Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.
Guy: I’m sure we can all relate to this… You’re starving hungry, you have no food and you’re stuck in an airport or the city and all you have to choose from is the food court! With a few tweaks and a bit of insider knowledge, you’ll be amazed at what meal you can whip up to get you out of trouble. The key is to know what NOT to eat in this situation.
I have to admit, I was SHOCKED to find out what some of the cafe owners get up to in the pursuit of making their food tasty. But with the nuggets of info’ in this weeks 2 minute gem above you can easily avoid the pitfalls of the food courts and make better meal choices…
Today we welcome entrepreneur, health and fitness enthusiast and top bloke Josh Sparks. Josh is the founder of the hugely successful Thr1ve cafe/restaurant chain, which can be found in most CBD food courts. In a nutshell they make real food, real fast, and it is a place I actively seek out to dine at when I’m in the neighbourhood.
Stu and I had a huge amount of fun with this podcast as we tap into Josh’s wealth of experience when it comes to the food industry, his own personal journey and paleo discoveries and how he stays on top of his own health with his very hectic lifestyle!
Trust me, after listening to this podcast you will be inspired to take action on whatever your own goals or endeavours are :)
Full Interview: Life’s Lessons to Look Feel Perform & Thrive
In This Episode:
The biggest lessons he’s learned since cleaning up his diet
How to navigate your way around a food court to make healthy choices
His daily routines and how he stays in great shape!
Why he enjoys being bad at meditation
What stress and your life’s purpose have in common
Guy Lawrence: Hey, this is Guy Lawrence at 180 Nutrition and welcome to today’s Health Sessions. I’ve been very much looking forward to today’s guest, because it’s safe to say he is a entrepreneur, but not only that, a very healthy one.
You know, from myself and Stu’s experience in developing and running 180, it’s all well and good us doing podcasts, creating posts, developing new products and all the rest of it. But it can become very stressful and we have to look after our own health at the same time and it can actually be very challenging sometimes.
So, I was very keen to pick today’s guest’s brains, because he does a very good job of that. His name is Josh Sparks and he is the founder of the THR1VE cafeteria chain here in Australia.
Now, if you’re not aware of the THR1VE cafeteria chain, in a nutshell, they do real food, real fast. And if you’re in most CBDs in Australia you can go into a THR1VE café and actually have a really great meal. It’s one of the places that I will seek out and find when I’m in the city, no matter which one it is here in Australia.
You know, Josh’s background; it’s basically 14 years in high-growth leadership roles as CEO in the fashion industry, mainly, of sass & bide, managing director from Urban Outfitters and CEO of Thom Browne in New York, as well.
Whopping amounts of experience, but then he’s gone and taken that and started to develop his own cafeteria chain, which is what we talked to him about today.
He says now he’s been eating, moves and recovers according to the ancestral health principles now for all the last five years and he’s probably fitter and stronger than he was 20 years ago. More importantly what he does stress as well is that his blood markers of health were improved dramatically as well.
So, Josh was consistently astounded, you could say, by the lack of authentic healthy dinning in top areas within the CBDs. So, he helped and did something about it and has created a very, very successful brand about it.
We get to talk about all them things. His own health journey and even what goes on in the food courts, which there were some things he said in there that is quite shocking what can go on.
So, we delve into all of them things, which is fantastic. So, I’m sure you’re going to enjoy.
Now, last but not least, you may be aware that we are, yes, we are live in the USA. So, for all you guys in America that are listening to this podcast, 180 Super Food, you can get your hands on it. You just need to go to 180nutrition.com.
If you’re unsure what it really is; I always tell people it’s a convenient way to replace bad foods, really quickly. So, I generally have a smoothie; I can mix it with a bit of water or coconut water, if I’ve been training, some berries and I normally put a bit of avocado and I make a smoothie. Especially if I’m out and about, going into meetings in the city or whatever and I know I’m stretched from time I will make a big liter of it and sip on it and it gets me through to my next meal.
So, yeah, you can do that. Go over to 180nutrition.com and check it out.
Anyway, let’s go over to Josh and enjoy today’s show. Thanks.
Guy Lawrence: All right. I always get this little turn every time. Anyway …
Hey, this is Guy Lawrence. I’m joined with Stuart Cooke. Hey, Stewie!
Stuart Cooke: Hello, buddy.
Guy Lawrence: And our awesome guest today is Josh Sparks. Josh, welcome to the show.
Josh Sparks: Thanks guys. Thanks for having me.
Guy Lawrence: Now, look, very excited, mate. I think today’s topics are going to be great. We’re going to certainly want to cover a few things, especially like bringing Mr. Paleo Primal himself over, Mark Sisson, earlier in the year for the THR1VE symposium; which was awesome, by the way.
Josh Sparks: Oh, great.
Guy Lawrence: And of course the THR1VE brand itself and how you’ve taken the food courts kind of head on with the THR1VE cafeteria chain. So, there’ll be lots to discuss, mate, so, very much looking forward to it.
Josh Sparks: I’m excited to be here.
Guy Lawrence: So, before all that, we get into those subjects, what did you used to do before you got in the health industry?
Josh Sparks: Before I did THR1VE?
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Josh Sparks: So, my journey has been a fairly interesting one. I studied law and I worked very briefly in mergers and acquisitions law and decided, as I think many young lawyers do, that law school is not the same as being a lawyer and got out of that fairly promptly.
And then for the bulk of my career, the last 15 years prior to THR1VE, I was in various fashion businesses. So, all retail, I guess THR1VE is a retail, but fashion and lifestyle focus, never food.
So, I was the first CEO of sass & bide, which is an Australian women’s label that some of your listeners may be familiar with. And then I moved to the U.S. and became the CEO of Thom Browne of New York, which is a men’s line in New York. And then I moved to Philadelphia and ran the ecommerce business at Anthropologie, which is part of the Urban Outfitters group.
So, all fashion; tons of fun. You know, the really interesting thing about fashion and I think how it relates to what you guys are doing, and what I’m doing, what any of us are trying to strike out on our own and create a brand is that within the fashion industry what you’re really doing is storytelling. You’re building brands around what is otherwise largely a commodity product. The $30 jeans use the same denim as the $200 jeans.
So, it’s really about the creativity you can bring to the design and the creativity you can bring to the storytelling to really set it apart. So, I think that that’s what I loved about the fashion industry.
On the flip side my personal passion, really my whole life, has been around health and wellness. Every since I was a high school and college athlete, I’ve always been particularly interested in the intersection of training modalities, training methodologies and nutrition and how to best support each and really ultimately the synergy between the two.
But as I got older, while I was doing all this fashion stuff, I think I experienced what so many of us do and I started to … my body wasn’t responding quite the way I wanted and my thinking that you could steer the ship through exercise started to be challenged by the evidence that confronted me in the mirror every morning and on the scales and in the gym and I just wasn’t performing or looking or feeling quite as I did.
So, I started to explore the nutrition side much more actively. Until then, I think like a lot of guys in their 20s and early 30s, it’s much more about training for a while, or at least it was for me and perhaps my generation.
But as I started to explore nutrition, like you guys and like so many in our community, I discovered ancestral health templates. So the Paleo, the Primal, the Weston A Price and started to experiment with reducing processed foods. I mean, it sounds crazy now that this was an experiment, but reducing processed foods, reducing our processed carbs in particular, amping up the veggies. It’s just so incredibly obvious now, but at the time it was a revelation.
So, as I was professionally developing the skill set around branding and marketing and communications and running businesses here and in the U.S., personally I was having this journey of discovery, this very exciting revelation around what we eat and how profoundly it impacts how we feel and perform, whether it’s physically in the gym or whether it’s mentally and emotionally at work, in our relationships, or whatever.
So, it’s really … I guess I just had this light bulb moment of, “How do I connect the two?” This professional experience that I’ve had, what I’ve loved, around the fashion industry with what is a much deeper personal passion to me than the fashion space and that is health and wellness.
And to cut a very long story short, that’s how I came to develop the idea for THR1VE.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, right. How long ago was that, Josh?
Josh Sparks: So, I moved back from the U.S. in 2011 and I started working on … I came back and I was consulting in the fashion space here in Australia, in Sydney and Melbourne to Just Group and Gisele and M. J. Bale and a bunch of different brands. And I was doing that really to save money to do my own thing, to do my own brand.
So, I started working on business plans for THR1VE. It would be unrecognizable to you, knowing THR1VE today. My first two business plans were terrible and it was going to be a one-off restaurant. Then it was going to be a home delivery meal system. Then it was going to be a supplement line and then it was going to be … and I didn’t know what I was doing and I was so all over the place. And then I really came back to focus on what I know and love best, which is this premium consumer retail, effectively.
Which in Australia, for food, that is either food courts or one-off cafes and restaurants, and I decided I didn’t want to do a one-off for a number of reasons. But probably most importantly, I wanted to reach as many people as possible. And the café and restaurant scene in Australia is pretty good. You can get some really healthy, yummy meals in a whole bunch of cafes and restaurants in Australia. Even in small town Australia now, you can get some pretty good food in cafes and restaurants.
But the food court, whether it’s in a mall or in an airport or strip retail, you know, a cluster of food outlets in strip retail. Pretty average. Predominately processed, 70 to 80 percent carbohydrates. You know, you walk into a food court; it’s just all carbs. All processed carbs. You know, its bread and pasta and sugar and all sorts of stuff that we know we could probably benefit from eating a lot less of.
So, I saw it as the area of greatest opportunity and the area of greatest need and thus THR1VE became, through multiple business plans, a food court focused retail offer.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: How long did that process take, Josh, just thinking from your sketches to the day of opening?
Josh Sparks: Yeah, it took a little while, Stu. So, late 2011 I was really actively working on it. I had registered the name and I had settled on broadly what I wanted to do. But we didn’t open the first store until late 2012. So, it was over a year of very focused work here where I settled on THR1VE. I settled on the fact that it was going to be a retail location and I was out talking to landlords and prior to that … I mean, I started working on a business along these lines probably about seven or eight years ago, when I first read Loren Cordain’s stuff.
But that was when I was still in the U.S., I was in Philly, and at that point I was thinking about doing a sort of gym and café combo, where it was going to be a sort of a high-end personal training only gym with sort of a café/restaurant attached to it. Which sounds great, but I never would have been able to pull it off, because I’m not a PT. It just was doomed to go nowhere.
So, how long did it take to really take shape? It took years and years and years of very focused work around the idea of THR1VE as vaguely recognizable as it is today. I was a good 12 months of just hitting the pavement and talking to landlords and pitching it to staff. I mean, no one wanted to know about it. I had a huge amount of difficulty convincing a landlord to give me a location.
Guy Lawrence: Wow.
Stuart Cooke: Really?
Josh Sparks: Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: Why do you think that is? Just the whole idea?
Josh Sparks: It’s very easy for us to forget that even in 2011, late 2011 when I first started talking to landlords, no one had heard of paleo or primal. I mean, there wasn’t … it was … the subject; we were so niche. I mean, it was a very small subset of the market and I probably still at that point was being a little bit purest about it as well.
So, when I was talking to landlords, I was probably sounding a little evangelical and a little dogmatic and probably a little bit crazy. And so, I kept having this look, “You know, you seem to have done OK with these fashion brands and you had a bit of success and maybe you should stick to that.”
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Josh Sparks: “And I don’t know if food court really wants healthy food.”
Stuart Cooke: Right.
Josh Sparks: “And we’ve got salads. So, what else do we need?”
Stuart Cooke: Sure.
Josh Sparks: And, “Yeah, we’ve got a Japanese operator. So we’ve got health covered.”
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, right.
Josh Sparks: It was these sorts of conversations. I think it was, even just three or four years ago it was considered a bit ahead of its time and in branding, any sort of branding, whether it’s fashion, whether it’s lifestyle, whether it’s automotive, whether it’s what you guys do. Whatever it is, you want to be ahead enough of the curve to capture some mind shares, some early mind shares. At the same time it’s very easy to go broke if you’re too far ahead of the curve.
And it’s just finding that sweet spot and the feedback I was getting landlords was that I was to far ahead of the curve.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, right.
Josh Sparks: And my sense was not at all. This is; we’re at a the tipping point here. This is going to go mainstream in the next couple of years. And it might not be called paleo and it might not be called primal. It might not be call ancestral health. It might not be called THR1VE. But this way of eating, this awareness of just how profound the impact is on how you look, feel, and perform when you eat differently, that’s right at the tipping point. You know, the obesity levels and the Type 2 diabetes level and the fact that Medicare is publicly funded and it’s just unaffordable for us to continue to pay for bad lifestyle choices. Whether it’s smoking or whether it’s excess sugar. So, I felt that we were just at a bit of a tipping point, but it was very challenging to convince people around me, whether they were landlords or investors or potential employees, that I wasn’t completely crazy.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. I’m curious, right? Just a thought came in, because I’m always fascinated by everyone’s journeys, was it a particular niche; tipping point or something that happened in your own life? Because I know you’re saying that you were starting to put on weight and things like that, but was there an “aha” moment where you’ve got to go, “Right. I’m going to cut out the process foods. I’m going to change my lifestyle.”
Josh Sparks: So, I think, there’s two. For me personally it was recognizing that I just, I wasn’t happy. And it started off for me with a sense of, you know, emotional well-being suffering.
And it wasn’t so much, because I didn’t get huge, I’m naturally pretty skinny and even when I … I sort of the skinny fat guy. If I’m out of shape, I get skinny-fat. Like, I don’t get a huge gut.
I just don’t … I lose tone. I lose strength. I lose all those physical markers of health, the objective physical markers of health.
This was more subjective to answer your question, Guy. I just wasn’t feeling great.
Guy Lawrence: Yup.
Josh Sparks: And so, it led me to an exploration, “Look, am I drinking too much? Is it something I’m allergic to? Is there something in my diet that’s problematic?”
I stopped drinking completely. I cut out sugar. I started cutting out processed foods. That led me on a journey around fat. I started upping my Omega-3 intake.
But all those things really started for me around a sense of emotional health, not being as good as it could be. I wasn’t depressed. It wasn’t that acute. I just didn’t feel great anymore and I was used to feeling so motivated and so energetic. It was really sad to think, “God, is this aging? Is this normal? Am I meant to feel this way?”
Stuart Cooke: It just sounds like you weren’t thriving, Josh.
Josh Sparks: Thank you very much. I’m glad we got that in there. It’s very fine of you.
Guy Lawrence: So, back to THR1VE, right? And I really want to put this question: like, how would compete against now, like the Subways of this world? Because they’ve got “healthy food” marketing, that’s getting bombarded and the food court’s littered with it.
Josh Sparks: Yeah. Look, I think it’s a really great question. So, there’s two things. One: I think the use of the word “health” is becoming as ubiquitous as the use of the word “green” was about 10 years ago. You know, like, Chevron and Shell were running ads about how “green” they were. It’s like, “OK. Where are we on this ‘green’ thing?” And I think we’re in the same place with everyone’s claiming to be “healthy.”
