May 3, 2014
[02:50] Why Charlie Decided to Write “Play It Away”
[15:20] Questions to Ask to See if You Are in Workaholic Mode
[23:59] Practical Examples of Turning Work Into Play
[32:02] The Four Anchors, How to Identify and Overcome Them
[44:36] The Difference Between Random and Intentional Acts of Kindness
[50:34] End of Podcast
Ben: Hey folks, it’s Ben Greenfield and I’ve got a quick story for you. A few weeks ago, I was actually down in Las Vegas with some of my friends after a Spartan race that we did. And after having spent a few hours that morning running around in the desert, jumping over obstacles and walls and climbing ropes and doing burpees, getting incredibly dirty and then having a beer and going back and lounging poolside, I mentioned how much fun it had been that morning to just go out and play like we were little boys out running around in the desert. And one of the guys who I was out there with the pool with, he said “well, one of my friends has actually written a book about this whole concept of turning life into play and turning your work into your passion or curing anxiety, playing more, working less, just this whole concept of playing.” And it turns out that this guy has written a book called “Play It Away” and I’ve been able to get him on the podcast today thanks to my friend who is down there in Vegas connecting us. So Charlie Hoehn is his name, and I’ve gotten to reading his book just last week and it really is a fantastic resource and I think that you’re gonna get a lot out of Charlie’s story especially if you’re someone who finds yourself just always thinking about work or feeling guilty or anxious when you’re not working or having trouble playing with friends or kinda tapping back into almost that childhood wonder with being able to play and have fun with life. So Charlie, thanks so much for coming on the call, man.
Charlie: Thank you for having me, Ben. I’m excited to do this, dude.
Ben: Well there’s so many places that we could start with your book, but you yourself have a pretty interesting story coz I know you haven’t always been a carefree, playful guy. So can you kinda talk about your lead-up into why you actually wrote this book?
Charlie: Yeah, definitely. So I guess the best place to start is how I got into this position in the first place. So I graduated from college in 2008 during the recession and had a tough time finding a job for several months. And I realized one day that I was just applying to do work that I didn’t want to do, so I was just applying to all these jobs I was like “I would hate this if I actually got it but I’m doing it because everyone else is doing it.”
Charlie: And it still wasn’t working, so one day I just kinda decided that I’m only gonna do stuff that would be fun for me, like a good learning experience for me, where I can work with people that are cool, who are doing interesting stuff. And so I started working for free for a number of entrepreneurs and artists and authors, and some of the guys that I worked with were like Ramit Sethi who wrote “I Will Teach You To Be Rich”, Tucker Max, and both of those guys ended up introducing me to Tim Ferriss and recommending I work with him. And Tim was a few years away from his success… a few years off of his success of “The Four Hour Work Week”, he was doing really well. And his next project was “The 4-Hour Body” and he asked if I would like to help him with producing and launching that. And we worked together, I was his first employee, and we worked together for three years…
Ben: I gotta interrupt you just real quick here.
Ben: You mentioned that you were working for free for folks. How were you eating or paying your rent at that point?
Charlie: Yeah, that’s a good question. So at the time I was hustling for free to work with these guys, and during the day I was also working paid gigs that I was hustling to land using skills that I had. So I was editing video a lot, I was editing audio, I was consulting for a few companies just because I had started blogging. And amazingly I was able to build somewhat of an audience and get clients through that, and that kind of blew my mind. So I was getting referrals and stuff, I was working paid but in order to work with those higher level people who get bombarded with all sorts of requests, I had to offer them a free trial period, basically.
Charlie: And I pitched them in a very specific way, I was just like “I’ve done a ton of research on your business and who you are as a person, I know what you value, I know where you’re trying to go to get to the next level. I think I can help you get there based on the problems I’ve found. I’ll come in, fix these problems for you, and you won’t have to pay me for the first several weeks, let’s see if we like working together first.”
Charlie: And that’s basically how I pitched to them.
Ben: So you wound up working for Tim Ferriss?
Charlie: Mmhmm, yeah. And I think when I first started working for him, I think that was in… I mean we first made contact with each other I think in 2008-2009. I think I started working for him in 2009, and we worked together, I was a full-time employee, I was like his director of special projects. I worked my way up into handling a lot of responsibilities because each time I was done with a project we were working on, I would ask for more because I wanted to just…my whole goal was not to work a four hour work week, it was to learn as much as possible as I could from this guy.
