On Today’s show, I talk with motivation guru Dennis Timpanaro.
Dennis has a very, very interesting story from working to qualifying in the Olympics, from never competing in a certain sport, to really understanding what is motivation, this concept that is driving many of us to seek, feel that we are lacking, or having any sort of thoughts on it. I think at some level we all think about being motivated in particular in certain areas of our lives. Dennis is creating a course and an application with GOtivation that is very, very fascinating, and I think that the concepts that he is helping us learn and teach are just very special.
Enjoy the show and as always, thank you for listening.
Dennis has a seemingly endless supply of motivation. He’s an entrepreneur, former world-ranked archer, and founder of GOtivation. Dennis loves meeting new people and is happy to share his crazy life experiences ranging from the 2016 Olympic Trials, career as a global director at McDonalds, and years of consulting.
Dennis lives just outside Chicago. He can often be found playing Nintendo with his 6-year old son, telling dad-jokes to his newborn daughter, trying new foods with his wife, and growing exotic vegetables.
Angelo: Dennis, Dennis, Dennis, how are you today brother?
Dennis: Angelo, doing good man, doing good. I’ve been speaking a lot this week like we were talking about before, so I feel like my lung capacity is improving every minute of the day.
Angelo: When you are doing these trainings for these companies, how many people are you usually training? You said yesterday you had a really long session, how many people are you working with at a time?
Dennis: They are usually pretty intimate; right anywhere from 15-25 people. It’s not giant audiences coming to listen about Tony Robins. It’s teaching smaller teams on everything from communications, to some of the old stuff I used to do in consulting and just keeping sharp, you know.
Angelo: Yeah, I’ve done seminars and clinics with 20-30 people speaking 8 hours a day to 15, 20 people, honestly, in my opinion it’s more taxing than speaking with a bigger audience because with 15 people you are crazy enough to try to get intimate someway, somehow with every single one, but if there is above 50 people you know that you are not going to have that, and almost like for me, there is a pressure that’s off you.
Dennis: Yeah, I agree. I try to always think about, someone’s got it tougher than I do, and I think about the trainers that trained me as I was growing up, whether it was in procurement work or in actual physical training, or motivation, whatever it was. I’m like, man, that job is hard as hell, those people are doing that every day for groups like me, and they have to learn about a new team, and practice or stuff, and be alert for 8 hours at a time. I do it every once a while and I think it’s a lot of effort. I applaud them; they’ve clearly got a harder job than us.
Angelo: That’s true, absolutely. What I looked to and been introduced to is the guy that really has studied and taken this concept of motivation and brought it to understanding not only for yourself but for the masses, just to get the million dollar question out of the way; are you born with having a higher amount motivation, or it something that you could learn? Because I’m sure people are wondering even if that’s a part of their life.
Dennis: That’s such a common question. It’s not even a question sometimes, people just write it off and assume, I don’t have motivation, I wasn’t born with it, I’m not like my personal trainer, like my motivated cousin, or whatever it is, and they just excuse themselves from having it. They just think you can’t get it, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. All the latest behavioral science and psychology has proven that motivation— it’s like a muscle, I think of it like a muscle; you can train it, you can get stronger at it, you can practice it. You are still going to have ups and downs, you are still going to have crappy days and tough weekends and stuff, but you can actually train your motivation so you can use it when you need it and not just give up. It’s not an aid.
Angelo: Are you speaking from first experience? Tell me about your childhood, and if you were this over-achiever, or it something that you’ve actually learned and that’s how you could also attest to it.
Dennis: Yeah man. My epiphany it all started with a quarter life crisis. If it’s okay, I’ll share those stories about that. I was in consulting fulltime, I was traveling 4-5 days a week, working 60-70 hours a week; just burned out. I realized I wasn’t doing anything for myself. I was in my late 20s, I said, something I’ve always wanted to do but I have no idea how to go about doing that is make the Olympics.
It’s just something you throw out there; everyone’s got their goals that you kind of left in the past but you want to revisit. This was right around the time Chicago was bidding on the 2016 Olympics. I don’t know if you remember those days.
Angelo: I thought we were getting it for sure.
Dennis: I think we all did. Maybe it’s a Chicago weakness that we typically have, we always assume we are going to win and always get let down. We were going for the Olympics, and I remember in the Chicago office, we are all getting ready to go down to the park and celebrate making to the first cut, and sure enough, Chicago got knocked out. Got knocked out in the first round, and everyone was just stunned. I remember we were drinking in a bar a little bit later that week. I thought about this Olympics, the bid had just happened, and I made a joke with a couple of friends, “you know what guys, screw it, Chicago is not in but I’m going to find out a way to go to the Olympics myself.” Of course, maybe a couple of beers in that sounded like a good idea and everybody thought it was a joke, but I really did mean it.
I really meant it, and I went through the very unsexy approach of figuring out, okay, I’m in my late 20s, I’ve got a job, I’ve got a wife, what could I possibly still be good at? So I looked at all the different sports, went through a reverse analysis and said, hey, archery; that takes some athleticism, I’ve got some muscle here, I can practice it on my own, it’s not super expensive, I can get started in it, how hard could it be pulling the string back? It should be pretty damn easy.
