Nick Norris — Navy SEAL and Athlete on Training | The Tim Ferriss Show (Podcast) | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Nick Norris — Navy SEAL and Athlete on Training | The Tim Ferriss Show (Podcast)".


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Start (00:00)

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Again, take a peek, and enter promo code TIM. This episode is brought to you by Helix Sleep. Last year I focused on dramatically improving a few things, surprise, surprise. Most notably the quality of my sleep, which seems to affect just about everything. This led me to revisit, you name it, my daily routine, morning routine, exercise, diet, all the way to what I slept on. And I ended up getting all new beds here in Austin, Texas, including mattresses from Helix Sleep. Helix has built a sleep quiz that takes two minutes to complete and they use the answers to match your body type and sleep preferences to the perfect mattress. Whether you're a side sleeper, hot sleeper, cold sleeper, or you like plush, you like firm, with Helix, there's no more guessing or confusion. Just go to, take their two minute sleep quiz and they'll match you to a mattress that will give you the best sleep of your life. That is their promise. For couples, Helix can even split the mattress down the middle, providing individual support needs and feel preferences for each side. They have a 10 year warranty and you can test drive your mattress for 100 nights risk free. Right now Helix is offering up to $125 off of all mattress orders. Check it out, get up to 125 off at It's for $125 off your mattress order. Take a look, Hello boys and girls, this is Tim Ferriss and welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, where it is my job every episode to interview and deconstruct world class performers, to tease out how they do what they do. This episode we have a real treat, someone you may not have heard of, I believe this is his first ever podcast, Nick Norris. In my mind, he is the ultimate quiet professional, probably the most understated person I've ever had on this podcast. He is an 11 year Navy SEAL officer. He served with Jocko Willink at SEAL Team 3. You may recognize that name Jocko, also another person who made their podcast debut here. But on top of that, he is a world class athlete, which I didn't really fully appreciate until after our conversation. Start up CEO and board member of the C4 Foundation, which is a new foundation that focuses on supporting active duty SEAL families. You can find that at We talk about a lot in this episode and cover a lot of ground. Ranging from his training tips, physical training tips, this human has no physical weaknesses. It's really impressive. Two post-traumatic stress versus post-traumatic growth differentiation. Talking about how you separate those two. Talking about, say, traumatic brain injury and the links to depression, evidence-based treatments, including some very new treatments for depression, PTSD, and chronic stress. Many people don't realize that approximately 20 veterans and active duty military personnel kill themselves every day. That means that suicide is killed far more veterans than any enemies whatsoever. It is a quiet crisis and a quiet epidemic that I wanted to address on this podcast. There are lots of tactics, lots of stories. Let me give you a bit more bio on Nick. He is a graduate of both the United States Naval Academy and basic underwater demolition. Seal BUDs, Class 247. Upon completion of SEAL training in 2004, Nick assumed progressively higher positions of leadership within Naval Special Warfare. His deployed roles included combat advisor to Iraqi and Afghan military units, cross-functional team leader, and ground force commander during combat operation in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Nick was most recently assigned to Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command, SEAL qualification training as QT, as officer in charge prior to transitioning off of active duty. He's also co-founder and CEO of Amavara, a sunscreen company that has invented a new mineral sunscreen technology to protect both consumer health and the environment. You can find more about that at Let's talk about some of his physical accomplishments, which were sent to me after this podcast, but just very briefly. He raced as a member of the US team in the 2007 Adventure Racing World Championships in Scotland. He's raced in multiple races of this type that are multi-day world-class expedition-length races. He has also completed ultra-distance trail running events between 50k and 50+ miles in length. He competed as related to indoor skydiving in the 2018 Sakura Cup Invitational as part of the US Dynamic Four-Way Team. That was Japan's very first international indoor skydiving competition, a very high-level international dynamic flying tournament that showcased the most talented wind tunnel fliers in the world. As it relates to bouldering, so rock climbing. He has personally contributed to the development of the Southern California bouldering areas and has climbed V-11 with the goal of climbing V-12 this year at age 37. To put that in perspective, that places him pretty squarely in the top 0.1% of climbers worldwide. You can find Nick on Instagram @Nick_Noris 1981 on Instagram. With all that said, please enjoy this wide-ranging conversation with Nick Norris. Nick, welcome to the show. Thanks for having me.

Adventurous Sports And Climbing Essentials

Dynamic four-way (07:23)

So I thought we could start with Tokyo. It is certainly one of my favorite places, having spent a good amount of time there. I told you, as we were having brunch a little earlier, to save the story because I don't like to hear things a second or third time when I'm having these podcast conversations. But it seemed like there was quite a bit to dig into. So your first trip to Tokyo, what took you there? So I went out there with a four-person team to compete in a dynamic four-way wind tunnel competition called the Sakura Cup. Okay, so the Sakura or Sakura is the cherry blossom, but what on earth? I heard wind tunnel, then there are a bunch of different phrases associated with that that make no sense to me and sound vaguely obscene. What was it? Okay, so dynamic four-way is a discipline of wind tunnel flying that, you know, it probably started, I'll probably butcher this, people will correct me, but... That's okay, the internet's good for that. Right, six, seven years ago, maybe longer, where guys, you know, predominantly in Europe, these guys, whose team name was the Skywalkers, they started flying a lot of tunnel time, and you get bored just kind of doing normal vertical formation, skydiving, so like static formation building for time. And I think they started moving around the tunnel with like two people and then adding three and four, and then this thing has blossomed into a full-on discipline where you compete in two different, I guess, formats. You do a series of speed rounds, so you have a, I guess, a number of different movements, either in a vertical plane or a horizontal plane that are predetermined and you fly them in, you have three of those in succession three times for time. You enter the tunnel and then exit the tunnel and then you get a time and you compete against each other. So you have to hold a specific position for increasing periods of time? So you're moving the entire time. So think like synchronized swimming, but flying around in a high-speed column of air in a like a glass cylinder, fishbowl. So you do that and then the other portion is an artistic round. So you do a 90 second artistic round. God, so that's like a break-dance battle. Yeah, it's like break-dance. They actually call it battling. You get it, you battle against another team. What would people want to search online to find videos? Are there any particular videos or search terms you suggest people start with if they want to see what this actually looks like? Oh, man. So if you put D4W, like wind tunnel into Google, it'll pull up a whole bunch of videos and there's some super elite flyers that we saw out in Japan that were way better than our team. And if you look the Sakura Cup wind tunnel competition, there'll be some videos of the rounds that were flown.

What on Earth is a MoonBoard? (10:23)

It's like really, really impressive athletes in a very fringe outlandish sport. So you have a whole range of skills and attributes that you've developed and we shall not name the person who will not be mentioned who's sitting also in the room with us. He is a snake eater in the shadows who prefers to remain as such, but he described you initially to me in a number of very sort of laudatory ways and then he said he doesn't have any physical weaknesses. Yeah, it's really annoying. So I thought we could shift to another area that you've explored quite a bit, which is, I'm going to prompt and then we can jump into it because I said, "Save it, save it, save it for the podcast." Let's talk about moonboards. What on earth is a moonboard? Okay, so a moonboard is a thing that was created by a very famous rock climber whose name is Ben Moon out of the UK. And Ben is like, I mean, he's like OG, like strong rock climber, super inspirational. Did some of the hardest sport climbs in the world and some of the hardest boulder problems in the world? Ben started a company called Moon Climbing and he has this really famous place called the school room in the UK. It's this training gym and he had this thing, a board, a templated board that has holds on it that never change. So he has these problems that have just been there forever. Like some of the hardest problems I think he said he's ever done or on this board. How big is the board? Oh man, and I'll be off on this. That is right. So it's probably three, so maybe 12 feet long. I think it's set at a 40 degree angle so it's overhanging. So it's like three consecutive sheet supply wood and maybe a touch more and it's gridded. So set distance in between each ball hole and Ben created a specific set of climbing holds with a compass rose on them. So the compass rose, so like a north arrow. So you would go, he basically told you where to set this number hold in this orientation, in this grid square or in this ball hole. And by doing that you set the board a certain way and he was able to create boulder problems that people could replicate all over the world by just building this exact copy of his moon board. And it's caught on like wildfire in the climbing community. They're all over the place in commercial climbing gyms. Where's the strangest place that you have used strange or atypical place you've used a moon board? So I on active duty built three moon boards. I built one in Zambowanga in the Philippines. I built one in Ramadi, Iraq and then I built one in Zabal province at a fire base called Nabaar. How long does it take to build a moon board? Once you've had a rehearsal on one or two. So I'm a terrible carpenter. So I'm really going to convince people to help me do other things that I can't do. So I had a talented group of CB's, combat construction guys that I convinced to shirk all their other responsibilities and build a climbing wall in the middle of combat zones. So let's talk about these two disciplines just to start with because I find that generally well, I find it interesting how someone like yourself looks at different disciplines and I'm fascinated with high performing cohorts of people in any discipline.

Climbing and wind tunnel flying—the good and the great (14:03)

It really doesn't matter. It could be carpentry, could be rock climbing, could be painting. Just really the discipline itself is less interesting than the commonalities among the top performers. So if we look at for instance the synchronized swimming in an air column, what separates, it could be in any of the different formats you described, it doesn't have to be, it could be in the battle format, it could be in any of the different formats we discussed, what separates the good from the truly exceptional? What are the characteristics or the defining practices, anything that you've been able to pick up since you are very accomplished in this area as well as in climbing? That what separates the good from the great? Yeah, I mean, so there's a number of things but I think time together as a team, being able to read people's body language, flying in a wind tunnel, you start to see how people telegraph certain movements and you learn that through repetition and just time together. So I mean I think that time as a team, that kind of, I guess you can call it that kind of stress inoculation, you do it so many times that you can just see, you kind of predict where people are going to go just by how they look moments before they do something. So I think that's one of the biggest kind of attributes that high, high end teams have. And then I think the other thing is just their ability, in that discipline, their ability to move constantly, like no hesitation, moving almost with no fear that they're going to impact each other because you're talking about flying in a very confined space at very high speeds and you just trust. Like you have total trust that the guy that's in front of you or behind you is going to do his job really well. When you say high speed for people who have no exposure to this, because for instance I've spent one or two sessions in a single day at an iFly facility, I want to say in the East Bay, Northern California, many, many, many years ago, which was a phenomenal experience, but I was so concerned with just not eating it face first into something that I wasn't paying much attention to. Yeah, wasn't paying a whole lot of attention to speed.

