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How to Develop Resilience with Joe De Sena

May 01, 2022

I was lucky to have the opportunity to interview the Founder and CEO of Spartan races - Joe De Sena. Joe talks to us about resilience, developing grit and the magic in suffering. 
Joe is a New York Times best-selling author, father, husband and legend.
After building a multimillion-dollar pool and construction business in college, and creating a Wall Street trading firm, De Sena set his sights on ripping 100 million people off their couches by creating the Spartan lifestyle.
Throughout his lifetime, Joe has competed in any extreme sports adventure he could find, testing his mental and physical endurance against nature. Joe turned an interest in endurance racing into a passion. His racing resume is the stuff of legend – over 50 ultra-events overall and 14 Ironman events in one year alone.
The 3 key take aways from our interview are:
1. You are even more capable than you think you are. Give yourself more credit, get uncomfortable and try something new. 
2. If it doesn't hurt, you're not really giving. Joe said this in relation to philanthropy. If you're donating $20 a month and you don't feel dent, try donating more. If you give an hour of your time a week to a soup kitchen, try give 8 hours. If you're going to give, then really give.
3. Dedicate yourself to a daily routine. This is the most important one for us all. When you have a solid daily routine, you have structure. It makes traversing the tough times all the more doable. 

Full Transcription


Joe De Sena, James Laughlin 


James Laughlin 00:00 

Welcome to lead on purpose. I'm James Laughlin, former seven-time world champion musician, and now an executive coach to global leaders and high performers. In every episode, I bring you an inspiring leader or expert to help you lead your life and business on purpose. Thanks for taking the time to connect today on investing in yourself. Enjoy the show. 


James Laughlin 00:39 

In life, resilience is not a nice to have, it's a must-have. In today's episode, you're going to get to hear from Joe de Sena. He is an amazing individual. He founded the Spartan Races, the Spartan Death Race, some of you may know it as and he wrote a book which is rules for resilience, the 10 rules for resilience, and it's all about mental toughness. It's for families, and it's for businesses. Look in today's episode we talk about resilience, developing grit, and the magic in suffering. Joe is a New York Times bestselling author, Father husband, an absolute legend. After he built a multimillion-dollar pool and construction business in college. He then went on to create a Wall Street trading firm, and then he set his sights on ripping 100 million people off their coaches by creating the Spartan lifestyle. Throughout his lifetime Joe has competed in any extreme sports adventure he could find, testing his mental and physical endurance against nature. He turned an interest in endurance racing into a passion. His racing resume is the stuff of legend. Over 50 Ultra events, and 14 Ironman events in one year alone. Please sit back and enjoy. And before you do that, if you can, please take a moment to subscribe to my podcast to rate it and review it and maybe share it with one friend. I'd really appreciate that. Enjoy the show. 


James Laughlin 02:30 

Joe, a massive Welcome to the Lead on Purpose Podcast. 


Joe De Sena 02:33 

Thanks for having me. This is awesome. I can't believe I am connected from Florida. I'm sitting in Florida right now to New Zealand. It is great 


James Laughlin 02:42 

Yeah, this is what the world is all about right now. I love this hyper-connectedness and talking about the world, you actually just got off a plane recently you got back from the Ukrainian border. Tell me a bit more about what was going on there. 


