[Transcript] – 2017 Spartan World Championships Podcast Special: Stop Sabotaging Your Habits

Affiliate Disclosure


Podcast from:  https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/ben-greenfield-2017-spartan-world-championships-special/

[00:00] Introduction

[07:27] Brent Totty

[10:56] How Are We Sabotaging Ourselves With Our Habits

[16:34] How The Better Habits Are Chosen

[19:28] The Sources Of Information For Those Habit Changes

[35:26] How Can You Start Developing Better Habits And Mindsets For Now

[41:28] End of Podcast

Ben:  Hello.  What's up? It's Ben Greenfield.  Hey, I have a pretty special series, a doozy full of series of interviews for you coming up today and on a whole bunch of other days this week.  I'm churning out the podcasts this week because I just got back from Lake Tahoe.  I got a chance to hang out with some of the world's top athletes, and biohackers, and inventors, and physicians, and more down at the Spartan World Championships.  Even if you're not an obstacle course racer, you're going to dig today's show.  You can access the show notes where I have a special video for you over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/sparta17.  Yes, as in Sparta 1-7.  Like the movie “300” where they all talk with Scottish accents even though they're supposedly from Greece.  Anyways though, we digress.

So in that video that I posted for you at bengreenfieldfitness.com/sparta17, I actually have a fascinating discussion, this is at the top of the page that you see there, about legal ways to dope your blood, legal ways to get nitric oxide up like Viagra for your whole body without actually taking the little blue pill, how to max your ATP and what are called your erythrocytes levels using some pretty fringe formulas that are out there.

So when you visit that page over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/sparta17, you're going to want to watch my interview there at the top of the page with this guy named Craig Dinkel.  Craig, you may have heard on previous podcast episodes.  He's like a total whiz when it comes to formulating very potent and unique supplements.  I got a bunch of discount codes for you over there too on some of the stuff that Craig and I talk about.  So that is what is bringing into today's show, that video and those supplements which I consider to be not only some of the best supplements for altitude, but some of the best supplements for sex, and for nitric oxide, and for recovery from jetlag, and for enhanced blood flow, and for just about any situation where you want more blood.  So check it out, bengreenfieldfitness.com/sparta17.  Alright.  Let's move forward, shall we?

Ben:  Hey.  What's up? It's Ben Greenfield, and this is a bit out of the ordinary but I happen to be sitting here with my trusty podcast sidekick Brock Jason Skywalker Armstrong.  Brock, how you doing?

Brock:  I'm doing well.  Hello, hello everyone.

Ben:  And you could get sick of that lulling Canadian accent over the next few days…

Brock:  Pshhha!

Ben:  Pshhha! Because Brock, and myself to a certain extent, but Brock to a much greater extent, we're going to bringing you some amazing interviews over the next several days because we are at Spartan World Championships.

Brock:  Spartan World Championships!

Ben:  So here's what to expect.  First, if you're not an obstacle course junkie or an athlete, don't worry.  We are right now here surrounded by some of the top fitness, health, biohacking, nutrition, and even personal productivity and lifestyle minds on the face of the planet who Spartan CEO Joe De Sena has flown in to be here, and Brock and I have decided to get the microphone in front of them and take a deep dive with them into their top secrets that we can deliver to you.  And we're also of course, since we are surrounded by some of the fittest people on the face of the planet here, we're going to be interviewing some of the most hardcore men and women that exist when it comes to their insider training tactics, their nutrition secrets, their recovery hacks, and a whole lot more.  So basically you are going to be getting lots of podcasts over the next few days.  Don't worry.  If you don't have time to listen to them, you can save them, and I believe there's even a handy save function in Apple Podcast, most podcasting apps.

Brock:  You don't even have to…

Ben:  Save 'em for later.  The next time you're bored on a drive, or you have a few extra gym sessions, or you're out on a long hike, you can basically listen into a lot of these extra episodes we're going to be pushing out over the next few days.

Brock:  You can bathe in them even.

Ben:  You can bathe in them. Literally.  Like a float tank.  Or Epsom salts.

Brock:  Metaphorically.

Ben:  Yes.  So we are, in addition to a bunch of podcasts you're going to get right here on the podcast feed, doing a bunch of short video and audio interviews over on the Facebook page.  And if you don't know the Facebook page URL, it is, Brock, take it away.

Brock:  facebook.com/bgfitness.