In wind tunnel flying, what constitutes “high-speed?” (16:26)

I don't think my input would have mattered. So what is high speed? Like a lot of wind tunnels will fly anywhere between 150 and maybe 170 mile an hour wind. So they're pushing vertical wind speeds at like 150 to 170 miles an hour. And when you're flying in that wind, you're not going 170 miles an hour, you're flying upside down or right side up in a vertical orientation. And I mean when you see like the guys that are really, really good, I mean they're moving, they're probably going, I mean maybe 20 miles an hour, I mean 30 miles an hour of a closing speed. So like really fast, I mean you can get going if you were in the sky, like jumping out of an aircraft, I mean you could be moving 120 miles an hour over ground if you were in one of the orientations you're flying at in the wind tunnel. Right. Got it. So you'd be covering, we were talking a little bit earlier about wing suits. And for those people who haven't seen a wing suit, A, it's terrifying, B, the humans tend to resemble flying squirrels.

Proximity flying (17:49)

There's a high mortality rate. And then there's another term for it which is proximity, flying. Why is it called proximity flying? Okay. So I will say this for the record. I don't base jump. I never have and I don't proximity fly, but I have a bunch of friends that do. So it's flying very close to like land masses. So when you base jump, you know the guys, you watch guys wing suit very close to the side of a mountain ridge line. And what can they're and you mentioned I suppose just moments ago, 120 miles an hour. So are they achieving those types of speeds? Yeah, even, I mean probably faster. So they, you know, their glide ratio over ground is like three to one or higher. So they're traveling three feet for the foot that they descend. So like really fast speed over ground. If we look at rock climbing to throw the same question out there and you could use a specific example if you wanted in terms of picking someone who you recognize as an elite climber. But if we try to separate the inborn attributes that allow them to be superior climbers, right?

Differentiators in exceptional climbers (18:58)

Much like you would. I can't learn to have my ankles seemingly dislocate like Michael Phelps. So that's unlikely to be something I can train for. But there are different training approaches or ways of looking at say bouldering problems or other things that might allow people to progress faster and develop faster than others. What are some of the differentiators that you've observed in exceptional climbers versus people who are just kind of like me and half of the things I do, like permanent blue belts who never quite graduate? I think it's an innate ability to just try hard, like try very, very hard. And that sounds easy, but it's much more difficult in practice. You look at, there's a guy named Adam Andra who arguably is the most talented or the strongest rock climber in the world. Just amazing to watch the guy climb. And you can see the level of tenacity, like just the way that he approaches climbs where he just does not give up. It's just a relentless pursuit of perfection and like an endless pursuit of perfection. And the guy is magnitude stronger than the average, even a lead level climber and is still just trains tirelessly to get better. And I think that that grit, that ability, just to continue to persevere, which is a huge standout attribute. Is that something that you can develop? I mean, is there a sort of mental theater in which you, how you speak to yourself allows you to do that or helps you to do that? I'm just wondering what, if people wanted to try to develop the ability to try harder, which I think can be done. I mean, I think that there's certain presets, right? But then if you're training in just about any sport or area with say a coach who believes you can exceed what you take to be your limitations, then you can begin to sort of instill the conditioned default of trying really hard, right? So I think there are probably things that you can do. How do you approach, say, a new problem that you've set out for yourself? I know that you have explored some virgin territory when it comes to bouldering problems.

What is bouldering? (21:45)

Maybe first you can explain to people who don't rock climber or are familiar with it, like what is bouldering? And then when you're tackling a new problem, like what is your, what is your internal voice sound like when you're tackling something that you know is probably going to be pushing your level a bit? Yeah. So you're bouldering in the realm of climbing is like powerlifting as it relates to weight lifting or weight training. So small, very intense, technically difficult pieces of terrain that you're climbing with no rope and crash pads laid out underneath you. So you're not soloing doing something that's depthifying. You know, most of the time it's less than 15 feet off the ground. So it's a very high intense pursuit in climbing as opposed to sport climbing or traditional climbing, which is a little bit longer, more endurance based. For me, it's, I know that tenacity or the ability to persevere is something that I'm in control of. And I was never the most talented athlete growing up. You know, I wrestled as a young guy. And I didn't have the innate talent that a lot of my peers at, but I knew that I could work hard and I could do all these things in the off season and even during competition to help get me closer to be on a level competitive playing field as these other people. So I approach bouldering in a very similar sense. You know, I'm shorter. I have shorter arms. I'm probably a little heavier than the average boulder. What are your dimensions for people wondering? So I'm five foot six. I have a negative two ape index. That means my wingspan. My arms are five foot four. So I'm shorter stubby arms and I weigh in anywhere from like 160 to 165 pounds. So I'm not heavy by any means, but in the realm of climbing, I'm a little bit heavier for my size. So I feel like I have focused. And Giz is not obvious to people just based on the context. You're also, I mean, that's a lean, that's not a donuts and Dr. Pepper 170. I've been trying to get my legs to be smaller. So I weigh less, Tim. Okay. So you have this variable, which is sort of training intensity and consistency, which is under your control. And like some of the innate talent that other people might have.

Preparing for challenging climbs (24:17)

And then if you are just from a psychological perspective, when you are getting ready to attempt, whether it's the first time or the fifth time, a very hard route, how do you prepare for that? Like in the minutes leading up to it, what does that look like? So in the moment, if like before, I'm going to give something like a red point attempt, like try to actually climb the line, try to clear your head. I mean, it's a huge mental game when you get to the point where you've done all the moves, you're strong enough to do it. There can be a big mental block. And I think a lot of athletes experience that, you know, kind of in the kind of higher echelons of performance. So I think clearing your brain and not letting that be the limiting factor. I think leading up to that, it's practicing grit and kind of that try hard in all of the structured training that I do leading up to that moment. So fingerboarding is a way that you can train your fingers, your tendon, so a connective tissue to be stronger. You know, in every fingerboard workout, you know, trying to apply that level of grit, try hard, you know, hang on things that might hurt my skin or just be very, you know, rigorous and tough on me, trying to put that same level of intensity into every training session, trying to get like high quality training, not just volume of training and checking the boxes. Yeah, this is what I was hoping we'd explore a bit because we in repetition, like practice does not make perfect. No, perfect practice makes you perfect. And I think a lot of a quote that I'm going to butcher the name.

Visualization for optimal performance (26:00)

I need a classic scholar in the room, but Arca Locus, I think is one of these old names that is difficult to know how exactly, at least for me, how it was pronounced. But the phrase is we do not rise to the level of our hopes or expectations. We fall to the level of our training. And so if you haven't stress inoculated, as you mentioned, it's very difficult to execute when you're actually trying to push yourself to in a performance rep. Right? So let's talk about clearing your mind. So practically, what does that look like? So a lot of people get wrapped up, right? They put in a ton of practice and then it's time to go out and perform. And you've no doubt seen this. And I mean, we're going to segue to military shortly, but whether it's in sports in any high performance situation, you see people who do really well in training in rehearsal and then they freeze. Right. And then you see people who are the opposite, who do really well under pressure and they may not in training be the standouts, but then when it comes to actual performance, for any number of reasons, they are kind of in pole position. So how do you clear your mind? So for me, the things that are the times where I've performed my best, I've actually used visualization. I have actually adopted that successfully and it may not work for everybody, but I literally try to visualize myself climbing through all the movement that I know I've done. I've practiced in the past and I've successfully executed it and watch myself climb through the entire boulder problem. Even to the point where I will find myself moving my hands in the positions that they should be hitting each specific hold, just grabbing the air. And I just recently, and I'm constantly trying to pursue a higher level of bouldering and I'm not by any means the strongest boulder in the world, but just recently I had this kind of breakthrough experience on a really hard boulder problem for me and right before I did it, I had been visualizing literally the entire day leading up to it and then just sitting down and breathing a couple big deep breaths and just trying to empty all other thoughts out of my brain. And we're going to segue into how the military entered the picture in a moment, but what other physical feats are you proudest of? This could be military or could be civilian. Actually let me put this a different way because you're so understated. If someone else were to brag on your behalf, I might have to pull in some reinforcements here if necessary, but what other physical feats or whether it's in competition or otherwise are you proudest of?

Physical feats is Nick most proud of (28:48)

So the prelude to that is that I've surrounded myself with people that are better than me in every athletic pursuit that I've fallen in love with. So beyond climbing, I've surrounded myself with very talented people and I'm very proud of some of the progression I've seen in that sport. Prior to that, I got way into longer distance running. I ran 50k, 50milers, like a lot of trail races. So I did my first 50miler on the East Coast when I was at the Naval Academy with a handful of friends and didn't know what to expect. That was a big accomplishment for me. More mentally, it wasn't that you were going super fast or you were going to win the race. It was just kind of persevering. It was the grit that you had to show through that. I've competed in some multi-sport races like adventure racing back in the day. I did a lot of one day, two day, three day races, raced in Eco Primal Quest back in 2002 in Telluride, Colorado. What is that? So Eco Challenge was made famous by Mark Burnett and I think it was developed after the raid Galois. So all map and comvis, a team of three or four people and normally one person of the opposite sex and it was all man powered movement over terrain, paddling, hiking, mountaineering, mountain biking just puts you out in the middle of nowhere in the most epic places in the world. It was sleep deprivation is factored in and I think that's what drew me to it more than anything else. I knew I wanted to go to buds and be a seal and I figured this was probably the best kind of train up for mental toughness that I could do. So I got way into it when I was at school. So how did you end up becoming interested in becoming a Navy Seal or being directed towards that territory at all? I mean, how did that all start? You know, somebody mentioned this community within the military, the seal teams when I was in like seventh grade and before that I knew nothing about the seal community.

