Entrepreneurship isn’t easy. There are long days, endless decisions and all kinds of problems. It’s a high reward, high stress career. But beyond social media posts about hustling and the grind, you’ll find some dark reality. Mental health issues. While mental health issues aren’t as hidden as they once were, they’re still in the shadows for a lot of business owners who are suffering in silence. Today. I talked to Colm O’Reilly about how entrepreneurs can manage stress and improve mental health. More on that in just a minute. Arbox is a leading gym management system offering a full suite of tools and features. Arbox provides gym owners with a dashboard that includes quick access to Two-Brain Business metrics that are key to optimizing your business. With a glance, you can usually review length of client engagement, average, monthly revenue, new versus lost members, and so much more. Visit arbox app.com /TBB to schedule a demo and learn how you can take your gym to the next level. For Two-Brain Radio listeners, Arbox is offering a special deal where you can save 50% off your first three months using the platform. This is Two-Brain Radio and I’m Mike Warkentin. I’ve been an entrepreneur just like you for more than a decade. And I know the stress is real, but so is the reward. But it would still be a lie to say that it’s always smooth sailing, especially during the COVID crisis. My guest today is Colm O’Reilly. He’s the owner of CrossFit Ireland and the founder of the Mental Health Plan. Colm is also a certified Two-Brain mentor. He’s been as low as a person can get, and now he’s helping other people get through tough times and live their best lives. Colm, welcome to the show, direct from Ireland.
Thanks, Mike. I’m excited to be here.
How are you doing today? How’s things.
I’m great. I’m great. I got out for a spin, wearing my Two-Brain jersey of course as well.
How far did you go today?
We went about 50 kilometers. It was lovely and misty. So we couldn’t see anything for all our climbing. There was no great vista views. That’s Irish summers for you.
You know what? It’s actually funny. I’m actually having an Irish summer day here in Winnipeg, Canada, which is kind of funny it’s misty day as well. So we’re on the same page more or less. Yeah. All right. Let’s get right into it here. We’re going to talk mental health. You, you have a fascinating story. So let’s jump right into your history. In a previous episode of this podcast, you spoke a little bit about a very tough time in your life at 17. Tell us what happened and why?
I love the fact that you say jump in because that’s exactly what happened is I jumped into a river with an attempt to end my life. Now I’ll just pause there and I’ll tell everybody that we will talk about depression and suicide and high levels of anxiety. So if at any point during this, while you’re listening to this call, if it feels like it’s too much, just give yourself permission to pause, permission to come back whenever it’s right for you, we promise it won’t all be heavy. It will be some light at the end of the tunnel and everything like that. I understand for a lot of people it’s a very intense subject and it stirs up a lot of intense feelings and a lot of dark spot, so if it’s not for you. I won’t be offended if you turn off, I don’t even know if you turn off the podcast as well. To go back. I think it’s important to say that, and we’ll make a few jokes as well, along the way. So, I suffered a lot from very high levels of anxiety and depression when I was a teenager. And realistically, I didn’t have the coping skills or the words to fully express and articulate what I was going through, which meant I couldn’t fully express and articulate to anyone that I needed help. And in fact, part of the reason why I did have that attempted suicide is I thought I was meant to figure everything out on my own. And I thought I have to be right. And that failure to be right. When it came to friendships, relationships, work, school, girls, you name it, anything in between that eventually led me in my messed up thinking to think, well, if I’m not right, if I’m not correct, and I’m not a success, I’m therefore a burden. So I made a attempt on my life and I’m very happy to say that it was unsuccessful as well. Wow.
Was there a specific incident or was it just a cumulative thing that kind of brought you to the edge of that bridge? Or what brought you there at that time?
It was a series of disappointments of failures where I would feel I was particularly right. And then essentially get clobbered by wrong and by being wrong. And instead of taking it as a learning experience, taking your licks in the chin, I thought there was something fundamentally wrong with me because I wasn’t as successful as I thought it could be. You know, I didn’t feel happy. I didn’t feel like I was in control of my life as well. So it was a series of events that led to it.
Yeah. And this is a fascinating topic and thanks so much for sharing it with us. I’ll ask you a couple more questions about it. Like, you know, when you’re there and like, just walk us through you at the edge of the bridge and, you know, kind of, what are your thoughts as you decide to take that step. And then what are your thoughts on the way down? Like how did that all play out in your head? It was probably very fast.
No, no, I didn’t break stride for the jump. And, for whatever reason, I felt like that it was best if I removed myself from the people in my life. So I actually made the decision to hop on a plane from Dublin to Paris and jump off a bridge there, because that way it would be less stress and less impact on other people. So essentially 17 year old Colm at the time, you know, felt that if you could just get away, because he was clearly a problem on people, he was clearly a burden, to be sad, to be depressed, was a burden. Now that’s not true, but that’s unfortunately what depression can make you feel like, that you’re a burden because you’re a failure, right? And that’s unfortunately what the voice in your head can tell you is that you’re a failure and things and people would be better off without you.
So that was what was going in my head. And I was absolutely terrified of this as well. You know, I didn’t know of life just ended, if there was an afterlife, like, if you’re Catholic, of course you’re told there’s heaven and hell, so you don’t know what’s happening after that. So I jumped in and I hit the splash and you know, your brain’s not working properly. It’s not reasoning it properly because I could swim. I thought I’d just hit the water and that would be it, or that was at least my thinking pattern. And I then resurfaced and floated along for a while and realized this was not a good attempt, not a good attempt is the wrong way of phrasing it, but like this wasn’t going to be successful. So swam over to the side and essentially just lay down. And that’s when my brain, for whatever the attempt had done, that’s when we clicked and said, no, you need to keep on living for something.
Which river was it?
It was the Seine.
It was OK. So you’re lying, you’re lying on the banks there. And are you getting some clarity at this point? Like what’s going through your head on the banks as you think, like, man, I just tried to end it and now I’m I’m OK. Physically, at least, how how do I come back from this?
Yeah, I think, OK. Physically at least would be the right term. Cause I certainly wasn’t OK mentally or emotionally as well. And looking back, it’s easier to, it’s easy to understand the list and looking back, it’s easy to dissect this and I’ve replayed this a bunch of times in my mind, not for any morose thigns thing, but that’s part of just healing. Going back to traumatic events and seeing what did I need to hear or who did I need to listen to me back then? And unfortunately when we’re kids, we sometimes develop the ability that something or someone else is going to fix everything for us. And when we’re like three or four, that’s totally the case, we’re hungry and mom or dad or a carer fixes food. You know, we have an ouchie and someone gives us medicine is better.
