Being humans, everyone grows up with weaknesses. It’s up to you to start finding your power and free yourself from these shackles. Serial entrepreneur Joel Primus joins Rodney Flowers in this episode to discuss what this power is all about, how you can harness it and be more resilient than ever. Joel goes back to the basics as he engages on the importance of asking the right questions in every stage of your personal and company growth. Learn why he believes that self-awareness is an integral part of everything as he talks about his book, Getting Naked. He also gives some important points to think about in order to contribute and add to the American Dream. Understand what he means when he talks about the concept of getting naked from human attachments and using it to break free from the illusions of life.
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Finding Your Power Within Your Weakness: On Self-Awareness And Being Resilient With Joel Primus
As always, I’m excited about this show. I have Joel Primus with me. He is an author, speaker, filmmaker, serial entrepreneur, and a man behind a premium underwear company called Naked. Joe Cofounded Kosan, which launched one of the most successful Kickstarter apparel products of all time reaching over 1 million in sales in 30 days. He appeared on CBC’s hit show Dragons’ Den, was one of the inaugural BCBusiness 30 Under 30 entrepreneurs, and is also an author of Getting Naked. He’s also an award-winning documentary filmmaker. This guy is awesome. Let’s welcome, Joe Primus. Welcome to the show.
It’s good to be here, Rodney. How are you?
I’m fantastic. I’m blown away by all of these accomplishments. Talk about serial entrepreneur. You’re definitely living up to the title.
Eventually, I’ll walk it back and I’ll just be mono-focused on one thing. All that means is I haven’t figured it out yet.
You’re experiencing a lot of success in a lot of different areas, which I want to talk about because I know a lot of people are having trouble finding success in one area. Here you are. You’re changing the game in many areas of your life and affecting a lot of people, which is cool. I want to talk about your book. I know people are interested in the title, Getting Naked. What’s that all about? They may be thinking that my show has turned X-rated now that I have someone on the show who’s written a book called Getting Naked. Let’s start with that. Let’s set the record straight on what your book is all about.
What if I told you, it was an X-rated book?
I have to get on my team. They didn’t do a thorough job researching and making sure we have a G-rated guest on the show.
It’s definitely a G-rated book. The underwear line I started was called Naked, so Getting Naked was just a play on that. You got amazing entrepreneurs as readers, people who’ve done incredible things. I’m sure all entrepreneurs can remember when they started and, in the beginning, the amount of mistakes and failures they made because they didn’t know how to ask the right questions. As we mature through life, both as human beings but also as entrepreneurs, we need to get better at asking questions. The better questions we ask, the better answers we find.
Getting Naked follows the story of Naked from a garage underwear startup where my buddy’s grandma sold the first pair. You can imagine what pair of underwear sold by a grandma felt like, to partnering with Dwyane Wade, listing on the Nasdaq, raising $18 million to $20 million, and then divesting it to a lingerie company in Australia that had Heidi Klum as their spokesperson. It follows that journey, failures, and successes along the way. Inside the story, what I’ve focused on are all the questions that I want entrepreneurs to ask.
I don’t provide all the answers because every business has a different answer set, but it’s the book I wanted to read when I was starting Naked, so I knew what to ask at each phase of the business. From raising money to starting to building teams, etc., to even selling and divesting and going through the experience of no longer being the CEO of your own company. Ultimately, the idea of Getting Naked is about the journey of self-awareness through entrepreneurship and getting back to the true self. Sometimes, the path which is challenging can lead us in all kinds of directions that we didn’t intend to go and maybe didn’t want to go, but we went with it. That’s what the books about. It’s G-rated.
Why self-awareness? Let’s dig into that because when it comes to being an entrepreneur, there are many things that come up in your journey to becoming successful. Let’s not even talk about success. Let’s talk about getting in the black where you’re making money, not losing money, you have a team, and your product is selling. There’s so much behind that. Before you can even get successful, there are these milestones you have to reach as an entrepreneur that indicates you’re making progress. Why do you think self-awareness is such an integral part of being an entrepreneur?
It’s an integral part of everything. Self-awareness is integral to healthy marriages, being a successful employee, being a successful human being on this planet, and maybe most importantly, being an entrepreneur. What ends up happening in life, and you find this out later, is first of all, we all have trauma. We all go through life and we take on some damage. That damage starts unintentionally and unconsciously when we’re young. People tell us things or we see things and we interpret them as our own. They become our own stories and they become the lens that we see the world through.
This goes from everything to having an eating disorder to being an incredibly angry person to being passive-aggressive. All these emotional and action-based responses that we make are from inputs that we’ve taken on in our life. Our negative biases and all these things. We often are unaware of them. We just do them. They become how we react and interact with the world. The classic example is I get angry when somebody cuts me off in traffic. I flip them the bird and I can’t stop thinking about it all day long.We need to get better at asking questions. The better questions we ask, the better answers we find. Click To Tweet
Many of us never take the time to ask the question, why? Why do I react that way? We just accept that we do. We know that we shouldn’t but we don’t ask why. I’m guilty of this, Rodney. In entrepreneurship, a lot of bad decisions come from the stories and the things that I have in my head that I’ve carried with me. Ego being a big one and we can talk about specifics. Self-awareness essentially allows us to free ourselves from ourselves in order to be more effective decision-makers and be better leaders.