Becoming a Navy SEAL (31:25)

And I think I've always been really good at setting goals for myself and just working really hard to achieve these goals because I didn't have a lot of innate talent and I think I fixated on that as a really kind of almost unattainable goal in seventh grade. And you know, just latched onto it. I mean, I just wanted to achieve that and I had a lot of people that were naysayers along the way that doubted my ability to go and do that. But I knew that I was in control of my destiny. You know, I could put the structure together to achieve all the small goals that would lead up to ultimately realizing that bigger goal. How did you end up having even the concept of structuring it in these incremental bites, taking this large goal and bringing it down? Is that something that your parents demonstrated? Is it something mentors or coaches demonstrated? Where did it come from? I mean, where did that come from? Yeah. So my dad was instrumental on that growing up. So my dad was a college football player, firefighter in the city of Chicago, really like addicted to fitness, like really into like calisthetics and weightlifting got me into that when I was pretty young. And I can visualize it right now, he had all these like motivational quotes written in my calligraphy up on the wall and the basement in Chicago. And he'd always, you know, quote, "Vinselm Barty" and really push me to just try hard and start working out because, you know, he was all about discipline, you know, setting these goals. So I like, I probably embodied that because I was just in that environment with my dad and I looked up to him a lot. Yeah. I mean, I would imagine with the weightlifting, I don't know, and you mentioned wrestling as well. I mean, at least for me, where a lot of the kind of methodical tracking began was with training and weight cutting and so on because you wanted to have a training log of some type, right? To track, to track progress. So you have this dream that is kicked off in some way around seventh grade. When does it start to become a reality? You know, I think I went to the Naval Academy. You know, I was accepted to the Naval Academy, started down that path and super competitive from the Naval Academy to get a billet as an officer into the seal training pipeline. So I think it started while-- Billet is like a position. Yeah. So I think at school, I started to build this really cool camaraderie, like a fraternity with the guys who were all competing for that finite number of spots into the seal pipeline. And I think back, I think I got hooked on that brotherhood, like the fraternity that you had, a bunch of guys that all aspired to do this. And I would probably point back to that moment, or that period in my life is kind of that was when I really start seeing it manifest as reality. Is there any aspect of buds or any part of the training/veting process that you expected would be most difficult? Yeah. I think that's a great thing. I think that's a great thing. I think that's a great thing. Training/veting process that you expected would be most difficult or that you were concerned about. I was always concerned about the cold. I'm a pretty thin guy. I don't have a lot of insulation in my body. And I remember going through some screening events at school and getting extremely cold. And so that was something--you know, probably in the back of my head is a big fear, like would I get too cold, like would my mind quit on me in that scenario because it starts to really test you. I think beyond that, I was never that good of a swimmer. I had kind of an example. When I was a junior in high school, I was a Chicago Park District lifeguard on the lake front, at the shore of Lake Michigan, and the senior guards used to make me wear a rescue buoy out when we'd go and do swims because they thought I was going to drown. So I was a terrible swimmer. I never swam until I had--my dad actually was the one that told me, "You need to go get a job." So it'd go be a lifeguard. It pays really well and you get to hang out at the beach. I'm like, "Great. Well, I don't know how to swim, so I need to figure that out." And then even at the Naval Academy, I think my senior year, I probably swam four times in preparation for buds. Thankfully, you put fins on after the first week of buds and you do all your swimming with fins. So I was a fairly good thinner, but I was a terrible swimmer. You mentioned a term earlier that I think is worth exploring a bit. Stress inoculation. Could you talk about maybe give some examples of that and maybe some--also some misconceptions. I mean, for instance, one that came up yesterday when wearing dinner was cold exposure. Sure. And I was actually--I've never really thought about it, but the counterintuitive aspect of that example of things is worth mentioning too. So what is stress inoculation and where do people sometimes get it wrong?

Stress inoculation—where people get it wrong (37:14)

Yes. I mean, in its simplest form, stress inoculation is just exposing yourself to stressors through experience to get you more comfortable. So you can inoculate yourself to stress in pretty much any environment that would impose it. And I think the example that we are talking about, the misconception that we were discussing yesterday was cold exposure or exposure to heat. If you put yourself in cold water thinking that you're going to build up this tolerance to the cold, I think it actually works against you. You could be more susceptible to hyperthermia. And then the same thing with hypothermia. You get heat stroke once. You're going to--it could be a victim of heat stroke repeatedly. Yeah. So that's actually ended up happening to me with heat specifically. I've never told our mystery friends sitting here this before, but the--I was a subject--I volunteered to be an experimental subject in testing at Stanford where they would--so I wanted the data, right? I'd always been susceptible to heat. And I wanted some hard numbers on how susceptible I was or if I was, like what the actual problem was. They put in about as pleasant as it sounds, an anal probe, which is like a--to measure core temperature. So it's like up 18 inches long or something like that. And then they had new technology, which is an esophageal probe. So you also had like an 18 inch probe going down your nose, down your throat to try to get close to your heart. And then they'd put you in full military gear with a weighted rucksack helmet and put you in a sauna on a inclined treadmill and just march you to heat exhaustion. Sounds awesome. Yeah, it was about as pleasant as it sounds. But I ended up being more sensitive over time, which I didn't expect, right? I thought, oh, this is going to be like building up a base suntan. And just so happens it's not true for everything. There's someone who may be a character in the story of stress inoculation in your exposure to that, I suppose, pun intended, who's been on this podcast before. Can you describe how you know Jocko Willink? So Jocko and I served at SEAL Team 3 together. So when I was a new guy, he was the sister troop commander. And he and his troop went to Ramadi that summer. And then we were deployed about 20 kilometers to the east of Ramadi. So I worked up with Jocko and then Jocko took over our training detachment on the west coast for the SEAL Team.

Transitioning From Military To Civilian Life And Health Tips

So when I was a platoon commander, I took my platoon through the entire training cycle under Jocko's guys. So he was the individual that was charged not only with running training for everybody, but specifically vetting and mentoring the officers that were going to be taking deployable elements into combat. So you are, there are a whole slew of reasons why I was eager to have you on the podcast. You've been highly successful in multiple fields. You're well respected in multiple fields, certainly as a physical performance specimen, as the snakeator put it, so irritatingly well rounded. And also one hell of a nice guy, which makes it harder to find that bothersome. I should say, but it's more of an end really because I think it's so common. You've had some challenges since leaving the military that I thought would be worth getting into. And I wanted to sort of paint a picture of a lot of your accomplishments first because I wanted to establish that context.

Returning to civilian life (41:16)

But can you talk just, and of course dig into a lot of the details, but there have been a lot of highlights along the way about what did you experience after the military? So I left active duty service in 2013 after several deployments into combat. And everything was actually great initially. I left because of my family. My wife and I have been with each other since high school. And we had just had our daughter in 2012. And that was, for me, the catalyst that was ultimately going to help me make the decision to choose my family and get out of the military at that point. So I transitioned into the private sector. Initially in a commercial real estate brokerage, which is super high stress. I wasn't making any money whatsoever. And kind of the polar opposite of the SEAL teams in the military combat units in general. I was by myself. I didn't have any teammates to look to. There was little to no camaraderie. And I carried on with that career until we started the current company that I'm running. Sunscreen Company. And I'd say it was probably 2017. So four years elapsed before I really had a moment of clarity for myself where I realized I just didn't feel myself. And it's difficult at times to put it into words. But I remember my family was away on a trip. And I decided to stay home to work as was the normal for me at that point. And it just kind of was feeling total apathy for things that I really find passionate, like climbing, like had zero interest in it. Would find myself driving to the gym and sitting in my truck for like an hour, like not wanting to go in and do something that I normally love. Because becoming a little bit more aware of kind of feelings of anger, agitation, edginess in conversations with people. I'd be in a normal kind of one-on-one meeting with somebody with a really nice person. And there's no reason why I should be feeling angry or irritated. And I would have to excuse myself for meetings and didn't want to interact with them. It was like 180 out for my normal personality. I mean, I just very confused. I've always been a very even keel, nice person. I don't look for conflict. I walk away from fights. I mean, normally I was the kind that was just very even keel and even tempered. And I would just find myself getting just very angry all the time. And I think it was bleeding into my personal life with my wife and my kids. There was no ability to cope with kind of distractions in the house. I just felt overwhelmed almost on edge all the time. And I got to a point where I just didn't know how to fix it. So I talked to some people and just asked them if they felt that way. So former seals? Or I... Yeah, I think somebody's a mine. Like guys that had exited the military at that point and some guys shared blood work and testosterone count as potentially that's an issue. So I remember going in and getting a full battery of blood work done. And my testosterone was fine. I was like very healthy. And I remember kind of having a one on one with the physician that I was seeing and described everything that I kind of described in brief just now. And they framed it as depression. And I said that's crazy. I'm not depressed. Like I just don't feel myself. There has to be something else wrong. I'm not locking myself in a dark room. And that's not me. And they were insistent in a way on trying to put me on a serotonin drug on an antidepressant. And SSRI. Correct. And I... You know what? There's nothing wrong with it. But I just for me personally, I just didn't want to. I looked at it as like a band-aid fix. I didn't think it was going to help me get back to the person that I knew I was. So I just tried to go out and find other things, something else to snap me out of it besides like 40 ounces of coffee every single day to try to wake me up and actually get me motivated. At that point, how long were you in that wandering, searching, coping, but not having returned to normal you? And it doesn't have to be exact, but for how long were you on the search for some type of effects before you found anything that helped? It probably took me six months or so. It was kind of a frustrating process of trying to vet the blood work and just see if it passed, see if I would just get back to normal and I wasn't getting back to normal. And I ultimately found something called personalized, repetitive, transcranial magnetic stimulation. So it's a mouthful. I kind of stumbled upon it by accident. I had connected with a doctor in San Diego that had been doing it for depression. What is the acronym for that? I mean, it's a form of TMS. So it's PR, TMS. So early. Yeah, just a very focused form of TMS. They did an EEG initially to kind of look at your brain wave activity and then treat frontal lobe with some magnetic pulses to try to, I guess, like retune the piano. And I talked to some veterans. I actually talked to a Marine and then a couple seals or former seals off active duty. This was all kind of post active duty service where it worked for them. I mean, they felt like it kind of snapped them back into the person that they were so they could get on a healthier track. I mean, because ultimately the way I looked at it is, hey, I just need something to make me feel myself or I can sleep again, where I could start eating healthy again or I can exercise or actually have a passion to exercise again because those are like the core foundational pillars that have been, I mean, that's been my foundation. That's the reason I'm able to stay healthy. It's because of my diet and sleep and exercise, but I just need something to kind of help push me in that direction. Yeah, it's, you know, what you're describing, certainly I've never been in the military, but for people who've listened to the podcast for a long time or read any of the recent books, I mean, I've had many extended bouts with certainly in retrospect, what I would call depression and seems to be a family. There seems to be a software component, like what I came preloaded with just has maybe a few unusual lines of code in it. But there's also the large behavioral piece and one of the trickier aspects of for some people. And this has been true for me as well, is that if humans are kind of reward and punishment, sort of incentive driven machines, if the reward that you received from activities that were good for you, right, in part the joy of rock climbing, let's just say, disappears, right? So you have this like anhedonia, this inability to feel joy, the normal kind of feedback loops that help encourage you to follow these beneficial patterns of behavior can kind of slip through your fingers, sure, right?