So, first of all I think there is … that that’s going to lead to a certain level of backlash and I think consumers are already starting to become aware that they’re being hoodwinked with marketing. And great marketers are really good at what they are doing.
So, there’s health messages that are overt and there’s a whole bunch that are much more subtle and nuanced, but they’re rife throughout the food industry; whether it’s retail or wholesale or supermarket, wherever.
So, I think there’s going to be a little bit of a backlash and a little bit of growing skepticism, which I’m hoping will lead to my next point, which is: ask the follow-up questions.
So, yeah, I think whether it’s the press or whether it’s us as consumers, we’re terrible at asking the follow-up questions.
“So, great. You’re healthy.” What is healthy? Define healthy to me? You know, what is your paradigm of health? What protocol do you subscribe to? And that can lead to some really interesting conservations, because we see … I used to go … I read this and I must admit that I read this in a Playboy magazine, which I was reading for the articles when I was about 28 or 29 or so …
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Josh Sparks: And it was the first time I’d ever read about Paul Chek. It was actually an interview with Paul Chek in Playboy, of all places. And Paul Chek was talking about the fact that he’d been interviewed on TV and he got into this head-to-head around diet with a, I guess what we’ll call a conventional dietitian or a nutritionist who was stuck on the U.S. food pyramid, which is very similar to our recommendations.
Stuart Cooke: Yup.
Josh Sparks: Anyway, he obviously lost patient with the process at some point and he said, “Listen, do you subscribe to … everything you just espoused, your so-called philosophy of eating, do you subscribe to this a hundred percent in your own life?” And this guy’s, “Yeah. Absolutely.” And he’s like, “Great! Take off your shirt and I’ll take off my shirt.”
And it was just this kind of moment of: OK. So, if this is really working for you, do you look, feel and perform exactly how you want? And if you do, well, let’s see it. Come on. Let’s get this on.
And I thought, OK, it’s a little bit crass. I don’t think it would work on Australian TV. But at the same time I really respected the kind of cut through the B.S.
If you claim to be healthy, give us a sense of what that actually means and hopefully you’ve thought about it enough to have some kind of protocol, some kind of framework that you’re working within. And then is it working for you? And give us some sense of that. You know, “I came from here to here; it’s backed up by bloodwork.” Or, you know, I’ve lost a ton of weight and I know it’s fat, it’s not water or muscle because I did a DEXA scan before and after.
Give us some evidence, you know. Not this kind of fluffy, “healthy” thing.
Guy Lawrence: It’s interesting that you say that, because I worked as a PT for a long time and I would do … I must have … no exaggeration, sat in from the thousand of people, right? Doing consultations and the first thing I would do was ask them, “Do you eat healthy?” I mean, we do that even with our clean eating workshops we’ve been doing with CrossFit, right?
Josh Sparks: Right.
Guy Lawrence: And nine times out of 10 they, go, “Well, yeah. Yeah, I eat pretty healthy.” I go, “Great. Let’s write down what you just ate for the last 48 hours.” Right?
Josh Sparks: Right.
Guy Lawrence: And then once they start doing that there’s two things that generally happen. One: they actually, genuinely think they they’re eating healthy, but I look at it and go, “Oh shit. That’s not healthy.”
Josh Sparks: Yeah. You might have something there.
Guy Lawrence: Or two: they’ve just sort of been in denial. They go, “OK. Maybe I could improve a little bit.” and stuff like that. When you get down to that detail, but we just don’t. It’s human nature.
Josh Sparks: It is human nature. There’s a great stat where I counted it as 92 or 93 percent of male drivers think they’re better than average. So, it’s like, we are great at doing nothing. We are great at deluding ourselves, right?
So, when you have an objective check, someone like you, when you’re sitting in front of them and you’re forcing them to actually go through it, there’s nothing more powerful than documenting a food diary or training log, you know, “Because I’m training hard.” and you kind of look back at what actually you know, “I’m been a complete wuss.”
And it’s the same thing with a food diary. We don’t encourage things like obsessive diarization or cataloging or counting calories or measuring food. We don’t focus on that at all.
But the point that you just made, a point in time gut check, no pun intended, on “How am I eating?” and “Is this truly healthy,” and “Do you even know what healthy is?” And then engaging with the right kind of advices to give you some options and some alternatives.
And so, I think for me, whether you … whatever you call it: paleo, primal, ancestral health, whatever, I’m not really stuck on the labels. In fact, I think the labels can be extremely damaging because we can get a little bit dogmatic around that.
So, setting aside this specific label, what I want to know is whoever is claiming to provide their customers with healthy food and their customers are trusting them. I mean, that’s a relationship of mutual trust and confidence. It’s an important relationship. It should be respected.
Are they lying to them? Or have they actually put some energy into documenting what they believe and have some evidence to back it up? And then have they … again, another follow-up question … have they audited their supply chain? Is there sugar being snuck in the products? Are there bad oils being snuck in the products?
You know if you go around the food court, you would be staggered by … the Japanese operators add processed sugar to the rice. Many of the Mexican operators, not all of them, but many of the Mexican operators add table sugar to their rice.
Now, why do they do that? Because they tested it with customers and surprise, surprise, customers preferred the rice with sugar.
Stuart Cooke: Right. Yeah.
Josh Sparks: So, it’s great that we’re talking about health. I mean, on the one hand, let’s be positive and celebrate the fact that at least it’s a topic of conversation in the food court, which five, 10 years ago, you know, not so much. Certainly 10 years ago.
On the flip side, now that we’re talking about it, let’s have an intelligent conversation about it and let’s ask a couple of follow-up questions. And then we can make an informed decision where your version of health, Mr. Vegan, is right for me or not right for me. And your version, Mr. Salad Man, is right for me or not right for me.
So, that’s what we’re trying to encourage at THR1VE. You take that discussion further.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Awesome.
Stuart Cooke: Fantastic. Well, first up Guy, I think, it’s only right that we perform these podcasts in the future without our tops on. OK? That’s a given. We’re going to do that. It won’t start today.
So, just thinking, Josh, if you can’t access, you know, THR1VE in the food courts around here, how would you navigate the food courts? And I’m just thinking in terms of our customers who might think, “Well, sushi is the best option out there.” When we’re looking at the likes of the Chinese and the kabobs, and the McDonald’s and all the other kind of footlong gluten rolls or whatever they are. What do you do?
Josh Sparks: Footlong gluten roll.
Stuart Cooke: I’ve just sold it. I used to work in marketing don’t you know.
Josh Sparks: That’s a marketing winner, I reckon.
Stuart Cooke: No one’s thought of it.
Josh Sparks: It’s a really good question and I think that, I mean, we’ve got six stores, we’ll have nine or 10 opened in another nine or 12 months. So, we are not everywhere, sadly. In fact, if you go Australia-wide, there’s not enough places where you can find THR1VE or something like THR1VE.
So, to answer your question, I think you’ve got a few options. You’ve got … most salad operators will have a range of salads that don’t include the added pasta and the added grains. And I’m not terribly concerned about gluten-free grains as long as I know that … you know, it’s such a difficult question to answer diplomatically, but I’ll give you a version.
So, most salad places will have something for you. Most of the proteins in the less expensive salad joints are not … they’re reprocessed proteins. So, they’re reconstructed proteins.
So, they’re by no means great and there tends to be sugar and gluten snuck into those products. It gives them better form and it gives them better preservation and what not. But it’s not going to kill you, once in a while.
With respect to the Japanese operators, if you go for sashimi you’re pretty safe. Be conscious with the rice, as I mentioned before. But again, I’m not anti-rice by any stretch, but I don’t want table sugar added to my rice. So, I probably tend to avoid it in most of the Japanese operators. Unless they can tell me, and I believe them, that they’re not adding sugar to their rice. But that’s sticky rice. Traditionally prepared, they don’t use sugar. They use a specific kind of rice. But in most food operators there is sugar added to it.
Mexican operators, if you go without the bread, without the corn chips, without the processed carbs. And again, I’m persuaded that lentils are not the end of the world and beans aren’t the end of the world.
I’ve read a whole bunch of interesting stuff on that recently, particularly after Mark Sisson came out at the THR1VE Me Conference in March and said that he was reading a lot of evidence that legumes in small amounts occasionally can actually be beneficial to gut flora and so on and so forth.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Absolutely.
Josh Sparks: So, Mexican operators, if you go for kind of the beans and the guac and the salsa and the meats, maybe skip the rice if you’re having the beans. You probably don’t need a double hit. But maybe you do, if you just worked out.
So, what I do is I look those operators with brands that I trust. I prefer to feel that there’s some integrity in the supply chain. And to a certain extent I find, and it’s a terrible term, but the idea that it’s reassuringly expensive is not always true, but if you go to some of those really sort of dirty café, you know, greasy spoon type operators and you can get a bacon and egg roll for three bucks. Not that I have the roll anyway. But you can pretty well be sure that that bacon and that egg is not going to live up to your standards. It’s probably not the sort that you would have at home.
So, I prefer probably going to the more premium ends of the operators in the food court. Taking my; you mentioned the kebob operator, so in a pinch you can get on a plate, you can get the meat and you can get the salad and you can ask for extra salad, now I normally put some avocado on it and just skip the bread.
Now, I wouldn’t do that unless there was no alternative. But I think that’s a hell of a lot better than having a burger or a XX 0:26:09.000 dirty pieXX or whatever.
So, I think it’s more about … for me the simple rule is, it’s more about what you take out and if you can remove the processed sugars and the processed carbs as much as possible, then you’re going to be left with something that is relatively benign, if you are indulging in it occasionally.
Stuart Cooke: Yup.
Josh Sparks: If you’re having it every day, then you’ve probably got to take it a little bit further and say, “Well, if this is processed chicken, what did they process it with? If this is reconstructed chicken, what else did they put into it? What oils have they used in this salad dressing? What oils do they cook in?”
But you’re getting down to some lower dimension returns on that stuff. It makes a ton of sense if you’re doing it every day. So, if you’re doing it every meal, but if you’re doing it once every two weeks because you’re stuck in an airport and you’ve got no alternative, I would say don’t sweat it.
Guy Lawrence: A hundred percent. Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: Exactly.
Josh Sparks: There’s also all that stuff about hermetic stressors right? Which I’m just fascinated by and the idea that you can go too clean and all the stuff that Robb Wolf has done around Special Forces.
They go back to base. They eat 100 percent strictly extremely clean, because they’re allowed to. And they’re cooking for themselves and they’re eating off-base. They’re not eating in the cafeteria, etc., etc.
They then go on to deployment and they’ve got to eat these MRAs that are just horrendous. Because they’re packaged for stability and shelf life, not for the kind of nutritional profile that we would look for. And these guys are getting really sick for the first two days on deployment. And if you’re sent out on some sort of Special Forces mission, you don’t want to spend two days over the toilet when you just landed in enemy territory or whatever.
So, the idea is to … I think, don’t sweat the occasional indulgence. And don’t sweat the occasional toxin, you know, in strict sort of paleo/primal sense. But eat clean as much as you can. And then don’t worry about it too much. If you find yourself stuck eating a salad that’s probably used vegetable oil and they’ve added sugar to the dressing, I say don’t sweat it too much.
Stuart Cooke: I think so and also you can switch on stress hormones by sweating it too much.
Josh Sparks: Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: And seriously that can be just as harmful as the food that you eat.
Josh Sparks: That’s so true.
Guy Lawrence: Do you … you talked about the other cafes and food courts, right? And their owners putting sugar in the rice and they’re using different oils. Do you think they’re even aware that they’re doing things that could be damaging to health? Or do you think it just not even on their radar and it’s just purely business perspective and they just think they’re doing the right thing?
Josh Sparks: Yeah. It’s a really good question. I don’t think … I don’t think … I would love to think that there is no malice involved.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Josh Sparks: You know, I think it is a genuine desire to please customers and maximize sales. And most of these guys, certainly the big brands, have done blind taste testing and they know that customers prefer high sugar.
Now, the customer doesn’t know that rice “A” has no sugar and therefore is going to taste very bland on its own and rice “B” has added sugar. They just know that rice “B” tastes a whole lot better and, “I’m not quite sure why, but it’s great!”
So, I think they’re doing this testing and it’s revealing that there’s a certain level of sugar … these days we’re so detuned; our tastes is so detuned to sugar now, because it’s everywhere, Certain level of sugar is almost necessary, particularly if the food is otherwise rather bland.
And then in terms of oil, I mean, we spend a fortune on oils. Oils for most of our competitors are … it’s a rounding item. They’re getting 20 liters for $8 or less. Fifteen liters for $15 and these are industrial oils that are mass produced and, we know, problematic for a whole bunch reasons.
So, that’s not a taste issue. Because the average consumer, once its mixed up and it’s cooked and it’s got a sauce on it on and a side, you can’t tell whether it’s canola oil or whether its macadamia oil at that point. Most of us can’t, you know. The truth is, we just can’t tell.
However, my competitors have got an extra 4 percent in gross margin, because they spent a lot less on oil.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
So, I think that there’s two decisions being made here. One is around taste and the other one is around the economics.
Australia’s such a high-cost market for what we do and our rents are near world highest. Our food costs a near world highest. And our hourly rates are the highest in the world for causal workers.
So, there’s a real scramble on to work out, well, how do we make this thing profitable? And when you’ve got something like oil costing 10 times as much, it’s an easy decision I think for a lot of operators. But I don’t think it’s malice. I think it’s pleasing customers and survival.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.. I wonder if they’re actually, genuinely aware. It’s the brands I get frustrated with, because obviously, like you said, the paleo movement and primal and health are more on people’s radars now and we’re seeing more health brands coming onto the market. But then I’m looking at what they’re selling and I’m like, “ugh!” They’re just, they know they aren’t doing the right thing right here.
Josh Sparks: Yeah.
Guy Lawrence: That’s where it can get frustrating.
Josh Sparks: It is frustrating and I think, you know, on the flip side I guess, Guy, it’s capitalism, right? And that is what a large percentage of the market wants.
It’s like McDonald’s, when they first started doing salads, they don’t sell any salads, it just makes you feel better about walking into McDonald’s. So, you’ll tell your friends that you went to get the salad, but they end up buying a cheeseburger.
So, I think that there is … most people think that they want health, until they’re given the choice at the counter.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
Josh Sparks: And so, some of our competitors feel, competitors broadly defined, have a really good salad offer, for example, but they also do sandwiches on this incredibly thick ciabatta bread. It ends up being about 70 percent processed carbohydrates.
And you see it all the time. Like, people get up to the counter and that thing being toasted, that sandwich being toasted that smells amazing or you can have the healthy salad and willpower seems to come off.
So, I think there’s always going to be a percentage of the market that says they want to be healthy but don’t really mean it. But what we’re trying to do is encourage those that say they want to be healthy and actually, genuinely want to be healthy and are prepared to make decisions on that basis. We want to give them something that they trust that there’s been real effort into creating a meal and auditing the supply change around it.