Angelo: How did you really pick archery though, did you think that was the one that you had the best chance to qualify for, or the best one that you would excel at, or both?
Dennis: It was both. There might be some other sports I’m good at, who knows? Maybe I’ll figure it out 20 years from now, but I might not have had the money, or the time, or the facilities, and you need all that stuff to be able to be good at it. Most people follow their passions, in this one case I said, no, I’m actually going to do something logical. What could I be good at in my circumstance in life? Archery seemed like the best shot, and it was pretty fun.
Long story short, I went to an archery, a bow shop if you will, I said, “I want to go to the Olympics”. They laughed at me and said, “How?” I said, “I don’t know, you guys have a bow? Let’s get started there.” I took lessons. I would take my bow on the train back and forth from work, and then practice after work. I started off struggling, but found some good coaches, put a ton of time in, and in 4 years I became a world-ranked archer, and two years later I actually competed in the 2016 trials. Everything was going great. It was certainly a long shot to make the team, but I was shooting good enough in practice to have made the first cut.
So I got down to Texas, it was 100 degrees that day, your standard end of summer just boiling hot college station day, and fought through hot weather, fought through a microburst that actually blew tents all over the field and everything, but at the end of the day I was really average. I shot a little tentatively, I was nervous, I shot a very average score, not my best score that I would have needed, and I didn’t make it. I was bummed for quite a while. I’m a pretty motivated guy as you can tell, I’ve stuck to my workouts, I’ve stuck with everything and I got bummed for months.
Angelo: Can I ask you a question? I want to hear more about this, I’m sorry.
Dennis: Yeah, go ahead man.
Angelo: I really need to know. What was your training like to even get ranked? How did this work into your life, especially later in life? Were most archers your age, or just younger?
Dennis: The best ones are typically a little bit younger, but there are many archers my age and above that can still kick my butt any day of the week. It’s one of those sports where once you’ve got the form and the technique down it stays with you, it really stays with you. You’ve got to maintain it and everything, but those guys in the Olympic team at The US Training Center it’s a fulltime job for them. They don’t make much money, but it’s a fulltime job.
When I was training at my peak I was training about 20 hours a week, it was a part time job for me, and that’s still a hell of a lot of time to fling arrows in a field, right? But I loved it, I couldn’t stop. I was addicted to the growth, and the challenge, and getting better, and the network of people was really cool too. You put a lot of time into it, on the field, and then of course off the field; training mentally, getting your equipment ready, signing up for tournaments to get you to travel and all that stuff organized.
There is a lot of effort if you want to go into it deep like most athletes. I was just learning all that for the first time, I was an amateur.
Angelo: That’s incredible. Before we get back to after the trials, I want to know; was this the first thing in your life that you were this focused in? Was there anything else in your life before this moment that you would take on such a big challenge and become so focused to it?
Dennis: Not really. I get deep into stuff man. Whatever it is I have a passion for I go all in. If I ask my wife, much to her dismay, I’m like, “hey, I’m interested in this thing,” I’m going to go do it all the way. When I was young, when I was in grade school, I was into chess. I played chess for a number of years. Same thing; I sucked at first, had good coaches and mentors, and by the time I finished in junior high our team had won the first state championship ever for our junior high, and I got second place in the state.
That’s carried me all the way through sports, and now, in a completely random fashion I’m into growing mushrooms. I’ve been growing fruits and vegetables and all sorts of cool stuff for 20 years, all of a sudden I’m just really passionate about trying to grow edible mushrooms; shiitake, lion’s mane, oyster- I just get into stuff and I can’t stop. I want to absorb, I guess every piece of information and see how far I can take it. It’s in my blood, that piece at least.
Angelo: That’s incredible.
Dennis: It happened in archery too man, I got hooked.
Angelo: That’s so great. Just really quick, so the listeners aren’t hitting you up; these are just edible mushrooms, not the kind of mushrooms everybody is here like, ‘god, I hope this guy telling us—where can we find him at the end of this? Can we just get to that part?’
Dennis: Oh my gosh. To cut to this; these are edible mushrooms, and these are not psychedelic mushrooms here. It’s a psychotropic—I don’t even know. See, I can’t even tell you what they are, so clearly I don’t know what I’m doing.
Angelo: It’s all good, I just had to ask. I’m sure we’ll get some questions about it.
Dennis: Yeah, you can knock those off the list.
Angelo: So you get through the trials and you don’t perform very well, what’s going through your mind then? Did you feel like that was an accomplishment at that point, or were you disappointed that you didn’t make it all the way through the Olympics?
Dennis: It kind of morphed. While I was at the trials, our buddies were there, and everyone was celebrating the fact that we made it this far, we competed, we gave it our all, we spent time and money, and effort, and we fought through it, because it’s still tough, even just finishing the trails is challenging when you are an amateur. So while we were down there it didn’t really hit me, but then I had this really tough drive back to the airport; I even remember the song that was playing. For the rest of my life this song is ruined now, it’s not even an important song, but it used to be enjoyable for tellies song, but now it just makes me sad every damn time I hear it.
