Deconstructing "The Ultimate Mark Sisson Interview” (Breather Episode with Brad)
By Brad Kearns
Enjoy some reflection inspired by my lengthy conversation with Mark Sisson. This show features extensive color commentary and outright tangents on matters relating to the big themes of Mark’s story, such as the ideals of entrepreneurism and competitive success, and how we often distort these ideas to day. Having worked closely with Mark for a decade and known him for over 30 years, I have a deep appreciation for the attitude and behavior characteristics that make him not only a successful entrepreneur but also able to actualize his branding motto of “Live Awesome.” He calls himself a stress-head at times, and admits to assorted shortcomings and imperfections, but he has a marvelous ability to take both success and failure in stride and keep pursuing his grand mission to help people live healthy, awesome lives. In contrast to a wise, well-balanced peak performer, we seem to be living in an age characterized by social media overload, self-absorption facilitated by social media overload, extreme consumerism, and assorted highly offensive disconnects from our genetic expectations for health—hyper-connectivity, insufficient sleep, sun exposure or play time, eating crappy food, and not moving enough throughout the day. Regardless of our level of affluence, we suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) and FOKU, too (fear of keeping up.) Yes, Mark’s entrepreneurial story is quite inspiring, but we have perhaps gone overboard glorifying the risk takers and the solo flyers of today. The thought leaders in new media—YouTube sensations like Casey Niestat, and podcasters like Joe Rogan, Ferriss and many others, are communicating a message that might easily be misconstrued because of their rare and unique perspective. The people we are listening to are those compelled to step outside of the mainstream channels, create original content, and promote the crap out of their message until it catches on. They can’t help communicate from their own point of view, and that’s where their greatest value and beauty are found. However, it’s important to appreciate how their values and recommended approach to life might not be a good fit for you. It’s super important to recognize this distortion in modern media—particularly the “life is perfect” aspects of social media—and have some compassion for yourself whenever you feel like your life is not cool or grand enough. With a healthy perspective, you can honor your own basic nature and calling for whatever kind of life feels most comfortable to you. Stay true to your own path, and you will protect yourself the excess of blather and positive energy and self-glorification and narcissism that prevents you from focusing sufficiently execution, patience, and paying your dues the old fashioned way. Alert to the prevailing cultural phenomenons of helicopter parents and entitled millennials! Reflect when Mark observes during the show on the value of investing in yourself, and how there is a shortage today of skilled laborers—perhaps because the millennials don’t want to engage in hard physical labor. You can invest $4k in welding school apprentice training and go make a six-figure income! Reflecting on all the twists and turns and detours and dead ends in Mark’s journey, it’s likely that the Mark Sisson coming of age today woulda become a doctor. That’s just fine, but it turns out that Mark’s destiny was to save 10 million people from needing a doctor, and the steady decline into old age and extensive medical care, by making lifestyle changes that optimize gene expression. Seriously. Look at MDA success stories and the explosive popularity of the ancestral health movement that was fringe and highly criticized at the outset, but has now gained mainstream acceptance. Yes, Mark has had a mission statement of “influencing 10 million people” for over a decade. Recently, I noticed someone in the health space had repurposed it with a mission to affect 100 million lives! This example (sorry I can’t remember who it was, but all power to them for their ambitions) is exactly what I’m talkin’ about! Too much hype and blather and not enough focus on execution, appreciating the process, and paying one's dues. Mark’s once preposterous statement is now emerging as a reality, what with Primal Kitchen products in 9,000 stores and total book sales in the millions of units. Besides, Mark has published a post every day for 12 years in support of actualizing his mission statement. Indeed, there backlash to this today’s frenzied ethos of “believe in yourself, think positive, dream big, conquer the world.” Most visible is the modern cultural trend of helicopter parenting and entitled millennials. We seem to want to force the destiny of our golden children today—make every kid valedictorian (impossible, but at a recent high school graduation I noticed 13 of them) or every a superstar athlete with an NCAA division 1 scholarship handed to them. It’s become so ridiculous today that high school sports now resemble college sports of past generations, and college sports represent professional sports of the past. In the high school scene, you have kids routinely holding back a grade for non-academic reasons, the better to mature physically and dominate in competition. Two ridiculous examples out emerge out of sports powerhouse Mater Dei HS in Santa Ana, CA. A point guard and top student held back two years to star on the court and gain a coveted Ivy League student-athlete opportunity. Current USC quarterback JT Daniels repeating 9th grade, becoming one of the greatest high school quarterbacks in California history, then skipping his senior to jump over to USC and earn the starting spot as a freshman. They usually call athletes who have not redshirted “true freshmen” but not much about this story rings true or morally acceptable. We also have the many disturbing high profile examples of peak performers who become incredibly poorly adjusted to normal life, most spectacularly Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong. What’s great is to see both of these dudes, now in their 40s, work hard to learn and grow from their flameouts and present more mature and well-adjusted public personas in recent years. So if you are young and ambitious, or a parent of people young and ambitious, or someone of any age wondering if you can or should be more than you are, let's take a deep breath, take a cold plunge and get over ourselves for a moment. Maybe it’s highly overrated to be a go getting hustler super performer as glorified today in a 24/7 manner by hyperconnectivity and social media? Maybe it’s healthier to honor your basic nature, strive to be a kind, happy, well-adjusted person who finds a comfortable fit into society, makes a positive contribution, but doesn’t necessarily have to win awards or become famous. Recall the Martin Luther King (remember him?) message to the street-sweepers of the world: “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’ " Back to the Sisson show, Mark’s inspiration as a scrawny high school sophomore from Maine to apply to the most badass prep school in the land was simply an unfiltered, unregulated, uncompromising answering of his calling and his destiny. You can’t will anyone into this type of disposition and mindset. Certainly not a young person, and most likely not that manager on your team who is underperforming and doesn’t seem to harbor that competitive fire that you wish for him or her. Add to this insight the many detours on Mark’s journey, where he seemingly had it made but hopped off the train to stay true to his calling: bailing on med school opportunity to do crazy stuff like run marathons and ironman triathlons and build refrigerated salad bars; bailing on a lucrative job while feeding a young family to take massive risk and go it alone; and also the recent occasion where he stretched himself too thin and embarked on a disastrous restaurant venture that he is still unwinding. And while we see Mark as a huge success and living the awesome dream life, it’s important to acknowledge that there is an extreme negotiation and price to pay if you are gonna blaze a big trail. The complexity and intensity of Mark’s career life would make most people crack. Recall how Elon Musk told Joe Rogan point blank: “You would not want to trade places with me.” Ditto for Mark. Get this - he thinks he is, “fairly risk averse.” Obviously, his insight comes from his unique point of view, because this guy has been swinging for the fences, buoyed by one from a list of life changing insights he has dispensed to me over the years: “All you need is one home run.” Enjoy the Breather show and be sure to listen to the full-length Ultimate Mark Sisson Interview!