Stuart Cooke: Got it.
Josh Sparks: But it is frustrating for us, because we’re being undercut by … you know, we are not the cheapest source of calories in the food court. We don’t use the processed crappy food that is cheap. Processed carbs are cheap, right?
Guy Lawrence: Oh, yeah.
Josh Sparks: So, it’s frustrating for us when someone slaps a whole bunch of nice images of seasonal food across a poster and splashes: “This season’s local produce. Healthy this. Healthy that.” And we know that 79/80 percent of their salad is processed food.
It is frustrating, but at the same time I think it fires us up. Like it makes us … it puts a bit of fire in our belly, because it means that we’ve got to get smarter about how we’re communicating. That not only are we healthy, but there is a follow-up question and please ask us, because we’d love to tell you. We’re going to get smarter and smarter in that conversation.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Brilliant
Stuart Cooke: Excellent.
Now, when I was younger, much younger than I am now, going through college. I worked in England for a very large supermarket chain. And I used to do the evening shift. So, you know, we’d get rid of the customers and we’d tidy up and we’d attend to waste.
So, food wastage, it was unreal. Now, I’m talking big supermarket chain. So, it was Sainsbury’s. I don’t know whether you’re familiar with that brand.
Josh Sparks: Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: So, I worked on the produce, the produce section, and occasionally the bakery. And every night we would just fill up probably three or four of these huge wheely bins of donuts and cakes and pies and pastries and all this kind of wonderful fruit, that just kind of past its cosmetic expiry date.
At the time, being a young guy, we used to eat donuts and you know, “You can eat a couple of donuts, guys, before you throw them.” And that was awesome, at the time. But it did open my eyes to: boy that is huge, huge, huge amounts of waste and on a global scale, as well.
Now, I was listening to a podcast the other day about food wastage with you guys and I thought you had some really neat policies. So, I wondered it you could share that with our audience, please.
Josh Sparks: Why sure. So, thanks for asking and I completely agree with you. It’s just I find it horrendous to think about the amount of waste.
So, what we do is twofold. One: we minimize what; we’re incredibly focused on developing systems and processes to minimize our waste. So, we’ve actually engaged a bunch of consultants and we’ve developed a system in-house that, they call them “build to’s” and this is all new to me, right? Because this is not fashion terminology.
So, there’s sort of “build to’s” each day in terms of the amount of stock that’s being prepared. And it’s based on a history of sales. Like-for-like sales.
So, Thursday’s today. What did we do last Thursday? What did we do Thursday before? It’s summer. It’s winter. It’s sunny. It’s not sunny. There’s a bunch of variables that we look at and really dial in what’s been what’s being prepped.
Typically that means we actually run out towards the end of the lunch rush and we’re normally open for another couple of hours beyond that. So, if that happens and that’s the ideal, after the lunch rush we actually prep to order. So, it means you order what takes takes two and a half to three minutes; that is our objective. It will take four to five minutes, but if you’re happy to wait that, you know, mid-afternoon, then it means that we don’t have any waste in those key products at all.
Now, having said that, we’re very rarely perfect, because the day’s never predictable and it’s extremely rare that we aren’t left with something in some ingredients.
So, we’ve got certain things right. We under cooked, we under cut some and then we did too much of others.
So, then we work with OzHarvest and they’re basically a group that collects food on a day-to-day basis, from a bunch of food operators actually, and provide them to the homeless.
So, our raw ingredients end up going into the raw ingredients for things like soup kitchens, to prepare their own food. And our prepped, ready-to-go food, is literally just given as a meal to the homeless.
You know, I had this very funny interaction not long ago, I guess it was about a year ago, in our store at Martin Place in Sydney, there used to … it’s not anymore, it’s just been refurbished … there used to be a little bench just outside the store.
I used to do all my meetings there, because we still don’t have an office, like I’m doing this from home, you know, we’re a small business. So, I was kind of using this as my desk. And I was meeting with my general manager and this guy came over, he was obviously homeless. I mean, he had an old sleeping bag around him. He had the big beard and the crazy hair. He looked like he was sleeping rough and he was clearly coming to me. Like he was making a beeline for me. Like, “What have I done to you?”
And so I’m sort of looking at him coming over and he goes, “Hey, hey, hey …” and I was wearing this THR1VE t-shirt … “Hey, are you Mr. THR1VE?” And I went, “Ah, I guess.” and he goes … am I allowed to swear on this podcast?
Josh Sparks: He goes, “I fucking love your food. It’s the best food.” Why that’s awesome!
Stuart Cooke: Wow.
Josh Sparks: I said, “I’m glad you enjoy it. Come back anytime.”
And it was just one of those moments. Because what’s happens is he’s getting one of the meals that’s got the THR1VE branding on it, so he knew it was from us. It just made me realize that you kind of set up these relationships, but you’re not always sure that it makes it to the end user exactly how you anticipate it might. But that was just a nice little moment and I think what OzHarvest does is fantastic.
And these days we don’t do as much prepped foods as we used to. We used to do salads that we made just before lunch rush. So if you’re in a hurry, you point at it in the fridge and we’d give it to you and you’d be good to go. But we moved away from that, because we wanted to give customers more choice in terms of how they build up the bowl.
So, we don’t have the level of giveaways we used to. So, OzHarvest, unfortunately are not getting as much from us as they used to. But we still provide them with any waste that we do have at the end of the day.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Sounds fantastic.
Stuart Cooke: It’s still a fantastic initiative. And just so you know, we’ve got quite a large station wagon, so if you need a hand transporting any of that food wastage, we’ll happily fill up our car with that and drive into the sunset with that. Don’t worry about that. Just say the word.
Josh Sparks: I may take you up on that.
Guy Lawrence: Mate, just a quick question. If anyone is listening to this is new to, say, “clean eating” and they walked into your THR1VE café today and go, “Right. I want to order a dish.” What would you recommend them?
Josh Sparks: OK.
Guy Lawrence: Somebody starting out.
Josh Sparks: Great question. Great question. And should we define “clean eating?” Should we define …
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Go, yes.
Josh Sparks: So, for us; again the follow-up question thing; for us “clean eating” is about no processed foods. So, it’s no added sugar. No gluten-containing grains. It’s no chemicals, preservatives, etc., etc.
So, that’s how we define “clean eating.” It’s not strictly paleo. It’s not strictly primal. It’s certainly inspired by those protocols. But “clean eating” for us is about eliminating processed foods, added sugars, bad oils as well, and any gluten-containing grains. So, that’s how we define it.
So, what we typically do with someone who’s brand new to this way of eating or this way of living, we suggest something that is very familiar. And I have actually have this really strict brief that in our environment; a food court it’s not a niche healthy café in Bondi or XX0:40:19.000 Byron Bay or Neustadt, or the Mornington PeninsulaXX.
It is a high-traffic mainstream environment and we have to have food that sounds and looks familiar and comforting. We’ve just taken the effort of pulling out the bad stuff. So, most of our menu, I would say, hopefully would look and feel pretty approachable and unintimidating.
But our bestseller is our Lemon and Herb Pesto Chicken. Which is just a chicken breast that’s been butterflied, grilled. We make our own pesto. So, we use olive oil, we don’t add sugar to it, etc., etc. We do add a little Parmesan, because I’m not anal about dairy. So, it’s a really nice fresh pesto. We use roasted peppers.
And that will all sit on a bed of whatever veggies or gluten-free grains you want. But I’d suggest you do it on our zoodles, which are … literally it’s just a zucchini that’s been spiralized. It’s not cooked, it’s just … it looks like … it sort of looks like pasta, but it’s raw zucchini. It’s awesome.
Guy Lawrence: I love it.
Josh Sparks: And I do it a half zoodles base and then I’m really into a kind of seasonal grains thing at the moment, because like everyone, I feel like I’m not eating enough grains. So, I do half zoodles on the base, half seasonal grains and I do a side of avocado; maybe a side of broccoli. And depending on what you get, that’s going to cost you anything between, sort of, $12 and $16; depending on how hungry you are and how large each portion you want it to be.
So, that’s kind of a really nice, familiar lunch/dinner. It’s the kind of thing you would see on lots of café menus and lots of restaurant menus and lots of people make it at home.
So, I would recommend something pretty simple like that to start off with.
Guy Lawrence: Perfect. You’re making me hungry.
Stuart Cooke: I am very hungry as well. And good tip as well on your zoodle. Because I had always … well when I say “always,” I’ve experimented with zucchini pasta and for me I’ve always boiled ,,, I’ve kind of boiled it too long and always ended up with a really sloppy mess.
Josh Sparks: Right.
Stuart Cooke: And I’ve been really disappointed. I’m not looking forward to the next one. So, you just do that raw, do you?
Josh Sparks: We do it raw. Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: Right.
Josh Sparks: Because the other, I’m sure you guys read all the same research as well, when I talk about diversity of vegetables, most of us don’t have enough. And then in terms of diversity of preparation, most of us get stuck on a prep step. So, we like steaming or we like roasting or we like frying or whatever. Everything that I read suggests that we should have a mix of a whole huge variety of veggies and a huge variety of prep, including raw. And I realized outside of salad leaves and salad greens I never eat a lot of raw veggies.
So, it’s a way, and I don’t want to say the entire business is built around my selfish desire for raw veggies, but it seems like those zoodles were a good idea and they’re selling very well.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Great. Well, they say variety is the spice of life, mate. That’s for sure.
Josh Sparks: Exactly. Exactly.
Stuart Cooke: That’s beautiful. That’s so deep, Guy. I’m really moved by that.
Guy Lawrence: He’s bagged me twice all ready on this podcast. I’m sure I’ll …
Stuart Cooke: I just can’t help it. Sorry. It’s the beard, the beard. Have you noticed he’s got a beard now?
Josh Sparks: He’s rocking it. It’s very masculine.
Guy Lawrence: It’s very hip, I reckon.
Stuart Cooke: He’s going ancestral.
Josh Sparks: And when he does go shirtless, it’s going to be sort of hipster meets paleo.
Guy Lawrence: Exactly. I’m getting in theme for this podcast. That’s all it was. It was for you, Josh. It was for you.
Stuart Cooke: Thanks a lot.
Josh Sparks: Thank you.
Stuart Cooke: So, I’m going to steal another question, Guy.
Guy Lawrence: Why not, you bagged me twice.
Stuart Cooke: So, paleo, Josh. So, paleo’s all over the media right now. It’s getting some great press. Good. Bad. Indifferent. Has this particular message affected you in any way?
Josh Sparks: Yeah, it has. So, I think that there’s two things I would say. First of all I think … further the point I made earlier, it’s great that paleo is even appearing in the press. Just like it’s great that health is now appearing in the food court and to the extent it’s inspiring a dialogue, and at times a well-researched and intelligent dialogue, then obviously I applaud it. I think that’s a fantastic thing.
Stuart Cooke: Yup.
Josh Sparks: On the flip side, because the media deals primarily in sound bites and research takes time and to give them their credit, they work in very short-form media these days, I mean, everything’s a Tweet, basically, in whatever format it’s coming.
I don’t think we’re getting the benefit of a lot of the nuance around what is paleo, what is primal, what’s ancestral health, and I think it’s as a subset of that, people tend to hang onto certain aspects of it that appear dogmatic or prescriptive and I think most people, me included, don’t like being told what to do.
So, I think the backlash that we’re seeing is a natural human response to the perception, you know, real or imagined, that we as a community are coming out and scolding and lecturing people and telling them how bad they are and how better they could be if only they were as purist as we are.
Now, I don’t work that way. I know you guys don’t work that way. But the perception is that we as a community are inflexible, we’re dogmatic and we’re prescriptive. And I think that’s something we need to be very, very focused on countering. Because the reality is, that as Mark Sisson keeps saying; as Robb Wolf keeps saying, as Chris Kresser keeps saying, there is no one paleolithic diet. It’s a template. It’s a template. And there are paleolithic communities that have nothing but meat, primarily fat and protein, there are paleolithic communities that have 16 to 17 percent from their carbs … 16 to 17 percent of their calories from carbs, now, ancient carbs, but carbs.
So, when we’re coming out and saying, for example, “paleo is low-carb,” not only is that historically completely inaccurate, it also fails to recognize that there’s a huge swath of population that are interested in paleo. And they run from skinny weightlifting boys through to, you know, obese Type 2 diabetes, syndrome “X” men and women in their 40s, people who train intensely with weights, people who like going for a walk; obviously completely different need for carbohydrate.
So, I think that it’s a great thing, but it’s a double-edged sword. I think it’s a great thing, but the over-simplification of it I think personally has definitely led to some rather challenging conversations between me and customers and me and the press.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
Josh Sparks: But also our business has taken … it took a knock when it was really intensely fervently being debated. We noticed that certainly salads and certain products came off. Thankfully they’ve gone back up again. But I think it’s a consequence of over-simplification and the perception of dogma, I think.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Josh Sparks: So, this sort of conversation is what I love, because we can put it in its rightful context. Rather than saying, “paleo is this and paleo is that. And you’re not allowed to do this and you’re not allowed to do that.” Which just instantly gets people’s back up. And what you end up doing … I know it’s a long-winded answer … but what you end up doing in that sort of environment is preaching to the converted.
And if we got into this, because I know I did and I know you guys did, because we genuinely want to help other people, I mean, I certainly didn’t get into it for the money. I should have stayed in what I was doing instead. It’s a grand way to not make a lot of money. But we got into it because we genuinely want to help people.
Now, if that’s the belief and there’s real authenticity and integrity around that, we have to reach people that aren’t already converted and that are probably going to be a little bit resistant to the message. And to go back to my fashion days for a second, because it’s a stupid analogy, but I think you’ll understand what I mean.
You know, you have catwalk pieces that are gorgeous and expensive and no one really wears.
Stuart Cooke: Right.
Josh Sparks: They end up on the backs of celebrities and they end up in magazines. But they attract attention and they spark interest. But they’re way too intimidating to the average consumer.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Josh Sparks: So, the average consumer, you’ve got to provide a bridge and that bridge is something like a XX 0:48:22.000 t-shirt brand or a dinner brand or a swimwear brandXX or whatever. They come in; they experience the brand; they get excited about it and hopefully they work their way up the ladder.
Now, that may sound like a stupid analogy, but I think we’ve got to a certain extent a analogous situation here where we bombard people with the pointy end of the stick, you know, the last 5 percent, this is all we want to debate the first 95 percent.
If we had people just decide they wanted to step over that bridge with us and we soften the message just a little bit and say, “Look, if you’re not ready to give up bread and you show no signs whatsoever of gluten intolerance, well then, let’s try to get you on an organic salad XX 0:49:00.000 or oatsXX it’s naturally a lot lower in gluten, and let’s just start by giving up the sugar and giving up these horrible oils that you use for cooking and deep frying.”
And then notice some changes, and this is what Sarah Wilson done so brilliantly.
