Barry Friedman’s a 4-time World Juggling Champion, 6-time TED Speaker, and a bestselling author. His book, I Love Me More Than Sugar, and companion website at 30DaysSugarFree.com has supported thousands of people in kicking the addiction to added sugar and live with more energy, better health, and less belly fat.
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- Google Docs – Barry’s small business resource
- Profit First – Barry’s book recommendation
- 30 Days Sugar Free – Barry’s website
- I Love Me More Than Sugar – I Love Me More Than Sugar: The Why and How of 30 Days Sugar Free
- Raspyni Brothers – Barry’s juggling act
3 Key Points:
- Trust your gut. It’s often smarter than your head.
- Everyone has fear, insecurity, and moments of panic. Learn not to listen.
- Get out of your comfort zone and you’ll learn that you’re great in more ways than you thought.
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [01:27] – Barry’s running his first half-marathon on Sunday
- [02:10] – Barry generates revenue by juggling at events, and coaching entertainers on building their business.
- [03:06] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: Shattering his collarbone just before he had a show in Vegas and losing a huge amount of dexterity.
- [05:54] – “When we have a letdown we don’t know where life is going to go.”
- [06:25] – “My wife pointed out to me: ‘You’re really good at booking a juggling gig for a lot of money’…there’s always an opportunity.”
- [08:06] – “I went thirty days sugar-free after that… and it was incredible.”
- [08:55] – Be wary of getting stuck in your comfort zone
- [09:31] – When unexpected things happen, they can jar you into amazing realizations
- [10:00] – Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment: Opening for Robin Williams one night and getting a standing ovation.
- [10:46] – Barry opened for Robin Williams for 6 years
- [12:07] – Trust your gut instinct – “There’s something inside of us that’s so much smarter than this relatively stupid thing in our head.”
- [12:48] – Ask yourself: does this feel right?
- [13:07] – Biggest Weakness? – “An old voice – the fear, the panic, the unworthiness. The stuff I never heard as a child.”
- [14:14] – Biggest Strength? – “It’s something I learned from juggling – pick up more often than you drop”
- [14:32] – What has Barry most fired up today? “Working with boys. I lead adventure weekends, trying to help young people tap into their emotional intelligence”
- [15:20] – “People just want to know that there’s a place for them”
- [18:30] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “I don’t know – I didn’t really have any other options.”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “What’s at risk for you getting everything you really want out of live?”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “Matching my work as best I can every day”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – Google Docs
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – Profit First
- Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, identical to Earth, but you knew no one. You still have all the experiences and knowledge you currently have – your food and shelter is taken care of – but all you have is a laptop and $500. What would you do in the next 7 days? – “I’d start speaking to everyone I met.”
Barry Friedman: John, I don’t even have a chair in my office. I’m on my feet.
Barry Friedman: Let’s do it.
John: Barry is a four-time World Juggling Champion, six-time TED speaker, and a best-selling author. His book, I Love Me More Than Sugar, and companion website at 30dayssugarfree.com has supported thousands of people in kicking the addiction to added sugar and live with more energy, better health, and less belly fat. Barry, take a minute to fill in some gaps in that intro and give us just a little glimpse of your personal life.
Barry Friedman: Well, that’s it I think. No, there’s plenty more that happens. Let’s see. I’m married to my best friend for 28 years, which is kind of a dream come true. I have a 14-year-old son who will, believe it or not, unicycle up, over, and off of anything imaginable. I’m running my first half marathon on Sunday, and deeply sad about having to say goodbye to a foreign exchange student from Sweden who we’ve hosted for the last year. So I have a lot going on in life, as we all have.
John: They kind of grow on you, you know. When I was 16, we had a Brazilian for a year. Then when I was 18, we had an Ecuadorian. So I remember it well.
Barry Friedman: That’s cool. Yeah, his family came down the driveway yesterday to go to his graduation and I’m like, “What? He’s our son. You can’t just take him.”
John: I love that. So, Barry, you have a lot going on. I mean, four-time World Juggling Champion. You’ve graced the TED stage six times. You’re an author. You have a great website. How do you specifically generate revenue in your business?
Barry Friedman: Well, there’s that whole juggling thing that, 36 years ago, my high school guidance counselor promised me, swore as if he had researched it, that it would leave me broke and homeless by 22, that’s going pretty well. I perform at a number of high-profile corporate events every year and I run a couple of group coaching programs for entertainers where we focus on mastering the business of show business. I have four coaching clients that I always keep at a time.
