We asked Brendon Burchard—a high performance expert, and one of the most-watched, quoted, and followed personal development coaches of our time—a very important question: How do highly successful people achieve so much without damaging their personal relationships or quality of life?
After a near-death experience gave him a clarified sense of purpose, Brendon Burchard dedicated himself to helping people achieve their highest potential. In this episode Brendon shares how we can increase our productivity in a way that also benefits our overall health and happiness.
Brendon: I'm Brendon Burchard. I am most known for online training, because we've graduated two million people from my online courses. Built tens of millions of fans across social media, millions on our email lists. We do these large events eight times a year, thousands of people all over the world. That's the outside stuff that I had to learn to do to sell the books. Because I was like, "I want to be a writer," so I had to learn to be a trainer, and a teacher, and a speaker, and online teacher, and an online personality so that more people discovered the books.
So, it's funny. They know me for that, but all of that was a tool for me to further my career as a writer.
Jeff: Got it. So, when people ask me, "Who's this Brendon Burchard guy?"
Jeff: I'll give you my version of your bio-
Brendon: I got it. Okay.
Jeff: Is that fair enough?
Jeff: Well, Brendon's a guy that helps people achieve their highest potential.
Jeff: Is that fair?
Jeff: And you help people to create and live extraordinary lives.
Brendon: Yeah. High performance is my focus. That whole focus is, how do people achieve long-term success while maintaining their well being, and positive relationships. So I ask this question, "how do you go to the next level of success without compromising everything else? How do you go to the next level of success and not ruin your marriage, or your health, or your sense of joy and vibrance each day?" Because that's where people screw it up. A lot of people can succeed, but then they wreck the rest of their life.
Jeff: Yeah. I want to kind of unpack where you got to this place. Because, you know, the history of psychology, at least until the mid 20th century, was largely about sort of diagnosing, identifying and addressing what's wrong with people.
Jeff: And this guy Abraham Maslow came along and started this human potential movement, and it was much more focused on what is actually right with people. Not only what's right, but how people can essentially self actualize right here on earth. Do you see yourself as sort of the torch bearer of that tradition?
Brendon: One of them, I have been the kid who has been focused on psychology, and neuroscience, and person development, and spirituality equally. I read a book a week on some of those topics for 22 years.
Brendon: I never missed. I missed two weeks of my entire life, in 22 years I read a book a week. Always on those topics tho. And so I'm fascinated by them.. I love Maslow, but along with him was Carl Rogers, and Alfred Adler, who kind of set the tone for all of us in the psychology field.
But in personal development, long before them you had Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, Earl Nightingale, Jim Rohn, Zig Ziglar, you know, who really set the stage in personal development. And ultimately Wayne Dyer and Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, that are the more contemporary folks. long before them we had the Buddha, we had Daoist philosophy, we had Christianity and Catholicism, and more the biblical, spiritual scriptures of Mohammad. I learned from that too. All of that.
So I'm that multi disciplinary guy who's always looking for human behavior, and human potential and asking the question, "how do we actually apply that stuff in our real life?" Like, show me all that lands on Monday. Show me how all that lands for you to fight with your wife, show me how that applies. When you feel stressed and overwhelmed, or when distractions winning the day, what tools or philosophies or principles can we grab from all that to make you cope better today, get more done today, and feel more alive and vibrant today. That's always been my quest. I want to be the guy who made it practical. I want to be the guy who said, "in this situation, here's five things we've learned, and in this situation, here's other five things we've learned." I've been very research dependent in my life, and then very practical.
Jeff: Right. Right. In that research, you've probably interviewed thousands of people?
Jeff: And of those thousands of people that you've interviewed, is there anyone that has said, "hey Brendon, I really don't want to live an extraordinary life."
Brendon: No, but they use different words. They'll be like, "Brendon, you talk a lot about discipline, and being organized, and managing my time, Brendon, I'm just a free flowing yoga girl. I don't want all the structure, you know? You bounding me in, man, with all these rules and practices and stuff, I just want to flow with the universe."