Guy Lawrence: She’s done brilliantly, yeah.
Josh Sparks: Start the journey with sugar. And that is naturally going to … you’re going to see profound change in how you look, feel and perform. And if you’re a curious person and you’re interested in furthering the journey, then you ask, “Well, what’s next and what’s next?”
The opposite is what I think some in our community are doing, which is coming out and saying, “You either do all of this or you do nothing.”
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
Josh Sparks: And if you don’t subscribe hook, line and sinker, to everything in this book or everything on this website or whatever, then you’re not worthy and you’re not truly one of us. And I think that is; that’s great if you’re trying to build a small club. It’s not great if you’re trying to change the world, because we need to bring as many people with us as we possibly can.
And just recognizing that not everyone is as ready for the hardcore message, softening it a little bit, I think you’re going to bring a lot more people with you and that’s going to have a much bigger impact.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, mate. Great answer, man. Absolutely. Couldn’t agree more.
I’m just looking at the time. I’m aware that the time’s getting on, right? So, I want to just touch on a couple of questions and then we do some wrap-up questions to finish …
Josh Sparks: Cool.
Guy Lawrence: … which is always fun.
But, one thing that I was really intrigued to know and I just want to bring on the podcast. I think people listening to this might not appreciate the effort; almost you could say the entrepreneurship of what you do and stress and everything else that’s going on. You’re a busy boy. You’re doing wonderful things. You’re very successful. How do you keep that work/life balance? Any tips? Like, what do you do?
Josh Sparks: That’s a great question and I would say that … well, first of all I live with my Creative Director, so I’m romantically involved with my Creative Director, Steph, so I don’t know whether I’ve pulled off work/life balance rightly there. Truthfully, I mean, taking about THR1VE every night at dinner is not work /life balance.
But you know what we do, what Steph and I do, what we encourage everyone in the business to do, is make time to train. So there’s this … no matter what’s going on, it’s in the diary and I don’t train every day or anything like that. I train every second day. So it’s three or four times a week, depending on the week. That’s always locked in.
I try to get sun every day. Even if it’s a crappy day, I just sit outside for a while. You know, 10, 20 minutes over lunch.
I started meditating, which I am absolutely rubbish at. The whole “still the mind” thing, I don’t know if that’s ever going to be possible, but I kind of love that too, that I’m really rubbish at it and I’m getting better at it so slowly. It’s going to be a lifetime thing for me and I’ll probably still never get there. So, I’m finding that really helpful.
But in terms of … so you know Keegan, right?
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
Josh Sparks: Keegan Smith, who we all know and love. I think the guy is genius in many ways. He’s got; he started to focus on one specific area, but I think he’s a very clever guy. And he said to me once; we were talking about stress and he sent me a follow-up note. And he said, “Look, I could tell you were really stressed. I can tell you’re really busy.”
And there was a point earlier on, I mean, not that it’s not stressful now, but it was early on, we were running out of cash. The stores weren’t yet profitable and there was a very real possibility that it just wasn’t going to work. We were selling food and we had a group of customers that loved us, but we just didn’t have enough of them.
And so, I remember meeting him and sort of sharing with him a little bit, “Look, I think someday this is going to be an amazing business, but oh my God it’s incredibly difficult right now.” And he sort of empathized with me.
Anyway, he sent an email later and he said, “Josh, the thing with stress, you’ve got to decide whether the stress relates to your life’s purpose or not. And if it relates to your life’s purpose, then not only do you not resist it, you embrace it. Because that’s exactly what you need to make you harder, stronger, fitter, faster, you know … blah, blah, blah. It’s a hormetic stress. But if it doesn’t relate to your life’s purpose, you have to be ruthless about eliminating it. Just get it out of your life.”
So, a negative person, a negative relationship, some kind of partnership or some sort of hobby or something that isn’t serving you any more, you eliminate it.
Guy Lawrence: Great.
Josh Sparks: And I think that’s … it’s probably not balanced as such, but I’ve really taken his advice to heart and I’ve become a lot less social. Like, if I’m social now, it’s because it’s something I really want to do and it’s people I really care about and they mean a lot to me. I’m not going out through the opening of an envelope or because someone’s throwing a party or whatever.
So, I’m really focused on spending quality time at home with Steph and with the kids. Prioritizing in training. Prioritizing in good eating. Mediation. All that kind of stuff.
But then also recognizing that some days are going to be incredibly stressful, because I’ve chosen to do something that is challenging and I can’t blame anyone else for that. And so, I need to embrace it and work out, “OK, why am I feeling stressed?” Really get underneath the skin of the challenge and how are we going to take this to the next level.
So, I mean, I know I’m skipping ahead to talk about something you often talk about with your guests around favorite books.
Guy Lawrence: Yup.
Josh Sparks: But just on this stress point. A book called “Antifragile.” Have you ever heard of that?
Josh Sparks: So, his surname is: Taleb. And his first name: Nassim. He wrote “The Black Swan.” His background is from … he was a quantitative trader. He made a lot of money out of quant trading on the markets and he’s now basically a fulltime philosopher.
But anyway, the whole “Antifragile” book is written on the idea that systems, be they natural systems; be they the human cellular system; be they economic structures or political structures or whatever. All rely on a certain amount of stress to thrive.
Guy Lawrence: Yup.
Josh Sparks: Got to get the THR1VE word in there again.
Guy Lawrence: Again. We’ve got to make it three by the end of the podcast, mate.
Josh Sparks: Yeah. Yeah.
Not only; there’s a difference between being robust or resilient and being anti-fragile. Robust and resilient means that you absorb the stress and try to maintain stasis. His idea around anti-fragility is that stress makes you stronger.
So, say, for example, you go out and train with weights. All right? And the short term, if we took your blood after doing German volumetric training squats, 10 sets of 10 squats, your bloodwork would be horrendous. And if we showed that do a doctor and didn’t tell them that you’d done 10 rounds of 10 reps on heavy squats, they would probably want to hospitalize you. Your stress markers would be out of control. You’d be showing a whole bunch of damage at the cellular level. Cortisol would be slamming through the roof. Etcetera etcetera.
But next time you come into the gym, provided that you have the right nutrition and adequate amount of rest, you’re going to be stronger.
So, that’s a short-term stress that makes you stronger and more capable of coping with the same stress next time. Everyone understands the weight training analogy, right? But I think Keegan’s point, at least the way I interpret it, is that it’s the same with emotional/intellectual stress as well. If you don’t have at, at least in a way that’s something that you can cope with and doesn’t put you in the ground, and it relates to something that you consider really important, then surely you can overcome it. That stress that seemed completely unmanageable before, we’re good to go and we’re ready to move on to the next level.
So, I know that’s a really long-winded way of answering the question, but…
Guy Lawrence: No, that’s fantastic, and a great analogy. And I know Tony Robbins goes on about exactly the same thing, and he gets you to draw like a stick man on a piece of paper with a circle around it, you know. And that circle is your comfort zone.
And we very rarely go to the edge of that. But he encourages that you go up against it and you push it, but you don’t step outside. So, your stress muscles are being built and then that circle slowly gets bigger and bigger and then as years go by you don’t realize it but you’ve grown tremendously through actual stress. But you only want to take on what you can cope with.
Josh Sparks: Yeah, exactly. You won’t know until you’ve taken it on. And you know that old saying about “bite off more than you can chew and chew like hell.” I think is a part of that with me as well, where I think that, you know, it’s an other terrible cliché but an accurate one. And you guys might relate to this. But if you knew everything about what you were currently doing before you started, you probably wouldn’t have started it, right?
Stuart Cooke: Oh, my God. No way.
Josh Sparks: But you are. And you’re doing really well. You guys are killing it here. You’re moving into the States. And you’ve got a fantastic product. I think you’ve got best-in-class product. And you’re taking it to the world.
So, you know, you wouldn’t have done that if you knew everything. And that’s why sometimes I think it’s better to just leap. You trust your gut. Your intuition says this is gonna work. You know it’s gonna be difficult. But you can probably figure it out along the way. So, just go for it.
Guy Lawrence: I often joke sometimes that being naïve has been my best friend in some respects, because if you have no idea and sometimes you just jump, you just figure it out and then you learn along the way.
Josh Sparks: For sure. And if you don’t; if; the worst-case scenario is that you start again. This is not life-and-death stuff, right? This is about, whether it’s business or a relationship or sport or trying to do a PB in the gym or whatever it is, if you fail, OK. Well, pick yourself up and go give it another shot. I mean, why would you not want to do that?
Stuart Cooke: Exactly right. And life’s lessons, right? You learn from each mistake you make, which makes you stronger or a better person moving forward.
Josh Sparks: I totally agree. It doesn’t make it feel great at the time, always. But it’s the only way to live.
Stuart Cooke: Oh, look, no. I love that. Everything that we do, albeit negative, I want to know: Well, what can I learn from this? What can I do different next time?
Guy Lawrence: And another great tip, I think it was Meredith Loring, when we asked her, she came on the show, and she said, well, the best thing she’s realized is only focus and set goals that are within your control. Like, don’t try and control the uncontrollable and just let it roll and then things will come in time. And she said once she had that shift in the headspace…
Because we think about this with the USA at the moment, it’s probably the biggest decision we’ve ever made to move into an American market. And, you know, I could seriously lose sleep over this if I chose to. But it’s beyond my control, so with Stu and I we just meet up and we just focus on the things that we know we can do, we can control, and the rest is up to fate, to a degree. You do your best and then the rest is just see what happens.
Josh Sparks: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And give yourself the time and the space to figure out along the way. You know, you don’t set yourself crazy goals where you’ve got to conquer the entire market in 12 weeks.
Guy Lawrence: Exactly. Patience has been…
Josh Sparks: Yeah, it’s a tricky one.
Guy Lawrence: It’s massive. It’s everything, almost, to a degree, and then you just, “OK. Let it go.”
But we’ve got a couple of wrap-up questions. I reckon we should just shoot into them. One was the books. So, what books have greatly influenced or make an impact in your life. Are there any others on top of Antifragile?
Josh Sparks: There’s tons.
Guy Lawrence: Give us three.
Josh Sparks: OK. So, OK, this is a little bit off the reservation but Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I read that as a teen and it blew my mind and I think it’s done that generations of guys and gals. And I think probably what I found most entertaining about it was the guy was just such a; there was no rule that he wasn’t comfortable breaking. And of course it’s fictionalized and of course there was an obsessive amount of drug and alcohol abuse going on. So, his particular vehicles for demonstrating his willingness to rebel, we don’t necessarily recommend to all your listeners. But the idea that he was just out to have the adventure of a lifetime and didn’t care what the rules were, I think at a pivotal age to me… Because I was pretty conservative. I was very much; I followed the rules and I was a very good student and all that kind of stuff. And I just did a 180 in my thinking: “Hold on a second. Maybe I don’t have to follow the path that’s been laid out for me. Maybe there’s another way to go about this.”
So, though I hate to recommend it because it’s full of massive powdered drug use, it’s actually a really good book from the perspective of: Let’s think about this differently. Don’t necessarily follow the example, but let’s think differently.
I think the other book that I’d say, apart from all the paleo and primal ones; your audience will be very familiar with those ones. I think Robb’s book; Robb Wolf’s book and Mark Sisson’s book had a huge influence on me.
I think Tim Ferriss is underrated by a lot of people in the paleo and primal community. But I think his work has probably had a greater influence over me in more areas. Because he touches on business and he touches on relationships and he touches on sex and a whole bunch of stuff that the paleo and primal crowd tend to ignore a little bit. And they shouldn’t because they talk about lifestyle but they tend to write primarily about food. So, I found Tim Ferriss’s stuff really good.
The other thing that had a huge impact on me, I went to a Zen school. I lived in London for five years after graduating from uni, and I went to a Zen school very sporadically and it was just, I guess, my first attempt to meditate, really. I heard about this school. And it was in Covent Garden, which you guys obviously know well, and it was this crazy little place where you just sat around and nothing happened. And my first few times, I was like, “What are we going to do? We do we start?” And they were: “It’s done now. You’re finished.”
But there’s a book called “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” that I read at the time and the idea is that for all of us to try to acquire a beginner’s mind. There’s a quote in there that in the expert’s mind there are very few possibilities. In the beginner’s mind, it’s unlimited, right? So, the smarter we get and the more we know, the more narrow and dogmatic we tend to become. And the whole idea is let go of all that and try to reacquire a beginner’s mind. Come to things fresh with an open mind. And you see things that you otherwise would have missed. So, I thought was a fantastic book.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, that’s an awesome message. Our beliefs shape so many of our judgments moving forward, and you’ve got to avoid that, for sure. Fantastic.
Josh Sparks: You mentioned Tony Robbins before, and I think that Tony Robbins; I went to all his courses. So, when I was living in London, I did the three-day Unleash Your Power. And then I went to Hawaii and did; I can’t remember what it’s called.
Guy Lawerence: Date with Destiny? Did you do that one?
Josh Sparks: Yes. Date with Destiny on the Gold Coast. And one in Hawaii, and I can’t remember, and Financial Mastery I did in Sydney. So, I certainly did them all over the place.
But his stuff is awesome. And it sounds kind of; I don’t know if Hunter S. Thompson and Tony Robbins have ever been mentioned in the same sentence before, from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to Unleash Your Power. But in their own way, they both challenge us to think differently. To think more creatively and to free your mind.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, “Awaken the Giant Within” had a huge impact on me; that book itself. And I’ve been to a couple of his seminars as well, yeah.
Josh Sparks: He’s here in a few weeks, I think.
Guy Lawrence: We should get him on the podcast, Stu. I’m sure he’ll come on.
Josh Sparks: I think we’re busy, Guy.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, I’m confident of him.
Stuart Cooke: It would be a good get.XX
Guy Lawrence: So, last follow-up question, Josh. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Josh Sparks: Oh, man. I think, wow, you know what? I didn’t expect this one so this is a good surprise wrap-up question.
Guy Lawrence: You’ve had a lot to say up until now and now he’s stumped.
Josh Sparks: Just talk amongst yourselves.
Guy Lawrence: Have you got any fashion tips for Stu?
Stuart Cooke: Don’t hang around with you, mate. Well, maybe that’s the best fashion tip. I just need to hang around with you and suddenly I look hugely fashionable.
Josh Sparks: You guys can keep doing this. This is good.
You know, it’s such a cliché but I think probably my mom. And when I was debating what to do and whether or not I should get out of fashion and do what I really wanted to do, she said, as mothers do, she said: You know your own heart and you’ve got to follow your heart. And it’s so cliché. And I know it’s on a million different Hallmark cards. But when it comes from someone you really respect, who knows you inside-out and backwards and says, “You do know what to do, so just go and do it,” I think that was the best piece of advice I’ve ever had.
Stuart Cooke: Perfect. I thought you were gonna say that your mum told you to eat your greens and that’s how you got where you are today.
Josh Sparks: She did say that as well. That was the second sentence.