We want a toy. And then Santa magically appears with a toy. And unfortunately our brains can get locked in that and think this is how the world works. It’s going to be some big magical fix. And it might sound immature when I put it there, but we have it as entrepreneurs as well. If I just get those customers that it’s going to happen, new website, 50 more members, I’ll hire a CSM or hire a coach and they’ll do all the stuff that I’m not good at. And then I’d have easy. I’ll be able to chill cycle and go and podcast on my Fridays. And so there was a little bit of that and you would, I was just lying on the banks, honestly, hoping that something else would happen that I wouldn’t have to suffer anymore. And I think I fell asleep or passed out or was delusional and came back and said, no, OK. I need to go get help.
So I’ll ask you one question, cause I want to hear what you did when you decided to get help. But you talked about like, is there anything that you needed to hear that day that would have stopped you from stepping off the bridge? Like could anyone have said anything to you or was there anyone, anything that could have happened? Like what was missing at that point?
Yes. There was a lot of things missing and it’s a great question. We’ll talk about this later in the podcast as well that had I had someone who would have listened without judgment and who would have empathized with the pain I was feeling and normalize that for me, that would have helped a long way. And had I had someone who promised me how good my life would become eventually that would have helped a long way, but my friends at the time, and they tried to help in their own way, but they just didn’t have the skill set and I didn’t have the skill set to say, Hey, this is what I’m feeling like inside. Like that I’m feeling that I’m broken and unworthy and that I need to know that I am a good person, even though I made mistakes. Had someone said, Hey, we all make mistakes, man. It’s OK. And it’s OK to feel like this. That would have helped. Yes.
Yeah. So you probably, I guess you needed to be a better communicator at the time. You probably didn’t have, like you said, you were in the transitional period from being, you know, figuring, having things done for you to try to figure out things out on your own. Didn’t have, you know, people necessarily there to listen for you. So and a support network and you how long ago was this? How old are you now?
OK, so I’m 38 now. So this is 21 years ago.
Yeah. And so mental health has become a little bit more like we can talk about it more and it’s always been around, but even 20 years ago it was, it was less on the forefront, right? Like there’s been movements, especially here in Canada. I’m sure there have been in other places, but like for example, there’s a let’s talk campaign where, you know, athletes and other people, you know, talk about mental health and there have been a lot of important, you know, prominent people have come forward and talked about mental health issues. I remember backing 20 years ago, there was less of that. And even 50 years ago, or a hundred years ago, that was just locked in the closet. Like you didn’t talk about that. And especially from a male perspective is like you suffer in silence, do your thing. But there are also, you know, women who didn’t even have a voice at that time and couldn’t vote, let alone speak about their mental health issues. Right. So at 20 years ago, did you feel like there were less resources for a person who was struggling than there are now?
Yes. And if you go back to I had a bad depressive episode, maybe two years before that. And the solution was like, yeah, just take these antidepressants. Right? So the prevailing thought and thinking at the time would have been that it’s just a chemical imbalance in your brain. Now for some people an antidepressant or some sort of chemical intervention is absolutely the necessary thing. And I don’t want to dismiss that from anybody who needs this. This is like, you know, you don’t go up to a type one diabetic and be like, it’s all in your head. You don’t need that insulin. My hope, we don’t say that, but it’s an incomplete picture. It could be a chemical imbalance, but it could also be the fact that you’re disconnected from your peer group, disconnected from a meaningful life, disconnected from security, disconnected from childhood trauma. And if anybody wants to read into this Johann Harry’s book, “Lost Connections” is a fantastic read. Anybody I’ve recommended it to it has that helped him immensely. So there you go. First book recommendation of the podcast.
Yeah. It’s more complicated than, than simply medicating a lot of cases, like you said, there, I mean medication has its place, but so does things cognitive behavioral therapy and like different things that help you, like, you know, see distortions in your thinking or build up communication networks or support networks or even joining groups and so forth. So like there’s a lot of different ways that you can kind of find your way around that problem. But before that it was very common to like suffer in silence or, you know, just get a medication or a prescription or something like that. Now I think it’s a little bit easier potentially for people to find these, but they still have to, they still have to reach out. They still have to get out of that dark hole in the basement and actually reach out and talk to people. Correct.
Yes, you need to, we we’re humans and we’re wired for connection. Now that also means connection with yourself as well as connection with others and the skills necessary to connect with yourself and connect with people and the right people.
So let’s go back to that incident. So you’re finishing off there and you’ve come to, I guess, on the side of the river, was that where the pendulum started swinging the other way or was it like kind of a tough recovery period or how did you start getting from where you were then to where you are now? What was that process look like?
Well, let me tell you that the first go was not the proper way to do it and that’s to bury that and deny that and lock it down deep in the basement and try and deny it. And let me tell you from years of experience, if anybody’s trying to deny the fact that they’re suffering and the fact that they’re in internal pain, it is not the way to do it. Now, what I want to do is to set out, to prove to myself that it was just a blip. So that meant I dove head first into sort of things. And if I could only be successful, if I could only be a winner, then I would feel good inside. So that’s beating my head against the wall, trying to make my career work or trying to make my gym work or trying to make a relationship work or trying to make my finances work. But I’m doing all this carrying the weight of the fact that I still deep inside feel inadequate. So everything else is just becoming a compensation strategy. So I have to prove that I’m great, but deep inside I quote unquote know that I’m great.
And there’s some black and white thinking there too, right? Where you’re like saying if I’m financially successful, I’ll be valuable to the world. But that that’s, you know, that’s not logical in the sense that like you have value as a person without financial success, right?
Absolutely. 100% black and white thinking. It has to be perfect or zero. And again, lacking the communication skills, lacking the self awareness skills. I beat my head against the wall and I beat my head against the wall, but amazingly, I still managed to build a reasonably good business with some business partners doing that and denying that. So, and there’s a lot of people out there that are outwardly exceptionally successful. You know, they have all the trappings we consider success and we’ll just call them the car, the home, the money, the clothes. And they have all these outward trappings of success, but they still don’t feel enough or it still doesn’t feel enough. They haven’t satisfied that root need for either security or significance, connection or any other root need. And it was really only when I had another very, very shaky thing where all that got taken away from me, I went through a rather nasty business divorce with my former business partners.