I just kind of lost it on the way back to the airport thinking about this is probably the end of the journey, I tried really hard, I put all this effort into it, and I didn’t show up. It caught up to me eventually, and when I got back home it was kind of full-on depression for me; not clinical, not to minimize that, but I didn’t work out for months, I didn’t lift, I didn’t shoot archery, I didn’t want to do anything. What happened out of all obscurity—this was the end of 2015, the trials started in 2015 and rolled through 2016, of course in the lead up to 2016 summer games there were a lot of commercials and hype around Michael Phelps.
Michael Phelps had kind of fallen a little bit from grace in between 2012 and 2016, got busted smoking weed; had done all the normal things the all-time gold medalists and younger guy’s going to do in his life, but the media frowned on it. So there was this under-armor commercial, and it’s Michael Phelps making this big comeback; he is training in the morning, he eating, he is trying to get, he is throwing up after practice, his coach is pushing him, and I’m telling you Angelo, this thing gave me chills, and I couldn’t figure out why the hell it did that. I got up a day later and said, I’m going to start practicing again.
Knowing full well I’d been caught, that there was no chance that it was just the next season for me of amateur archery, but I started waking up at 5:00am in the winter and shooting archery. I started training again, strengthening again, reading more books, learning about the mental game, some other weaknesses. It took me two more years to realize why that video had resonated with me. We started GOtivation- that’s my startup that I’m still working through, we started GOtivation with the general concept of we want to motivate people because motivation is challenging.
There’s plenty of workouts, there’s plenty of diets, but people struggle because they are not motivated, they can’t stick with stuff. I worked with a psychologist on my team, Dr. Robert, and he helped me understand all the different traits, and all the different characteristics that go into motivation. I run some of these, call them surveys, on myself and realized I have what’s called grit, that just resonates, it courses through my blood, I have grit, and grit is the reason why I stuck with basketball growing up even when I sucked at it. Grit is the reason why stuck with chess, grit is the reason why when I get into a new hobby or a new field that I give it 100%, and I have these blinders on where no matter what happens, if I get knocked down I get back up, if I get slowed down I speed back up.
I just keep going for it no matter what happens, and that’s like my super power. I call it my superpower in GOtivation. But that commercial was all about grit, that was Michael Phelps rising up from all the challenges and all the stuff that had been thrown at him and just going forward anyways, and it connected with me. It’s a very long story, I understand, but it was my journey in figuring out, how I’m I motivated? How do I work? And how can we do that to help other people out because we are all unique?
Angelo: I think it’s a great way. To say that you are really into motivation and not give the backstory of how this actually all happened, I think that would be kind of cheating your story and what you could say to people. Let me ask you this because I found this to be interesting; do you remember the moment that you realized why you liked the commercial, and what was that like for you, and how did that happen? Because I think a lot of times people have these epiphanies and ‘aha’ moments, and I’m just always curious to how they play themselves out.
Dennis: It’s actually part of another story. When we started GOtivation—this is about 6 months into it, we are still figuring out heads from tails and what we want to do, and how we are going to help people- we had a concept and I run it by a friend of mine. She is an online fitness coach, and she is like, “this is great. We need this help in motivation, we need help with our clients, and it’s lacking.” I said, “Cool, can you go share it with a few of your buddies, just to get some more feedback?” She shared it with three of her friends, first one basically goes, “motivation, that’s just a bunch of stupid memes on Instagram.”
It hurt a little bit hearing that, but her next buddy ended up saying, “I love motivation, I get daily inspiration, it helps me keep going. It’s all about it.” The last one said, “Yeah, motivation is important, but I already have it internally, it’s not something that you can get from the outside.” I was trying to circle around what the heck is motivation and I got four grossly different answers from four different people. I said, alright, I need to really get to the bottom of what is motivation. That’s when we started talking to psychologists and reading books, and taking courses. That’s when I slowly connected the dots, right about the year and half gone to say, oh my god, that’s why that video connected with me, because I’m drawn to grit, I’m motivated by grit, it’s the strength I have inside. It was like an epiphany, we can figure this out now; it’s not a secret for people, it’s not a stupid quote on Instagram, there is science behind it, and it works.
Angelo: How did you find out it was grit for you?
Dennis: We actually developed an assessment. We used a bunch of behavioral science backed questions to say, if people answer these questions based on the results you can determine how they think and how they feel inside, what motivates them and what doesn’t. I was the first guinea pig. I was the dummy that took it. It took a little bit of tinkering and it popped out, and said, alright, your strength is grit. I said, “What the hell does that mean?” I looked at it back up, I read a book by Angela Duckworth too that helped me a little bit about that, but I said, wow, this sounds a hell lot like me, why didn’t I know this was a thing? Then I went back and connected the dots. The results pointed to me being this type of person, me being driven by this motivation.
Angelo: Do you think everyone has a natural motivating trait, like yours is grit, do you think everyone has that, and identifying that would help them become more focused or more motivated? I don’t know the exact way to say it, but just back to that trait; do you feel like everyone has that?
Dennis: 100% man. Here’s what’s really interesting about that too; when you train folks, let’s say they want to get stronger legs, maybe they are going to go train for a deadlift competition, or they just want to look better on the beach, how would you train them if you want to get their legs stronger?
Angelo: Probably squats and deadlifts, and stuff like that.
