The Jay Kim Show #52: Craig Ballantyne (Transcript)
Today’s show guest is Craig Ballantyne, also known as the world’s most disciplined man by his friends and coaching clients. Craig is a fitness and performance coach who helps stressed out executives and entrepreneurs achieve extraordinary results in every aspect of their lives.
He’s been a contributor to Men’s Health Magazine for over 17 years and is the author of The Perfect Day Formula, which is a book that explains the five pillars of success for anyone to use to make more money, lose weight, find the love of your life, and overcome pretty much any obstacle in your way.
If you are a busy entrepreneur or a business owner or just a busy professional, this is definitely an episode for you. I can relate to many, many of the principles that Craig teaches. Let’s jump right in.
Jay: Hi Craig. Thanks so much for coming on the show. We’re very happy to have you out here. For our audience here, listening in from Asia, can you please tell us who is Craig Ballantyne and what do you do for a living?
Craig: Yes. Very, very good question, Jay. It’s also great to be here. Hello to everybody listening. Hey, my name’s Craig Ballantyne. I started in the fitness industry many, many years ago. I got a masters degree in exercise physiology, and I got really lucky in 2000. In the year 2000, I started writing for Men’s Health Magazine. I built up this program called Turbulence Training, which was this fitness program that I’ve sold over 100,000 copies around the world. That was my real big thing for about 15 years. Then, I wrote this new book, The Perfect Day Formula, which you’re living right now, Jay, I’m living right now, and everybody who is proactive and successful is living it right now. Hopefully, we can talk about that today.
Jay: Yeah, absolutely. I’m especially excited for today’s show episode because I’m also kind of a fitness guy, but I’m also a huge advocate of waking up early and getting on with your day. I’ve been a morning workout guy for over a decade. It really is one of the key moments that changed my life for the better. I think all, many entrepreneurs will swear by fitness being a very important, an integral part of their success.
Let’s get right into it. Thanks for the intro, by the way. Tell us how you went from being a fitness guy to literally parleying that into being a very successful entrepreneur. At what point along the way did you transition from okay I’m no longer just going to be writing in Men’s Health Magazines and obviously selling your Turbulence Training program, but really being a performance coach, like a high-level performance coach for peak performers?
Craig: Yeah, that’s a good question. It goes way back to about the year 2006. I actually struggled through some real severe anxiety. At that time, I realized I got to put a little bit more structure in my day, which allowed me to become more successful. Then, I also had hired a business coach at the same time, and we were putting me on the path to creating a business that helped people not only with fitness, but also improve their wealth and improve their family life and just become overall much wiser in many areas of their life.
I learned then I needed to go out and network with people. I needed to become a better coach. I needed to start my own coaching program. I needed to become a better writer, and I needed to really step out of my comfort zone and overcome my natural introverted state and learn how to become a good speaker. I started doing all of those things in about 2007, and then it was just several years after that, I had enough people join my mastermind group and then started doing one-on-one coaching that I dipped my toe into helping these people 10X their lives, 10X their business and started with phone coaching and worked up to these real small group workshops that I have now with the, like you said, high performers, really elite performers in the business world.
Jay: Is one of the tenets still the fitness side of things? How important is that in to someone’s success?
Craig: It is very important. As you mentioned, doing it first thing in the morning is, well, you probably do it because it’s really helpful to you. You get a good start to the day. Way back in 2002, 2003 when I was a struggling personal trainer, I was successful enough, but it wasn’t like I am today. I was a personal trainer, and I had all these CEO clients. Jay, they would almost fight over that 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. time slot. Young guy, I was 27 years-old. I was thinking, “Why do these people want to be up at this time of day working out?” I realized that if they didn’t do it at that time of day, they wouldn’t get it done at all. They wanted to have energy. They wanted to have focus. They wanted to be fit because they knew that they are fighter jets, and they need to be mentally performing at a high level, and the only way that you can be mentally perform at a high level is to physically be fit at a high level.