People who can lead by example because they’ve done a lot of self-work. It allows us to be less emotionally attached to the outcomes of the challenges that we face and have a bigger picture. With entrepreneurship, because it’s challenging and there are many things thrown at us every day, we have many opportunities to learn these lessons and ask ourselves that question, why? Why am I reacting this way? Why am I feeling this way? Does that make sense?
I get it. I completely agree with you. As a resilience trainer, one of the first steps to resilience, in my opinion, is self-control. Self-regulation is what I call it. You’re right. We live by this fight or flight response to things that happen to us. We’re in an unconscious state. Your behavior is based on your thinking. Your action is a result of your thinking. Ninety percent of your thinking is unconscious. Ninety percent of your being is an unconscious being. You’re just doing, acting, thinking, and reacting.
There’s not a lot of consciousness to those. You think there is but there isn’t because it takes work to be conscious and in tune with how you’re feeling and thinking and how you’re responding and reacting to things. It takes work. When you are in those spaces of unconscious being, you’re not in tune with what’s going on in here. You’re not reacting to what’s going on in here. You’re reacting by what’s going on out there.
I’ve said it before. You want everything to come from your truest inner self, your conscious self, versus living from out there where you’re reacting and being based on everything that’s going on in the world. I want to give an example of this. We went through a change in the president, so there was a lot of build-up around, “Prior to that change, the way the state of the country, the way the state of the world, and all of these things.”
It affected a lot of people. A lot of people were feeling a certain way based on that state in their outcomes and future. They would have this idea of what that was going to be like as a result of what’s happening. That’s what I mean by that because you haven’t come to a state of consciousness within yourself to say, “Although all of this is going on out there, I still have a sense of control. I still have a play in this. I still have an impact.” All of that’s going on out there, but it doesn’t mean, “This is going to be the outcome and there’s no way around that. Because of that, this.”
No. It doesn’t have to be that way. We’re procreators. We have a say. We get to dictate to some degree outcomes by the powers that we have. Sometimes, those powers are neglected. We don’t take into effect the level of impact that we internally have on outcomes, have on ourselves presently, have on the future. It’s the lack of awareness of that. We give our power away or we don’t realize the power that we have because we’re not operating in that state.
It’s the last thing. To share with you, Joel, I wasn’t aware of that until after I had a traumatic injury. That’s what happens to a lot of people. You have to go through something traumatic, something to wake you up. Now you realize, “I do have an impact or effect on what’s happening to me.” Why I love interviewing people like you and having this show is because the whole idea is to get people to see that you do have impact and power.
In effect, we don’t necessarily have all the power of the outcome, but we have all the power of how that outcome causes us to feel. In other words, the outcome can’t take our power unless we let it. Power is a strong word. Maybe it can’t take our peace, happiness, and presence. I always say that we always have two choices and only two choices, and that’s fear and love. We’re either operating in love and I don’t mean love somebody love. I mean positivity, love for somebody, and cultivating our enjoyment, or fear being, “I don’t control the outcome. Therefore, I have angst, I might feel depressed, I’m worried, I’m angry.” All these different things.
Those are the two places we operate from and there’s this moment. Mindfulness, meditation, exercise, breathing, and all these things give us this pause and that pause in every interaction gives us a chance to make 1 of those 2 decisions. We’re going to go through that 100 or 1,000 times every day. Every Donald Trump tweet, every Joe Biden tweet, depending on what side you are, might cause you to feel that angst, or your boss or your colleagues, etc.
I’m not going to be a Buddha or some guru anytime soon. It’s not that I get to remove that from my life. It’s not that I get to be free from those challenges of being an entrepreneur. It’s that I get to learn the tools so that I can, as those things come up, better react every single time and give myself that chance of less stress, better focus, and better clarity to do my work, whatever that work is. The work of being a husband, boss, or mother. All those different things involved are done better by us reacting with love, not fear.
I want to touch on the term, power. It is power. Power is peace. Power is a sense of control. Power is trusting that everything is going to be okay in the midst of chaos and conflict. Power is having that moment to make that decision and giving yourself that moment to make that decision. When we’re outside of power and you feel you don’t have power, what takes over? Fear.
That’s good. I can adopt that. I dig it.
If I had to describe what you have set up here for us, when we’re operating in fear, we’re operating in this unconscious state of mind. That’s a survival type of mindset. If you’re trying to survive, you’re trying not to die. That’s driven by fear. You’re afraid that if you don’t do certain things and you don’t react in a certain way, you forego calmness and taking time to make a decision. You feel like, “I don’t have time for that right now.” It’s survival mode, “If I don’t do this right now, something bad is going to happen.” That’s the cortisone and adrenaline pushing and driving your type of behavior. That’s survival. You don’t feel like you have power. You’re trying to get power the best way you know how at that point, but what we’re saying is, “The bridge to get to that place is taking a step back.” We have to get out of the survival mode and get into the place of thriving, in my opinion.
In my own stuff, there’s the duality in the word power. Sometimes, it’s so abused that I forget and I shouldn’t forget that power is a good thing. I sometimes try to think of things when I’m making a decision even in business or trying to deal. I have four different deals on the table and each one of those has its own set of variables that I can’t control. Outside of focusing on, “I’m not entitled to the result. I’m only entitled to my effort and attitude and the work I bring,” I like to think of water as the most powerful force in the world and yet, it is soft.We don't necessarily have all the power of the outcome, but we have all the power of how that outcome causes us to feel. Click To Tweet
You can cut it. You can throw a rock into the water and it will sink to the bottom, but water can also carve out canyons. It’s patient and it flows. It’s this duality and this mix of gentleness, trust being power and being the most powerful thing in the world and knowing, “I’m on my path. I might have hit a wall, but I have to keep at it slowly and surely.” That softer mindset because sometimes, I find I get tense when I have the wrong context of power. Not the right one, the one that you described as the right. When I think of power as control, then I get tense and I’m not operating. I used to be a runner and a fairly decent one, at least in my little Canadian bubble.