And I say, "you know, I get that." I understand that because a lot people think productivity, or effectiveness, or even high performance... what a phrase, right? It's not very soft, like, high performance. "That's not me, I'm not into success, I'm not into achievement, you use those words a lot, Brendon, I just want to go with the flow, man." And what I usually say is, "I want you to have that too."
Because I wrote about it in the motivation manifesto that one of the main human drives we experience is this drive towards personal freedom. We all want to have the freedom to fully express who we really are and have the freedom to pursue things that really deeply matter to us, and engage us, and bring out passion and joy.
Brendon: So we want those freedoms. Anytime you talk about discipline, or boundaries, or time management, people are like, "ugh." But I always tell that person, I say, "yeah, but have you ever been time where you felt like you had to miss a class because you didn't have time?" "yeah." "have you ever wanted to go on a yoga retreat, but you just couldn't afford it? You were too busy?" "yeah." "did ever of that happen because you didn't manage your time well?" "yeah." Yoga girl don't have time for yoga retreat? That's because all that free flowing stuff.
If we don't organize the best of ourselves to handle the day well, to set up projects, to have deadlines to get things done, we don't get the free time with our family or friends, or well being we really want.
Jeff: Right, so it's almost like refining a different kind of practice. Because, like you said, everybody has these great dreams for themselves, right? But if I'm hearing you correctly, the main culprit holding us back from achieving those dreams, is actually not about not having the vision for it, but it's actually about not having the practice for it?
Brendon: Yeah. Most people have some kind of inkling or a vision, or a dream or a hope, but often they don't have the confidence, or they don't have the community, or they don't have the competence, or they simply are lacking the clarity of exactly the path forward. So we just have to diagnose which of those is true for you, and how we can take some steps to give you a little bit more sense of self, a little sense of ownership in those, a little belief in self, and a little bit more of a practical road map to getting there.
Brendon: Because there's not a lot of... there's very few dreams that have not already been achieved by other people. And that's why I've always loved researching biographies, or researching people who've already done it. The path is already there, but the problem is people wander into something and they spend years wandering into that thing, wondering about it, and when the path has already been forged by somebody, somebody's already got the map. But most people kind of bumble in for years.
Brendon: And their journey is way harder than it needed to be, because they didn't have the practice of researching or asking. Or identifying where they might not be sure.
Jeff: Yeah. There's a great quote at the beginning of your book that's from Aristotle, "excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly, we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit."
For me that kind of says that if you execute the positive habits, then excellence is sort of a simply a product of that execution. So you did a tremendous amount of research to understand what those habits are.
Brendon: Yeah. I've being teaching personal development and some psychological concepts for a good six or seven years. I kind of became the guy in high performance. I started just being honest, I'm like, "do I know enough about this to be the guy?" Like everybody was coming to me, major celebrities, world class Olympians, I mean, like the best of the best of entrepreneurs and executives, and I just wanted to test myself. I'm like, "do I know this for sure? What I'm teaching and coaching upon?" So that began this... really opened this door to say, "you know what? Let's do some research."
So ultimately I teamed up with high performance institute and then a lot of positive psychologists from the University of Pennsylvania, it's really famous positive psychology department. And I said, "let's do it." Let's conduct a real research project and see what are the habits of the world's highest performing people. It's what I've gathered from my own research, my own practice with other people, my own personal practices, and my observations and interviews, accurate.
So we conducted the world's largest study of high performance ever done and we sought out by measuring about a hundred different performance variables. So we gave them self assessments. Asked about questions related to a hundred different performance variables that already been academically validated to lead to success. Then, once we gave them self assessments, we did the smell test on it and we said, "okay. What they're saying, can we measure in another way externally." So if someone said they were a high performer because of all of these indications, we would also ask if they're a sales person, okay, let's get there rank in the organization to see if they're really high performing. Or let's see if this person in this field is really high performing.
So we did all this work, long story short, we identified six habits that most strongly correlated with long term success where they still did have high reported levels of happiness, well being, and positive relationships. We weren't interested in people who had lots of success and were miserable. You know? We didn't measure them-
Brendon: So full disclaimer, that's the weakness of our study. Right?
