John Assaraf is one of the leading behavioral and mindset experts in the world with a unique ability for helping people release the mental and emotional obstacles that prevent them from achieving their very best in life and business. Today he is CEO of NeuroGym, which develops some of the most advanced neuroscience based brain training programs in the world to help individuals and corporations maximize their fullest human potential.
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [01:07] – John is a father of two sons
- [01:14] – Married to Maria after two divorces
- [01:27] – What John does today in neuroscience is a labor of love
- [02:03] – John was in EOFire Episode 281
- [02:41] – John’s area of expertise
- [04:15] – One BIG and Unique Value Bomb: Your passion and your vision are what get you motivated. Your fear is what gets you stuck
- [05:25] – Reasons why people get stuck
- [05:55] – Default of the brain is: Safety First!
- [07:49] – JLD talks about low impact activities
- [08:47] – Energy conservation first – before pleasure
- [09:23] – Before you do something pleasurable, develop the habit to do a high-impact activity first, then do what you want
- [10:14] – Reduce the ridiculous to get the thing done
- [12:15] – Check out NeuroGym’s newsletter for more cool facts
- [13:19] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: I started a company that I had to put into bankruptcy because of a partnership breakup
- [14:10] – Every successful entrepreneur will have successes and opportunities to learn from things that didn’t work out
- [14:47] – Every entrepreneur will have a failure, but that doesn’t mean you are a failure
- [15:09] – If you don’t have adaptability, you will not survive
- [18:15] – NeuroGym’s evolution
- [22:06] – An unprecedented opportunity to connect with people
- [22:40] – Gone are the days of the “I don’t know how” excuse
John Assaraf: Yeah, baby. Let’s ignite together.
John Lee Dumas: Yes. John is one of the leading behavioral and mindset experts in the world with a unique ability for helping people release the mental and emotional obstacles that prevents them from achieving their very best in life and business. Today, he is CEO of Neuro Gym, which develops some of the most advanced neuroscience based training programs in the world to help individuals plus corporations maximize their fullest human potential. John, take a minute. Fill in some gaps from that intro and give us a little glimpse of your personal life.
John Assaraf: Sure. Father of two amazing sons, Keenan, 21, Noah, 20. Married to Maria for 11 years, together for 17. After two divorces, I finally got that one right and built a few pretty successful companies. And really what I’m doing today is a labor of love as much as anything else only because I know the thing that keeps most entrepreneurs away from really achieving their potential is the inner gain, the stuff that happens between their ears and really not understanding how to manage the emotions that put all of us entrepreneurs on a massive roller coaster through the ups and downs, the things that we know and don’t know and so that’s why we are focusing on the inner game now.
John Lee Dumas: Well, John, I’m excited to talk to you because we talked literally years ago last on EOFire. We’ve met multiple times since then in person but you were episode 281 so just about 1300 episodes ago, you were on EOFire and we had a blast. We had a great talk. We talked about your worst entrepreneurial moments and lessons learned. We talked about your aha moments that you’ve had and of course, we crushed the lighting round. We’re gonna do some of the same things today. It’s been a while so things have changed.
But before we dive a little more into what’s been going on the past couple years, kinda break down for us you today. What would you consider your area of expertise? Take a couple seconds, maybe a couple sentences and kind of expound upon your area of expertise.
John Assaraf: That’s a great questions. I think the area that I’ve really, I think, mastered and understand now is why don’t we do the things we know we should be doing consistently? And I’ve really taken some deep dives with some of the top neuroscientists, molecular biologists, neuropsychologists in the world who are doing groundbreaking research on understanding the different circuits in the brain that turn on motivation or turn it off.
The fear circuits that light up light a Christmas tree that puts the breaks on most of our desire to achieve grand big goals. The spiritual circuit which connects us to everyone and everything in the world that really is where our passion and visions stem from and what I’ve really been able to uncover is how to work with three or four main circuits within the brain that help people draw consistent, productive, powerful behavior.
John Lee Dumas: So John, within that, you’re speaking to entrepreneurs, you’re speaking to entrepreneurs, you’re speaking to small business owners, you’re speaking to Fire Nation. What’s something that is super unique that we just need to know?
John Assaraf: So the thing that’s really getting a lot of attention right now whether it’s in corporate America or small business America or world, let’s say, is your passion and your vision is what gets you motivated but your fear is what keeps you stuck. Let me explain. When we think about growing our business, helping lots of people, using the money we make to take care of ourselves, our families, and to take care of the charities or causes that give our life more purpose and meaning, that is great. It really gets us totally up.
