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.
Stu: Pasta can be an achilles heel for many people, filling their plates day after day. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at this tasty wheat free pasta alternative so big thanks from Emma at Primal Life for keeping it simple.
6 Large zucchinis
Peel off the outer green skin with a veggie peeler (save it to add to mince if making bolognese sauce)
When the zucchini is all white, work your way around it peeling off long thin strips until you reach the seeds (I then cut up the centre core and add it to my bolognese sauce)
Once your topping sauce is ready, steam the zucchini pasta for about three minutes until al-dente (cooked but not soggy), or if you don’t have a steamer cook in simmering salted water for about three minutes.