Over two million data points from high performers from 190 countries is the first global study that's ever been done at that level. What we found out is people who succeed over the long term have personal habits, and social habits that really giving them the edge.
Jeff: Yeah, well, let's unpack a few. Let's start with the social habits. I have them here, the increase productivity, develop influence, demonstrate courage. And I want to unpack the increase productivity piece just for a second.
For you, is there an essentialism quality to increase in productivity?
Brendon: Yeah, absolutely. You have to know what we call the needle movers. What are the major activities that make the greatest difference to lead to the outcome you want. Right? And that's the essentials you focus on, the non essentials that get in the way of that, you got to learn how to set boundaries, or delegate, or take off your plate, so you can become a little bit obsessed with these things that you know will lead to a result. I also believe, you know, a lot of high performers are minimalistic too. Minimalism that says, "I really just... these few things matter the most." And so we say that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
Jeff: Is that hard for you? I mean, you're such an instinctively generous guy. When I think about Brendon, I think of like, yes. But that's dangerous-
Jeff: If you're trying to be an essentialist to increase productivity. How do you deal with that? I mean, you know, here we are up in your beautiful place and taking up time of your life, and I know you care deeply about our relationship, but you got a million things going on, how do you know when to say yes and no?
Brendon: Yeah, there's this concept in high performance habits, it's in that chapter talking about increasing productivity called PQO. PQO stands for prolific quality output. I learned this from a high performer in the research we did. What it means is you have to identify the things you need to be prolific at, and to deliver with excellence and quality in order to get the outcomes that are rewarded in your field.
So when I look at my week, or I look at requests, I go, does this contribute to my PQO? You know, in other way, does this contribute to my body of work that matters in my field?
Today we're doing a podcast, an interview talking about these concepts that are important to me.
Brendon: Today we were filming a course that I know will outlive me and add to the body of work in the realm of high performance, it's important to me. So it aligned. I get lots of requests that don't align with PQO. You know, "Brendon, talk to this person on some topic that's unrelated to what I believe is important for high performance" I go, "no." I get a ton of requests.
Another thing I learned in that study was, on average, high performers... they're basically the top 15% of most successful people in any given field. No matter how you measure it, if it's the most happy persons in the community, they're the top 15% most happy. If you're talking about wealth, they're the top 15% most wealthy. If they're the highest performing executive, you know... so it's kind of the top 15%. They tend to spend 60% of their week on PQO. 40% is managing life, delegating, dealing with team, answering emails, or DM's, or being with family and everything else. But 60% of the work week is on PQO activities.
That was one of the great things from the study I learned, because my week wasn't like that, man. Because I did... because I love online training, and online influence, because I coach a lot of influencers, because I have the opportunity to kind of invest in companies, and build companies, I was very busy but without PQO your busy work, you can be stuck in busy work that's not your life's work.
Brendon: And I think what people have to do is identify what is more of the PQO I need to create to contribute to my life's work, and spend at least 60% of your week there.
Brendon: And if you do that, I mean, really extraordinary results happen.
Jeff: Yeah. You also mentioned as part of increasing productivity, getting insanely good at five things.
Jeff: What are those five things for you? You don't have to answer, you can give me two.
Brendon: Well, two ways to think about it, one, in the book I talked about the importance of identifying five major skills that will contribute to that PQO-
Brendon: So number one, stage communication, I was terrible at public speaking.
Brendon: And not only terrible, mortified of it. There's one thing being bad, there's one thing of being bad and being so fearful. Like it's fun to be happy and stupid bad at something, like joyfully bouncing into something knowing you're not good. There's another one when you're mortified. And I was terrified of public speaking. Then, this last... what, since May… six, seven months, I spoke to 55,481 people.
Brendon: In audiences in arenas, and convention centers, hotel ball rooms, with zero fear.
Brendon: That had to be developed. I had to learn how to get good on video. I was really uncomfortable, as a skill, being on video. [inaudible] I do extemporaneous speaking on video, no notes, no cues, no cards, no teleprompter. That was impossible in the beginning. I had to have a teleprompter. And I wanted to wean myself off that, so I had to learn extemporaneous video speaking, which is different than being on stage, those were two.