Guy Lawrence: So, what’s next for you, mate? You got anything coming up in the pipeline?
Josh Sparks: Yeah, we do. A bit like you guys, we’re looking overseas. But not just yet. We’ve decided after much contemplation, we’ve registered the trademark all over the world, and we bought the trademark in the U.S. But after much thinking about it, we’re going to focus on doing another six to 10 stores in Australia first and just really kind of dial in the model.
So, another six to 10 stores in Australia, we’ve got three lined up in the next 12 months. We might do four; I think probably three. Every four months feels about right. Which feels fast to me, but it’s incredibly slow, as I understand, in our industry. They want you to do 10, 20 a year, franchise, and do all that kind of stuff. And I just want to focus on doing our own stores and getting them right and help seed this conversation that we’ve been talking about: trying to get the follow-up questions asked, trying to get a more nuanced, intelligent conversation around what we do and what you guys do, in our whole community.
So, I think rather than rushing off too soon, because retail takes time to build out, wholesaling, what you are doing, you can grow a little bit faster. I think just focusing on Australia for the next 12 to 24 months. But then I would love to take what we’re doing overseas.
And there’s a raging debate amongst a whole bunch of people who I respect whether that should be U.S. or whether it should be Asia. But some kind of off-shore opportunity. Because the Australian market, ultimately, it’s finite. It’s not huge. And it’s very high-cost for what we do.
So, if we took our exact business model anywhere else in the world, it would instantly be meaningfully profitable because the costs are lower.
Guy Lawrence: Wow.
Josh Sparks: So, I think that’s an exciting opportunity. Because at one point I need to pay everyone back, right?
Guy Lawrence: Just keep borrowing, mate. Just keep borrowing. Just roll with it.
Josh Sparks: The investors want a return at some point. So, I think they have been very supportive of my vision, which is great. But in Australia it’s very difficult to do what we’re doing and make it meaningful for investors.
Australia’s a great place to prove a model and prove a brand. It’s a very difficult place to build a small business. Which is why Australia’s full of these massive XX1:08:14.000 shop places? The cost base is so high.XX
But I love doing it here, and I’d happily do it here forever. But I think to really maximize the impact we want to make, which is the “heart” stuff, and return a meaningful number to my investors who have placed so much faith in what we’re doing, which is sort of the “head” part, going overseas at some point makes sense.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, cool. And, mate, I mean, you have been super successful so far. It’s a fantastic brand and I have no doubt moving forward that you’ll be successful wherever you heart leads you to in those endeavours.
Josh Sparks: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Guy Lawrence: For anyone listening to this; obviously they might not be near a THR1VE café but they might like to find out more about you and what you do, where’s the best place to send them?
Josh Sparks: Probably the website, which is Thr1ve.me. Thr1ve with a 1, dot me. And Instagram, which is Thr1ve. Our social media, which is done Steph, my partner, obviously I’m a little bit biased. I think she’s brilliant. So, there’s a really good level, I think, of understanding around what we do that is conveyed through social media.
We’re re-launching our blog. We just sort of got to busy doing the store, so we haven’t really spent enough time on the blog. We’re gonna re-launch that in a few weeks. And in the meantime, there’s some good information on the website as well.
But if you can’t get into a store, the best way to get a sense of what we do is to buy 180 products and read the books that we are talking about and get involved in the community. Because what we’re doing is really, or trying to, hopefully, with some degree of success, distilling a message that we’re all sharing and presenting it in our specific environment, which is the food court and fast-casual restaurant environment.
But you guys can sell over the internet. I can’t send a bowl over the web, unfortunately. But you guys can send protein all over the place.
So, you know, get involved with what you’re doing, which obviously they already are, because they’re watching this podcast. But enjoying your products, reading up on the books, getting involved in the community, trying to spread the word like we discussed in a way that really attracts the unconverted and perhaps those who are a little bit intimidated.
And when they do eventually get to a THR1VE, it’s gonna feel like coming home.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, awesome, mate. Awesome. And we’ll link to the show notes. And just before I say goodbye, I’m going to ask you, you can give me a very quick answer, because we didn’t get to talk about it: Is Mark Sisson coming back to Australia?
Josh Sparks: I certainly hope so. We are not doing THR1VE Me in 2016. We’re going to do it every two years. It turned into a; it was such a massive exercise. I mean, you guys were there. It was great, but it was huge.
Guy Lawrence: It was awesome.
Josh Sparks: I’m really looking forward to doing it again, and Mark’s keen to come back. So, I think realistically for us it will be 2017.
Guy Lawrence: Brilliant. And, yeah, we got to spend some time with Mark and he’s a super nice guy, but also exceptionally fit and walks his talk.
Josh Sparks: Exactly. It’s all about authenticity and integrity.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, yeah. And you need to go and see him once. Like, you need to be there. Awesome. Something to look forward to.
Josh Sparks: Yeah, great. Well, I hope you guys are back. We certainly want you there.
Guy Lawrence: Oh, we’ll be there, mate. Definitely.
Awesome, Josh. Look, thank you so much for your time today. I have no doubt everyone’s gonna get a great deal out of this podcast.
Imagine living the lifestyle of Jordan Belfort of the Wolf of Wall Street… it would be no surprise if you didn’t last to long! That’s how our special guest for the show this week, Tom Cronin once lived. He openly shares with us how this lifestyle led to depression, anxiety and ill health whilst being told he can’t be cured and would need anti-depressants. Tom searched for other means and found meditation, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Tom Cronin Full Interview
Discover why 24,000 people have empowered themselves with our free eBook:
Tom Cronin is the founder of the Stillness Project. He has been teaching meditation for many years now and has inspired thousands of people all over the world as a teacher, author and keynote speaker to unlock peoples stillness and calm with meditation.
He has been featured on national TV in Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald, Huffington Post and Vogue magazine to name a few.
In this episode we talk about:-
Yes, people out there live like Jordan Belfort did!
The one style of mediation that Tom now uses for effectiveness
What meditation is and where it originated
How to quieten a really busy mind
Why stress can be so damaging and how to overcome it
How to start a daily meditation practice when it feels all too hard
Enjoy the interview or got any questions for Tom or us? We’d love to hear them in the comments below… Guy
Hey, this Guy of 180 Nutrition and welcome to the Health Sessions. You know, we cover a lot of subjects on our podcast, obviously, regarding health and most of it revolves around nutrition and a little bit about exercise. But one thing we’ve been keen to delve into as well is, obviously, the power of the mind and stress and how that can affect the body as well.
And so we’re very excited to have Tom Cronin on the show today talking about meditation, something that I grapple with a lot and it doesn’t come easy to me. So, we are very excited to have Tom on.
Now, Tom has been teaching meditation for many years. He’s inspired literally thousands and thousands of people all over the world as a meditational teacher and author and a keynote speaker. And he’s all about unlocking people’s stillness and calmness with meditation. He’s a fantastic guy, too.
He’s featured on the national TV for Australia, Sydney Morning Herald, Huffington Post, and Vogue magazine as well, to name a few.
Tom has an amazing story, too. He was a bonds trader in his early 20s and earning a massive amount of money and he said he’d compared his life very similar to the Wolf of Wall Street. So, you can only imagine he wasn’t going to last too long living that lifestyle. And, yes, he burnt out and then turned to meditation and has been teaching that for over 10 years.
So, I’m sure you’re going to get a massive amount out of this today, just as much as myself and Stu did.
If you are listening to this through iTunes, please leave a review. It takes two minutes to do. We know we’re reaching a lot of people out there, and, yeah, any feedback, fantastic. And the iTunes reviews help us get found easier and help us continue to get this good word out there of all the work we do. And, of course, come over to our website, 180Nutrition.com.au. We’ve got heaps of free stuff on there, too, and massive more amount of resources to help you get fitter and healthier every day. So, anyway, let’s go over to Tom, and enjoy the show. Awesome. Let’s get into it, hey?
Yeah, let’s do it! Guy
So, I’m Guy Lawrence. I’m joined by Stuart Cooke, as always. Hey, Stewie.
And our awesome guest today is Mr. Tom Cronin. Tom, welcome.
Hey, everyone. Great to be here.
Fantastic. I’m very excited about this topic today. It absolutely fascinates me. But before we dig into the world of meditation, because I know Stewie’s keen on this one, too, can you share us your journey to what led you to being heavily involved in medication? Because it’s an awesome, inspiring story, I think.
Yeah. People seem to like this story. You know, the story started a long time ago, actually, when I was in finance. I started out as a broker when I was 19 years old and I just walked in off the street, basically, was looking for a job before I went to uni and didn’t really expect to be in finance at all.
I was gonna be a journalist, the Macquarie Uni, I had a few months to fill in before I went off to do my degree. And, you know, this was back in the late ’80s and the finance industry was booming. I was the old Gordon Gekko Wolf of Wall Street type. You know, you hear of Bonfire of the Vanities and Masters of the Universe and they were really expanding the bond market. And I took a job as a trainee.
It was crazy times, you know? I was on really big salaries really quickly. They gave us corporate expense accounts where we just basically were told, “Take clients out.” Which, our clients were the bankers. The traders. And our job was to basically entertain them and inspire them to do business with you. And our job was to XXclear their risk 0:03:41.000XX in the day and there was like a lot of turnover, you know, multiple millions and billions of dollars worth of bonds.
And I was young, you know, and we were just like young kids off the block doing crazy stuff. So, if anyone’s seen Wolf of Wall Street, the movie, it was literally like that. It was really, seriously like that. He started in 1987, the same year as me. He was 22. I was 19. We both started in 1987, and it was crazy times. We were doing crazy things.
And what happened with me successively over the years was I went further down that path of doing crazy stuff and getting way off track. And that let to symptoms.
Any time you start doing things that aren’t really aligned with natural law or aligned with harmony and peace, then you’re gonna get symptoms like the little red light on the dashboard. And I started getting insomnia and anxiety and then, you know, I kept doing the same thing over and over again. Eventually it really exacerbated into these full-blown panic attacks and depression.
And, again, I still didn’t stop. I was still doing the same thing. You know: doing some crazy stuff. I don’t want to go into too much detail. But, you know, let’s just say there was very little sleep, lots of late nights, and really high-energy work. And then that manifested further because, you know, the symptoms will just exacerbate if you don’t change tack.
And I kept doing the same thing and eventually I got agoraphobia. So, I couldn’t leave the house. I was just like ridiculous fear and panic and depression and I was a basket case.
I managed to get out of the house and down to the doctor’s, one day where I was having, like, a full-blown meltdown, and the doctor said, “Look. This is what’s happening. You need to take pharmaceuticals, we’ll send you to the top psychiatrist. And I went into the top psychiatrist and, to be honest with you, I wasn’t impressed. His diagnosis was, “Hey, you’re a stressful person by nature. We need to put you on antidepressants.”
I didn’t buy that. It was something in me. I didn’t know anything about what was happening to me, but I just didn’t buy that diagnosis. It was the most demoralizing thing I’d ever heard in my life, to be honest with you.
And I kind of was, like, sentenced to a lifetime of antidepressants. Now, I just didn’t feel like that was right. So, I started looking into alternatives. And, you know, I just knew I had to start doing something with my mind. And I knew some mind control was needed. So I looked into meditation. I didn’t know anything about meditation, but I just, back in those days, there was no internet. This was in 1996. And I had to get the big yellow pages book out, you know? We use these as door stoppers to stop the wind from shutting the front door.
So I’m going through the yellow pages looking for meditation. And I just rang all these different numbers. And went to different XX???? talks 0:06:11.000XX and different sessions and eventually I just found one that I really connected with. It was very science-based. It was very quick. Very powerful. Very effective.
So, that’s really what I did is I learned that technique of meditation. It was like a XXVedic meditation 0:06:25.000XX; transcendental meditation style. That’s what I’ve been teaching that same technique for the last many, many years now and practicing that technique for the last 18 years.
Did you have to hit rock bottom before you started looking into alternative means? Like, is that a normal case scenario?
Only for stubborn, pig-headed people like myself. I’m a Scorpio so it’s my natural nature to be stubborn and pig-headed and, you know, most people ideally wouldn’t want to have to get to that point.
And, you know, we can get hints. We can get little hints, little guidance, from our body, from nature. Little messages come through each day. But, you know, for me, I was just ignoring them, that’s all. I was given those hints years before. And I could have done something different, but like Einstein’s definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again expecting different a different result. And eventually I got insanity.
But, you know, that was the best thing for me. I was the sort of guy who had to get really slapped in the face for me to listen.
But you knew they were warning signs at the time? So, you just, like, “Well, whatever.” Just brush it off?
I thought it was normal to lie in bed two hours before falling asleep and then wake up at 3 a.m. in the morning, wide awake, with insomnia. You know, I just lived with that for years.
Going home at 3, 4 in the morning, guys around me, colleagues, sleeping under the desk and wearing the same clothes the next day at work because they’ve been at a bar or nightclub; strip club, whatever, until 4 or 5 in the morning, going to work for two hours, XXsleeping 0:08:00.000XX, and start the day again. Well, that was normal for us.
So, for everyone out there that isn’t completely familiar with meditation, what; how would you define meditation and where did it originate from? Tom
That’s a good question. Where it originated from, we’ll start with that one. I mean, no one; it’s just so far back that no one really can definitively say. I mean, a lot of the origins are looking like India. I mean, to honest with you, I’m not an authority on the origins of meditation, but it looks like it has come from, you know, thousands and thousands of years ago. I mean, I’ve got texts like the Bagavad Gita was supposedly written somewhere around between 2000 B.C. and 5000 B.C. And they start the Bagavad Gita talking about, you know, ancient times. You know? That they were using these practices.
So, it could go back as far as 10,000 years. They would talk about enlightened ages and golden ages, XXaudio problem 0:09:03.000XX of enlightenment. Many, many thousands of years ago.
And, like quite often happens, knowledge gets lost. It gets diluted as it gets passed down. And so it eroded.
But, you know, that’s looking like the origins of this sort of style. And for meditation, it really can be so diverse. You know, I practice a particular style of meditation using mantras. And what I do is, to make things simple for people, I condense it down into four distinct categories.
And you’ve got concentration meditations where almost you’re putting mindfulness in this category, when you’re using your mind to concentrate, focus on one particular point. And it’s about honing that attention into one specific target, which might be a breath, it might be a third eye, it might be a candle. Whatever it is.
Then you’ve got the contemplation meditation. So, this is where you’ve got some guidance going on. You’ve got someone taking you through a sequence, someone talking to you, someone really in the background or some music in the background doing something for you; going through your chakras.
So, in the contemplation, you’re still engaged in the mind. The mind is still active. There’s still movement within the mind. There’s still fluctuations. And because of that, there’s still going to be fluctuations within the body and movements within the body.
