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069: The Importance of Self-Compassion with Bryan Falchuk, Author of Do a Day

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In this episode of Redesigning Wellness, Jen sits down with Bryan Falchuk, Best-Selling Author, Insurance Executive & Leadership Expert. Bryan has an inspiring story. He went from being obese and depressed to running marathons. He became vegan in just one day. He got his Master’s from a top school and rose to a senior executive position in a successful business.

And now he’s a bestselling author and contributor to Inc. magazine. He’s transformed his life and developed an approach to help others do the same, which he teaches in his bestselling book, Do a Day. And he’s here today to share that philosophy with us.

On this week’s podcast, Bryan also tells us his very deeply personal story about nearly losing his wife to illness while their young son watched, how he came up with the idea for his book, Do a Day, and he also tells us a couple bad boss stories and how that influenced his current style of leadership.

3 Key Points:
  •  In order to have success, you must first address any underlying concerns or barriers.
  • You must uncover your true motivation and practice self-compassion in order to create long-lasting behavior change.
  • We need to celebrate what’s great in life rather than constantly critiquing and looking for what’s wrong.

Full Transcript

Jen Arnold: [00:02:34] Bryan Falchuk, thank you so much for being on the Redesigning Wellness Podcast. So glad to have you.

Bryan Falchuk: [00:02:39] Thanks for having me on the show, Jen.

Jen Arnold: [00:02:41] Absolutely. Now, let’s start off by telling us exactly what is Do a Day.

Bryan Falchuk: [00:02:47] So Do a Day is a philosophy that I developed through my own experiences through things that I have-challenges that I faced and had to overcome. And kind of just serendipitously people watched me changing, you know in social media, and just people who saw me around, and they start to ask me to help them. And so it became this thing that I used to coach and mentor people.

So I’ve really seen it resonate and I just decided look, even if I was coaching 24/7 I can’t help as many people as I think this can help. So I decided to write a book and it came out last March. I haven’t really told you what Do a Day is specifically, but it’s the philosophy that I’ve been living by and that I teach in my book and in my coaching work.

Jen Arnold: [00:03:29] Okay and I’m assuming we’ll dig into that philosophy in a minute. But I do want to get into you mentioned that you started changing, people saw you changing on social media. So tell us about that change. What did it stem from? Tell us a little bit about that background.

Bryan Falchuk: [00:03:43] Sure. So I had been an obese kid and tied to that was a lot of depression and anxiety. And it wasn’t about what I was eating, it was really about how I felt, and the food was just a symptom of that. And while I lost weight as a kid I didn’t really do any of the self-work.

So of course the weight came back and you know that’s something a lot of people deal with. And it wasn’t just that the weight came back, I was you know still really unhappy. So I found myself in my early thirties married to an amazing woman with the coolest little kid. I had a two year old son in 2011. Well we didn’t have him then, but he was two in 2011 in the summer.

And my wife became extremely sick. So she has a chronic illness and it all came out then. And that summer she was essentially on her deathbed. Her doctors had given up on her. She was losing two pounds a day. Became bedridden. And you know, our son was like two and a half and he was just watching this unfold.

You know, Mommy suddenly was stuck in bed all the time and daddy now wasn’t going to work. He was home with me. And you know, that was a really scary thing for him. And he didn’t know the full extent of things, but it got to a point where her primary care physician and I were talking and he’s like well I’m going on vacation, so let’s check in in six weeks.

And I’m like she doesn’t have six weeks. Like do the math on it. You know two pounds a day. She can’t even basically stand on her own anymore. This woman is not going to be here. And he was just like oh then take her to the E.R. It was just this like, I don’t know, the whole Hippocratic oath. You know, he really wasn’t living up to that.

And that’s when it all hit me is this poor little boy is watching his mother die and watching his father die, just at a slower rate. And this is completely and utterly unacceptable. You know what, it’s just going to be me and him and what am I going to be as a father for him if this is the way that I’m living and feeling, and the kind of role model that I am and am not being. So it’s really definitional for a child to lose their parent. And so that just puts even more emphasis on the kind of man than I am relative to him. And I will say she’s still alive, I think is really important to spoil the story.

Jen Arnold: [00:05:54] That’s a good spoiler alert.

Bryan Falchuk [00:05:56] Yeah. And it’s because we both made a lot of very different life choices starting with that moment. But it was June 30th, 2011 that I had this like it all just hit me, this pure clarity of my life relative to my son and the importance of him and what I can do for him as a great father. And I woke up the next morning feeling completely different.

So I had this direction and purpose that I really hadn’t had I would say in my entire life, not in a meaningful way. And it was a motivation that like I’m not going anywhere. I will always be his father no matter what. And that responsibility, the importance of it, and the pride and value that I get from that role and our interaction will always be there.