They were taking care of their nutrition, overcoming all the temptations, using my workout programs to get a lot of results in a short amount of time, and that allowed them to go into the office and dominate their days and be focused in meetings and really get a lot done, so they get home on time and spend quality time with their families. That was when I realized, holy cow. There’s more to this than just looking good. It’s really about performing at a high level in every area of your life.
Jay: That’s right. That’s actually the main reason myself that I started working out in the morning is because there was always something after work. Drinks or meetings. You’re just bushed at the end of the day, and the last thing you want to do is get into the gym and get a workout. Even if you do get there, it’s not going to be a good one. When I made a commitment to start working out in the morning, it literally changed my life.
Your book, thank you for sending that over, The Perfect Day Formula. I read it in one sitting. I kind of feel like I wish I had read this maybe 10 years ago because a lot of the same things that you talk about in your system there, I had to struggle and figure out on my own. As I was reading it, I was like, “Man, I wish I had met Craig 10 years ago because he would’ve made my life so much easier and I could’ve just accelerated everything, all my progress,” and so I’m really exited to share your book and the message with my audience today because I think it’s going to really help them level up their lives and their careers.
Let’s jump into the book. You’ve structured the book in several different ways, but I think on the big picture level there’s something that you call the 3-C Formula, so maybe we can start there, and we can dig into the different sections of your book.
Craig: Yeah, absolutely. I learned the 3-C Formula by studying Stoic philosophy, which is actually becoming very popular. My friends Tim Ferriss and Ryan Holiday have written about it a lot. There’s this one quote from a philosopher named Epictedes, and I got this from this little book, a translation of Epictetus’ teachings called “The Art of Living,” which is almost like my horoscope. I read like a little page a day. It’s really cool. It’s like the Tao Te Ching. It’s a really simple read, and it feels like it’s speaking to you every day.
There’s a quote in it where Epictetus says, “Control what you can, cope with what you can’t, and concentrate on what counts.” As soon as I read that, I went, “Oh my goodness. That is the secret to life. That is the secret to having way less stress.” Every day, I just realized hey, I can’t control whether or not my friends are in a bad mood or I’m stuck in traffic or it’s raining out, but I can control my reaction to it.
Then, I realized, Jay, as I was starting to put together my book and it was a real struggle to take all of these things in my head and put them down in a logical, organized manner. I mean actually ended up writing 300 pages of the book, and it came out to be like 140 pages, thanks to my editor, but I took that 3-C Formula, control what you can, cope with what you can’t, and concentrate on what counts, and I applied it to the three parts of the day because it really, I don’t know, I must have had a flash of insight where I realized, you know what? You control your morning. Then, everything goes to chaos in the afternoon, but you can cope with that chaos if you plan ahead for the obstacles that you know are going to come up into your way, and then, you do all of this planning and all of this work so that in the evenings, most people, they go home and they concentrate on what counts, which is family time. Their spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, their children, their parents, whatever there is that they’re doing, they’re taking care of, their health, their hobbies, their relaxation. We want to have that free time.
I’m an old school guy, Jay. I like to have what I call separation of work and home life, where you don’t take your work home and go in and out of work for the hours where you should be spending time with your families. That’s what I’m trying to teach people in the book so that they make the most of their lives, and it all comes down to that 3-C Formula
Jay: That was one of the messages that jumped out at me. Look, when reading your book, it was funny because a lot of the stuff that’s, I deal with a little bit of high-level, high-end fitness coaching. I don’t go into the performance stuff as much as you do, but more on the fitness side, but a lot of the same discipline type tenets that you talk about in the book, I totally get. It resonates with me very loudly. I teach many of the same principles, and a lot of people are like, “Oh, man. What is this? Like the military? You’re so strict on this stuff,” but when you really abide by this sort of structure, it really does help provide a level of freedom. That was one of the biggest messages in the book that jumped out at me on how, as you say, structure actually gives you freedom in your life. It’s counterintuitive until you dig into it. Maybe you can talk a little bit on that.