Charlie: So I was like never gonna have an opportunity like this again, probably. So I just wanna get as much as I possibly can, and I wanna cling to this job as best as I can, so as I successfully got through each thing, he gave me more responsibility and I think… I talk about it in the book, kinda the high point was when I was in charge of a conference where 130 people from all around the world were flying into Napa Valley, each of them had paid $10,000 to come to this event. And I was in charge of making sure everything went well, I was put in charge of basically everything but the content being presented.
Ben: Gotcha. I actually subscribed to Tim’s newsletter and I think I remember him sending out information about that event a couple of years ago.
Charlie: Yeah, and it was the biggest assignment I’d ever had, the biggest project. It was really overwhelming and it took months of preparation, and that’s kinda where things started coming off the rails a bit. I realized that I was, even though I had good help helping me and I just realized I was gonna need to stay awake for the whole event because if something went wrong I would need to fix it.
Charlie: And so many things coming at me at once, so I secretly ordered a pill called Modafinil which fighter pilots in the military use to stay awake for days on end.
Charlie: And so I was taking that all throughout the conference and I was like superhuman, sort of like I was able to multitask and just run hyper-efficiently. I heard the phrase at the conference say “man, I need a Charlie in my life” coz I really was amazingly good at my job but during those days I was on this pill. But when I got back from the conference I was just like ready to hit a wall. I was exhausted, I felt like I was on drugs but that’s coz I was, I guess. But I was coming down from not sleeping for four days…
Ben: Like the Limitless pill.
Charlie: Yeah, exactly. And it was only compounded, the problems, the physical problems I was facing were compounded by the fact that I worked myself all day, all night for months preparing for the conference, drinking caffeine and taking my life very seriously. And this, just to wrap this up, I know it’s a long explanation but I ended up quitting my job after because I felt burned out. I worked for a few months with him on “The Four Hour Chef”, and I was just exhausted, I was ready to quit, I was taking life so seriously and then a family member died, a close friend attempted suicide, and then “The Four Hour Chef” got its deadline extended several months and I was just like “I can’t do this anymore.” So that kind of brought me into this awful, it started this stage where I was super anxious, I felt like death and it’s like I was really ashamed of it too because having been in that position, everyone around me was always congratulating me. People I talked to were like “you shouldn’t quit because this is just one of those things, you should help him get through the Four Hour Chef” and it’s also just like man, this could be… Tim offered to double my salary if I got through the “Four Hour Chef” which would’ve been a huge pay raise. He offered to double my salary with each year that I could keep going, and it became a point where the money doesn’t even matter anymore, I’m gonna destroy myself.
Charlie: I can feel it happening.
Ben: Yeah, and money… they’ve done studies on money and happiness, and especially money doesn’t matter if you never have a chance to actually go out and enjoy the things that money might be allowing you to enjoy.
Charlie: Yeah. And I dunno about you, Ben, but it took me a long time before I really got a lot better at disconnecting from work where I can actually turn off my phone at a reasonable hour and not check email. But when I was working with Tim, I wanted to be super good at my job so I was always online, I was always connected, I was always trying to do more work because I wanted… not only to be good at my job but it was also like it filled a void in my life of not having any balance.
Ben: Yeah, I mean it’s certainly a chemically proven addiction. And science has shown that it’s not just psychological, it’s biological. When you kinda pulled the plug on working and told Tim that you couldn’t be involved in his projects anymore, what did you do at that point? What was your next step?
Charlie: My next step, really in my mind I was initially just preparing for the worst of quitting with Tim coz I was like “I feel awful leaving him high and dry in the middle of this enormous project with no one to replace me” and he took the news really well, which surprised me. And so after that was done, the next step was like “okay, how can I figure out how to make the transition as smooth as possible” so that took a few weeks, and then after that was done, I’m like “okay I’m free to relax and do my own thing now.” But I couldn’t, I felt horribly guilty that I wasn’t working, I felt horribly guilty that I no longer had money and I was obsessed with what could go wrong.
Charlie: And so each day, I was reading doom and gloom news, how to prepare for disasters and stuff, and I… it’s funny looking back on it now because I was just so isolated.