When I went down to the NCAA on a scholarship, I got put in my place fast. There’s this 85% rule where when I’m trying my hardest to be a fast runner and my body gets tense, I’m not generating my most power, but when I pull it back a bit, that’s when I’m in my flow. Take that into a business scenario. When you’re desperately trying to get this deal done, then that’s when the roadblocks start coming. I was on one of those deals, I was angst about it because I want it to close. You got to take that step back and be like water. Be 85%. I don’t let some of it breathe kind of thing. Do you find that, Rodney?
Yeah, it happens all the time. I’m not a runner. I’m working on walking with one cane, which is challenging for me instead of two. When I’m out there and I’m walking, I have a tendency to try hard because I want to do this. It’s life-changing. Start walking on one cane is a major accomplishment that I want to reach, so I try hard. The harder I try, the muscles tense up and I’m overthinking it. I’m trying too hard. It’s not until I’m in a relaxed calm state, then I’ll walk.
Let it flow. Let your body move. Don’t try too hard. Let it go. I have a spinal cord injury. It’s nerve-related. I’m sending signals throughout my body to my muscles and telling them to move and to do things just as you would do. I have this injury there. My body is still trying to figure out, “The signal is trying to get past where there’s nerve damage.” Sometimes, it causes confusion. Sometimes, there’s a spasm, spasticity, all of this muscle tightness, and stuff like that. It’s because the body is trying to figure out what these signals are, but then there’s damage.
It’s like being on the phone and the line is open but it’s damaged, so you get staticky. You got some sound coming through, which is not clear. It’s like that. The more I try to push those signals through, the more static I get. If I can just be calm, cool, let it flow, and let it work naturally, the better it is. As you were describing, such is life. I feel that when we’re living from out there, we feel we have to do everything and we don’t have help. The greater, spiritual, universal, and God-like side of you is in here. It’s calmer, more level-headed, if you will, more connected, and grounded side of you.
It’s not attached to anything. Sometimes, those attachments cause additional static in the line. Attachments can be damaging, if you will. When you live in from here, you don’t have any of that because everything is good. This is a place of peace and calm. It’s not attached to anything. It’s being. When we take away all of our attachments, it’s just us, human beings. That’s your more powerful space, calmer space, and peaceful space. That’s where miracles happen because that’s where the flow is when you’re operating in that space. I love the idea. This is taking me back to Getting Naked because for me, what’s coming up when you talk about Getting Naked is getting rid of all of that. When you can get rid of all of those things and you can be a human being, that’s a powerful thing.
It’s the most powerful thing. We are diluted chasing an illusion most of our life and that illusion isn’t. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with money and success. Those things are beautiful gifts and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with creating, wanting to build your product, and wanting to design your art. That is an expression of your God-given abilities as a human being and by all means, go after it. The illusion is that there is some happiness at the end of those things for having done them. The happiness is in doing them and finding the peace and doing them. Unfortunately, everyone is waking up to this, Rodney, because we realize that we’ve been sold a lot.
If everyone didn’t care as much about the outcome, they’d live different lives and they’d live now. That’s what happened to me. Here I am working on Madison Avenue. I’m sitting courtside with D Wade and we’re doing partnerships with him. Everything’s incredible and yet, I have this swelling anxiety and depression because at the same time, my marriage is falling apart. At the same time, I traveled 250 days each of the first two years of my daughter’s life. I worked myself hard that I put myself in the hospital twice. You talk about these events and there’s a series of them, but one of the biggest ones was when one of my best friends died.
He was my age and he had two girls. I asked myself the question. I’m on a business trip in San Antonio one day after he died. I had to get on that plane. I had to go do those investor pitches and I said, “What if it happened to me and this was my life for the last couple of years where I didn’t see my daughter and I was completely, totally emotionally, spiritually, and physically unavailable to my wife because everything was elsewhere? Is that happiness? Is that success?” The answer was to cultivate a balance between the two. Not to say I’m going to meditate under a tree and disappear for twenty years. I have things I still want to do but how do I marry the two together?
That became the mission of the next couple of years of my life. It was learning how to integrate and the lessons that followed that. I’m still in it. The material world has this way of always pulling me back in. They love to dangle the gold and you’re like, “What if I go after that?” All of a sudden, you’re back to working eighteen hours and the scales tip. They’re always going to go up and down but how do you bring that a little bit, so they’re nuanced, they’re not these crazy swings, and live in that healthier balance? That’s what I’m trying to do.
Let’s talk about that because there is, in my opinion, confusion about obtaining a thing. Be it money, boat, house, car, relationship, or whatever. There’s going through the process of getting the thing. Every human being has a desire to express themselves. Maybe in different ways, but everyone does. A lot of times, people get caught up in a materialistic thing. Let’s stick with that to make it simple. There lies the confusion because once I get the thing, I feel a certain way because I have this thing.