We never set the relationship properly. You know, we never clearly defined who was in charge of what. So when things got murky, that’s when it happened. And then of course, you know, my aim was to be a thorn in their side to get them to pay me out. Their aim was to drag the legal aim long enough until I ran out of cash to fight the fight. No bitterness there whatsoever. Like, that’s just how they were playing the game. Oh, it was absolutely stressed. And then I was trying to restart the business again and starting again, facing all this just complete lack of trust in my ability to pick relationships, which my brain determined as a complete lack of lack of ability to trust myself, landed me right back in depression and suicide.
So you did it, you kind of circled back there when things got rough again. Yeah.
Yes. Yeah. I went to a psychologist and they said you’re really, really, really angry.
And again, I had issues with anger, issues with accepting that I could be angry and issues with healthy expressions of anger. There’s nothing wrong with anger. It’s an emotion. It’s a feeling same as anything. It’s a sign that your body is trying to tell you something, but if you’ve never learned to process it, never learned to heal it or listen to it, you could do some silly things. And they referred me on to a place called Pieta house. And I had no idea what Pieta house was. So I’m ringing these people and I’m feeling a little like Sonny Corleone told us I have no idea what I’m in for.
Godfather reference, I love it.
And I went with them and started some work with them. And of course this is where my business partner turns around to me and is, you know, my business partner is an amazing, amazing, caring, human being. He actually quit his job to support me from my previous company. Unbelievable act of faith, complete leap into the unknown. Then he asked me to business partner with them and I turned around to him and I said, Derek, I’m literally in the middle of a legal battle that shows this is a bad idea. And he goes, I will work every day to earn your trust. And he’s an amazing, empathetic, and caring human being. And he’d helped me through that. I was kind of when I came out the other side of that second go of counseling that I said, I can’t wait for this to happen again.
I need to go through the pain, go through the difficulty of figuring out how to handle my emotions, how to not feel like this, replace unhelpful thought patterns, because obviously the thought patterns you have in your head worked for you at a time. So I started working on it and I started trying to figure out, OK, what’s the daily things that actually do make me feel better. What improves my thought process. And I essentially just became an N equals one experiment. Cause I’d been as low as I could be. So it was like what? What’s there to lose, try this for 30 days, see how it feels, adjust it, try it again, see how it feels. And I just started telling people about this and that’s when people started asking me, OK, well, can you teach me?
- So what kind of time period was that, that second incident, that kind of period, and then your recovery? What, what timeframe are we looking at there?
That was about one to two years worth of worth of work to get to the point where I didn’t place my internal sense of worth of an external marker of success.
- And how long ago was that?
This was about three to four years ago. Now here’s the funny thing is that when I stopped doing that, the counterintuitive thing is when I made myself and my internal process as a priority. What happened to all the external things in my life?
I bet they got better.
They did. Spoiler alert. And it seems so counterintuitive. And I’m going to use that word a lot and have used that word a lot. It’s that, you know, we’ll get it into our head, when I get to college, then I got to have a better life. When I graduate college, I got to have a better life or let’s go to business. When I get that lease signed on a new premises, then I’m going to have a better life. That’s when I get that 50 clients, then I’m going to have a better life. When I hire my CSM, when I reach a profit margin, when I clear my debt, that I’m going to have a better life.
And it’s very easy to get caught on, keep climbing the next level of the ladder. So you feel, feel good and successful inside. And one of the things that really helped me is that it was OK to be wrong and it was OK not to be right. And it was OK to need help. And here’s where nicely ties in is that the business mentoring service we were working with wasn’t gelling well with us. Previous Colm would have stuck with that relationship because I had to prove that I was right. I’d made the right decision with the right business mentoring, but I started reading this guy. You might’ve heard of him, his name’s Chris Cooper, his blog started popping up on my Facebook feed.
I’ve read a few of his things.
And we said, OK, well, this guy’s making sense. And we moved over to, Two-Brain mentoring and that helped as well, but it was the willingness to be wrong. And the willingness to experiment, which was one of the things that allowed me to succeed more in my business.
Yeah. And you know, Chris has actually written about that a little bit, like the sunk cost fallacy, right. To where, you know, he’s very much like you in the sense where he is a workhorse and he will go, he’s talked about this. He will ram his head against the wall. And the thing that was preventing him from actually succeeding back in the day was his ego. He’s written. And he said that when he finally stopped trying to figure it out himself actually asked for help. And he had an incident where he had to sit on a park bench and say, Oh my God, I’ve worked this many hours. And I can’t afford to pay for my family’s needs. When he did that. All of a sudden everything changed because he put his ego aside, got some help and things started moving forward.
Let’s talk a little bit about, you’ve mentioned this with your second kind of incident there happened with entrepreneurial stress. What kind of stresses and pressures are on entrepreneurs now and how does that affect their mental health? Like, I feel like everyone has stress in the world, but I feel like entrepreneurs, especially during these COVID period right now are under incredible stress. And it’s like pressure to like provide for their families of their employees. It’s pressure to be a leader, it’s pressure to navigate chaotic government restrictions that are constantly changing. How, you know, what kind of pressures are on entrepreneurs and what does that do to their minds?
I think you’ve named most of the pressures there. What I will say is just before we move on to that, like, we’re not suffering from the narrative fallacy that I did a discovery call with Two-Brain Business and they fixed everything for me. It was a lot of stop starts and we’re still not a perfect business by any stretch of the imagination. Like there’s still areas where, you know, we have to work and we struggle and we make mistakes. So, because going back to earlier in the conversation, looking for that one fix, yeah. There was some things I’ve definitely done in my life that have been absolutely I can pinpoint 100% his has helped. And Two-Brain definitely is one of those as is picking Derek as a business partner, as is devoting to a daily mindset, mental health practice, but there’s still ups and downs. Nothing will eliminate ups and downs in life. Nothing will eliminate feeling stress and feeling emotional.
But now you’re able to say that, like, instead of having those up those downs tell you that you’re a bad person, you’re able to now see the ups and downs is just part of life. You still have value. You’re still moving forward. Ultimately, even if you’re taking a step back today, correct?
Yes, it’s a roller coaster and it’s going to go up and down and spoiler alert once we get through COVID, there’s going to be something else.
If only I get 50 more members.
