveling's not helping me find myself at all. But it wasn't until about five or six months later, that I just kept on getting the question, like, Joseph, how are you so happy? Why are you still smiling when all this has gone on to you, has happened to you? Because, you know, it didn't stop with my wife's death. I almost lost the baby two months later, he had to be life flighted to a hospital because of malnutrition. And long story short, he spent 45 days in the hospital, took doctors 30 days to figure out that he had gluten, he had celiac disease, so he couldn't eat anything gluten.

So, he'd eat it, his body couldn't process it, and then he'd vomited it up, or he'd have diarrhea, you know? And so, his body wasn't holding onto anything, you know? And so, I like literally after that, I'm like, Dude, are you serious? God? I'm like, I'm about to lose my son now. I mean, what else? You know? But I found that it was several months later after just a repeated question I'm like, Okay, Joseph, what have I been doing that's helped me get through this process where I can smile?

And here's a couple things and I want you listeners to really pay attention is number one is you have to take time to grieve. And what I mean by that is I actually did my grieving in increments, but I didn't realize I was doing it until later on when I would do my Facebook Live video and I would share to people what my family was going through in the journey and the update on my wife, I mean, don't get me wrong, Michael, I was crying like a little baby, you know. And the video would probably last about 15–20-minute live video and then I had to go back inside. I had to dry up my tears. I had to be the strong person for my wife and for my kids not that I was afraid for them to see me broken because I knew that it would bring this somberness and more brokenness around the whole family. And I just knew at that time, my wife's mindset was that if I gave up me, she would too because she already wanted to, you know? And so, I had to learn to take my time of grieving and then go be strong. Now, my times of being strong may have only lasted for a few minutes, and then I went back to grieving, you know. I realized later on, I'm like, all I was doing was giving myself time to grieve and the reason why I do say that is think of it like when it's like misty raining outside, it's like a drizzle, okay? And it's like that all day long. We wanna stay in bed, we want to sleep, we don't want to go to work. It just brings this feeling about us just like, Man, I just wanna be lazy today, we every, every human feels it why it happens. I don't know if it's atmospheric pressure. I don't know. I'm not a weather guy. I have no freaking clue. Okay? But everybody goes through that feeling versus, Oh look, it's just gonna be a torrential downpour and what do we say about torrential downpours? It'll last an hour and then the sunshine's gonna come out, you know and we don't think nothing of it, but it's the somber feeling of all-day of going through that grief that makes it an all day and then it turns into two days and it turns into three days. So, I had my moment, so I say this is when you grieve, take 15 minutes and grieve, and then dry up your tears even if it only lasts for a minute because as we know that habits, we create habits. Grief for 15, dry up and be strong for one. If it starts all over, okay? Then the next time it'll be two minutes, and then it'll be five, and then it'll be an hour, and then it'll be half a day that you're, okay. I'm grieving, but I'm also strong. So that's number one.

Number two is forgiveness. You've got to forgive yourself.

Forgiveness is way more about for us, forgiving ourselves for what we are telling and the lies that we're believing and the actions that we've allowed to happen to us versus the other person and what they did, because we can blame the other person. My dad's gone, I could still be blaming him, it's not going to do anything, you know?

Number three is creating dreams, goals, and vision.

Michael, when you lose your dad and your wife, when you have a traumatic experience like that for me anyways, I didn't wanna get outta bed. I wouldn't say that I was clinically depressed, but I probably was. I didn't wanna get outta bed, I didn't wanna do anything. For me, I wanted to travel. I know people that, like when they were going through addictions, like their new addiction from alcohol was going to the gym. We call it going to therapy, but can also become a bad addiction as well because of our mindset behind it. But for me, I tell people this, when you're stuck. We all talk about in the transformational world or the personal development world, we talk about 1, 3, 5, 10 year goals. Right? I'm sure you've done 'em, you know, we were talking numbers earlier and how you've already mapped out things for Think Unbroken. But forget the one, three and five years when you can't even get outta bed. Okay? And this is where I said start in baby steps. To me, I just needed to sit up in bed, that was it, that was my goal for the day. Just sit up. Then the next day it was sit up and put my feet on the floor. I may have only done that for five minutes, and then it laid back down. Yeah, I would tell my kids go fix something to eat. I'd use the bathroom when I had to, you know. But ultimately, by creating the small dreams and goals, I was able to then go from sitting up in bed, to getting on the couch, to making a cup of coffee, to doing things, to going out, to going back to work. I had to do those in baby steps.

And the last one, and I think this is one of the most important ones besides just even the forgiveness, is finding someone to help and help them.

By me doing that, when I was sharing my story, I was helping people and I didn't even know it, but I would have people reach out to me Michael was like, Hey man, ladies reach out to me. He's like, my marriage was in shambles and my husband and I ran across your Facebook Live video and like, our marriage is healed now just because of hearing the love you talked about with your wife, you know. I was just sharing my story, but I realized that when I started to coach other people, and it wasn't like I was set out to coach anybody, people just kept on asking me for advice. But when I would put my feelings and my emotions and my issues aside and help somebody else, I realized that my answers of helping me were coming through me, giving them answers and helping them. So, find somebody to help.


James Connor | How to Ask for Help without Shame

Michael: You mentioned a word struggle. What did you learn about yourself through struggle, especially during that time and even today, like what do you learn about, what do you understand? What was maybe the most valuable lesson for you in struggle?