Joe De Sena 02:53 

Yeah, so it turns out, you know, I've been putting on races for 22 years and very early in our life cycle. A friend of mine very close friend is Slovakian. And so, he said, hey, can I bring the races over to Slovakia? And I couldn't see a reason why we wouldn't I didn't really know much about Slovakia. I know I like Eastern Europeans because they're hard-working. They're gritty people, right? They grew up a little harder than we did. And we shipped over the concept to Slovakia, and it exploded. And it bled into the Czech Republic it bled into Romania, Hungary. And it started to do really well. So well, in fact, that some people in you in Ukraine reached out. And so, we started putting races on in Ukraine. So, we've had this thing going on there. And it goes really deep. Like it's very deep-rooted because, as I said, they feel active and live like Spartans over there. So anytime I go, I'm like a movie star in Eastern Europe. It's pretty bizarre. About two weeks ago, a guy that advises for us maybe three weeks ago said how come you're not over on the Ukrainian border helping out and I said, don't be ridiculous, have a family here I have a business. What am I going to do on the Ukrainian border, there are professionals that are handling that. And he said Look, your image, your ethos, everything you stand for, you should be their tip of the spear helping out. And honestly, it went in one ear and out the other. I've thought about it for a few minutes, but it just didn't seem logical. Fast forward, two days later, one of our folks in Slovakia sent text me an image of our trucks online delivering supplies to Ukraine. And I was like, what? How are we doing that? And they said, well, Joe, you don't remember but we have a warehouse in Slovakia. 40 minutes from the border. We've got tons of trucks. And so, these are our brothers and our sisters in need. We just started bringing supplies over. That's amazing. That's awesome, right? So, I had my team post that on social. And sure enough, it got, you know, all kinds of praise. And my friend in Slovakia said, you know, that's not really fair. You didn't do anything, Joe, we did all the work. So, between those two conversations, the adviser pushed me and then this guy needled me and said I hadn't done anything. I said you know what? I'm flying over what do you guys need? And they said, well, every round trip we do, the Ukrainians, as well as our office in the key we have an office in Kyiv that's still in existence right now. And we're talking to our people there. They want night vision goggles, bulletproof vests. So, I said, How the fuck am I going to get night vision goggles and bulletproof vests, right? So, I started to do some research in the US. And it turns out, even if you can get them, they're extremely expensive. How the hell am I going to get them into Slovakia, because the US just doesn't part with military gear so easily. Which I was happy to find out. But it turns out, and this is really going to blow your mind. A member of our Slovakian team is a member of the Slovakian Ministry of Defense. So, and he's a lawyer. So, I didn't know this. So, we connected him with the US military, we have lots of connections here in the US. And then they said, Yeah, no problem, you could, you could bring these vests over, I call my buddy who owns Hudson Bay Company, one of the oldest companies in the world. And they, they wrote a big check, thankfully, because we're a little short on funds these days coming out of COVID. And I shot over there. And we brought the vests, and we got a bunch of gear, and we brought some attention to the border, and I had an opportunity to kind of see what was going on. As I was mentioning before we started the podcast very organized. At least on the Slovakian side, there are about 700 to 1000 women and children coming across each night, that are stuck in the refugee camp without a place to go, they don't have a plan. There are 10s and hundreds of 1000s more that have a car or away or a friend or someplace they're headed to. So, what I got to see where only the people, which is a lot of people and like I said it's 99% women with a child, like a lot of children, and then they're just trying to find out like, is there a hotel we can go to is there a house we could live in, you know, they're just trying to figure it out. 


Joe De Sena 07:42 

And then I saw the trucks, including our own, lined up delivering things, there was a restaurant there at the border, like, I have to say I'm going to be playing it down. I know, there's a lot going on 350 kilometers further into the country away from the border, that's where the fireworks are, that's where the destruction is. But where I was 350 kilometers away, it might as well have been a truck stop a very organized, very clean truck stop. 


James Laughlin 08:09 

And as you come back to the US from that, how you are feeling like has that impacted where you're taking your thinking or what you're trying to impact you're trying to makeover there. Is there anything else you want to do now after coming back? 


Joe De Sena 08:21 

Well, I mean, look, I saw some comments on social media. Some people said, look, there's a lot to do in the US, in our own country before and, and that's true. I mean, we walk by and have blind spots around, you know, homeless people, and all kinds of situations, businesses, failing things happening in our own family, in the US, but somehow, we get really excited and want to help when it's far away. And it's, you know, another country. So, I would say there was a great lesson I learned over there that I think we can all apply to our lives me included, a friend of mine who runs a special forces unit. And he was kind enough to leave his post and come hang out with me at the border. It was good for him to he needed to do some research on what was going on at different checkpoints. And he was telling me about his two children, two boys. He has a three-year-old and a one-year-old and he noticed that the three-year-old is on FaceTime every night when his wife facetime him from the US his three-year-old is giving little play cars to the one-year-old. And he thought wow, we must be doing some great parenting because kids don't usually share toys. Upon further inspection the next night he noticed that all the cars he was sharing were the ones that didn't have eyes. They were the less valuable cars to him. And so, they did a test they put the cars without eyes under the pile. And sure enough, that kid dug through all the cars and got the ones without eyes and only share those with his brother. And so, my friend's message to his group of soldiers. And as even the soldiers from other countries who were supporting this effort were, hey, guys, we have to give cars with eyes to everybody. And what I mean by that is it's got to hurt. If it doesn't hurt, you're not really giving. And so even me jumping on a plane and go into the border, it was very calm, and we got to go to restaurants, and I got workouts in, and I got the jump in a cold lake, all the things I like to do. It didn't really hurt, right? somebody else was kind enough to write the check. And all I did was organized a bunch of stuff and get some press. And I think when you ask like, what's, what did I learn? You know, we're not really giving none of us are really giving anything anywhere. Unless it hurts. Doesn't count all-wise. 



James Laughlin 10:50 

That's really powerful. Yeah, like the $25 donation you make the UNICEF each month, like, how hard is that? 


Joe De Sena 10:58 

How hard is that doesn't even hurt? No. So you know, we got to make it hurt. 


James Laughlin 11:04 

I love that. That's really good for thought for those that are listening right now as if you're giving me want to help take you to it in a way that you actually feel the pain. 


Joe De Sena 11:11 

You got to feel it you got to feel some pain. Now, look. 


