The Loneliness of Entrepreneurship is real. It’s hard. Here’s what you can do about it.
The Loneliness of Entrepreneurship is real. It’s hard. Here’s what you can do about it.
Michael is the CEO of Success Engineering and a Tony Robbins certified coach.
He helps entrepreneurs feel that they are enough and not alone, along with optimizing every area of their lives including their habits, productivity, and health.
He is also the host of the Success Engineering podcast.
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What if our need for social connection is actually more fundamental than our need for food and water? If we are not attached as infants, we will die. So, it's hardwired into us. That need for attachment actually gets us our food and our water.
Welcome, everybody. Today I'm excited to have Michael Bauman with us to talk about how to navigate the loneliness of entrepreneurship and success. He's been around the world. He's got a lot of great insights, and I'm happy to have him here to share them with us. Thanks so much for joining us today, Michael.
Absolutely. Pleasure to be here.
Sweet. So Michael is the CEO of Success Engineering and a Tony Robin certified coach. He helps entrepreneurs feel they are enough and not alone, along with optimizing every area of their lives, including their habits, productivity and health. He's also the host of the Success Engineering Podfest. Mike, would you just start out, share a little bit about your journey and kind of what got you into this work?
Yeah. So it's an interesting question. So originally, I was born in Papua New Guinea, and I grew up my whole life over there. So for people that don't know, it's a tropical island right above Australia. And I loved growing up there. There's tons of wonderful experiences. But part of what started that journey, obviously, is my childhood and things like that. And it's interesting to see when you've traveled around the world, when you've been in different cultures, the people in Papa are getting very poor. They didn't have very much money. A lot of times they had food, but not a lot of money. But you'd see how happy they are. They're just so happy they don't have all the stuff that we typically enjoy here in the west. So happy, so hospitable. I mean, obviously there's still people, there are still frustrations, there are still these different things. And then it's interesting, when I came back to the States, you'd see the reverse. I'd see these people with these huge houses and cars and all of this just stressed all the time, not really happy people. And I feel like that was kind of in the undercurrent of going on behind the scenes, like what actually helps people be happy, what helps them feel successful and what that looks like?
And then further on the story. So I was a personal trainer, I was a nutrition coach, and the assistant Department had my gym facility. And I kind of hit a glass ceiling and I was like, I'm going to jump out there entrepreneurship life. We have all the dreams of, like, I want to make a ton of money and have all this time to enjoy it or whatever. And two weeks after I left my job, my wife wasn't working at the time. We found out we are pregnant with our first kid. So we literally have no money. We're on food stamps, like the hardest dog. My wife is struggling with depression. It's like the hardest, darkest time of my life. I'm like knocking door to door, trying to sell my services and go like, I need money to pay the bills. And so lonely during that period of time and really felt like a failure. I felt like I wasn't enough. And there's been other times during that, but kind of insert into that I stumbled across start with Y by Simon Sinek, and there's a part in it where he's at this gathering of the Titans.
It's called Some Multimillionaire Entrepreneurs at MIT. And the speaker asks them, how many of you have achieved your financial goals? 80% of the room put their hands up. Most of them don't have to work another day in their life. Then the speaker follows it up with, how many of you feel like a success? And 80% of this room put their hands back down. And that story, in the midst of that crazy time for me, just stood out. And that was the foundation of success engineering. I'm going, what we're looking at is not actually the appearance of success. It's going, how can I feel like a success in every area of her life? So how can I feel like a successful father? How can I feel like a success as a business owner? How can I feel like a success as a spouse or with my finances, with my body, whatever that looks like? So that's the brief kind of overview of how I got into that.
Awesome. Thanks. There's so many different things to unpack there. At times, people have talked about the sense of a person's ability to be happy with less. And then some people go to and take that to an extreme and say, well, therefore, you should not have things. And it can either glorify one or either glorify poverty or demonize being wealthy. What have you seen as far as that balance? Because in my question, there's an assumption that, yes, one person can have money and be happy and also not have money and be happy. What was it that helped you balance those or what have you seen? Because I know I've seen some of it in different places I visited. My parents are from Trinidad and Tobago, my wife's from Peru. I've lived in a few different cultures. I've been to India and seen people that I wouldn't necessarily want to be in their financial situation. And yet at the same time, there's something there that you see this light of just happiness, that present moment contentness that as you mentioned, sometimes you don't see where people have their stuff together. What have you seen? Maybe are some of the distinctions or maybe just share a little bit of what you've seen on that, if you don't mind.