So I started to use the power of that, and it really is powerful, I started to use that towards things that I wasn’t satisfied with in my life. And one of them was my physical condition. So you know I had been about 100 pounds overweight as a kid. I was about 50 pounds overweight at this point, so I had slowly but surely put half of it back on. So I started to attack that literally July first, like that next morning. And that’s what people watched is suddenly I got really, really fit in a way that I had never been in just a few short months.

And I started to deal with a lot of the emotional stuff. And that’s one of the key reasons why it stuck. And not only am I exercising and eating healthy and all that because of my motivation or just because I’m trying to look good for beach season or something. But I’ve also been doing a lot of the much deeper introspection that I just wasn’t able to face before because it was too dark of a place to go.

Jen Arnold: [00:07:35] Well, Bryan I’ve got about a million angles and different directions I can ask you about. Now about your wife’s illness, was it a series of weeks or months that, you know, she got sick and started losing weight? Or was it all of the sudden, she got really sick, was bedridden and was losing weight?

Bryan Falchuk: [00:07:51] Yeah, so she’s had these attacks that would last for a day or two basically her whole life since she was a little kid, and no one could ever explain it. It was always like, “Oh you just got a stomach bug or food poisoning or a 24 hour virus or you know whatever.” They never knew what was going on. And so she had one of these attacks and I called in for work.

I was just like, “Oh, I’m sick. I’m not coming in.” And it just it was a Friday so I’m like you know by Monday, she’ll be fine again. And it sucks, but we’ll get through it. And you know, Sunday night she was considerably worse than she was on Friday and that’s never happened before. And so then I ended up taking the following week off and she wasn’t getting better. And that was like the end of May.

So over the course of June, she deteriorated really rapidly. And she wasn’t a big woman to begin, with so losing two pounds the day was pretty significant. So it didn’t take long before it was like, “Okay we’ve got an issue here.” And she saw a specialist after specialist, and just none of them were finding anything. They’re all just like, “Are you sure you’re not just depressed?” It’s like well yeah, how would you feel if this was your life all of a sudden, you know?

But she wasn’t before that. And so really it was like there’s something real going on, and no one will help me. And they’re actually worse than that. They’re shaming her into like, “You’re doing this to yourself or you’re just being a certain way. You know, this isn’t real.” Or, “Well, you look fine to me and there’s you know there’s nothing wrong in any of your tests, so what’s really going on.

Jen Arnold: [00:09:22] Like, “It’s all in your head,” right? Or, “You aren’t telling us the truth.”

Bryan Falchuk: [00:09:22] Yeah. And that’s actually pretty bad. I did another interview where someone was like, “You know, when doctors don’t know, they just start guessing and try everything.” I was like, “You know what, I actually would be okay with that. If they’re like gosh, I don’t know what this is but I want to help you. So let’s try some things.” That’s a very different thing than shaming you, and putting it back on you, and dismissing you. And really making you feel worse when you feel pretty horrible to begin with.

Jen Arnold: [00:09:45] Right. Did you change doctors I’m assuming? Did you ever find one that–

Bryan Falchuk: [00:09:49] Oh, yeah we did. And you know we’re from the Boston area, which has amazing health care and that’s actually I think part of the problem. It’s a really well respected established medical community. And so to challenge them with, “you might be wrong,” is a pretty tough thing to do. Doctors are amazing. But no one knows everything. And I would hope as scientists, that they stay open to observing what’s around them and realizing you know maybe things aren’t quite what we seem. Wasn’t that long ago in the grand scheme of history that we used leeches for everything. You know what I mean?

So she has chronic Lyme disease, which is actually really prevalent, but also completely not accepted by mainstream medicine. And we still don’t understand why. So that’s something that she’s battled with. It will be there forever. She’s just not in a life-threatening situation anymore. But it’s a very real thing that we face every day.

Jen Arnold: [00:10:39] And this isn’t the first time that I’ve heard someone have Lyme disease and then have the same issues.

Bryan Falchuk: [00:10:45] I’m not surprised unfortunately. Hopefully things will change.

Jen Arnold: [00:10:52] God, I’d hope so. Maybe the power of enough people speaking up or social media. That’s how actually I heard about my friend who had it. So anyway, when you were talking, you said you had clarity in 2011 and you really the next day started getting to action. Would you say that you honed in on your purpose, your values? What would you I guess categorize it as?

Bryan Falchuk: [00:11:13] Yes. There are two things that I think are really foundational. And this is where most of the work that I do one-on-one with people focuses, before we even get into goals and success of achievement and all of that. There’s two really basic foundational things. And the first is understanding your why, finding your purpose. You can call it purpose, motivation, why, whatever words you want to use. It’s about your reason.