The thing is an expression of the journey that you’ve gone through that indicates that you’ve made it. You accomplish that goal, so now you’re expressed but you’ve been expressing yourself all along. We feel that not until we get the thing that we are fully expressed. I don’t know if that’s completely true. That’s an illusion and that’s where we need to strike the balance, in my opinion. Let’s take the definition of success.
“I’m not successful until I reached the end of the journey.” No, it can’t be because you got to be successful in order to get to the end of the journey. You’ve been successful along the way but you are putting definitions around your level of success. You feel like you’re not successful until you get there but you have to be successful. That’s when we get back to being. In order to get there, you have to be successful. If you’re not successful once you get there, you are there as a result of being successful.
I dig it. That’s something that you share.
I’ve never said it in that way before.
You’re blowing it.
As I teach and as I grow, these are things that I’m learning along the way. I’m not considering myself some guru on the subject or anything like that. I’m growing, too. This is a new level of awareness and a deeper level of understanding. I don’t have to have the million dollars, the yacht, helicopter, or the $10 million pad to feel expressed. Everything that you obtain in that light is an indication that you’ve gone through the process in order to get it and that process is going to be different for every person but that’s where the juice is.There's absolutely nothing wrong with money and success. Those things are beautiful gifts. Click To Tweet
The thing is not going to give you anything but some level of satisfaction based on usage or you’ve been able to tell somebody, show it off, or whatever. The feeling that you get from being able to drive it, own it, and all of that. Eventually, that’s going to wear off. The juice or the value is in the process of getting it because that’s what you can pass on. You got a yacht and you can it pass down, but it’s not as valuable as what you’ve learned along the way to getting it.
There’s this great story that’s somewhat in line with that. I’ll try and condense it and not butcher it simultaneously. There’s this town in India and there’s a man who has this dream. The next day, he’s leaving town. In his dream, he’s told he’s going to meet Sannyasa, which is a holy Indian beggar, someone who doesn’t have possessions. Lo and behold, he sees this Sannyasa when he’s about to move. He runs up to Sannyasa and says, “I had this dream about you. In that dream, God told me that you’re going to give me this incredible stone. Do you have such a stone?” Sannyasa opens his backpack and says, “Is this stone you mean?” He pulls out the world’s biggest diamond.
This thing will make this man the richest man in the world. The man says, “Can I have it?” The Sannyasa said, “Sure. I found it in the forest.” The man is shocked. He takes it away and he goes. He sits all day instead of rushing off. At the end of the day, he goes back and he finds a Sannyasa and gives him back the diamond. The Sannyasa said, “Why are you giving that back to me?” He says, “I want you to teach me the riches that enables you to give away such a valuable thing.” There’s more value in the power, to go back to that word, of being able to give this away than there isn’t having the thing. That’s the powers in us, not outside of us.
To your point, we cultivate that power through the journey, not in the outcome. It’s hard because our buddies, our friends, and the people that are our role models don’t have the things, so we have a tough time detaching from this. It’s the gift and the curse of the American dream. The gift is that it inspires us to go on that adventure. It inspires us to believe that adventure is possible, but it doesn’t tell us that on the other side of that, there is unhappiness that’s cultivated in it and because of it, not the results at the end of it. I’d love for them to add that piece to the American dream.
As we look at our youth and they come into their adulthood and they go and they seek for themselves that they’re inspired to seek with unapologetic confidence that they’re going to get their goal, but understanding that it’s about the person they become along the way that matters more. Also, how that person interacts with society as a whole. That subject gets a little emotional for me because there’s so much left and right and all this stuff. It’s a result of fear around needing to control that power versus embracing it and coming together because of that power.
There’s this idea that we shouldn’t allow the light to shine so brightly. What I mean by that is in individuals. We have to hold them down and keep them at a certain level, if you will. That means there’s information about themselves that we’re not going to tell them, in my opinion. When you talk about the lie, that’s the lie and that’s a whole other show. That’s a completely different show. I feel that what’s missing from the story is the idea of the American dream is to express yourself and bring forward your contribution to the world.
If you can accomplish that in your lifetime, then you will be fulfilled because you can chase the money, the billions, the millions, and all those things and still not be fulfilled. If you bring forth the contribution that has been planted inside of you and you’re able to cultivate that, express it, and allow it to do whatever it does, there’s a lot of fulfillment. That, too, is what we want. We get to the other side where we’re chasing goals and we get to the other side that’s the piece that’s missing.
You have this yacht but you’re not fulfilled because we all want to contribute. Life to me, Joel, is a gift. To be here is a privilege but yet, there’s a responsibility. The responsibility is to give back. You’re here and you have life but if you look at nature, nature gives back. It multiplies. One particular element, oxygen. We take oxygen every single day, but yet we wake up and there’s oxygen. It gives. It’s there. The trees give it off. It comes from all kinds of places. If you look at things in nature like plants, they give off seeds. It’s plentiful. They replenish the Earth, so to speak. If you look at it in a general sense, it gives and it keeps on giving. We have a responsibility to do the same thing.
We have a consciousness. We get to choose what we can give. Understanding yourself, understanding who you are related to the universe, God, your ability to create, the fact that you can think of an idea and bring it forward, and you can solve problems that exist. We come from that space and say, “How do I fit in this world given who I am, what I know, what I can learn, the problems that I can solve, the difference that I can make, and the contribution that I can give in my lifetime?” You do it. What’s greater than that?