Yeah, it really depends. This is the interesting thing. It absolutely depends on the individual. It depends on what you want. And what I talk about is unless you clearly define success for yourself. You'll just revert to society overt to the cultural norms that around you. And it's not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a bad thing if you get to the point that you thought it would be a success, and then you're like, oh, wow, this doesn't feel like a success at all. So I would say it's completely individual. And that's the interesting thing. You can actually take your definition of success and you can filter it through values. So you can ask the questions of going, like, what would feel like freedom in the areas of my wealth? For some people, that would be they want to give away, like millions of dollars. They want to be philanthropists. They want to give away millions of dollars. That feels like freedom. They're financially independent. For other people, that's like, I have enough to eat and I go surfing every day. Right. That feels like freedom from my wealth. But then you can also ask other questions around, like, how could I actually be at peace in terms of my wealth?
And you can do this with your body as well. How can I actually be content with my body? What would that look like? Right? Or what would freedom look like with my body? Some people want to climb Mount Everest. People like, I want to get up and down off the ground and be able to play with my grandkids. So that varies. And then you ask, like, what brings me joy in the areas of my wall? So it's not necessarily the money itself. That's the problem. It's going, how can I be intentional about what's behind it? What am I actually wanting to create? What am I actually wanting to feel? And then going, how can I align the how's, the whats and the processes and stuff with that feeling? Exactly. There are people that don't have a lot and they might want more, and that's totally fine. There's a lot of research around our happiness increases up to around the 70,000 range. And people say it doesn't increase above that. It actually does, but in a different way. So you don't have a daily increase in happiness after that period of time. But if you measure it in a different way than impact and contribution, that you can actually have an increase beyond that.
But the thing that I like asking, when we look at success, if you're looking at success kind of formula, on one hand, it can be achieved more. Right.
And then I equal success for whatever that is.
The other hand is actually want less. And you just play with it.
You experiment with it. What if I actually went, what if I wanted less? What would that look like? Right. And you get to determine for yourself what that looks like. But that's kind of my answer to that question. It really depends on the individual and what they want.
Yeah. I think there's so many variables to it. And definitely trying to take someone else's definition doesn't always work. I mean, we can look to other people for guidance. I think of what I used to define as success, as health, and how I look at it now. As a youngster, I wanted to build big muscles, all that sort of stuff. I have a six pack now. If I can play volleyball every Friday, healthily for three to 5 hours, that's my main focus. And as somebody who does not have a lot of at least I don't see myself as a disciplined person, but I see myself as an inspired person if I'm inspired to do something. So I'll do my yoga just about every day to stretch so I can play volleyball on Friday. But if you say, wait, do this because and I guess it's that whole external reason, because it's good for you, because it's supposed to, not so much. So one of the things that you and I talked about that I thought was really important was people understanding what their needs are. And a lot of people entrepreneurially, we're very focused on what the needs of our business are.
And we take courses and content and we read all this stuff, and yet sometimes we seem to forget that we're at the center of all of that. Where would you say that comes in in the sense of even for the person who says, look, I really am financially success driven right now. So right now, Michael, I need to make a lot of money. And so I'm willing to take not the shortcuts, but I'm willing to lose some sleep. I'm willing to miss out on relationships, and then I'll make up for those, and then I'll get to those later. Curious your thoughts on that and what you've seen in the reality of how it plays out, not the story book of what you should or you shouldn't, but what actually happens when people take that approach?
Yeah, I'm going to say there's two things. There's definitely seasons. Sometimes people like, we look at success as a static thing. And just like you mentioned, it depends on your life stage. It depends on whether there's a global pandemic. Like, it depends on all of these different variables. And you can look at success on a very micro level, like, what would success feel like for me today or in this moment all the way up to a very macro level in terms of the impact that I want to have 100 years after I'm gone from this world. So you can adjust those different time frames and do that as well. But the thing that I would talk about, you brought up a very crucial point, is talking about the needs. So when you're driving in your business and this is what I help entrepreneurs realize a lot of times it's because there's this emptiness inside of them that goes, I just don't feel like I'm in enough. And I have been there so many times. Right. Sometimes we bookmark these things. This is the thing that's still a challenge, right. Where you go, am I doing this because I don't feel like enough and you have to unpack that.
A lot of times with emotions, especially in a Western culture, we either push them away or oppress them or pretend they don't exist. But there are signposts for fundamental needs that we have that are going unmet. They're like the body's warning system. Right. And so there's different ways. We have different needs, but there's these fundamental needs of certainty that we have. There's a need for variety that we have in our life. There's a need for love and connection, and there's also a need to matter, a need for significance, and then for growth and impact and different things like this. So my question would be, when you're pursuing that Avenue, actually stop and ask yourself, what need? Am I actually trying to meet with this? Am I trying to meet a need for certainty? Right. So it's like if I have a million dollars in my retirement, then I'll feel safe, right? So I'm trying to meet that. Or I'm trying to meet this need for a variety. Like, I feel like I'm just stuck in the routine, my entrepreneurial life. Like, I'm over here, I'm doing this, I'm traveling, I'm talking to these people, whatever, right?