Ben:  So go to facebook.com/bgfitness if you want extra photos, amazing, entertaining, and educational content for you in addition to what we're giving you right here on the podcast.

Brock:  I call it edutainment.

Ben:  Edutainment.  Did you make that up?

Brock:  No.

Ben:  Okay.  Now we may not have our usual show notes, I'm going to warn you…

Brock:  Yeah.  ‘Cause I'm illiterate.

Ben:  Because Brock is illiterate, and dyslexic, and lysdexic.

Brock:  And Canadian.

Ben:  And Canadian. And frankly we're going to be so busy interviewing people, we're probably not a lot of time to sit down and make for you show notes.  But we will make for you plenty of extremely helpful content and we promise mad value if you just listen in the next few days.  Again, we're not going to bore you with the ho-hum I-eat-Red-Bull-and-Snickers-before-the-race-and-my-top-recovery-tactic-is-compression-socks.

Brock:  Nor are we going to bore you with a longer intro than we've already done.

Ben:  No.  This is getting a little bit long in the tooth.  So I will be racing, and I will be not only racing but likely out there leading other racers through the course after I've done the race myself.  So you're going to need to get used to Brock's Canadian voice and his beautiful shaven ballerina legs.

Brock:  You betcha!

Ben:  Which you actually can't see on an audio podcast, but I can vouch that they are quite beautiful.  He'll be the voice you're listening to, and seeing if you're on Facebook, all weekend as we make you a part of what is widely considered to be the Super Bowl of obstacle course racing and is the crown race to discover who the fittest person on the face of the planet actually is.

Brock:  Spartan World Championships!

Ben:  Unless you're a Crossfitter, in which case it would be the Crossfit Games.  So get ready of plenty of action, get ready for plenty of action, over the next few days.  And if you want to have the most fun with this, stay tuned to all the live content and the conversations over at facebook.com/bgfitness.  And keep a notepad for your own friggin' noggin.

Brock:  Make your own show notes, guys!  C'mon!  We've been holding your hand for too long now.  It's your turn.

Ben:  Take notes on everything that we bring your way.  We promise we're going to make this a lot of fun for you.  So that being said, listen in 'cause here we go.

Brock:  Welcome back to the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast, everybody!  I'm Brock Armstrong, as you can tell by my voice.  I am not Ben.  Otherwise, I woulda' said, “Hey, folks.” (laughs)  That's my Ben Greenfield impression for the day.  We are recording here live at the SpartanUp Podfest in Lake Tahoe, which is part of the 2017 Spartan World Championships, and so far the day is barely begun.  It's not even 10 AM and I've talked to some amazing people, met some really cool people.  And yesterday when I got off the plane, I talked to the fellow that you're going to be hearing from very shortly.  We were sitting around in the airport waiting for our shuttle to take us to Lake Tahoe from Reno, which was a whole other weird experience in itself.  Got off the plane, and I don't know, it's gambling in the airport.

Brent:  Hey.  If that's your first impression of Reno, that's probably pretty accurate.

Brock:  They don't hold back, your off the plane, and look, gambling!  But anyway, I've got sitting across the table from me, Brent, and he's got some really cool ideas, some really cool software coming up, and yeah.  Instead of me stammering and stumbling through some kind of weird intro for you, I'll let you explain who you are and what you're up to.

Brent:  Absolutely.  Well Brock, thank you for having me on the podcast today.  Really, really excited to be here.  Just overall, this event, the energy, you can just feel how quickly it's really starting to escalate with all the international athletes coming in.  It's really, really powerful.  So really really excited to see what happens here.  So again, my name's Brent Totty.  I actually have a startup mobile app called Volv.  And what it's all about is helping people form healthy habits, and that's around nutrition, that's around training, it's around lifestyle.  And really what that's meant to do is to help people move them towards their intentions.  It's the concept of people wanting to either have more energy everyday, or people wanting to compete in a Spartan race, any of those types of intentions can be broken down into specific types of habits that people can start to form over time.  The problem is that life gets in the way.  So what we're really building is…

Brock:  Stupid life!

Brent:  Yeah.  Stupid life getting in the way.

Brock:  It's always getting in the way of living life.

Brent:  (laughs) So what Volv is it's a virtual personal assistant that's constantly taking a look at your surroundings.  It's looking at your location, taking into consideration wearable data to know how much you've been moving that day, and then it's making recommendations on what you should be eating, how should you how you should be recovering, maybe you should add a little bit more movement to the day.  So it's really taking, more or less, a nutritionist and a trainer and putting them on your shoulder but using technology to harness that.