James Laughlin 11:15 

14 Iron Man's in one year. 50 ultra-marathons. Did you were you always built like this? Or was there a different Joe, a different Joe that did different things beforehand? That then ended up there was a switching point. 


Joe De Sena 11:31 

Look, I was a soft, chubby kid growing up. I always wanted a six-pack. I always wanted wide shoulders. I always wanted to roll $100 bills in my pocket and a fancy car. And some you know, I wanted to be tough, because that was the neighborhood, I grew up in. I think the switch went off. When my dad took a turn for the worst in his business, he lost a bunch of money, and we no longer had the nice things we had before. And I remember going to a car dealership with my mom, she needed a new car because they were getting divorced. And she could only afford this, like, the lowest level Chevrolet that there was next door was a BMW dealership. And I thought, Man, I want one of those. And she said it's easy. You just got to get a job and work. And that's when the light bulb went off. And I said all right, I got to do it for myself. So from there, I realized deep down inside something we all have, and I had was just a tremendous amount of grit resilience, and, you know, fire in my belly, and I just had to activate it. And that moment, my father not doing well. And you know, you never know what somebody's going to say that triggers a kid, my mother says and that just triggered it. And I and I went nuts. And I never, I never looked back. And so, you know, look, I always wanted to know, how far could I go? How far could the human being go? And, and the magic for me for all of us happens? You know, this morning, I was working out, right? And I've been living lately on these assault bikes. And I'm using the assault bike, and I'm going nuts on this thing. And I planned on hitting 200 calories at a set amount of time because I had to go and I found my mind started saying wow, you've already done 10 minutes, right let's and then I fought with myself like you always do. And I got to the end. And I felt better. And I was able to reflect back on the struggle there for a few minutes. And thinking like that's where the magic happens. Right? That it's in the struggle. And I wish I wish you know, we could somehow you know if we had a pill, or we had a way to just put a chip in everybody's had and teach them this. On the trip to Ukraine to the border, I brought a guy from this office here in Florida who is a programmer and crafted an app, Bring Them Home Ukraine. And he can envision the app being used and all-natural disasters or situations like this where people could crowdsource the finding of other human beings' friends, families loved ones, I thought it was a good idea. So, I had him tag along on the trip. You know, he was he's a medic veteran was in the military. Didn't have for whatever reason came out of the military feeling a little depressed, been taking some antidepressants and things just wasn't even working until recently. smokes a lot of cigarettes. After four days with me on the border and the workouts and jumping in the cold lake and he's given up cigarettes. He did 100 burpees here in the office yesterday, he's completely transformed. And I guess my point is like, how do we take that spark that my mother gave me or that spark that I gave him, and, you know, multiply it by 100 million people, 500 million people, because they're going to be happier, the world's going to be better for it. Putin probably wouldn't be acting the way he was if we had him doing more burpees. So, well, I know I ramble a lot. 


James Laughlin 15:33 

No, It's great. I love it. And the whole spot like for the person that's listening right now that doesn't know a lot about Spartan what's, what's the whole reason behind Spartan What motivated you to create it? 


Joe De Sena 15:44 

I think, you know, I watched my mom write people into yoga meditation and get them healthy. And watch them transform and then talk about it for years later. And for me, it was ultra-endurance stuff. It was crazy stuff like you said, and the more I did, well, the other thing is a little selfish secret is you know, a boxer doesn't train all the time, a boxer typically trained when they have a fight, coming up a date on the calendar. And I found that the more dates I add to the calendar, the more forced I was to live the lifestyle. So, I just wanted to share that with the world, I wanted to share this idea with the world that you can be better than where you are right now, no matter where you are right now. But it's going to require some work. And I've got a hack, that's going to get you to do the work. And that was Spartan. 


James Laughlin 16:44 

Love it. That's so cool. And when you think about, say, the 10 rules for resilience. So, for those folks who are watching this, you'll see it, I'm holding it up. For those that are listening on Apple or Spotify, please go and grab a copy from Amazon or head to Joe's website, joedesena.com. But 10 rules for resilience. So, I read this as a dad. And I read this as a business owner and as a coach. And I see that there was such a crossover between the messages you had in between business and fatherhood, or motherhood. So, what inspired you to sit down and write the book? 


