The Exciting Journey of Podcasting: From Curiosity to Global Impact.
Why We're Getting More Depressed, Anxious and Lonely | E55 | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Why We're Getting More Depressed, Anxious and Lonely | E55".
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Hello. Listen, before I start, I just want to pay a little bit of homage and also a tribute to the guests that I had joined me last week on this podcast, the feedback that I got from that conversation for those that had the resilience to listen for the full two hours. And if you haven't, I genuinely, genuinely implore you to because the value of that conversation and the diversity of the topics we touched on, I genuinely believe a life changing. I've reflected continuously throughout this week on that conversation. We touched on everything from depression to anxiety to burnout. And it's really developed to me. You know, one of the things they say is that the teacher is the person in a classroom that gets the most value from a conversation. And in that context, I as the interviewer who got to sit there and listen and prod and think through my own sort of selfish curiosity, I think I got the most value out of that. I certainly learned a ton about myself, the world, and some of the problems that I've had throughout my life. So if you haven't, and you do get the time, I implore you to go back and check out that episode. And in fact, that episode has inspired this episode in many ways. One of the things that you guys have said to me in my DMs, on your stories, in the reviews, everywhere, my emails, you said to me one of the things you enjoy most about this podcast is when I'm a little bit more raw. And when I, I'm a little bit less scripted per se, not that I'm ever really that scripted, but when I'm a little bit more off the cuff, when I talk about my own anecdotes, my own life and my own stories. And so this episode, this chapter is going to be exactly that. It's predominantly centered on my anecdotes. My diary is full of things that have happened to me this week, personal stories from my friends, and the lessons that they've taught me, the lessons they've taught me about myself, about my life, and about how to build a better future. So without further ado, I'm Stephen Bartlett, and this is the Diaries CEO. I hope nobody's listening. But if you are, then please keep this to yourself. So for the first point of my diary this week, I've literally just written means to an end syndrome.
Understanding Motivation And Mental Health
How I've FINALLY fixed / figured out why we lose motivation (02:01)
Let me explain what I mean. Every single year, I set myself the same goal in February, and the goal is simple. It's to getting good physical shape. And every year, thankfully, I achieve that goal until September. And by October, my motivation to work out, to eat well, and to be healthy seems to transform from this like tangible object that I can hold on to, to sand slipping through my hands. By January, the following year, all hell has broken loose in my diet. I'm basically fat compared to how I usually am. My energy is lower, my sleep isn't as good. I just don't feel my best anymore. Then February comes around again and March comes around, and I set myself the same goal to get in shape. And the cycle repeats itself. This has happened to me. I'd say every year for at least the last five years in a row. And I've not been able to understand from a psychological perspective why this is happening. And with all things in life, until you become conscious of what's causing you to behave the way that you are, you're you're merely just a puppet. And the puppet master remains this unknown force, this experience you had at some point, a, you know, a facet of your psychology, one that usually doesn't have your best interests at heart, one that usually can't be trusted. A puppet master that certainly isn't working for you. He's working for your insecurities, or for your, for your ego, or for trauma that you've experienced. The same cycle, unfortunately, started to repeat itself this year. I mean, I started the year fat, January time, I was pretty fat compared to how I usually am walking can feel the little rolls on my belly shaking as I walk, and I'm wearing slightly baggy clothes. By August, I was in the best shape of my entire life, right? Because of an obsessive focus on the gym. I was going seven days a week. I was calorie counting. One day I did 5,000 calories. And by September, my motivation started, as it always does, to just fall away. I noticed that I wasn't charging my apple watch anymore. I noticed that I'd started to miss the gym. I started to eat junk food again. This lasted for about two weeks this year. But this time, I started to be a bit more conscious about it. I told myself what I was doing, and I started examining my own psychology and saying literally saying to myself, Steve, you're doing it. That cycle is repeating itself. You're eating shit. You're lacking motivation. Fortunately, I've just written a whole chapter on the topic of motivation for my upcoming book. So I, because of the research that I had to do to write that chapter, I understand the psychological principles and the forces at play that make someone motivated or unmotivated and armed with that. And my own sort of critical self analysis, which I attained from being more conscious about what I was doing, the fact that I was eating junk food. And I could feel my motivation waning. I finally understood why this is happening to me. Maybe this is happening to me isn't the best way to describe it. Why I'm doing this to myself or not doing things to myself that I should be doing. And, touch wood, I finally overcome it. It's November. I'm still working out for the first time, literally in my life. I'm still eating well and I'm still focused on my health goals. And this is the first year ever that I can remember in the last five, really in the last decade, where I've been just as committed to working out now and to being healthy in my entire life than I was during the summer. So let me tell you how I did this and let me tell you what I understood about my own motivation, because I know it's going to speak to you in your own way. Let me rewind every year around February, March, I say the same thing to myself and I set myself the same goal. Let's just stop there, right? And take a look at what I just said, because