Change Your Life by Unlocking Your True Motivation with Bryan Falchuk #179

Aaron McHugh

 
 

In 2018, I interviewed Bryan Falchuk, author of Do a Day: How to Live a Better Life Everyday. What struck me about Bryan was how his lowest-life moment, became his redefining inspiration. Here’s what he had to say, “I walked into our room and my wife’s in bed, my son’s standing there and he’s looking at his mother who’s dying in front of his eyes and he turns and looks at me and it all smacked me in the face. It’s like, ‘what are you doing? You’re failing her. You’re failing him.

And I’m feeling ‘why do I have to have such a miserable life,’ everything’s falling apart and somehow I’m still standing and I’m not homeless and I’m not, missing a limb or, some other much more extreme thing. So maybe it’s not as bad as I always am so insistent that it is and all that just hit me in that moment.”

Everything changed for Bryan when he had a wake-up moment in 2011 when his wife’s life was threatened by a chronic illness while his 2-year old son watched the whole thing unfold.

About Bryan’s Book Do a Day: How to Live a Better Life Everyday

“I find this book an inspiration to live life to its very fullest.” San Francisco Book Review

Do A Day teaches his approach to unlock your true motivation and use it to overcome life’s challenges and achieve your goals free of judgment of past choices, or fear of what lies ahead. People don’t change. Lives do. Do a Day is how you can change your life.

Bryan Falchuk overcame adversity, lost nearly 100 pounds, ran a marathon, dramatically changed his diet and created an approach to help others live a better life, every day. That way is Do a Day.

Like so many people, Bryan has faced challenges in life, like obesity, depression, work stress, the responsibilities of parenthood, the potential of losing his wife to illness, and more. And he struggled, like anyone else. Through that struggle, Bryan learned the secret to not just overcoming any individual challenge, but creating a life of achievement, happiness and harmony. In Do a Day, you will learn how to make each day contribute to your goals so you can live the life you want to live – a better life.

Do a Day will free you of the burden and judgment of yesterday‘s choices, while relieving you of the pressure of what tomorrow may bring. By teaching you how to identify your true motivation and how to use that to focus on what you have to do today, Do a Day will help you change your life.

About Bryan Falchuk

Bryan Falchuk is a best-selling author, speaker and life coach. He has faced major adversities and learned how to overcome and achieve. From obesity to running marathons, from career struggles to success as a C-level executive, from watching illness threaten his family to finding lasting health, he has been through many lessons he used to develop his unique approach to inspiring others to succeed. Bryan’s work has been featured in several top publications like Inc. Magazine, The LA Times, Chicago Tribune and more. He has spoken at multiple TEDx events, and has been a featured guest on over 100 podcasts and radio shows.

Bryan Falchuck living life from his newfound operating system of true motivation.

Transcription of my interview with Bryan Falchuk

Bryan Falchuk:

On June 30th and her doctor called to basically tell me, he gave up and he’s going on vacation and we’ll talk in six weeks, and she weighed about a hundred pounds and she was losing two pounds a day at that point. And that’s when it’s like, you know, she’s not going to be here in six weeks. And he just goes, okay, take her to the ER. And he hung up

Bryan Falchuk:

I walked into our room and my wife’s in bed, my son’s standing there and he’s looking at his mother who’s dying in front of his eyes and he turns and looks at me and it all smacked me in the face. It’s like, what are you doing? You know, you’re failing her. You’re failing him. Like if this little boy is going to have any shot at happiness, it’s not going to be with his only parent. And I’m feeling myself, like why do I have to have such a miserable life, you know, for all these moments of everything’s falling apart somehow I’m still standing and I’m not homeless and I’m not, you know, missing a limb or, or some other much more extreme thing. So maybe it’s not as bad as I always am so insistent that it is and all that just hit me in that moment.

Bryan Falchuk:

And I went to bed that night and when I woke up the next morning, I was still feeling this power, the sense of like purpose. And I’m a pretty introspective guys, so I realized that this was different. And I, I could either just let it be different and let it fade away or I can grab a hold of it like a lifeline. And that’s, that’s what I chose to do. And that, part of that is being willing to look within myself. And I talk about that a lot in the book. Is there a few key first steps that you have to, you have to do, and this is the stuff that I figured out. You know, as I looked at what I was feeling and tried to understand it better, the first, and I’ll say I actually didn’t put this in the book when I first published it a year ago and I just republished it for the one year anniversary and added this section.

