Akshay is a Marine veteran, speaker, adventurer and entrepreneur. His new book Fearvana is an actionable guide on how to turn fear into a friend to accomplish anything.
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3 Key Points:
- Learn to follow and embrace your struggles.
- If you suffer well, struggling will be easy.
- The magic for entrepreneurs happens outside of the comfort zone—from the crucible of fire, greatness is born.
Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [00:52] – After 6 years in the US Marine Corps, Akshay left the service and got a corporate job
- [00:58] – He soon quit his corporate job to spend a month skiing and built a business when he got back
- 01:27 – Akshay was on Episode 651 of Entrepreneurs On Fire
- [02:02] – Mastering fear is Akshay’s area of expertise
- [02:43] – One BIG and Unique Value Bomb: We don’t actually control when fear shows up in the brain
- [03:27] – Fearvana is a state of bliss that results from engaging our fears to pursue our own worthy struggle
- [03:53] – The creation of Fearvana was a result of Akshay’s low point after he left the Marines
- [04:01] – He got to the point of being suicidal
- [04:24] – Akshay’s wife coined Fearvana
- [04:54] – The worst piece of advice Akshay ever receive is “follow your passion”
- [06:06] – JLD always says follow your curiosity
- [09:19] – Happiness is a weird thing for Akshay
- [09:36] – It’s a matter of controlling the 3 time perspectives – past, present, and future
- [09:54] – Find meaning in the past, and embrace the present to drive your future
- 10:44 – Flow and Buddha’s Brain are 2 books Akshay recommends
- [13:57] – Habituating will power is what contributes to Akshay’s success
- [16:05] – Writing a book was one of Akshay’s fears
- [16:37] – Fear translates to another fear
- [16:58] – As you grow, find new problems to seek out
- [17:52] – Channel your fear into something purposeful and meaningful
- [18:58] – Choose one area you want to improve in your life
- 20:38 – Fearvana.com/Fire is the place to get his new book
- [21:02] – Get comfortable with the struggle
JLD: Akshay is a Marine veteran, speaker, adventurer, and entrepreneur. His new book, Fearvana, is an actual guide on how to turn fear into a friend to accomplish anything. Akshay, take a minute, fill in some gaps from that intro and give us a little glimpse of your personal life.
AN: Sure! So, after spending six years in the Marines, one tour in Iraq, I got out, had a corporate job for a year and a half, quit that to spend a month skiing across the second largest ice cap in the world –
JLD: So cool.
AN: Blew $15,000.00 and then came back and built the business from the ground up. Hit some low moments after the war, struggled with some PTSD and alcoholism, but that all led to Fearvana so it’s a good thing.
JLD: Yeah, people have lost $15,000.00 in a lot worse ways than skiing across a glacier. So, hey, I love it, my friend. Fire Nation, if you’re recognizing the name or the voice or both it’s because Akshay rocked the mic back on episode 651, which is over 1,100 episodes ago, which in my world, Akshay, means over 1,100 days ago. So, it’s been a little while.
AN: Yeah, it’s been a while.
JLD: We’ve stayed in touch though. We stayed in touch throughout because we’re both veterans, combat veterans – you, Marines, myself, Army. I’m excited because I think that you have a lot to bring to this world. Before we really dive into Fearvana, which is gonna be the topic that we focus on today, Fire Nation, what would you consider your area of expertise today?
AN: I would say it’s mastering fear. Ultimately, fear is the most primitive emotion, so it’s really mastering our mindset so we can leverage it to accomplish any goal. Ultimately, as I’m sure you’re well aware, there’s no external factors to stop us from getting where we want to be. It’s ultimately up to us. Whatever comes in the way, we can channel that and leverage our mind to accomplish something. So, it’s really about turning fear, stress, anxiety, the seemingly negative forces into an ally to accomplish all our goals.
JLD: Now, there’s a lot of things that we don’t know about fear and we’ll be covering some of those things today, but what’s just one thing, Akshay, that might be pretty cool if you could just maybe drop on us right now that we don’t know about fear, but as entrepreneurs we probably should?