And weight loss is a really good example for framing the difference between a real motivation and one that’s not really going to motivate you. So a lot of people, you know, you’ve got some big event (your wedding, someone else’s wedding, and ex’s wedding). Whatever it is you want to look good for, maybe a high school reunion. We lose a little bit of weight. What happens the next day? Your reason is over. You know, it was temporal. It was short term and it has nothing to do with you. It’s about the perception others have of you.

And actually that’s why I lost weight the first time. It wasn’t about each season or anything, but it was that I was the fat kid in everybody’s eyes and I would always be. And that was through high school. So I’m going to college and I get to start over, and I don’t want to be the fat kid anymore. You know, I want different for my life.

And I had this amazing mentor in high school who introduced me to my own wellness in a very different way, a non-judgmental way. Not like, “You’re too fat, you need to do something about it.” But like, “Oh you know this can be really great for you. Here’s a new opportunity for you.” So it was a positive thing. But my reasons were still about how I was being perceived by others.

So, then I go to college and no one knows me as a fat kid. So I still had my own self-image to deal with, but my whole reason was that outward judgment and that was gone. So it’s not surprising that that better wellness, better fitness level didn’t last more than a few years because no one was judging me as fat anymore.

And even when I gained half the weight back, I never really looked fat. I just looked like everybody else. I always say like, “I just looked American.” You know, we didn’t realize it at the time that I was as overweight as I was, and now I look at pictures like how could I not be aware of that? Like it looks really blatant, but at the time I just fit in with everybody. You know, I didn’t stand out.

Jen Arnold: [00:13:17] You also get used to looking at yourself. My husband and I talk about it all of the time. It’s like you don’t really notice anything. You’re always used to seeing each other and you don’t notice.

Bryan Falchuk: [00:13:26] It’s like a hair growing problem. Like no one notices that their hair is getting longer. You know, it just kind of happens slowly but surely. So it’s finding your true motivation, and that’s what I found. That feeling inside of me around my son and my role as a father. And the other piece of it was you know I mentioned the self-image stuff, it’s about self-compassion. And I think that’s actually coming to be clear to me that it’s probably a bigger issue than the motivation thing because we can work on your motivation. We find that the self-love, self-compassion takes a lot more time.

And first of all, a lot of people have gone through some form of trauma that can be very damaging and leaves them questioning themselves. And the other is our society really just reinforces it. Either with images of perfection and the judgment we feel against that, we’re always striving to look like this perfect image, or it’s just it’s the nature of a lot of jobs now. You’re solving problems. You’re rewarded by finding what’s wrong with things, so it’s not surprising that our mentality is to critique and to look for what’s wrong rather than celebrating what’s great.

So the idea that like to even allow yourself to be successful, allow for the possibility that you could be good or you could achieve this. That’s really uncomfortable for a lot of people. And I find that a really crucial thing in a lot of my coaching work is people are just not comfortable saying things like, “I’m really good at this,” or “I can do that.” It’s like they have to start disclaiming it.

Jen Arnold: [00:14:56] And if something doesn’t go their way, especially if they’re trying. I teach mindful eating, so this is just so relevant to me because as people don’t have a lot of self-compassion. They really beat themselves up when they’re trying something, you know, based on their diet and can’t sustain it of course. And then they just completely, you know, aren’t good to themselves. It’s a vicious cycle. So I totally… that resonates with me. Now you did mention that you made yourself deal with some emotional stuff. Anything that you care to share? I know that’s a bit prying and a little bit nosey, so if you want to, go for it. If not, that’s totally fine.

Bryan Falchuk: [00:15:33] No, I’m fine with it. I get pretty raw in my book. I open up about a lot. And there are some things that I don’t go into, but there are some things…it’s really funny people who really know me and we’re friends growing up are like, “Oh, you didn’t talk about this! You didn’t talk about that!” And I’m like, “Yeah, I went through much worse!” I always remind people it’s not a competition. You know my story people would be like, “Oh that’s nothing.” That’s fine. You know or maybe I’ve gone through much worse than someone else. It’s not a competition. It’s about what’s relative to you and your life and it has an impact for you whether or not someone else went through something worse. Doesn’t matter.

So for me, you know, my parents got divorced when I was at an early age. It was an early age for me, less so for them I mean they were adults. But I was like five years old I think when I started to become aware of the problems and things were starting to happen, like they started to sleep in different bedrooms. It wasn’t long before my mother moved out. But I was the youngest of four and, you know, kids really need to feel safe and secure whether they’re aware of that or not.