there's a real clue in that first sentence. Why does this goal pop up in March? The answer, quite an obvious one, because summer is on the horizon. And you've got to ask yourself again, you've got to criticize yourself there and say, well, why does summer matter? Well, because, you know, summertime is a time where we wear less clothes, we're a little bit more vulnerable, our bodies are on show more. And then you've got to ask yourself a kiss. So why is that relevant? Well, it speaks to the nature of my motivation. My motivation wasn't to work out. It wasn't to be healthy because I want long-term health benefits or to feel great about myself. As embarrassing as this is to admit, my motivation was so clearly, clearly, to look good for summer. Let's just break that down a second. Look good for summer. Looking good as a goal is measured by just one thing, the public's opinion of me, ladies' opinion of me. That's what we call an extrinsic external goal. Success of that goal will be achieved when the public think I look good. The next part of that sentence, right, was for summer. The next part of my goal was for summer, which is a measurable time frame. So once summer is over, the job is done. So the motivation behind that goal was both extrinsic and held within a time frame. So when I dropped that social media pic of me topless in Micanos or wherever I went this summer, Micanos and Costa Rica, looking good during summer. And when I got the compliments, the likes, the followers, the praise, and when summer passed, unsurprisingly, so did my motivation. Job done. My goal, my reason, my why was attached to summer and also public opinion, and both had been fulfilled. So as I pulled into October and I tried to find the motivation to go to the gym, it was gone. Going to the gym suddenly felt so pointless to me and I had no idea why. It just did. Even when I managed to get to the gym, my workout was quite honestly pathetic. It was short. It was like 25, 30 minutes of me predominantly texting. And I didn't know why. I just thought I wasn't feeling great. Like, you know, like a boat that had suddenly been unanchored, I was now just drifting unconsciously without intention or real motivation or without conscious realization into the winter months, into bad habits, into fat Steve. And the minute I realized this, this year, I was able to completely reset and sort of re anchor my motivation into things that were intrinsically, internally motivating and without timeframes. I set myself the goal of going to the gym just because it makes me feel great. And because of the energy it gives me and the positive impact it has on my sleep. And because, you know, I love showing myself how self disciplined I am. I get a real weird feeling of joy by going to the gym on a day when I feel like shit. Because for me, that's kind of overcoming my mind. Right. It's like beating the negative or the weaker parts of my mind that are trying to dissuade me from doing something that's in line with my long term values. And honestly, also, people don't like to say this, but the positive impact it has on my sex life. I didn't really had to say this without sounding like a fucking dick. But I have never been there in bed. And just generally how good it makes me feel all year round. All of these things have no finish line. They're not extrinsically or externally judged by the public. They're the opposite of the extrinsic short term goals I set myself in March. They're intrinsic. They are never ending. They view life not just as a bunch of recurring seasons, but as one season. One season from now until the day that I die, the season of life. And that, that is a season that it's incredibly valuable and important to be healthy and to look good for. As James Clear says, you know, we tend to believe that will be more successful or happier prosperous if we put more intensity into our lives. You know, like the intensity that I showed in March every year in the lead up to summer, you know, like crash diets and sprinting towards our goals at the expense of everything else, staying up for weeks and weeks and weeks on end to revise for that exam. But the truth is, we don't need intensity if we have a little bit more consistency. Had I just stayed in good shape in September, October, November, December, and January, if I just gone to the gym maybe twice or three times a week throughout that period and avoided a bit of, you know, the junk food which I binged on periodically through that period, I wouldn't even need the intensity for the rest of the year. I wouldn't need to starve myself obsessive in my diet and go to the gym seven days a week, sometimes twice a day. In fact, intensity for me is often a sign that we lacked consistency in the past. And I think, and I've said this a couple of times in this podcast before, but until you know, right, and this is not easy, I'm going to make this sound like it's an easy thing to do, but it requires the same sort of critical self analysis and that I've demonstrated that what you would have seen from what I just said is I interrogated my rationale. So I said, you know, why does it, why do I always get motivated in February and March? And then I said, well, because, you know, summer's around the corner and then why does summer matter? Well, because other, you know, extrinsic reasons. And if you go down that rabbit hole with humility and with the attention of not defending your ego, but finding the truth, then you might understand what's motivating you. But until you know what's motivating you, you won't know where you're going or why you're going there or who's steering the ship? What force in your life is steering that ship? And I'd predict that 99.9% of your motivations are misguided or somewhat unconscious. You don't really know why you're doing what you're doing. I think most of the time, you have no idea what the driving force behind your behavior is. The same applies for me. But until you do, until you have the self awareness and that humility you need to interrogate your thinking and the lack of ego to identify why you're doing what you're doing, whether it's superficial driven by insecurities from your childhood, because you're seeking validation like I was or other, you will never actually be in control of your life, something else's. And if your goals are extrinsic, someone else's. Okay, so the next point of my diary, I've just written here journey back to human.