Joe De Sena 17:21 

Well, I'm always two books ahead. So, I just know drives my team nuts. Like, why are we working on another book when we haven't even published the book we have? And it's just for a rainy day. I just know there's going to be a moment. So that book started years ago, when you know, I had had my younger son, I said, Let's go swim across the lake. I don't know four years old or something. And we start swimming. He has a lifejacket on, it's a mile. And the sun is going down. And next thing you know, one of my neighbors out there with a kayak screaming at me to get the kid in and we're fighting over my son, which is not helpful, right? Because then he thinks his dad is nuts. And ultimately, we finished the mile swim. A couple of years later, years later, we're carrying kettlebells down the street for about a mile. Me and the boys and their friends. And a woman screeches her car breaks right up. What are you guys doing? Are those kids safe? I've been watching them walk out in this heat, carrying heavyweights. Are you a coach? Kids are you okay? And I thought, you know, can't really blame her. She hasn't seen a kid on a sidewalk in a decade, right? These look like foreign creatures, and they're carrying heavyweights. And I just thought, you know, how could you expect kids to become adults and stand on their own two legs, if you don't, you know, teach them how to overcome adversity? How to do hard things like PE has been ripped out of schools. We call it we call our kids teachers and solve their problems for them, right? We wipe their butt. We do everything for them. Even a gritty, resilient dad like me who's trying was writing books about it and owns a company called Spartan. Even I'm too soft on my kids. And so, again, I go back to those Eastern Europeans. The reason they're grittier, the reason they're tougher is that they had tougher childhoods. So, you really love your kid. Make it harder on them. Don't make it easier. 


James Laughlin 19:33 

As I read the book, it was so transformational for me. So, I grew up in Northern Ireland, and Northern Ireland had its own fair share of challenges. But as a foreign five-year-old, I was out in the fields at random neighborhoods has had a hatchet and my hand building tree houses. There's no I've got a five-year-old boy. There's no way I can imagine that nowadays, right? Just no, I'm in New Zealand a relatively safe country. But as soon as I read the book, it was a rainy morning we got a little Labrador pup I was looking at sat Oh, geez, we should walk tomorrow. And I read the book and I thought, what would Joe do? I was like Finn, get your raincoat buddy. Let's get out. 


Joe De Sena 20:10 

Awesome. That's I love to hear that because that's what I- you know, I just saw a video we forgot we edited a video a year and a half ago and we found all the old videos when my kids were tiny and I had convinced a kung fu master to move in with us on the farm. And I got videos of this kung fu master training these kids and then they got into wrestling. The reason I got a dressing is this story's going to blow your mind. So here I was with the kids. I got this kung fu master living with us. He's training them twice a day. And I meet these guys I know from Wall Street and we're sitting down or having dinner and I'm pounding my chest. What a tough dad I am. I've got this kung fu master and, and they said, Joe, you know, we grew up. We grew up next to a guy who was a green beret. And his two sons were our friends in Seattle. And he was a wrestler, the Green Berets. So, the kids naturally wrestled. And he would make them train every night for an hour and a half in the basement in the dark blindfolded. Because if they could wrestle blindfolded in the dark, imagine how good they'd be in the light. And this went on for about a decade to the point where the mom wanted to call social services, the neighbors like was a whole shit show. Anyway, the kids went to a very high level of wrestling, but they never made it to the Olympics. One of them became a coach at Stanford University. While he was the coach at Stanford, he instituted a new policy where he allowed neighborhood kids to come in and wrestle with his wrestlers to give them different, you know, opponents one night, one of the neighborhood kids said, hey, Coach, I got nowhere to sleep tonight. I got locked out of my apartment. Can I sleep on the mat? The coach said, Don't be ridiculous, you could stay in my apartment; you could stay on the couch. About one o'clock in the morning, the door opens up to the coach's bedroom. And the guy who didn't have a place to sleep is going to commit a random act of violence. He's got a gun. And he gets the coach on a chair zip ties his legs to the chair zip ties his hands behind the chair puts a pillowcase over his head and presses the revolver to his head. And the coach in a muffled voice under the pillowcase says can you shut the lights before you pull the trigger? Because he had trained in the basement in the dark for 10 years. And the perpetrator shuts the lights and the coach proceeds to disarm them, pin them on the ground while tied to a chair blindfolded and call 911. From behind his back. Oh, Stanford police break down the door, they find what looks like a scene from Pulp Fiction. They don't know who the good guy is who the bad guy is. And the guy was going to kill him. I had a ticket to somewhere in South America. I heard the story. And I became even more convicted, that we have to train our children to be tougher because I mean, that's a one in a billion chance something like that would happen. But there are things that happen all day every day and to adults to us. And we want to be better prepared for it. So, my kids gave up Kung Fu and became wrestlers overnight. When I heard that story. We have not instituted the dark blindfolded training yet. But they do want to step it up, man. I got to step it up.  


James Laughlin 23:32 

Now well, let's think about that for a second. So, the one thing I took from the book was you can't until you can, you can't until you can. I love that. So, what's the cost to business? For the business leaders out there? And what's the cost to society? If we don't push our kids if we don't stretch them if we don't let them go outside their comfort zone? 


