Today I got to Interview Ben Greenfield from Ben Greenfield Fitness. I hope you enjoy it!
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Ari: … wealth and knowledge when it comes to fitness and wellness. He's an author; he's done a great app in the App Store and he is one hell of a triathlete. Hey, Ben. Ben: Hey, what's up Ari? Ari: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. So, first of all, how did you... I know I've heard lots and lots of interviews and there's a long interesting story to kind of how you got here, but can you just give us sort of a couple minute overview of how you became this guru of fitness?
Ben: Alright. Really, there is no overnight pack to success. This is something that I'm always telling people, you put in the work and you learn. I think really, Ari, like when it comes to becoming successful in whatever niche that you want to become successful in, part of it is just not straying from the sector in which you find your passion. Like I've always been passionate about health and fitness from the time I was like 13 years old and discovered that lifting 10 pound dumbbells helped me to be a better tennis player. And from that point on, all I've ever known is health and fitness and nutrition and studying it and I never really experimented or dabbled in other sectors. So for me, I've been learning about fitness, health, nutrition, biohacking, getting the most out of the human body, or whatever, since I was a teenager and it’s just been a gradual journey. I went to university and I got my Master’s degree in exercise science and did a self-directed in human nutrition and biomechanics. Went on from there and tacked on some personal training degrees and strength conditioning certifications. Did a lot of work in wellness sector; I worked as a wellness consultant. I worked in surgical sales a little bit, managed a bunch of gyms, opened my own personal training studio. I started to turn out books and blogs and podcasts and stuff like that but it’s just one big journey and I have no clue what the hell I'm doing. I just kind of make it up as I go. I figure that as long as I continue to follow my passion for helping people, you know, achieve amazing feats of physical performance, I'm happy. So, it’s just been kind of a gradual journey ever since I was a kid, really. Hello?
Ben: Hey, I lost ya.
Ari: Sorry. I think that’s a really great example or a great explanation. A lot of people talk about following their passion but a lot of people don’t end up doing it so it’s nice to see an example of somebody not ignoring it and sort of making it happen. I actually have a bunch of questions written down but I'm realizing that I want to kind of attack this a little bit in reverse. So, you live in Spokane, right?
Ben: Umm hmm.
Ari: Is that were you grew up?
Ben: No, I grew up pretty close to here; North Idaho, eastern Washington. It’s all just one big blur of rednecks and trees but yeah I grew up Lewiston, Idaho, which is like 2 hours from here in North Idaho. And then I went to school in Moscow, Idaho, which is like an hour and a half from here. Then I moved to Post Falls, Idaho, which is like 20 minutes from here and then finally I wound up slightly across the border in Spokane, where I am building the house where I'm hoping to die. So, there you go.
Ari: So, is this just uncovering one more similarity with us, actually; we’ll uncover a few more throughout this talk. Three weeks ago, my wife and I moved into a home that we built, that we also hope to die in. We have our three kids and we live in Bridgehampton, New York, which is in the eastern end of Long Island. What I sort of found – and it’s not that surprising but – you look at people like Mark Sisson and Dave Asprey and you and me and none of us are living in big cities and I think that sort of like being connected to nature is really keeping with health and wellness, honestly.
Ben: I think that’s part of it; I think part of it too is not getting distracted by all of the opportunities that are present in big cities. Like, I have a lot of friends, for example, who live in LA and they're always doing masterminds and meetups and get-togethers. Like, there's value in that stuff – don’t get me wrong – but I think that sometimes it can get so distracting. Like, for me, here in Spokane, Washington, it’s usually about once a week that I'm off meeting with a local friend or coffee shop or maybe meeting with a local businessman or woman or something like that but it’s really kind of few and far between because there's almost like fewer opportunities to get distracted. I mean, honestly, if I really wanted to, here, I could sit in my house for like 4 days and just kind of get stuff done and buckle down and do what I do; write books and stuff like that. And just not get distracted by people calling me to come hang out because we just don’t do a lot of that here.
Ari: I totally get that. I was worried when we were moving out here because we moved out here from New York, from the city. I was concerned that I would be less productive out here but the truth is that I'm about 15 times more productive because, as you said, my good friends aren’t being like, hey, man, I'm around the corner, meet me for coffee. Then, either you go or you feel bad about not going. So, I've been able to use that to my advantage; I just thought that was worth pointing out. We’re going to get to wellness, of course, but I want to talk about productivity first. So, you are clearly a very productive person. You're podcasting, you're writing books, and not to mention you're training for Iron Man triathlon. When I did Iron Man, France, I was doing 20 to 25 hours a week of training before I started to learn that you could do it in less. So, what's your sort of overall productivity attack method for getting all this stuff done and being a father?