Jeff: Is there a commonality between those two things related to an ability to be present?
Jeff: Was there an inflection point for you where it was like, "I'm mortified about this, I'm thinking about it."
Brendon: Yes. I think the foundation of presence is trust. Trusting that what I'm going to be called forth upon on that stage will happen, trusting that I've done my research, trusting that I did my preparation. trusting that what the audience needs in that moment I'll be able to deliver and feel, and trusting that sometimes there's nowhere else to turn. You're on stage, the light's on, you got nowhere to go. So you have to find that trust to just keep going.
Jeff: So then, three of the other habits that talk about in the book are more personal. Can you tell me those ones?
Brendon: Yeah, the primary one, the highest correlative habit that high performers have is that they consistently seek clarity. This is why you're a high performer for sure, is because there's a high level of curiosity that you have, and you want to learn, and you want to explore. High performers simply like... take a job, the high performing person the job will probably ask more question than everybody else does. They're simple questions, "what's this meeting about?" "What's our intention," to "how does that work," or "how does this impact the customer." They're asking more questions.
But at a personal level, high performers are on a more consistent basis, when they go into any given [inaudible] situation they ask, "who do I want to be in this situation." So before they go in they're setting an intention, like, "I want to make sure my values, or this side of me comes out." They also ask, "how should I interact with this person."
A high performer, before they go in their meeting like, " how do I demonstrate myself? Who do I want to be in this meeting?" But they'll also say, "how do I want to talk to Sally in this meeting." They're inquisitive about how their interactions should go. The opposite of that is people just bumble in and just go through the flow. High performers have intention, and that intention is what we call clarity, they're seeking clarity of how do I want this to go. They're also clear on the skills they need to develop to become high performers. And they're also constantly seeking clarity on what will give me meaning and fulfillment in this situation.
Jeff: Yeah. I think that also requires a certain kind of pause, because it's easy just to go, go, go. You know-
Jeff: Short wave conversations, short wave reactive kind of thing. But if you are going to ask yourself those questions, if you are going to get clear before you walk into that meeting, that does require a habit.
Jeff: Of actually taking a moment, getting really, really clear. Taking a breath, and then asking yourself those questions.
Brendon: Yeah. Very few people allow themselves that space, and without that space they end up winging it or being stressed out, or lacking the intention that could have helped that situation become more successful, or engaged, or connected, or useful. And I think that practice in, which you and I both share of slowing it down, trying to connect the body or the breath, trying to allow a moment of reflection, or a moment of, you know, discovery to happen. It's to bad people don't do more of that.
Jeff: One of the other personal habits is generating energy, and I think this is a great kind of segue into wellness and well being.
Jeff: Because you're one of the most energetic guys I've ever met-
Brendon: That means a lot to me coming from you, man.
Jeff: Well, yes. You've knocked this one down. It's not just about coming with a lot of enthusiasm, it's also about dealing with stress, dealing with tension, bringing joy into the world and to the people around you, being in service to yourself, but also to others, but also just optimizing your health.
Jeff: Because it is hard to bring your best self into the world when you feel like shit.
Jeff: And to be honest, i know, I'm in the field of well being, but I have all sorts of deficiencies. I'm not a great sleeper, you know, I have to really train myself and work hard to meditate. So I'm curious around this subject, what are the essential elements of well being that contribute to high performance and productivity and even, back from that, like what does well being actually mean to you?
Brendon: Yeah. Oh my gosh. Big questions. Maybe I can give a simple metaphor that's kind of becoming the defining metaphor of my life a little bit in this area. Is the metaphor of a power plant, you know, a power plant doesn't actually have energy, it generates energy. So what happens is it takes energy from one point of use, that's usually a lower point of use, then it transforms it into a higher point of use, stores it, and then transmits it.
I love that metaphor because we all are surrounded by positive energy, negative energy, low energy, high energy and we absorb that stuff. We have to decide what we want that energy to be like and how we want to transform it, and transmit it into the world.