However, as soon as we think of that and we get excited, because of the organizing principle of the brain, which is safety first, we start to think about at a non conscious level, anything that is in our memory bank that shares with us why we shouldn’t go forward. So here are a couple of reasons why people get stuck and the fear response kicks in. “I don't know how to achieve it. I’m not smart enough. I don’t deserve to. I think I can but I don’t believe that I can. I’m not good enough. What if I succeed and then fail? What if I fail and I’m embarrassed? What if I’m ashamed or ridiculed?”
The first thing that entrepreneurs must understand is the default of the brain, the safety first, and that means that anything that’s in the memory bank that you’ve read, listened to, watched, experienced, or participated in is gonna be brought to the forefront of your awareness in the form of doubts, fears, and anxiety, and stress. And when that happens, the break goes on the motivational pedal and we start to procrastinate. We start to do low income or low impact activities. We start to do less than we’re capable of achieving because we are concerned at a non conscious level for either our financial, mental, emotional or physical safety.
So that is one of the things that you have to become aware of your thoughts, the emotions, and your behavior so that you understand better how to navigate this brain cocktail of neurochemicals. 100 different chemicals in the brain that govern whether you will take action or you won’t.
John Lee Dumas: So John, we all have this little guilty pleasure and I know for me, I went to Providence College. It’s a Big East basketball school. I am obsessed with college basketball. It’s my thing. I graduated from Providence College 14 years ago now and I’m still on the message boards, every article that comes out about PC, I’m reading about a recruits that coming in maybe in 2019. It’s crazy. This is my little guilty pleasure. I just love college basketball and everything to do with my school, Providence College. And it’s such a low impact activity and that’s one thing that you mentioned that I wanna jump on right now.
When I’m about to sit down to do something meaningful like write chapter in my book or create a tutorial or a course, I know that that’s mentally gonna be straining and strenuous and stressful, so I just go, “Ah, real quick. I’m just gonna jump into that board real quick, that forum, and see if there’s been anything updated. See if anybody’s talking about the 2019 16-year-old high school student that might be coming to Providence College.” And it’s like it’s crazy because it’s a low impact activity but I go there every single time. Why do I do that and how can I stop?
John Assaraf: You’re giving me layups over here right now. You’re giving me softball. So first and foremost, you may or may not remember this but my son Keenan plays lacrosse for Providence College and he’s in his senior year.
John Lee Dumas: That’s right. He’s been great, by the way, these past four years.
John Assaraf: Yep. So he’s been cranking out –
John Lee Dumas: Go PC Friars.
John Assaraf: Yeah. So organizing principle No. 2 of the brain is energy conservation first before pleasure. What does that mean? It means that if I think something’s gonna take energy, take effort, and I have another option to do something that will not take that much effort that I’ll get immediately gratification or pleasure or fun doing, I am gonna naturally be focusing on what’s easy and pleasurable first versus taking energy and effort.
So but here’s the anecdote to that, before you actually go and do something pleasurable, develop the amazing entrepreneurial habit to say, “Okay, I’m just gonna do one minute of this other thing. Then, I will go and do the thing that’s pleasurable to me like looking on the internet or finding out what my favorite team is doing.” So whatever the high impact activity is that you need to do and you know you should do, chunk it down to a one minute activity versus a ten or 15 or 20 or 30 minute activity.
Why? Because one minute is something that your brain says, “Okay, I could do that,” but as soon as you think about, “I’ve gotta write one page or two pages or three pages or five pages,” it says, “Nah. It’s gonna take too much thinking. It’s gonna take too much effort. It’s gonna take too much editing.” And so reduce it to the ridiculous so that you can actually get it done, which means one thing’s gonna happen. A.) You’re gonna get it done and you’re actually gonna release a dopamine kick or a dopamine burst in your brain.
If you then share what you just did with a friend, “Hey, take a look at this sentence that I wrote,” post it up on your Facebook page, post it on a tweet or something and get feedback, you’re actually going to increase another chemical called oxytocin in the brain and that’s the bonding and love chemical and when you are releasing dopamine and oxytocin through taking a little bit of action and doing what you need to do plus sharing it, you’ll actually start to build a neuropath which it make it easier to write for two minutes, five minutes, ten minutes, and twenty minutes.
So reduce it to the ridiculous, build the habit of creating pleasure and an easy path of doing what you need to do, that will become a habit, which will then be more pleasurable than just going and looking to see what your team is doing.