Well, if only we get through COVID and only we get through these restrictions. Now, the thing is it’s this, this is it. This is a major blow. This is a major challenge to us. They’ve taken away. So humans have basic needs. We have a need for security and consistency. And one of them is that OK? Well, you know, my Starbucks or Timmy Horton’s is open every day.
I’m drinking one right now.
I recognize the cup. That’s why I said it.
You know it.
We also have a need for freedom and that’s been taken away. And regardless of where you are in the world in sort of the collectivism to individualism spectrum, you know, putting on a mask, standing in queue, waiting outside shops, all of these things, not being able to visit the bar, all these things start impede on your sense of freedom. And as humans, we can have a deep visceral reaction to that as well.
Now we also have the need for secure security and seeing our bank balance decrease. Whereas in 29 we played the game of, OK, well, how quickly can I grow my business each month? And you’re logging on to the, to the Facebook group. And you’re like, well, OK, well, this gym needs this amount of revenue. I think I can do that. Now. I was going to chase the next milestone. All of a sudden. Now we’re all playing blackjack where our aim is to make our money lasts as long as at the table. And we’ve no idea. And the number one stress out of all of this is we will tell ourselves it shouldn’t be like this, or this is unfair, or you’ll have some sense of anger or resistance to what’s going on. Ultimately that’s where the stress is coming from. It’s internally generated while your thought responses and the story you’re telling yourself about what’s going on and how it’s happening to you instead of how you are happening to the world or how it’s happening for you.
Now, when I say that, I imagine we’re probably going to get about half the people start to switch off mentally right about now. So I’m going to say that if you’re one of these people that says that is BS. I’m going to look at you and say, OK, it might be, it might be completely BS. We’ve talked about earlier in the podcast that I’m not always right. And I have to accept that. But what I’m going to ask you to do is, is your current thought process about what’s going on in the world or in your business or with your government. Is that helping you take positive action and making you feel better, right?
Will you tell us, will you help people reframe their thinking in just a second?
We’ll get back to the show. Right? After this Two-Brain radio is brought to you by Forever Fierce. Reach out to them to sell more apparel or retail items. Matt Albrizio and his team will save you time with templates. They’ll provide ideas and tell you what’s selling best. And they’ll supply marketing material and preorder sheets. If you want to get serious about apparel and retail, visit foreverfierce.com. And we are back with Colm O’Reilly, we’re talking about mental health. So before the break, you mentioned that the idea of this is unfair. This shouldn’t be happening to me. That’s really common right now because a lot of circumstances feel like they’re out of our control. It generates a lot of anger and rage and people are upset, stressed.
That’s not the right thought process. You said. What is? So instead of saying, this is unfair, this COVID crisis unfair. It’s unfair that the government closed my business. It’s unfair that my, you know, my staff doesn’t want to work. It’s unfair that I have to wear a mask to the store. And it’s unfair that I can’t get a drink at the bar with my friends. How do we start reframing that? And especially as entrepreneurs, with regard to our businesses, how do we reframe that into something that helps us move forward as opposed to just smashing stuff in the dark?
- Well, first of all, I’d say don’t smash stuff in the dark, or try not to smash in the dark. I’m going to correct you a little bit, because I won’t say it’s right or wrong. We’re going to use the terms that this is helpful or not. So your reaction is based off your interpretation of something. So your interpretation is generally saying, this is unfair. This is wrong. You should be acting better. You should be thinking of me. And now there’s a few people who have different reactions. There’s people who will just fight back and there’s people who will won’t let the emotion process. We’ll talk about the cognitive side first, but we also have to talk about the visceral side, because guess what? Those emotions don’t go away when you deny them. Right? And I can give you a long list of life failures that actually show you what happens if they don’t. So what we need to do is we need to spend some time being aware of our assumptions and being aware of our thoughts. And this is why I’m always telling people that the importance of pausing, the importance of taking a break, we 100% understand this in strength training and in metcons, you know, we’ve all seen the guy go out and do the 21 pull ups unbroken at the start of a workout.
Eight sets to get you to 15. And they don’t even finish the nine for all the CrossFitters.
You’ve watched me do Fran.
And we know as coaches that had you gone out and done seven, seven, seven, then five, five, five, OK. Yeah, sure. You’re taking more breaks and your quote, unquote, working less, but you’re getting more work done. OK. Our minds are the exact same thing. If we’re straightaway on our phone, checking Facebook, checking Instagram, checking Twitter, and checking your email, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Then the next thing is, we’re cramming on this. We’re looking at the daily blog post we’re thinking of direction. We’re getting onto coaches. We’re doing everything. We’re jumping from thing to thing thing, we’re never giving our mind the break it needs to catch up. So whenever becoming aware of our thought patterns, and if what we’re doing is helpful or healthy or not. So as counter intuitive as it is, take more breaks throughout your day. 60 second breaks. One breath break, just to give your mind a little bit of time, catch up one minute can often be enough. And when I work with clients, we always start with one to two minutes. It’s counterintuitive. It sounds like it won’t do much, but again, let’s go back to the pull-up analogy, something we should all understand. If I do five pull-ups and take a break, that’s way better than doing eight pull-ups, having to take a massively long break and one on one to get to the 10.
Or hitting failure and not being able to do another pull-up because you went way too far.
Yes. Oh. And I also get that if you are in a tough situation with government shutdowns, members leaving and coaches not playing ball and all the other stress, government not giving you assistance, all of these things, landlords not playing ball. I get that. It’s easy for me to sit here and say this. So what we need to do is first of all, is to say, is the story I’m telling myself helpful. That’s your first question to ask yourself, is this thought process helpful?
And let’s be fair here you are. You run a gym, you own a gym. You’re not speaking as someone who has not experienced, you know, shutdowns and things like that. So like, I’ll just point out for listeners that you are involved in this. And like you’re speaking from a place of this stuff has happened to you too.
Mike, I am in Ireland and we closed our pubs before St. Patrick’s Day.
Unconscionable. In the interest of public health. I support it of course, but in the interest of like socialization, I don’t.