Joe De Sena 23:53 

Well, let me answer with an analogy. Let's make believe we had one society, Ukraine for the next 20 years rebuilding, right let's make-believe Russia ended its invasion and it was able to peacefully rebuild itself. That's one society. It was pretty rugged. Kids that grew up in the rubble, they're going to be rebuilding their houses, right war-torn country. And then let's make-believe we had another society. I don't know pick up New Zealand. And in New Zealand, everybody got to grow up in a greenhouse. And they were watered on time. You know, they're like plants, right? They were watered on time that the perfect temperature. Later on in life, the kids from the Ukraine battle, the kids from New Zealand that grew up in greenhouses, and face all kinds of challenges throughout the day. They're in business challenges, their personal challenges, like who's going to be better prepared? Lately, the Ukrainians, clearly the Ukrainians, and so, you know, if we're going to live in Utopia, and everything's going to be perfect as a greenhouse, then I guess you can grow up in a greenhouse with everything being spoon-fed to you. And, you know, you're not having any shocks to the system. But if you're going to live in this world where everything that can go wrong does go wrong, and relationships and people die. And you're faced with business challenges, and you name it the shit we have to deal with I have to deal with on a daily basis, like, I think every day like, how would my kids be dealing with this right now? How would I prepare them for this? 


James Laughlin 25:30 

That's so powerful. And, you know, the whole premise of the book is all around building resilience. So, you had your own pool cleaning business, then you had a trading firm on Wall Street. And now you run Spartan, so you'd obviously had Spartan three COVID, probably the biggest test of grit and resilience. So, what's been the impact on Spartan? And how have you responded? 


Joe De Sena 25:54 

Well, it's an, I mean, it's a disaster. I mean, I got shut down in 45 countries nearly went bust. Five times, I mean, I'm still struggling to come out of it. And it just made me a better person I got, I got to dust off every single day, put my cleats back on and get back in the game. And I just keep telling myself, this is what I tell people. So, let's make sure it's true. And just keep putting one foot in front of the other. And let's get this done. But I'd be lying to you if I, you know if it wasn't hard. The advantage to having a really big, audacious goal, a purpose of trying to change 100 million lives that that advantage is that even when it sucks, I'm able to refer my brain back to that purpose, but back to the reason we're doing this and live to fight another day. But I'd be lying to you if I didn't want to quit every single day, like, you know, have 


James Laughlin 26:51 

The million goals, that vision? Or what's behind that? Why 100 million people what's what difference is that going to make for you when you see that you've transformed those people? What difference in the world will that make? 


Joe De Sena 27:02 

Well, I thought, this is going to sound silly. But if I could change 100 million lives, I get a free pass into heaven. But then recently, I got an email that said, Joe, I'm a churchgoer. I heard you say that. I want you to know that's not the way you get into heaven. I'm sure I'm going to piss some people off. But I don't know. My mother said Doesn't matter what religion you believe it doesn't matter what background you come from, doesn't matter what business what matters that you're a good person, we got to give cars with eyes, right? We got to just be good. And so, I guess to our point we mentioned earlier, it hurts me to give to try to change your meal, it hurts. So, I guess I'm giving. 


James Laughlin 27:47 

100% 100% And it's funny just came from the book as well commit to no bullshit. And I really see you walk that walk. So how does someone really get to know themselves and walk that walk and commit to no bullshit in their lives? 


Joe De Sena 28:07 

Well, you only meet yourself, you know, under stress, and you think you know who you are. And people think they know who you are. But it's only when you've tested your backs against the wall, and everything's going wrong, that we get to find out who we are. And that's when you can, go beneath the surface and say all this other fluff and all this other nonsense is bullshit. I'm not a big excuses guy. I love people that call me out and hold me accountable when I come up with some excuse because we all do it. And I said to my kid's coach, yesterday, I was saying, well, in fairness, I just did a 40-hour trip back from the Ukrainian border. And I'm a little dehydrated. And he goes, why they didn't have water on the plane? And that's a great answer, right? Like you're right. How can I- No excuse I should have drunk more water? So and so anyway, you meet yourself under tremendous stress, you got to put yourself under stress. In doing so you become stronger. And you got to get rid of the excuses. 


James Laughlin 29:17 

Yeah, because there's distress and you stress right? And so actually putting yourself under stress is not actually a negative thing. 


Joe De Sena 29:23 

No, it's a very healthy thing. I mean, when you want to build biceps, it seems to be okay to put yourself under stress. When you want to learn math, it seems okay to put kids under stress and have them take tests and study. But you've got to put your whole life under some good healthy stress. You got to manufacture some adversity. Just to make sure you're always grounded. By the way, it's not intuitive, you'll be a hell of a lot happier. Because if you're in a place where everything's going well, what tends to happen with you know, 99% of the population Doesn't matter what country is we tell ourselves we would be happy if we just had that. If we just and you continue to chase the next that the next thing, whereas when you manufacture some adversity, what happens, and I just interviewed a, a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor from Russia, she says the exact same thing, which is, you know, when you're under stress like that, your practice that whether it's purposeful or not, in her case, it was done to her at eight years old, you know, because her situation, you then wish for the thing you were complaining about before. I just wish I was suffering in that way because this is worse, right? And you're not chasing that Ferrari, that nicer house, that different relationship that like those things that are so elusive, never bring happiness, the quickest way to bring happiness is to remove all that stuff, suffer a bit. And then just let yourself sit down after that suffering. You're like, Oh, my God, I'm so happy right now. I'm so glad I'm not doing burpees I'm so glad I'm not in a cold shower, I'm so glad. Whatever it is, is not happening to me right now. And that's how you quickly find happiness. And not even mentioning all the drugs being released into your brain for the next 20 days. Um, there are so many tremendous benefits to doing this stuff, you got to do it. 