And I run a monthly challenge at 30 Days Sugar Free. It’s this wonderful sweet spot of everything I love in my life. I never spend a minute in traffic going to do something I hate, which, boy –
John: What that a play on words, ‘sweet spot’?
Barry Friedman: Gosh, it may have been. It just came out, but I bet you it was. There’s no accidents.
John: There’s no accidents in this world. I love that. Barry, speaking of no accidents, there’s probably been a couple of times you’ve dropped a ball, both literally and figuratively. You’ve had the ups, you’ve had the downs. What is your worst entrepreneurial moment to date? Take us to that moment. Tell us that story.
Barry Friedman: Worst, okay. There have been bad ones. I tell you, juggling doesn’t come easy. You know, the worst, when you ask me about that, what pops into mind, and it must be bad because I have the memory of it right here on my desk and I know the date, February 18th, 2007. I was just back from a two-week tour of really fun shows around the country. My friend said, “Let’s go mountain biking,” which I love. I’m a big mountain biker here where I live in the Sierra Mountains.
I flew, John, gracefully, as far as he reported, a graceful fly over this big root and landed with a thump, a shattered collarbone kind of sticking out of my skin, and lost my air. I hear about that all the time. I lost my air. I was actually unable to get air. I got to my friend and I said, “I have a show in Vegas on Wednesday.” And he goes, “No, you don’t.” He knew that. Surgery, shattered collarbone. They put a pin in to line up all the piece like a shish kabob, followed up with months of hand therapy.
The gal, I remember, she had this big bucket of uncooked kidney beans and she goes, “There’s four quarters in there. I want to see if you can find on.” And after a couple of times, I found one and I pulled it out. I could feel it and pull it out. She goes, “That’s great.” She got so excited. And then with my left hand, my good hand, I opened my phone up and I’ve got a picture of me juggling five clubs and throwing them behind my back and I said, “I need to get back to this, not finding a quarter.”
So cancelling shows, six months of recovery, rehab, wondering how I was going to make a living and support my family, it really felt like rock bottom. I’d literally, never in my life made a dime without getting on an airplane, making jokes, and juggling three ping pong balls out of my mouth.
John: Wow. I mean, there’s a lot that goes on there, both visually – I mean, it’s just crazy. How long did it take for you to get back to close enough to 100 percent where you were back on stage?
Barry Friedman: I did a show at six months and it wasn’t real pretty. There was some compromise, but I wanted to start working again. I hadn’t even had the collarbone pin removed and the feeling was mostly back in my hand, but still, six months off juggling takes its toll. It’s something that’s good to stay on top of.
John: Now where would you say you are now? Are you back to 100 percent or is there no 100 percent from that injury?
Barry Friedman: Yeah, there’s no 100 percent. I still have this weird thing when I rub my right breast bone, like where my brachial plexus is, it’s so funny, I get these shots down my arm. It’s always a good reminder. I had the doctor hand me the pin so I could keep it on my desk to remind me of that great day.
John: Barry, there’s a lot that we can take away from this, obviously. There’s a lot of ups, a lot of downs, a lot of lessons to be learned. What do you want to make sure Fire Nation gets from this story?
Barry Friedman: I’m riding along and everything’s ok, and a few months into recovery, I was getting antsy. And we all have this when we have a letdown. We don’t know exactly where it’s gonna go. A few months into recovery, getting antsy. Fear was really starting to take over.
I was spending a lot of time reading books, you know those ‘What am I Going to do With My Life?” or “What Color Is My Backpack?” type books. All these books kept asking, “What are you good at? What do you love doing?” I was really, honestly, John, too deep in the forest to even see the trees to answer those questions because my world was always get on an airplane, book better shows, do some more corporate gigs.
My wife had a great line, though. She popped in and said, “You’re really good at booking a juggling act for a lot of money,” and that was something that I wouldn’t have said to myself. It was just something I took for granted. That started my brain on a track. It just tasted delicious to my brain. It was ideas flowing, possibility. After sitting in a chair with nerve spasms for a few months, it just felt wonderful to be rekindled again.
That led to me creating my first online course called “Get More Corporate Gigs” aimed at entertainers. That led to a group coaching program, “Showbiz Blueprint”, and that led to private coaching. There’s always an opportunity. There’s always something underneath whatever seems bad at the time. Are we gonna fed – you know that great story about which wolf’s gonna win? The one you feed.