Or it's a need to matter. Like, maybe your parents were just like, you're never going to amount to anything. You're always a failure or whatever that is. And you go like, I need to feel significant. And that's not a bad thing. I need to feel like I belong. I need to feel like I matter in that aspect of love and connection. Maybe it's like connecting with other people, like minded people. Or maybe it's a growth thing. Maybe it's a significant thing, but you have to kind of stop and go, what is this signpost? What is this actually pointing towards? And maybe I can get this need for certainty or connection or love or significance or whatever it is. Maybe I could get it met in a different way that would produce a different outcome that would potentially bring my life more into balance.
Thanks. That makes a lot of sense. I know this idea in entrepreneurship of feeling like we have needs, needy, victim. Like, there's all these associations that have come with as opposed to, well, no, I need oxygen. I need water. There are certain things I need. If you take them away, they're really going to hurt. There are other needs, perhaps like generic needs. Yes. I need attention, recognition, feedback. I might not need that from a specific person, but I need those in general. And I forget where I heard this, but I remember somebody explaining the idea of if you can match up the need, like you're saying with what will actually meet its need you're in a good place. So if you're thirsty and you drink water, that's going to help. And that's a physical need, and you give it a physical substance. Whereas if you have an emotional need, if you accept it and you drink a beer, that's not going to meet that need, it might put you in a mindset to feel happy or forget about it. But ultimately, it's a mismatch, I guess, on some level. And what I'm hearing you say is that there needs to be a little bit of intentionality or at least even looking back and saying, okay, yeah, when I do this, I feel good about this.
And one of the things I remember when I went on a trip to India, I just remember being on a train and seeing some of the kids that were playing, they were very happy. And then I went to Machu Picchu in Peru and the same thing. And I remember seeing some of these kids just complete joy on their faces over what their current circumstance was. Now, granted, somebody could say, well, wait, their kids, they're playing soccer or football. If you're in the rest of the world, there really wasn't as much stress and this and that. Okay. But it feels like a lot of the times we adults can't even give ourselves those moments, those moments of, look, okay, I know I have worked Monday. Let's say I know I have this big project or I know I have this thing that needs to be done that I'm going to need to bear down and focus. But can I on my weekends, can I in the evenings, can I, when I'm at dinner, be present as opposed to looking at my phone? Not because I don't love the person? I think so many people assume it's that, but because I'm just so consumed, I'm so fearful, I'm so worried, I'm so uncertain.
And as you mentioned, these other things are driving me. I'm not driving. I'm being driven by something. I don't have to steering one of my hands, something's pushing me. What have you found for entrepreneurs as far as how they can kind of look at or even get a sense of what is it that maybe is something that's working for them versus something that's not? In other words, how can that self diagnosis work? Because very often when we are working as entrepreneurs in our silos, I've worked from home for over 20 years. It's only sometimes, at least in my experience, when you go out and meet with other people, like, wow, I've been in the cave for a while and I didn't see this and I didn't see that, oh, wait, I got to brush my hair and, oh, I got this thing, whatever it is. How can a person, without going too extreme into thinking that every moment has to be moment of bliss? But how can a person look and say, oh, you know what? Maybe I'm off target on this because I'm not going in a certain direction. What are those signs? What does that look like?
Where someone might say, yeah, you know what I might need not necessarily psychological help. And there's nothing wrong with that either. But where a person might say, yeah, you know what? I might need to take a look at my needs, my emotional needs, my needs to connect with people.
Yeah. There's a lot that goes into that for sure. One of the things and this is incredibly powerful for me. It reframed pretty much everything for me. I heard about it. This is a phenomenal book. I'd recommend every entrepreneur or any person. Pretty much read it. It's called The Gap in the Gain, and it's by Dan Sullivan. You're not in your head, you're familiar with it just phenomenal. But what it essentially talks about is so often we're measuring the gap from where we are to where we want to be. And he says just incredibly powerful quote in there. He says, you can only measure the distance that you've traveled from where you started to where you are now. And that's measuring the gain. And it's crazy from a macro level to a very micro level. So let's say you go to your favorite sandwich place and you get your sandwich, and they forgot to put the mustard on it or the garlic ale, whatever it is on there that you really like, all of a sudden you're like, shoot. Like sandwich isn't as good as it is as it was before. You're measuring the gap.