So for me, all well being and all wellness comes back to a very simple thing, energy. Do you have the energy required to be the best you each day. Do you have the energy throughout the day that is more of the positive emotions or the negative emotions?
So at base of almost all things well being and wellness is some sense of energy. I really feel that what we have to do is learn how to amplify that. To me, well being means literally well and being. So doing and dealing with life well and being who uniquely really are, but at the most vibrant essence of what that is. It doesn't mean, you know, being a clown, or crazy confidence or enthusiasm, but there's an energy that you're proud of and it feels good and it allows you to live your best. We got to condition that, not hope it shows up.
Jeff: Yeah. And it's infectious. When you bring that energy into a room, other people light up.
Brendon: Yeah, it's true.
Jeff: But this is my question for you, and this is personal.
Jeff: Is that you are the source of a lot of that energy, you're putting that out-
Jeff: Whether with your team, on the stage, personal coaching, it's going... there's one direction that energy is going, that's going out. How does that energy come back in? How do you recharge those batteries?
Brendon: I love that metaphor. I wrote a book called The Charge for exactly that reason, because I think a lot of people don't feel alive, and it partially is because they do see it as almost binary-
Brendon: It goes out, or it comes in, and I feel it's a little more circular than that. What allows you to recharge tho in that process, I have this practice called release tension, set intention.
So for me, any major activity there is that pause you talked about, so here's a daily practical thing, if I'm doing email, you know, I'm doing my emails, answering emails, and then I'm going to go do a key note presentation, or work on a power point or a document or something. When I finish that email before I jump into the next document or in the next thing, those are two different activities, right?
And between those activities I create space of recovery, so what I'll do is I push away from my desk, I'll close my eyes and I repeat this mantra of release to myself, literally I'll have my eye closed and say, "release, release, release, release." And that release practice... we call it RMT, Release Meditation Technique, I release the tension in my body, I release the tension in my jaw, I release the tension in my neck, I release the tension in my shoulders, and the word release is also releasing thoughts, so as thoughts come up, I release the thought. Basic meditation.
I'll release that thought and that tension and when I feel like it's released enough and sufficiently, then I'll say, "okay, now what's my intention for this next activity, and how can I do it well? What's the intention for the next activity and how do I do it well? I'm going to work on this presentation for 45 minutes, I got to do it well. You know, I could maybe do this little thing..." then I open my eyes and go to work.
That little point of recharge is important, because what most people do is wait to recharge until the two week vacation, so they burn themselves for 50 weeks, and then they take the two weeks.
Brendon: And the reason most people are miserably fitted with a certain kind of energy is because they fail on a daily basis between things to recharge. I call it transition moments. Like those transition recharges are everything. For me, after we finish to make a course, or do something, I'll take a beat and I'll recharge if I'm on one phone call and now I got to go into team meeting, I'll take two minutes, release, go in. Or I'll do some breath work, or I'll do a couple flows on the ground, you know what I mean? You know?
Brendon: But I'll do something, and I think that's how I [inaudible] "you have so much energy, it never stops, Brendon, oh my God, how you doing so much?" I'm like, "oh, you don't see."
Brendon: 20 times a day I do this little recharge.
Brendon: So I never quite run out.
Jeff: So you had a big inflection point in your life and you talked very publicly about it, your car accident, that I think you called your life's golden ticket. Do you feel like people need these inflection points of deep crisis in their life in order to take control and execute around some of these lessons that you provided? Or can people just do that at any moment?
Brendon: I think crisis is one gateway. I think there's a lot of gates that can open into that higher field of consciousness that says, "hey, life is precious, be considerate about your time and your actions and your relationships, because at some point it ends." So I think crisis can be a great way.
For me it was kind of that, but the other gates could be a moment of consciousness. The other gates could be a role model. The other gates could be a serious conversation about something. Another gate could be somebody that you aspire to be like them, and you know you need to change. So everyone has different access points, but I really believe the greatest driver, the biggest aha that any human gets to have is what I call mortality motivation.
Brendon: And I got mortality motivation, my car accident, at 19, man.