AN: I think the most important thing, it sounds really simple but I always like to stress this because I cannot stress how important it is, is that we don’t actually control when fear shows up in the brain. Our brain responds to the environment around us without our conscious control. That’s really, really important because by simply choosing to accept whatever shows up in our brain, we can stop fighting it and stop beating ourselves up for it. So, I think the most important thing is accepting that we don’t control it and ultimately that allows us to fall in love with fear and say fear is not a negative thing. It’s actually a positive thing or it’s whatever we choose it to be, ultimately.
JLD: Love that! Now, Fire Nation, one thing I kinda want to move into is Fearvana. How did you actually come up with this concept of Fearvana and what specifically does it mean and am I pronouncing it right?
AN: Yep, that’s perfect. Fearvana. So, I define Fearvana as a state of bliss that results from engaging our fears to pursue our own worthy struggle. What I mean by that is we all have our own worthy struggles. For you, it might be hosting a podcast. It might be writing a book. It might be building a business, skiing across an ice cap. Whatever it may be, we have that worthy struggle and it’s scary, it’s hard, it’s stressful to engage that struggle. Fearvana is the bliss that ultimately results from that. My journey to the creation of Fearvana and ultimately the book really started when I hit a low point after the war.
So, many years later, I struggled with alcoholism and I hit a point where I considered taking my own life. I literally thought that this pattern of sobriety and drinking was just not gonna change and I can still remember when I thought of taking my own life, that hit me really hard. I knew then something needed to change, so I started researching neuroscience, psychology, spirituality, to not only heal my own brain but to figure out what does it take for all of us to live a happy, meaningful life. That’s what actually led to this terminology and my wife coined it, which I thought was absolutely brilliant. But when she coined it, I had been kind of living that lifestyle. She crystalized it by giving it a name.
JLD: One thing that I’m pretty curious about and I know that, Fire Nation, you’re probably going to be fascinated by, is the answer to the question the one piece of advice that you’ve actually found most harmful to entrepreneurs. We talk a lot about what’s the best piece of advice and what can help entrepreneurs, but you found a piece of advice that’s actually harmful to us as entrepreneurs. What is that?
AN: I think one of the worst pieces of advice I hear a lot is this idea of follow your passion and life will just be joyful and happy and grand. I can’t tell you how many email lists and how many “experts” I see online that talk about how life will just be easy and if we follow our passion, life will be awesome. My whole thing is it’s not about following our passion, it’s about following struggle. Struggle prefaces passion. Take a look at someone like Michael Phelps, most decorated Olympian athlete of all time. He was actually terrified when he started swimming. He was nervous of the water and he said, ‘The more I swam, the better I became at it, and the more my passion for the sport grew.’
So, it’s really not about constantly finding the joy and finding this passion, but learning to embrace struggle. The more you can develop a positive relationship to struggle or suffering or fear, the greater your life will be, and ultimately you’ll find more joy in the moment to moment experience that is life.
JLD: Let me say this and please feel free to come back at me with disagreements or anything. Just because I’m the host of this podcast does not mean that you have to agree with everything that I say. In fact, I think it might be a cool conversation even if you don’t. I, for a long time, have been against that notion of following your passion as well. I’ve really been speaking out against that. But one thing that I do say, and I actually do think in some ways it does marry with what you said pretty nicely, but I always say follow your curiosity.
I like that word, ‘curiosity’ because for me, I have struggled for a long time, like almost every single human being in this world, with staying completely as healthy as possible with keeping my weight in check, with just feeling alert and alive and not fatigued, getting a good nights’ sleep, putting the right foods in my body. I’ve always struggled with those things so I’ve always been curious about how I can improve myself with that. I am super, super curious about nutrition, about fitness, about health, about wellness. For the past couple years, Fire Nation’s really been hearing me talk more and more and more.