You're not measuring the gain of like, I'm at my favorite sandwich place having my favorite sandwich. Right. So from a very micro thing all the way up to extremely macro things, what if we actually measured the gains of the things that we do? And this is what I started on, a huge emphasis. Even for this year, at the end of every day, we have our daily reviews, and we look at what did I accomplish? Looking at the next day, what do I need to accomplish? Our weekly reviews or monthly reviews, whatever. Incorporating into that? I actually have done like a done list and a celebration list. And I go, what did I accomplish today? Right. And then I actually celebrate it. I put myself in a state of celebration, not externally, just in terms of, like, giving yourself a bat on a back or picturing, like, people surrounding you and going like, great job, Michael. You're doing a great job. And I have that on a daily, on a weekly and a monthly basis, because that changes the state of my days. We live in our days. We think, like, the vacation that we're going to take in three months is going to make up for the daily state and the feeling that I have today.
And it doesn't. So I go, how can I celebrate myself today? We're totally fine. Like, we have no problem beating ourselves up because we're like, that gets us to the next level. And you should be doing this and here's this weakness and optimize, optimize, optimize. Right. But we're not as good at actually celebrating ourselves. But the celebration activates your dopamine. When you activate your dopamine, they can actually rewire the neural pathways of your brain to different habits. It's a phenomenal way to actually kind of hack your habits. And so doing that, you actually live more on the positive side by making an intentional focus. So my question is going like, how can you actually focus on the gain and what you've accomplished? Because that's the only way to measure the distance you've traveled to the success that you've achieved.
Yeah, that's so true. I'm a huge fan of Dan Sullivan's work. I was blessed to be introduced to him by my father Gosh, in the mid 90s. Really good stuff. And for those of you aren't familiar with him, he's a Tony Robbins level guy who simply never sought Tony Robbins level attention. And that's not a complimentary criticism to either two different approaches. He's been more of a quiet, behind the scenes coaches, entrepreneurs. And yes, it's so interesting when we focus on what's working and it sounds Pollyannaish, it sounds optimistic. It sounds. Well, Wade, you're not living in the real world. And I usually think of athletes I think is the closest analogy, maybe because I've played a lot of sports growing up. And I think about, well, when is the best time for you to hit a shot after you just hit a shot? When you start getting on this role, momentum, whether it's true or not, there's the belief and momentum, or if it's baseball streaks, hitting streaks, if it's basketball, to talk to somebody who's in the zone and the bucket just looks so wide and they just throw the ball and it goes in and the skill set was there.
This is the thing that's really interesting to me. The skill set has been there the whole time, and yet one day person will be in his zone and then two weeks later they're not for like a month, and then another time they will be. And how do we cultivate that? I really like your idea of the done list. I'm definitely going to implement that for myself because, my goodness, it's so easy for us actually speak to this, if you don't mind, because this is the part you hit on. Something I think is so I believe it's a myth. I've not done enough research, but anecdotally I do this idea of beating ourselves up to motivate ourselves, to get ourselves going. And I've always felt that if I have to do that, then maybe something was missing because I don't have to beat myself up to love my kids. I don't have to beat myself up to want to go play volleyball. The things that are really important to me, I don't have to give myself a Pep talk. What do you find or what have you seen with people that try to use that approach of either pushing or that borderline more beyond just pushing but almost shaming themselves or trying to over force themselves into wanting to do something?
How effective is it long term, short term. And what are perhaps the side effects of somebody doing that?
That's a really good question. And that hits on a really important thing that a lot of entrepreneurs and people just in general face that idea that we have to shame ourselves to a certain spot. The question really is and it can work to accomplish the things that you want. But then at the same time, that's.
Kind of what I talked about at the beginning.
You get to that point, you go, this is the life that I really want to live. And the bunch of research. Bernay Brown did tons of research on shame and guilt and just showing that actually it doesn't produce the positive results. There's tons of research, phenomenal research done by Kristen Neff. She wrote a book called Self Compassion. Also another one I'd recommend. Pretty much everybody read it's. How to actually change it towards being more compassionate with yourself. And the research, everything from weight loss to performance in business, all of that, it actually shows the people that are more compassionate with themselves have better outcomes in pretty much every area of your life. So what you're doing in that situation is rooted in something that's deeper and that's farther back. Right. And so the interesting thing is to kind of ask the question again, it goes back to that emotions or even behaviors. If you have a behavior like an addictive behavior or behavior that you're constantly doing, actually stopping and asking that behavior, what is the positive intent behind this? We view it as like a negative thing, but it's going like, what are you actually trying to protect me from?