Ben: Man, I've got a lot of methods; I love methods and systems. I actually was just teaching a webinar yesterday about 10 different methods that I use for kind of keeping my email inbox at zero inbox. But as far as like the overarching method, probably the most important thing that I do is I have each day and a bucket assigned to each day. So, I use Evernote for this. So Monday has an Evernote doc and Tuesday has an Evernote doc and Wednesday has one, and so on down, and in each day is a collecting bucket for each tasks. So for example, Wednesday is podcast day, Tuesdays and Thursdays are days on which I do consults, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are writing days, Saturdays and Sundays specifically are days in which I review files from clients. That means like I'm reviewing their workouts and nutrition logs, thing like that because I do some one on one work with clients. Mondays are my catch all day; those shiny pennies that I want or explore articles that I want to read, new websites and new tools that I want to experiment with – Mondays are my day for that. So by setting up each of these buckets, what I found is that I'm able to keep myself less distracted and keep a more clear mind because if something comes across my radar that is say, someone purchases a phone consult with me. Automatically, that gets scheduled in iCal for Tuesday or Thursday between 9 and noon. Something comes across my desk that is related to an announcement I need to make on my podcast that automatically goes into the Wednesday bucket. Somebody sends me an article of 45 different social media tools and software that you can use to enhance your business or whatever, that goes into Mondays bucket so that I can explore that on Monday when I have a lot of that free time. So, from a work standpoint, each day has a bucket; and the same thing from a workout standpoint. I know that Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays are my swim day and I have specific plans set up for those days. Wednesday is my weight training day, I have a specific plan set up for that. So, that’s the way that I work; I have to have each day categorized and then that way I never have this long running list of to-do tasks. That’s what I used to do; I used to have one long list of things to do. I would go through as many things as I could and then kind of collapse, exhausted at the end of the day having completed as many things checked off of that to-do list as I possibly could and then start the to-do list back up the next day. Whereas now it’s just you finish whatever happens to be in the bucket for that day and boom, you're done and you can go play. Sometimes things take longer than others. Some days I'm working til 9pm; some days I'm working to 3pm. It kind of depends on what i happen to have to accomplish for that day and how heavy the tasks for that particular day are for that week. So, that’s kind of how I do it; that’s my system.
Ari: I think that’s great. that goes along with a lot of what I tell people which is that you sort of batch like hack together for the simple reason we really can’t multitask, I think actually you kind of mentioned a study about that on your last podcast but people think they can multitask but they really cant. So, if you can sort of give yourself a little bit of tunnel vision; just focus on one thing for a little bit of time, that’s really what it takes. What I also like about your bucket method is that you're really, it seems like you're pretty much maintaining a clear mind at all times until you have to do something.
Ben: Yeah, exactly. Anytime anything comes across your radar whether it’s an email or a task, it’s either something that you're addressing right then, meaning that I try not to use the flag function in my email inbox too much. It’s like if I'm checking email, that’s my time to check email. So for me it’s typically like a noon, 5 and 9pm scenario or a 9, noon, and 5pm scenario for checking email and I limit myself to about three times a day. Now I know that when I'm checking my email I am actually checking my email. So, I set up a good 30 to 60 minute time slot to be able to get down to zero inbox, respond to anything that needs to be responded to and never look at any email more than one time. The same can be set for articles. I'm either going to read that article right then or else it’s going to get shoved into the bucket for the day on which that article belongs. Everything though is accomplished with the idea that it’s going to go into your head, get processed, and get out quickly. So, it’s always one of those things where you're keeping a clear head and that’s just the way you live life and it’s tremendous.
Ari: One of the important things that I want to reiterate there what you said, for those listening, and something that I've written about before is that part of being able to deal with this stuff, with anything that comes your way – an email is a good example. It’s not just having systems in place or having somebody prescreen your emails or your calls, it’s really knowing how you're going to route things that come in. Whether it’s sending it to a virtual assistant or automatically forwarding it to this service or sending it to be put into a Tuesday bucket, just having those pathways at your disposal is what's really important about how you kind of manage the things that come your way.
Ben: Yeah, exactly. Related to that, I use a lot of folders; I use a lot of rules in my email inbox. I have, gosh, probably like 50 different rules set up so that every single email that comes in, I use AppleMail just because I like to have my emails on my computer not in a cloud so that I can access stuff because I do a lot of travel on airplanes and I find myself o beaches, working different places where I don’t have internet access. So I keep everything on my computer but I use AppleMail, I have a ton of rules set up. Each email goes into a specific folder. For example, I'm working on crowd sourcing the design for my next book right now, 399 designs. That means that over the past couple of days, I've had to do a lot of communication with graphic designers from 99 signs and in many cases, I need to check my email to see if a message has come in from different individuals who are working on the book cover. Well, I created 99 designs folder and set up a rule in AppleMail that every email that comes in that has any word in the body, 99 designs, is going to go into that folder. Now, if I check my email more than my allotted three times during the day to kind of be communicating with these designers who are working on a project, I'm not distracted by emails from other people because I can just, when I check my email, only be checking that 99 designs folder and nothing else. So, I'm not distracted by anything else. That’s something that I use quite frequently when I'm working on tasks for which I know I'm going to need to check email more often is all a check but then I’ll only make sure I'm only checking that one folder where I'm looking for that important message to come in that I have a rule set up for to send the email to that folder.