Response to PrTMS (49:54)

Because you're just, you're not getting the payoff, you're not getting the initial drive and you're not getting the payoff. So the PRTMS is really interesting, this is something that actually came up not too long ago, very briefly with a physicist who was on this podcast, but we didn't get into it because he had no personal exposure to it, he was just very interested in the science. How quickly did you see a response to that? It's crazy, it was like immediate for me. So I'll frame it, I walked into this office and it was in a terrible mood, like very anti-social, just in a very low spot and I actually was very agitated with the guy who was kind of bringing me in and asking me the questions, didn't even want to deal with him and they didn't need G and sat me down and I went through my first battery of treatment and then I guess the way that I reacted to it, I've talked to other guys maybe that didn't have the same type of reaction, but it was almost like a sense of being caffeinated, like when you drink, you haven't drank coffee for three weeks and then all of a sudden you have a double shot of espresso, just feel like super on point and kind of a wave of calm where like all those feelings of agitation and anger like subsided and it was crazy, like I did not expect that to happen and I had to back it up, I mean after, you know, it would fade and then I was going in pretty much five days a week for like 30 minutes for six weeks or so and then I was good for a while, probably for like six plus months. Okay, so the flywheel was spinning at that point, like you had enough momentum, I know this is metaphorically speaking, but at that point the durability, you needed to, so you had five roughly say five times per week for what did you say, how many weeks? About six weeks and at that point then the durability of effect seemed to be about six months. You know, it did it like it took effect and then immediately, you know, I started sleeping better, sleep is the root of everything I think as it relates to at least my experience with this mental health. So as I slept better, I just felt better, the apathy went away, I was more excited to go you know climb, more excited to spend time with my wife and my two kids and then it was this positive feedback loop where it just kind of kicked, it jump started me into a track that I had been on, but I had just fallen off of. Now the stretch that you needed the in a way, the reboot or the tuning, so that you could have a sort of quote unquote normal window within which then you could make the decisions you would have made normally. Absolutely. Does that make sense? Yeah, no, perfect sense. TRTMS doesn't make the longer term regular behavioral decisions for you, but it opens a window in which you can make those decisions for yourself, which is true of a lot of some of the treatments that I find more interesting for this is that they're not sort of causal in and of themselves. It's not one and done, but it opens in a window of opportunity within which you can make decisions with sort of your mind in a better, in a more focused place. Yeah. So the you mentioned sleep and this is another variable that has just become over time more and more interesting to me. I mean, certainly you're no stranger to sleep deprivation and we can certainly talk about that. And there were long periods of time where I used stimulants and caffeine to self-medicate and it works for a while or at least it makes you feel like you're being productive for a while. What types of systems or habits have you built around sleep or are there any other tools or resources that you found helpful for sleep? Yeah. So trying to get sunlight in the morning, I'd, you know, going through the TMS battery. I mean, that was a very positive habit that was formed because of that treatment. You know, the doc said, "I need you to get at least 30 minutes of direct morning blue light exposure to kind of kick your, I guess your circadian rhythm into alignment."

Nick’s tips for better sleep (54:58)

So you actually get tired. You start to produce the chemicals internally that you need to actually fall asleep and get restful sleep. So that was a big one. I started, I was cognizant of how much time I did not spend in direct sunlight, you know, with no glass in between me and the blue light. Once I started actually looking at that, I would make a point of getting outside and doing that. I don't know if this, it has impacted like positive quality of sleep, but I drink a lot more water. Every morning I drank 32 ounces of water, no fail. Sometimes I don't want to, but I do and I've become more cognizant of just being more hydrated. I've supplemented with vitamin D, even though I'm getting sunlight. That seemed to help. And then caffeine intake. I mean, I love coffee. I think it's an amazing performance enhancing drug as it relates to climbing. It's probably the best, like the best that I've found. Like drink a cup of coffee and you just focus and you perform well. I've gotten into a habit of not drinking it later in the day, and not drinking it at seven or eight o'clock at night. Well, I was going to say, I don't want to take us totally off the rails, but one of the things you mentioned during lunch that I never would have thought of in a million years, you're talking about heading out to climb in the middle of the night with headlamps. Sure. And I was like, what? Why would you do that? And you're talking about the temperature and how your skin is just tighter, more resilient. You can climb more effectively. Way better to climb in the cold. Yeah. So I can see that being maybe not the ideal time to down a whole lot of coffee. And I definitely had fallen victim to drinking coffee at eleven o'clock at night. You know, I want to keep going so you can think of any other things that might have helped as it relates to sleep, but the sun exposure first thing in the morning and not having anything between you, even if it is, say, pains of glass, is something that a number of guests on this podcast have mentioned. I only thought about it right now, because it's been a while, as being instrumental in completely changing the trajectory of their physical life, like Rick Rubin, legendary music producer, has very similar practice, like at least twenty or thirty minutes of direct sunlight every morning. That doesn't mean it has to be sunny out also.

Climbing in the middle of the night (57:26)

Like it can be overcast. It just means being outside. And shortly thereafter, along with other things, I mean, he lost a hundred plus pounds, right? So that was sort of the first domino, which was a daily ingredient first thing upon waking that made a huge difference. When do you stop drinking caffeine during the day? What are the rules you've set for yourself? So recently it's been better. I actually have fallen into drinking butter coffee first thing in the morning, and I don't drink coffee after that. So I might have that at like eight a.m. And then it kind of has forced in like an intermittent fast, like a short term fast, where I feel focused throughout the day and don't need to drink coffee in the afternoon. I would feel, you know, prior to that, I would feel kind of this afternoon like energy dump and like feel like I need to drink more coffee to go climb or do something, you know, be productive. So that's helped. So I try to cut it out completely. You know, after my morning coffee, I'm not touching it again. It's I've noticed, I think this caffeine piece is really key for a lot of people, including myself. And I noticed, for instance, there are certain things we're going to talk about this that are sort of a harbinger. They're like the canary in the coal mine as it relates to possible periods of depression or apathy or anhedonia, all these things.

Rules about coffee consumption (59:01)

And that for me, at least caffeine can precipitate a lot of it. Because if for whatever reason I'm consuming too much caffeine, too late, not too high quantity, what does that start to affect? Starts to affect sleep. Even if you're in bed for eight hours, you may have very disrupted sleep. And then it becomes this vicious cycle that tends to exacerbate all of the things that you're trying to avoid. Yeah. And so for me, also combining, say, extended exercise at some point in, say, the afternoon gives me a break from my habitual caffeine consumption window. And if that makes any sense. No, it definitely does. Because as someone who's effectively worked by himself, which I think is problematic in a lot of ways, psychologically, for 20 plus years, it's like, okay, well, I go to a coffee shop, go to a restaurant. And a lot of these places, it's an endless cup of coffee. Or it's endless. We've got to get your money worth. Yeah. So you end up, it's like, okay, over a handful of hours, at least I would, I drink like 15 cups of iced tea or like seven cups of coffee. Strong. Yeah. Yeah. And then I realized at one point, I went to this, I did this retreat at one point where I had dialed down my coffee and get to the point where I wouldn't have these withdrawal headaches. And then I came back and just went straight back into my normal routine of like inadvertently consuming six cups in a day. And I thought to myself, holy shit, like is this, was this my normal? Right. No wonder I was so like anxious and that's so much trouble sleeping. And so for me, this is a long roundabout way of saying you can, you can use all the meditation apps and take all the supplements and do all these things to decrease your anxiety and improve your sleep. Or you can just have like one or two cups of coffee in the morning and not have sex. Yeah. I would much rather perform a little bit like at a lower intensity in the evening when I work out. Yeah. Then suffer the consequences of having caffeine that late in the day. Yeah. Like I mentioned earlier, I'm not for military, but I've spent a lot of time with for military and a lot of guys seem to experience this tired and wired phenomenon where they'll try to go to sleep and then suddenly they're wide awake. And they have this surge of cortisol like late at night as opposed to early in the morning when you're evolutionarily designed to have this surge of cortisol so that it liberates glycogen, you get a spike in blood glucose and then bam, you're awake. And some folks, and I don't know if you've ever bumped into Kirk Parsley, he does a lot of work with guys. I know Kirk. You do. Yeah. So he's worked on some interesting concoctions for sleep and a phosphatidylserine is not a replacement for cutting back on your caffeine consumption but can help blunt that cortisol release prior to sleep. Anything else that you found helpful for sleep or rest? So funny enough, I tried a supplement, a magnesium supplement called Calm.