And just pondering that going like, what are you trying to protect me from? And a lot of times you can follow it up with a question and just go like, if I was completely and totally protected, what would be even more important than that? And you might be like, oh, it would actually be to be okay with myself, to receive love from other people, like to actually feel like I can be loved. And then you can continue to ask that. And this is actually through Tony Robbins. It's called the highest intent technique. You can follow that up with. If I was completely and totally loved or completely and totally okay with myself, what would be more important than that? And a lot of times then it's actually taking what you have and giving it out to other people. So giving other people love and making an impact. And then if you totally gave out all the love, what would be more important than that? And then it might be connection. Depending on your views, it might be connection with God. It could be actually a dissolution of your ego, dissolution of the self. And very quickly, just by asking that question, you can actually get up to a lot higher intent.
That the signpost of your emotion or your behavior, even the one that you don't like is showing you. And then from that highest intent, you can actually bring it back down. So if I was completely connected with God or if I had completely dissolved myself, how would that affect me? Giving love to other people? Right. And then if I was completely and totally giving love from other people, from that perspective, I'm bringing it down. How would that affect me receiving my life? And then you bring it back down to the feeling that you actually have and pay attention. How did that change? Right. So that feeling of not enough, this, that feeling of guilt that you're just trying to solve with an external problem, how did that change? Very quickly by doing that, what would it look like if I actually took that highest intent into what I was doing? Would I do things differently? And you might not, right. It's analyzing it for yourself and going like, what do I actually want?
At a very deep level, yeah, that's so cool. When I think about the times or the things that have worked in my business, despite lots of strategic planning, some of the things that have worked out the best were not things that I at least intellectually conceived. There were things opportunities to present to themselves. And I fortunately, was willing enough to listen or to hear that the client was saying or the prospective client at the time was, oh, I'd rather have this. Instead, I sometimes also think of what perhaps opportunities have gone past me because I couldn't see them. And whenever I do sales coaching with people, one of the things I'll talk about with them is very often their sales walking in front of you. But if you can't see them, it's like the person that's basically saying, I need this thing that would make me feel better. And this, that and the other. And it's like exactly such and such. And you're like, but you don't know what that such and such is. So they're just right in front of you, and it goes right by you. It seems like this puts you in such a higher place to be more open.
There's an affirmation I love. There's a book called Creative Visualization by Shock Tuition. And I love, you know, this is one of the first gosh 30 years ago books on visualization. So much of what's been done today has some sort of roots in that or at least inspired by that. And one of the premises is, of course, that you look to visualize what you want to see happen. Then this part that she would always put at the end, which I think is gosh. It's just the whole phrase is a way of approaching life of this, where something better is now manifesting in totally harmonious ways for all involved or something like that. But in other words, it's like, look, it can work out for everybody. It's already in process. It's not something that I'm not worthy of or whatnot, but this is something better. And for me, that was the part of so that's how I can go from white knuckled gold. That has to be exactly the way I think I see it to retention of, oh, okay. I want to be happy. I want to be abundant. And again, the things that the left brain entrepreneur or left brain entrepreneur voice would say, no, we can't measure things by happiness and joy and fulfillment.
We've got to have metrics. Darn it. We've got to have how many followers, how many likes, what's the ROI, what's the conversion rate? I want all those things. Those are great. But if they come at the expense of the other things, I don't think I want those. How would you say that you've been able to help or what do you find helps people put those most important things first and yet still honor the real metrics? We got to make money. We can't just say we're going to help people and be happy. That's great if we're independently wealthy, but if we're entrepreneurs that need to pay bills, we have to be able to balance those. How do you find or what do you suggest people do where they can? Whether the word is lead or stay centered on or whatever it is, what is perhaps most important to them? Not your values. Not my values. I think you and I already get this. But how can they stay most true to themselves while they're doing? Like, how can they be in that space while they're doing the doings that, then get them the income that they need to have or whatever it might be so that they can continue their journey.
That's a great question. And like you mentioned, for entrepreneurs, a lot of times just incredibly busy. The last thing we need is like, I'm going to put something else on your plate and you're just like where it has to cost something, it has to go somewhere. Right. And I love I absolutely love it's called the two minute rule. It's from James Clears Atomic Habits. But basically looking I love two minutes. And I love five minutes. Like, I do all of these different things, these habits that I have in my life that are like two minutes or five minutes. Right. So it might be five minute meditation, it might be five minutes stretch. It might be a five minute workout that literally got me through Covet. That is how I use those things to put in my life. So a lot of times, too, even with entrepreneurs, I have what's called the enoughness bookmark. So at the Shark Tank, I actually got this from Berna Brown, Darren Greatly. She says, no matter what gets done or is left undone, I am enough. And I'm like, what if we started our day by actually saying that, like, if I'm in the shower and I'm saying that no matter what gets done today because we're basically playing an infinite losing game, like, there is an infinite amount of to do list that will always be left undone and you will always feel not enough because you didn't get enough done because you're infinitely losing.