To live your life and say, “I’m rich. I have $1 million,” but it doesn’t contribute. It can’t save your life. If you get cancer stage IV and there’s nothing the doctors can do. If you don’t know the Creator, you don’t have a level of fight, the ability to muster up and live from here, and you’re dependent on the fact that you have the money, there’s only so much that it can do. Coming from this space, your heart and your ability to procreate are priceless. You can’t buy that.
We teach that to the level of the young family. The contribution begins much like it did thousands of years ago when we had the group. Everyone contributed to the group. Everyone had a role in the group and the challenge was the group kept getting bigger. Instead of having different groups, we had a big group that operated as different groups but was still technically, in terms of a system, in one group. Normally, I don’t get political because that’s not my angle, but you can see it in the action. What we’re seeing is this divisiveness. The people’s burning desire to, in some, ways survive but in other ways, to contribute to their group.
The problem is because the group is big and there’s this giant separation and the fear is kicking in because we haven’t cultivated that trust at a young age where we see the world, not through the lens of scarcity but through the lens of abundance. To your point, nature is completely abundant in its ability to regenerate and continue to give. When we watch the news and we’re told that there’s famine and we’re told, “If the right does this and the left does this, then this is going to happen or there are wars.” All of that creates and built this scarcity mindset. This fear that I have to take from someone in order to get it. I have to take in order to contribute.
With our young children, we have to heal that line. People always ask me, “What’s the legacy that you want to leave?” I said, “It’s not like I gave an endowment to my university. That’s not the legacy I want to give,” or something like that. If I can heal my insecurities, negativity, and my own scarcity mindset enough that my children don’t carry them into the next generation because they’re watching what I do. They’re feeling what I feel.
If I can free as much of that for them so that they get to go on into the next generation with that mindset to contribute without the fear that I have because I have it. I was born with it. We’re coming to a place where we realize it and that’s where all the parents have to get together and say, “For the children, let’s deal with our own crap. Let’s deal with our own internal stuff, operate from the heart, and teach them to do that.” That’s where there’s this big shift. This idea of contribution starts to take hold as part of the American dream. We’re going to get there.
I want to touch on a couple of things that you said. There’s a couple of things that came up from me. Fear is something that’s taught more than something that we have. We do have instincts. The fear that we’re talking about is not a fear. We have instincts of danger when we’re born. We know when something may be threatening to our lives to some degree and that’s debatable. I’m definitely not an expert in that. The fear that we are talking about is taught because we’re talking about the fear of, “Don’t take chances. Play safe. Take care of yourself. Don’t stretch too far,” and those types of things.
Those things are taught and there’s an identity crisis. On the other side of that, what is taught more so than the fear that is taught is our identity, a human being. I’d like to do a show on what human beings means and break that down contextually to get into what is a human being. I want to talk about identity and understanding who you are. The reason why I want to do that is because it depends on how you are viewing and responding to the world, how you react, how you behave, and who you are. Understanding who you are dictates what you see. If you’re getting fearful because of what you see on the news, that’s something to think about. That’s something to work with.
What came up for me was when I see all of those things, to me those are problems that need to be solved. The question is, can I solve any of those problems? Are there any of those things on the list that I want to go and attack? You can watch the news, you hear all of that, and you deflate. You’re feeling defeated and useless and life isn’t purposeful. How you view that it depends on who you are, your state, and the view of yourself.Decide what the worst possible outcome is and get okay with that. Click To Tweet
That’s what I mean when we started talking about unconsciousness, being, living, and thinking because you could solve some of those. It’s like, “They gave me an idea that I can go fix. I’ve been thinking about what I can do. What cause can I live for? What can I get out of bed for with a lot of enthusiasm and energy to say, ‘Let’s go?’” You can feel that life is hopeless, but it depends on understanding your space in all of this. Where are you in all that? You can feel like, “I can’t do anything,” or you can feel like, “I can be a changemaker. I can be a game-changer.”
I’ll tell you a story. It’s my own. I was a runner. I was on a full-ride scholarship and qualified for the World Cross Country Championships. I blew up my Achilles and I couldn’t run anymore. I ended up losing my scholarship and not going to the World’s. My whole identity was crushed. I genuinely didn’t know who I was. I was filled with insecurity and then fueled by insecurity to craft a new identity. When we talk about that word, I love to think of it in the context of having flexibility. That can move and shift with our life and how we allow that to happen is by embracing, “I can’t do it. Maybe I have depression. I have anxiety. This isn’t who I am.”
At this moment in time, it is who I am. I’m still going to be called to action, find the courage, and embrace the humaneness of my struggle. We only see like we see a news personality. I see you and I see this super successful bestselling author and this and that. I can feel bad about myself seeing you because I don’t see your struggle but you have a struggle. That’s why when you share it, it’s so important because people need to listen. They need to believe it. They need to say and act in any way. Courage is the thing that’s so incredible with so many human beings on this planet.
Cultivating courage is doing the thing that you called to do and knowing the stakes. It’s knowing that I might have some anxiety about it and I’m still going to do it. Knowing that I might fail, but I’m still going to do it. Knowing that the world is going to push back on me, but I’m still going to do it is courage. There are so many people in this world who are not celebrated, who are courageous every single day. In fact, a lot of the people that we see are not courageous at all. They have the spotlight and it creates this feedback loop that we don’t need.
It’s not healthy for us. I love what you said. To be roused and to be roused again and again in our lives to one thing or too many things and going with it. It’s flowing with that thing and being okay. What did COVID teach us if it didn’t teach that things are unpredictable and that we might be feeling called to something but then something else happens and now we got to look over here a little bit? That’s what I learned in COVID.