John: The one you feed.
Barry Friedman: The one you feed. And what happened when my wife said that just reflected back, held a mirror up to me of what I’m really good at. I went, “Okay. That’s what I’m gonna do for a while.” Another one happened leap day, 2012. My 9-year-old son asked me, “What are you gonna leap for leap day?” which I just thought was the greatest definition of a holiday ever given. We had just finished eating these big gnarly frozen yogurts with the gummy worms and the peanut butter cups, and for nothing, I just said, “I’m gonna quit sugar for the day. I’m gonna see what that feels like.”
I was a Snickers bar and Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup and cakes. I was out of control. It was bad. I had a 38-inch waist and all kinds of [inaudible] [00:07:08]. So I said that, and went leap day of 2012 sugar-free. On March 1st, I woke up and I told my wife, I said, “I’ve never felt like I feel right now; the control, the power, the clarity of mind, the sleep I had. I’m actually excited to get up and see if I can do this again.” So I decided at that point to go 30 days sugar-free. About 20 days into that, the addiction was over. The shaking, the crying, the trembling was over.
John: The crying.
Barry Friedman: Oh, my god. It was the end of the world. It was so hard. I never wanted to go back to it. I just never went back. A year and a half into that, I realized what I had been doing to support clowns and jugglers and ventriloquists and magicians had trained me to create something that could help literally anyone with a mouth. So much happened from that collarbone break that day, John. It only seemed terrible at the time. I look back on it and thank God that root was there.
John: Fire Nation, I mean, we run a huge risk in life, and that risk is becoming one-dimensional. The thing is, we work hard. We know that thing that we love. Barry loves juggling and he loved being on stage and telling jokes. The reality was that became his comfort spot. He could travel the world. He could get up on stage. He could do his thing, make people laugh, make people gasp, make people say, “Ah,” but you know what? That was the comfort zone. That was where he was great. That was where he was on fire.
That’s an awesome thing to have accomplished, but then when life hands you a lemon or, in his case, a root in an interesting place, Fire Nation, boom, what happens? That’s a huge thing. Are you one-dimensional right now? It’s okay if you are, but how are you going to branch out? Get out of your comfort zone and add more dimension to your life so that you can be more like Barry where now he has courses and he has clients and he has this and he has that so if one thing drops down or the economy shifts or new opportunities open up, he has a skill set to move forward in those directions.
That’s a huge takeaway, Fire Nation, to understand that, hey, “I might feel horrible because of –” anything could have happened, fill in the blank – “but what is going to be unveiled to me that otherwise might not have?” And you just heard Barry run through that, and that is powerful stuff.
Barry, I want to shift now because you have a lot of stories and you’ve also had a lot of great ideas in your life. You’ve already shared a couple of them with us today, but what’s one of the greatest moments that you’ve had for an ‘a-ha’ moment that you want to share with Fire Nation?
Barry Friedman: 1986, the first time I ever was asked to go on tour – well, not even on tour, just to do one night opening for Robin Williams. It was at Penn State, about 6,000 people in the audience, and I was back stage. Bobby McFerrin had been opening for him for the years before that, and his manager, Dave Steinberg, said to me and my partner, who I have always done my juggling shows with, he said – we had a 30-minute spot prepared and that’s what we were supposed to do, but he said, “If you can get through 10 to 15 minutes, you’ll be more successful than Bobby McFerrin ever was before people start yelling, ‘Robin! Robin!’ It just takes over the whole crowd.”
We did 30 minutes, got a standing ovation. Robin Williams was in the wings the entire show laughing and just – he introduced us from back stage. He high-fived, and that led to six years of opening for him. I felt so just filled with everything I had always wanted in my life, and nothing in my childhood had pointed to that direction, anything from growing up from an abusive childhood, to parents that said, “You have to go do this,” to a counselor who told me I’d be broke and homeless, boy, to just everything in my life that I’ve created. It was in that moment, that night, that was the biggest show I’d ever done at that point, and no looking back.
John: What a story. You must have learned a ton on those six years on the road with Robin Williams.
Barry Friedman: Graduate school. That was my graduate school.
John: That was your graduate school, exactly. What would you say is the biggest takeaway that you had? Not even specifically maybe from that story, it could be, but it could also be from those six years. What’s the biggest takeaway that you want to make sure Fire Nation gets from just that six years of graduate school that you had?