Brendon: How lucky, at 19 I was gifted with a reverence for life. Because before the car accident I was suicidal. Not thinking about, I've been planning it. I had been depressed for over a year because I had a break up with the first woman I ever loved and that's what sent me to a downward spiral. I was a miserable, miserable young man.
And then the accident, which was unrelated to my suicidal thoughts, like a random accident, left me standing on the hood of a car bleeding out, and seeing all of this blood and feeling like I was going to pass out and die. And asking these questions of, you know, have I lived, and did I love, did I matter, that were coming up unconsciously for me. It wasn't exactly like, did I live, did I love, did I matter, but it was these feelings, these essence, this vibe, and I didn't like the answers.
I hadn't really lived my life because I was living other people's lives, I've been thinking about taking mine. I hadn't really loved, because I got hurt so I blocked out my heart. I hadn't really mattered because I was a young man, I hadn't been taught service, and contribution, and meaning, like we all talk about so casually now, I just didn't see all that. But bam, I thought life was going to take it away and I realized how precious it was, and now I had reverence for it, and gratitude for it. That's what I call mortality motivation. It's like, when you realize it can go away, you're more motivated to use it well.
I always tell people... people talk about time management, I go, "No, no, no." Time management is not a productivity thing, it's a mortality thing. If you have real reverence for life, you use your time well. People tell me all the time, you know... especially in our industry, everyone loves to talk about gratitude-
Brendon: But I think they talk about gratitude too casually, you know how I know if you're a human who has real gratitude? You use your time well. That's real reverence for life.
I know I don't get much time of this plane of consciousness, at least not [inaudible], so I'm going to leverage that, I want to use it well, I have reverence for life, so to me I think people do sometimes need a [thwack] on the head, But at the end of the day, it can also be a beautiful thing where you're just like, "I'm so freaking grateful for this life." Well, you know my greatest teacher was my dad-
Brendon: Yeah. Even bigger than that. I lost my dad to acute myeloid leukemia in 2009, so I had him 33 years in my life, so I'm grateful for great dad. Fought three tours in Vietnam, you know, been married to mom 30 years. Had worked for the state of Montana for twenty plus years, really dedicated, simple guy. Just anything could bring happiness to him, or anger, you know? He got diagnosed with leukemia and they gave him seven days to live. He'd been playing golf, and bowling the week before, and they gave him seven days to live but made it 59, because you can't tell a marine when he is going to die. But I interviewed him.
Brendon: Because I was on stage when I found out that he was diagnosed and they said seven days, I had four days left of the event. Si was going to cancel, go out there, and he told me not to. One night I was just having anxiety about it and my heart was broken and I just said, "dad, can I call you and do an interview tonight?" So I called him and interviewed him, recorded it. People can find out in the internet, just type in "Brendon Burchard's life interview questions," a PDF will pop up somewhere in the internet.
I asked him these 30 questions. And what was amazing about it was he... I heard him saying phrases that he had said to me and our family our whole lives, but I never knew he was so intentional about them. Things like... so I had a great teacher with my car accident, think about this... these are my dad's primary seven, he never called them that, but he would say, "think about the lessons you get in life from this. Brendon, be yourself, be honest, do your best, take care of your family, treat people with respect, be a good citizen, follow your dreams." What else do you got to know?
Jeff: You feel like part of your legacy is to help spread that message that your dad gave you?
Brendon: For sure. You know, people see so much of what do I do on the internet, and tens of millions of shares of our stuff online. A quarter million, 250 million video views of personal development stuff. But the most shared thing of anything I've ever done is a little quote card I made with my dad's seven lessons to me, and I shared it, it's been viewed now 35 million times online. When people say, "what are you most proud about your career?" I was like, "you know what, I did this quote card about my dad, and what he taught me about life, and it became a thing." I just think he'd geek out on that so much, he'd think that's the coolest thing.
Jeff: What a great gift.
Jeff: Brendon Burchard, God bless you for all of the beautiful energy that you bring to the world and helping people to live their best lives. Thank you.
Brendon: Thank you brother, I love everything you're doing, and it's an honor to be on your show.
Jeff: Thanks man.