Bryan Falchuk:

It’s on self-love. Self-love is the first step. Like I talk about building a house of success. You don’t just build a house by star, you know, banging on nails and lay in brick or something. You have to find solid ground and that’s self-love. So if you don’t think that you deserve to have better and you don’t think you’re capable of it and guess what, you’re not going to have it. You have to get to a place of allowing for the possibility that you deserve a better life. And I definitely was not in that place before and you have to allow for the possibility that you’re capable of it. So say more about that

Aaron:

Then. Bryan, if you, even in writing it a year ago, the first time you published it, that wasn’t part of it. But now in your own discovery and journey and other conversations, how has that become this pivotal foundational piece that you now start with?

Bryan Falchuk:

I don’t think I appreciated just how important it was because for me, a lot of the time, regardless of self-love, I still have this sense of obligation and I would power through my sense of not deserving it or being capable. I do it anyway. And as I coached a lot of people, a lot of the people I worked with were just so down on themselves and I look at all the facts about them and all the opportunity and I don’t see what they see, but when I listen to them, I’m hearing the pain with which they talk about themselves. We as a society are very self-deprecating. We spend so much time talking down compliments that either others put out about us or that we put out about ourselves or we won’t put out about ourselves because we’ve talked ourselves out of it before we even said it.

Aaron:

So does state. That lesson then is to allow the those facts that are actually just true. That may be actually complimentary. Like, Oh you went to a good school. I just, I just hung up from a coaching call. We isolated the facts from the self-deprecation. Yeah. And we’re able to just say, okay listen, let’s kick, could the facts of this exist on this side? And then we could push pause for any of the commentary to be pushed off for the moment. Can we just pause that? So you’re saying you’re experiencing that a lot also in people’s lives.

Bryan Falchuk:

Yeah and it became so clear to me that I need to make this a more explicit lesson. So I added a chapter to sort of like step zero cause you know, then I’ve got my step one, which is to find your true motivation and you can call it your purpose or your why or whatever you want to call it. That’s the thing that was really thrust upon me is this sense of my responsibility as a husband. Definitely my responsibility to my son and wanting to be the right kind of father to him and you know, giving him a chance in this life and being a good example to him. But ultimately my responsibility to myself and what I actually want for my life, which is not this miserable existence of everything failing. And I’m constantly like, you know, hyperly running around trying to keep the walls from falling in or whatever.

Bryan Falchuk:

Ridiculousness, you know? And so I, I talk about values in that true motivation. And then I, I pose some questions and I do this with my coaching is like some introspective questions to get people thinking about what matters to them. But those, those points are, it’s going to be deep within you. You know, it’s, when I lost weight the first time it was so the other kids in high school didn’t think of me as the fat kid. Like that’s all external now there’s a lot of emotion internally and maybe I’m putting that, that sentiment in their heads on their behalf and they don’t really care whether I’m fat or not. But to me it’s like, Oh, they all think I’m the fat kid. You know? No girl will go out with me. So it’s, it’s all external. There’s nothing in me directly that I’m in touch with.

Bryan Falchuk:

So it’s gotta be for true motivation. It’s gotta be within you. The next is it has to endure. So when I, when I lost weight that first time was in high school and then I went to college and none of those high school kids, you thought I was the fat kid went to school with me. So my motivation stopped. How many people lose weight for their wedding or you know, saving up to buy a house. So they stopped spending frivolously and they get to a certain point. And then what you, when, when your motivation has an end date, how can it keep motivating them? So we’re not talking about these sort of like short term goal kind of things. We’re talking about your true values in your life. And the last thing I call out specifically, although it’s sort of a part of the other points, but non material, I think that’s really important because a lot of people talk about motivation in terms of stuff and things out there.

Bryan Falchuk:

You know, like I want to be CEO so I make a lot of money so I can buy a Ferrari or I want to buy a house. You know, I want a big house. It’s like those are things, can we, let’s work this back to values. You know, why do you want a big house? What does that really about? And so you start to get into people’s sense of themselves and feeling adequate or wanting to provide for their family and that being a symbol of it. But then we’re talking about providing for your family and now we’re talking about the value of, of your role in that family and love. And you know, it’s, you bring it back to the true values that will endure whether you still have the house or not or whether he gets in a wreck or whatever. I hope not. I love cars.