It’s been kind of like this build up where I kinda started mentioning it here and there a couple years ago, and now a year and a half ago maybe a little bit more, now this past year it’s just been like blah-blah-blah, ‘John, stop talking about health and wellness,’ but I can’t because I’m so curious about it. Because No. 1, it is a huge struggle for me, but No. 2, when I find that I learn more about it because of my curiosity, it just helps me so much in that area where my nutrition is miles ahead of where it was two, three ago.
My health, my wellness, my sleep cycle, everything is so much further ahead. So, by following my curiosity, which came from a struggle, I’m not gonna be launching a business in health and wellness coming up here in the beginning of January of 2018, which I can’t wait. I don’t even know if I can even honestly call it a passion because I’m not passionate about nutrition. I don’t wake up like I can’t wait to read this report from Harvard Health, whatever. I don’t, but I’m curious. So, what are your thoughts on that?
AN: I love it. I think it’s a great take and a great input as well because when you’re curious, it keeps you open. It keeps seeking and that constant search for growth is what drives us to the next thing and the next win. In fact, when I sobered up, one of my kind of adventure mentors, he put it beautifully. He said, ‘Life is too curious to be wasting it on the juice.’ I think he called it. But I love the way he said life was too curious and it’s exactly in line with what you’re saying. I do the same thing. I’m always seeking out that search for the next thing.
Even writing the book was a terrifying and scary process and it was not very enjoyable. It was brutal. I must have trashed about 100,000 words worth of work just going into the book, but I was always about the learning. I’m sure you can relate. When you teach something, it enhances your own learnings, right? So, forcing me to teach and compile my knowledge in this book was really a process of exploring my own curiosity on the subject and ultimately it helped me develop a further mastery on the subject as well.
JLD: Absolutely! I love this acronym for I.L.T. which is Invest, Learn, Teach. So, you invest in yourself whether that be through money, through your own time, through that research or a combination of both, whatever that might be, you learn the content and then turn around and teach. Guess what? You’re not gonna be the forefront expert in the world on that topic, but you’re gonna know more than potentially 99 percent of the world that hasn’t spent the time investing in themselves, learning that content, and you are an expert to them. So, then turn around and teach and that’s fine that you’re still learning from people ahead of you. That’s amazing and you should be excited about that.
For you, you talk a lot about fear, about guilt, about suffering, and that’s important topics to talk about. Let’s be honest. But if you had to zero in on happiness, how would you do that?
AN: Happiness is this weird thing because most of us live our lives searching for that next thing and we think when I hit X, then I will be happy. If I make that million dollars, if I find that dream relationship. But really what happiness is, and I’ve come to discover this through all my research as well, is it’s a matter controlling the three time perspectives. So, what I mean by that is there’s a past, there’s a present, and a future and we all have these three selves that are consciously living in this kind of battle sometimes between the three selves. The way to truly find happiness is to embrace the three time perspectives. What that means is finding meaning to our past, embracing it in the present in order to drive our future.
So, the largest study on happiness actually found that the best moments in our lives are not the happy, passive, relaxing times. The best moments usually occur when we push our bodies and minds to their limits. So, that’s why I talk about these three time perspectives because when we find that worthy struggle, which is how I define Fearvana, it unites the present and the future in drive or something meaningful. So, that’s ultimately what happiness is about. It’s about finding that worthy struggle and research show it and it’s how I’ve found it in my own life because it allows up to embrace the moment, embrace the now while seeking something meaningful as well in service of our future.
JLD: On that note, are there any books that you’ve read, obviously beyond Fearvana, that might have inspired you for some of the things that you’ve incorporated into this content?
AN: Yeah, in the study I just talked about, it was in this book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Another great one that served as a lot of search of my own was a book called Buddha's Brain by Dr. Rick Hanson. These are a few that stand out right now.
JLD: Have you read the book The Power of Now?
AN: I have. That one I read a long time ago.