It always has been. This isn’t new. It hit us in a major way. It reminded us that life is unpredictable and that’s where faith living comes into play here. All of us get in a car every day to drive somewhere but you don’t know if you’re going to blow out a tire. You don’t know if your engine is going to stop working. All of those are all possibilities. If you choose to focus on those things, you would never leave your house.
You would become what I consider paralyzed. You don’t think about that. You jump in the car thinking, “I’m going to get to my destination.” You don’t even check the tires. You don’t go around your car banging on your tires every time you get ready to get in the car to make sure it’s okay. You don’t do that. You don’t go and check your oil. You don’t do any of those. You do not check the car. You get in the car and you go, that’s it.
The automobile industry cultivated and completed another trust in your car but yet the rest of life, we have no trust.
Where’s the issue? Here’s the most important piece about that analogy. We have to learn to trust ourselves. When COVID hit, everyone was looking for the answer. The answer is within us. I always asked this question, “Who are you going to be in this? Whatever it is, who are you going to be what you’re going to be in? Are you going to be? How are you going to respond? How are you going to react? What are you going to do? What are you going to contribute? Are you going to be scared and fearful and paralyzed by this?” I know exactly what that’s like.
It’s not until you create a vision for yourself, create some level of certainty for yourself in who you are going to be. If you’re uncertain, it’s because you haven’t found a level of certainty within who you are going to be. Once you find certainty who you’re going to be in this, there lies the certainty, then you know, “This is what has to happen. This is the way I need to think this is the way I need to behave and this is the way I need to respond.” You are certain about that because of the decision that you’ve made about who you are going to be, and yet you can flex with that.
If that doesn’t work, if you find that doesn’t give you the amount of progress or improvement that you need, you will identify, “Maybe I need to be that type of person.” You can change. It’s not the end all be all. Life is all about figuring it out. You don’t have to get it right the first time. You’re not going to get it right for the first time. I love what you said. If you are here, that means you got to figure out who you’re going to be at this moment. This is all about who you decided to be given the circumstance. Powerful being or you can be a fearful being. It’s all up to you.
You said two things on that. One, there’s a thing by Marcus Aurelius and it’s a common stoic philosophy teaching where he says, “Decide what the worst possible outcome is and get okay with that.” To your point, we’re talking about taking that step. If I’m okay with the worst possible outcome, nothing’s going to affect me in the middle of that. I can go there knowing I’m already okay with whatever happens in the worst-case scenario. The second part is Jordan Peterson, but he might be taking it for somebody else who talks about we have to be fools, “We’re never going to become the master if we’re not willing to be the transforming fool.”
What I mean by that is we’re so afraid of being foolish. To your point about, who am I going to be? I don’t want to be foolish. I know that because that’s embarrassing. If I’m not willing to be foolish, and by transforming fool means I’m growing and learning, I’m never going to start. That’s the difference. You have to pick the end and the beginning. The end is I’m okay with the results. In the beginning, I’m okay with being a little bit foolish because I believe that I’m going to learn and transform and be flexible as I become whatever I am going to become.
You’re making a well-stated point here because, in order to become the master, you have to be the student at some point.
The student doesn’t know everything.
One of the good things about being a student is the willingness to learn. I believe that in life, we play in this field of adversity. All the ones that are the star players, the champions, the MVPs are the ones who’ve been through a couple of games, tough games, got hit, got knocked down, and in some cases got not completely out of the game. They have a callus on your mind, body, and hands because they played. In life, you have to play. You have to be willing to run your play, to get up after being hit, to figure things out, to develop another play to execute even in the midst of insurmountable defense, resistance, and challenges seeming insurmountable. It’s figuring it out. It’s playing that game even when you lose because I sometimes feel that when you lose, the games that you lose are the most valuable games because that’s where you learn the most.
The thing about it is, it doesn’t feel good to lose, get hit, and get knocked out of the game. It makes you look hard. Why did that happen? How can I avoid it? How can I prevent that the next time? That happens for the people who want to play. They want to get back in there and they want to learn. Those are the people. That’s what it takes. What we have with COVID, what we still have, because it’s still happening to some degree, is an opportunity. These are training grounds. No one wants to go to practice, but they want to be the star of the game. I don’t get that. You have to go to practice. If you can’t perform well in practice, I have no expectation of you in the game. You have to practice.
When we first started the conversation, we talked about the fight or flight response. When you’ve been in the jungle and you’ve seen a couple of lions and you’ve seen a couple of bears, your response might not be the same because now you’ve learned a couple of things. You know their weaknesses. You know they’re not as fast in this area. You know your strengths and how you can defeat them. You know where they’re not smart.The opportunities are embedded in the challenges. Click To Tweet
Being present in this, understanding and feeling those feelings, and then looking for new ways of being in these situations and taking note. There are going to be other challenges. There are going to be other levels of resistance that show up and these can be little tools in our toolbox that we can refer back to when we’re in those situations again and say, “No need to overreact. Calm down. This is what we need to do. This is where we need to go. This is who we’re going to be.”
Experience. It’s Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey. It’s the idea that we set out on this adventure, which is the blueprint for every film, specifically action films. We talked about that monster and the hero goes out and they defeat some initial enemies. All of a sudden, the real villain comes along and he knocks you down a peg or two and then you have to go to the inner process of like, “How do I overcome this thing?” Eventually, you garner the skills that allow you to beat the monster and you’re into the promised land.