Why people are more depressed and anxious (and a cure) (11:31)
Let me explain. I find it so ironic, but somewhat unsurprising, if I'm honest, that most of the new age techniques that were aimed to sort of improve our mental health and an overall well-being are largely based on old age principles of how our life used to be tens of thousands of years ago. And in the process of writing my book, I went back over the last, I'd say three decades to see how humans and Neanderthals lived their lives to understand why this is. It's almost like, as we developed as humans, and as we started to rely on agriculture and farming and we stopped living in our tribe, it's like we took a wrong turn. And we filled our lives with overstimulation and with like alcohol and caffeine and poor nutrition and loneliness and convenience, right? And I think based on the alarming growth in mental health conditions, like depression, anxiety, addiction, and even other conditions like loneliness and I'd say purposefulness, right? I think it's time to turn back. And the question, I guess I often I'm forced to ponder is what is what is a human being? What are we? What are we meant to be? If we take away all of this social pressure, take away Instagram and all of the noise and all of the pressure to conform? What are we? Who are we? And how are we meant to live? And infrequently, I'll find myself trawling through Google as I did as I, you know, when I went over to Costa Rica and I spent the time in the jungle, I found myself trawling through Google in history, trying to understand humans. And it's unsurprising that the natural lifestyle of humans back then consists of everything that ferret therapists and nutritionists and mindset coaches and psychologists preach about when you're feeling like shit today. Let's start with probably the most obvious. It should be the most obvious. And it's definitely one of the things that's causing depression and a lot of people. It's this lack of human connection. Back then, 10,000 years ago, we lived in our tribes surrounded by family and friends and Johanna Harri who came on this podcast and is actually coming back on this year. That's a little exclusive for you wrote a life shifting book called Lost Connections on this exact point. And if there's ever a book I've read in my life, and I'm not here to plug Johanna Harri just for, you know, because he comes on the podcast and stuff like that. The reason he comes on this podcast is because his book, I'd say in the last three years has had the biggest single impact on how I see the world, right? The fundamental conclusion of that book is we need each other. That is non-negotiable. I read a bunch of studies and I've seen a bunch of TED talks on YouTube where they've done a study over a century and they followed like 100 or 1000 people and the people that don't establish meaningful relationships in their lives die earlier. They get more sick and they have a worse quality of life. I didn't used to think this stuff, right? Right. I didn't think this was important before. I mistakenly thought that if I got rich, really, really rich, everything else would fall into place. So when I at 18 years old, my whole life was centered on this North style, which was getting filthy rich at the expense of everything. And I sacrificed everything for that. And I got to be honest because that's what this podcast is for. I felt that loneliness. I didn't actually like weekends because they were so empty for me. I didn't have anything to do. I'm sure some of you can relate to this, especially you hustle porn stars out there that are running your businesses. Weekends were just this big fucking void in my life. There was nothing to do. So I just went to the office. My entire life at that point when I was 18, 19, 20 was focused on money, work, business. And after developing this habit of like forced self-induced loneliness for about five, six or seven years, it had really, really stuck. I was a self-diagnosed recluse, one that spent all of his time in the office on my laptop, making more money, even though I already hadn't more money than I could ever possibly need. And at some point, thankfully, I realized the never-ending pointless insanity of my situation. What was the point in having all of this money? If I didn't have any meaningful relationships to enjoy it with, life is a multiplayer game. It's not a solo experience. And I got to see how miserable some of my quote unquote successful friends were by just being behind the scenes in their life. One of the, I guess, the positive things that happened to me when I became successful, quote unquote, was I made a lot of successful friends. And those friends, in many cases, were way ahead of me. And what they did for me is they showed me what my future would look like if I carried on how I was. I got to see behind the scenes, behind their ambiguis, behind their mansions. And I realized that life had lied to me. You know, of course progress and success and striving towards goals matter. Like, of course, right? It's made me fulfill to some degree, but not at the expense of all the other things, not the expense of meaningful and frequent human connection. The other thing that I observe when I, when I sort of reflect on how our ancestors used to live is just the sheer simplicity of their lives. You know, they lived together in caves, in these simple huts. You know, they were hunters and gatherers. They used basic tools which they had made to, you know, track and hunt birds and wild animals. They cooked their prey around a campfire. They fished, they collected berries and fruits and nuts. Their goals were so significantly more intrinsic and survival focused than ours are today. They were focused on taking care of themselves and one another, a very simple life, it's a very simple purpose. Without all of this fucking shit that we have today, without Instagram, without politics, Trump, fearful news cycles, without two hour work commutes, right, to get between four white walls to lock ourselves in a cubicle, without stress, without traffic, without obsessive worrying and notifications and emails and inbox zero pressures and social pressures and expectations of how your life is meant to be going without all of that shit, a simpler life, which results in a simpler mind, which is so frequently the thing that, you know, psychologists and therapists prescribe to all of us when we have illnesses today to simplify our lives. But simplifying our lives seems to go against society's mandate that expects you to be so much, that expects career success from you, that expects financial success, material possessions, that expects psychological perfection, that expects physical fitness and health, social status, to push yourself out of your comfort zone to climb the ladder, to have perfect relationships at the same time, to demonstrate the perfect behavior all while living in a healthy, perfect, clear, mentally stable mind. This level of like obsessive perfection and, you know, accomplishment seeking and validation hunting isn't conducive with simplicity, not in the world we live in today, absolutely not. It's either one or the other in many respects. So instead of living, you know, a simple life, we kind of burn ourselves to the ground and then we escape off on holiday, which is usually based on simplicity, which is, you know, laying down out in nature and relaxing and doing very little. It's like, you know, there was a quote from a guest that I had on this podcast a couple of years ago. I think it was when I had a chat with the CEO of Leon, the restaurant chain, and he said, you should never cut down the rainforest and then donate to the bees. And this is exactly what this strikes me as. You're cutting down your own rainforest in order to donate to your own bees, ruining yourself so that you can raise the funds you need to fix yourself. It's like, it feels like insanity. And