James: For me, the most valuable part is the fact that it strengthens you mentally, you know, for that struggle, does do that. So, like I tell people that working out isn't necessarily for me to keep my weight down and be strong and be fit, and look good at the beach, that is all a consequence of everything, that's great but for me, it's a mental thing like if I'm saying, all right, I'm gonna do 10 laps around this track. Okay, I wanna get those 10 laps. I don't wanna give up. I don't wanna stop at eight. And the reason I am able to continue doing that is because of the struggles that I went through that I didn't give up, I didn't just sit there and say, you know what? This is hard like, I just wanna give up. I just wanna walk away. You know, I wanna go have fun. I don't want all this responsibility. At the same time, those struggles taught me, look in the mirror, you did this, you can't blame anyone. So, it's not like, I talk to a lot of people now especially some youth high school students, and they say, Hey, we don't have the opportunities, man. You know, there's nobody giving us, you know, we have stimulus checks and stuff like that, but there's no jobs out there for black people like me like, no, no, no, there's no excuses. You know, we gotta go ahead and make the best of what our opportunity is. There's going to be some unfair advantages towards us, okay. But we gotta deal with it. We gotta pull our big poi pants on and then go out there and figure out a way to make it work and do the best that we can. Because for me, that's what the struggle did, is just to sit there and say, I can't blame anyone. Let's get through this. Let's figure it out, and then go from there because at the end of the day, you're struggling, it can be lonely, but the other part of it is there are people out there to help out. That's what non-profits are out there for, that's what some of these government programs are there for, is because there are people that want to help you have a better life. You just have to be courageous enough to let them know I could use some help.

Michael: Yeah. That's a really strong point. A lot of people want to give up when things get hard, you know, because it's easy like really, let's call it what it is, it's easy to give up when life is difficult, when your backs against the wall, when you got $7, you know, for diapers to your name when everything seems to be tumultuous and exhausting. And here's what's really interesting I think that whether you are rich or you're poor, or you're in between, whether you grew up in, you know, a great home or a poor home or whatever your race may be, like there's struggle in this thing for everybody. And you know, I don't know about you, but I didn't wake up with a roadmap in my hand that said, this is the way that you live, it's like, Dude, I gotta go out here and figure this out every day. And there's days where I don't want to, but you know just like you in the labs, I have drilled within myself this idea that you have to keep going forward no matter what, but people want to quit because it's hard. James, what would you tell to people when they want to quit? Like what advice would you give them when they're in that place? Cuz you've been there? I've been there and it's like, it's really easy to say don't give up. But, you know, I don't think that really helps that much for people who are at their right, just at their lowest, you know?

James: I would say the same thing I tell my kids, I was like, life is hard, you know, I know you want to give up, but just continue, just keep going just a little bit longer, you know, whether you say, Okay, I'm gonna give this another day, I'm gonna give it another week, I'm gonna give it another month just set a deadline and just keep going. And then once you get to that deadline, see if there was any progress. See if things got easier, see if you stuck to your plan. Because at the end of the day, if you could sit there and make a little bit of progress, improve by that 1% or get a little bit closer to out of the hole or closer to your goal, if you see that little progress, it will motivate you say, all right. Okay. Right. I didn't give up when I could have, and maybe that'll motivate them to keep going. Maybe they'll say, all right, I'll give it another week. I'll give it another month. So, it's not that, don't give up, I'm just saying like, just try a little bit longer, you know, just be patient, you know, just focus a little bit more and see what happens.

I mean, there are times where I sit there as a startup founder and I’m like you've been working on this project for two years, like, whoa, that's a long time like, you know, I'm like, you know, how far have you gotten, what's the progress been and things like that. If the metrics aren't there, I'm like, it's probably time to pivot or try something else. It's not always saying, you need to go in that straight path and keep going. There's gonna be times where you gotta make a left turn and then could then go straight again. You know, like it's just a matter of being patient and then figuring out, all right, maybe I should try something different, maybe find an alternative to get to the same point, it's not always just one line, there's definitely different ways to get to the same destination.

Joseph JamesProfile Photo

Joseph James


Joseph James is a former U.S. Marine and Law Enforcement veteran, business owner, father, motivational speaker and life coach. Joseph has spoken in many venues across the nation and has helped thousands of people understand their purpose in life. After his wife’s battle of cancer, and the journey of pain his family went through, Joseph is now coaching people that have gone through life’s struggles, pain and trauma to help them not just find their purpose through pain but teach them to take their pain and launch them into their destiny.

Tanner ChidesterProfile Photo

Tanner Chidester

Founder & CEO

Founder & CEO of Elite CEOs, Tanner Chidester has generated over eight figures in the online coaching world. After discovering powerful, repeatable strategies, (which he used to create his first million from a B2C model), Tanner's success went on to disrupt the fitness coaching industry forever. Upon request, Tanner began business coaching others on these same strategies, and paving the way for simplicity in a traditionally complex online arena. Since then the sky has been the limit, especially with his two brothers by his side, who joined the business early on. Tanner's business has organically evolved into the coaching empire we know today: Elite CEOs. With his team by his side, Tanner is now on a mission to turn as many online coaches as possible into millionaires. The Elite CEOs Mastermind, his flagship program, has become a natural hub of six & seven-figure earners. Inside, Tanner and his team provide coaches with the most powerful and proven strategies available to grow and scale any coaching business online.

James ConnorProfile Photo

James Connor

Social Entrepreneur

James Connor is a social entrepreneur, fractional CTO, nonprofit advisor, and digital nomad who helps founders and business owners with technical insight and building/maintenance of their applications. He's the co-founder of FlexibleSites and CTO for various startups including AdvisorBOB, ONTrac Goal Management and Eleveight. James is currently striving to work with 1000 nonprofits and help them succeed in their mission.

Michael UnbrokenProfile Photo

Michael Unbroken


Michael is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.