It’s because people get myopic when they drink on them and they forget social distances. I’ve also had members not value the online service. And again, that’s their choice to make, you know, some people just needed the physical space. Not everybody joined our gym to get fit. Some people joined it for community. Some people joined it just to have a physical space to go and switch off. Some people joined it to get in shape and lose weight and build muscle. And some people did not want to do zoom classes and me getting angry at them isn’t healthy, not helpful. Me getting angry when I open up my feed and I see people not social distancing or going to a physiotherapist and have the physio work on their neck and breathe a foot apart from them. It’s like, guys, that’s not helping me, but it takes time to recognize that that’s not helping me. A better question to ask is what can I do that would make this the best thing that’s ever happened to me. That is exceptionally tricky. So we can scale that question back and say, OK, what can I do now that would help? Just one small step, one small step. Sometimes that is accepting circumstances. Now accepting circumstances doesn’t mean resigning yourself to your fate. OK. So let’s say we hop on the road and we’re going to drive from Winnipeg to the Sault and we get on whatever motorway drives you from Winnipeg to the Sault.
There’s only one in Canada. One option.
Well, let’s say, let’s say we got on that. And instead of heading in the correct direction, we actually just got on the wrong direction. And about 40 minutes in, we realized we’re getting further and further from our destination. Resignation would be going, Oh, well, I’m on this road and I’ve got to keep driving. Accepting it would be going, Oh, OK. I might still have to drive on this wrong path till I get to the next exit. And then I can turn around. So we might have to accept that we can’t do indoor classes right now, or that some people are going to leave. Some people have lost their job. Some coaches have decided that they don’t want to coach for you anymore. So accepting the situation as is, is a very healthy thing for you to do. I’m not saying it’s easy. None of this is easy, but then again, raising your rates, isn’t easy. Having the difficult conversation with the employee isn’t easy. Firing a weak client. Isn’t easy, but they’re very healthy for you to do and very helpful.
You’re drawing a line really between acceptance and resignation. They’re not the same thing.
No, no, but what I see what contributes most to the stress, which was your initial question, was that when you’re stressed, you’re resisting what’s going on. You’re saying this is not fair. This is BS. How can they do that to me? And what you’re doing is you’re adopting a victim mindset. You know, the government should fix me, you know, Shoulds are tough, but shoulds aren’t helping you. That’s that’s all I’m saying with this as well, shoulds aren’t helping, you know, sometimes the only thing you can do is wait. And that can be very tricky. If you’re one of these super driven, super goal orientated entrepreneurs. And trust me, I am. I like hitting my sales targets each month. Like my job in my gym is I’m on the sales guy in the gym. So I have sales targets and I have top line revenue, my business partner, Derek, it’s his job to maintain expenses below a certain amount of you don’t know what those numbers are. Two Brain mentor will help you figure that out.
But it’s, Derek’s job to make sure we have a profit margin and it’s Derek’s job to make sure expenses are right. And I trust him 100%. He’ll do that on my side of the bargain is top line stuff, but I couldn’t sign up new members in July to compensate for the fact that we were closed for most of March, April, May, and June. We’re not hitting that revenue number. Some gyms are, awesome, more power to them. But I accept that that’s where we are. And this is where we are in the journey. We have to wipe down equipment. I can only take in so many per room. I have to wear a mask when I’m doing PT. Accepting that helps me. Fighting that doesn’t do anything other than waste my mental energy.
You only have so much mental energy to spend each day.
Just don’t waste it. Cause you only have so much.
Yeah. We’re all going to waste a bit of it. Like we’re never going to be 100% efficient, which is why I generally recommend that people take time throughout the day to pause and just check in and see if they’re doing the thing that’s the most helpful for them. And sometimes that is OK. I’ve got to take a break. I’ve got to shut down for a few hours. I’ve got to go for a run, go for a walk some days it’s the flip side. It’s tough love. It’s like, I’ve got to go ring up 20 leads that, you know, got in touch back in February and see maybe one of them is going to come in for the intro, but I’ve got to spend 30, 40 minutes on the phone, just ringing people, having very few people answer. And that could be it as well, but that’s way better than going, I’m just going to refresh CNN or whatever news channel you listen to to see if my state is into the green zone.
Or check social media for things that will make you angry. You know? Cause people do that. You know, it’s a habit where you just log in and you scroll to you, find something, it makes you angry. And then you’re like, Oh, this person shouldn’t do that. And this should be different. And it really becomes this hateful kind of time-wasting disaster. Really?
Yeah. And I’m not going to rag on social media because I actually quite like it, but it can be destructive. It’s a tool it’s in how you use it. A car is a fantastic tool that helps us get to and from places, but it can also be a lethal weapon. Social media again and what we call negative emotions, just rage or anger, frustration or indignation. They’re natural triggers for you to dig in more, rather than happiness. But you know, there’s nothing to stop you finding someone you don’t like on social media and blocking them or unfriending them. OK. You can do that. You have my permission.
You mentioned that that’s a good place for me to ask this question. You mentioned this earlier and I wanted to ask you about it. Healthy expressions of anger, what’s healthy and productive. Like, cause we all feel angry. We all, that is a real and valid emotion. How do you deal with it productively and in a healthy way.
- That is a great question. And what we’ll do, if it’s OK by you is we’ll go through how to process an emotion right now.
Let’s do it.
All right. So the first thing is, is we cannot, cannot, cannot stop emotions and we absolutely 100% should not try and block them. Yes. If emotions are allowed to run their course, they last about 90 seconds. If we get caught up in a cognitive feeling loop where we get angry, we go back to our head and we think of all the reasons why we should be angry. We get angrier we go back to our head and think of all the reasons that emotions can last years.
Adding logs to the fire. Right?
Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, I should be angry because they’re an A-hole, you know, they’re not listening to me. So the first thing we should do is, and if you’re in your car, you can do this, but I maybe advise, pulling over. If you’re at home. You can do this as well. Is what we want to do is pause and recognize what the emotion is on a cognitive level. Cognitive just means the thoughts in our head and how are we going to recognize the emotion is we’re going to say there is emotion there. So there is anger. There, there is frustration. There is sadness. There. It might be joy. There might be happiness there as well, but dial it down to one emotion. And the reason why we say there is that there is, we’re recognizing the emotion, but we’re not with it. We’re not saying I am angry. You’re more than just one emotion.
There is anger. I am. Yeah, I get it. That’s great.
There’s a huge difference between I am angry and there is anger because you’re not attaching yourself to the emotion as well. Yeah. And there’s this common fear that if we name an emotion, we’ll make it worse. And there’s no evidence to back that up. So you can say there is anger there.