Charlie: I had isolated myself from so many people. I moved from Colorado to go work out in San Francisco, I had a couple good friends in San Francisco but I wasn’t forgiving for myself so I wasn’t opening to them about anything. And the next step was me pacing around my apartment all day like a neurotic, caged rat, and just going through the motions of work, so staying up and still checking emails but being too exhausted to even respond to it for weeks. And it was the worst limbo period where I was just trying to get back up and start doing work again but recoiling at the actual act of doing work. So I got offered a few jobs that would have been pretty amazing, like one was to go live in the Bahamas for two months and help this political party with their social media, and even that I was like “uhhhhh.”
Charlie: It just made me cringe because I was like “I can’t work” but I just felt guilty for not working. Yeah, it’s weird.
Ben: In your book, on page 25 of your book, you actually have a bunch of question that you recommend folks ask themselves coz it sounds like you were kind of in that situation of being a workaholic and I love your list of questions that you say that people need to ask themselves to see if they too are in this workaholic mode.
Ben: Can you go over some of those questions?
Charlie: Yeah, I just actually… it’s funny, I just put these up on the Amazon description because somebody told me they were like I responded a lot more to these than what your actual back cover copy was. So the questions are: do you feel guilty or anxious when you’re not working, like when you disconnect, are you thinking about getting back to work? Have you stopped hanging out and playing with your friends? Do all of your daily activities revolve around building a more successful career for yourself? Are you sitting still and staring at screens for the majority of your waking hours? Do you interact with people primarily through screens? Do you only communicate with people through screens? Are you always sleeping fewer than 8 hours per night? Are you consuming stimulants like caffeine multiple times per day to hide your exhaustion? Are you indoors all day long, depriving yourself of fresh air and sunlight? And do you depend on alcohol or drugs to cope with social situations outside of work?
Charlie: And for me, I during my worst period, I can answer a resounding yes to every single one of those questions.
Ben: Yeah, I think many folks can. Even myself when I’m off with my children, when we’re playing Frisbee in the park or we’re off on a walk, it is difficult for me to get my mind off work sometimes, to actually allow myself to let go and doing things like reading your book and even through self-quantification like looking at my blood cortisol levels and things like that. I’ve began to be able to pull myself away from that but I think that probably just about everybody listening in could answer yes to at least one of those questions.
Charlie: Totally, and what has helped you? Do you find just the daily practice of disconnecting or do you need an extended period of time before you really disconnect?
Charlie: Because I know, my dad for instance, he’s like “I need several days of disconnecting before my mind starts decompressing.”
Ben: Yeah, the three biggest things for me were number one, the phone is off or not with me, period. It’s not available as a solution to be able to connect back into work.
Ben: Number two is email is only three times a day, period, and I have zero push notifications and email is turned off. So if someone sends me an email, I will simply not see it and not create that boomerang effect of emails creating more emails.
Charlie: Right, do you also have a time limit for how much you spend on email?
Ben: I don’t have a time limit but I batch emails so that three times a day that I go, it comes out to about 40-45 minutes or so per episode.
Ben: And finally mindfulness-based meditation. Basically training myself to do things like feel the air in my nostrils and feel the wind in my hair, and now I lie in bed for 15 minutes every morning, and the window’s open and you can hear the birds singing and just little things like that.
Ben: But you know, for you I know that in your book, you kinda came to this realization at one point. I love this part where you kinda get into how you cured your anxiety and what that “a-ha!” moment was for you. Can you tell our listeners about that?
Charlie: Yeah, absolutely. So like I said I kinda went through this really long period where I was feeling awful all the time, and I felt like I was gonna cry everytime I talk to somebody. I just didn’t want to do anything, I just wanted to hold myself up in my bedroom and this went on for well over a year, just feeling like I was dead inside all the time. And one night I was over at my friend’s apartment and I just stumbled on a book called “Play” by Dr. Stewart Brown, and the book is pretty technical in that it talks about the scientifically proven benefits of play and why they’re essential to our development as human beings and the benefits of play to mental health. And that book is written from a scientific vent, but it just hit me so hard, the message in it. I was like “oh my God, I am an idiot.”
Charlie: I’ve been doing this for years, I have- all my life, my happiest moments, my happiest memories, my best friends all came from play. They are all fundamentally rooted in the act of play and I take my life so seriously now. I just switched, I’ve prevented myself from playing for years and I just didn’t see it. Even when I was doing fun stuff with friends, I was still connected to work, I was still worried about getting back to how important my work was, I was never really there or I was regretting the past, I was thinking about what I’d done wrong.