And you’ve got chanting meditations, which are like chanting things out loud: XX“om dimashiba, om dimashiba, om dimashiba, hari hari om, hari hari om, hari hari om.” 0:10:30.000XX
Chanting meditations, they can be sort of bringing the attention down to a single point by saying something out loud. There’s still activity. You’re verbalizing something. You’re thinking something. There’s some movement. There’s some movement going on.
Something that sprang to mind, it might seem like a big question: What’s the purpose of the outcome of meditations? It is simply to still the mind?
You know, it can come from so many different things. It can have so many different objectives. And it’s going to depend on each individual person. Someone might want to have a connection to God. I can have four people come to me on a weekend course and say, “I just want to get rid of anxiety.” One might say, “I just want to sleep better.”
One might say, “I want to experience my higher self.” One might say, “I want to dissolve my ego and become one with the field of the cosmos.” I can teach all four of them the same course, slightly skew the dialogue, and they will all get exactly what they were looking for.
There you go.
And you can have someone start with, take for me, personally, my example: I started wanting to get rid of anxiety and depression. So, there was a pain point I wanted to be removed. Like, a splinter is in my foot. I wanted to tend to that and get the point out.
But now, after 20 years, my purpose of meditation isn’t to get rid of anxiety/depression. That went after weeks. Now, why do I meditate? Why do I sit down each day to meditate? To me, it’s the experience, the oneness, the feeling of oneness to merge with that cosmos. To merge with that universality. To experience the ultimate essence and define my ultimate truth. And to remove the layers of illusion and ignorance.
There you go. That’s very different than just removing anxiety, isn’t it?
Do you think everybody should be meditating, Tom?
That’s a really good question. I think everyone would benefit from meditating, absolutely. I think the planet would be an incredibly different place if we all meditated. And that’s my goal. My inspiration is to inspire one billion people to meditate daily.
I know we’d have a lot less angst, a lot less suffering, a lot less fear, a lot less anger, if we were meditating. But I don’t believe in “shoulds” or “shouldn’ts.” It’s something that we need to find our own way.
So, where would be the best place to start if you were completely new to the concept of meditation. What would I do? Where would I go?
Just give me a call.
We’ll put your local number on the site.
Don’t do that! There’s so many different ways to start. You know, some people say, the technique that I teach, they think it’s an intense practice, because it’s all about transcending. And this is one of the four ones that I didn’t get to finish. There was the three categories that I gave you: concentration, contemplation, chanting. But the fourth one is the one I’ve been doing for 20 years, and it’s a very different practice. And it’s a transcending style meditation using mantras.
You know, these mantras are repeated internally, quietly inside your head. And the mantra is like the carrot in front of the donkey. It’s a very effective mechanism to still the mind because the natural soothing quality of that sound.
And once we understand the nature of the mind, you’ll understand why this meditation technique is a very effective style of meditating, because the mind is always looking for something that’s charming.
The mind is like a little kid, right? You put a little boy, 4 years old, in the corner and he will get bored very quickly. Because he’s looking for something to entertain him. He’s fascinated by things. He wants to explore. And so that will boy will get bored of sitting still and he will start to wander.
And that’s like the mind. It will get bored of sitting still and it will start to wander, because it’s looking for something charming, and thinking is an incredibly charming proposition for the mind.
But when we introduce a sound to repeat effortlessly over and over again, the mantra, the mind finds this really charming. It’s so fascinating. We call these bija mantras, b-i-j-a, and they’re seed mantras that take the mind away from the gross expressed state down into the subtler states. And the mind will do that because of the natural charming quality of those mantras.
And eventually the mind will transcend thought altogether. And when the mind transcends thought, that is the mind has now gone to a place where it’s conscious and awake, but there’s no more fluctuations of the mind.
And the reason the mind will go there and stay there is because it’s found the ultimate source of bliss and charm, and that’s what we call true consciousness.
The chatter stops.
The chatter stops.
Is that like; I’ve read that it’s just like a muscle. Is it that like a daily practice thing that you have to do to get better at it?
No. No. I’ve had people start transcending in the first week. If you were doing concentration meditation, that is a muscle that you need to flex. That will require effort. When you’re lifting a weight, which is a good analogy, thanks for using that; when you’re lifting a weight, you need to develop a muscle so that you can lift that weight more easily. And the same thing with concentration is that you’re forcing something to do something that it doesn’t want to do. The mind does not want to stay still, and you need to use force and a concentration meditation to get that mind to do something that it’s not trained to do or doesn’t want to do. Just as lifting the weight is a force. It’s a friction.
But in transcending style meditations, we don’t use force, we don’t use effort, we don’t try. It’s actually the complete opposite. It’s a gentle idea that we entertain inside our mind. We’re happy to surrender that mantra at any given point in time, because when the mind gets close to transcendence, it will go, “I don’t need this mantra anymore. I found something even more entertaining than the repetition and sound, and that’s pure consciousness. It’s so beautiful. It’s so blissful. I’ll just be residing here in this nectar of oceanic awareness.”
“Well, I certainly want some of that.”
Well, that does sound very appealing.
Yeah. It’s; there’s this beautiful realm that people don’t know exists behind the mind. You know, I just had a group of people from all over the world: Colombia, Brazil, Canada, USA, England, Australia, on retreat in Maui. They’d never meditated before, most of these people. And they were immersing themselves in such mind-blowing richness and beauty and glory and magnificence. There were realms that they were accessing they never knew existed before. And that’s because we used a simple vehicle, which is the mantra, to get into that space.
Like, because you, Stu, you admitted yourself, you’ve got a very active mind, right?
Stuart Cooke: I have such a busy mind. Like, such a busy mind. It doesn’t switch off, you know. I can wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning and I feel like I’ve just come out of a board meeting. I’m wired, thinking about a billion things.
And, you know, I have given meditation a go. But, crikey, it’s like I’m sitting in a cinema and everyone’s talking at the same time. You know, I really, really, really struggle. And so, you know, where would I go, because I’m guessing you’ve probably dealt with a billion people like me.
Yeah. Again, it comes back to, you know, what do you want to experience? You can start with simple apps like, you know, there are some apps out there where you can do some guided meditations. But, for me, personally, you can fluff around at the edges, dither and dather for 12 months, 24 months, trying meditations that are gonna be really difficult and really challenging, you’ll not really feel like you’re getting anywhere.
Or you can cut straight to the chase and do the meditation that I suggest that everyone should be doing, and it’s probably the most popular meditation that’s spreading across the world. It’s the one Oprah does. It’s the one Hugh Jackman does. The one Ellen DeGeneres does. It’s the one I’ve been doing for 20 years.
Why have I been doing it for 20 years? Because I’ve done all the research, I’ve tried all the meditations, for me, personally, and it’s not for everyone. Some meditations are gonna be better for other people, but for me personally, and for the students I’ve taught, I’ve never seen better results than the technique I teach. And that’s a transcending style meditation using mantras.
Now, if you’re telling me, “Look, Tom, I want to go off into a monastery in the Himalayas for the next 15 years. I don’t want to have to talk to anyone. I don’t want to be successful. I don’t want to have to have a girlfriend. I don’t want to have a mortgage. I don’t want to be dynamic. What do you suggest I do?” I’d say, “Don’t do my meditation.”
Because when you do this meditation, you will be so; you will start to become so successful and so drawn to doing amazing things in the world. This is an integrative meditation practice. You’ll get creative impulses that will blow you away where you’re, like, “God, I just can’t believe I had that idea. I’ve got to go and do something about that.” Whereas the renunciant concentration meditations are much more conducive to concentration meditations and much more conducive to that.
I just want to be; I want solitude. I want stillness. I want silence. I want to recluse from the world. And there’s something really beautiful about that practice. I don’t think it’s for you right now, personally, but if you wanted to do that, I would recommend a concentration meditation.
And so it really depends what you want out of life, where you want to go, what you’re trying to achieve. If you want to dissolve stress, trying to sit in a chair and focus on your chakras, it’s going to be really hard work. With that said, focusing on your chakras is a really good meditation. But if you want to remove stress, you need to get deep levels of rest where your mind has become still, and metabolically your body’s dropped into a state of rest that’s equivalent to four times deeper than sleep. Then you need to do the transcending style meditations; the ones I teach.
You’d better do it, Stu.
Well, I’m sold. Crikey.
You quickly mentioned chakras as well. Can you explain what that term means?
Yeah. I mean, we have many, many chakras through the body but we have seven main chakras. You’ve got your third eye, your throat, your crown chakra, your heart chakra, solar plexus. In every chakra, and then your base chakra. And so we’ve got all these different points, I guess, energy points, that are through our body and certain practices of meditation are about putting your attention on those energy points and clearing that point and seeing that it’s awakened.
In our world that we’re in in Sydney here and Western lifestyle, we’re quite dominant in our base chakra. So, the base chakra is all about survival, it’s about procreation, it’s about money. And that’s why we have a very grounded base chakra based, sort of focusing on XXtech? Tax? (audio glitch) 0:21:17.000XX and money so much in our lives. Whereas things like a heart chakra, where we just love unconditionally, we just love so openly, without fear, without conditions. It’s a totally different experience.
So, we don’t have very open heart chakras. Our crown chakra, our third eye chakra, is quite closed, because of stress and the nature of being obsessed about the base chakra.
So, for me, I was very base chakra dominant for a long time of my life. It’s taken me a long time to start opening up the other chakras. But, you know, I don’t teach a lot around that. It’s not my sort of niche. But it’s just something I’m aware of.
Guy Lawrence: A thought popped in as well, just we’re rewinding back a bit with the meditation. Like, if there’s somebody listening to this and, you know, the idea of meditation’s great, yeah, I want to do it. But, like you said, every time they go to sit down they get flustered and just move on.
And so, like, looking at it from a nutritional aspect, we hold clean eating workshops. And yet, even though we’re trying to teach people how to eat for life, we embrace them in a 30-day challenge. And we say, “Guys. Start with 30 days, commit to 30 days, and hopefully you’re gonna change enough habits to then go on and start eating better for your life.” You know? Could that work the same with your course of meditation, if we said, like, “Let’s do a 30-day challenge and then let’s see how we feel after that.” And then hopefully we’re gonna get the bug and, you know, keep going. Tom
Yeah. Look, it’s interesting when you bring the word “challenge” and meditation together. I do have a 21-day program, which is my online meditation program. But I really like to let people do their own research. And I think that’s ultimately the best way for people to get results is that I’m gonna teach you a technique and this technique is gonna really change your life quite quickly. You’re gonna notice significant differences.
Now, a student said to me, “Oh, I dropped off my meditation. I’ve really noticed a difference.” I said, “Great. That’s fantastic. I’m happy that you dropped off your meditation, because now you have relativity and you can see through your own personal research what life’s like when you meditate and what life’s like when you don’t meditate.”
Now, if life’s better when you meditate, there’s your research. And if you don’t want to do it after that, then that’s fine. But you’d ask yourself why would you not want to do it. Stuart
I think that answers my geek question, because I was going to ask how I could measure the effectiveness of it, either through. . .
Yeah, it’s a good question. The difference will be for different people; the measurement for different people. Like, for me, what I noticed was I started sleeping immediately, as opposed to waiting one to two hours. That was the immediate effect within the first few days was that I would fall asleep when I put my head on the pillow. I thought, “Wow! That’s insane. I never had that for 10 years.”
Other people might go, “I get this euphoria. I get this blissfulness.” Other people I know, they started crying, because they were releasing emotions of sadness that were in their body. There’s a lot of purification that goes on when you start meditating.
So, the effectiveness of it will depend upon that person, the stress that’s in that individual, the stress that needs to come out of that individual, some get heightened euphoria, some get sexually aroused, some get the ability to sleep really well, some just feel light and blissful. Some feel quite uncomfortable, because they might have a lot of stuff inside, a lot of anger that they haven’t released. It’s sort of, “ahhhh,” coming out.
Just a release.
Yeah. Usually, the effectiveness will be measured by the sensations that they’re getting.
I guess everyone’s different so you will know if you feel different.
Yeah, absolutely. I had one client just recently that, there as a couple, a married couple, and they both learned with me. And the wife was just, like, “Oh, my God! This is amazing. I can’t believe it. This is like the best thing I’ve ever done. I just can’t believe how incredible I feel.” That was, like, two weeks later. The husband was completely the opposite. He was like down in the dumps, angry with the world, bitching and just gnarly as all heck. And I had a session with him and what had happened was that this person, all their life, had never been able to find their voice. I mean, just being pushed and shoved and accepted that. And meditation says, “That’s not your truth.”
And if that’s not your truth, you need to find your truth. And all of a sudden all that anger and all that being oppressed all his life, as a kid, was coming out. And so his experience was totally different. And yet they were doing exactly the same technique and the same course.
How much do you think stress affects our health, then, Tom? I mean, obviously you’ve been through a lot of stress. There’s a lot of stressed people out there. A lot of people holding things in, exactly like you said. And now they’ve got their voice. I mean, do you think that directly affects people’s health in a big way?
Yeah. I mean, Bruce Lipton, who’s the professor at Stanford University Medical School, he said in one of his papers that 95 percent of all sickness is a product of stress. And you can put that down to impaired vision; not eyesight, but impaired vision, awareness, in making poor decisions.
Because when you’re stressed, your brain operates in a completely different way. You go from being intuitive and creative and wise to just operating from primal survival. When you’re stressed, your metabolic rate changes. Your blood pressure changes. Your cholesterol levels change. I mean, when you’re stressed, everything becomes imbalanced. Everything becomes enormous. I’d say stress is one of the biggest killers we’ve got in our society. And the biggest negative impacts.
Because when you’re stressed, what do you do? You start drinking alcohol. When you’re stressed, you start smoking cigarettes. When you’re stressed, you start taking drugs. When you’re stressed, you eat shit food. I mean, it affects us in every single way in our life.
So, what specific factors do you think, Tom, would inhibit meditation? I’m thinking of, well: Is it too noisy? Is it too light? You know. Are there too many distractions?
Time of day.
Exactly. Because we’ll all be in these very different scenarios in our lives. What should we be wary of?
Um. You know, it’s gonna be almost impossible in our life, in the cities that we live in, to find a completely quiet space. Obviously, noise is gonna be one of the greatest challenges. It’s very distracting for people when there’s noise in the background.
But what we teach with this technique is that if you’re on a bus and there’s someone talking in front of you to their partner, there’s someone behind you on the phone, and there’s someone next to you listening to music on their headphones, you’re still in your headspace and you’re still thinking.
So, if you’ve got a mantra to repeat, you can repeat that mantra regardless, wherever you are. And that will, in effect, be a meditation. I used to meditate on the train nearly every day going to work.
So, noise isn’t really; it can be a distraction. I know being down at the beach where there’s waves moving around, people walking by, there’s some wind, I’m probably gonna have less a deep meditation than if I’m in a really quiet room or a quiet parked car.
Anywhere there’s limited movement, limited activity, limited noise, then it’s going to be more conducive to a meditation, particularly for beginners. But for more advanced people, you can meditate anywhere. I can meditate at a football game and still be OK.