Brock:  Okay.  So that sounds, I mean that could sound a little, not Big Brother but a little Skynet-ty.  And I know it's not because we've talked about this before, but before we get into sort of how that stuff works, at the beginning you said that it's about building better habits or resetting your habits.  But you also said that it is about like getting some more energy in your life or better mindset.   So how do you see the habits that we've formed, like the habits that we carry into our day causing us to have less energy, or less focus, or whatever.  Define how that would happen in a day.  Like how are we sabotaging ourselves with our habits, I guess.

Brent:  Absolutely.  Case in point: myself growing up, I grew up in a household that didn't necessarily highlight nutrition.  They really were, it was like the Diet Cokes, and the microwaveable macaroni and cheeses, and eating Burger King all the time.  And that was just, that was my mindset.  And growing up I wasn't necessarily in great shape.  I was always athletic, but there definitely was a lot of room for improvement.

Brock:  That's an important distinction to make.  You can be athletic but still have unhealthy habits.

Brent:  Oh, absolutely!  Everyone's got room for improvement.

Brock:  Especially when we're younger.

Brent:  Yeah!  Totally!  ‘Cause you've got a metabolism they can rev past anything that you're doing.  But what ends up happening is that those types of negative habits that are formed from a very early age are subset into your body where it becomes like you're almost, like we were talking about yesterday, it's like you wake up and it's like, alright, well you just instantly walk over to the coffee and you're like, “Alright.  Well I'm used to having caffeine first thing in the morning, I have to have it.”  Same thing with junk food where it's like if it was what you grew up eating, the likelihood that you're associating that being okay with just normality is very, very likely.  And so with…

Brock:  I like how you actually chose coffee.  I believe we were talking about beer.  And we were just like, “How did I get this beer in my hand?”

Brent:  That's right.  Same concept.  And so because these types of habits are formed over time, it's very, very difficult to break 'em.  And with the age of social media, you see all sorts of people being able to achieve things that you wouldn't normally be able to see, and you see more or less what it is that they're doing to achieve those types of things.  But the likelihood of seeing an intention and then seeing it through is very, very difficult because the steps, although they may be spoken about in blogs or podcasts like this one, it's very, very difficult to actually institute them into your life.

Brock:  Yeah.  I guess there's a huge step between either reading about something in a book, or seeing something on somebody's Facebook page, or reading a blog, or listening to a podcast, or whatever and actually making that happen.  I think a lot of us are wandering around with a brain full of great ideas, but we're not actually using them, we're not putting them into practice.

Brent:  Yep.  No.  There's no question about that.  And that transition between having inspiration from something from a blogger, seeing a video on YouTube, or whatever it is to actually putting it and incorporating into your life is incredibly difficult.  And that's really where a lot of habit formation really comes down to is consistency.  And so even if you do it for a day or two, and then most of the time people end up falling off.  If you have the opportunity to understand which specific moments throughout your day, that habit is meant to be acted upon and that you're reminded to do so in a consistent manner.  The likelihood that you're going to break the mold that you had before in the name of building something new is substantially higher.  And that's really the thesis that I'm working on.

Brock:  So it's not about giving up a habit.  It's about changing a habit? Is that what you're saying?

Brent:  Yeah.  And I think that when you're able to form a habit and you still have a negative habit, the likelihood that one is going to overtake the other, you have a much higher success rate.  If you go in with it with a negative mindset to tell people that the things that they're doing are absolutely wrong and that they have to make a complete 180, the likelihood that they really, really going to make sustainable and consistent change in their life and they're actually going to build lifelong habits is much, much lower.

Brock:  Now is that because of fear? Like we want to stay in our a safe place or our comfortable place? Or is it because that's just how our mindset works, that we don't like the absence of something, we want to replace something?

Brent:  Yeah.  I think a lot of it has to do with mindset where if you're trying to change, because so much of nutrition, and diet, exercise, and everything is so psychological.  So if you come to someone and tell them that they're wrong, they're instantly going to clam up.  If you give them the opportunity to say…

Brock:  Even if they know they're wrong too.