I'm super guilty of this, I have to admit. So one of the things that I've tried to introduce into my life is a little bit more simplicity, scenarios and contexts that simplify my life. And every day now I go for a walk there and back to the gym and I listen to my music, something I didn't do before, I just got an Uber. And the other thing that's really helped simplify my life is just playing with my dog. Pets like kids are amazing for simplifying your world because they live in such a simple world. Like, my dog can spend an hour absolutely amused and obsessed by like a luke is a bottle or like pretending he's hunting. It's such a remarkable thing when you contrast it to the complexity of the world we live in. If you're looking to simplify your world briefly, try it. If you don't have a dog, get a dog, but try it. Try going into their world. My niece and my dog are fascinatingly simple and they're unassuming and they're unpretentious and I want to live more in that world sometimes. And I think this is why some people are also so incredibly obsessed with nature. All this simplicity seems to calm the mind, you know, sort of recenters yourself. And the next thing you see, if you look back at our ancestors and how they live their lives, is exactly that. They spent literally all of their time in nature. That's where they lived. They lived in nature during that I'm going to get this word wrong, right? But during the Mesolithic period, I got it right 12,000 years ago, they lived nomadically in camps near rivers and near other sort of large bodies of water. And today, like a bunch of dumbass overdeveloped monkeys, we live in these concrete jungles alone between four white walls. The time I spent last month for that pretty much the whole month living in the Costa Rican jungle was the most wonderful tranquil experience of my life. It was the most human experience of my entire life. Making time in nature has to be a central part of my routine now. It's a really fucking good decision, especially for someone like me that lives in a big, busy, traffic-ridden, noisy, chaotic city. And lastly, the key thing I see when I look back at our ancestors was exercise and nutrition. We, me, you, us, our generation are the most inactive, sedentary group of humans of all time, according to the data. Our lifestyles are gradually becoming more and more still, more sat down at our desks, glaring into these illuminated glass screens and office blocks. We don't need to hunt and gather anymore, right? Like our ancestors did, which was a huge source of their physical activity and exercise, because we've got the liver room and Uber eats. Some guy will bring me any food that I want to my door in 25 minutes. And I'll be honest with you, it's not always good food. It's usually, you know, full of sugar and artificial substances and things like caffeine, which move our mood one way or the other. And also, back then, we were literally carved and scavenged for the tools that we needed to make our food today. Amazon Prime, that shit will be here tomorrow. I've included this sort of terrifying graph in my book that shows the gradual decline of human activity and I've placed it against the graph of obesity and sugar consumption. And it makes for a pretty alarming read, right? We're not living like humans anymore. We live like lazy, gluttonous gorillas who would increasingly rather go under the knife on a surgeon's table to change our appearance, then make a simple lifestyle change. Not very human at all, is it? So no wonder we don't feel so human these days. If this is how you're living, certainly how I was living, then you should expect to not feel great, because you're not living in accordance with your own natural way of being. It's crazy. It's crazy that the new age cures for our new age problems all seek to take us back 10,000 years. Meditation and digital detoxes are there to still our mind, healthy nutrition, to cut out modern junk foods, therapy, friendships and human connection to rid us of the loneliness and to connect us back to our tribe. These feelings of loneliness and anxiety and depression are often, according to the science and my own personal experience, nothing more than a calling from our body to get back to our tribes to be a little bit more human, not to find ourselves, but to rediscover who we were, who we are as humans. And if you're struggling in any way, here's some advice. Give it a go. Try and live a little bit more human. For me, as a sort of mentally busy career obsessed recluse, it fundamentally changed my life. I know that for sure. And I genuinely believe that it might be the thing that could have the greatest impact on yours. Okay, so for the next point of my diary, I've literally just written, humans have no idea what they want, which kind of ties a little bit into my first point, but it's very, very different.
Humans have no idea what they want (23:13)
I want to tell you a story. One of my very, very good friends, I won't name him because that doesn't matter. And I keep referencing friends on this podcast. I'm slowly losing friends. So my circle is getting a little bit smaller. I'm just joking. One of my good friends came to my house last week for a little bit of a catch up and he sat on my sofa over there and he asked me a couple of questions about myself and I timed him and I said, listen, how have you been? And somewhat instinctively, as we all do, he replied, yeah, good. And you know, when you're my mate, I have to be honest, I fucking hate that response. Give that response to someone in like business or when you're in a networking event or something like that. Nobody has been yeah, good. Nobody, life fortunately, and to be honest, unfortunately, isn't that simple? Definitely not in the middle of a global pandemic, where our lives are locked down and stripped back and have been completely shifted. Nobody's yeah, good. So I instinctively replied to him, which is a habit I've gotten to recently, especially with my close friends. No, how have you really been? And almost instantly, literally almost instantly, he went, yeah, pretty burnt out to be honest with you. And that's kind of surprising because I'm really lucky and I stopped him there. And the reason I stopped him there is because I've just spent the last month studying the topic of burnout for my book. And I wanted to check, I wanted to check if he like pretty much everyone else I've ever spoke to fit into the pattern and the category that almost everybody fits into when they experience burnout. I said to him, when you say you're feeling burnt out, but you're surprised because you're lucky, what do you mean by lucky? And he said, well, you know, because you know, I've got all the things ticked off. I've got the money, I've got the car, I've got the house. And then I stopped him again. And I said, that's why you're burnt out, because your own self-confessed definition of career or life, luck and success is extrinsically purely extrinsically motivated. And as I said in last week's podcast, on almost every occasion where someone is doing something that they're motivated to do by largely extrinsic or external reasons, whether it's money or status or fame or likes or followers or to obtain like material objects, where the intrinsic internal rewards like joy and personal fulfillment, a sense of purpose or a sense of belonging are limited, you will inevitably lose your motivation, you'll struggle to get out of bed, and you'll self diagnose yourself as everybody seems to do as being burnt out. And let's just take a look at the world we're living in right now, because it adds a really important layer of context to all of that. This pandemic has robbed all of us, our lives and our work of things that made work and our lives intrinsically enjoyable. You know, that feeling of striving towards a shared goal, the social value of being part of a team in an office, that sense of belonging