Yeah. You just learn to bring your awareness inward, through the training. But in the beginning, you know, there’s a lot of; your senses are continuously going externally, looking for the source of the noise or the smell or the feeling.
Another question that popped in there, and this seems, probably, a bit contradictory, but, like, if there’s a very busy person, and for this set amount of time you can shorten the meditation, are you going to get the same effect from five minutes as 20? Or does it vary?
Because I know, like, if you started meditating, Stu, the first thing you’d ask is, “Well, how long would I have to do it for?”
Minimum effective dose.
There’s a lot of fancy gadgets coming out these days: five-minute meditations, one-minute meditations. It’s great that we pause. You know, it’s really important that we pause through the day. I think, depending on the meditation style, if you’re gonna do a deep, transcending-style meditation, minimum is 20 minutes. I mean, I don’t recommend you need more than 20. But 20 minutes, you know, 15 to 20 minutes. Under 15, you’re kind of not having enough time to XXdig inside 0:29:55.000XX your nervous system, to wind down the mind.
You know, we have such stimulated nervous systems, such stimulated minds, that it’s really just not enough time to get into those deeper states. I mean, that said, you can get into transcendence within three minutes. I’ve seen my students who come into my courses and come to my Monday night sessions and I have a look around the room and I can see them dropped into deep states within the first five minutes. But I think, for the rebalancing process to really take effect, I’d like to see 20 minutes for the meditation practice.
There you go. Is there a best time of day to do or do you just fit it in when you can or. . .”
Ideally, do one before breakfast and one; anytime, I’d say, between lunchtime and dinnertime. Ideally, I like between 3 and 6 o’clock is a nice time. Three and 7 o’clock in the afternoon is a good time. Before dinner.
And, again, it depends on your meditation. See, the transcending style meditation that I teach, the level of rest is so profoundly deep, it’s equivalent to about four hours’ sleep. A deep meditation; 20-minute meditation.
So, ideally you wouldn’t do that before bedtime, because if you had an equivalent of four hours’ sleep at 9 o’clock at night then it’s going to affect your deep sleep session. But if you’re gonna do, like we do a guided meditation before all the kids’ bed, so my family will all sit on the sofa at 8:30 before the kids are about to go to bed and we’ll put on one of my guided meditations and we’ll all sit there with a blanket and listen to 10 minutes of my guided meditation and what that does for the kids is it just XXde-excites? 0:31:26.000XX their nervous system after watching TV. It’s a lot of stimulation with the music and ads and all that sort of stuff going on on TV for 12-year-old kids’ nervous system. So we wind them down with a guided meditation before bed. And that’s a really effective thing to do. So, it depends on the meditation.
It just reminded me of, you know, I said I don’t meditate. I have tried meditation once and I went to a; I was given a voucher for a class on; for this little place in Bondi. And I’m not the most open-minded sort of guy, so I thought, you know, OK, I will give it a go, but, you know, I don’t expect anything to come from it. And now I just remember sitting in this class with a lady; I was actually the only guy there and there were about 12 others in there and this lady was telling me to picture myself as a flower all curled up. And upstairs in this, I think it was like in a youth center, there was like junior karate. And every kind of three seconds, one of these chaps would be thrown on the; slammed on the floor. And I’m just trying to picture myself as a flower.
And then there was another guy outside tuning up his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. It was just; it was like a comedy for me, and that was my first experience and I thought, “You know, I don’t know whether this is for me or not.”
But I can see, through what you’ve told me, that that probably wasn’t the best experience and it’s something that I would really benefit from looking into.
Yeah. Yeah. It’s just, we can’t judge all meditation on that one experience. There are certainly other ways to do it.
Are there any factors that could enhance that? I mean, can I drink a cup of chamomile tea and slide into meditation a little easier?
Definitely, lead-up to meditation is important. You know, you guys have come to my Monday night meditations and you’ll notice, you know, I turn off the overhead lights. I put candles on. We light incense. So, I deal with all five senses. I put on some nice, quiet music.
So, as soon as you walk in you’re getting a sense of your nervous system calming down. Your nervous system’s being prepared for something. I talk softly so you’re hearing soft voices. And it’s really a nice prelude, so people tend to go quite deep in those sessions. And that’s because I’ve prepared their physical body, their nervous system, their mind, for a deeper experience.
And we can do that on our own at home. You know, if you’ve been running around all day, just been shopping and being up at the XX junction wall? 0:34:15.000XX and you’ve been listening to the radio and having heaps of meetings all day and then you suddenly sit in a chair and start meditating, it’s gonna take you a lot longer than if you actually just: Take some time preparing your room, putting on some nice music, lighting some candles, getting some incense out, do some gentle breathing, maybe do a bit of yoga. And then you start your meditation. It’s going to be like a completely different experience.
You’ve got to work at it, right? It’s not like: “Ah, let me finish this action movie and then, XXfeck it?? I figure?? 0:34:41.000XX, I’ve got to fly to my 10-minute meditation time and then. . .”
You can still do that. I mean, if you’re pushed for time, it’s still worth doing that. But if do it for a little bit of time, it’s the prep. Not every one is going to have time for the prep. So, it’s one of those things. . . Or the space for it. You know, you just get on a bus and all of a sudden you start meditating. You haven’t got time to light candles and sit them in front of you and burn some incense.
So, you know, there are certain times you just aren’t gonna do it. But it does; I think it does help.
Have you ever meditated; you said you’ve meditated on the way to work. Have you ever missed your stop on the bus or the train?
I have, yes. I ended up; I was supposed to go to Martin Place. I ended up at Town Hall and Central. I told my work that’s why I was a little bit late that day.
I’m guessing you probably don’t promote meditation while driving.
It’s not a good idea, no.
What; like, we ocean swim a lot. And I do a bit of yoga a couple of times a week as well. Is that a form of meditation?
Oh, yes, definitely. You know, anything that’s repetitive. Walking can be meditation. Swimming is a really meditative practice, particularly doing laps in a pool, looking at that little black line below you, it’s “breath, one, two, three, four, breathe, one, two, three, four, breathe.” It’s definitely a meditation.
What you’re not gonna get is metabolic rest. OK? So, mentally it is definitely a meditation. But physically, you’re not gonna have metabolic rest. So, in stillness, when the mind is still, and not moving in transcendence, your physical body’s oxygen requirement is almost zero, and it’s been proven metabolically that you are about four times metabolically deeper in rest than you would be in a deep sleep.
Wow. That’s incredible.
I’m looking forward to getting into this. That’s for sure.
This is where the repair happens. So, the body is this incredible organism that has this intelligence within it that it will repair. It will operate and function at the highest level. We have sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. It’s a beautiful design by nature. We’re just not getting the levels of rest that are appropriate enough to get that deep healing process activated. And that’s what happens in meditation.
Like, for me, OK, I had anxiety, I had depression, I had insomnia, I had agoraphobia. Huge levels of distortion. Constantly getting sick. I didn’t have to take tablets. I didn’t have to see doctors. I didn’t have to see therapists. I just simply put my body in a deep level of rest twice a day, morning and evening. I had all the anomalies. I started producing serotonin, oxytocin, reduced adrenaline, norepinephrine, cortisol. I started healing on every level; started getting rest. And it was just a natural mechanism in my body to do that.
I’m inspired. I want to do it. I think high-end athletes would benefit greatly from this.
Yeah. A lot of high-level athletes are now starting to realize the power of meditation.
When you describe it like that, yeah.
Yeah. Yeah. It surprises people when I talk about it on a physical level, but it is just as much, if not more, a physical practice than it is a spiritual and mental one.
What are your thoughts on the plethora of iPhone apps and gadgets out there? Is it something that we should be doing on our own, or can we plug in to technology?
XXFinding Real Bits?? 0:38:12.000XX is another one as well, isn’t it?
I mean, everything’s relevant. We’ve got technologies causing a lot of our problems in the world today, with stress levels and our constant attachment to acquiring information. But it’s also gonna be the source of the solution to the problem.
By my online program, I can now get meditation to people all over the world. I have people every day emailing us from Mexico, Kenya, Venezuela, and even a remote XXGalapagos? 0:38:45.000XX north of Finland. Some woman said, “You know, you’ve changed my life. You’ve taught me how to meditate.” And that’s because what I teach in person I can now deliver to the masses through digital format. And we couldn’t do that less than 10 years ago.
Yeah. It wouldn’t work so well as like a bulk mail-out, would it?
A bulk mail-out wouldn’t work quite as well.
Yeah, sending fliers out to Venezuela.
Oh, that’s right. Exactly. Yeah.
Mate, we got an Instagram question pop up and I thought, ah, this one’s a good one: What were the key lessons that you learnt, allowing you to improve your meditative experiences?
That’s a good question. Well, I’ll answer that in regards to my specific practice. And one of the things that was most relevant for my practice, which is different from a concentration meditation, but for a transcending style meditation, using a mantra, one of the most important things that I was taught that helped me refine that practice was to not hold onto the mantra as a clear, firm pronunciation, but to very effortlessly entertain it as a faint idea so that as the mind is moving toward the transcendent state, toward stillness, it’s able to surrender the attachment to the sound and let it go. So, if you hold onto that as the clear pronunciation, then the mind is attached to the repetition sound, which means the mind is moving constantly.
Could you be stressing yourself out to think that you’re getting the mantra right or wrong? The pronunciation?
Absolutely. That’s why we emphasize, and that’s why it’s important to do a course where you get guidance. I highly recommend for anyone that, this is the big challenge people have is that they’re trying to do meditation on their own. It’s probably the most important thing you can do. And yet we’re reluctant to get authorities to guide us in that space.
And it’s really important that you have someone to assist you in your meditation practice, because not only do you want to make sure that you understand the process very well, and understand why you’re gonna have certain sensations or why you’re gonna have certain experiences that might be a little bit challenging at times. But you’re talking about your unconsciousness here. And everything that you do in life is gonna flow from your consciousness.
And we go to chiropractors, we go to doctors, we go to dentists, we go to mechanics to fix our car. We see professionals in every area of life except for our mind.
Yeah. The most important part as well.
The most important part.
Hey, Tom, yes, good point. We ask one question on the show at the end, every guest. And I can just see Stewie’s face. His brain is working overtime.
This gold. I mean, we’ll be talking about this for weeks after, Tom.
So, what’s the single best piece of advice you’ve ever been given.
Yeah. That’s a really good question. I would have to reference a book, it was a reference from a book called Emmanuel’s Book. And I don’t know if it’s advice as opposed to an insight, but I probably take it as an insight. And that is that ultimately, beyond all the thoughts, all the seeming conditions of what I perceive myself to be, there is the subtle essence of who I am. My ultimate truth.
Is it, “I’m love?” And all I need to do is embody that. And when I’m embodying that as my ultimate truth in every moment, then that’s what we call in Sanskrit “moksha.” Freedom. That is true freedom. There is no circumstance you can’t feel liberated in when you’re just embodying the truth of who you are. And that’s love.
Did it take you a long time to; like, if somebody had that to you when you were in your stock-trading days, bond-trading days, you know, probably wouldn’t have registered the same as to the Tom of today, right?
There’s a reason for that in that knowledge gets superseded by our experience. So, you can have a concept in your head, but if your experience isn’t aligned with that concept, then your experience will override the concept. So, if your concept is, “I’m peace and love,” but if you’re stressed to the hilt, you’ve been up all night doing cocaine and drinking bourbon, and you wake up and you say as an affirmation, “I’m peace and love,” or, “I’m the light.” Your experience will tell you a different story.
And when you’re driving to work in your BMW and there’s a traffic jam and you’re late for a boardroom meeting and a lot of things depend upon this and you’re really stressed and you’re hammering the steering wheel, cussing and cursing, listening to some, you know, hard-core metal music, it doesn’t matter what that concept is. You could have little Post It notes written all over your car on the dashboard saying, “Hey, I’m peace and love.” We need our experience to align with the concepts. And it took me a long time for my physical body to be purified of the imbalances so that I could start to feel that.
So, now my feeling is aligned with the concept.
That makes so much sense when you put it like that, Tom. It really does.
You know, I had a guy at work had heard a lot about the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. And this guy, like, he was a stress bag. A typical broker, just as I was. And he said, “I really want to read this Power of Now. It sounds really good. It’s something I think I should read.” I said, “Sure. I’ll lend it to you.” And I lent it to him. And he wasn’t a meditator, and I knew that he was gonna struggle with that book because if you don’t know how to still the mind or if the mind isn’t naturally, spontaneously living in the now, then (and the mind doesn’t really like to live in the now. It’s in the future and in the past; it’s forecasting and remembering).
And he got about a third of the way through the book and gave it back to me and he said, “You know what? I kind of get what he’s talking about, but I don’t get it.” And that’s because his experience was invalidating the content in the book. He didn’t know how to live in the now, because his mind was always in the future and the past. Without meditation, it’s almost; I’d almost say it’s a great book to read after you’ve been meditating.
Right. And be present. It’s funny you say that, because I’ve read a book, and I’ve gone, “What the hell are they on about?” And picked it up five years later and it’s a completely different book. Even though it’s the same book.
That’s awesome. Any last words, Stu?
Well, I just need your phone number.
I’ll answer it in a second and I’m coming to see you.
Where can we get more Tom Cronin for our listeners, Tom?
The best place to probably go is to the Stillness Project. And the Stillness Project really is a movement we’ve created. Its foundation is to inspire a billion people to meditate daily. Because we see the power of meditation when we incorporate that in their lives. Everything changes. And if we get more people meditating, we’re gonna have a better planet.
So, the Stillness Project is about that. It incorporates retreats, digital programs, digital mentoring, live mentoring, live programs. They can get most of what they need to find about me at the Stillness Project.
Awesome. We’ll drop a link below anyway on our website.
That was awesome, mate. Thank you so much for coming on the show, Tom.
Thank you so much for your time. This stuff, I can see now, it’s critical to mind, body, spirit, holistic health and wellness. I look forward to finding out more and experiencing more. Put it that way.
Guy: I love hearing stories that inspire me, so I wanted to share Nicole Newman’s story for anyone who is struggling with their weight.
Having never met her I first received an email from Nicole about six months ago, and below are some snippets from that email so you can get the idea.
Hi Guy,I have been thinking about writing this email for a little while. But, like most attempts at healthy eating and / or weight loss, I have found some excuse not to start. Or to start, and then stop! Basically, I need to lose weight. Lots of weight. My BMI is 31 and I am 30 years old, weighing 83kg at 166cm. I am miserable and not at all happy in my own skin. This has been the case for a LONG time. Over the last 12 years I have managed to lose 25kg. And gain it again. And lose it again. And gain it again. You get the picture. I have tried a dozen different diets. No carb diets. No fruit diets. No sugar diets. Super low fat diets. Meal replacement diets. Protein shake diets. Super low calorie diets. Juice detoxes!I have been a member of 8 different gyms. Hired 3 different personal trainers. Tried the no gym approach. Tried the over the top excercise 3 times a day approach. They all worked just fine – I lost lots of weight. I just couldn’t stick to ANY of them.So, here I am, at 83kg kilos, not able to fit into my clothes (even the ‘big’ ones) and avoiding social situations. I would like to use 180 nutrition to help me lose weight – and would love any advice you can give to do this…
I rang Nicole that day and had a good chat to her. We spoke about making long lasting changes as apposed to quick fixes etc, and also recommended some helpful resources including Sara Wilson’s I quit sugar campaign and David Gillespies books along with our blog, as I felt sugar is often underestimated when it comes to health and weight loss.