John Lee Dumas: When you said the words, “Just write a sentence,” it actually flicked my mind back to what I heard that Earnest Hemingway, he knew that so many writers struggled just starting and he was one of them. The hardest thing for him to do all day long was actually sitting down and starting to write. Because once he started, he was on. He was downtown, Chinatown, but for him, he would stop the night before half way through a sentence and he knew how he was gonna finish that sentence but he purposely stopped. Went to bed. Woke up and knew exactly how he was gonna finish that sentence. So he sat down and all he did was, “I’m just gonna sit down and finish this sentence,” but guess what? He started by finishing the sentence and then he just kept on going.
So Fire Nation, whatever it is, whatever little tricks or tips or tactics you need to use to just get going, your brain wants to conserve energy so trick it. Fool it. And John, I’ve been on your website, NeuroGym. There’s a ton of cool stuff there. Where are some places that we can find out more information about things like this because this is just fascinating information.
John Assaraf: Sure. So yeah. On our website, we have a weekly newsletter. It’s MyNeuroGym.com and so we do a lot of research and we create something called innercises. If you think about what exercise does for your body and your organs and your muscles, et cetera, we do innercises for people’s brains, for their minds so that they are consistently changing the way they see things. They’re consistently increasing their mental abilities to focus and to reframe stuff and to have positive self talk and positive emotional control, which then leads to an easier path to behavior. So if they hop on our website, that’s a great place to start.
John Lee Dumas: MyNeuroGym.com. Check it out, Fire Nation. And John, let’s kind of shift tracks here a little bit. I kinda wanna talk about your journey over the past couple years. We jumped on pre interview and you were sharing, “Hey, John. It’s been very busy over the past couple years.” You’ve been putting all of this stuff together. Can you kind of share with us a couple of the struggles and a couple of the wins that you’ve experienced over the past couple years with NeuroGym?
John Assaraf: Sure. I think it might be worthwhile for me to just go back just a little bit before that. As people may know, I built Remax of Indiana to $4.5 billion and sold that. I took Bamboo.com public in 1999 on Nasdaq and had a great run with that. And then, I wrote some books, become New York Times bestseller and then I started a company.
And that company, I had to actually put into bankruptcy because of a partnership break up. I had 75 employees. I invested several million dollars of my own money into that business. I had a couple of million dollars of investor money and even though I left the company in 2009, in 2011, I closed it because I couldn’t come to terms with my business partner at the time on how to divide the assets. So I closed it.
And the reason I share that with everybody is because every successful entrepreneur is gonna have successes and opportunities to learn from things that didn’t work out. And so then I started NeuroGym to really dive into the neuroscience of success and success, whether it’s earning more money, building your business, having great relationships, being healthy, et cetera. And so the first lesson is you will have failures but that does not make you a failure. Separate things that didn’t work or work out from you being brilliant and capable of achieving great success.
So that was No. 1. No. 2 is the marketplaces, everybody that’s listening knows has changed drastically, and if you don’t have adaptability as one of your key core abilities, you will not survive in what’s happening now or what’s gonna happen in the next five to ten years. So you’ve gotta adapt quickly.
And let me share something with you. I’m in my mid 50s. So using a cell phone is probably about as sophisticated as I get. I have an Apple computer that I use for email. Anything other than email, I have to ask my assistant to help me. Now, why am I sharing this with you? Well, I’m sharing this because 100 percent of my business leads and revenue is generated online. I do not speak. I do not coach. I do not consult. I do not do events. I gave up million of dollars of revenue to focus on using the internet and technology to generate tens of thousands of leads and customer a month.
And the reason I’m saying that is because in four years, we’ve built an eight figure a year business that is all online. We have about 30 employees that work in our office in San Diego and it’s by really finding out what are the best ways that our skillset allows us to build our business online and take advantage of what’s happening in the world today.
And so I don’t think of myself as a technology guy but I think of myself as somebody who likes to use best practices to be able to live my lifestyle that I want to live and I built my entire business, and I know you have as well, around my lifestyle first. So I decide what kinda lifestyle do I want to live and then I design my business model, my teams, my strategies, my tactics around the lifestyle that I wanna live and that is a really huge difference than what most people do. Because 99 percent of the people in our industry, the personal and professional and growth, are speaking, coaching, consulting, doing events, doing masterminds, and that’s not what I do. I don’t want to.
John Lee Dumas: So John, we’re gonna talk even more in depth about how created NeuroGym, kinda from the ground up. Grew it where you’re now at 30 employees today and some specifics within that but Fire Nation, first, we’re gonna take a minute to thank our sponsors. So John, we’re back and I’m just fascinated because again, you have alluded in just this past conversation how you’ve given up million by not doing consulting and presenting and speaking and all of this stuff and a lot of people would just take that quote on quote easy money. It’s like it’s sitting there. It’s right in front of them and you did it because you’re growing something real in San Diego. 30 employees.