And that gives you permission to feel however you’re feeling right. Because some people feel shame when they feel certain things like I shouldn’t feel depressed or I shouldn’t feel upset or I should, you know? And there’s that whole chain of shoulds.
Yes. Yeah. That word should again, you know, I shouldn’t be angry and I know people have it worse than me and I know I have a good life, but I can’t help, but feel it. Your emotions are a signal. And if we treat them as a friend, we treat them as feedback, we can actually get a lot from them. If we treat them as something we need to conquer, you’re in for a rather bad time.
You’re fighting lizard brain, right? Like you’re fighting the hard wiring like these visceral things that come up inside you to try and fight them as probably borderline impossible.
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And I mean, if you’re lifting and your coach comes along and says, Hey, you know, you need to get lower on that squat. That’s just feedback. And you just take that. If you get angry, you know, if you resist that, it’s just not going to help you long term. To put it back to the physical thing, which I think we can all understand. So once we recognize emotion, now it’s time to go into the body. And this is where it can get too intense and too overwhelming because no one ever taught us that, Hey, here’s how you do in processing emotions. And when we’re young, they’re super overwhelming. So we’re brain comes up with a whole bunch of safeguards to stop us getting overwhelmed and stuff, but we grow up. And again, nobody had the skills to teach us these things.
So hopefully I’ll give you the skill to teach them. Now. Go into your body and say, where is that feeling happening? And imagine your body is a million different pieces and what are the pieces doing. Are they stabbing, constricting? Are they dancing? Are they tingling? What are the sensations happening? Now with anger and anxiety, these can be very intense, very quick. So we can also have a motor physical safeguard. The simplest one is physical touch to put your hand on your heart. If you don’t want to do that, if that’s a little bit too, hippy-ish for you just clench and extend your toes. No one will ever notice unless you’re wearing Vibrams. In which case they will.
Those went out of style like few years back, but they’re still around.
I’m shouting out to the OG CrossFitters who wore Vibrams for a while.
2008, Vibrams and tights.
I took my driving test in Vibrams.
Did you really did it? Did it help you wrap your toes around that pedal and get exactly the touch that you needed?
That was it. But we’re going into the body and it can feel intense. And even if you do with, for a couple of seconds, you’re giving yourself that release, right? You can also rub your finger, your index finger, and your thumb. These are physical ways. All humans will respond well to soothing physical touch. So there are three ways you can do that can help you through this. Now you’ve got to allow the emotion to run its course. And again, that can take about 90 seconds and then you can move on. There’s sometimes the emotion is very strong and you might need to come back to this a few times, but allowing it to run its course, once you allow it, then the next stage is to appreciate it as like, OK, what is this telling me? And we go back to anger. Anger is generally a boundary violation. Someone has done something that’s not OK to you. For those who have never been taught a boundary is just basically what’s OK for you. What’s not OK. Simple example is it’s perfectly OK if your coaches are friends with their members and set up a WhatsApp group, that might be perfectly OK. It’s not OK if your married coach has an affair on the gym boundaries, but Hey, maybe in your gym, it’s all about the affairs.
Different strokes for different strokes.
A boundary could be that there’s no WhatsApp or no personal communication between your coaches or your coaches always addres you as sir, because you’re say more military style hierarchical gym or your boundaries are whatever your boundaries are what’s OK. And not OK for you. And generally anger is when those boundaries have been broken. Now, if it’s someone like a coach or a member of staff, then it’s your chance to say, Hey, when this happened, I felt this. And then make the request of them. I would like it if you did this. That’s this short form version of nonviolent communication, which is another excellent book I’d recommend. The whole point is that we need to feel our emotions. We need to name them. We need to feel them. And then when we feel them, we can take responsible action based off them.
So you’ve identified something you’ve allowed it to run its course. And then you’ve identified what that signal is. So if an anger, it’s a boundary violation for other emotions, it might be something different, but you’ve identified what it is. And then after that you’re taking an action, a healthy or helpful action to express what you’re feeling and trying to make a change in a positive direction.
That’s it. Now I’ve made it sound like it’s a very long thing. The more you practice this, the quicker it is. And we can say anxiety as well. It’s like when the government shut me down, I start with anxiety. Or there was anxiety there, see, it’s very easy to slip into identifying with an emotion. You can feel it. And then you can say, OK, well what is the threat? And the threat could be for my security, my financial security. What do I need to do? Well, I need to take steps to guarantee my members stay with me, or I need to see if there’s government funding or a cessation of rent or rates. These are then healthy actions I can take. You know, if you want a second thing you can do purely meditatively or in your head is you can always pretend you’re you in a year from now. And you’ve gotten through this and communicate from you a year from now, back to yourself. I know it sounds goofy.
Future Colm’s talking to present Colm.
Yeah. I’d encourage you to give it a try. OK. It’s a year from now because there’s plenty of, and I can almost prove it to you. There’s plenty of times where previously in your life, you thought you’d hit a dead end. You’re like, Oh my God, I’ve crashed the car. I’m never going to be able to get a new car again. I’m going to be stricken from my driver’s license. And you got through that. Or, you went through a breakup or you lost that, you know, that whale of a client or the city came in and said, Hey, you need to put like 50 grand’s worth of improvements to bring your building up to code. And you’re likeoOh, this is the end of the world. And then you got through it and you’re actually in a better position and you’re in that better position now. So you could go back to you three, four or five, 10 years ago and say, Hey, we’ll get through this. You’re going to be in a better position. You can also do that with your future self and say, Hey, this is what you need to do. And that will help mentally and emotionally reassure yourself. So then you can start asking yourself, OK, what can I do now that would make this the best thing that ever happened to me, or what’s the best thing I can do now?
You know, I’ve seen interesting things where people have done this on Facebook, where they’ve posted, you know, something about how crazy their current situation is purely so that it will pop up in their newsfeed a year later or at some future anniversary date. So they can look back and say, wow, things are so much better now. So you’re kind of giving them almost a short version of that future. My future self is talking to present self to give some perspective and advice and perspective is huge, right? Because when you’re wrapped in the middle of emotions and you know, all these different circumstances that you’re so frustrated by perspective is super important. And that’s sometimes where an outside person, like a mentor comes in, but it’s also where future self can come in.