Dennis: Yeah, and that’s pretty common, right? You work on the weak areas, you apply exercise and fitness techniques that strengthen those areas, then lo and behold they’ve got great glutes, they’ve got good arm strings, and all of a sudden you’ve turned them into a strong human being. In psychology, and especially in motivation, it’s the opposite; if you have a weakness like self-control, for me if I get a drink I’m probably going to have three drinks, if I have dessert on Monday, probably still going to have dessert on Tuesday, and I can’t use that, I can’t go ahead and strengthen my self-control. I can get a little bit better at it, but if you tell me, “Dennis, we are going to do a sugar-free month”, no chance in hell, no chance in hell.
I remember when I was actually back in my corporate job, me and a close friend of mine we decided we were going to do a smoothie cleanse, a detox, even though there is really no such thing as a detox, but we wanted to just eat healthy for a few days. She set up with me this 3- day calendar; here’s all the things we are going to eat, and we are going to cut out sugar, and we are only going to have these smoothies. By the end of day-1 and a half we both just wanted to jump out the window; all we wanted to do was just eat a piece of bread or something you could chew, and have dessert, and whatever it was, because that’s who we are, right?
Dennis: That’s who we are, we couldn’t fight that. Going back to your original question, everyone has this strength in them, whether they know it or not, and if you play to that’s strength you can fight through the days you don’t want to work out. You can get back up after you have a bad weekend of eating, or, I don’t like calling them c3heap meals, but you just eat in real life. You can get back up and fix it after that, you don’t give up. You just can’t try to expect all your weaknesses to become strengths; get to use what you already got internally.
Angelo: Besides grit, what are the other traits?
Dennis: Sure. There’s five that we are measuring at GOtivation, there’s actually a few more, but there’s five big ones; there is conscientiousness, which is a really long way of saying hard worker. Conscientiousness are things like; they have discipline, they plan calendars- if you are someone that has your workouts planned to a T, and your diet all in a meal tracker you are probably conscientious. If you work out 5 days a week and you don’t skip any days you are probably conscientious. It’s people that are just really hardworking and detail-oriented. Grit of course is the one I mentioned.
Where conscientious people kind of work hard in everything, grit is stubborn determination to just get one thing; you get knocked down-you get back up, somebody hurt your feelings-you get over it, you have a bad day and you eat poorly-you get back up two days later and you go and have a healthy meal again, you don’t stop till you get to your goal. The next one is self-control. Self-control is pretty self-explanatory here, but self-control is your ability to put off short-term for the long-term. I had one donut yesterday, do I need three? You know what, no, I can put that off because I know in a week I’m going to want to feel good and fit in my pants, or in there months I’m going on spring break and I want to feel good on the beach. It’s having that control and that discipline to say no to things, which I don’t have.
Angelo: I don’t think I do either. When you are saying that I’m like, oh, that ain’t me man.
Dennis: I’d rather work out hard than do the other things, than have that control of diet and other pleasantries. Everyone is different. Then there is locus of control. Locus of control is an interesting one; you are either the type of person that says, woe is me, life is terrible, my job sucks, I didn’t get any sleep last night, it’s too hot today, basically the world happens to you and there is nothing you can do to it. That’s called an external locus of control. An internal locus of control is where you say, you know what it’s not the cards you are dealt- it’s how you play them. I think you have probably very strong internal locus of control Angelo. You’ve had some tough things happen to your life and you said, it doesn’t matter, I’ve got this, I’m going to do the best I can with what’s happened to me.
Then this is not exactly a trait, but we measure this too because it’s really important; some people are driven by the need for achievement where they want to win medals, they want to post selfies on Facebook, they want to finish a race, win the biggest loser challenge at work, and others are driven more by fear, kind of together in a spectrum; I don’t want to look bad, I don’t want to finish last place in the race, I don’t want to feel uncomfortable at the beach. I just want to make sure that people don’t look at my photo and go, ‘man, he looks awful’. That’s not as healthy of a motivation, but there is this spectrum; you can be driven by both of those things.
Angelo: That was my next question; if you said you were motivated by fear you probably might not say that that’s too healthy, do you feel like as part of what you would be focused on is helping that person move into another area, if you thought that was unhealthy, or it’s just like this is the way it is, I’m just going to help them be the best at what they are?
Dennis: For the most part we help them be the best that they are. It’s very hard to make change, especially as we become adults, we realize by the time we are 18 or 22 we are pretty much who we are, we are going to learn a few more things along the way, but with fitness again, what matters is your mental state, your motivation matters the most. If you can play to your strengths you will get fast results, you won’t frustrate people, and frankly I think it will be a lot more fun to know you’ve got some skills already rather than just saying,’ I can’t do any of this, it’s too hard.’ We help strengthen their strengths and play off the things that they are good at, and get them to where they want to be.
Angelo: I find this so interesting. How incredible.
Dennis: It is amazing.
Angelo: It blows my mind. It’s almost like a cheat-sheet for adults.
Dennis: I wish I had known it a long time ago, because I had just been very transparent. I played lots of sports growing up, but I always hit a glass ceiling, I always got in my own way, mentally typically. I’d get down to myself, I’d negative self-talk, I didn’t know how to pump myself up at the right time, control my adrenaline, I sucked at that part. I really wasn’t any good, of course now I’m older and wiser I guess, because some people taught me what I should have known. But yeah, all these information is out there and I don’t think most people are applying it, that’s why we are trying to help.