Charlie: So I was never really in the moment, and all my interactions with friends, I became super shmoozy, like I became really good at being a business person and really bad at being a human. I just wasn’t vulnerable, I wasn’t honest, I was just really good at maintaining a façade of professionalism. And that’s why nobody knew what I was going through because I could maintain, I had a face of confidence and on the inside I was breaking. And I tried so many different things, I tried meditation yoga, massages, therapy, multiple therapists, naturopaths, everything you can think of, drugs… just everything that you can think of that a person with anxiety or depression would try, I did it and none of it stuck because it wasn’t… I didn’t have the right frame of mind. I was looking at the world in terms of it being just like a constricted prison. I was looking at life like how serious it was and how work was supposed to be serious and love was supposed to be… it can result in divorce. I was just focused on the negative in everything, and when I started, after I read that book, I was like “I used to think of life as play, I used to think of life as a game.” That’s how I got in these positions in the first place, but never mind work, I used to think of every opportunity – every moment as an opportunity to have fun with my friends. And how I approached life was through the lens of play, and that was the first major breakthrough – the foundation that I was able to set, that ultimately helped me overcome my anxiety because without the shift in mindset, you’re always gonna be carrying around that emotional weight of “yeah, but life is awful.” And it’s like, it’s a choice, 100% a choice on what you focus on and how you approach the world.
Charlie: And if you’re constantly looking at it through this gloomy lens, of course you’re gonna be feeling awful all the time. If you’re constantly telling yourself the story that every morning I wake up and the world is getting worse, and every morning my life is worse than every day I feel worthless because I am worthless. If you’re constantly telling yourself that story, is it any shock that you feel awful all the time?
Ben: Yeah. Now how did you change your view on everything from meetings to work to actually become more focused on play? In terms of practical examples of ways you turned work into play.
Charlie: Yeah. Well, because I started viewing life or I started thinking I can view life as a series of opportunities to have fun, every opportunity that gets presented to me can be made into play. So this guy emailed me when I first moved down to Austin and he asks if I wanted to go grab coffee, and normally with those requests, I would either turn them down because I’m too busy or I would go and it would be us sitting around just trying to basically impress each other. And instead I just, I said “hey, what do you think we go meet up at the park and play catch?” That’s more stimulating to me than drinking coffee, and I hadn’t played catch in a long time and the guy wrote back to me and he was like “yes, let’s go play catch.”
Charlie: And he was like I would love that, and it was a lot of fun and we were out there for a couple of hours and just really enjoyed the time. We got to play barefoot in the grass and just kinda chill and it removed this pressure that’s really common in any sort of business meeting where one person’s aggressively trying to ask the other one questions. It was just like dude, if you really wanna hang out, let’s just hang out.
Charlie: And it was just an approach I used to have, that’s how my friends and I used to hang out. It was never us getting together over coffee, kids don’t do that for God’s sakes.
Ben: Yeah. I’ve actually been experimenting with this technique by the way, since I read your book. I’ve had two business meetings, one was a walk in the park, the other was a tennis match.
Ben: And I got just as much done during those meetings and had a lot more fun compared to what I usually would have done which would’ve been get on the phone or meet usually at a coffee shop, or occasionally at dinner or something like that, but more often the phone or the coffee shop. It’s amazing.
Charlie: Yeah, it is. And there’s scientific proof that walking meetings are more productive that sitting meetings.
Ben: Really? Wow.
Charlie: Like, significantly more productive. Yesterday, I actually did stand-up paddle boarding with my designer, and we just had a blast. It was so relaxing and we talked business and stuff but it was like, what better way to hang out with another person than to do something that’s an enjoyable activity so there’s no pressure to talk all the time?
Charlie: And yeah, so I just started approaching as many areas of my life as “hey, what can I do with this person that’ll just be fun?” And I approached dates that way, I even started approaching my interactions with cashiers and waiters as like what’s this interaction gonna be like where we can play a little game or just make each other laugh.
Ben: Like what? How’s that manifested itself?
Charlie: It just makes you more flirtatious, more playful, you might tease… what was it? A friend of mine actually gave me a line, he was like “I would say to…” Man, I’m gonna butcher it, I forget what it is.