And divorce is one of those situations. You know, there’s a lot of fighting. One of the parents is leaving. These are situations where people don’t feel secure. And quite often they become financial issues. And so that’s again something that makes you feel less secure. You know, we don’t have this anymore. You know the cars aren’t as nice as they used to be or the house isn’t as nice. Or we had to sell the house and now we’re in an apartment or whatever it might be. Kids become insecure. And also your parents are taken up with their issues and you know, I was one of four so it wasn’t just about me. There were three other kids who needed their parents. And my parents were embroiled in their stuff.

And so, you know, the caring, the loving, the compassion, really wasn’t there because my parents were so full on with other stuff. Or they were frankly not happy. And you know it’s a lot harder to have the patience for four young demanding kids if you’re already on your edge. So you know, it’s just a tough situation.

And that had a much bigger impact on me than I realize. I mean I was so young. How could I realize it? But that’s why I became obese. I started turning to something that was always there, never judged me, wasn’t yelling. It was just good. And that was food. You know and I could just keep going back to the pantry and no one was watching me because they were all busy. So you know I’d take four Oreos, and next thing I know the whole brand new package is gone.

You talked about mindful eating.. like I could be sitting by the TV and I just keep getting up and getting four more. It’s like well, you know, keep taking four at a time and that adds up pretty fast. Now I’m vegan now. And Oreos, because there’s basically no food in them, they’re actually vegan so maybe it was just like thinking ahead to the future.

Jen Arnold: [00:18:12] There you go! A visionary.

Bryan Falchuk: [00:18:15] See I’m trying to have more self-compassion, like there’s a positive story there.

Jen Arnold: [00:18:19] Right.

Bryan Falchuk: [00:18:20] It just…it wasn’t about the food. It was about why I was eating the food. And you know there were other things as time went on around financial instability that made me feel like… let me put it like this… I’m a fixer. That’s who have always been. I step in and I make things okay. And I started working as young as I legally could and I socked away all of my money.

My sister growing up, she is a year and half older than me, her friends (their two boys in the family) so her friends will refer to me as the rich brother. That’s because like I always had money because I always saved my money. And so it was like, you know, I was never like scrounging for a book because I always had money on hand. I always worked hard and just socked it away because of that feeling of like the bills weren’t getting paid this month and our phone doesn’t work. It’s a minor example, but again you’re a little kid, that’s a sign of things aren’t okay.

You start ruminating on this like, “Well are we going to eat next month?” or are we going this or that… And I see kids in school who had things and I didn’t have them. And that’s totally fine. But to a little kid, it’s just another reinforcement of things aren’t okay. There is this undertone of instability, of insecurity, in my childhood that very much defined who I am today.

And I’m really independent, and strong, and capable, and that’s all good stuff. But I also tend to have insecurity of things going wrong, and that’s not so good. And that at times has taken over my thought process and that point in 2011.

Obviously there were things going wrong and it wasn’t crazy to think about, what if I’m all alone with this little boy and how am I going to work and take care of him? And you know all those kinds of questions; they’re not the wrong questions to be asking. I wasn’t being outrageous for thinking it. But it also didn’t help me deal with anything. You just sit there in fear and anxiety. You think about all of the hormones being released into my system with these negative thoughts and the stress I get. That’s not a good thing.

So my approach, my thought process, was only making it worse. And that’s really hard to think that. Yeah like you said about my wife’s situation, like people that go, “Oh it’s in your head.” This was in my head, but actually in your head is a really physical thing because what you think has direct impacts on what goes on in your body. There’s a hormonal release, there’s heart rate, blood pressure, I mean all these things are happening because of what’s in your head. So I don’t take that as an offensive term of like you’re making it up. It’s actually very real physical thing to have something just in your head.

Jen Arnold: [00:20:56] Well thank you for sharing that. A deeply personal experience that you had when you were younger because yeah, we bring all of that stuff from when we are younger into our adulthood and it can impact and it did impact your life in a negative way. So thank you for sharing that. Now we’ll get back to that 2011, you had the moment, and got up the next day and decided you have a clear sense of purpose and you started getting active. Take me you know throughout the next six years like how did you get to where you are today as a book author, contributor, and executive?

Bryan Falchuk: [00:21:31] So it wasn’t all at once, and that’s a big piece and Do a Day. It’s like we don’t climb the mountain by stepping right to the top and it’s irrelevant how much further you have to go. So I had some things immediately in front of me that I wanted to be better. And so I set very specific goals around those things.

One of them was my physical situation. And so you know, July 1st I said by the end of the year, I weighed 222 pounds. I should be around 180. So I said by the end of the year want I get to 185. So that’s a significant amount of weight loss. That’s about 40 pounds. I was, you know, I don’t know why I picked 40…I could have gone to 182, but it seemed like a random number. So I’m like let me get to 185 and then you know I’ll see where I get because I thought maybe 180 was too light. I’d never been that light.