Yeah, absolutely. And if you, if you take this for an analogy as well, the coach is slightly back from the game and they can see the play and they can see what happens. Whereas you’re right in the game, you can’t see what happens and that’s when you start taking pause breaks throughout your day, take a mindful minute, take a quick clarity break. That’s when you start to notice what’s going on and the first few times you do it, your brain will just flood full of thoughts. Oh, I need to email Mike back. Oh, I need to get onto this customer. Oh, I need to post the daily workouts. Oh, I need to do that. That’s the first thing that will happen. And that’s cool because that’s a victory because I do not take in that pause. You might’ve completely forgot. And then you find those like most of us on Sunday night, furiously typing up the workouts for the week and the class plan for your Monday 5:00 AM, coach.
The more you do it, the more you begin to step back and say, Oh, OK, I’m wasting a lot of my time commuting to the gym twice a day. I wonder if I changed my schedule, I could commute once a day and then I’d still have time for my family. And that’s super important for them or, Oh, you know what? We’ve been paying for Spotify and SoundCloud and Apple music and YouTube music in the gym. And that’s OK. It’s a couple of bucks each month, but it’s a couple of bucks that add up. Let’s cancel those. We’ve been talking about some higher level concepts on this podcast. And sometimes when people deliver higher level concepts, we can think that, Oh, they make it sound so easy. Or this is a complete fix. I am not saying that this is a panacea that will fix everything. Neither is getting a mentor.
They’re not going to fix everything for you. They’re going to coach you as you begin to fix things yourself. And however long that process takes is however long the process takes. Neither is getting money, getting a new lease, nothing like that as well. But these are mental skills that you can use. So you can be both happier in the moment, more productive and more self assured that regardless of what happens, you as a person will be OK. Regardless of whether this podcast goes well or not, I’ll be OK. Regardless of whether my business survives or not, I’ll be OK. And I also know that I’ve done all I can to make my business OK. And of course we’re talking about higher level concepts, so there’s always digging into the weeds as well. So if there’s on thing that anybody’s confused about, just reach out,
We’ve laid out a bunch of steps where entrepreneurs can take action. So like all the things, different things they’re doing, we’ve laid out those steps. Let’s talk a little bit, you’ve talked about resources, you’ve named a few already. What other things? And I want to talk specifically about the thing that you offer, but as also any other courses, books, websites, anything that you think can help people navigate and learn some of this stuff?
Yes. If you go to conscious leadership, do a Google search for it, they have an unusual URL. I think it’s like conscious.io or something like that, but do a search for conscious leadership. They have a bunch of guided meditations and resources on just what they call above the line and below the line leading. Jim Detmer. He also has a couple of podcasts as well. They’re absolutely fantastic. Well worth listening to as well. The 10% happier podcast, since you’re listening to a podcast right now, I presume you listen to more than one. The 10% podcast is very good. And, George Mumford’s, the mindful athlete is very good. Now, George Mumford is a fantastic story. He used to be a functioning heroin addict. Shoot up at his desk, right? So that’s, that’s a guy who’s in a lot of pain and people, by the way, we’re going to mention like heroin is addictive because it works.
It stops the pain. Sometimes. Now this is a big jump. So stick with me sometimes that’s why social media works because when I’m scrolling, I don’t have to think, and I can get angry and annoyed and hateful at the government or the virus itself, or the doctors or 1,000,001 different people or the gym that is successful and I’m not. I can get really angry at that because anger can sometimes work as a block because you feel something inside that you’re not willing and ready to feel like, no, I know I went from what you call that heroin to tik tok pretty quickly then as well. So hopefully you got the logical jump. George Mumford managed to know not by himself. And he will totally admit it. Not by himself would help get to the point where he was the mindfulness and mindset coach for the successful Chicago Bulls and the Lakers. He was Michael Jordan’s mindset coach.
Wow. That’s like a giant.
- So, and you know, so this guy has got himself, and why I like him is he’s very practical. He’s very funny as well. So he’s done podcasts with 10% happier and 10% happier guy’s story is very exciting as well. Dan Harris was a war reporter came back, you know, kind of had that addiction had a panic attack live on air and then started to explore it. And he never thought he’d be some guy who starts talking to people about mindfulness and his book. His book is the subtitle of 10% happier meditation for fidgety skeptics.
Tell me about the mental health plan. What does that do for people?
What I do is I’m a mindset coach, so I’m not a counselor or a psychiatrist. And I don’t purport to be. What I do is I help people as they develop their set of mindset skills and daily morning mindfulness ritual so much like having the right phone number is the key to getting through to someone, learning all the great things about mental health and mindfulness need to really happen in sequence. We need to become aware so we can start setting good intentions. We need to learn to forgive and develop kindness in the right way. So we can work on our self talk so we can build productive habits so we can improve her communication skills. So we can feel, you know, happy and at peace with ourselves and improve upon activity. Trying to do those bit by bit is sometimes where people fall down because they jump into a gratitude journal for a few weeks without really knowing why and how to do it.
And say, well, that didn’t work. And then they jumped to changing their habits and again, doing it without that awareness, that reassurance learning how to coach themselves in their mind properly as well and fall down. So what I do is I help people through a series of calls, develop their ritual that works well for them. What are the key points they need to do daily, weekly, monthly. So regardless of circumstances, they’re giving their best, getting their best and feeling their best.
Now we actually have a resource where people can check out some of the stuff that you’ve created. So in our free tool sections, so if you go to Two-Brain Business and you click on free tools. It’s at the very top, you can look and find how to run a successful 21 day online challenge. And inside that ebook written by you, Colm, is a 21 day series of mindfulness exercises. Can you tell us a little bit about what that will do for people or what you want it to do when you put it together?
Yes. So, it’s the SEMM model.
Two-Brain Coaching has a concept called SEMM, which is sleep, eat, move, and manage means. You’re looking at people, not just as athletes, but as a whole picture. And you’re trying to address various needs as a coach. Maybe you’re a fitness coach, but you’re also mindset, coach nutrition, coach, and other things. So go back and tell me, what’s in your mindfulness guide here.
I’m glad you remembered, it dropped completely out of my head there at the wrong time. No worries. But that’s OK because that gives me a chance to practice forgiveness.
We might make a joke of that guys, but if you start doing it in small things like that, you’ll be able to ultimately forgive yourself and others for the big things. So the manage and the mindset things are people where everybody has an idea of what exercise is. Everybody has an idea of what nutrition is, even if you can’t do nutrition without a coach, like you find it better for you with a coach. You don’t know whether you should be addressing macros or intermittent fasting, or just drinking more water and less sod,a with the mindset, sort of that the course is designed to be your jumpstart, to get you into simple, really short, practical steps that can have you feeling better and then being more productive. So it starts off super easy by taking a morning pause with your coffee.