it gives you, the sense of forward motion and progress and purpose and accomplishment. And to be honest, and our personal lives socializing and days out and family and friends and travel. And this robber, the pandemic COVID-19 has left most of us with just the work. Wake up zoom to do list sleep, wake up to do list sleep. It's left us with just the extrinsic stuff. And to be completely honest, the only thing that makes doing a lot of the extrinsic stuff like work worthwhile is the promise of all the intrinsic stuff socializing community purpose that it promises you that it gives us. But right now, it's not giving us that we're largely alone, not enjoying ourselves much. We don't know what the mission is. We don't know when we're going to be out of this situation. So our work feels heavily extrinsic. Therefore pointless. We're doing it to pay the bills. We don't have our colleagues around us anymore. That sense of purpose and mission is gone. Therefore, we lack motivation. Therefore, we feel burnt out. The more I've tried to understand the complexity of humans, the more I've realized how simple, predictable, and alike we all are. And our motivations don't tend to be that dissimilar. We're such fragile, emotional, unconscious beings that think we're strong, resilient, unique, and in control. We're not. We're all going through this shit together, making the same mistakes predictably, because we all have a very, very similar innate psychological wiring. And the same psychological factors are running the show. Our working lives have been completely knocked out of balance. And the work is just that now. It's work. Social chain, my company, the company I founded and recently resigned from, you know, it was renowned for its culture, for its sense of community, for the sense of purpose and that intrinsic pleasure, it gives the people that work there for the joy of, you know, the dogs in the office. We had about 10 of them, to be honest, we had a happiness team that would make sure every day when you're in the office, you're feeling good therapist that were there for you in the office every single day. We had this sense of mission and purpose that we were building this business in forward motion. And it was going great because the business was growing, it still is, but it was growing and that gives you purpose as well. But when a pandemic and a lockdown strikes, all of that stuff is taken away. All that intrinsic stuff, the enjoyment is taken away. And something that was fundamentally designed from the ground up to give you as much joy as a job could possibly give you becomes a bunch of people alone in their boxer shorts on their own little islands, doing their to-do lists every day, chatting once in a while on Zoom or over WhatsApp, or in shared company groups, work becomes work. Nothing more. That combined with the lack of structure that everyone has in their day now, results in long-ass work in hours and that has a huge impact on your sleep and all of these things and all the other problems, sends you straight into a place of purposelessness, low motivation. And when all of that happens, we say it's burnout. And I think everybody's experiencing a bit of burnout right now. You know, every year, at Christmas, it's widely known, according to the data, companies experience the highest amount of staff turnover. Because, you know, as those sort of New Year's resolutions and all the introspection occurs, people decide they want to go work somewhere else. They want a new challenge. They want something else for their lives. And we always see the same thing at Social Chain. And this year, we saw that behavior happen a few months into the pandemic. Quite a few people quit. More than we've ever had in the middle of the year, ever before. And part of me knows that this is because Social Chain, in pretty much every company, lost some of its intrinsic value, that community and purpose and fun. And when it loses it and when all you have is the extrinsic, like paying the bills, a lot of people go looking for pay rises. And if you've worked at Social Chain, I'm telling you, you can get a pay rise. It's got a good brand. People want people that have worked at Social Chain. And when people start to sort of enjoy their work less, they arrive often at the conclusion that Social Chain is maybe part of the issue. Maybe Social Chain is the reason that I'm not enjoying my work as much. So they go in search of that purpose somewhere else. And people have been leaving other companies and in their droves, to be honest, wanting to come to Social Chain. And people have left Social Chain wanting to go elsewhere. And this is something that's happened not in Social Chain alone, across every business, across the whole country. So if you're feeling like shit in your job, if you're feeling a bit burnt out, if you're lacking motivation, you're feeling a no stagnant, this is probably a large part of the reason. But going back to the conversation with my friend, which is where this started before I went off topic, there's another important layer to address here. My friend, like me, had a relatively psychologically rough start to life with family issues and issues with his peers. It robbed something from his self-worth in the same way it did for me. It made him insecure in the same way it did for me. And listen, bro, I know you're listening to this because this guy, he's one of my very good friends. He never misses an episode. He always gives me great feedback. I know you're listening to this, right? It takes one to no one. Everything I'm saying about you could be said about me too. I too, as everyone knows, grew up with insecurities that made me try and ball out on social media. They made me buy all the champagne and every night club I went to made me pull up in sports cars, right? In his case, it's made in particularly intent on showing the world that he is worthy and that he is successful. The clue, of course, is in the fact that when I asked him to define what luck or success meant to him, he said a bunch of material things. Something some insecurity taught him as it taught me that his success would be judged by the outside world's opinion of him. And as I said, in a previous episode of this podcast, the thing that invalidates you as a kid, whether it's sort of lack of self-worth or lack of affection or lack of a sense of belonging, will be the thing you seek validation from when you're an adult. And failure, when both he and I were young, was not being worthy, not feeling as worthy as our peers, me for my own reasons and him for a bunch of different reasons. And because that was our definition of failure, that was the thing that failed us. That's what, you know, that was the worst part of our lives then. Our definition of success now is the opposite. Think about it. If failure then was not feeling externally valid or valuable or worthy, success now is feeling externally valid, worthy and valuable. So we both got big cars, nice houses, lots of champagne, and we proceeded to tell and show the world all of it. I guess subconsciously in the hope that it would validate us. And we designed our lives to focus on achieving extrinsic externally motivated goals like money, success, status, and the science is clear on this. And my own personal experience, it couldn't be clearer on this particular topic. According to the science, you will experience less joy, more despair, increase your chances of depression, anxiety, and sign yourself up for a hamster wheel existence where nothing is ever enough of anti-climax and of lack of purpose. And if you design your life where your North Star is all of this is sort of extrinsic, meaningless shit, you're designing out all of the things that actually internally matter, like meaningful relationships, the two are kind of mutually exclusive, the things that you enjoy for you for your own reasons, for your own internal sake, meaningful