Angelo: Absolutely. For GOtivation, the main application is through fitness, correct?
Dennis: It’s health and fitness. We’ve got a few different goals that people can pick in there, they can say, ‘look, I’m trying to be more positive in general.’ We had a woman who just took the course, and she’s just had a really tough time staying positive in her life, really strong, negative voice in her head. So that was her main goal. All the other said, look, I’m trying to lose weight, or I want to get a little more regular with my diet or things like that- those are pretty typical applications that we help people out with.
Angelo: Tell me more about the experience for someone that would use the GOtivation, how does that work?
Dennis: Yeah, sure man. GOtivation it’s a little different. It’s a motivation training course that helps people find motivation to get started, but then also gives them the skills they need to stick with their goal. That’s the key, there’s two sections of motivation; get started and keep going. It’s personalized, every person like we just mentioned, we learned—the customer will come in, they will take a little survey, we’ll learn about their traits, what motivates them, what doesn’t, and then we’ll actually modify the training course to match their personality.
It’s four weeks and you play little games 5-100 minutes every day, you take some challenges, you go on little missions. While it’s fun, it’s interesting, and it’s pretty quick, behind the scenes what you are doing is actually building up all these skill sets. So when you are done at the end of the course, we’ve had multiple people do this now, your motivation may go up 25%, 30%, 35%, which doesn’t mean a lot when you talk about a percentage, I don’t need psychology nerds, but what it does mean is people will start sticking with their plans. They’ll start putting themselves ahead of chores and other mundane things that they’ve done in the past but they realize now that, wow, I do have the drive and the motivation to give myself 15 minutes a day to stretch, or to workout, or maybe spent a few extra minutes prepping for my meal because it matters to me.
We’ve had people lose weight, we’ve had people just become more positive and happy at the end of it. It really depends on your goal, but if you stick through it and you enjoy the course which is all delivered through Facebook Messenger, there is no special book or app you’ve got to download, you end up getting some pretty happy results at the end.
Angelo: It’s such an amazing concept. For you, you are in the beta phase or testing phase though?
Angelo: Is the goal to reach out to gyms, or is it to go directly to consumer?
Dennis: I’ve got a lot of buddies like you Ang, a lot of buddies in the fitness world that are trainers and gym owners, that’s kind of where we started and really sharpened our skills, the fitness part of it. But I do think at first we’ll probably go straight to consumers because I do see, at least from a business standpoint, I think of the order. The order is; someone lacks the motivation and wants to get back on track after maybe having kids or a long day at work, we can help them get back on track and be ready before they go ahead and buy a gym pass or sign up for a plan.
It makes them more effective, it helps them get their money’s worth when they go to a trainer, or if they are already motivated it helps them use the gym pass, or stick with the meal plan if they’ve got that base level of skill to say, yep, it’s going to be tough 3-weeks from now, but I know what to do and when it gets tough I can figure how to stick with it. I do think we’ve got to get to them before they jump in and do the normal thing, in January 1st go spent a bunch of money on something and then quit on February 1st.
Angelo: That makes complete sense, very cool. Tell me more about your plans for GOtivation; what are you trying to achieve? What are your long term goals, short term goals, anything you’d like to share?
Dennis: Less from a motivation side and more personal side, I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, I’ve chickened out multiple times, I think each time I get a little bit further. But I’ve chickened out multiple times. For me it’s about actually taking the dive, being brave and trying something new that I couldn’t do 5, or 10, or 15 years ago because of me, because of my limitations mentally. To be honest, my wife has been massively helpful because this is a big commitment; financially it’s taken a lot of our money, time wise I haven’t been able to work as much in my other businesses and things like that, and it’s been stressful on our family. She has stepped up huge to support us physically and financially, and it means a ton. I want to repay that favor at some point with GOtivation.
I’d like GOtivation not only to help millions of people get motivated and happy, and feel good about themselves, but also have a viable business for me, for my employees, for my family. I guess that’s the cliché American Dream here, but it is really important to me. I want it to become something that I can do all the time and still raise a family and help people.
Angelo: That’s incredible. Do you have an idea of how many people you’d like to impact with GOtivation?
Denies: I do, but it’s going to sound ridiculous; 2.2 million precisely.
Angelo: It’s a pretty exact number.
Dennis: I did the survey man, I did the survey, and that seemed to be how many people need the help right now. We’ll see if all 2.2 million of them sign up. But I think all of us need the help. If what we’ve been doing before isn’t working this is a different thing to try that will get them there.
Angelo: Sure. When do you foresee the beta group being done and being able to go to market?
Dennis: We are finishing up beta probably in the next 30-45 days. We want to do a couple more full-month courses to make sure we’ve got the bugs worked out, everybody is happy with it, get some new ideas in there. Then the idea would be to finish building the last pieces of it in the spring time here and launch it for everybody.
Angelo: It’s awesome. It’s very, very cool. What is your role in the company now?