Charlie: But he always says something to the cashiers at Whole Foods that always gets a laugh. It had something to do with the discount card. I know that’s not a good example obviously, but I just found myself, like being on a date, I found myself spitting… not spitting, shooting cherry stems through a straw and just being playful and seeing the happiness that that produced in other people.
Ben: Yeah, like a little kid would do.
Charlie: Yeah, exactly.
Ben: That’s another thing that I did, I think this was actually in the airport after I had read your book. On the way home, I was walking through the airport and I was thinking “well if I was a little kid, how would I be walking through this airport?” And I travel light, I’ve got a backpack and a very light laptop bag, and I started jumping up on a few little platforms on the way over to the gate and balancing on some things, and then would jump down the outside gate where the cars and the buses come to pick you up. I jumped up onto the bench and started balancing back and forth on the bench, seeing how far I could go without falling off it. I got lots of funny looks but I was granted by myself, not with others, but still it was a play experience, and I just think that so many people need to see the world through that lens and need to start looking at life almost like a child again.
Charlie: I 100% agree because it’s one of those things that if you keep doing it enough around other people, that it actually transforms your world, because people are taking whatever you’re doing and absorbing and reflecting it back at you. So if you’re constantly anxious and afraid, other people are gonna reflect nervous energy back at you, but if you’re playful and fun and you lean into interactions, you actually make friends that way, with strangers. You’re more open to serendipity and you’re more open to interacting with the world, and that opens doors that you didn’t know were there. And you’ll find yourself hanging out with somebody that before that you would’ve just passed by.
Charlie: And it just makes your world richer. I’ve read a New York Times article recently that talked about how people were happier when they were actually forced, or when they were told to talk to people in public transit.
Charlie: So on the bus, everyone’s usually got their headphones in, looking down at their screens, not interacting, and everybody’s just “oh, I hate public transit.” They did a study where if people just opened up and talked to the person next to them, they found that “oh my God, the person next to me is actually like a normal, interesting person, not mean” and it made their ride more pleasant.
Charlie: And again it’s just, it boils down to if you choose to be miserable, you’re going to be miserable.
Charlie: You have to acknowledge that you are making that choice though, and you’ll always have the choice to approach it as an opportunity to have fun.
Ben: Yeah, and in your book, I love how on page 75 you kinda go into all sorts of little ideas about ways where you can play more with solo activities like everything from coloring books to roller skating, to things you can do with other people, things that just kind of get the creative wheels turning like darts and disc golf and ping pong and trampoline-ing and all sorts of cool little ideas. But one of the things you also get into in the book is this whole concept of anchors, and you actually have four anchors that you talk about that people need to be able to identify and kind of start to eliminate if they really want to remove a lot of anxiety. Can you give an overview of what those anchors are?
Charlie: Yeah. So the idea of anchors is basically like if you imagine that you’re a boat sitting out in the middle of a lake, and in the middle of the lake is anxiety, depression, and on the coast, which you’re trying to get to is happiness and relaxation. You can either paddle as hard as you possibly can to get to the coast, or you can remove the anchors that are holding you back. So anchors are basically the stressors that you constantly have weighing upon you or thrusting you into states of anxiety. It’s like you can either choose to travel with them which makes your job way harder, or you can let them go.
Charlie: And for me, there’s an exercise on how to figure out what your anchors are, but for me, when I did that exercise, I found that my main anchor was my fear of getting attacked and the reason that I had that anchor was because I was reading and watching the news so much. And the news, for better or worse and I think definitely for worse, their financial incentive is not to help you be happy. Their financial incentive is to thrust you into states of panic and hyperawareness because they need you to see their ads, and so they’re often going to make every story overly dramatic or fear-mongering because you’re more likely to see and spread their stories when you’re in a state of fear or anger. So the news, I don’t think is very useful on any level, but I think it’s especially detrimental to mental and emotional health so I had to cut that out of my life.
Ben: Yeah, that one actually struck a chord with me because what I’ve been doing for years now, I used to be a read the newspaper every day guy because I thought it would make me smarter and I got into that back when I was doing speech and debate back in college, where you’d be put on the spot and have to talk about some current event and you had to know the news. But now, I use a program called Feedly, and that allows me to subscribe to specific blogs that cover the things that I really know I’m passionate about and don’t force me to look over a bunch of depressing headlines while I’m trying to dig into the things that are actually interesting to me or that entertain me. So that one really struck a chord with me, that stop reading and watching the news. And it’s true, when I pick up a newspaper now, it’s depressing.