Mental Health And Personal Experiences

Supplement for coping with “tired and wired” (01:02:27)

Calm. Yeah. It actually worked for me very well. I mean, like I would drink it in the evening and I would start to yawn and actually feel like I wanted to go to bed. And that was such like, before I kind of went through that initial battery of TMS and kind of getting myself back on track, I don't think I couldn't recall the last time. I like, I actually yawned and wanted to go to sleep. Like I would force myself to go to sleep because that was just what I was supposed to do when it was really dark and my wife was in bed and the kids were asleep. You know, and I'm sitting there wired, like working or just laying on the couch staring at the ceiling. Yeah. So it was, yeah, pretty interesting. I mean, the TMS definitely like it. I'm like, man, I'm tired. And then I turned to that magnesium supplement and it actually, yeah, I thought that was pretty helpful. It's one of the biggest bang for your buck supplements for sleep that I've come across. And there are a million variations of magnesium, three and eight, citrate. And it is, there are a million different varieties, but the calm product is pretty good. It does have a strong flavor to it generally. The raspberry lemonade. Yeah, it's got a strong flavor to it, but it really does help with sleep. Yeah. And for people who are struggling, that's potentially worth experimenting with. I will add a caveat to that. Then maybe I'm speaking specifically to you, my fellow Americans, more is not necessarily better with magnesium. And if you overdo magnesium, there's increased likelihood of disaster pants. So just follow your label directions so you don't foul out. Would be a pro tip. What other rules or practices have you built into your life to either keep? Well, let me ask the question. So you go through the PRTMS. You instill these habits. Have you had any recurring bouts of challenges with what you might term apathy or depression or has that gone away entirely? No, absolutely. You have had really. Yeah, it's not an end all be all. There's no magic pill. You know what has been, I guess, the most impactful part of that whole experience beyond the treatment? Even more so than the treatment, the first period of time that I went in for the TMS, I ran into three or four guys that I hadn't seen in years from the teams. In the waiting room. And it's totally discreet building. He would never run into anybody there. Yeah, right. There was a Starbucks in the lobby. Yeah, exactly. The lobby conversations with my boys, guys that I served with in the teams, I hadn't seen them forever, was killer.

Lingering effects of PrTMS (01:05:29)

I mean, we were in a place. I mean, I think part of it is we have mutual respect and trust and loyalty to each other. And you were in a safe place with safe people to share very, very similar experiences. And that shared experience and just talking about it was probably the most beneficial part of the entire thing. Because I had three or four guys immediately that I could reach out to and talk to as soon as I felt myself starting to slip. I think and it also served for me as a, it was that shove in the back to open up to some people that I was close to that weren't people I served with in the military. My wife who actually opened up to me and told me that this wasn't something new. She had noticed it for years. And it was probably a point of contention and trouble in our marriage from time to time that we'd had to struggle through. Yeah, if you don't mind, I mean, because of people listening, of all the people who are listening, they're going to be people who are listening with the fascination of watching an exotic animal in a zoo where they're like, "I've never experienced that. This is interesting." Then there are the people who've experienced it directly in some way. Whether it's just down periods, extended funks or clinical depression or really extreme varieties of that, which we can talk about. And then you have the people who may have not experienced it directly, but they've been affected. Because someone, a close friend, a family member. If you don't mind me asking, what was it like for your wife having this experience with you or a vicar, I mean, being with you while you're going through it. Yeah, I think probably very frustrating for her for years. I think probably a lot of our arguments and not, you know, we love each other. We have a very healthy marriage and, you know, we have two wonderful kids. But you know, we got, you get into arguments, right? And I think I, you know, there was probably a lot of frustration because she saw me differently. I mean, she even, you know, her own words at times were, you know, you're different.

Perspective of Nick’s wife (01:07:54)

You're not the same person that I married. And I think part of that was probably the separation, right? I mean, there was long periods of time, both in training and then deployment where we just didn't see each other and you do that repeatedly. I mean, I did it three times. There's guys, you know, from our community and other branches of service that have done it, you know, 12 times, 15 times. And, you know, you know, I thought I knew myself and I'm like, I didn't change. I'm the same person. But she kind of watched this and was just frustrated because it was like, I, you know, I couldn't see it. I couldn't look at myself in the mirror and see the changes that she saw because she would be removed from me for, you know, eight months. And then all of a sudden, you know, it's like, it's like not seeing your, your six month old for two months. And the little guy or girl has changed considerably, right? Because you were removed from them and they went through this, this period of transition or change. So, I mean, I actually have, I feel terrible that she had to go through it. And I didn't recognize. And I think part of it is I just, I probably was in denial. I mean, this is probably another whole channel of conversation. But I mean, I, I think society, especially the community that I came from, you know, being in the military and the SEAL teams, like I saw it as weakness, right? I need to even want to think about like, I don't have a mental health issue. I mean, in society, it's like it's painted in such a negative light. Yeah. And I said, you know, I did everything in my power to A, ignore it or B, just pretend that it wasn't, wasn't there. Yeah. Don't be, not be honest with myself because I don't want to show weakness. Yeah, totally. And it's, it's worth noting that this is not a small issue, right? I mean, whether and by, by this, we could be talking about depression, but we could be talking about sort of mental health related problems and challenges in, say, the U.S. as a whole, certainly globally, but I'm more familiar with the sort of state of affairs in the U.S. Or it's something like 20 to 23. Is the range I hear most often veterans commit suicide?

Why veterans struggle to recognize their internal conflicts (01:10:15)

Is it daily? So I mean, far more loss of life, sort of after service than during. Yes, terrible. Active service. And last year, if we're taking it outside of the, if we're taking it outside of the context of the military, but still there's a huge overlap because a lot of returning vets are prescribed, say synthetic opioids and so on. I mean, you have more synthetic opioid related deaths. I want to say in 2017 than all the casualties of the Vietnam War, right? When you put it in perspective. And these are common issues. They're very common, but the illusion of the perceptual illusion that's created because relatively speaking, few people talk about it publicly, is that you, if you're feeling depressed or fill in the condition that is stigmatized, you feel maybe uniquely flawed. Or you don't want to admit that it's an issue because you think you're one in a thousand people who would possibly have it and it's just not the case. Go get a pill and fix it so you don't have to talk to anybody about it. Yeah. And in some cases, the medications can be incredibly helpful, sure. But at the same time, I think that it's one tool and the toolkit. And a lot of people will be non-responders or very short-term responders to some of the medications. Some of these alternative tools are, I think, very, very important. What are some of the signs because we were chatting about this last night where I was saying, in my mind, as someone who's seen family members really affected by, say, depression specifically. And friends, certainly. I mean, my best friends, just, again, to broaden things a little bit so people realize the pervasiveness of this. But one of my best friends in high school, often self by the time before you graduated from college, best friend from Long Island died of a fentanyl overdose. Ant recently died of alcohol and percocet about a year ago, overdose. And two of my best friends in college killed themselves within a few years of graduation. And these are like fancy, I went to some fancy schools. That shouldn't happen. And so it shows that these issues also do not discriminate. Because in part, I think they're a byproduct of the human condition, but also a lot of modern societal factors. These things don't care how fast you are. They don't care how athletic you are. They don't care how much or how little money you have. They don't care what race you are. And that's part of the reason I care so much and to wind back to what I was going to ask, because I think it's important.

Harbingers of depressions and designated confidantes (01:13:15)

And as context last night, I was saying that there are, in terms of people who are directly affected by this, there are people who will end up at some point experiencing, say, depression or chronic anxiety or something that just feels off. They don't feel themselves and they don't know how to get back to themselves. But they're the people who haven't yet experienced that. They're the people who are in the middle of it, except in the trough of sorrow. This period of maybe despair, despondency, apathy. And then they're the people who are in a good place currently, but who dip in and out. So you mentioned when you start to see symptoms or the telltale signs, a storm is brewing on the horizon. What are those for you? Well, so I think that the people that have experienced it and are willing to talk about it and share, maybe even unsolicited with people that they know care about trust. I think that's one of the biggest things that we can do to help those people that maybe are ashamed of it, see it as weakness. Because for me, it helped me open up. And I've had some pretty gnarly people from the teams that I look up to open up after having that shared conversation of experiences. So I think that would be a huge part of it. It's just the people that are brave enough to share it and not feel like they're exposing themselves as somebody that's weak is a big thing. The symptoms are different for so many, for different people, right? Yeah, for you. Personally, frustration and agitation are probably the two core telltale signs. So for instance, Tim and you and I would be talking to each other. You might not even be talking over me or interrupting me, but I will stop almost as if I'm irritated that I'm not getting my thoughts out fast enough. I can't finish my train of thought and I become visibly agitated and irritated. My brother-in-law that spends a lot of time with me at our company, he's been really good at picking up on it. I mean, he's actually will be in conversations where I know I'm not feeling myself. And I might not even... I might... Well, I'll say I'm not feeling myself. I have not even realized that I'm falling into a bad spot and he'll pull me aside after a meeting and he'll say, "Hey, man, you should take off. Just relax. I got your back. You don't have to be here right now." And I think it's because he's recognized that pattern. Yeah. And it's going to be people that are closest to you, right? Yeah. You remind me of something just because I feel like we have some maybe shared... DNA might be put... I mean, as a species, obviously. But the point of making is I am not able to do one-tenth of the things you're able to do, but I do have some shared history in terms of experience with these things, right? And if having a teammate, like your brother-in-law, to flag things when your self-awareness is kind of dimmed is really valuable. And you don't have to wait for a guardian angel to fall out of the sky. You can go to your friends and say, "Look, I just want to... If I could ask you for a favor, I will not get upset. Well, maybe I will a little bit, but I'm giving you permission in advance because you're my friend. If you spot any of these things or you think I'm really not being myself, please bring it up. I encourage the people closest to you to do that because they will... Sort of like having someone who's specially trained to diagnose certain conditions that you are unable to see yourself. It's very, very valuable to have those people. So frustration and agitation. The biggest ones for sure. Yeah, so for me, just for people out there, I mean, this is something I've had to learn over time. It's like many, many. Let's just say at least three or four days of continuous fatigue, even though I appear to be getting enough sleep, is another one. And the unhelpful response to that is just to say, "Fuck it. I'm going to double down. Let me have four triple espresso's." And just power through whatever this is, which magnifies the problem. Your sleep's wonderful then. Yeah, and then your sleep's fantastic and it gets a lot better. That's sarcasm. So kind of flagging that and realizing the world's not going to end if you need to take like three hours to go for a long walk or to... I will usually try to do is kind of work up. One historical mistake that I've made is if we're looking at say Maslow's hierarchy of needs, right, and you've got physical safety, shelter and all this stuff down at the bottom, food, and then it goes all the way up to self-actualization. I found it often unhelpful to try to sit down with a journal and figure out the existential underpinnings of why I'm feeling off. It's like no stupid sunlight, right? Simple stuff. Simple stuff, right? Like sunlight. Maybe you get too grumpy if you try what everyone seems to be doing, like intermittent fasting. So you should probably maybe you should just have a meal when you wake up. Like, rather than trying to sort of unravel some gordion knot of philosophical complexity in your head, which you think is going to solve your problems, maybe you just need like a handful of macadamia nuts and a cold fucking shower. Like that's actually-- Pick it up the next day. Yeah. And creating space for that, right, in response to the fatigue, but having that as a red flag and also trying to train people around me or ask people around me, whether it's family members, a girlfriend, boyfriend, whatever, to flag that. Well, I think it brings up the importance of a strong community. Yeah. You know, it might not just be your spouse or your family member or your friend. Like finding community in something else is a great kind of second line of defense. Yeah. Or even first line of defense. I mean, I spend a lot of time, you know, climbing and training with people. I probably spend as much time with them as I do at work at periods in my life. And these are-- I should also suggest to folks because I've voluntarily self-isolated a lot historically. It's just been like, OK, if it's my problem, it's my problem. I don't want to be a burden. I also don't want to be embarrassed. So I'm going to isolate and sort this out myself. Sometimes that works a lot of the time. It backfires and just exacerbates the problem. So you can-- when you're talking about support systems, I know because I have been this person that a lot of people out there are like, that's great. But what if I live by myself, I work by myself, I don't have that support structure. You can actually sort of rent friends and support structure. What I mean by that is that as one example, humans are weird creatures. And like, we're not all rational actors, even though a lot of economists would love us to be like rational robots, like doing our various things. It's often not the case. And humans, for instance, will work a lot harder to avoid losing $100. Then they will to earn $100. And so you can-- this is something I've done, which is pre-book group activities, whether that's like a dance class or a Brazilian Jesus class or film the blank. Like some type of group activity, pay for it in advance so that you're going to feel like a schmuck and you're going to have that loss aversion.