James Laughlin 31:28 

That's powerful. When you talk about stress, it reminds me of this, there was a study done with two trees, and they put one tree outside in a forest and it just grew normally. The other tree, all the same conditions, except one thing, they put it in like a large greenhouse, so that had no wind, zero wind. So, both trees were growing equally at roughly the same speed. And when they got to a certain height, the one in the greenhouse just fell over, just collapsed, another one kept growing, and the trunk kept widening. And so, they like, we need to do this test again, that must have been a dead tree. So, they put like 30 trees in the greenhouse 30 trees in the forest. And again, all the trees that are in the greenhouse, there's no wind condition, they all fell over at a certain height. And then they find out the reason why that tree, but it was outside kept growing because it was under stress, the wind was blowing it so the trunk would develop thickness and develop that resilience and keep growing. So even I didn't. 


Joe De Sena 32:27 

I didn't know about the study. And I've been telling that story forever. So, I'm so glad you said it. Send me this study, because it'd be cool if I had something to refer people back to, but I've been literally saying that forever. I say Would you rather be the tree that grows up in the greenhouse or the one that grows up on the side of the mountain with your roots wrapped around rocks and hanging on for dear life? Right? 


James Laughlin 32:50 

I love it. It's so good and excuses thing going back to that. I chatted with a grip friend and your neck of the woods; a guy called Chester Elton. I should connect with you guys. He's an amazing guy. He said, James, excuses, even when valid are never impressive. 


Joe De Sena 33:05 

Yeah, I love that. I love that. There's no room. There's no room for excuses. I was trying to get a kid a young kid to work out this morning. And with her mom, we were all on the assault bikes. And she just was coming up with all kinds of excuses. And I was basically saying stuff like, they're not going to help get to where we're going here today. Like it's a waste of energy wasted time, you better stop them. But we all do it, you know, and it's nice when people hold us accountable. 


James Laughlin 33:37 

100%. And values are often a great way for us to see the world. So, one of the big takeaways from the book was to live your values. So wrote down here Work Hard, Be nice. So, I go into so many company offices, and they have these beautiful words, integrity, hard work, teamwork up on the wall, on the stairs leading up to, they got all these things, and you go in, you spend a couple of days and you don't see any of the values coming from the majority of people. So how does someone embody their values? 


Joe De Sena 34:07 

Well, you got to just do it and the way I recommend it, and so I kind of like the company puts it out there on the wall. When I do that, personally, and I tell the world on a podcast like this, like, this is who I am, I wake up and work out every day I do this, I do that. I'm doing so publicly. So, I'm on the hook, I don't want to be considered a fraud. So maybe that company in question needs to all hold hands and go to their local newspaper and say, this is who we are. And this is what we do. And then ask their consumers ask their customers like do we live up to this? Because you're right if you're just putting the words on the wall, but nobody's holding you accountable. You're not checking in with people to see that you're actually doing what you say you do. Then I think it's easy, especially in a world of so Media and being able to hide stuff and, you know, take pictures that we're doing this when we're not really doing it, but it looks like we are. Yeah, I think you got to have some people around you that are just shining a mirror in your face you and your team's face, and saying, are you really doing that? 


James Laughlin 35:21 

That's where a good whether it's a coach or a mentor or something your board of directors is going to come in and actually hold you to account. No doubt about it. Now lets for a second, just talk about the show no retreat. So, for those business leaders, I want you to know that Joe works with families, he works with all the athletes, elite performers, but also, he's got the show. So, tell us a little more about the show. 


Joe De Sena 35:46 

So, for 22 years on the farm companies have come up the Goldman Sachs, the Nikes, the Facebook's the Googles, and we basically beat the shit out of them. But we do it in a purposeful way. We try to highlight what issues all companies have issues, all families have issues, all people have issues, we highlight and zone in on those issues, three big issues. And then we emulate we create challenges on the farm, we obstacles that will really highlight that issue they're dealing with. And in doing so, we get folks to pivot to make a change, to finally address the stuff they've been just walking over every day in the office. And it's crazy that I'm going to say this, but surprisingly, when we check back in on them, because now it's a television show, and CNBC said we got to go check in on them three months later, the results are un friggin believable, you can't believe the results. It's almost not believable. But and you say, Well, why? Well, yeah, the company could have listened to a podcast, I could have read a book, they could have gone to you know, Harvard Business School. But that doesn't really force change. We force change on the farm. We address the issues on the farm. Does that make sense? 