Right? So what if you actually stepped back from that and said, no matter what gets done, no matter what gets left undone, I am enough? And then at the end of your work day or the end of the day, what if you bookmarked it with that as well? And you just said, hey, we don't have a problem with the drive most of the time, right? We get it done. But then just saying, I did my best and no matter what I got done, I am enough. And then you can actually this is kind of the behavioral psychology around it. You can use triggers. They can be environmental triggers. They can be context triggers. Whatever it is in your life, they can be BJ. Fogg talks about, like anchor habits, right? Like brushing your teeth, something that's so much a habit that you don't have to think about. You can use those triggers to basically reset your intention. So when you walk through a door, you can use that. If you're getting in your car, if you're walking through a door, you can use that and go like, okay, I'm just going to Brendon Burchard, a phenomenal peak performance coach, talks about this.
Like, I am going to release tension and I'm going to set intention for the next thing that I'm doing. So I walk through a door. Whatever came before, I'm just going to let it go. And then I'm going to set my retention for going into this space. Maybe it's with your family, maybe you're letting the work go. Or maybe it's like, okay, I can't think about what's going on with my family right now because I have this important meeting. But these tiny little things that allow you to just come back and go, what is going on with me? Maybe it's a minute, maybe it's two minutes. And what is the retention that I actually want to show up in this next situation and it doesn't take more time out of your day. I'm a huge fan of things like that.
That's awesome. I think, number one, I love how well studied you are and how well versed you are. Many of the mentors you've mentioned, I've read their stuff and I got the big picture. I got to write down some more of the habits. One of the things that I found, and it sounds like you do this is just exposure to happy, intelligent, well rounded, multi dimensional people just over and over. I think I started with Zig, Ziglar with his tape series, and then Wayne's Eye are and different people like that. Going back to the loneliness, obviously, we don't want to focus on the loneliness, but that's one of the things that comes up for people when we're trying to make things happen. Things aren't going the way we'd like or just in general. We're on our journey, I think, just to broaden it doesn't have to be entrepreneurs, anybody. Everybody has this on some level. How does the loneliness affect our physiology, our productivity, our decision making, the quality of life? In other words, how does it show up for the person says, again, I can tough my way through this. Michael, you sound a little soft, man.
I'm a big boy. I can tough my way through this. How does it eventually show up in ways that then do start impacting people in those different areas of their life?
This is extremely important, and I will take it all the way back to basically the fundamental needs that we have. So you have Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs at the bottom. You have your food, shelter safety above that. You kind of have your safety, things like that, and then you get into your self esteem, your connection, your self actualization. But there's actually a ton of research coming out pretty recently that talks about arguing what if our need for social connection is actually more fundamental than our need for food and water? And you go, that doesn't make sense, but it actually does. When you look at attachment theory, and they did all the studies on those wireframe monkeys, they had a monkey that was cuddly but didn't have any food, and they had a monkey that was just a wireframe that provide the food. And they thought that the baby monkeys would go to the wireframe because it was just a sustenance. They would get their food there, and then they would go over to the cuddly monkey, and it was the foundation of attachment theory. Basically, if we are not attached as infants, we will die.
So it's hardwired into us that need for attachment actually gets us our food in our water. And then you see it in like you watch any National Geographic documentary, right? That lone zebra that's running there and just gets taken down by the zebra or the Cheetah or the lion or whatever it is. That isolation from the herd actually triggers in us like an incredible fear because it's going like, I am actually at threat. I am physically at threat right now. I'm physically in a threatening situation. And we don't realize that there's this fundamental need that we have for social connection. And there's a fundamental pain that we have associated with it. And that fundamental pain is loneliness. And you'll see it in the language that we use, right so if you have a heartache, it's like, I have a headache or a stomach ache, right? That person broke my heart because we're trying to express that. It's like they broke my arm. And what's crazy people don't actually realize that social pain, like social rejection and physical pain, light up the exact same neural network in your brain. It's almost exactly the same. Your brain looks at it as pain.
And then you look at all of the studies, the studies actually show long term. And the Harvard study of adult development, it's one of the longest longitudinal studies ever done. Track these people from when they were sophomores in College all the way up to when they died. And they found that your social support, the quality of your social relationships, is a better predictor of your health at 50 than your cholesterol levels. And they found that loneliness and isolation is basically the equivalent in terms of physically affecting you physically, of smoking 15 cigarettes a day, chronic loneliness. And then it actually matters. It's more of a negative effect on you than obesity, physical activity, air pollution, all of these different things. And so when you feel that physical pain of loneliness, it's actually affecting you, especially if it's chronic. So it's something that you have this fundamental need. And we need to look at how can we actually connect in these areas both in terms of, like, it's one of the number one ways that we can live a quality life. All the happiness, all of that kind of stuff goes into that. But then even in terms of, if you're just looking at the science of how does it affect our body, you have compromised immune systems.