Interrupting periods of self-isolation (01:21:41)

And you've stacked the deck in such a way that makes it more likely you will not self-isolate. And then you can create that structure. If you don't have it plug and play ready to go, if you don't have like five people around you who are immediately available, it is something you can engineer. That's what I'm trying to say. I mean, I'm lucky in that regard. I mean, I have people that I've surrounded myself with that love me and care about me. And I know that's not the case with everybody. Now, nonetheless, you were at one point with the commercial real estate. It sounds like sort of lo and wolfing it. And even though you had family and son, you felt isolated at times. Yeah. I isolated myself too. Yeah. So how have you corrected that? What steps have you taken to correct that? Well, I mean, I think at the time I was rationalizing that I had to work really hard to take care of my family. So I was literally, I left the military to be with my family yet I was ripping myself away from my family under the guys of I'm doing this for you guys. So I think it was having to man up and realize that it's a cop out. I was pretending like I was it was easier for me just to focus on work. Yeah. Then to invest in my family, invest in those people that care about me. So this, this makes me want to return to a question that I would imagine some people have were listening to this, which is why did you suddenly have this, this apathy and this depression? Like what were the causal factors?

Coping Mechanisms And Advice For Emotional Struggles

The civilian transition and its challenges (01:23:38)

Like we're talking about how to address it. Like why did you go from having none of that as part of your history to suddenly having that experience? Yeah. Like what do you think contributed to that? So I mean, it's a multiple factor situation, right? You can point to kind of the the stress, right? Chronic sleep deprivation during military service. I did have exposure to blast and I was into ID strikes like vehicle ID strikes in 2006. And then, you know, as a member of a seal element overseas, we were explosively breaching. So you know, that concussive element may have had something to do with kind of this later term in terms of like TBI, like traumatic brain injury. Yeah. I mean, I think all that stuff. I mean, I mean, lack of sleep is a TBI right of itself. You don't have to be exposed to an ID blast of a TBI. I mean, that just repetitive small concussions. I mean, pro athletes, football players, hockey players, you know, CTE, which is a form of TBI from repeated concussions, you know, both mass major and minor. Yeah. Right. So I think that that all contributed to it. But I think the thing, the most common thread that I've picked up in conversations with other buddies of mine that have transitioned and have felt similar things is this kind of loss of community, like loss of brotherhood, like loss of purpose, you know, losing the identity of being a member of this team of people that love and care about you and have your back, no matter what, and I mean, we'll give their life, you know, to protect yours. I mean, it's like a really heavy, right? I mean, that's the reason, you know, when we lose a guy overseas, I mean, I'm. Yeah. I mean, I get like a physical reaction to it is like the pure, like I call it love now and I never use the word love either to him. Like most of my life until recently I just rarely use the word love never told guys that I served with that I loved them. And I've tried to make a point of saying that more often because like you have this deep sense of love and then all of a sudden I transition and it's gone. Yeah. And I don't have any, I mean, you know, him, my wife and I have my kids and I love them and they love me. But like I don't have that brotherhood anymore and I've talked to more guys that like they go, you go through this transition, whether it's at retirement or five years into a career in the military and you miss it. It's like this void in your life. And I think that that is probably it's probably one of the biggest contributing factors to kind of me going through this, this, you know, frame it as depression or whatever. But yeah, I mean, I think that I, you know, it's taken, it's taken some years of being kind of introspective and under is trying to like ask the why to get to that conclusion. But you know, it's surrounding myself with more people that I do consider like one of my boys like a brother that I love and they love me. You know, both at work and kind of my new life in this, you know, in pursuit of entrepreneurship. And also kind of reconnecting with guys that I served with. I mean, I've probably reconnected with more bodies from the teams in the last two years than I had done in the four years prior to that. This is worth spending a little bit of time on. One of the things that has helped me quite a bit when I'm feeling, seeing the storm on the horizon, like spotting some of the symptoms or having people point out the symptoms to me or I shouldn't say the symptoms like the telltale signs that something might be coming, which you can sometimes kind of head off at the past. I mean, it's not inevitable that when you spot something coming, it has to arrive in full, at least in my experience. And I haven't had, I would say like I used to have probably two to make extended depressive episodes a year, something like that, and I haven't had anything that I would characterize as a major depressive episode probably in the last four or five years. So like there are, there are levers you can pull and systems you can put in place that work really effectively. And you know, one of them for me and this ties back to what you were just saying has been when I'm unsure of, and I'm looking at it through a slightly different lens, but practically I think they're very similar, when I'm unsure of what to do to get myself back to normal, reaching out to old friends or mentors to say thanks for something. Right? Like somebody from college you were really close to or someone from high school, you were really close to childhood, a former coach, a former professor, whoever it is could be anyone. Family member, you haven't talked to in a few years, right? And just reaching out to reconnect and say thanks for something or to tell them that you love them or whatever it might be has a real re-tethering effect. Yeah. That is really grounding. And the fact of the matter is like what we take to be normal right now in most modern industrialized countries. And I'm not saying there hasn't been a lot of good that has come from globalization and industrialization. I mean, if you read Stephen Pinker's, I think it's Angels of our Better Nature, a lot of this becomes clear. Like we are living in some respects in a golden age with respect to all sorts of societal problems and forms of violence and so on, they were much more prevalent and pretty much every historical era up to now. That having been said, the nature of like a hominid cohabitation has sort of been fractured in the last century to a point where what we take as normal, which is this default isolation and at most nuclear family, sort of cohabitation is pretty abnormal. It's sort of like the last page and of 700 page book that chronicles human evolution. And so if you want to take, so in a sense, like feeling depressed or isolated or anxious is a very natural response to unnatural sort of recent developments. And if you want to counteract that, you need to develop these sort of countermeasures and be more proactive in creating what a thousand years ago would have just kind of fallen into your lap because it would have been something you experienced in your daily course of living. So reaching out to people for when I start feeling myself dip, however that manifests, very often I'll start reaching out to people I haven't connected with in a long time to say thank you or express my gratitude or love to them in some way. And it's remarkable how much of an effect that has and how quickly the effect can set in. Couldn't agree with you more. I mean, I literally I've done that recently with a couple close friends, guys that I was close with, you know, while I was on active duty, I served with overseas, then his head and talk to him in years, I mean, seven years. And then all of a sudden, you know, actually having the courage to reach out to them, knowing that, you know, if they really do care about you and love you, they're not going to judge you for the lapse in communication. Yeah. And that's I don't think I've in it in not a single instance that I've reached out to somebody that I had lost contact with had they ever kind of received me poorly. Yeah. And it's awesome, right? I mean, I feel like we didn't skip a beat. We got another friend you can actually show gratitude for who they are and what they did for you. Yeah. It's pretty it's pretty badass. I mean, it's awesome. So speaking of badass said part of the reason, you know, I was I was eager and excited to have you on the podcast is, you know, a had heard a lot about you just as from the perspective of like badass motherfucker, which I found interesting in and of itself as a as a you as high performer. But the the combination of that and the openness to come on to talk about these things. I really wanted to magnify through the podcast because this is not uncommon. And, you know, people who might hear this are I think custom to as I have been as we all are to seeing sort of the Instagram highlight magazine cover version of other people's lives. So you hear the stories and it seems like these Titans of industry, these Navy seals, these film the blank that you might aspire to be more like have none of the challenges that you're experienced that you're experiencing yourself. And so it can become very easy to just assume that you're some broken toy without effects that can leave to lead to a lot of despair and ultimately suicide and all sorts of awful things. And like you said in in certain communities, whether that's yours or I have friends in law enforcement within which they're effectively not allowed to have mental illness or challenges with mental health. These are in some respects like the the exact places where people feel least likely to or open to talking about these things is where they need to talk about them the most.