Brent:  Exactly.  Oftentimes they do.  But if you come to them and say, “Look, we've got an opportunity here for you to add one thing and you should start doing this, and just do it small segments at a time,” it's all about incremental change.  You don't just throw something on someone and have a completely different program.  I mean I think that that's a real fallacy with the way that standard training programs and standard nutrition programs happen to be created for people is that it's not one-size-fits-all, and on top of that it's also meant to be staged.  If you don't stage it, then people are overwhelmed.  And if they're overwhelmed, you only have so much bandwidth to make a good decision in a day.  If you're overwhelmed, the likelihood that you're going to revert back is so much higher.

Brock:  So it's sustainability, when it comes right down to it.  And we've seen that so many times with these extreme diets and extreme exercise programs.  Like sure you can lose two pounds a day or whatever for a certain amount of time, but that's not sustainable and it's not forming a better habit. It's just sort of willpower, really.  So what you're talking about is like circumventing willpower and going straight for habit forming.

Brent:  Right.  And the technology that we're working on right now is really designed to stage it out so that you really can start to form small habits in an incremental manner.  If you're not doing that and you really are trying to just, I mean that's where a lot of turnover happens when people are starting a new program is that they'll try it for a little bit and then they drop right off.

Brock:  Yeah.  Okay, so let's get back to the Skynet part of this.  So you've got some habits that you want to you want to shift, or you want to give up, or you want to improve.  How are the better habits chosen? Like is there somebody who's sitting up there going, “Okay, well everybody should really be doing X, Y, and Z.”  Or are you able to control this? Where are you getting the ideas from?

Brent:  Absolutely.  So it's actually kind of, it's interesting, the idea itself formed from my own personal experience of how it is that I formed my own, what I consider, performance lifestyle.  And it came from digesting things like blogs, and podcasts, and YouTube videos.  I was taking a look at how top performers like Ben, or Dave Asprey, or any athletes that I was looking up to or any nutrition…

Brock:  Me.

Brent:  Yeah.  Exactly.

Brock:  Awww.

Brent:  How are you performing.  But if you take a look at some of the content that they're producing, a lot of times there's takeaway actionable items that are meant to be what a reader is supposed to walk away with.  Using that methodology, I think that each individual of content can be distilled down to an actionable habit and those actionable habits should be packaged within an app where someone can go and subscribe and say, “Hey, that's something that might be interesting for me.”  Now the way that we're deciding how we push things to certain individuals is based upon intentions.  So it goes back to, “Do you want to have more energy? Are you trying to compete in a Spartan race? Are you looking to maybe do a little bit of body recomposition?” And I want to stress that we don't, it's not like all calorie counting and macronutrient breakdowns.  If people want to go that route, they certainly can, but the idea really is building a gap between, or building a connection between how people are consuming and moving and how they're actually feeling.  And it really comes down to the mindfulness of what comes along with intention directly to how it is that they're executing on a daily basis.

Brock:  Okay.  So it sounds like there's some layers involved.  So you need to choose what your ultimate goal is or your sort of overarching goal, and then you do some curating of what information is being fed to you?

Brent:  And I like to consider them like 60 day sprints.  So with any program, so I used to be a personal trainer, a nutritional consultant, and a personal chef.  So I kind of did it all.

Brock:  Wow.  Yeah? Seriously?

Brent:  So for a lot of the clients that I worked with, I was cooking for them I was also giving them advice, like they'd be texting me on a regular basis, and then I'd also be training them.  So it really, it's incredibly important to be able to understand that it's a holistic, you-have-to-be-making-strides-in-each-individual-subset.  And if you're not doing all three and you're not focusing on nutrition, and the way you move, and the way that you're acting on a daily basis, it's really, that's what more or less is driving the success.

Brock:  Cool.  Okay.  So you were talking about necessary, or finding the sources of the information and then the podcasting being one, which is something that's near and dear to my heart obviously.

Brent:  Of course.

Brock:  But once you've sort of got the overarching goal in mind and you're curating the information, where are you getting the sources or how could somebody choose the sources that, I don't know, I guess inspire them to make those habit changes?

Brent:  Absolutely.  So we're in the process right now of building relationships with different fitness and nutrition influencers.  And so when that happens, we're able to take a look at what their blog content is and we're able to start, as people are consuming a podcast like this, there might be takeaway actions and so there would be a capability for people to be able to take a look at “This podcast is being powered by Volv” or “is in partnership with Volv”, and then you can go and directly look and say, “Hey, these are the four things that came away from this podcast that I might actually want to start trying.”  And so there's a direct correlation between people consuming content that they're already listening to and then being able to act directly upon them via the app.