Let’s kinda talk about NeuroGym’s evolution. Is it what you expected it was going to be when you started this off or has things changed? Have roads diverged?
John Assaraf: That’s a great, great question because if I would have built what I had in my mind and had invested millions of dollars on the technology platform we’re about to build, if I would have done that in the first year or two, I would have made the second biggest mistake of my business career. And so let me explain.
When I think of the brain, when I think about giving people the ability to really master their focus and their attention and master their mental abilities and master their emotional abilities so they can then apply the right strategies and tactics, if I would have built it four years ago, I really wouldn’t have seen the artificial intelligence that is available today. I wouldn’t have seen how fast virtual reality and augmented reality and the mixture of the two are called mixed reality will impact us as a species across all domains as much as they will in the next five to ten years.
And so had I built what I thought I was gonna build four or five years ago, I would be in total rebuilding of an entire platform and tearing down building for the lack of a better term right now and rebuilding buildings as opposed to having gathered the knowledge and the wisdom and allowing several people in our space to lead the way and see their mistakes so I could build something better, something different, something faster, something cheaper, something more reliable in today’s day and age.
Time has a way of sharing wisdom with you and sometimes being as aggressive as I am when I wanted to get it done and get it done now, in this particular case, it’s served me to be patient and it served me to take my time. And part of the reason for that is because I don’t wanna work after 5:00p.m. Everyday. I don't wanna work Saturday. I don't wanna work Sunday. In my past, I would work till 8:00p.m., 9:00p.m., 10:00p.m. at night. I’d sleep till 4:00a.m. in the morning and then I’d go again, seven days a week. And so being more patients with myself has really had some unintended benefits that I’m really happy about today and where we are.
John Lee Dumas: So John, this interview has just flown by as it seems always but I’m glad that we can do this because Skype makes it so easy for you and I to jump on a call, have a conversation, but also making meaningful for thousands and thousands of other people that are listening in right now because there’s just a lot that I’m fascinated about within the world that you’re creating and I’m super excited as well about he virtual world.
So many things are coming. It’s just so exciting to see. We used to get to hang out in San Diego from time to time but now, I’m half way across – well, I’m actually all the way across the country in Puerto Rico. But that’s the beautiful thing about the world that we live in, Fire Nation, and you, that are listening are taking advantage of this great world.
John is staying cutting edge with what he’s doing and with virtual reality and I’m trying to do the same, keep my finger on the pulse. So guys, don’t forget about me down here in the island de en canta, Puerto Rico. But John, let’s kind of end here. How do you wanna close this down and I kinda wanna make sure that Fire Nation walks away really understanding just what’s at their fingertips that you’re seeing having grown the business, NeuroGym, that you have over these last four years?
John Assaraf: Well, what’s at their fingertips is an unprecedented opportunity to connect with millions and in many cases, tens or hundreds of millions of people through this internet thing that we all are a part of that is woven its way through the fabric of every one of our lives.
Everything that we’re doing is at the fingertip of touch on our cell phone, iPad, computer and so gone are the days that you have, “I don't know how,” as your excuse because all of the how, just about all of the how, unless you’re on the cutting edge of trying to figure out how to put somebody on Mars that they could live there for the rest of their lives and maybe come back to Earth, all of the how already exists for just about everything that everybody who was listening wants to achieve.
So the question that people should be asking themselves is, “What has to happen I order for me to get my self to do the things I need to do to achieve the goals I want to achieve?”
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, I hope you take that last sentence. I hope you absorb it and I hope that you start taking the right steps to actually implementing some of these things in your life so you can get to where you need/want to be. And you know this. You listen to EOFire. You’re the average of the five people who you spend the most time with and you’ve been hanging out with JA and JLD today so keep up the heat and head on over to EOFire.com. Just type, “John,” J O H N in the search bar and John’s show notes page will pop right up.
These are the best show notes in the biz, timestamps, links galore. You can go back and listen to episode 281 where myself and John talked about John’s worst moment, his aha moment, and so much more great stuff. And of course, all the links from this episode will be there as well and check out MyNeuroGym.com. Get on that newsletter. Learn more about what John has going on. He has some really cool changes and cool things that he’s implementing sooner than later so be in the know. And John, I wanna thank you, brother, for sharing your journey, your knowledge with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
John Assaraf: Thanks for doing such an awesome job, my friend.
John Lee Dumas: Hey, Fire Nation, hope you enjoyed our chat with John today. And if you are ready to master productivity, discipline, and focus in 100 days, visits themasteryjournal.com and I will catch you there or I’ll catch you on the flipside.
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