Craig: Yeah, absolutely. I loved this phrase because it is, as you said, counterintuitive, and I call it a paradox. When you have more structure, you have more true freedom in your life. I discovered this the hard way by having what a lot of people want in terms of freedom. I had true freedom. I was able to quit my job as a personal trainer. I was able to do whatever I wanted all day long because my online business was successful. That way, I ended up working too much because I didn’t have boundaries, and then I was also going out and partying too much at night, and I ended up with the anxiety attacks.
Then, I read this book by a guy named Paulo Coelho who’s an author or millions of copies of books. “The Alchemist” and many other great books. He’s very famous. He has a quote that says, “Discipline and freedom are not mutually exclusive but mutually dependent because otherwise, we would sink into chaos.” Jay, I actually did sink into chaos because I had too much freedom and not enough discipline.
There’s another very popular these days, Jocko Willink, who has a phrase, “Discipline equals freedom.” You see that in the military quite a bit. It truly is applicable to everybody’s life. If you are really structured in your day, then you can go home and be truly free at night, but most people, they kind of want to do whatever at work. They want to bounce around to social media whenever they want. They want to be on their favorite website whenever they want. Then, they go home, and they’re in a prison of having to check email because they didn’t get all their work done or having to stay late and work overtime because they didn’t get all their work done during the day. Had they put that structure in, they would’ve had true freedom.
To go back what you said, there’s a lot of overlap between the way you coach your fitness clients and the way that I coach my high-performance clients it’s because I learned so many of my success lessons from taking people through weight loss transformation contests. That’s where I discovered my five pillars of transformation, which applied to having success in any area of your life. It’s the same sort of stuff that you teach.
There’s not a lot of revolutionary stuff in my book, but it’s this holistic approach from the fitness world, the business world, the entrepreneurship word, the mindset personal development worlds that all come together to make a high performer in any area of life.
Jay: Yeah, absolutely. When I was reading your book, you did such a good job of organizing it to where it’s very easy and very clear. The concepts like you said, I’ve heard before, and it’s like, “Okay. Yeah. That makes sense. I’ve heard this before.” You hear these sort of things that this works, but the way you structured it, I think, for the reader was very powerful. Let’s jump into the five pillars of personal transformation, which is the secret sauce, so to speak. Can you walk us through those five pillars, each of those five pillars, and how maybe each of them can help our audience directly, immediately if they start taking action today?
Craig: I discovered these five pillars through, as I mentioned before, the weight loss transformation contest that I had, which were classic. You take a before photo, you do my program for 12 weeks, you do an after photo, and then you write a little essay about your experiences in it. I discovered that after about three of these contests that the winners always had these five things in place. They were always the ones who just had amazing results. It was better planning and preparation than ever before. It was professional accountability. It was positive social support. There was a meaningful incentive. It was the big deadline.
When you put these in place, not only can you transform your body, but you can transform your mind. You could overcome bad habits. You can find the love of your life. You can find the home of your dreams. You can get a raise. You can write a book. Whatever you want. Here’s how that breaks down. In fact, you can even overcome anxiety because I realized when I overcame my anxiety, I used these five pillars to break free, but it wasn’t until two years after that I finally connected the dots.
When you have better planning and preparation in place, that’s the first pillar, then, you go from just having this vague wish or vague dream, you just want to lose 20 pounds, well, that’s not a good plan, but if you say, “Hey. I want to lose 20 pounds in 10 weeks, and I’m going to follow Jay’s program, and I’m going to follow this nutrition program from Jay, and I’m going to drink this much water every day, and I’m going to get this much sleep every day,” that’s better planning than you’ve probably ever done before. That’s half the battle. Now, you just go out and have to take action of course, but most people, they just are confused. They don’t know where to start. That’s the number one obstacle for most people in life.
That was a study that I read about career change. They said the number one problem, the number one reason that most people don’t make a career change, even though they really want to, is they just don’t know where to start. Better planning and preparation is pillar number one.