What it doesn’t tell us is that we have to keep doing that journey over and over again in our life. What we don’t realize is happening when we watch these films is that it’s not a reflection of an outer journey. Those are all physical things. That’s a reflection of the inner journey that we’re in but the enemy is pain, fear, ego, jealousy. Those are the monsters that we’re battling inside of us. It’s like the lion, you learn their weaknesses. That’s why when you’re raising money, companies are always looking for what they call greybeard, which I have. They want that person who’s going to look at what you said, “I’ve been here before. I know the playbook. It’s one of these three things.”
We might not get it right but take a pause, look at which one of these ways we’re going to tackle this problem. It’s only one thing. It’s not everything. I feel this all the time. We get overwhelmed because something happens and then all of a sudden, the whole world blows up in our mind but it’s one thing. If we isolate and then remove it, we can block and tackle our way forward. You used the word paralyze. It’s a paralyzing feeling when one thing feels like everything. It feels like the whole world is falling because my underwear didn’t fit some guy.
For the people that are reading, we find ourselves in those seemingly defeated moments and we feel like there’s no play for this. It’s like, “I don’t know what to do.” I want you to think about the creative opportunity because that’s what you have. You have a creative opportunity. It’s an opportunity for you to carve a new path, to find a new way, a new play, a new journey if you will. It’s not over. That’s what I felt. I can’t emphasize this enough. I felt it was over but I realized I had a great opportunity.
I didn’t speak in terms of creative opportunity at the time. I called it to give yourself the opportunity of possibility. What’s the opportunity for something great to be possible? I didn’t say it’s going to happen but make it possible. When you bail out and that fight or flight response comes in, you’re done. You’re out of the game. You can’t play anymore. Your opportunity, your possibility, it doesn’t happen. There isn’t one because you’ve forfeited. You left the scene. You are through.
When you look for that creative opportunity, I understand the bear and tiger are there but I want to get on the other side of this thing. What is the creative opportunity? Is it to climb a tree, dig a ditch? We have to identify that. You have to be willing to stay in the fight long enough to identify the creative opportunity. The only way you do that is by managing yourself. You can’t manage defense. You can’t stop it. You can manage it. It’s going to be there. You can’t say, “I want you guys to take defense off the field because you guys are playing us a little bit too hard.” You don’t do that. It’s managing yourself. It’s not managing the defense. You can’t manage resistance. It’s there. It’s managing yourself with that resistance.
In my generation, they gave the whole idea of the participation medal being a problem because it’s taking away the defense. There can’t be a clear, “My talent or my work ethic leads to this result and there’s going to be resistance.” It’s not that you’re a bad person or your self-worth is down because you lost this thing. Where’s the creative opportunity? Is there another thing? It starts young. The opportunities are embedded in the challenges. That’s where we go to the challenge to find the opportunity. We climbed the mountain not to summit in and we’re done. It’s to see what else there is to climb. These things, I’m speaking them and you’re speaking them. I still deal with them every single day. It’s easy to riff off about the answers. I have cultivated the tools but it doesn’t mean I don’t have to battle with them every single day. I lose sometimes.
That’s the state of evolving. If life was a chart, it wouldn’t be a chart from A to Z in a straight line with an incline. It would be this upward motion and then a little dip, maybe even you know backward, a peak, downward, and then maybe it’ll go up higher than ever before. It will look like the NASDAQ on an unpredictable stock. It’s all over the place. You can’t predict where it’s going to be. That’s life. What you want to do is identify the progress that you’re making from day to day, month to month, year to year as a person, and how you’re handling those monsters that you talked about.
There should be less fear but then there are going to be new fears. Last year’s fear shouldn’t be next year’s fear but maybe it is because maybe it’s challenging for you to get over that. That’s okay. I don’t know what the trauma is. I can’t say that you should be over something because it could have affected you in a way that it takes time to get over. I’ve been paralyzed to some degree for years. I’ve overcome a lot but yet there’s still paralysis. There are still things that I have to overcome in my body and my identity dealing with this. There are challenges having a disability and being in society and the way society looks at you. That’s insecurity because of the disabilities sometimes that I have to overcome and deal with. I have to remind myself because society labels me and looks at me because I’m black. There are other things.
As an entrepreneur, you feel like, “I should be here. I’ve been in this business for X amount of years. I should be at this level. I should be making this money.” You should all over yourself. You have to manage all of that and it’s challenging and it takes work. It’s a process. What we’re summing up here is that this is how you navigate that process. These are all the things that are on the journey towards greatness, success, goals, and objectives. You climb that hill to see what else is there to climb. What else is there for me to do or contribute? That makes the climb purposeful and necessary, in my opinion.
We’re talking about fear and removing the fear of the outcome. What’s the worst possible scenario if I can remove that? Also, if I can cultivate complete trust, a lot of that fear starts to dissipate across the spectrum. One of the things that I’ve been practicing is not being afraid of emotions. We’re talking about what responses we can have. What if it didn’t matter if I was sad? What if sadness wasn’t a bad thing? What if depression or anger is an emotion and not a reaction that we experience? Not that we project it. It wasn’t a bad thing.
I don’t know if this is an East-West differentiation where we’ve put the emotions in this bad category of weakness when they are simply the human experience. They’re there and we have a terribly adverse relationship with them. Putting in the category of what’s the worst thing that could happen, I could be sad or I could be depressed for a small period of time and not looking at the worst thing only as monetary. I could go bankrupt.