Nick’s advice to those struggling emotionally (01:33:44)

Absolutely. Right. And so I wanted this to you know, not just provide an example of a very high performer who's willing to talk about these things openly, but also to give people some tools and approaches. Which you've developed and found which I've also sort of over time it's taken me an embarrassingly long time to figure it out. But it's hoping to short, you know, having you on will help kind of shorten the learning curve or steep in learning curve for a lot of people. What would you say to folks out there men and women? Because certainly this does not these these types of challenges do not care about gender or anything else. No. What would you say to someone who's really struggling right now? Is there anything else that there anything that comes to mind offhand that you would say that you would say I would say you're not alone. Yeah. Don't you're not weak. You're not broken. You're not different. You know, I've I've been through some terrible times dealing with this and I'm dealing with it. I'm not ignoring it. Yeah. You know, I'm confronting it face on just like I would anything else. Yeah. And I'm not broken. Like I feel very effective in what I do day to day. And I would say, you know, don't don't fall victim to kind of the definition that everybody in society has put on, you know, mental illness. Yeah. Is it being a badge of weakness because it absolutely isn't. Yeah. It just is. And you know, it's it's it's one of those phrases also that it's just could use a rebranding, right? In the sense like mental illness just sounds so terrible bad. It's like, oh, he's he's fallen fallen ill with about a melancholy or whatever. It's like, oh, wow. What's wrong with that fucker? Yeah. And whereas it's like in some respects, I mean, you have mental illness, right? Be you have mental injury too. Right. There can be and a lot of people experience these, whether it's single acute events, a kind of that have a traumatic impact and and and lead their life to take a 90 degree turn. Or as you as you put it, there can be these these repeated exposures to different types of stressors, whether it's traumatic brain injury or sleep deprivation or otherwise. And in some respects, I mean, it's we tend to think about, I think the like mental illness in a very abstract way in so much as it's like, oh, there's something wrong with our mind. And therefore, it is somehow less legitimate than like an Achilles tendon, sprained. Absolutely. But the fact of the matter is like the brains in Oregon, it can be damaged very easily. Things like dehydration dramatically increase the likelihood of some type of sort of neuro anatomical injury.

Rebranding mental illness (01:36:57)

I can say from firsthand experience, having done lots of stupid things as a wrestler, cutting tons of weight. And similarly, it's like you wouldn't be ashamed to go to an orthopedist to look at like plantar fasciitis, chronic, right? Or acute like Achilles tendon tear like no, you wouldn't have any shame associated with that. And similarly, I'm not saying flippantly that you should just brush aside any concerns about how things will be perceived, because I think that over time, this will become a broader conversation is more and more people come out of the closet, so to speak, with something that I think is actually the rule, not the exception, certainly, that like these are these are experiences and conditions and injuries that can be rehabbed and they can be prehabbed also, right? So you can do things to fix it. You could also do things that make you more resilient and less susceptible. Yeah. Well, I'd say this to like these issues that we've been talking about, I almost look at them as like the currency that I paid. I'm paying for the growth that came out of all these experiences, right? And people, people talk about post traumatic growth. I am so deeply thankful for the experiences that I had in service to this country. And I know it's struggle to find another guy that served guy or gal that served in combat in defense of this nation that doesn't feel like they are a better version of themselves because of it. And this is a small price to pay. You know, I'll deal with it. It's just like the pro athlete that has some jacked up knees and shoulders now, but do you think that they would trade all those days of glory competing in athletics because they knew that they were going to be injured? Do you think that they would give up all of that glory for maybe healthier knees and shoulders? I guarantee you, every single one of them would be like, "No, I'm glad. I'll deal with it." The experience that I was able to draw and the growth personally that I was able to pull from those experiences, you can't put a price tag on it. Yeah, and I think that's true also for, I think it's personally, I think it's very true for sort of less obvious examples. By obvious, I mean less high profile examples, right? It's like I think that if I look at, for instance, now that I know them as adults, like some of the mentors who have the biggest impacts on my life, I mean really kind of fork in the road, they led me down a much, much better path type of impact on my life.

Post-traumatic growth (01:39:38)

And I look at the teachers and I look at the writers now that I've gotten to know some of these writers personally, I've realized how their superpowers in some sense were forged from a lot of their greatest pain and their traumatic experiences. And like without those, they would have been unable to develop the things that made them who they are and enabled them to actually put a positive dent in the world, which does not mean you have to impact 10 million people or 100 million people or 1,000 people. It could just be like your kid, which is there's no just, right? That's a big deal, that your gifts are, and I'm not, other people have said this to me, Graham Duncan on the podcast, and quite a few people have said this, some fortunate that people speak quite openly in this forum, that like your greatest talents are right next to your greatest pain. Like they're not diametrically opposed. They're actually integrally related, right? And so one thing I've tried very hard to do also is to look at some of these experiences and say, okay, I've had some very, very dark periods. How can I make that part not divorced for myself, not hate that part of myself, not try to compartmentalize it and lock it away? Because I will say you're going to deal with it, whether you deal with it or not. What I mean by that is you can choose to look at it and in the light and incorporate it and thank it in some ways for what it's taught you and enabled you to endure so that you can help other people to do the same, or you can lock it away and you can have it manifest in the anger and frustration. Or you can have it kind of seep out through the cracks and deal with it in a much more complicated way. But for me, it is in a way putting on, not necessarily rose-colored glasses, but looking for the silver lining and trying to look for the gift that is attached to the pain. Absolutely. Diversity tempers, right? Yeah, exactly. Some of my greatest lessons learned, both in the military and outside of the military, have come through pretty serious failures. I mean, if you asked me about the number of times that I did great things as a leader in the teams, sometimes it's tough to even come. I have to actually think very hard about the good things. Because the things that resonate with me are those times that I screwed something up. And I got a pretty stern talking to from the troop commander that was in charge of me. And I fixed it and I moved on and I grew from the experience. Yeah. What other habits or tools or practices have you incorporated that have become more important to you or you've recognized this more important after having these various experiences and realizations, aside from the PRTMS? I think learning to not just share my, you know, if I'm feeling off sharing that with people, I think just being more open and communicating grief that I've kind of like swallowed and kept kind of hidden away. I think I've lost a bunch of friends in combat, but I've also lost some very close family members, my younger brother, father. And I never, never talked about it. I never talked about them. And recently I've been in situations. I probably opening up to people and becoming more, you know, honest and vulnerable with people. I've shared that a lot more openly and it's been one of the best medicines that I've found. I mean, it's almost, it's liberating, you know, talking about grief has been something that's unlocked, a lot of happiness for me. How did you decide to do that? I mean, was there a particular conversation or a particular day when you're like, fuck it, I'm going to talk about this. I mean, what, if you, if you did it for so long, right?

Expressing grief as a path to joy (01:44:32)

Like what was, what was the catalyst? I was, like, so to be frank, I was kind of forced into it. I belonged to entrepreneurs, organizations, San Diego chapter and I joined about a year and a half ago and put into a forum, like seven, eight guys or gals, all entrepreneurs. And we went on a retreat and in that construct, which is, you know, all in confidence, you know, sharing top and bottom five percent of your life, you know, I shared what we, you call lifeline. So it's an exercise where basically you walk from like kind of the beginning of your life to where you are present day and it almost looks like a, like a, like a cardiogram, right? Up down, up down, up down. It's like a seismic, you know, yeah. So I, so I was kind of forced into talking about like, you know, some very shitty times in my life and talking about losing guys overseas and writing home with a bunch of casements and, you know, putting myself in, you know, putting myself in people, like seeing myself in some of the guys that it, that died because they were in, you know, very similar places in life, you know, compared to me at the time that we lost them. You know, it was like the most therapeutic experience being forced to share that and having it, you know, uncomfortable to say the least and I'm not a very emotional person, but, but it was like the doing that for being forced into that exercise has made it so much easier to share like more openly with people. It's like every time I talk about it, it gets a little bit easier. Yeah. And to the point where now I can actually talk about it and I'm not a mess. Like I remember the first time I talked about there's a guy, his name was Brendan Looney and we lost in a black hawk helicopter crash in September of 2010 in Afghanistan and he was killed with along with eight other US service members. And every time I talked and I didn't talk about it for a long time, but I like I saw a lot, I saw myself and Brendan was newly married. I was newly married young Naval Academy officer. I went to the same school and I, you know, I flew home with him when he went back to Baltimore and spent time with his family and got to see, you know, his high school, which was a private Catholic high school, which I went to a private Catholic high school. It's just like it resonated with me. An impact to me tremendously and I don't know. I've lost other guys that I've been close to, but for some reason it was like I was almost like watching your own funeral, which is super heavy and I just refrain from talking about it. And you know, the first time I did start to share and I talked about it, it was just a complete mess like snot and like couldn't stop crying and like it's just like I've never, I haven't been like that. I mean, probably the last time I was like that, it was like at my brother's funeral. And I find myself now being able to, I mean, to talk about it, to talk about it in this forum, like it's almost like I'm comfortable. Like I'm dealing with it instead of just kind of keeping it suppressed. And I think I'm better for it, you know, and I actually talking about it, I keep, you know, his memory alive. And I think it's the biggest show of gratitude that you can give to somebody that, you know, that has sacrificed at that level is to keep their memory alive by telling their story and talking about how much they meant to you. And you've made so many really important points. I love to just repeat a few of them because I want all people to remember at least a few things that you just mentioned. One is that the expression of grief, how the expression of grief has given you access to greater joy and happiness. Just so I don't sound like I'm interviewing myself, this entire conversation, I'm not going to get too deep into it. I didn't, there was a period of like 25, 30 years when I did not cry at all funerals. You name it, no crying until about five or six years ago. And accessing that, you know, what I always considered to be a negative for weak or fill in the blank, bad adjective emotion has unlocked so much of the top line in terms of the, the peaks of what you would consider positive emotions. It's been this entirely unexpected, for me, a consequence of that. And if people are entrepreneurs, I mean, that seems like reason, just that exercise alone seems like reason enough to join the EO. And I certainly have no dog in that fight. I'm not paid by the EO. But I have, I do know a lot of people who have really, really benefited from the forum structure. And for a lot, it seems like for a lot of people who join something like that, and I'm sure there are many different alternatives out there. I just happen to have been told of the EO forum structure a fair number of times. For a lot of folks, it seems like it's the first time when A, they have the sort of comfort of speaking to a small group of people on a similar path with, in confidence, right? They explicit confidence. You feel protected, right? Yeah, explicit confidence. And second, where they also feel a beneficial level of peer pressure to be fully transparent. Yeah. Right. And that's an incredible combo. It's like competitive, right? So the deeper one guy goes, you want to like one up him or deeper than the next. That gives you permission. Yeah. It gives you permission. And there's a book for people who maybe struggle with this. There's a book that I have only read bits and pieces of, but I know that it's been tremendously helpful to a few friends of mine who have lost family members and had perhaps not come from highly expressive environments and have really struggled to kind of metabolize the experience on grief and grieving. It's a very generic, boring sounding title, but exceptionally well developed book for people who may want to explore this. So that was the catalyst. That's, you have to sometimes you need a bunch of people that didn't serve in the military and it took them to kind of force me to deal with things that I had been suppressing for a very long time. Yeah. Yeah, that's really powerful. I think we've covered so much and I mean that there are all sorts of other things we could talk about. I mean, we are going to mention and I'll mention a number of foundations that both active former military, non-military can look to if they want to support sort of you and your brothers and sisters both within the SEAL community, outside of the SEAL community. So we'll talk about that. Are there any other, I want to mention a few sort of adjunct therapies that I think are worth researching for people who are either affected directly or affected by loved ones who struggle with some of these challenges we've discussed. But any other resources or suggestions, books you've found helpful if any, really anything at all that in terms of tools you would recommend to folks.