Second pillar is professional accountability. This is what you are, Jay. You are the expert. Professional accountability means having a coach because a coach is going to give you two things that nobody else is going to give you. The first is expert advice. The second is hardcore accountability. What that means is most other people, they’re going to say, if you screw up, they’ll say, “Hey, you know what? Don’t worry about it. You’re going to get back on track. Don’t worry.” But the coach, the coach is going to come in there and say, “Listen. You screwed up. I understand. There’s nothing we can do about it, the past, but let’s put in place a system where you don’t mess up again in the future,” and they give you the advice, and they hold you accountable. It’s really tough on the coach, and it’s really tough on the client, but it is that professional accountability that means so much.
The third pillar is positive social support. These are your cheerleaders in life. The people that will pick you up when you’re feeling down. They’re not going to give you expert advice, but everybody needs these people on dark days and through tough times.
Fourth is the meaningful incentive. This is something that I changed in the past that just used to be incentive. I used think like hey, if you paid yourself a couple hundred bucks to lose weight, then that would be enough, but I found out, through my contest because I’m giving away $1,000 to the winners of four categories in my contest. I’ve given away over 100 grand to winners, but still, people drop out, even though there’s money on the line. I realized the people that drop out don’t have a meaningful incentive. A meaningful incentive. That could be something like having more energy for your children. When I heard that from guys all the time or the fact that their doctor said you either shape up or you’re going to probably die in about six months, that was a meaningful incentive. That got them to stick to the program and go through the tough times. It has to be meaningful to you. I can’t be applied to you by society’s standards. No. It has to be meaningful to you. You can’t do it for somebody else. You have to do it for yourself.
Finally, the fifth pillar is the most important of all. It’s the big deadline. It’s having that 12-week contest, that 21-day habit change, that 90-day program. Whatever it is, it has to have a deadline because the deadline gets you to take action in the first place, keeps you going through the middle when you’re really slogging through those tough times, and then it speeds you up as you get closer and closer to the deadline because that’s just human nature. We wait until the last minute to take action. We have to have a deadline in place.
Those are the five pillars, Jay.
Jay: That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing those. I think there’s so much that really is powerful there and resonates. One of the things that especially as not only as fitness coaches, but it’s a very big part of fitness transformation is having a clear vision, like you said, and a very specific goal. I love how that translate into your professional life as well because so many of us go through life and if you don’t actually know what you want to achieve in life from a professional standpoint it’s like you’re on a mission with no map. You have no compass or no idea of where you want to end up.
I know that professionally when you are trying to achieve something, it’s also very important to have those goals and accountability obviously professional coaching, career coaching, is a huge thing that you do as well. It’s the accountability. All these things come down to having someone there to help you, guide you, and nudge you along the way when you need that. I love those five pillars.
You mentioned earlier something about how maybe it’s easier to tackle the morning, but then come afternoon, the challenges come up again because maybe physically you’re getting tired after lunch or just you’ve had a lot going on. You actually spend a large portion of your book, you have an entire section called “Conquering the Afternoon.” Tell us a little bit about some of the strategies that you have for getting over the hump, so to speak.
Craig: Yeah, it’s a great question because so many people, they’re going to run into emergencies and all these obstacles in the way in the afternoon. Even if you work with anybody, your colleagues are going to say, “Hey, can you help me out?” Or “I need this by 3:00 p.m.” If you have kids, the kids might get sick. All these crazy things can come into place, but we can also plan the best that we possibly can in order to deal with those obstacles,
What I like to do is I like to have all my clients sit down and think about all the obstacles that are in their way, and even just about 5 or 10 minutes, you can think ahead to the week, and you can say, “Oh, on Tuesday afternoon, I have a really crazy day with meetings, and then I have to go and take the kids to sports and all that stuff, and it doesn’t look like I’m going to have time to go out and get my regular nutrition, so I’m going to have plan ahead. I’m going to have to prepare this food. I’m going to have to think about how I’m going to drive from work to get the kids and then take the kids to soccer so I drive by a place that has healthy food.”