hobbies and passions, and subsequently the chance of being fulfilled, happy and free from all the mental health issues that will inevitably show up if you live in such an externally driven way. You know, at 18 years old, as a lot of you will know, I wrote in my diary that my goal was to buy a Range Rover. I wrote there in my diary that a Range Rover would be my first car. That was my goal. And that was a goal that was born out of insecure naivety, I guess, definitely a lot of insecurity. And it was a goal written because I wanted to impress people and I wanted girls to sleep with me, right? A goal born out of the fact that I wanted to be validated and fulfilled. And I thought somewhere in me that a Range Rover would make me feel secure in myself. I got the Range Rover, it was my first car, mission accomplished, it impressed people. But when you think about it, it didn't make me feel secure in myself. All it did was highlighted that I wasn't. It was the consequence of insecurity. So paradoxically, the day I achieved my goal, wasn't the day that I bought the Range Rover, it was the day three years later, when I sold it, when I no longer felt that I needed it. That was the point where I was secure in myself. And that was the goal I was trying to achieve. And you know, going back to my friend for a second, you know, he's just to give you a context of how he's working. He runs his own business, but he works alone, very similar to how a freelance would work. It doesn't have like a team of people around him, just kind of working alone at home at the moment. And you know, the world has done just a phenomenal job of glamorizing the idea of being your own boss and being a freelancer. But nobody seems to talk enough about how miserable this often is. And let's just factor in all of the things that I've touched on in this podcast up to this point about, you know, extrinsic goals and the things that make life meaningful, you know, the joy of working in a team of people with a shared mission on work that you intrinsically enjoy doing with as much intrinsic motivation as possible. All of this stuff is often the absolute antithesis of freelance work, where you often work alone without a team on someone else's project for someone else's purpose, just for the extrinsic reason of money or paying the bills, right? On top of that, you have all of the other bullshit being on Japan, no work, life balance, no work, life separation, no clock off time. I'm going to call this freelancer depression. We're going to try and make this a thing freelancer depression. It's something that people who evangelize about being your own boss and going alone and all of the freelance lifestyle never seem to mention that much. And to be fair, this pandemic has made us all freelancers to some degree. It's robust. All of that intrinsic rewarding stuff. I guess I just want to, I just want to tell you one more thing. Now that I've left social chain and I'm technically unemployed, I was, I sat on the sofa. It was actually yesterday with my, it was actually yesterday night before I recorded this podcast with my assistant. And she turned to me and she asked me a question. She said, do you miss all the traveling and the chaos of your old life? And I said to her, like, what do you mean? What do you mean? And she said, well, you know, you used to be up at three a.m. every day running all over the world, pitching and speaking on stage. And for a second, I paused and reflected. And the thought of doing any of that stuff now fucking repulsed me. I couldn't think of anything worse. But, I mean, this is a big, but I absolutely used to love it. I absolutely used to love it. It made me so fulfilled. But now you couldn't pay me to do that. And the reason for this, the reason for this sort of monumental shift in my mind is because when I was at social chain, I was working with people I loved attached to a shared meaningful purpose and a mission and we were building something amazing together. When you remove that and ask me if I want to run around the world catching five flights a week and living in hotels 50 weeks a year, it seems totally bizarre and repulsive and pointless. It seems like such a sacrifice for nothing. I would hate to do that. And it brings me back to the moment in my life where, you know, I think I've talked about this on the podcast before, where I was technically freelance for the first time. It was half it was 21 years old. I just exited my first startup wall park and I haven't started social chain yet. I was being paid, I've got to be able to be about 70 grand a month by companies all over the world to help them as a consultant run their businesses to advise their marketing. And I was in this, I was in a turn to my mate, Dom, in our penthouse apartment in Manchester on the 20, we own three floors up there. I'm not bragging. I'm just providing a bit of context, which I think is important. And I told him exact quote, if I go downstairs right now and I send this one email, I'll make 20k straight away. And I just can't find the fucking motivation to do it. And I don't know why it's 20k. That's what I said to him verbatim exactly. And the reason was because at that point, even at the point where I was making 5k a month consistently, something as extrinsic as a little bit more money was not motivation enough. It would have no intrinsic material impact on my life. So the cost of walking down some stairs and writing an email felt greater than the reward. But when I think about the moment I went from being a freelancer to when social chain started, and I was working with people I loved on a shared meaningful mission to build something, fuck a flight of stairs. I was flying to the Ukraine at 2am on the off chance that someone might work with us. And I did that like a dog for seven or eight years. I didn't have a motivation problem. Well, as a freelancer, it wasn't a motivation problem, right? As people often sort of self diagnosed. It wasn't a lack of motivation that stopped me walking down the stairs in my penthouse and sending that one email that I'd make 20 grand. I had a purpose problem. And the same applies to the conversation I had with my PA, you know, when I think about sprinting around the world, pitching, speaking, living in hotels and sacrificing my life now, it feels so fucking pointless because I've left social chain. So I'm I guess I'm detached from the purpose and the mission that I had then. And I finally understand for the first time in my life why people who looked at my life back then and often said to me, you know, how'd you do it? You know, why do you sacrifice everything? Are you crazy? When did you sleep? One of these questions, are you okay? I used to get asked all the time. How'd you find the motivation all the time to run the business and all of these things? Why, you know, sleeping in the office in the weekends? Why'd you work so hard? It all makes sense now because when I look back without the attachment to that mission that I had then to me, it looks bizarre. I'm asking old Steve. Why the fuck did you do all of that? Because right now I can't feel that purpose. So all I can feel is the sacrifice. But I guess that's that's how you behave. I guess that's how you behave when you have a deep sense of purpose in the work you're doing. So I guess my conclusion is this. The answer to loving your work and being the best at it, which I think that I eventually became within my company, is working with people you love, striving towards a shared worthwhile goal for your own intrinsically rewarding reasons. And if you can do that, I think you'll also do a pretty good job of avoiding burnout. You'll do the work of your life for sure, like I did at Social Chain, and you'll remain fulfilled the whole time. That little insight helped me. So I really hope it helps you. And so the next point of my diary is one that I haven't fully developed yet, my thinking on.