Thinking nothing much of it, I get an email half a year later from Nicole:
Hi Guy,About 6 months ago you responded to one of my emails with a phone call. You gave me some amazing tips and I’m sitting here 20kg lighter, healthy, happy, fit & strong. I have lost 4 clothing sizes and eat more than most men :) My question is do you have any tips on how to lose the last few kg? Other than more of the same?
I rang Nicole congratulating her and said I’d happily help her if she wouldn’t mind putting her weight loss experience it into a blog post so it could inspire others. She agreed and this is that blog post. Over to Nicole…
When we first spoke, you mentioned you had tried many different diets and failed at multiple attempts of losing weight over the years, yet here you are 6 months later and 20kg lighter.
What was the difference between those past attempts and and the success you have now?
Although I have always had an interest in nutrition and weight loss (probably from trying so many diets over the years), but I had never really found a way of eating that helped me lose weight and was sustainable. I did get close at one stage, just before I got married, when I lost around 10kg by following a low fat / low carb diet and exercising with a personal trainer. But I found it difficult, the food was not enjoyable, and I was tired all the time. I was having to create different meals for myself and my husband and daughter – and pretty much as soon as I got married, I gave it up. Not too long after this I fell pregnant, and although I did not gain much weight with my pregnancy, by the time my second baby was 12 months old I weight 85kg. I was roughly a size 16 on a 5’4 frame and was just SO uncomfortable in my own skin.
It was starting to take a serious toll on my mental health. I began to really hate myself. I know that sounds harsh and reading it back – it is. But it was how I felt. I did not want to be overweight anymore. I was not sleeping. I was tired all the time and living on coffee. I was fighting with my husband about various things, I was cranky and impatient with my kids, and I was barely trying at work. I was MISERABLE. I was spending hundreds of dollars every month (that we really didn’t have) buying new clothes in an attempt to make myself feel good. But it didn’t work. And only made my husband and I argue even more! I stopped wanting to attend social events, and on the one occasion I did (my best friends wedding), I stayed sitting at the table all night, hiding from the camera. When finally a photo surfaced on facebook of my brother and I at the wedding, something snapped. I was so disgusted at what I saw I made a promise to myself that I would change. And so I did.
I had heard about quitting sugar in various forms of social media, and somehow ended up at Sarah Wilson’s blog. From there, I read about 180 nutrition and David Gillespie’s book Sweet Poison. I downloaded both the IQS (I Quit Sugar) program and Sweet Poison into my iPad and began making changes to my diet. I am an all or nothing kind of person – so I cut sugar out completely. Just like that. And yes – it was hard – but not as hard as I thought it would be. I was prepared for how crap I would feel at first. And I took Sarah Wilson’s advice – every time I felt like something sweet or carby, I ate some fat. And it worked! It still does. I was amazed I had found a ‘diet’ that was satisfying and included tasty food that was readily available. Around this time I ordered myself a bag of 180, and read your post on meal replacement with 180 shakes. And so I began to replace 1-2 meals with 180 smoothies (scoop 180, coconut water natural yoghurt, coconut oil or nut butter and occasionally some berries) – and the weight started falling off. It was enough to convince me to keep going and with some advice from you (thank you thank you thank you) 6 months later here I am, 22kg lighter, excercising 4-5 times per week and still eating cheese. I am happy, I have energy, and my relationship with my family is better than ever. Win!
Where there any foods in particular that were your downfall?
Yes there were. Although I do not have a major sweet tooth, I was a huge lover of carbs. Pasta, pizza, bread and rice – I ate one or more of these foods at every meal! Pizza is still my favourite meal but I do a Paleo version which is honestly just as good.
What was your typical breakfast and has it changed much?
It has change dramatically. I was not really a breakfast eater – subscribing to the school of thought that it would give me more allowance for calories later on. Oh how wrong I was! On the odd occasion I did eat breakfast, it would be toast with some sort of topping – butter and vegemite, cheese and tomato or some poached eggs. If I did not eat breakfast, I would have something a few hours later like a toasted sandwich or muffin.
Now I eat breakfast every single day – and it is either a 180 smoothie, or home made almond toast with poached eggs, spinach & mushrooms. I am also not opposed to eating leftovers for breakfast! It’s not uncommon to see me eating the previous nights leftover dinner. So long as it contains protein, veg and fat I am happy.
What did you used to drink, and did that change much?
Coffee with soy milk which was up to 3 a day (Guy: you can read my thoughts on soy milk here) and water. I was never (and still aren’t) a soft drink person. I still drink the coffee and loads of water – but I now have my coffee black with stevia, and occasionally coconut oil and cinnamon. I have learnt the key to drinking black coffee is to make sure it is good coffee! I go out of my way to stop at a fantastic café on the way to work to get one.
Could you give a rundown on what a typical days eating looked like back then? and what it looks like now?
Given that I was often on some sort of ‘diet’ my typical days eating varied quite a lot. But, when I wasn’t trying to stick to a diet, it would look something like this:
8am – A large soy flat white and maybe some toast with butter and vegemite. Yes, I ate soy and linseed bread or multi-grain thinking it was the healthy option.
10am – A toasted sandwhich (if I hadn’t had breakfast), or some nuts or rice crackers with dip.
1pm – Where I work they have a fully subsidised bistro. So in addition to a sandwich bar, there is always 6 or so hot meals on offer. So lunch could be a pasta dish with garlic bread, a stiry fry with rice, curry with rice, salt and pepper squid etc, or a sandwich or wrap. Usually followed by some sort of desert – yoghurt with fruit for example.
Mid afternoon was more nuts or crackers, occasionally some chocolate, and definitely another coffee with soy milk.
And what does your diet look like now?
7.30am – 180 smoothie OR eggs & veges OR leftovers
8.30am – Black coffee with stevia, coconut oil and cinnamon
9.30am – Some nuts or a boiled egg or chunk of cheese or some IQS coconutty granola
12.30pm – Meat / chicken / tuna with lots of veg and usually some more cheese or avocado!
A fave would be tuna salad with avocado, olives, feta cheese, cucumber, tomato, pine nuts, lettuce / rocket and home made pesto. I am also a huge fan of soups and usually have a big batch of one in the fridge! My fave is chorizo, chicken, kale & lentil. I’d be happy to post a recipe if anyone is interested. I also try and have a batch of 180 brocooli and cheese muffins in the fridge for a quick meal on the go.
2.30pm – Coffee, black tea or Miso soup. Miso is great if you are feeling peckish and SO good for you. I’ll also have some nuts, cheese, or celery sticks with nut butter, or a 180 chocolate amazeball if I am still hungry after lunch.
4.30pm - Another small snack
7.30pm – Training
8.30-9pm – Dinner. If I’m feeling a little worse for wear after training (usually the case after a PT session!) I’ll have a big 180 smoothie with coconut water and flesh (Guy: I wrote about my late night smoothie/meal replacement here for after training) or 180 protein & natural yoghurt. Sometimes a chocolate amazeball for desert. Otherwise it will be a stir-fry cooked in coconut oil with chicken / pork and with lots of green veg, a thai curry with meat and lots of veg, spaghetti Bolognese without the spaghetti or just a simple grilled piece of meat or fish with salad.
Were you exercising when you were over weight, and are you exercising any differently now?
At times yes, but not regularly. As I mentioned earlier there was a period before I got married where I knuckled down with my diet and exercise, but it lasted about 3 months. Once I had lost enough weight to be comfortable in my wedding dress, I stopped trying. I never understood people who excercised just because its good for you. I always thought you needed to have a reson to exercise!
We always hear people of being time poor, being a parent I’m sure you are short on time, how did you overcome that?
Yes as a parent I am short on time. But I think most people could argue that life gets busy! Even those without kids. In all honesty, I just needed to pull my finger out. I train at 7.30pm most nights when hubby is home and the kids are in bed, and early on the weekend mornings. If my husband cannot look after the kids for me, I ask my Mum to. If you don’t have those options available as I know not everyone does, then find a gym with a crèche. OR as another friend of mine does – hire a babysitter on a Saturday morning for an hour or 2. If all else fails, buy or download some excercises DVD’s and a cheap yoga mat and start at home. The key Is just to GET MOVING. Even twice a week is good! And get your kids involved – do a few laps of the park while they play on the swings or go on a long walk with the pram. There are lots of opportunities if you are open to them :D
Did you have any lightbulb moments along the way, if so what were they?
That sugar or fructose is the absolute enemy when it comes to weight loss, and that nothing feels as good as seeing that number on the scales go down. Also don’t hesitate to ask for help! Guy at 180 was always there to answer any questions I had, and both Lee Holmes (Supercharged Food) and Sarah Wilson also gave me advice if I asked a question on their blog / FB pages.
You mentioned you hit a plateau at the last kgs of weight loss, how did you overcome that?
I had read that most people ‘plateau’ when they have lost most of their weight. For me, I think it was a combination of becoming a little lax with my diet, eating too much protein, as well as the fact that I don’t have much weight to lose now. I am very much in a healthy weight range with around 25% body fat. I would like to lose another 3-5kg and realize it is going to take longer than the first 22kg! I am currently on day 2 of a vege juice cleanse to re-set my system, and have a diet plan ready to go on Monday when I go back to regular eating. It involves 2 x 180 shakes, lots of fat and green veg and less protein than I have been having. No fruit or grains, even for cheat meals, and no alcohol. I think doing this for a month will get my to my goal.
For anyone reading this who is looking to lose weight for the long term, do you have one piece of advise you can share with us?
Start as you intend to go on. If you are starting a diet that you do not intend to continue with once you have lost your weight, then it’s not the right diet. You need to find a way of eating that is enjoyable and sustainable.
Also having a network of like minded people as been massive. I owe so much thanks to my trainer Dave and the team of guys at Active Personal Training. They have been there for me every step of the way, and have helped me achieve goals I never thought possible. I would not have gotten this far without them and they have become great friends of mine too. I can’t stress enough how much it helps having a team of people to support you. Both the trainers and the other clients at the gym have been beyond awesome!
Has this new found knowledge around nutrition changed the way you feed your children?
Absolutely. I have always been conscious of what I feed them, much more so that I was with myself. Although I do not enforce a no sugar diet with them, their sugar intake has greatly reduced. When I bake I use Stevia and Rice Malt syrup instead of sugar, I make my own snacks for them whenever possible – homemade muesli bars, chocolate amazeballs with 180 protein, home made muffins & fruit / breads. Yes they still have the occasional cupcake or lolly at parties and daycare – and this is fine. I am realistic and don’t want them to feel like the odd kids out.
Also in an attempt to avoid making 4 meals for dinner – I try to ensure that whatever meal I make can be adapted for all of us. For me, it’s usually just a case of leacing out the ‘carbs’ – e.g. spaghetti Bolognese with green veg instead of pasta or their green curry with extra veg instead of rice.
Apart from weight loss, has there been any other benefits to your new found health since you changed the way you eat and live?
I can honestly say that I am happy. I could not say that 6 months ago. Because of this I’m a better Mum, wife and employee. I think I am a better consumer too – doing my bit for small business, farmers and the environment. I love to buy beautiful fresh produce from local farmers and growers when I can, and I buy my meat from the amazing Feather and Bone. I like knowing where my food comes from and what it went through to get on my plate – I am trying to teach my children the importance of this and that not everything comes out of a plastic container at Woolworths!
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“Your paradigm is so intrinsic to your mental process that you are hardly aware of its existence, until you try to communicate with someone with a different paradigm”. – Donella Meadows
Are you conscious about your health?
This post is not for the coke swilling, choccie bar munching monster with no real concern about their health. It’s for the person who is genuinely trying to make better daily choices to improve themselves. If there’s one thing that really frustrates me, it is seeing people who are investing time into their health and getting completely confused on what the right choices are.
THIS IS SIMPLY MY OPINION. Admittedly I am somewhat passionate about the topic, having worked as a Personal Trainer for 6 years and now running a company that deals directly with this topic, but still it is simply my opinion. I say this because I encourage anyone and everyone to check out the facts for themselves. As far as I’m concerned, there is vail that covers the whole food industry and it’s up to the individual to lift it up and take a look behind. More
Meal replacement shakes seem to come in waves. Sales die off then a bit of marketing with a celebrity and a new quick fix wave of diet shakes are readily available. The latest being international cricketer Shane Warn hinting a certain diet shake contributed to his 12kg weight loss over the last two months. The headlines read – ‘Shane Warne ‘addicted’ to diet shake, says supplier’
No mention of cleaning up his act and a healthier lifestyle though. More
Do you ever feel like your chasing your tail but never really getting any where? Well if you do, don’t lose heart because I’m pretty sure you’re not the only one.
When asking a very wealthy and successful (not just monetarily) person once, what was the key? With a wry smile on his face he said “turn your TV around so it faces the wall”, he then added “if you do the opposite to what most people are doing in life, you’ll end up finding what you’re after”
He might as well have tattooed those words on my fore head, because every time I stop to reflect, I think of this chance meeting and what he had to say.
So after many many days of deliberating and procrastination, I turned the affectionately known ‘idiot box’ around so it faced the wall. And I made the commitment that it would stay that way for the next 12 months. Watching the morning news never really brightened my day before work, and I figured if the sky was to suddenly come tumbling down, I’d soon know about it. If i wanted to watch a movie, I’d go to the cinema, and soaps never really did it for me anyway.
But it wasn’t the TV itself, it was what it represented to me, and that was distraction. If I was to dig below the surface a little, there were so many things that didn’t align to who i really was, and keeping myself distracted was the tonic I wanted to kick. So if I could begin with the TV, I started to wonder what else I could turn around if i really set my mind to it.
My career, relationships, health, finance, personal growth. Was i really making the most out of them. What if it all came to a screaming halt next week, would i be happy with what I’ve experienced so far? What about learning Spanish, or picking up my guitar that gathers dust in the corner, taking 10 minutes out of the day and giving somebody my time who i’ve not spoken to for a while. Swim with dolphins, helicopter ride the Grand Canyon. Is it possible to seize the day, every day, have that well orchestrated balance and live in the moment but with one eye the prize (whatever that may be).
So if there’s a nagging feeling rattling around inside yourself, and some of the above could do with some minor/major tweaking, then just maybe you should consider going in the opposite direction and turning yourself around 180°.
Want to turn your health around? Why not start the first step by reading our free eBook.