Charlie: Right, and there are a few things to add to what you just said. It’s like you’re smart because you’re actually picking your diet. It’s just like food, what you put into your body affects how your body reacts, affects your gut’s health, and what you allow into your conscious awareness determines the quality of your thoughts. It changes the way you think, and so if you’re constantly taking in the news or reality shows or horror movies or porn, that affects how you think. And so it makes you more stressed or angry or scared, so you choose stuff that you are really passionate about and that you love, so that’s automatically gonna make your mind into a place where your thoughts are stimulated and excited and happy.
Charlie: And so I think it just makes a lot of sense that you have to pay attention to when you read something, how you feel. I know a lot of people, they get on Facebook and every time they get depressed because they look at their friends, the highlights of their friends’ lives rather than their actual lives, right?
Ben: [laughs] Nobody posts the bad stuff on Facebook, right? Rarely.
Charlie: No, of course not. Even though all of us have awful stuff that happens to us regularly or we do stuff that we keep in our shadow that’s sketchy behavior that’s just not acceptable by social standards, so… But if you’re constantly feeling bad everytime you check Facebook, maybe you gotta take a break from Facebook for a week. Try it, see how you feel.
Charlie: So that’s what I did. For each of these, I took a week off.
Ben: There are even websites out there, I dunno if you use any of these. There are websites out there that will block your access to certain sites, right?
Ben: Do you use any?
Charlie: I’ve experimented with, there’s stuff like Self Control.
Charlie: That’s an app that blocks them. For me, honestly, you’re gonna laugh when I say this Ben, but it’s the truth. I just ordered a dumb phone, a non-smart phone so there’s no apps, no email access.
Ben: [laughs] That’s what my wife has, she has incredibly more productive times when she’s with her phone than I am.
Charlie: Right. And that’s the thing that I realized, this is not a phone. The iPhone is not a phone, it’s a computer.
Charlie: And when you buy a handheld computer… somebody put it this way and I loved how they put it. It’s like “when you buy a phone, you’re not just buying a phone, you’re buying a lifestyle.” It’s like being a farmer where it’s like “okay, no, you’re connected all the time to everyone and everything and you’re gonna be hyperaware of notifications and everything” and it’s just like, I realized recently… it’s just I’ve tried all these different hacks and stuff to have self-control, I just don’t have it. So I have to get rid of the functionality on at least the phone, because that is the one thing that is just like “man, this is such a time suck” and I don’t even email people on my phone because I don’t like typing. So it was like this is one area of my life I gotta fix.
Ben: Yeah, you got plenty of other anchors that you talk about in there. Everything from stopping drinking ridiculous amounts of caffeine if you’re someone who experiences panic and anxiety to not spending time with what you call “vampires”, and I love your quote from Jim Rohn in here that says “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” And that’s a fantastic chapter but in the time that we have left, I wanna get into a few of the other practical tips that you have in there.
Ben: Like for example, you talk about how you had trouble sleeping when you were kinda getting out of that workaholic mode. What did you do about that, coz I know a lot of people who struggle with that.
Charlie: Yeah, tons of people struggle with this. And there was actually, I’m kicking myself because there was one tip… there’s actually a couple of tips that help with sleep that I left out, but the main thing that really helped me was picking a consistent time to go to bed. When I was at my most anxious, I was going to bed whenever, basically. And I was… it could range from 10pm to 4am, and that’s insane, right?
Charlie: It’s totally out of sync with nature, it’s just like a gigantic middle finger to your body. And I just deprived myself of sleep and no wonder I was going crazy, I was a wreck. Sleep is the time when your body can actually process all the information that’s been pouring into you all day long and detox itself. And it’s not that your mind turns off, but your conscious thoughts turn off, and so it gives you an actual real break where your body can actually heal the inflammation and all this stuff that you torture it during the day. So that was the big one for me, another major thing is stop looking at screens past 7 or 8pm I think is a really good policy to follow.
Charlie: So just like after dinner, you’re done, stop.
Ben: Yeah. You know what’s actually helped me quite a bit with that is you keep a good book made out of real paper, [laughs] not a Kindle or an iPad, but you keep that book in your bedroom.