Key to success: Avoiding good opportunities so you have time to devote to great opportunities. (39:51)
So I'm kind of hoping I can do this out loud with you together. What I've written is one of the hardest things in life is to avoid a good opportunity so that you have time to devote to great opportunities. And since I've left Social Chain and I'm now technically unemployed, but I have a great reputation, I have a great track record. I've got to be honest, my inbox every day is full of just amazing opportunities. But the amount of time that I have every day has remained the same. I have the same 24 hours. And I'm being bombarded with offers and jobs and opportunities to do this and that and the other. And I know that if I choose to accept any of those opportunities, I'm doing it at the expense of something else, which I've talked a lot about in this podcast. And so one of the real challenges and one of the real sort of talents that I'm trying to foster in myself is being so clearly attached to my long-term values and goals and where I want to go and who I want to be that I'm able to look at a really good opportunity, whether it's financial or other or status or whatever it might be or for my personal brand or whatever it might be, and say no now. And to do that, you have to have real faith in yourself, but you also have to have a real attachment to who you want to become and your long-term goals. And it's something that I'm genuinely struggling with, because never in my life, as I said, have I had more people in my inbox asking me to become directors and CEOs of their companies and offering me shares to come and help them. And so I just wanted to share a few things, which I have written in my diary, about how I make the decision, whether to take an opportunity or to not. It's fairly, fairly simple. The first one, as I said, is by being super clear on the person that I want to become in the future. And the first check I can do is doing this opportunity, going to move me closer or further away by costing me time to becoming that person. And the next one, which I consciously ask myself all the time now, is if I become that person that I want to become in the future by remaining loyal to that sort of long-term image of who I want to become and my values, will this opportunity come back around? And for about 90% of the opportunities, about 95%, it will definitely come back around in even greater abundance and value if I become the person I want to become. And the last thing I do is I attribute a financial value to an hour of my time. And I've read a lot about this. Navalls talked about this at length as well in philosophers and people that I respect in the business world have told me about this as well. What you want to do is think of a really big number. For me, it's about 10,000 pounds. I say to myself that one hour of my time is worth 10,000 pounds. And my rationale for that is based on what I was able to create with my time historically. So you think about social chain in the business and what it became and how much it's worth. When I go through and think about how much each year added to that value, I can quite comfortably say, you know, a year of my time is worth, say 10 million or 20 million quid. And when you think from that framework and when you really attribute huge amounts of value to your time, you're able to cut things out quickly that don't meet that value. It's something that I genuinely recommend everyone does. I'm not saying attribute 10k an hour to your time. But even if it's a thousand dollars, start there, say my time, one hour of my time is worth a thousand dollars. And if you think through that lens, I swear to God, the opportunities that will come to you, the ones that you'll accept will be of significantly more value. And ultimately, that means you'll spend more of your time, more of your hours on things of higher value. And then that's what your life will become, high value. Give it a try. The next point of my diary, I understand is quite a controversial one.
Why I don't think marriage is the right answer. (43:16)
I've just written marriage monogamy and me. Listen, and I've spent a lot of time in this podcast talking about relationships and my views on marriage and the relationship struggles that I've had. And before I say what I'm going to say, I want to appreciate the fact that this is a completely nuanced, subjective topic. But here's my thinking. I'm 28 years old, and I don't know, I don't believe that marriage is the right answer. A couple of reasons. Let's just start with some fundamental principles. Pretty much every way that I think is based on first principles. I don't think, for a start, that the law and that religion have a great track record and pretty much anything historically. And I think that marriage is a construct that's been passed down from one generation to another throughout our society without real interrogation, because we've all done that. I can literally predict the DMs that I'm going to get, which tell me that I'm naive and that I don't understand, which, listen, probably true. But that's the whole point of like me scrolling in my diary. I like this to be a two way thing where you can just message me and say, "Steve, you're an idiot." And you guys do. I get the messages. You don't understand the world. Fine. That's probably true. I know it's true. I don't understand everything. And that's part of the reason I'm doing this. But getting back to the point, for me, the concept of marriage, when you look at the fundamentals of signing this commitment and going to a church and the legal and religious ramifications of some marriages, it just feels really insecure. It's like, if I love someone, why do I need a contract? Why do I need to go to church? Why do I need to get the law involved? If I love someone, what does any of that got to do with courts and contracts? If I love someone, and if I'm secure enough to believe that they love me too, that they won't leave me. And sometimes I think it's a bit like trapping a cat in a corner, because when you're in a marriage and when you're in a situation which feels kind of imprisoned or like you can't leave, I think issues might become somewhat magnified, right? You know, the worry and the anxiety of not being able to leave because of that ring or that contract or because of the way you've set up your life, I actually think it might make issues bigger than they are. And it's something that I've really pondered. You know, I have a track record in my life of really like interrogating stuff. I interrogated school to the point that I stopped going in university, to the point that I went to one lecture and decided that it was a completely broken concept. And I'm starting to do the same with marriage. And people will hear different things when I say this, right? Largely based on their own opinions in life and their own experiences. And this comes from my own experience, probably largely, largely from the experience of watching a very dysfunctional toxic marriage that my parents had. And I'm not saying marriages can't be brilliant. Some of my friends have the best marriages. Some of their parents have the most amazing marriages too. I'm just saying as a one size fits all concept, I think it needs a little bit of questioning. I am all down for the commitment, I think. I'm still developing my ideas there on monogamy, but the commitment part isn't the thing I have issue with. It's the like marriage part, the law, the contract and all that nonsense. I want to talk about monogamy too, because this is going to be controversial. But I'm also not