Barry Friedman: You know what I think? And it did kind of come from Robin. It showed me the power of a gut instinct. I would see Robin do a 90-minute show and close with something one night that was so big, and he’d come off stage and be so calm and say, “That was kind of fun, that ending.” And the next night, he would open with it. The comedian inside of me is going, “What the heck is he doing? That’s his close.” And he would open with it.
There was a gut instinct there, and I saw it at the ripe young age of about 24 that there is something inside of us that’s so much smarter than this relatively stupid thing in our head that can work with nouns and verbs, to trust that gut instinct and to really just say, “This is a feeling and I’m gonna commit to this.” I’ve done that forever. I often think of Robin closing with something one night and opening with it the next.
John: Fire Nation, when’s the last time you really checked in with your gut, with your intuition, and said, “Hey, are the flags green right now? Are the stoplights green, are they going ahead, or is there a little red stop sign there?” because your gut is there for you. I mean, I’m not saying it’s 100 percent of the time gonna lead you right, but there’s a reason why we have intuition, why we have a gut.
You need to at least have your finger on the pulse of that, to be checking in and saying, “Does this feel right? Is this exactly the kind of business, the kind of life that I want to be creating and building?” If the answer is no, that’s your intuition telling you, “Hey, time to shift, time to adjust.” It doesn’t take a huge shift or adjustment all the time. It could be a little tweak of the knob that can get you going in an amazing direction. Now, Barry, what would say your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur is?
Barry Friedman: An old voice that drives from behind sometimes; it’s the fear, the panic, the unworthiness, the stuff that was never there in childhood, people telling you – you know, I completely believe that we can change somebody’s life by one sentence, either positive or negative. In my childhood, there were a lot of negative sentences. And once in a while, John, no matter how good things are going, I still feel them reach up and grab the wheel.
John: I love that phase; ‘that stuff you never heard as a child.’ I mean, think about that, Fire Nation. This is stuff you never heard as a child. You go to any 6-year-old, 8-year-old, you say, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and it’s, “I want to be an astronaut,” “I want to be a major league baseball player.” You talk to them and they just see the possibilities.
And then you talk to people ten years later, just ten years later, we’re talking 16, 18, and they’re just like, “Well, you know, I can see all the problems about being an astronaut,” or “I’m just not tall enough or strong enough.” All of the sudden, we start putting these obstacles in our own way. It’s like, why are we putting obstacles in our own way? Why? There’s already enough challenges in life. Why do we have to add to that? So, Barry, what is your biggest strength?
Barry Friedman: I think it’s what I learn from juggling; to be successful – it’s pretty simple math. You probably don’t even want to grab a pencil for this, Fire Nation – you have to pick up more often than you drop. If you fail at something six times, do it a seventh time. Keep getting back in the game. That was the biggest lesson I ever got from juggling.
John: What are you most fired up about today?
Barry Friedman: You know what fires me up, though, and it has nothing to do with my revenue, is working with boys. I lead Rite of Passage Adventure Weekends, supporting 13 to 17-year-old boys in discovering and trusting their own emotional intelligence, the gut intelligence that we talked about. It’s a strange time to be a young person, and it’s really easy to miss right now the most fundamental parts of growing into a mature, masculine man. That scares the heck out of me. It really does.
Maybe it’s from having a 14-year-old son and doing a whole bunch of these Rite of Passage Weekends, but I’ll tell you, there’s certain things I hear from boys now that scare me, and it’s no more to fix it than it is spending some time with them, listening to them, trusting them, letting them see their own brilliance, and letting them see that there’s a place for them in this world.
I really believe infants come into this world asking a couple of simple questions, “Am I safe? Am I loved? Is there a place for me?” Boy, if that doesn’t get addressed, if kids don’t get to be seen for who they are and what their brilliance is, it can all go by in a flash and next thing you know, not that there’s anything wrong with any job in the world, but they’re doing something, as you mentioned a minute ago, that is just filled with consolation, with sacrifice, “I guess I’m gonna do this.” It’s a crime for me to see.
I’m really happy some guy taught me to juggle out by the pool when I was 15 at this little camp I went to. It just was an amazing change for my life. I don’t know who I would have been without that moment.
John: And then, what was it, nine years later, you’re opening for Robin Williams?
Barry Friedman: Nine years later, I was on stage – and seven years later, I won my first World Juggling Championship.