Like, it even affects your DNA transcription. So it is incredibly important, but we minimize it, and we say it's just like, I'm lonely. Right. But it actually affects your body in a tremendous way, more so sometimes than even some of the physical things that we think are really important.
Wow. That's so consistent with what I've seen. That when we try to explain why is it that this person live tillage so and so, and they have a drink every day, and they smoke a cigarette every day, but they're happy. And again, not advocating that you add the cigarette and the alcohol to your regimen if you don't already have those, but just that idea of the best way to put it, I guess just us not being aware of all the variables that are really in play, as opposed to just think people say, oh, he was in such good shape and he had a heart attack and this and that. And then you sometimes hear about kind of what was going on. There was this thing was going on, and there was some disconnect and there's some pain going on because this thing happened or that thing happened.
Just another point. I mean, you talked about decision making and stuff, and there's a bunch of research on this, but we don't necessarily even need the research on it. Like, if you go into a board meeting and you're trying to negotiate a business acquisition or some land, some super important client, and you just had a terrible fight with your spouse or your kids, you know that your decision making at that moment is not on point, not the way it should be, even from an anecdotally. You know what? There's tons of research around. That how it affects our productivity. Right. You know, when you have this fight, your mind is not on your work. It's not on like, I need to make the best decision right now. It's just like a hot mess inside your brain of what's going on, actually socially. But we don't take that in terms of the criteria. We don't weigh it heavily enough in terms of how it affects some of those other areas of even our business and our entrepreneurship life.
Absolutely. One of the things you mentioned in our initial conversation was loneliness being a perception. And maybe this is the area where different people process it differently. Share a little bit more about that, if you don't mind.
Yeah. So basically 50%, it's a little bit less. It's actually 48%, but 50% easier to say. So 50% of the loneliness that you actually feel is genetically predetermined. So it's genetically different. People have different sensitivities to social disconnection or social rejection. And the reason why that's important to mention one is it gives us compassion for ourselves. Right. You might be somebody that maybe, like, you move next door from your parents or what's going on, the community that you have, and all of a sudden you feel super isolated. Right. Or somebody else moves all the way across the world and they're like, totally fine. And you're going, what's wrong with me? Some of it might be a genetic predisposition to that. Right. The thing with the genetic predisposition, obviously, is we can't control it. Right. So there's a 50% that we can't control. And this actually is pretty much across the board in terms of happiness, neuroticism, any of those things. A lot of times, it's pretty close to that 50% in terms of genetics. What we can actually affect is the other 50%. And that has to do with how we handle it essentially mentally.
So our expectations that we have for other people, and then how we approach it mentally, but then also how we approach it emotionally and how we can actually handle the pain of that. So all of the research around loneliness is actually subjective. Loneliness. You can be objectively lonely. You're out in the middle of a forest, you're out in a desert, whatever it is, and actually not feel alone. And you can be in a room of hundreds of people and feel absolutely alone or in a marriage or whatever it is in a relationship and just feel totally alone. And so it's actually subjective feel of loneliness. That's important. And that's where the research around the negative effects come from in terms of that.
Awesome. Thank you. So then what are steps people can take to navigate loneliness, to manage it, to put themselves in a better situation. So it's not something that is really kind of taking them off track.
Yeah. And so there's two different ways. You have internal strategies and you have external strategies. So one thing that people don't realize is loneliness is a state. Right. So it's a subjective feeling. So you can actually change the feeling of loneliness without actually interacting with any other person in the way that you can actually do this. I call it basically your loneliness shield. So you can picture all of the people around you. And if you do meditation consistently, you can sit down and you can kind of get into that relaxed state. It helps to just kind of visualize things better. But you don't have to. Right. But you picture all of the people around you that have had a positive impact on your life. So it might be family, it might be friends, it might not. Right. But it could be teachers, it could be coaches, it could be mentors. Whoever it is, you can picture them around you just encouraging you and saying, hey, you're doing a great job. I love how you navigate this tough challenge that you had going on. I'm really proud of you. Maybe they're giving you hugs, maybe they're giving you high fives, whatever that looks like.