JLD: That’s one that I found some power in, but it’s been a while since I read that so I’d be curious if I read it now, today. When I say ‘a while ago’, I read it before I launched EOFire. So, I wonder if I read it now after the five years of running a successful business how that would change. That’s the thing, Fire Nation, just because you’ve read a book; you’re at a different point in your life if time’s gone by. Sometimes a book can speak to you when it didn’t speak to you before. Now, Akshay has some value bombs to be dropping after we get back from thanking our sponsors. Akshay, we’re back, and if you just had to pick one trait, one characteristic that contributed most to your success, what would it be?
AN: It would be habituating willpower. It’s kind of like this ironic thing because willpower is inherently not a habit. It’s the act of being conscious. It’s an act of self-control, choosing to do something consciously against often that natural state of laziness which our brain is in. So, learning to habituate willpower, learning to get comfortable with that state of discomfort, saying that I don’t feel like doing this thing, but I’m gonna keep doing it.
The more you can do that, the more you can practice exercising self-control, practice being comfortable with suffering – I like to use the word ‘suffering’ because it’s so much more harsher than struggle or pain. So, if you can suffer well, then struggling doesn’t sound so bad, right? So, I like that to say that learning how to suffer well and in a neurological way that’s habituating willpower. Actually, Charles Duhigg, in the book The Power of Habit, calls it one of the most important keystone habits as well.
JLD: One thing that I’ve definitely recognized in my life, Fire Nation, is that all the magic happens outside your comfort zone. If you’re spending too much time in your comfort zone, by the way, which is where we all like to be, our brain knows the power of survival, it’s survival of the fittest, and it knows that it just wants to not put itself in a dangerous situation. So hey, you have this comfortable little comfort zone where you have your little cubical and your little job and your nice little paycheck. Hey, all those things are good, but you’re listening to the wrong podcast. Go back to your PowerPoint, whatever you’re doing.
But if you’re listening to this podcast and you’re part of Fire Nation, which I know you are, you gotta get outside of that comfort zone, guys. That’s where the magic happens, pushing the envelope. I do things every day – actually, that’s an exaggeration. I’m not gonna lie. I do things every week though that are outside of my comfort zone. I freak myself out. If I’m not doing something for a significant amount of time that I’m a little freaked out about then I know that something’s gotta change. Fire Nation, something’s gotta change if you’re not scared every now and then.
I was just listening to Amy Porterfield’s podcast and one of the best things about her, I believe, is she’s always talking about doing things that scare her. By the way, a lot of people would be like, ‘There’s no way Amy would be scared to do that.’ Well, she is and she admits it and that’s part of her vulnerability, her transparency, that’s part of just sharing you with your audience as you’re growing. So, get the heck out of that comfort zone.
AN: Writing my book was one of the most scariest things I’ve done.
AN: And I was writing about fear. It’s ironic because people would think oh, he’s the “expert”, but it was so scary because the whole time I’m thinking is this any good, are people gonna think it’s garbage, and I’m waiting for the one-star review that you’ll inevitably get on Amazon. But that’s part of the journey and part of the battle.
JLD: So, can we overcome fear, Akshay? Is there a magic pill that we can just take and overcome this terrifying thing called fear?
AN: I don’t think we ever want to. Fear, as you said, it’s seeking out the next one. So, writing my book was scary and then now that I’ve written it, I got some great feedback from it, I’ve been blessed with some really noteworthy endorsements, that then translates to the next fear. Now, it’s about promoting and marketing the book and that’s super scary. Then, I’m gonna have a few business ideas that I’m working on for next year that also continue to be scary. So, it’s really about seeking out.
As you grow, you should be finding new problems in life to seek out. If you’re having the same problems that you had three years ago, then you need to digging deep to find out what’s going on because you always want to have new problems, new fears, new stressors to engage in life and that will lead you to the next stage of your own personal evolution.
JLD: So, where’s the magic pill?
AN: Really the magic pill is just learning to – it’s literally practicing saying that I can suffer with a smile. I can enjoy fear. So, for example, in my gym, I have a poster on my wall that says, ‘During a workout, you should think four things: 1.) I’m not gonna make it, 2.) I want to quit, 3.) I’m gonna die if I keep going, and 4.) I’d rather die than finish this.’ And at the bottom, it says, ‘Are you working hard enough?’ So, simply by changing the relationship to my struggles, to my suffering, it becomes something I enjoy.