Dennis: I’m the founder and the idea guy. We’ve got a lot of help around me to make it work, because I’m not a coder, I’m not a developer or a programmer. The last time I did that was probably 15 years ago in college; I did a really pathetic yet humorous website that was built on html, and that is all I ever learned man. I’ve got an amazing team of developers and mentors out in Iowa City and some of my colleagues also in Vietnam that helped actually build what it is we are trying to do. I came to them with the ideas, with the course, with the materials, everything around it, and they tell me, ‘you are a dummy, here is a better way to do it’, and then they do. They’ve been Isaac and Thomas; really the whole team has been nothing but amazing to me as mentors, friends, and then of course software partners.
Angelo: For you with the ideas, are you the kind of guy that wants to keep upgrading the current one, or make another model?
Dennis: That’s a good question man. My gut is that it’s going to be both eventually, because I’m always trying to push the envelope in my life too, I want to get better at things, so I want to make the course better, or add new things that I’ve learned that might help out one of our customers. There is a better way to phrase something, I’m not an author, so someone may come and say, ‘hey, let’s edit this a little bit and make it sound a little more smooth, or humorous, or snappy,’ whatever it is. I think we are going to always improve Motivated in a Month.
But the other thing we want to build after that is, we’ve heard from a number of early users even through last year, they said, ‘look, I love the course, I love what you are teaching me, I feel great at the end of the course, I’m ready to start, but they are kind of self-awareness that I know myself. I know what’s going to happen in two months. Yes, you taught me how to do it, but I’m still going to stumble man, can you do some sort of program that maybe checks in a couple times a week after that course, and keeps me honest? If I’ve got a question or I’m feeling down, or I slip up again, one of you guys reaches out to me through GOtivation and we talk about it, you get me back up.’
We are going to try to develop more like a subscription one too for a few bucks a month; we’ll keep in touch, we’ll send you more tips, we’ll keep you sharp with some more games, but give you almost a lifeline of someone to talk to when you are out there in the real world using this stuff. That’s the goal.
Angelo: It almost feels like this is your personal assistant for motivation, making sure that you are really sticking on to that. What’s so amazing too is, I know that you said that you are targeting in the health and fitness and maybe people are going there for that reason specifically, but this has to affect all areas of your life, not just exercise and eating, right?
Dennis: It does, it does. As a side experiment, we are working with some counselors and some therapists because a big part of their job is motivating and keeping in touch with their clients. I’m not a therapist, I don’t have any of that training, but the application is the same. The application is the same; if they want their clients to get results they have to stay positive and motivated and learn how they work. So we are doing a test there. To your point Angelo, I think it’s probably the same for career motivation, or education motivation, or just being in a relationship is tough; you have to say motivated to take care of each other through the ups and downs, right? There’s probably a lot of other applications we haven’t gotten to yet because we are still trying to really perfect this first one in health and fitness, but it would be exciting stuff to try. We’ve got time.
Angelo: For sure. Are you a perfectionist?
Dennis: No, not at all. I like things to be better, but I also eventually just move on. I was notorious for this at my job, and good thing yesterday in the presentation, I was doing the training, I had some help; I’ll make a presentation or maybe a workbook of some sort and I’ll get through it, and I’ll throw it all down like, you know what, good enough, 80% there, I know what I want to say, the slide might not be perfect, the handout might not be perfect, let’s go. Invariably every time I do that there is a typo, a glaring typo or something just really stupid that someone else catches immediately. I need people around me to help with that, again, I don’t want to say perfection, but when I rush a little bit too quick on those things because I want to move on and keep making progress these people have a better attention to detail than I do.
Angelo: Okay. I feel the same way. I was just curious for you and how you are working on with this project. Do you have people in place that are sort of that finisher, kind of double checker right now with GOtivation?
Dennis: Yeah. I’ve got editors that help with the content, I’ve got psychologists on my team that helps with the logic; did I do it right? Frankly, I don’t know if you do this with your customers as well, but I’m always, always asking for feedback, constantly, and I say, ‘you better give me good feedback’. I want to know, not good as in positive, but be honest; if something sucks- tell me, if I miss something- tell me, if this doesn’t resonate- tell me. I want people that are brave enough to tell me I have broccoli in my teeth because that’s the type of feedback that’s going to help you get better, versus the ones you are just like, “oh no, Angelo, I love everything you are doing at your gym, things are perfect here”, and the they quit a month later. What the hell happened here, right?
Dennis: I listen to feedback, I absorb it and I make changes. I don’t think a lot of people do that. Our customers give us almost all the feedback we need.
Angelo: That’s so true. Was that something that you were always good at, or is that something over time you got more open to? I’ll be the first to admit that I get feedback now, and for the first minute of reading anything I’m a sensitive guy, I’m pissed off, when I ask for it I know it’s the right thing to do. That emotional charge still happens for me. How does it work for you?
Dennis: It’s the same way man. It’s the same way. I know I need to ask for it, and I know it’s going to help me but it is emotion at first. So what I’ve learned to do is I ask for feedback, I’m very gracious in how I ask for it, I take all pieces, I keep prodding. If someone says it’s great I say, what can we do to make it better? Then after the call, or the email, or the one-on-one chat I let that wave of emotion pass me. It might be a day, it could be a week later, and I go back and I revisit the notes, and I go, oh man, he was totally right, this does suck.
At that point when the emotion is gone, I think it’s your [inaudible 00:40:03] cranked back to a normal level of activity you can go, alright, that was very helpful, and it gives you the fuel to go and ask for it again, even if it’s a little sensitive.