Well, I mean I had been when I was like 11 because I was big as a little kid, but I didn’t really think getting below that was safe because I didn’t really understand where my body should be. So I set a goal from the end of the year.

And then when I thought about what I’ve lost before, it was like okay I want to get to this weight, but I never worked on the how. So I got out Excel and put a spreadsheet in, I laid out all the dates, and plotted like so what does this mean by week? And what are the tools I have at my disposal to get there? And I laid it out very clearly.

What I didn’t expect is that clarity, that purpose, that direction, and that definition of how am I going to achieve this got me there way early. So, my birthday was in October. And so you know…two months and two weeks before the end of the year. And I hit 185 then. So I got to the 180 by the end of the year, and actually I got there a little before, and then I was in maintenance mode.

And you know a lot of people maintenance mode, you slowly creep back up, but everything was different. And because I got there faster, I felt so uplifted by it. I saw so much capability in myself around my wellness that I had never felt before. So one of the ways I describe my weight loss is something like, you know, I spent half of my life overweight and the other half of it trying not to be anymore.

That’s different now. I’m not trying not to be overweight because that’s me as a fat guy, not me just as a person. So I’m a fat person who needs to work against that. What a negative way to think of yourself. What a negative mentality. Like I framed myself as something I don’t want to be. So instead, like the first time I call myself an athlete, I kind of laughed at myself inside.

I’m over that now. Like I’ve run a marathon. I’ve done two century rides on my bike. I’ve done many races, many different things, and I’ve stayed really fit the whole time. I think I can safely say I’m not the fat kid anymore. So I’ve got to stop defining myself that way. So I don’t know. It’s not about maintenance. This is who I am, and I have a very different relationship to it.

And when… one of the things I say is, “Success begets success”

You win your way to your bigger goal when you’re doing well in one part of your life.

The reason why it’s going to stick is because you’ve worked on the underlying. When you work on the underlying, you start to achieve everywhere.

So you know, I started to do better with my wellness. I had a bad situation at work. It didn’t get better, but I started to understand it differently. And it culminated in about two and a half years from that point with me leaving the company. And that was not an easy thing, and it was not happy between you know like the weight loss period and leaving. But I was in a process myself. A growth, a change process that I needed to work through. And that’s what I had to go through to realize this is not the place that I should be. And that’s why I left.

Jen Arnold: [00:25:11] Is that the Inc. article that you wrote about working for a terrible-

Bryan Falchuk: [00:25:14] It’s not. Although I will say my last boss was terrible there, but in a very different way. He was just really dishonest. I have another article that I’m working on for Inc. around like look, you know, we all have bad news to give employees sometimes. We have to give them tough feedback. The best way to do it is to give it to them. Not to lie and like manipulating and beating around the bush.

Just be straight with people because they’re not going to grow otherwise. And I absolutely had things I needed to be doing differently and work on. And if you don’t tell me that, I’m probably not going to get it fully. So that’s why you is a terrible boss because that’s a failure as a leader. You’re just a manager then.

Jen Arnold: [00:25:48] Just to the listeners, I want to make sure that they know that you wrote an Inc. article about working for a terrible boss, and I can link it up in the show notes. But would love to hear from you. I didn’t know you had two terrible boss experiences. What did you learn and how do you infuse that maybe into your leadership today?

Bryan Falchuk: [00:26:04] Yeah. So, it’s a really interesting thing because I didn’t actually have to have a terrible boss to know better, but it certainly helps you understand first hand. It’s like with weight loss. I didn’t have to be fat to understand that, you know, it’s better to be in shape. And here are the ways you can get there.

But I understand that struggle on such a deeper level. And I think that’s allowed me and my message to resonate with people who are in the throes of because they’re like, “Oh this isn’t a fit guy who’s standing in judgment of me. It’s one, it’s one of my own who gets it, who’s lived it, who knows the pain feeling.”

So same thing with a bad boss. In a lot of ways it’s great because I’ve gotten like just the most hilarious stories out of it. And she was so terrible that it was too blatant. Like you could smell it coming, so you knew what you were going with, but it was also exhausting and wasteful. So it was a lot of like game playing, and politics, and she would plant rumors with people and then see if they make their way back to them. To her, rather.

So like she’d send this other guy into my office to tell me something that I “shouldn’t know.” She was a very like rules person and so a lot of like how dare you do this or do that. So he’d tell me something and I’d be aware like, oh you I probably shouldn’t be hearing this. And then I go into my one-on-one with her and she’s like, “Oh have you talk to anyone today?” And I’m like, “No why, what’s going on?” She’s like, “Hm, has this person stopped by?”

I was like, “Yeah. I’m glad you mentioned that. I feel really uncomfortable.” Like I knew what was going on, so I just made sure I stayed on the right side of it. But I knew the whole thing was fabricated. So it’s not actually a big deal for me to tell her. But I wanted, like she needed to see that I was aligned to her, and I wasn’t going to hide things from her.