Aaron:

So tell me, I’m curious, what’s your experience, Bryan, with why this question of motivation and values and purpose is so challenging for so many people to name and be clear on?

Bryan Falchuk:

Yeah, that’s a, that’s a really good question. And I think the reality is we all have it within us. We just don’t want to do the work. So, you know, for me it was thrust upon me. For those of us who’ve had that sort of gun in your face moment, we’re forced to do it. But you can do it without that. It’s just a question of whether you’re willing to do that introspective work and maybe it means you need help and maybe you’re not capable of it yet, or you don’t know the ways to push yourself. Or maybe you need support through that process because you may unpack some really difficult stuff that you’re probably aware of subconsciously. But as a society, we don’t take the time for that. We go through life really mindlessly. You know, you look at the title of your show, work life, play, work life is how most of us live. Like we’re just automatons going. Like I always say, I wasn’t living my life. I was an employee of it and I was like a disgruntled employee. It’s miserable. And that’s how so many of us are.

Aaron:

Yeah. I say I was managing my life. I wasn’t experiencing and living in. Sure. Yeah, sure. I really love your clarity on this piece of motivation and values. You’ve had a gun in your face moment. I’ve had gun in my face moments, but the alternative is to sign up to do the work. Yeah. And I’m just curious if you find that to be kind of a buzzkill answer for a lot of people cause they really looking for aisle nine, you know, the second down to the left where the pill they can just take to say, my life is really shitty and I would just like to take the pill to figure out what I’m supposed to do with it. Yeah. And that’s what we’re taught to want. Yeah. It’s unfortunate because I think that the things that will sustain us most, like our values and what’s deeply motivating, which the big house is fine if there’s a deeper value and a deeper reason, intrinsic transcendent motivation for that.

Aaron:

And some of that might be that I would really love to have a big house so that we could host all the time. Or I want to spend half the year away traveling while we Airbnb it for half, but there’s something in it other than just the street value of having a big fancy house or whatever the example would be. So, I’m curious, when you start working with people then and you start giving them the buzzkill answer, what’s your experience with how often people are willing, whether with your help or on their own to actually begin that journey to go on a quest to find out what’s meaningful to them?

Bryan Falchuk:

Yeah, so I’ve had one person stop after the first session. He, he wants to go on the journey, but he’s just not ready for it. Yeah, he’s self-medicating quite a bit right now. And so he’s got a different kind of journey to go through first, you know, but everyone else that I’ve worked with has been willing to put in the work and that’s awesome. But I have people who’ve reached out, you know, like tell me about your coaching services, you know, how does it work? And that’s the last I’ll hear from them and maybe I just said the wrong thing. And turn them off. Maybe I wasn’t the right fit for them, which, you know, those are all fine or maybe they just there’s part of them that is awake enough to be like, I’m awake enough to know this is a dream, but I don’t know how to wake up from it.

Bryan Falchuk:

And I’m not really interested in waking up just yet because that’s going to be a lot. And yeah, that’s kind of the point. Like it can be a lot, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. And yeah, you just want the answer, but that’s not going to last. So I just lost weight and I use the word just like a four letter word, but I didn’t fix the underlying reasons. Like I wasn’t, you know, I said it wasn’t fat cause I ate too much. So I stopped eating so much. I started moving more and I lost a lot of weight. I lost a hundred pounds and I got really fit. And when I went to college and no one knew me as the fat kid, I knew me as the fat kid. And, and you know, people like, Oh, body dysmorphia. I’m like, it’s not body dysmorphia. It’s actually emotional dysmorphia. If that’s a thing, like I, I hadn’t developed the system in myself to see myself differently yet. So if, you know, if someone showed interest in me that just didn’t even compute.

Aaron:

So self-love wasn’t a directive that you operated out of every day. None of it was working and it was not headed towards a good destination. And then you had this really big alarming wakeup call with your wife’s health, fast forward us then now you’re at what, seven years plus from that a big event and now you coach folks and write books and speak and when you boil it and distill it down, what are kind of some of just some practical basics that you recognize. So you, you have to be able to sign up and be willing to do the work. So that’s step one. Then what’s another key for people as they’re listening of wondering if they need to make a change. They know they’re, they think they’re ready. What are the other things that you can just awaken them to?