Brock:  So would that sort of be like the suggestions in Netflix when you finish watching it.

Brent:  Yeah, exactly.  When I first started explaining this to people, it's almost like a Spotify of healthy habits and different tools and tricks…

Brock:  If you like this, then you'll probably…

Brent:  Absolutely.  And there's a recommendation engine that we're building out as well that really is meant to say, “Alright.  Well these are the types of things that you have subscribed to, these are things that you're acting on a consistent basis,” and then there's a feedback loop to understand efficacy of whether or not those specific habits are making you happy.

Brock:  Okay.

Brent:  And so that's how we're really understanding how users are interacting with specific types of habits so that we can make recommendations farther down the road.

Brock:  So it's better than the Amazon recommended thing because it's actually going like, “Did you actually enjoy the book or is it just that 1200 other people bought that book?”

Brent:  Exactly.  And one, it's meant to become a custom-tailored suit of healthy habits that you're able to create for yourself.  And so without there being a feedback loop, there's no ability to be able to understand if it's working or if it's not working for you.  Because at the end of day, everyone's different.  And we were talking about this yesterday of like well is low carb versus moderate carb versus high carb, like is there one size that fits all, and the answer is no 'cause it really isn't.

Brock:  And what the heck do those even mean, like it's all relational.

Brent:  Exactly.  Yeah.  And there's, I mean it's funny too.  I take a look at a lot of the different diet books that pop out, I mean everything is more or less speaking the same message, it's just grouped in slightly different manners.

Brock:  Yeah.  Variations of paleo.

Brent:  Right.  Exactly.  And it's like, “No, you can't.”  And you're taking out legumes here, you're removing this specific type of rice and it's this new diet.  And it's like, well at the end of the day, if you start with non-processed foods and then you start to include different types of other foods that may be inflammatory, like a legume or anything along those lines, you can figure out whether or not it's making you feel good through a feedback loop.  Most of the time, people don't have the mindfulness to be able to understand that the things that they're putting into their body actually have a direct effect an hour, two hours, three hours down the road in that specific day.  And it's like if you eat something and it doesn't make you feel good, you need some sort of methodology to understand what that was.

Brock:  Well then that breaks like, I know there's a thing that's become a lot more prevalent these days because of the political situation in a number of countries right now.  We've noticed that the algorithms that are fueling things like Facebook, and Twitter, and stuff like that becomes the algorithm that is supposed to be giving us what we like is actually creating a narrow-minded approach to the world where we are only seeing the things that we already know exist and it just becomes a self-perpetuating loop because the algorithm is just going, “Hey.  You like this, you'll probably like this.”  So we're getting a more and more narrowed view of the world, and politics is suffering because of it.  It sounds like you're breaking that algorithm by giving it that second layer, or third layer, or fourth layer, or whatever it is that's saying, “Is this actually working for you?” So it's not just continually spitting back to the same variation on a theme.

Brent:  Oh, absolutely.  And I think that one of the most important parts of what it is that we're up to is that you really have to maintain authenticity and you really have to maintain a neutral stance.  So if you start taking in a lot of ad dollars from a specific brand or whatever it is, the likelihood that their content is going to pop up to the top, it creates a very volatile situation where it's like people, you're almost doing a disservice to the individuals that are working with your app because all of a sudden you're force feeding them stuff that might not necessarily pertain to their goals.  It's an interesting dichotomy of what it is that we're trying to do in terms of monetization in understanding how we'd best serve our customers because that's priority number one.

Brock:  You're looking almost at Google Ad Word kind of thing.  Like we're going to pay to have our link show up at the top of the page, and sure there's some weird little text below it that says that it was paid for, but it's still showing up at the top of the page.

Brent:  Absolutely.

Brock:  And that's when you're really trying to help people and really trying to build some new habits, that's, I mean that really plays into what is Google's slogan of “Don't Be Evil”.  I mean that really is evil at that point, especially like if you're serving up ads.  That's one thing.  But if you're actually influencing people to make their decisions on what they're going to eat and how they're going to exercise, that is pure evil.