Jen Arnold: [00:27:42] Bryan, that is nuts.

Bryan Falchuk: [00:27:45] Like that was such an honest story. You don’t even want to know. So I was on the executive team. We had a meeting every two weeks. I had to get my points approved by her ahead of time. Lest I say something in that meeting that she wasn’t expecting, and so I couldn’t really participate. And people are like, “Why aren’t you saying anything in the meaning?” It’s like well I can’t tell you why I can’t say anything because I can’t tell you that either. It’s hilarious at the same time. It’s like seriously?

Jen Arnold: [00:28:14] Right. I am guessing everyone knew that her bad behavior, but it was never addressed. Right?

Bryan Falchuk: [00:28:18] Yeah, because everyone was scared of her. And it’s like she can be a really good ally if you know how to play her. And she’s pretty easy to play because it’s all so blatant. But if you can play into her games and live with yourself, you can use that to your advantage because she can push things through because people are so afraid of her. But I just think like what a waste. You know, like there’s real opportunity out there.

Can we just drop the games and actually start achieving? And that’s where like I could deal with it. But I’m just not a I’m not a deal with it the kind of person. I like to achieve, go for opportunity, and be positive. And it’s such a wasteful and toxic way of working that’s 100 percent unnecessary. But look it totally comes from insecurity on her part. And there’s a story behind it. So I actually have compassion for her, as crazy as that might sound.

Jen Arnold: [00:29:10] No, I mean it’s a great way to look at it, right. You never know what their story is or what happened to them as child and bringing them into adulthood. I mean some won’t even say that, but that they’re carrying a bunch of crap with them, too. But did that ever set you back? These little things, not little things, but these life events, like you had a crappy boss and you had another crappy boss. Did that ever set you back in your achievement of ultimate wellness?

Bryan Falchuk: [00:29:37] Yeah for sure. So when I decided to leave that first company, that was a very difficult thing for me emotionally, I mean I expected to be there the rest of my career. Really, really painful…and the way it was happening, the things that were going on, it was not a good emotional situation to be in. Which was the intent. The intent was to make you want to leave.

That’s kind of the way that they work and that’s fine. I would just rather you be upfront be like, “Hey look stuff’s not working out yet. Your role doesn’t exist anymore. Like I have an MBA. I get business, you know. I understand that had a really big impact on me emotionally for a period. And unfortunately, I happened to be injured then.

And before our recording, we were talking about running. Running is my zen and that’s where I work out a lot of stuff in my head. And like I love cycling, but you have to stay super present, you know, or you can have a pretty bad accident. With running, you can detach a bit. Especially if your running like on a smooth path. And I couldn’t do that. And so that forced me to sit down and talk through things with my wife with some friends. I went and saw a therapist as well just to talk through like, you know, it was a loss of a pretty major thing.

How do you deal with that and what does that mean to me as a person? And I was okay, but it was really good just to talk through those emotions and a bit of validation, you know, that like it’s okay to feel this way. And it doesn’t mean that you’re never going to have a great job again. It does mean you are a failure. It doesn’t mean you know any of these things. It just means what it means in that specific situation. And so to go from that to this terrible boss situation was a little bit of like wait, is it me? It’s like is the whole world crazy or just me, like maybe it’s me?

Jen Arnold: [00:31:19] It’s funny because now that you’re like on the… kind of you’ve had time in retrospect. Your like this is great fodder for an Inc. article. Like it really did help you and then also of course help them. I’m sure you’re a great leader anyway, but I’m sure it had impact you and how you lead today.

Bryan Falchuk: [00:31:36] Yeah. I really err on the side of honesty and openness and transparency. And sometimes that’s not always the best path. But I don’t think it’s right to veer from that. I struggle you know as an executive at the company I’m at right now. Obviously, there are times when I know things that I can’t share. And that I find those to be the most difficult for me because like I see my staff. I see what they care about. I know like well if they just understood this they may not be as upset right now. But I can’t tell them. And it bothers me because I feel like I’m being disingenuous with them. So it makes for some tough moments.

But yeah you know, like there are times where you really can’t say anything and luckily it’s always been like there’s something better coming, but I can’t let them know. It’s not been like, you know, half the company is about to be let off and I’m going to mislead. So it’s not anything like bad or nefarious or whatever big words you want to use, like it’s a good thing. But I want to take their pain away. And I want to settle their nerves about it, but I can’t.

Jen Arnold: [00:32:37] Because you’re a fixer.