Most people drink coffee first thing in the morning. So we don’t have to figure out when we’re going to cram this into our already overfull dates. We just take out our phone while we’re drinking our coffee. And we sit there and watch the timer countdown.
You just tack it onto an existing habit already. So you get a bit of a piggyback effect.
Absolutely, absolutely. I think out of the 21 days, most of them are tied to either your morning coffee or brushing your teeth. And what they do is they introduce all the various skills of mindfulness, mental health, and mood that you can do in a very short, impactful way. Similar enough to how, when you’re bringing someone on you bring them to the on ramp. And you’re like, Hey, here’s a squat. Here’s a dead lift here. So we hang from the bar and then you begin to explore them unique. Or for the business in Two-Brain. We bring people through ops how to build a team, how to set their mission, how to sell. And then as they continue on their journey, they begin to dive into the area that’s most working for them, or they need the most work on.
I’m looking through this list. And just for people I have actually, we use this in, during the COVID locked down here in Canada at our gym. We actually ran through this and we had people go through this thing. And we went through all 21 days and helped them build healthy habits. If you’re on the fence and you’re skeptical, you’re like, I don’t have time for this. The reality is it’s like 60 to 90 seconds, but it’s very effective. So it’s simple, but very effective. Some of the stuff you’re going to see on this list is like, just as Colm said, take a 60 to 90-second pause for clarity with your morning coffee or breakfast, that’s it. You have 60 or 90 seconds in your day. I guarantee it. And that’s exactly why it’s there. These things build on each other. So as we get down to further and list a couple of things are clean one room, or just put one item away or ask a stranger, how they’re doing.
So there is lots of stuff on here. These are just small things that you can do that have a huge cumulative effect. And when we did this in our group, during the COVID lockdown, we had people saying, man, like I really needed some markers in my day to help me get myself back on track to help you work on my mind a little bit. So guys, I’d encourage you to go to free tools, download this guide, take a look at it. You don’t have to necessarily run it for your gym. You certainly can. You could certainly just do it personally, but there’s a whole bunch of 21 cumulative steps that are going to help you really create some time for yourself and work on your mental health. When you’ve used this exercise, I’ve used this exact one with anyone, or is this something you put together specifically for Two-Brain?
This was specifically for Two-Brain. This was your crash course. You’re super fast one of doing it.
What feedback did you get from people who implemented it?
Similar enough from you. And there’s always a degree of resistance at the start. And the degree of resistance will come up from time or they’re not sure. Or like the big one is, I don’t know how to meditate. I can’t clear my mind guys. Your mind never stops putting out thoughts. That’s the exact same as your heart never stops pumping blood. Your stomach never stops producing digestive enzymes and your mind is going to produce thoughts. What you’re doing is you’re just becoming aware of them. If you become aware of them. You can then start seeing if they’re helpful or not. And then you can start practicing kindness and forgiveness, which are just the supercharges for your own happiness. And as you mentioned that, say hi to a stranger. I remember Coop put an email out a little while ago and he said, you know, reach out and ask someone how they’re doing. When you’re asking someone how you’re doing. You can’t be focused on yourself at the same time. So your mind backwards reasons that I must be OK if I’m checking in on other people.
So there’s all sorts of little tricks in that.
But overall then people say, Oh, I noticed that how good it felt. Then we hit the second problem that worked so well, I stopped doing it right.
My shoulder doesn’t hurt anymore. So I stopped doing the exercises.
Which is where having a coach, who comes in and holds you accountable, helps you over thr stumbling blocks, points out different ways of doing it works for you as well. This is where you can have like a workout buddy in the gym. Or you have a coach who holds you accountable to do the stuff you know, that you should do for your honor.
So where can people find the mental health plan?
If you do a search for the mental health plan, we’ve got our website, we’ve got our Facebook page. I’ve set up a Facebook group as well. It seems to be the way Facebook is going. So it’s called mindset, health productivity. You do a search for that. And I can add you to that group and that way you’ll catch. And I try to put out something daily ish with videos and, you know, videos and posts out again. I always make them we’re in the Instagram culture. I was trying to make them about a minute. So if you’re in a rush, I can give you a minute of clarity, a minute of something that can help shape your mind to help get you get the most out of what you want.
- Final thing for this show, you’re speaking directly. You’ve got one minute to speak directly to a stressed entrepreneur right now who, you know, whatever is going on in the day. It’s probably, you know, all the stuff, all the stresses are happening right now. This person is upset, frightened, angry, scared, all those emotions. You got a minute to tell this person to take something, to do something helpful. What’d you say.
You might feel like you’re alone. You might feel like you’re the only one who’s stressed. Trust me. There are other people who are feeling this too. That is not to take away from your suffering and your suffering is totally real. It’s totally valid. What I’ll ask you to do is to be kind to yourself. If you were talking to the person you loved most in the world right now, what would you tell them to do? What’d you tell them to take a break? Would you give them a hug? Would you tell them to talk to a friend? Would you tell them to reach out to a business mentor? Would you tell them to go for a walk? Would you tell them to get some sleep? Would you tell them to pick up the phone and start calling clients? What would you say to the person you love most in the world? Now, go do it.
There you go. Take a step right now. If you’re feeling upset about anything, follow that path and see if you feel better. Colm, this has been incredibly insightful and helpful. I feel a whole lot better about my day. I’m in my morning. You’re in your afternoon. So I feel set up for my day. I feel like I’ve taken an hour to have some mental health and mindfulness. Thank you so much for joining us. Will you come back and do it again?
Absolutely. Absolutely. And again, we dealt with quite a lot on this. If you want to reach out, just find me on Facebook and send me a message.
The one and only Colm O’Reilly. This is Two-Brain Radio. I’m Mike Warkentin, and we’ve been talking mental health with Colm O’Reilly. Want more actionable advice based on data? Check out Gym Owners United on Facebook. In that private group, you’ll find daily tactics from Chris Cooper, as well as the support of a host of business owners from all over the world. That group again is Gym Owners United on Facebook. Join today. Thanks for tuning into Two-Brain Radio. Please subscribe for more episodes wherever you get your podcasts.