Ari: Right. So, filtering out that noise.
Ben: Yeah, exactly.
Ari: Differentiating from the essential and the optional; I love that. So, you're clearly producing a lot of content and I know that having that clear mind is one of the things that makes you able to do that and having all these methodologies in place but when you're doing the podcast and the writing but like me, you're also a father and a husband. I know you have twins, just like I do, right?
Ben: That’s right, twin power.
Ari: Twin power and they are... you have two boys, right?
Ben: Yeah, my boys are five and I homeschool/unschool them.
Ari: Right. So that’s the next thing on my list. Just for those listening, I have two 5month olds that are twins and a 21 month old named Ben, actually. So, three boys and you got your two boys; it’s an interesting experience in the household. I recently have been thinking that I need to change my job title to penis detailer because I think that pretty much all I do all day is clean penises. I don’t know if I could bleep that out, but...
Ben: I don’t know if you could bleep that out either but just on the side, totally random thought that probably no podcast listener would thought they'd be hearing us speak about but are they circumcised?
Ari: Yes, they are.
Ben: Okay and you're still cleaning penises? Amazing.
Ari: Well, you know, the poop goes everywhere….so.
Ben: Yeah, yeah, that’s true.
Ari: I got your favorite topic…
Ben: There you go; we've worked in circumcision and penises already.
Ari: And poop. First, on the Less Doing podcast.
Ari: So, homeschooling, how the hell do you fit in homeschooling?
Ben: We use a curriculum called, Five in a Row, and we combine that with utilizing a lot of local field trips and local sporting opportunities and teams for our kids. Today will be a perfect example, actually. So, I do math and Thursday is our math day. What that means is that with our Five in a Row curriculum that we use, what that means is that we have one story that we read to the kids every day for five days in a row, each week. The story this week is, A Pair of Red Clogs, which is a story that takes place in Japan. So, we've been teaching our kids about Japanese culture all week. For example, Monday night, they helped mom make sushi. We had a traditional Japanese dinner sitting cross-legged in the living room doing miso soup and sushi, listening to Japanese’s music. Another thing they did that day was they worked with Japanese calligraphy and found Japan on the globe and worked with Japan geography, stuff like so each day you're focusing on aspects from that story. Anyways, to focus on today, there's a point in the story where the little Japanese’s girl goes to the market and she is there looking at shoes seeing the price of shoes and seeing these red clogs. So, for today our math lesson the boys are going to be setting up a market. Now I like to take things to the next level in my homeschooling. So, what I’ll be doing is we’re going to set up a market. Each of them are going to get to choose five toys that they own and they're going to get to price those toys. They need to select toys of varying value and they're going to learn how pricing works; basically how you place a different value on an item based off of how important that item might be to you or to someone else. Then, we’ll take photographs of each of the five items that they choose with my iPhone and then I’ll teach them how to list each of those items on craigslist and eBay. They’ll sell them; they’ll get money and they’ll learn pricing. They’ll learn math, they’ll learn value, they’ll learn market and it’s all tied into this book that we’re reading during the week. That entire process will take us about an hour this afternoon to do, in terms of them setting up the toys, us taking photographs and then putting them online and that’s their homeschooling. That’s my portion of the homeschooling. Now, mom today will be working on them a little bit with handwriting, a little bit with art so, there will be some other portions but generally for me it comes out to about an hour to an hour and a half. There will be another half hour that I will spend with them before bed where I’ll be teaching them some ethical lessons from the story and we’re going to be talking about telling the truth because that’s another big component. I usually work on more kind of like a moral lesson later on in the evening before bed. Tomorrow, for example, what we’ll be doing is learning more about where Japan is specifically that it is an eastern country. We’ll be learning about the direction east; I'm going to teach them how to use a compass.
Ben: Go up to our land and I'm going to set up a few little pieces of candy at various points out in the forest and teach them how to orientate their way to those points. So, it’s a combination of traditional kind of schooling learning methods, combined with storytelling and story learning, combined with just getting out there and doing stuff. So, that’s the way I do it. I find it fun. I find it motivating. For me, the commitment is about an hour or an hour and a half each day and I can do that. That’s a doable chunk of time for me.
Ari: Time or not, I think that’s an amazing commitment that you’ve made. So, are they going to continue homeschool throughout or you think they’ll go through a normal school at some point?
Ben: I was personally homeschooled, k-12…
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