And you can actually enter into that experience. And same with, like, holidays. Let's say you have these different holidays, and they can be really, like lonely times. Or if we're all separated from everybody and socially isolated, you can picture the amazing times that you've had with family and going on road trips and these adventures and stuff that you have and immerse yourself in that. And physiologically, your brain will basically treat it as if you're there. So that's how you can change the internal state. But it's obviously a temporary thing. So if you're looking at external strategies, the thing that I was saying, it sounds really simple, but if you have a super important business meeting, you just put it in your calendar and you put reminders for it, whatever you do, whatever it takes to make sure that that happens. Right. Well, what about if you asked, what are the 20% of the people that I actually feel most alive with, most comfortable with, the most encouraging, the most supporting, whatever it is, and go, how could I actually just be a little bit more intentional about scheduling time with them? Hopefully be in person.
Maybe it's over the phone. What would that look like? And just kind of think, like, it doesn't have to totally revamp your whole schedule. But how could I actually just schedule a little bit more time with the people and then the other thing that I would mention is looking at all of your different interactions. I call this interaction upgrade. So if you're on social media, just pay attention. When you get off of social media, pay attention. Do you feel more connected with people afterwards and you might actually feel more connected? I'm not saying it's one way or another, but I'm saying pay attention. And if you don't feel more connection, maybe you can go, how can I just upgrade these interactions slightly? Right. We're not overhauling everything. It's just going, if you normally leave a like, maybe just put a comment underneath their post and go, it just really meant a lot to me for content creators that's like, this is amazing. Somebody is actually listening, so it helps them as well. But then if you like potentially just write a comment, maybe you send them a message. Or if you normally send people texts, give them a call, give them actually, like, on a video or see if you can schedule the in person time.
But take those interactions and just go, how can I just step it up a tiny little bit? Not a ton, just a tiny little bit to actually go, can I get more connection from the things that I'm already doing in my life?
Awesome. Thank you. There's so much this. I know you have your podcast and you have your program. Will you Shark Tank little bit about what you do for the people listening so they can understand how you help people specifically.
Yeah, absolutely. So I work with entrepreneurs like you mentioned at the start, to really help them feel like they're enough and that they're not alone. So it's navigating some of these things and going, where is this coming from? How can we become more aware of what's actually going on inside of me and what needs? Like, we talked about that I'm actually trying to fulfill and how can I actually maybe fulfill them in more positive ways? Or maybe, like, you've gotten to a certain point and you've achieved a certain level of success, and then you realize I sacrificed so many other areas of my life to get to this point, right? Maybe my health is not as where I want it to be. Maybe my relationships are kind of like Rocky with my family or whatever. It is the important people in my life. And you're like, this might not be what I want, and I help people just kind of bring balance to the forest, so to speak. Like, how can we bring it back into balance? So we go, what are we actually wanting to pursue? And how can we get there? And then also just like, how do we navigate all the chaos and whatever that's going on in everybody's life is essentially what I do in terms of a coaching.
So I have the coaching side of it. And then I also have a podcast called Success Engineering. And that's where I just like I interview people that are successful in a wide variety of fields. So Broadway directors, neuroscientists, CEOs and ask to pull back the curtain on success and go, where are your fears? The doubts, the loneliness that you had? How did you navigate through that? What did that look like for you? Which I absolutely love. I love just going like, what does it actually look like behind the appearance of it? So I have that as well if people are interested in checking it out.
Awesome. Yeah. And we'll put the links to all of that in the show notes or if you're listening, it'll be in the section where you can see the links from the episode. Michael, thank you so much for sharing this. There's so much I can sense. There's so much more you have to share. Really encourage people to check out your work. Anything else you'd like to leave the audience with before we finish?
If they're interested, they can go to the website and you can download my success engineering ebook which basically has a lot of these questions, these value based questions around success to just get that framework of going, what would this look like? What's the foundation of what this looks like? And then how can we build on top of that so they can check that out if they're interested as well. Awesome.
Thank you so much for that and for all of you listening, I encourage you. It can be a long journey. It doesn't have to be a lonely journey. Reach out. Continue. Whether it's his podcast, my podcast, the people we've mentioned, we've mentioned so many awesome mentors on today's call. So reach out, do your research, keep moving forward, let me know and let Michael know what we can do to help and as always, look forward to helping you help more people and make more money and less time doing what you do best so you can better enjoy your family, your friends, and your life. Thanks for listening.
CEO at Success Engineering, Entrepreneur Loneliness Coach, Host of Success Engineering Podcast, Executive Contributor at Brainz
Michael is the CEO of Success Engineering and a Tony Robbins certified coach.
He helps entrepreneurs feel that they are enough and not alone, along with optimizing every area of their lives including their habits, productivity, and health.
He is also the host of the Success Engineering podcast.