What you’re doing there is you’re looking for every obstacle, and then you’re coming up with at leas two solutions for each obstacle, so that you have Plan A and Plan B because if Plan A doesn’t work, then hopefully Plan B will, or you might use both of them, and that way you’ll make your success stronger.
The truth is, even though we know there’s going to be a lot of chaos in our lives, we can plan as best as possible. Of course, there’s always going to be something that comes up that we weren’t prepared for, but that comes back to the Stoic philosophy. We do control how we respond to things. We can sit there in traffic and get angry and yell. That doesn’t do any good. Instead, we can sit there, and we can mentally think about planning something out, or we can listen to audiobooks. We can make the most of being stuck in traffic, or we can turn into rage and anger. It really is up to us and our mental preparation to deal with the chaos that the world is going to bring to every single person. It doesn’t matter if you’re single. It doesn’t matter if you’re taking a break from work. You’re always going to have a whole bunch of stuff come up in the afternoon. You have to be ready for it.
Jay: That’s awesome. There was another part of the book that I loved because it was very actionable. You called it the 10-3-2-1-0 good night formula to guarantee 15 minutes of freedom. I like that little, that section because it was something that I never thought of framing that way, but it made perfect sense. Maybe you can run us quickly through what that is.
Craig: This one is actually, because it is so simple and so memorable that it’s been on Russian television, Australian television. It’s been in papers in England because it is just so sharable. The 10-3-2-1-0 formula goes like this. It is a sleep formula that helps you have a better night’s sleep, fall asleep faster. It starts 10 hours before you go to bed because the half life of caffeine is 10 hours. I want people to stop drinking caffeine 10 hours before bed. If they have an afternoon espresso, and they wonder why they’re tossing and turning at 11 o’clock, that’s the reason. Caffeine stimulates us and keeps us up, tossing and turning at night.
The 3 is make sure that you stop having heavy meals, not snacks, but heavy meals about three hours before bed and same with alcohol. Try not to drink within three hours before bed. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “I’d love to have a glass of wine at night about an hour before bed or two hours before bed,” but the problem is alcohol impairs your sleep cycles. If you want to have a great night’s sleep, then you don’t want to have alcohol too close to your bedtime. Now, of course, you’re going to have a little bit of alcohol on the weekend or at celebrations if you drink and want to enjoy it, but remember, if you want to be a high performer during the week, cut back your alcohol intake or eliminate it totally, and that way, you will sleep better.
Two hours before bed, we stop working because we want to eliminate the stress that is associated with work. Then, one hour before bed, we’re going to shut down all of our electronics, so we’re no longer looking at the screens that are emitting lightwaves that also cause alertness and stimulation. The last you want to be doing is checking your email or your Instagram or watching Netflix an hour before bed. I know a lot of people are thinking, “That’s exactly what I do.” Listen, that is probably one of the reasons you’re tossing and turning in bed. Go old school. Read a book. Read an old school book, one that actually you hold in your hand, not on a computer, or play with your children or have a bath or talk with your spouse or spend time in bed with your spouse, but don’t focus on electronics and email and all that stuff that’s going to get you wound up when you try and shut the light off and go to sleep.
Then, the final is 0 is the number of times you should hit snooze in the morning. There’s two reason why. Physiologically, if you hit snooze and you fall asleep, you go back into a really crappy sleep cycle, and you actually wake up groggier, but psychologically, my friend Bedros Keuilian has a great quote that says, “If you hit the snooze button, you’re telling your hopes and dreams that they can wait, and they don’t matter, and that’s telling your subconscious mind not to put effort and energy into your big goals and dreams,” and you don’t want to be saying that, so don’t hit the snooze button. If you want to get up at 6;30, set the alarm for 6:30, and get up when it tells you to get up. Don’t set it for 6:20 and think I’m going to get a 10-minute snooze. That doesn’t help you.
That’s the 10-3-2-1-0 formula so you can get up and spend 15 minutes focusing on your number one priority in life.
Jay: I think that all of us struggle with the cell phone thing at night. That’s one of my vices. Every time I do it, I’m conscious that when I go up to the bathroom in the middle of night and pee, I always come back, and I’ll check my phone and-
Craig: Oh, no.