I think Sir Richard Branson put it beautifully. He said, ‘It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.’ So, you focus on you getting comfortable with that misery and also ultimately about channeling it into something meaningful, something purposeful. So, I know when I get positive feedback from the book, that ultimately makes it all worthwhile as I’m sure you can definitely relate with the impact you’re making through your work and your business.
JLD: Absolutely, but you know, there’s always that one-star review that comes and it can ruin your day, Fire Nation, but hey, don’t let it. Just take it for what it is and just don’t be that over-reactive person to that one-star and that under-reactive person to the five-star. I have something like 2,400 five-star reviews for iTunes and literally like 22 one-star reviews just from haters.
You would think in my mind that I have like an equal number of one-star reviews, but you just can’t do that to yourself, Fire Nation. You just have to celebrate the fives as much as you’re looking at the ones and really extrapolating that. Now, Akshay, one thing that I really love, our calls to action. So, what can Fire Nation do in the next 24-hours to put the tools from Fearvana into action to accomplish their next big goal?
AN: Very specific thing, next 24 hours, choose one area, maybe it’s your health, maybe it’s writing that book, maybe it’s building a business, choose one specific area you want to improve, that’s step one. Step two, find one person who’s great in that area and find out what they are doing and how they are doing it so you’re learning from people who have already done what you want to do. So, once you have that, get some clear action steps. So, step number three, set a large goal. Make it a very clear goal and break it down into small chunks.
So, it could be, for example, the large goal is to finish the book and the small chunks is let me do one chapter or even one paragraph. Then, take one action in the next 24-hours to work towards one of those chunks. So, ensure that the action is uncomfortable. It’s gonna be scary, it’s gonna be hard, but this is where you learn to habituate willpower. I heard this beautiful thing from one of my business mentors. He once said that commitment is the fuel and confidence is the reward. So, we talk a lot about this feeling of confidence and how to feel confident, but you’re not gonna feel confident in something that you haven’t done before.
So, you’ve got to learn to practice being committed and confidence will be the reward once you produce that result in X thing. So, that’s step number four, is taking that one action. Then, once you do so, within that 24 hours, write down what worked and what did not work. So, the process of mastery is ultimately just these two steps: it’s what worked and how can I do more of it, and what did not work and how can I improve upon it. So, what’s the problem and how can I fix that problem and that’s literally it.
As you keep working that, you’ll habituate willpower, you learn to practice that willing that commitment fuel to keep taking actions towards the next step, towards the next step, and once you work on that one goal, then you hit it, you finish your book. What’s the next problem that you want to solve in your life and keep seeking it out.
JLD: Where is the best place that we can get our hands on Fearvana?
JLD: Dang! I was waiting for you, it all just worked out. Fire Nation, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You’ve been hanging out with AN and JLD today, so keep up the heat. And Akshay, anything you want to say to close this episode out?
AN: Just the biggest piece of advice I can offer to anybody is get comfortable with that struggle. I know the journey is hard. Believe me, I’ve been there, I’ve hit the low points and I know it can be really, really hard. Reach out to people for support. You got people like JLD here. I’m happy to help. Anybody can reach out on my website. I try to be very reachable. Get that support and the journey will keep getting better.
JLD: Fire Nation, head over to EOFire.com, type ‘Akshay’ in the search bar. That’s A-K-S-H-A-Y, Akshay, and his show notes page is gonna pop up as well as the great episode of 651 where Akshay shares his journey with you, Fire Nation. So, you can listen to both episodes, absolutely value bomb-ridden.
These are the best show notes in the biz, Fire Nation. We have time stamps, we have links, we have everything for you, but as always, the direct call to action is gonna be Fearvana.com/Fire. Take action in the next 24 hours, Fire Nation. Pour some water on your current fear, but just know that next fear is gonna burst into flames down the road and that’s okay. That’s part of life. Akshay, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
AN: Thank you, sir. A pleasure to be here.
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