Bryan Falchuk: [00:32:38] Because I’m a fixer, yes. Because I care about them as people. Like they’re all… they’re not employees, they’re people. I have an ooutstandingteam like they are amazing people. I really care about them as human beings. And so to hear that they are unsettled about something, that doesn’t sit well with me. I’m sure my old boss would actually relish that. To know that people are angst-ridden would make her like Doolittle Mr. Burns kind of a Simpsons moment. Sinister laugh kind of thing probably. That’s just not who I am.

Jen Arnold: [00:33:12] Right. And so you being a life coach and all the experiences that you’ve had, do you infuse that coaching into your work life?

Bryan Falchuk: [00:33:20] I do. I’m not good at separating the two because I see, and I don’t know that I should be good at it, I think it’s important to bring it. So I’m not just here to manage people’s work. I’m also responsible for their career and their career trajectory, and that’s where I think there’s a really big crossover. I have to be careful how much I say on this show. No one would ever know who it is, but I work with someone who was going through a lot of emotional strife over the past few years that was really coming out their work.

And there was a lot of reactionary and you know I saw a bit of myself from this through another one of my Inc. articles that talks about security at work. I did something. You know, I made a huge error that I felt was really public and was going to get me fired. So he had one of those moments and it just made him super defensive over everything.

And one thing that I learned is like, you know, through my experience and through the coaching I’ve done, I’ve learned how to talk to people about these things. So you know, I can watch my employee implode or I can put my life coach hat on and have a chat with them about like, you know, let’s talk about the screw up and let’s talk about how you’re feeling about it. Let me put it in context for you and help him work through it.

The trick I have at work versus in a coaching context is as a coach, essentially people are paying you to challenge them, and to question them, and to push them harder. So when someone tells me like, you know, this is why I did this and I know that’s not the underlying root cause, I can be like really? You know, someone was like, “I want to go to the gym. I want to get in shape because I feel better when I workout. So that’s my motivation.” And as a coach we’re like no, it’s not because you’re not going to the gym. So it’s not motivating you.

And at work, I don’t necessarily have the same freedom to be that direct and that pushy. And you know like they’re not paying me to be tough on them, I’m paying them to perform. It’s a different relationship. But I can nuance it, but try to draw it out. So I come with the same intent and goal of like I can help this person to be better. The way I deliver it needs to be a bit different because the context is different. It may not be appropriate to talk in the same way.

Jen Arnold: [00:35:24] Yes, I’m sure. There are crucial conversations that need to happen at work in the right way and that can really maximize performance. Instead of what you talked about earlier. Not telling them or telling them in the wrong way, so we need some more leaders like you out there. And I think that’s why I like corporate America.

Now let’s talk..let’s get into a little bit of some tangible tips. So you know wellness professionals, the audience of mind, that usually is the lone person in an organization who is really trying to create the environment or they give them the resources to make employees healthier and happier. What are a few tips that you can give them for doing that?

Bryan Falchuk: [00:36:06] Yeah. So one of the things that I think works really well is, and this is actually I was putting it at the company with the terrible boss, so I had taken a bunch of these 30 day challenges. And there’s a ton of them on the internet, I talk about in the book, too. So I’m a member of FitFluential. You can go on there and they’ve got all of these different.. like you can print out a calendar and it’s got how much of what exercise to do every day. It’s basically like you can get the whole company in this.

You can do a bit of wellness activity as a social thing across a company where it’s like we’re going to do a wall sit challenge this month. And so you know everyone on day 1, you start with 10 seconds. And day two, it’s 15 and then 20, like you had five seconds a day. So you can build a bit of social momentum behind it within the company. And it’s introducing a little bit of fitness into people’s life. Not a ton, but a little bit. It’s starting to get them comfortable with it, and it’s creating that social network where it’s like, “Well I’m not the only weird person leaning against a wall right now. Everyone is doing it.”

So then it’s like people start talking about it and remember I said like you win your way to success, success begets success. That little Win gets in on people’s minds and you start talking about it. It builds momentum and then you do it the next month with something different. Or maybe you add like, “We’re still going to be the one from the first month, but now we’re going to add in this other one.” So you can do little things like that that are very grassroots feeling, but actually can start to have an impact.

The reality is like those wall sits are not going to turn in an overweight population to be, you know, a better weight. Like it’s not going to have enough of an impact in and of itself. It’s about the momentum that you’re creating and the little mindset shifts that you start to put in. So that’s one thing that I think is a great idea. It’s really easy to implement.

You can also do a little like lunch and learn sessions. So I did a couple of these. So one of them, you know, everyone was very curious about me being vegan, and so I just did a session on vegan eating and like here’s what I eat in a day. And you know here are some thoughts about it and maybe it’s something you can try. And we brought lunch in and it was all vegan stuff.