Brent:  Oh, yeah.  Yeah.  And I mean as someone that's in technology, and you know a lot of other people, I've read a few different books about this, but we have a duty to make sure that the things that we create are not meant to do any harm.  Because we have so many people, like if we're coding an app and building something out, you've got 100 developers with combined brainpower that are trying to influence a specific individual.  You have a duty to make sure that the things you're creating are not supposed to be, like they just can't be pushing people to be making choices that are outside of things that should be designed for them.  And so to me, wrapping my head around that was one of the first real obstacles that I had to cross over, was to make sure that I was doing those that were trusting me to create something that they're putting their trust into to change their own lives that I was creating something that was good, and that was whole, and that wasn't something that was going to be driven by, whether it's, you just don't want to be driven by any sort of negative forces.  You want to make sure that the customer is at the forefront.

Brock:  Well it would be easy to finance, influence it, and then be able to take that step back and say, well hide behind the data almost and be like, “Well the data is what's giving us this.  Like I'm taking no responsibility for this.”  You can hide behind the algorithm or hide behind the data set, but it's way too close to home to be able to do that.  Because again, because we're talking about nutrition, and exercise, and people's well-being you can't hide behind that, or you shouldn't.  If you do, then you're doing evil.

Brent:  Absolutely.  It's not to say that we're not going to be working with brands farther down the road.  And like you said, with the immense amount of data that we're going to be able to gather with the people that we're serving, I mean not only do you have location preferences and what it is that they're interested in, but you're actually being able to understand how it is that they're consuming food, and products, and everything.  You create a context where you're able to truly understand how you're best able to serve someone.

And so if you're looking at it from a brand perspective, that type of information is incredibly valuable.  And that's where I think there's a real differentiation is because someone like Google, or Google is taking a look at, they're taking a look at location and they're taking a look at preferences, they know pretty much everything you've ever searched.  But in terms of actual activity of what you've done that day, I think that adds a new layer on top of how it is that you can serve someone a specific type of recommendation because the way that we move is meant to specifically drive the things that we're consuming on a daily basis, and I think that that's something that I figured out very, very early on is that if you're not eating in line with the way that you're moving, the likelihood that you're going to feel good on a regular basis is very, very low.  Whether you want to call that carb cycling, or macronutrient timing, or whatever you want to call it, there's a real power behind that and I think that that is ultimately going to drive a lot of the recommendations that we're making.  When you walk into a restaurant, when you walk into a grocery store, it's like, “Hey, if this is how much you've been moving today, this is a recipe that would be in line with what you've done and who you are.”  You walk into a restaurant, it's like, “Alright, well this is generally what type of restaurant it is.  Maybe you should be making this type of choices or generally some of the things you should probably be moving away from.  And by the way, you've had a relatively low activity day so I would probably have back a little bit on the carbs.”

Brock:  I like how you phrased that.  It's not, “You're being lazy.”  “Hey, lazy ass.  Don't eat all those carbs, man.”

Brent:  Well we've certainly played with the idea of adding different personalities of how it is that the messages are going to be driven.  So for some people that might want to have a little bit more of that callous and laughable personality…

Brock:  Yeah.  I think I'd respond well to that.

Brent:  I think so too.  I think that the same way that Waze has like very funny different little voices and characters that they have, I would love to build that out eventually too because I think that it doesn't have to be so nutrition, and fitness, and health, it doesn't have to be such a pain.  It really should be fun and if that's how you interact with it, it's ultimately what is going to make you successful.

Brock:  That's true.  You said something about location a little while ago, that it is going to know your location.  I think that's fascinating because of two things, it made me think of like microbiome for one thing, and maybe this isn't so much microbiome as it is genetics and epigenetics, we know that certain areas of the world have different tolerances for, and I guess this is still cutting-edge science, but we're starting to figure out that certain areas of the world that have more tolerance for carbohydrate or a different tolerance for different types of fat.

Brent:  Absolutely.

Brock:  Like myself, I'm mostly Eastern European descent, I handle my carbs pretty well but I'm really bad with saturated fat.  Like my saturated fat basically just turns directly into cholesterol, and my cholesterol went through the roof.  I tried a diet that had a lot of butter in it and my cholesterol was like, even the functional medicine doctors were going, “Oh, dude.  You gotta get that down.”  Like it wasn't just like the cardiologist at the doctor's office around the corner that was putting me on statins, it was like the functional guy.  So the location could play into things like that, making some recommendations, not necessarily maybe today but down the road based on your location, sort of guessing what your genetics might be, but also the availability of food, the types of, we had another, I don't know if this podcast will come out before it or not or after it, but I spoke to an athlete who's here at the Spartan race from Belgrade, from Serbia and another guy from Italy.  Now obviously those two have very different diets and different access to food.  And then me from Canada, I've got another different sort of access to food, and I'm not just talking about like the availability of Chipotle, but our seasons are different and all of that.  So that's a whole other layer of information that you can include into the algorithm.