Ben: Because I have lots of cool things on my Kindle and my phone that I’m prone to look at but if I have a book sitting there, a little bookmark in it for my next chapter, that really helps me with screen time in the bedroom coz I’ve got something to look at aside from a screen.
Charlie: Yeah, exactly. And like, reading fiction is another great way to wind down. That’s what we did when we were kids, too, we’d have our parents tell us stories, right?
Ben: How do you find good books to read? A lot of people I think are…
Ben: And this is something that I had to kinda get back into, coz I used to be big into fiction and then I really got into business books and personal development books.
Ben: And that was like the crux of my reading, still is, but I’m curious about you and how you’re finding books. You said you talk to friends?
Charlie: Yeah, I’m fortunate now because I’m in a community of improv-people, improvisers. And they’re all a bunch of arty nerds in the most positive way. So they’ll have really great recommendations for books, and I just picked up “The Name of the Wind”, and I bought it based on a friend’s recommendation but I also looked at the Amazon description and I was like… it won the award in 2007 for best fantasy series but Amazon said “for Harry Potter fans who are looking for the next Harry Potter, look no further” and I was like “done, bought.” So that’s the one I’m gonna be starting next, but yeah I totally agree with you. If you’re still reading business books, you’re not actually unwinding, you’re still on.
Charlie: And you really need to… it just enriches your life to introduce a different aspect of the world than business. Not everything’s business and actually if you expose yourself to doing fun stuff like reading fiction, it makes you a richer person who actually can make better business relationships or normal relationships at any point.
Ben: Yup, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but you also have richer dreams when you’re reading, almost this more creative type of stimulus before you go to bed at night.
Ben: And that’s something I’ve noticed is that you actually have more interesting dreams compared to reading something about whatever, top 10 tips to grow your Google+ account of something like that.
Charlie: Totally, yeah. So a couple more quick things regarding sleep that help a lot. One is just getting outside in the sun for at least 20 minutes a day, like getting as much sunlight as you can, and the other which I love that you talked about in your book, is earthing or grounding, which really has the worst hippie name.
Charlie: Because the reality is like “go be on the grass.” [laughs]
Charlie: And don’t be in shoes. It’s like connect with the Earth for like 20 minutes a day at least and it actually just helps you a lot. There’s scientifically proven benefits to doing this.
Ben: Yeah, I agree and that’s actually something I was out doing this morning. The weather’s a little bit warmer, I can now go out in my grass in my backyard, and for about 4 minutes I do box breathing, which is basically a four count in, four count hold…
Charlie: Oh yeah, 4-4-4.
Ben: Yeah, exactly. And you just lie there on your back on the grass kinda bathing in the sunshine, and you feel like a million bucks once you get up, so…
Ben: There’s so many other places you go in your book and I know that we don’t have all day to talk about this, but there’s one other thing that I wanted to hit on that I thought was really interesting. You talked about this concept of intentional acts of kindness. Can you explain why you included that and also give us some practical examples of how we could start doing that?
Charlie: Totally. So one of the biggest problems that anxious people have is they are totally in their own mindset, they’re completely self-absorbed and totally wrapped up in their own problems, and intentional acts of kindness… I said that in the more common thing that people is random acts of kindness but random implies that you’re just doing it spontaneously and “oh you bought somebody a cup of coffee who was in line after you.” And instead of them being “oh thank you, you did that intentionally”, they’re like “what happened?” They’re like disoriented.
Charlie: So I think it’s important to be intentional about what you’re doing and to have it be very obvious that you’re doing this because you care about somebody else. And I think an easy one is to just call an old friend and say a nice memory of you guys popped in your head and you wanted to just check how they were doing. Like what better way to nurture a relationship than pick up the phone and say you’re thinking about somebody who has been a part of your life for a long time.
Charlie: I think to just say hello to people or to intentionally thank people are really simple things you can do. Giving hugs to people for 20 seconds, that’s actually like a proven thing that can strengthen your bond with another person.
Ben: Yeah, you get that oxytocin release too which is very good.
Charlie: Yeah, if you’re good at creating art… I know people who create art and then give it away, that’s always a cool thing. You can always host a couch surfer, or another one is to just play, ask your neighbors to join you or to be kind to another species because humans are not very good to non-humans and just being kind to another species is like a step in a very positive direction.
Ben: Yeah, I love it.