And people were like, “Oh, this isn’t disgusting!” I used to eat like steak with cheese on it. Somehow I haven’t died yet. So like maybe there’s something to this. Like you do little things. I’m very, very much a fan of the small steps that break down barriers. Because if you throw it at people all at once, when they’re so opposed to it right off the bat, they’re never going to change. But you chip away at it and it starts to open up minds.

So I will say at my current company, there’s a small group of us vegans. There are a couple of vegetarians, but that’s when I joined. There’s like three times as many now. And it’s because little by little, like we’ve made some little inroads just light education. So people see what you’re eating or you know we’ll have a pizza day in the office and like there’s a vegan pizza option. And actually it ends up going much faster than it should if just the vegans we’re eating because people are like, “Oh actually that’s really good!”

Jen Arnold: [00:39:00] I like how you call yourself “the” vegan.

Bryan Falchuk: [00:39:04] We’re crazy bunch. Right. Well it’s just like you chip away at it. I don’t…I actually don’t use the term vegan very much in everyday life because people are like, oh here we go I’m going get the lecture. And like you know, I don’t have dreadlocks. I’m not a hippie…I don’t live on a commune.

So I say plant powered. But it’s because I’m not here to impose my will on you and tell you why you’re such a bad person. If you’re curious about it, I’d be happy to share with you little by little. I don’t think that you make progress by bashing people over the head. I think you give them the tools to enlighten themselves.

Jen Arnold: [00:39:38] And so Bryan, I just wrote down something you said cause I think I just want to call this out for wellness professionals. What you said was, “I’m not here to impose my will on you.” And I think a lot of times, we as wellness professionals, are the ones who are supposed to be the experts saying here’s what I want you to do. I just want to really let the listeners just pull it out so they can say, “Hm, am I my imposing my will on other employees?”

Bryan Falchuk: [00:40:00] Well, it didn’t work for me. I mean that was the whole difference. This guy in high school, he wasn’t imposing anything. He just gave me inspiration and positivity, and I was like, “Oh, I can do this.” Not like my dad. He got me a personal trainer when I was younger because he was really upset about my weight. And that was like someone was doing this to me and it doesn’t feel good. So how is that ever going to work out?

Jen Arnold: [00:40:24] Right. God, especially as a kid it makes you really feel inadequate right.

Bryan Falchuk: [00:40:27] And weird. When your friends are like, “Do you want to come play?” “No I have my personal trainer. He’s going to walk with me because I’m fat.” I mean like that’s basically how I felt. And it was true. But like it wasn’t a bad thing, it’s just that’s the wrong way to do it.

Jen Arnold: [00:40:43] Right. As a kid, it’s like you go out and play. You go enjoy your friends, not necessarily going on a strict workout with a personal trainer. So how can people find you and find out about your book?

Bryan Falchuk: [00:40:54] So I try to put everything on my web site. The book is called Do a Day, and it’s a book so the web site is Hopefully that’s easy to remember. And there’s links to everything. You can get to the Inc. magazine articles, all of my social accounts. You can basically find me in two handles and social media. It’s either @doadaybook or @newbodi. That’s what I personally use. That’s probably my main Twitter account, but I cross-post in all of them so you can find me all over those.

The book is out there. It’s, you know, it’s in every store. It’s on Obviously it’s in Kindle, nook, and Ibook. And I didn’t put the book out to make money, so it’s pretty cheap on e-book. So yes, you know I just want the book in people’s hands. I want people to be inspired by it. I really like am not doing this to make millions of dollars selling books. I’m doing this to help change lives. So I don’t care how you get it. I just want people to get the content of it.

Those Inc. magazine articles are inspired by the book. So you can just get a flavor of it for free. And you can always catch me on shows like this.

Jen Arnold: [00:41:57] And I will link all that up in the show notes. And Bryan, any last words of wisdom for my listeners?

Bryan Falchuk: [00:42:03] So we talked about that motivation. And people often ask me, like well how do I find it? You know, I didn’t have that life or death moment. So does that mean I’m screwed? Like I can’t figure out what matters. You have to be willing to get introspective. So, I have questions in the book that I give people to help them with that. But there’s one, boil-it-down kind of question.

So ask yourself this: is regardless of whatever else is happening, what will you always care about? When you think about that and come up with an answer, then ask yourself why. And see if you can’t get even deeper because you’re probably not answering it at the truest level yet. So just answer that question and then challenge the heck out of how you answer it, because there’s a truth in there that could really, really change your life.

Jen Arnold: [00:42:47] I like that. I am going to have to steal that and give you credit of course. Well, Bryan thank you so much this has been such an enjoyable conversation.

Bryan Falchuk: [00:42:56] It was my pleasure, Jen. I really enjoyed it.

Links Mentioned:

Social Media Handles:

  • @DoaDay
  • @Newbodi


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