James Laughlin 37:06 

I love it. 100%. And so, if you were to take Spartan, so yourself and your leaders to the farm, and Joe was running it, what would he find with your business? What are your three biggest challenges that he would uncover? And how would he build those? 


Joe De Sena 37:21 

Well, I mean, I think a lot of my people would quit. Because, like my kids and my family say, you know, Dad, all these other people get to go home. We never get to go home. We have to live with you, right? So, it's always on. And I think that's in fairness, that's hard. For those people that work around me, I'm always on. I'm always pushing. It's never enough, right? We're going further. We're going bigger, we're under stress. It's hard for people to do. I mean, the main issue our company has is we've distributed workforce. So, we've got communication issues, for sure. We're definitely feeling a tremendous cash crunch. I don't know what obstacle I'd come up with on the farm to deal with that, because we're coming out of COVID. And I was shut down in 45 countries. So that's a nightmare. And I'd say being self-critical. We're doing too much. It's my fault. I love doing more like we're going to get into the nutrition spray space, we're doing membership, we're doing this thing. And it's a lot for me to ask of my teams. But um, yeah, there are examples that I just gave. I know, I know what's wrong. Maybe I need somebody else on the farm to put me through it. 


James Laughlin 38:41 

That sounds like it, that'd be a fun way to finish the series off. And hey, Joe, one thing that really holds I find a lot of us back including myself is just fear, like the fear of failure, the fear of disappointment, the fear of letting others down the fear of success even, right? So how do you approach dealing with fear and overcoming it? 


Joe De Sena 39:02 

Well, I face fear. I learned very early on I don't know why that when I'm afraid of something, I have to just do it, I have to use it as fuel. That's how I met my wife. I was doing a race. And my leg of the race was to carry a backpack full of sand on a beach and run. And when I got to the end of it, I tagged the next person in the relay to swim across the bay. And I looked out at the Bay. And I thought I don't want to swim out there. There are a lot of seals there are probably sharks. I'm afraid of sharks. And once that popped in my head, you know, I had that self-talk. I said, well, now you got to do it. Now you got to you know, put your big boy shorts on and get in the water. And I swam across, and I got I came up on shore and I met my wife on the other side. So, I can't think of many, you know, examples in my life where I haven't done something I didn't want to do. Well, you'll appreciate this one. I was in Scottland when we were putting on a race, and I saw we had tent weights that look like dumbbells, holding the tent down there were about 50 pounds each. And my mind immediately thought, like, oh, I should do the course carrying those two dumbbells, don't do it. And I had a little fear. Because of the way I operate my life. I said, well, now that you said, you're not going to do it, now we got to do it. And I went out and convinced a bagpiper Scottish bagpiper to follow me the whole way while I carry these weights on the course. And there's an example in the memories in my mind from that I can't believe I didn't videotape. Or just epic just unbelievable memories. Can you imagine walking in the hills of Scotland right with these two weights? It was unbelievable. 


James Laughlin 40:41 

You know what's funny about that, Joe. So, I'm a pipe band drummer. So, bagpipe drummer of all my life. That's what I've done as a kid. I started doing it. And so, it's funny that you bring up the bagpipes randomly on the show. 


Joe De Sena 40:54 

Yeah, yeah. I love the bagpipes. I mean, yeah, there was just something really authentic about doing that in the rain. It was great. 


James Laughlin 41:03 

I love it. No messing around. Yeah. And what about- So, I've got a lot of listeners that are into elite sport, and some of them are professional athletes. So, for them to be developing grit, what's your suggestion for that long-term perseverance, how does an elite performer develop that grit? 


Joe De Sena 41:22 

Well, if you want one specific task, I'll give you a few, cold waters. Lots of cold showers, lots of cold plunges. Finish your last meal at 5 pm. That night. The next morning, wake up and do something that's going to deplete yourself deplete you of all your glycogen. Let's just say 300 burpees or 300 calories on an assault bike, or you know something that just going to wipe you 5000 calories of rowing. A 10-mile run, fast run. So now you've got no glycogen left, you're feeling a little lightheaded. Drink as much water as you want. But you're can't have food. Throw a 40-pound pack on your back and go out for an eight-hour hike. That my friend will develop some grit. You're completely you're starving. And by the way, if it's raining and cold that that'd be a bonus, right? You're starving, you've got no glycogen, you're lightheaded, you're going to be fine. You're not going to die. Fine. It's just going to be very uncomfortable. And, and you out there for eight hours and three hours in, you're sitting down on a stump somewhere on a stoop somewhere. And you're like, What the hell am I doing? I can't believe I listen to this podcast; I made this guy. I listened you know, I did this. But then you muster up enough energy to do another hour and another hour, another hour before, you know you got eight hours done. I used to do that for 14 days, you know, and that's the way you become really gritty. 