All these things that I may experience are all part of that process. I’m not going to label them as bad or good. They are what they are as part of that process. The illusion is that they’re not going to happen. When we look back in our life, we experienced everything. When we look forward in our lives, it’s like, “I can’t experience any of those things.” You already did and you got through it. You’re here now so why can’t they be part of your future? We’re seeking this illusion of ease. It’s a funny relationship.
The feminine energy is better at using those emotions to regulate themselves to say, “I’m sad and therefore, I’m going to cry. Once I cry, I’m going to feel better.” The masculine is like, “Nope. Stuff it down.” It bottles up inside. Some cultures embrace the passion of anger and it releases it and then stuffs it inside. I suck at it. What if I let that emotion be? Would that free me even more? Would it make me unafraid of having that emotion again? I don’t know how you think about that.
Emotions are purposeful. If they didn’t serve a purpose, we wouldn’t have them. It’s all about how we manage it. Where can I get the most power out of this emotion? We always want to think constructively. I always try to look at how are things serving me? A part of me is aggressive. Anger is useful because it can put you into massive action. If you want to be angry, it’s what you’re going to do with the anger. I’m not going to go and beat anybody up, but because I’m angry, I’m going to go bang out whatever’s on my task list that I need to bang out. I have this energy right now and I’m going to go get 110% focused and get it done.
I believe in leveraging emotion. We can’t leverage everything. Sometimes when you’re sad, you need to cry. Sometimes they can be indications of actions you need to take such as meditate and heal. Maybe do nothing. There are times where we’re completely blah or it feels chaotic. The energy is staticky and I’m like, “I want to go. I had this plan. This is what I was going to do. It looks good. Let’s get it. Every time I make a turn, I’ll or go here. There’s resistance over there. There’s always something. A lot of conflicts.” I’m like, “I’m going to pay attention and I’m going to stop.” It may be a time for me to sit back and breathe and make sure that I’m consciously being and then observe.
It’s like being in tune with your body. It can communicate with you. Your emotions communicate back to us. A lot of times, we know our outer self but we don’t know our inner self enough to be as powerful as we could be. What that means is calm, peaceful, and confident. All the things would come being in a grounded version of yourself, getting to know it, and being okay with your feelings. Sometimes we talk about being expressive. We have this idea of what that looks like and it could be something that we feel doesn’t include some of the emotions that we experience sometimes. When we feel that emotion, we cut it off and we won’t allow it to come forward. We need to pay attention to why we feel the way we feel. Joel, how can people connect with you? If they want to learn more about you, if they want to get the book, Getting Naked, how can they reach you?
The best place to reach me is JoelPrimus.com. That’s the center of my universe. I got an Instagram and whatnot. You can find it all there. The book will be there. I blog, post a little, work through my thoughts there. Maybe you’ll find some cool habits, tricks, tips, favorite books, stuff like that on that site.
Thank you for doing that. Thank you for coming to the show. This has been a rich conversation with you. It’s good to sit down and get to know you a little bit and see what you’re all about. I’m grateful to have met you and have this opportunity to share this time with you. I appreciate you.
I appreciate you. Next time I’m in DC, we’ll hook up. It’s been a few years. I plan to be back.
Let’s do that. Of course, we always ask our guests before we end the show. How can we bounce back from adversity, dominate our challenges, and consistently win at the game of life?We need to embrace our weaknesses in order to free ourselves from our weaknesses. Click To Tweet
Playing off of the idea of awareness, we need to embrace our weaknesses to free ourselves from our weaknesses. Maybe there’s a whole conversation to be had about that. Maybe they just chew on that idea. Embrace your weakness to free yourself from your weakness.
Joel Primus, on The Game Changer Mentality podcast, thanks for coming on the show.
Thanks for having me.
Another successful episode of The Game Changer Mentality podcast. You’ve probably heard many times people say, “Work on your strengths. Play to your strengths.” To be a well-rounded player, sometimes you got to embrace your weaknesses. Weaknesses sometimes are overlooked. They expose us for who we are, a human being with weaknesses. That’s okay. Why? Weaknesses can be strengthened. Therefore, we need to embrace them so we can figure out how to make them better.
Everybody has weaknesses. When you strengthen those, you’re probably going to identify some new ones and some other ones but that’s life. That’s the beauty of being a game-changer, being someone who is putting in the work to be the best version of themselves. Keep doing that. The more you become aware, the stronger you are. It’s not one of those things you identify them and that makes you less capable or less confident. You know you can take action on things. It’s when you don’t know or you completely ignore it that makes you truly weak. Until next time, peace of love.
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About Joel Primus
Joel Primus is a serial entrepreneur, author, speaker, and award-winning filmmaker. He founded a premium underwear brand Naked and took the company public in 2015. He is also a founder of Kosan Travel adored by travelers around the world and a filmmaker behind the “Raising Global Citizens” documentary. Joel shares his business story in his book “Getting Naked” which is scheduled to b released in early 2021.
As a founder of Naked, Joel helped raise over $17M, establishing retail distribution at Holt Renfrew, Nordstrom, Hudson’s Bay, and Bloomingdale’s. The brand partnered with three-time NBA Champion Dwyane Wade for an exclusive Wade X Naked Collection and was worn in The Amazing Spider-Man. Recently, Joel co-founded Kosan, a travel clothing company that launched one of the most successful Kickstarter apparel products of all time — reaching over $1M in sales in 30 days.
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