Brent:  Absolutely.

Brock:  And is that something that you've got on the horizon or is it already in there?

Brent:  Yeah.  And so when we talk about location right now, it really talks about the pertinence of specific types of habits and recommendations that we're making.  So it's like if you're subscribed to something like a paleo-ish diet or whatever it may be, you're taking a look at what restaurants in the area might pertain to what it is that you've done that and how…

Brock:  So that's location on a more sort of micro level.

Brent:  Right.  And then when you start to go macro go a little bit bigger, there's opportunities to, yes, take a look and see what that specific set of people and that demographic…

Brock:  Like traditional diet or…

Brent:  Absolutely.  And then you also have opportunities, when you're taking a look at building an algorithm like this, interactions with companies that are doing DNA testing, and you're able to see where someone is from and you're able to see what their heritage is and the likelihood that you're able to make recommendations based upon that is just exponentially increased.  And so that's kind of where I see all this going right now because we're in growth stage and we're really building out.  We're building out the stuff that is tangible and that we're able to touch right now, but we're there's always opportunity to take in any other large set of data on an individual, any sort of blood testing that they may have, whether it's the Cyrex test or whatever it is, all those types of things can be brought in to make specific recommendations for that individual.  And so we're building this platform that's meant to be a hub to take in whatever information, whether it's from a wearable, whether it's from a blood test, whether it's from a DNA test, whatever it may be, and then you're able to custom tune and make recommendations, whether it's around food or whether it's around a specific type of exercise or lifestyle habits.  I see this growing in a way, in terms of the content that's available, in a very organic way because very soon I'm going to want to start allowing our users to create their own habits.  And so that's where it's really going to start to grow.  You create a finite set of things so that people can wrap their head around what it is that they're supposed to be doing, but then you open source it, and that's where the beauty of the growth really comes from.  It comes from the flow of information of our users.  I mean it's the same way that Reddit has really grown the way that it has, it's a…

Brock:  They decentralized the data source and it grows exponentially.

Brent:  If you give people the power to share their own story and to share the way that they were able to achieve a goal, all of a sudden you've got two people across the world with similar intentions, one has achieved them, the other one hasn't, and you're saying, “Okay, well these are the things that you've done.  I'm going to subscribe to one, two, and four of the different Volvs that you may have that got you towards your goal, and then I'm going to start acting on them.  And then you can start interacting with those individual people.  So it builds this community of interconnected people that are not only acting the same way, but they also have the same intentions, and there's real, real power behind that.  And technology should be built in order to allow people to act on those in real life situations and interact.  Because at the end of the day, I think that with training and with nutrition you can't just do, you can't have it just be AI.  There always has to be a human touch to it and there's community around the way that people eat, and I think that'll be another big driver for me, or for Volv is to make sure that when we're making recommendations, the likelihood that you're able to go, and say you should go and be able to have lunch with another person, whether they have a similar intention to you or not, the likelihood they're going to be able to find something at that one restaurant is still very high but your ordering recommendations may be different.  It's meant to be so that it's not such a lonely endeavor.  It's meant to be something to be shared.  And because you're a sum of the five people that you spend the most time with.  And so if you…

Brock:  That's becoming more and more, not true but more and more uncovered.  But that is true.

Brent:  It's a really really big indicator of how successful you're going to be.  If you're surrounding yourself with people that are you know crushing ice cream 10:30 at night, the likelihood that you're going to crush some ice cream is pretty high.  But if you have something that's saying you should probably go and eat at this specific place and these are the different things that you can do, you have a community of people that are acting upon the same general concept and it's building a foundation for success for both you as well as the other people that you're connecting with.

Brock:  Now I'm going to put you totally on the spot here because this sounds awesome, and it's coming down the pipe, and it's going to be awesome, but right now what would you say that people can actually start working on, like right now before the app's developed and out and stuff to start developing these better habits and breaking those mindsets?

Brent:  Absolutely.  So I have what I consider the Volv basics, which are just our general recommendations of how to start to structure your day.  I think that you start to take a look at different types of training types, I think that you stay accountable and say that you have to get into the gym three times a week, and that the other days of the week you're making sure that you're moving at least 30 to 45 minutes a day at the bare minimum.  I tend to use my wearable to take a look and see, “Alright.  If I…”

Brock:  I've got my Garmin.