Charlie: It reminds you that we’re not isolated on this Earth, like we’re all, everything’s connected. We’re all just magically here, together, and nothing’s really superior to anything else. It’s just like we all happened to be here.
Ben: Yeah, I love how you talk about your friend Jeff in that chapter, you say you hung up swings on trees in the park.
Ben: Take a book, leave a book stations out of old newsstands, handed out pre-stamped mother’s day cards to his neighbors. That’s a pretty good example, actually with my kids on next Thursday before Mother’s Day, we’re creating a random acts of kindness bouquet for her, and I got this idea off of one of my favorite websites called mykidsadventures.com, and it’s called a kindness bouquet where on every little paper flower that you make in the bouquet, on the back of it is a random act of kindness that mom can kinda cash in whenever she would like. It can be like you’re gonna cook her a special dinner or you’re gonna write her a poem or paint a picture or have a surprise date or take over some certain chores for her. But yeah, if for folks listening in with children, I think this is a really, really important point too, is this is something you can teach your children to do early on. And everything that Charlie has talked about in today’s podcast, I would especially encourage you with families and if you’re able to influence your kids early on to see life as more than just being a workaholic reading the news and trying to get as much done as possible during the day, be as productive as possible and make as much money as possible, there’s way more to life than that.
Charlie: Right, and you’ll never have enough.
Charlie: There will never be enough. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s like even when you get to the top or accomplish all the financial goals you want, they’ll change. Nothing will ever be enough, so you have to start practicing this stuff now, everyday, because otherwise you’re just constantly prolonging it
Ben: Yup, exactly. Well we’ve kinda just scratched the surface of what’s in “Play It Away”, so if you’re listening and this has struck a chord with you, grab Charlie’s book. It’s not a super huge book, it’s something you can get through in a week or less and you’re gonna come away from it with some really good ideas about ways to change your life and get more into this concept of play.
Charlie: Thanks man, I’ll just say I made the book intentionally so you could read it in the time that you would watch a movie. If you’re a fast reader, you’ll be able to finish it in 2-3 hours.
Ben: Yeah, absolutely, and it’s laid really nicely. So I’ll put a link over in the show notes over at bengreenfieldfitness.com where you can grab Charlie’s book, and again it’s called “Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure For Anxiety”, and if you listened in and you have questions or comments or feedback, head over there to the show notes at bengreenfieldfitness.com where you can find this post or just search for the show notes for Charlie or for workaholics and you’ll be able to find it, and ask your questions or say anything you’d like to say over there. So Charlie, thanks so much for coming on the call today, man.
Charlie: Yeah Ben, this was great. Thanks again for having me, man.
Ben: Alright folks, well this is Ben and Charlie Hoehn, signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com.
Do you feel guilty or anxious when you’re not working?
Have you stopped playing with your friends?
Do all of your daily activities revolve around building a more successful career?
Are you sitting still and staring at screens for most of your waking hours?
Do you interact with people primarily through screens?
Are you always sleeping fewer than eight hours per night?
Are you consuming stimulants multiple times per day to hide your exhaustion?
Are you indoors all day long, depriving yourself of fresh air and sunlight?
Do you depend on alcohol or drugs to cope with social situations outside of work?
My podcast guest today – Charlie Hoehn, author of the book “Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure For Anxiety”– has been there, and he knows what that lifestyle is like. Shallow breathing, tension in the gut, chest pains, rapid heartbeat…
…every moment is exhausting, crushing, and painful.
Eventually, anxiety destroys your confidence, your productivity, your relationships, and your ability to enjoy life. The worst part is the gnawing sense that you’ll never feel happy again.
Fear no more. You can put an end to your suffering. You can start living again. And it’s not as hard as you think…
In today’s podcast, we cover Charlie’s entire journey: what caused his anxiety, the “A-ha!” moment that led to his cure and how he got his life back. In this episode, you’ll learn:
The key breakthrough that allowed Charlie to enjoy life again…
Charlie’s step-by-step plan for healing anxiety without drugs…
How Charlie turned non-stop worrying into background noise…
Charlie’s unusual technique for stopping panic attacks…
Why “anchors” fuel anxiety, and how to remove them…
How Charlie finally started sleeping well again…
Three common nutrient deficiencies that amplify anxiety…
How to boost productivity and have guilt-free fun…