Book recommendation (01:53:06)

It doesn't have to be fancy. It could be something very simple like the simple but underestimated in its impact like the 20 or 30 minutes of sun. Yeah. No, I mean, so, you know, I know we started with rock climbing. Yeah. And that's a big part of my life. I mean, I have a true passion for it. It gets me excited. Like I would much rather do that than go, you know, on a European vacation, you know, staying at the best hotels. Like I'd rather go sleep in the dirt and go climb boulders someplace. You know, I think it's just finding a, finding something outside of family and or work that you're just stoked on. Yeah. So, you know, climbing is a big part of my life. I will say this year, a good friend of mine, David Wells, who is a former pitcher through a perfect game as a Yankee.

Organizations And Resources For Mental Health Support

Therapeutic outside interests (01:54:08)

Nicknames Boomer. He's a phenomenal human being. He has been there for me through thick and thin, you know, going through some very low points. You know, he's opened up his checkbook to help fund some of these alternative kind of like catalysts treatments. And David took me to a piece of property in Michigan that he owns to go bow hunting. And I grew up gun hunting in Illinois, you know, just for like bird hunting, you know, normal, you know, normal Midwestern hunting and I had never picked a bow up. And I'm afraid that I'm like drinking the coolant because it's like, it's like climbing. Like it is you, it will consume your life. It's like a perpetual pursuit of perfection that you'll never attain. And like it was super therapeutic for me. It was cool to pick up a bow and like you don't have to go out and hunt. You could pick up a recurve or a compound bow and go to the local archery range and like the breathing. I mean, I don't even want to pick up guns anymore. Like I don't shoot. But going in the backyard and shooting arrows into a speed bag was super therapeutic. I mean, I'll second that hugely therapeutic. I do think the breathing is a big piece of it. Yeah. You really have to pay attention to sort of the rhythm of the process. Yeah. And there's also something, not to stretch too far, but there's something innate, you know, over let's call it hundreds of thousands of years. It might be more sort of evolution that has made holding and practicing with a bow. Gratifying on a level that sort of exceeds like it's more than the sum of its parts, if that makes sense. It's like a tie back to like the warrior roots, right? I mean, I'm a total novice. Like, you know, the target needs to be like 20 yards for me to be like confident hitting anything. I'm no Tim Ferriss. Well, no, no, no. I'm definitely, this is yet another example of where I've stalled at Bluebelt. So I would say that, and this is something else that I wanted to say before we left today, is I had the honor of serving with some of the most brave human beings that were not Navy SEALs during my time overseas in combat. Like in Iraq in 2006, I served with both three, two and three, five Marine Corps infantry units. And I mean, was able to like stand in combat with some of the most heroic human beings ever. And there's a lot of those guys and gals out there. I just, I don't want, you know, the SEAL teams and soft in general is in the spotlight a lot for better or for worse. And there are so many people out there that have served this country with, you know, more courage and honor than, you know, you know, I could ever commit to serving, you know, during my own time that I want to make sure that they people understand that there's a lot of remarkable human beings out there. And you know, my hope is that, you know, being honest today allows, you know, some of those folks out there that are total badasses to be able to come forward and, you know, talk to their, their buddies and, you know, keep themselves healthy. Yeah, and their families. And their families. And you know what, we're lucky within the SEAL community, we have a lot of benevolent support through great organizations. And I just, I just don't, I think it would be a tragedy for these other, you know, veterans to not receive that same type of support. So it's just, it's, you know, I consider myself like a conventional SEAL.

The brave men and women Nick served with (01:58:33)

Like I served a lot in daylight combat and alongside conventional efforts during General Petraeus's counterinsurgency doctrine. And you know, I just, that's where, you know, kind of my heart and soul as a SEAL was serving on the battlefield during the day with very brave men. Well, I'm so glad that we were able to do this in person for a million reasons. And let me mention a few, few organizations that people can take a look at if they would like. And I've had some exposure to a number of these. So the Navy SEAL Foundation, which is a four star nonprofit on charity navigator, which we could discuss in a separate time. But you can check out the Navy SEAL Foundation and Navy SEAL There's also the C4 Foundation, which supports active duty SEAL families. It's C4, letter C number four And I will link to all of these in the show notes so people don't have to scribble down notes, so I'll come to the URL for that in a minute. But Special Operations Warrior Foundation is another end the station foundation. I want to mention a few other things. And these will all be in the show notes at, where you can just search Nick Norris and all this will pop up. Of course, links to everything. People who are interested in a few other adjunct options, potentially for, say, treatment-resistant depression, I would encourage to take a look at it's not a panacea. There is some addictive potential, so you should read the indications, speak with the doctor, but ketamine can be one very powerful tool, particularly if you are at a point where you're suffering from the very bottom, meaning suicidal ideation, is one tool that has proven from a research perspective and is legal and available in clinics around the United States. And it was only actually recently approved for the nasal administration as well, I think is very worth investigating for people who are really in a dark place or know someone who is. There's a documentary called Trip of Compassion, which I just put out.

Organizations that support returning veterans and their families (02:00:52)

I do not make any money from it. I did it pro bono to help get this film out, which covers specifically addressing PTSD and using tools, including psychotherapy and MDMA. There are some veterans in that documentary. And that's also a therapy that is currently going through phase three trials. So people are interested in learning more about that, can go to and look for the phase three trials related to MDMA assisted psychotherapy. Nick, people can find you on Instagram @Nick_Noris, 1981. And your company, which I would have already mentioned at this point in the introduction as well. Can you just give us just a short description of your company? Yeah, so we have a sunscreen company called Amavara. And we invented a zinc oxide only product that we have some provisional patents pending on.

Resources for people dealing with treatment resistant depression (02:02:01)

So basically it's a healthy sunscreen, healthy for you and the environment. And the differentiator for us is that we've solved all the poor aesthetic issues that zinc has, typically it makes your skin white, it feels terrible, it's thick and greasy. We have a product that goes on dry and clear and super gnarly, water resistant. So if you're an athlete, I mean, we're endorsed and partnered with the North Shore Lifeguard Association out of Hawaii. So like kind of the special operations of the lifeguard world, I mean, I have a profound level of respect for those guys. I mean, they put themselves in situations that I can't even imagine. And they've used our stuff and it's the only sunscreen that those guys use. And I have a bunch at home as we speak and people can learn more about that at Do you have any closing comments, requests, anything at all that you'd like to say before we wrap up? I mean, I just I appreciate you giving me the platform to share this. If anything, I mean, we talked a little bit about it yesterday. Hopefully it's a message of hope and hopefully relabeling PTSD and mental illness and whatever other label people have placed on these issues, relabeling them in a positive light and looking at them as a you know, it's a currency that that people have paid for some great personal growth in other areas of their life. Yeah.

What makes Amavara’s patent-pending sunscreen so unique? (02:03:34)

Yeah. Well, I think I feel very confident that certainly if we discard my long winded soapbox moments, I think you did I think that you delivered upon that really well today. And I do think it's a message of hope. That's why I wanted to have this conversation and record it and share it. And the fact of the matter is, you know, if if so many people, not just you, like you're one example of someone who's been a at the top of of many different disciplines and I know scores more, some of whom are still too embarrassed or unwilling at this point, which is totally fair to talk about it publicly. But if people who are at those levels are experiencing these things and contending with them, just as hundreds of thousands or millions of people are who are listening to this, there doesn't have to be on top of the challenge, which is manageable and addressable of developing the habits and putting together the group activities and maybe joining a forum and so on. You don't have to add shame to that to solve list.


Closing thoughts (02:05:00)

It's not just unhelpful. It's unnecessary. If anybody shames you or looks at you in a negative light because you've come forward, they probably don't have any room in your life for them. Yeah, agreed. This is really, especially after speaking and writing publicly about this, the number of people who've come forth to me publicly and in private, the types of people, the broad spectrum from sort of private, say, single mom all the way up to Fortune 500 CEO leads me to believe that these are challenges which are the norm and that there need not be any shame in it and there are tools that can help. I think that hopefully there are others out there who are also having these conversations but at the very least, you being willing to come on and talk about this means a lot to me. Certainly, I could have used hearing you at many points when I was struggling in college and at other times. Hopefully, it'll catch some folks and show them that not only there's there light at the end of the tunnel but there are very practical steps you can take, tools you can use that can aid you along the way. I'm here for you, buddy, if you need me. Thanks, brother. Likewise. To everybody listening, I'll mention again the show notes. We'll have links to everything that we discussed at You can just search Nick Norris and the episode with all links will pop up and until next time, thank you for listening. Be safe, stress and oculate, pay attention to sleep and see you next time. Hey guys, this is Tim again. Just a few more things before you take off. Number one, this is Phybullet Friday. Do you want to get a short email from me? Would you enjoy getting a short email from me every Friday that provides a little more soul of fun for the weekend? And Phybullet Friday is a very short email where I share the coolest things I've found or that I've been pondering over the week that could include favorite new albums that I've discovered. It could include gizmos and gadgets and all sorts of weird shit that I've somehow dug up in the world of the esoteric as I do. It could include favorite articles that I've read and that I've shared with my close friends, for instance. And it's very short. It's just a little tiny bite of goodness before you head off for the weekend. So if you want to receive that, check it out. Just go to That's I'll spell it out and just drop in your email and you'll get the very next one. And if you sign up, I hope you enjoy it. This episode is brought to you by Helix Sleep. Last year I focused on dramatically improving a few things, surprise, surprise. Most notably the quality of my sleep, which seems to affect just about everything. 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