Bryan Falchuk:

So there’s two key things. The first is get really curious about yourself. So that’s, that’s that word. Why keep asking over and over again. Press yourself to, to really get to understand yourself better and what makes you tick. That’s how you’re going to uncover your true motivation. Once you do grab hold of the power of that and anytime, you’re facing those moments of self-doubt or unsure whether you can get through or something looks too daunting, dig into it. Like when, when we say dig deep, this is what you’re digging for. And use that to get you through. And the last thing I tell people is it’s do a day itself, which is an execution approach. And that’s all about being mindful in how you go about things. So in every moment we tend to live with a lot of yesterday and tomorrow. So yesterday is all this pain, you know, from things that have been done to us or that we think have or we’ve experienced or maybe something we’ve done wrong that we were Brett or something we’ve lost. And we pull that pain forward into today. You argued with someone yesterday and it’s unresolved. You didn’t deal with it. So now next time you see them you’re probably going to go on with trepidation. You might say something that you probably shouldn’t say. They might do it like you’re gonna end up probably butting heads again cause you’re bringing the pain of yesterday into today and you’re making your choices and how you interact with them with that pain.

Aaron:

Yeah, that’s really good. How I say those similar things is that we don’t come with an owner’s manual and so you, the only way to actually get really clear on us as an individual basis is to actually begin to write some things down and to say, observe, take notice, become a student and to find out what makes you tick and why it’s super helpful. So the people I notice that are up to really neat things in the world that I admire and look up to and get excited about, those people have best I can see from the outside. They’ve clearly done that work and signed up for the no pill work. Yeah. The quest of discovering what makes them work. And the reason I mentioned earlier about being a buzzkill, I just notice a lot of times is people respond so well to even like a talk title of this podcast of how to live a better life. Every day I go, sweet, I want to listen to it when they hear, sorry friends. Oh by the way, you got to sign up to do some deep work, but it’s actually really beautiful work because you can actually get to the bottom of it and it takes some time, but it’s way more liberating and empowering and exciting. Enjoy producing than just being a disgruntle employee or a passenger in your own life.

Bryan Falchuk:

Yeah. And then you can deal with all of those moments going forward because you’ve now built the tools for it instead of the one moment you took a pill for

Aaron:

You’re listening to another episode of work life play and today’s episode is brought you by my 2020 snail mail old school experiment. Do you ever go on a camp or like away from your family as a kid and then you’d get a letter in the mail and it was like such a big deal. You had lost contact with the real world for a while and then you had, you know, there was a picture or the postcard or just kind of some cool connection. Well I realized that one of the things that we can do more of as humans is connect more in our digital world. Just is proven that it doesn’t actually produce more connection.

However, a letter in the mail from a friend would. So what I’ll be doing is quarterly starting in April, 2020 sending out the snail mail updates and less about like a blog post and more about a letter from a friend. So if that’s your kind of jam, your cup of tea and you’d love to receive a letter from a friend and it may even have free prize inside. Just saying you can find all the details and sign ups at AaronMcHugh.com.

Bryan Falchuk:

Do a day is the past and the other half is the future. And this is, this was my, my drug of choice was, you know, all my anxiety was all the things that were going to go wrong. I was so certain, you know, like without a doubt this is going to fall apart if I don’t step in. Well, the thing is you don’t know what’s going to happen. And if you make choices in the present moment based on what you’re afraid of happening later, you may actually bring those things apart. You’re not going to make those choices in the present moment with the freedom and clarity of opportunity to see a way around it or to follow, to go down a path that actually completely means that that thing won’t ever happen. So, you know, in the same way that we live with all this pain of yesterday, we also live and make choices in the present moment with this fear and anticipation around everything that we think is going to befall us later.

Bryan Falchuk:

And the whole thing about yesterday and tomorrow is it’s never yesterday and tomorrow. It’s always only today. And that sounds kind of corny, but it’s reality. So like, look, the past is the past. You need to own your mistakes and, and understand the pains and all that for sure, but you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. So let go of it for a minute. And regardless of what does or doesn’t happen in the future, you can still do what you need to do right here, right now in pursue your true goals with that connection to your motivation to move you forward. And what you find is when you’re free of yesterday and tomorrow, you can start to achieve in ways you’ve never even believed. It just, it builds if you allow it to. But you gotta be free of whether you won yesterday or not.