Barry Friedman: Unheard of, but – that was the touch that my soul needed at that point. There was a man there to say, “Hey, does this feel good to you to do this?” Yeah, mentored me for a while and I never stopped.
John: Fire Nation, we’ve been talking about following your gut, following your intuition. Do both of those things and stick around for the lightening round because we’ve got some great stuff coming up. I’m gonna take a quick minute first to thank our sponsors. Barry, are you prepared for the lightening rounds?
Barry Friedman: Let’s do it. Here we go.
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Barry Friedman: Gosh, I wish – I come up blank on that. The entire educational, continuing educational talk in my family was my dad once said to me, “Doesn’t look like you’re going to college, kiddo.” So I really had no choice. I mean, I hit the streets with my juggling act at 17. I made my first few dollars when I ran away from home at 16, in high school, and ran out of money in New Orleans, right there in Jackson Square in the French Quarter. I figured out that entrepreneurialism wasn’t that bad an idea.
John: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Barry Friedman: At a men’s weekend I did in 2008, a man asked me a simple question; he said, “What’s at risk for you getting what you really want out of life?” I basically started falling apart thinking about how with every risk, I’m gonna get something and I’m gonna lose something. I always run that litmus test in my life, John, when a new opportunity comes up, “What’s at risk for me taking this? What’s at risk for me not taking it?”
John: What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Barry Friedman: Batching my work as best I can and never beating myself up. I have done enough of that in my life. We all get ourselves beat up enough in life by a variety of sources. Your mileage may vary on that. But I also realize that my workday doesn’t have to look like anybody else’s. I’m here to do my work.
John: Can you share an Internet resource like Evernotes with Fire Nation?
Barry Friedman: It’s gonna be boring, but it’s Google, Google Docs and Calendars. As sad as it is, that stuff changed my life. A hard drive crash these days is more like a ten minute inconvenience instead of a $2,500 panic – oh, and Zoom Conferences. I run my global coaching programs on Zoom Conferences. I have 25 faces on my screen with people around the world and it works flawlessly.
John: If you could recommend one book for Fire Nation, and of course, Fire Nation, it is gonna join I Love Me More Than Sugar by yours truly, Barry, on your bookshelves, what would it be and why?
Barry Friedman: I’m torn between two. I’ll just say them both and then the one that rises to the top I’ll talk about for a second. The War of Art and Profit First. Let me talk about Profit First because I’ve heard people talk about –
John: Yes. Michael Michalowicz, past guest of EOFire, just a great guy.
Barry Friedman: Holy cow, John. I mean, I’ve heard people talk about War of Art on your show and it’s amazing. Profit First, though, the old way of accounting, after I read that book, I realized the old way of accounting, everything that we have talked about and been taught in school about running a business is set up to create fear and scarcity. And that book, for the first time in my life, gave me a blueprint for turning it upside down and operating from a place of possibility and profitability.
John: Barry, this is the last question of the lightening round, but it is a doozy. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world identical to earth, but you knew no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have, your food and shelter is taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500.00. What would you do in the next seven days?
Barry Friedman: That’s funny. I might sell the laptop for a little more money because I don’t believe that [inaudible] [00:19:03] make me money. I would begin building relationships with every single person I met. I can tell you, by the end of three days, I’d be speaking to groups and expanding my network even further. By day seven, I am positive that I would have my first $5,000 speaking booking.
John: Love that. Barry, let’s end Today on Fire with a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say bye-bye.
Barry Friedman: Alright. Hey, go to 30dayssugarfree.com/fire. I have some fun things for people to finish up with and get in touch with me and just something that shows my gratitude for everything John has done with Entrepreneur on Fire. Thank you so much.
John: And a parting piece of guidance?
Barry Friedman: Trust that gut, man. Let me just go back to the only thing I don’t think, as human beings, we hear enough. I use that as my primary brain in my life because I think it’s absolutely impossible to ever be mad at myself or regret my decisions if I go there first.
John: Fire Nation, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and you’ve been hanging out with BF and JLD today, so keep up the heat and head over to EOFire.com. Just type Barry in the search bar, that’s B-A-R-R-Y. His show notes page will pop up with everything that we’ve been talking about today; of course, his book, his website, the resources mentioned, all the stuff, best show notes in the biz, time stamped, links galore. Of course, head over to 30dayssugarfree.com/fire for your gift, Fire Nation, from Barry to you. Barry, I just want to thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
Barry Friedman: My pleasure, John. Thank you, everyone.
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