Dennis: I forget what startup book I was reading, because I’m into startup nerds and new business and stuff, but they said, I’m paraphrasing grossly, they said, asking for feedback about your business, about your product is like going back to high school. Imagine asking that one girl you had a crush on to the dance, and not only does she say no, but then she tells you all the reasons why she is not going to the dance with you. That’s how it feels very often. You’ve got to swallow it down man.
Angelo: It’s so true, what a great analogy. You said you wanted to be an entrepreneur before, but what was it about GOtivation that you had to transition from McDonald’s which is a world’s international corporation that you were very successful with? How did you know that it was the right time in your life to step into this now?
Dennis: I didn’t. I didn’t. Like I said, I was having an amazing run. I was a director at McDonalds’, I had a huge team, I had incredibly talented people, I had good friends there that I really respect and I still miss to this day, and they paid me a lot of money for what I did. But there were some changes coming into the business and I spoke with my wife, I said, “look, here’s what’s about to happen; they are going to move the office, it’s going to be a long commute, all these other stuff, and you know deep down this is what I’ve always wanted to do, can we do this right now in our family?” We just had one kid at the time, my son Rowen, and my wife had a really good job and I was going to get a little package that would work if I ended up leaving.
She said, “yeah, if there is ever a time to do it, it’s now.” It was that old adage of when’s the best time to plant the tree? 20 years ago. When’s the next best time? Right now. Right now was the next best time and we decided to make the jump. I think the tougher standpoint from entrepreneurship is everything you do to begin with is a lie, every forecast of how much money you are going to make, how long it’s going to take, how much people are going to love or hate your product, you have no idea- you are making it up. The challenge was I told my wife it would probably take about 6-9 months to get everything built, to get the product out there, get some action. 6-9 months turned into 12, into 18, into 24, and obviously, we didn’t have the financial resources to keep doing that.
My wife got pregnant along the way as well with our second child; it was a surprise for both of us, and that added just a whole nother level of stress and challenge to the picture. You never know about entrepreneurship, you never know if it’s going to work or it’s going to fail, but you’ve got to take that risk to find out. You always take the learnings and you take the growth that you have through that process with you, that never gets erased. There’s a lot more I could share about that if you are interested, but that’s when I decided to take the leap and got me from standard corporate guy to fledgling entrepreneur.
Angelo: Yeah, I’d like to know more. I totally agree, I think every project that I’ve ever taken on the bulk of the suffering I’ve under estimated either finances or how long anything would go on to take.
Angelo: What are some of the things that have happened? I think this is a great entrepreneur or business owner kind of learning piece that we can talk about. What are some of the things that have come up for you during this process?
Dennis: Everything, because I didn’t know anything about it, I’ve never been that far down this process before. I think the hardest parts—we’ll start with the family side, has really been dealing with the family; raising the family while you are trying to do something like this. Again, I underestimated how long this would take, how quickly it would be a success, how fast I’d learn things. That burden on your family, your partner, my wife, and my kids you can underestimate that. You can underestimate it. Even when you are single, I’m not saying, oh you are single, it’s super easy, there’s guys out starting businesses living in their mom’s and dad’s house still. You are having the Roman diet as the cliché goes.
They are struggling too, but when you’ve got other people that are counting on you as well it kind of takes the stress and the difficulty to a whole new level. Because I’m not just the one working 80 hours a week, my family is now struggling because of that, or my wife is even more stressed because of that because she’s got to commute and job, and if something goes wrong there we are out of luck. We had to figure out how to get balance back into that equation. It took me a while to go back to, alright, I’ve got to get some consulting work and balance things back out and be responsible because I was wrong. I was wrong with what I estimated and I overstayed my commitment to her. That I think is probably the most challenging part.
The other parts are really about your personality. Like I said, we don’t have a ton of money in the business, we are growing slowly, but most of my partners are doing things above and beyond than I would ever expect of them because they want to help see GOtivation succeed, they want Motivated in a Month to be large and helpful. Frankly, we like each other. Our software partners have gone above and beyond, my psychologist, my video editor, she is doing more work than she ever needed to do, my customers do feedback and reviews, and talk to me on video and everything.
If you have a personality where you like people and like working with people you can make the business side work, you can really find all the resources and help that you need to do it. It’s still difficult, but I think that’s easier than, at least for me, dealing with the family and the internal pressure of trying to do too many things at once. What’s been your experience? You’ve grown multiple businesses now; have you found the team side more difficult? Have you found your own stress and your own sanity difficult? What happened?
Angelo: That’s a great question. Looking at it now, I think the majority of it had to do with me and my emotions. What I think happens to a lot of people at least for me, we have a tendency at times to live in this place where o3ne day there’s not going to be something to fix, or one day there’s not going to be something to be better, like we are chasing this day.
Dennis: It’s illusion, yeah.
Angelo: So for many years I 3was under the impression that at one point I was just going to wake up in this utopia and nothing would ever be wrong and I wouldn’t have to correct anything for one day. I’m so grateful to let go of it, but me being in that place for so long I think I caused the majority of my suffering in a lot of my business ventures and for other people as well.