Bryan Falchuk:

You know, did I do it yesterday? Did I do it wrong or not well enough or, or you or I did it, but now you know, will I ever do it again? Like that doesn’t matter. That noise, right? Yeah. And it doesn’t matter how many more times you have to do it or not. It’s like, you know, one of the key things for me was facing that anxiety, which meant I need to go get help for it, which is something I had every excuse in the book not to do. And a big piece of it was, I couldn’t see how I could like logistically make it work with my schedule and financially, especially once my, my wife’s medical bills started coming into the mix. It’s like how can we add more medical bills? But you know, it’s like I’m not trying to find a way to schedule 20 appointments. I just need to schedule one cause I’m not having 20 appointments right now and I lost a hundred pounds. I wasn’t losing a hundred pounds right now. I just needed to do this day. Right. And it will contribute to losing a hundred pounds

Aaron:

Translate for us. Then from those call it building principals. And for you, where has that brought you now? Seven years later. So what is your life like differently today that you would have never imagined, I would guess based on what, what you were doing previously?

Bryan Falchuk:

Yeah. Well, and I love that you said that because one thing I keep saying to people is the things that I’ve achieved over the past seven years, they weren’t even on the list for me to be like, Oh, that’s impossible. Like I wouldn’t even have considered them to blow them off. And that’s pretty wild when you think about it. So like I’ve run a marathon, I never even ran seven years ago. I was mortified of it and I talk about it in the book. It’s like I hadn’t experienced as a child where as the fat kid at summer camp, like in 105 degree heat, the camp counselors lined all the fattest kids in camp against each other to do a an eight 80 race around the track. And I passed out at the end, I had like 250 kids pointing and laughing at me every single time at lease up, there’s a twinge of anxiety in me. But every time there’s a little piece of me that’s still tied to that past and I recognize it and I put it in its place and I don’t let it stop me, but I’m aware of the power of it.

Aaron:

So would it be fair to say that even in the work, and you’re doing this both professionally and personally, that the old stories still can have some remnants in linger, but that doesn’t mean that you still can’t move forward. So I think a lot of times people are discouraged when they’re doing the work. They are making some progress, but then surprise by how many twinges are left. Like when you got a lace up. So say more about that.

Bryan Falchuk:

It’s not perfection. And so for people who are like, wow, I can’t believe you just submitted that. And I’m like, what? I’m just a human and this is life. Like my life has not stress-free. My not life is not smooth sailing. We have plenty of things that I deal with. It just doesn’t bother me in the same way cause I’m well aware of my ability to get through it and to thrive despite that. Like to think that you get to a place where life is a okay, that’s not actually the way the world works and that’s fine cause I’m still here, you know, so,

Aaron:

So you’re celebrating more, it sounds like then too, in your current life for whatever comes your way and celebrating the wins and celebrating what, what in all those fears of tomorrow or the regrets of the past, it sounds like you’re more effectively pushing those off and allowing them to kind of just live in a separate container then driving all of your decisions and all your thinking today.

Bryan Falchuk:

Yeah. And you know, Aaron, I think there’s a really key difference to the way that I look at it from how some other like ultra-positivity, self-help like guru ish books out there. They’re kind of like you know, ignore it. Like, Oh, you know, just pretend it didn’t happen and just believe and like, believe you’ve won the lottery and you’ll win the lottery. I don’t, I don’t operate that way. I don’t ignore the fact that, you know what? Like that running experience as a kid, like that was really traumatic and I was super embarrassed and it was physically scary and like that’s all real. I’m not like, it didn’t happen. I don’t want to talk about like, you don’t, you don’t bury things. It’s actually not the way it works. They’re still there. So instead of recognize, like, you know what? That was really challenging and I’m also going to recognize that it still affects me, even though it doesn’t need to, but it does. And so I’m going to recognize it and put it in its place and try to understand it. And that’s holistically in life, like good and bad. I’m not perfect. I don’t react perfectly every time I acknowledge these things and I try to understand them for my own betterment and to try to help those around them.