James Laughlin 42:54 

Powerful. And for the guy who's sitting right now in the car with a suit and tie on driving home from his corporate job. And he's a leader there. She's a leader there. How do they develop that grit to perform in their lives? 


Joe De Sena 43:09 

Well, it could be the cold showers, it could be some really, really hard workouts. Remember, when we think back to what I said earlier about you're not giving us it hurts. You're not developing grit unless it hurts. And it doesn't have to be negative hurt. It's not we're not. We don't want permanent damage. We're just we just want to be really, really uncomfortable. I used to do all my running when I was training for loan offer runs, I would make my shoes wet, I would go into a river, and then I would put sand in them. And it sounds ridiculous. Why would you do that? That's not. And my thinking was like, the one thing that knocks you out of a race typically. And I'm sure there's a metaphor for business is a blister on your foot before you know it, you're walking a little funny, then your hip starts to hurt, your shoulder hurts, you're out of the race. And I said I'm just going to beat my feet up in all my training. So that when I actually race I have no, I never had a foot issue. 


James Laughlin 44:09 

Amazing. And so, for the person who's running the business, it's like, hey, how can we under times of harmony put ourselves under stress. So, when the proverbial hits the fan, we're ready to go. 


Joe De Sena 44:22 

Ready to go. You've been running with sand in your shoes, and they're wet for a year. This is no big deal. 


James Laughlin 44:30 

I love it. And look, I'll just before we wrap up, I got two last questions. One question is this. What's it like to be the life partner of Joe? 


Joe De Sena 44:40 

Or you got to ask my wife I'm sure there are days I know there are days where she's like, this sucks. Like what am I doing with this guy? I'm not walking in the house hugging it like that's just not who I am. When I walk into the house. I want to know did the kids do their Mandarin right or did they do their math though? What are we like? What's our plan for the morning? Like, I'm just always on. And that's got to be really frustrating to live with. But it's just, it's who I am. It's not a cop-out, it doesn't mean that I can't be better in those areas I should be. But I just try to squeeze out all the performance I can for myself and those around me. And nobody really likes that. Like, don't you like the outcome? But you don't like the process? 


James Laughlin 45:28 

Definitely. And in terms of rest and sleep and all that stuff. What are your thoughts about the need for eight hours of sleep a night? 


Joe De Sena 45:35 

My mantra for 25 years as I'll sleep when I'm dead. Lately, you know, I get to bed I try to be in bed by no later than nine 9:30. And I'm up at five in the morning. Yeah, and I've got some I got some really cool products. People send me products all the time, I got some really cool herbal products. That's Oh, my God, I've been taking it for the last few weeks. And when you go to sleep you are you might as well be in a friggin casket. 


James Laughlin 46:02 

What is that product? 


Joe De Sena 46:04 

I got it. I don't even know the name. Stay tuned. It's unbelievable. 


James Laughlin 46:08 

Brilliant. I'll keep an eye out for that. And look, Joe, before we wrap up one last question. So, you are a very old man. And you're in your last breath. And one of your kids comes up and says, Hey, Dad, one last question, how do I lead my life on purpose? What would you say? 


Joe De Sena 46:28 

How do I lead with purpose? Yeah. I would say I would go back to what we said earlier in the call, which is the best thing we could do on this planet. I heard this from a wise guy Believe it or not growing up, I lived around a lot of organized crime guys, and there's a guy that killed people for a living and he said, the best thing you could do while we're on this planet is help people. So, if you believe that which we have to that's got to be an accurate statement. Right? It's the best thing we could do not help ourselves help others. And we believe that you're not really helping unless it hurts. I guess. I guess my statement to my child would be like, make sure you're helping others and make sure it hurts. And you'll derive an enormous amount of pleasure from that. Because I do. 


James Laughlin 47:16 

That's really powerful. I love it. Thank you. And folks, for those that are listening please take a second to go to Instagram follow Joe De Sena there, go to Amazon and buy 10 rules for resilience mental toughness for families, apply it to your business as well as your family jewels or anything else you'd like the listener to do and take action on right now. 


Joe De Sena 47:36 

Cold showers I want 30 days 30 burpees a day and 30 cold showers and then let us know what you think. 


James Laughlin 47:44 

Damn, I do the cold showers already, but I'll add that the burpees in, for you, man. I love it. Hey, thanks a million Joe. 


James Laughlin 48:07 

Thanks for tuning in today and investing in your own personal leadership. Please hit that subscribe button. And I'd love it if you'd leave me a rating and review. I've got some amazing guests lined up for you in the coming weeks. And leaders. It's that time to get out there and lead your life on purpose.