Jay: … I know I’m screwing myself by doing it, but yet, I still do it every time. That’s an area that I struggle with myself. Like Arianna Huffington, she’s like don’t even bring your phone into the same room as you and this and that. It’s something that I’m working on.
Let me as you, as we looked to wrap up here, Craig, and thank you again for your time. It’s been so powerful, some of the concepts that you go over here. I wanted to ask you when you read your book, I’m sitting here reading it, and I’m a pretty disciplined guy myself. I’m like, “Man, Craig is like the most disciplined guy I’ve ever met.” What do you do when you stumble, you struggle? We’re all human beings here. We’re all going to slip up here and there. What are some tools, tactics, strategies that you use personally or you could recommend for someone that’s following your formula and all of a sudden, you know what? One day, they just sleep in and hit that snooze button or blows themselves out? What can you do to get back on?
Craig: Great question. Great question. The first step is forgive yourself. I just had a big fitness seminar this weekend here in Denver, Colorado, which is where my office is based. We had a really great group of people. They went out on the Friday night, and this seminar started back up Saturday morning. One guy was really being hard on himself because he drank too much, and he felt a little bit out of it, and he was tired. I said, “Listen. There’s no point in you sitting here and beating yourself up about it because it’s over. The past is the past. You learned a lesson, and now you’re going to go forward and put that lesson into place, and you’re not going to do the same thing again at a future fitness conference.” That’s big. Forgive yourself and learn the lesson. Then, move on and get your head centered as quickly as possible.
This is something that helps us at every time of the day. How can we get back on track mentally when something throw us off track? When some work colleague comes in and has a blow up at us, and then they realize that hey, it wasn’t your fault, and they have to come back and apologize. You got to get your head right. Just like a pro athlete, if they mess up, if they throw an interception or they pass the ball away to somebody else on the other team, whatever they do, this is going to happen. They have to get back on track when they have the next play, when they get the ball back. That’s what a professional does. You have to come up with thing in your head, whatever it is that gets you back on track.
For me, as an author, I set up a lot of these rules and this discipline, Jay, because I am very weak just like everybody else. I want to write a lot, and so I find myself or I used to find myself going and being on ESPN.com or checking some other sports websites and then realizing, “Oh my goodness. I’m wasting this time.” What I realized I had to do was I had to get myself out of that bad habit, that OCD loop, and give myself a trigger to get back on track.
For me, it’s the type of music. If can start playing classical music and open up a Word document, and I can start writing, then I’m going to back on track. It centers my mind. Whatever it is that you find yourself struggling with right now, whether it’s a recurring thing or whether it’s a once in a while thing, then just have a ritual, a routine, a trigger that gets you back into a positive mindset. It could be listening to music. It could be listening to a motivational video on YouTube. It could be reading a quick Bible verse. Whatever it is that gets your mind right, and therefore, you get back on track.
Jay: That’s a good suggestions actually. I never actually thought of specifically picking a trigger and isolating a one trigger that will snap me back into it, but it does make sense. It’s how humans operate.
Well, man, Craig, thanks so much again. A lot of actionable stuff here. I think our audience is really going to get a lot out of this interview. I obviously encourage everyone listening in to go check out Craig’s book. He has a wealth of knowledge also available online. Craig, maybe you can tell us where my listeners can find you, follow you, and connect with you a little bit more.
Craig: Absolutely. EarlyToRise.com is the website where we put out really great content every day. It’s been around for 17 years now. People can follow me on Instagram.com/RealCraigBallantyne. If you live in North America, you have some listeners there, they can get a free copy of my book at FreePerfectDayBook.com. Otherwise, people can get the Kindle version or the audio book version on Amazon of course. I’m really looking forward to helping people around the world with Perfect Day Formulas so they get dialed into domination every day.
Jay: Awesome. Thanks so much. Thanks again, Craig, for coming on the show. We really appreciate all the advice.
Craig: Thank you.
Jay: All right. Take care.
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