Brent:  I've got my Fitbit on as well.  So for me it's like if I'm not going to the gym that day, I have to get to a certain set of steps.  So it's like I have to hit 10,000.  Not because I think that that number is particularly important, it's just an arbitrary number that I set to say, “Okay, this is what I would consider a relatively decent low intensity day.”  You're not sitting down all day, but you're still moving around.  So in terms of training it's just staying accountable, and getting into the gym, doing the compound exercises, squats, deadlifts, that kind of stuff.  But that's also not to say to you that if your intention is to do endurance training that's totally fine.  You just need to stay accountable on that as well.  And so I think…

Brock:  So it's really about accountability.

Brent:  Social accountability.  A lot of times what I'll do, especially, so I was recently training for a sprint triathlon, I'm not an endurance guy really, or at least I wasn't.  I'm starting to transition over to that.  But what I did is I just posted on social, all over the place, saying when I was going to go and do stuff so that if I didn't go and do it, people would know.  And so I used that level of social accountability to make sure that I was doing the things, even as uncomfortable as they were as, for me it was like swimming in the ocean.  I live in Southern California, summer was full of sharks.  There was a day in San Clemente in Southern Orange County where there were 22 great whites and seen in one day.  And so that was right around the time when I was training so I was like…

Brock:  That's a herd.

Brent:  Yeah.  So for me I was like, alright I grew up in Cali born and raised so I've been in the ocean my entire life, I still had to like get over that fear.  But I posted about it and that allowed me to just be like, “Alright, look.  Like I said, I was going to do it.  I'm going to go do it.”  And I did.  In terms of building habits around food, I think you just start with the basics.  Don't worry about the timing.  Don't worry about, “Oh, I have to eat within this feeding window and this intermittent fasting, and carb cycling, and macronutrient timing.”  Just focus on the 80/20 rule, really looking at eating non-processed foods 80% of the time.  And then once you've conquered that for two to three weeks, then maybe you start looking into some of the other more advanced tactics.  And I think that's, it comes down to those incremental changes again where it's like how often can you stick to the plan that you set out to do.

Brock:  I like this, this idea of not going extreme is something that I think is hard for people to wrap their heads around these days.

Brent:  Absolutely.

Brock:  We're so extreme we've gotten to the point where like ketogenic diets are mainstream and there's nothing more extreme than that.  I feel like there is, it's difficult for people to do moderation these days but there's a need for that in our lives that we don't have to always be losing weight at a ridiculous rate or going to the gym super-duper hard all the time.  I heard the MindPump guys just over a little ways podcasting next to us, they were talking about exactly the same thing, like just trying to get their clients to go for a freakin' walk.

Brent:  Yeah.  It's an ebb and a flow.  Life's not a spring.  And so if you're able to figure out, and that's why I said 60 day sprints.  If you have something that's coming up where you really want to get in shape, whether it's Spartan or it's even something as simple as like you've got a wedding coming up and it's like, “Okay, I really like want to tighten up a little bit.”  It's like, “Okay, great.”  Then you've got your, you have your intention, and you can go, and you can be very strict in those specific situations.  But the likelihood that you're going to sustain a certain habit…

Brock:  Yeah.  That's not setting the habit.  That's just achieving a short term goal.

Brent:  Right.  And so if you're able to chain those types of short term goals together with an overreaching intention, the likelihood that you're going to continue to act on that habit far after you've crossed the finish line or far after you've gotten married is so much higher.

Brock:  That is a perfect place to wrap up.  I mean my phone is currently flashing, which probably means we should wrap up.  So I have one thing other than thanking you, Brent, for coming on the podcast.  This has been awesome.  I also want to thank our Spartan Race host, Joe De Sena, for having us here and also of course his podcast, the SpartanUp Podcast, for setting up a great weekend here at the 2017 Spartan Race World Championships.  I don't know why I have to read off of the piece of paper every single time.  You'd think I'd have that memorized by now, but thank you and…

Brent:  Absolutely.  Thank you for having me.

Brock:  Yeah.  It was very cool.  Kind of a last minute thing.

Brent:  Yeah!



Podcast sidekick Brock Armstrong, sat down with Brent Totty (CEO at Volv) to talk about how we sabotage our habits, how algorithms can work against us and how AI may be able to help us dial in our own personal healthy lifestyle.



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