completely convinced that we're meant to be monogamous. I'm not completely convinced that we're meant to have one partner. Like I'm down for it because I understand the way that the world is wide at the moment. But this might be the most controversial thing I've ever seen this podcast. But I think if we're all, I think of a huge amount of us are honest with ourselves. And this is based on the behavior we exhibit. We would probably sleep with someone else that was smoking hot. We don't because we value the relationship. We don't, we know that the relationship is worth more than a one night stand with someone else. And we're mature enough to understand the consequences of our actions. But I think if you were to anonymously poll people and say, listen, would you sleep with someone else that was hot? If it had no material impact on your marriage, I think if we're being honest with ourselves, a lot of us would. But I think 99.9% of us wouldn't want our partner sleeping with someone else. And this, all of this speaks to the fact that I'm not sure as humans, as men, as women, we are innately meant to be monogamous. I think that society has played a huge role in that. I also think that over the coming decades, I think you'll see real shifts in this. Probably not with me, because I'm not going to get to the point where I'm down with someone I love sleeping with someone else if I'm completely honest. But I think it's broken. I think marriage is broken. I think like university, it's broken. You know, if I told you there was TVs for sale at a shop on a corner, but 50% of the TVs failed, you wouldn't go and buy a TV. And it's the same for marriage. 50% of marriages fail. And if you think about the concept of marriage, it's till death do us part, but 50% of the time, it's not till death does us part. It's till that girl slides in your DMs and you meet her and you banger and then you know, your marriage falls to part or that guy slides in your DMs and you go for a coffee with him and your boyfriend finds out and your husband finds out and he dumps you. The concept seems broken. And I, but I don't know the answer. I don't know what the alternative is. I know that it's going to have to be commitment centric. But I feel that maybe when it comes to my life, I'm not going to seek marriage. I might try and create some kind of new age or rain arrangement with my partner where we're committed to each other, where we have the party, the celebration, which I think is fucking awesome, by the way. But we don't sign all the contracts. And we remain as two separate, you know, independent humans that have come together in the middle through love without religion or without the law. It's just an idea. Some of you will disagree. Let me know what you think in the comments section below or let me know what you think in my inbox or my, my Twitter, because this is a super controversial topic. And it's one that we're going to be talking about. I think next week with a very awesome person who is also developing his opinion on this. I don't want to let the cow the bag on this one. But trust me, next week is going to be one hell of a conversation. The last point of my diary this week is kind of linked to a lot of the stuff that I've said throughout this conversation, this chat today about extrinsically living your life through society's image of how you should be living.
The Importance Of Individuality
Why you should NOT "Fit in". (49:15)
I've just written that fitting in is a cause. And the more you can be you, the more happy you will be, the more you fit into society, the less free you actually are. I think about my time in school. And, you know, and we've all had that experience in school where we want to wear the clothes everyone's wearing, we get our hair cut the same way, we listen to the music that is called to listen to and how like trapped that way of living is. In fact, what I've come to learn as I've got older and as I've gone through life and I've become my own person and I've taken some of these shackles off is the closer I've gotten to being Steve, who Steve actually is, the weirdo that I naturally am and that you naturally are, they're expressing myself in a way that is true to myself in the words that I want to, without worrying about he's going to cancel me or judge me or my friends or friends might say, you know, fake friends, whatever, the more happy I've become, the more successful I've become. It's made this podcast interesting, right? Because I am myself, this isn't acting, this is what I think and how I feel every week. And I don't think about the impact of it. A closer I've got into not fitting in to being who I am, the more happy I've become. And I think it's just something to really reflect on because there's so much of our lives that are sort of imprisoned by this idea of conformity and fitting in and being one of the girls or being one of the lads or, you know, wearing those clothes or those shoes or being, you know, being socially accepted. And almost on every occasion, I can't think of one reason or one instance where that is an intrinsic, intrinsically motivated thing to do. And so the science says, as we've talked about in this podcast, that it will lead you to the despair, the lack of joy, the depression, anxiety, and in many cases, to midlife crises, when you realize that you've been living your life on someone else's times for someone else's reasons. I'm on a mission, whether it's through this podcast, which is my diary, my thoughts, or whether it's through everything else that I produce, do all the work that I pursue, whether it's how I dress, whether it's through the diavacy, your live show that I'm doing, to really fucking be me, to think for myself and thinking for yourself isn't easy. We think it is. And this goes back to the point of us thinking we're in control and getting to the bottom of what your motivations really are. I'm really, really trying my very, very best at all times to just be Steve. And if there's anything that's had a bigger impact than my success, my happiness, it's exactly that. Isn't it weird? When we think about our goals for the future, we often say that we want to be X, we want to be like X person, we want to be like X thing. When really, we shouldn't aspire to be more like our idols, we should be aspiring to be even more ourselves, the unfiltered, uncaring, unassuming, intrinsically motivated version of ourselves. Maybe that's the secret. Maybe this whole podcast has led to that conclusion. Maybe this whole series is about that. Maybe that's what life is about. Maybe that's the meaning of life. Maybe the meaning of life is exactly that. You start in the womb, you pop out, life tells you you are something it tells you to conform in the classroom on the playground. And maybe, we're not just on the journey to being more human, but we're on the journey to being ourselves. Maybe that's what it's all about. Being more human and being more like yourself. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of The Diary of a CEO. Listen, if you're on the podcast store or you're in Spotify or you're listening to it in some kind of app, do me a huge, huge favor, leave a review and hit the subscribe button. If you're watching this on YouTube right now, I need another favor. I need you to hit the like button. And if you'd be so generous to leave a comment, one person that does this will be joining me in March at The Diary of a CEO live show in Manchester. And you'll be coming backstage and meeting me and the other members of our team. Thank you so much for listening and I'll see you again next Monday.