Dennis: You are not alone man. I still swing back and forth on this. At one point, I remember about a year into GOtivation, my wife thought it was going to be 6 months or 9 months, now it’s been a year. Imagine that conversation; we are driving with our little guy to go see my brother and I’m just losing it. I was driving him back and forth from school, I was waking up at night, I wasn’t making money, I felt bad about it, I felt guilty because I had done a shitty job, and I just lost it in the car. We had to pull over because I was just so upset with what was going on, and my wife said, “You need to stop thinking about this finish line. It’s bullshit, it doesn’t exist, you need to enjoy the journey.” Neither of us are great at enjoying the journey, but it really stuck with me.
I said to myself, what I’m I chasing? When is this thing going to be done? And the answer is it’s never going to be done, not even if I sell the business someday, or it becomes a huge success. I’m still going to think about it, I’m still going to have involvement somewhere; it’s still going to be part of who I am. It’s never over. I’m never just going to be seated on a beach just saying, yeah, I wrapped it up guys, life is finished here. I still struggle, and I catch myself going, no, we just got to get to this next step, and then it’s going to be a little bit better. It’s the wrong mentality. It’s- I’m learning along the way, we have to make things work along the way because this is it, it’s happening right now, life is happening as we are planning, and I’m doing my best to listen to her advice because it’s probably the truest thing I’ve heard in the last year and a half here. I’ve never been good at that.
Angelo: So funny how our wives have all the advice, the best business advice.
Dennis: They have all the knowledge and advice. We do all the dumb things, and they correct us.
Angelo: It’s good.
You said a lot of your challenges, and I don’t want to turn this into a Dennis bachelor, what is it about what you do besides having grit, do you feel like is your strengths and your powers actually put this on the play? You said a few minutes earlier you’ve been able to assemble this team that goes above and beyond, and that’s directly correlated to you, it’s not just your idea, so I’d love to know more about where you feel like you really excel at.
Dennis: I like myself a lot. I’m not going to go down that path. I’m my own biggest fan for a lot of things, and I think that does drive me to do better, it drives me to stay in shape, it drives me to give my best, it drives me to put a good product out there because I want people to love it. I was talking to one of my friends who helped setup that training yesterday, and at the end she is like, “that was really fun. I didn’t expect that to be as engaging and entertaining, how long did you practice that?” I said, “Way too long buddy, way more than you paid me for.” It’s true. I have this lingering vanity, if you will, that I’m going to work really hard to make sure you like what I’m about to do, which is a weird motivation too, that’s almost like a little fear of failure as I’m self-analyzing myself here.
I work really hard to make people want to work with me. I work really hard to make friends. I work really hard to make sure what I do doesn’t completely suck. I think that’s my skill that’s helped me all these years. I put the extra effort and time into things because I think of the impact on other people; how they are going to think about me, how they are going to feel about the product. It kind of bonds us when they realize how hard I’m working on things and how much I care about not only the product, but them as a person because I want them involved then they reciprocate quite a bit. It’s just how I grew up. I don’t know where it came from, but that’s served me really well in this role and I hope I stay good at it.
Angelo: How do you do that with creating these relationships and doing this for your team and the people that have surrounded you? How do you do that while staying true to yourself?
Dennis: I am naturally a social guy if you haven’t gathered from the entire conversation. It’s an energizing activity for me. I don’t have to pretend to be this Mr. Netwoker guy or any of that bullshit. I like people; I like meeting people, I’m energized by meeting new people, talking to new people, exchanging ideas. I don’t want to talk about the news or politics, I want to talk about big new ideas, I want to hear about your family and your friends, and what’s going on. That’s just how I get excited about life, and it’s authentic, and it’s who I’ve always been, I can’t even turn it off when I’m supposed to, I’ve been told. But that’s how it’s worked for me.
I think if you are pretending to do that it comes through, people can tell when you are being fake and you are not genuine. You have to play to your strengths, and that’s something that I really enjoy; it’s meeting, working with people, being friends and being genuine about it.
Angelo: That’s awesome. I think that that’s amazing that that’s a part of you. Look at what it’s been able to allow you to do.
Dennis: I was thinking about the other day, I don’t know if there is any science to this, I think it’s almost a middle child thing, where are you in your family Angelo?
Angelo: I’m the baby.
Dennis: You are the baby? You have two brothers, you have a sister and a brother?
Angelo: I have one older sister.
Dennis: One older sister, okay. You are Italian family, I’m Italian family, I’ve got three brothers, and I’m the second of the family of four. I do think growing up my parents they tell me a lot of good things, but at the same time they say, ‘alright Dennis he’s got this, just let him go do his thing.” For me my network of peers were friends at school, they were coaches, they were mentors. I got outside my family quite a bit, and I had to learn how to choose my friends, not just hang out with my immediate family. I think that did give me, I wouldn’t call it a skill, but it gave me the energy and the enjoyment of meeting new people because those were my influencers, that’s where my circle of friends came from, kind of outside of my immediate family.
Angelo: It’s awesome. It’s so funny how certain things work out like that and it wounds up being necessity creates one of your best skillsets.
Dennis: Yeah, it’s weird. What was it like being the youngest versus, you got your older sister?
Angelo: I was the golden child. I really was. I was very spoilt. My sister is only 17 months older than me, but she treated me like she was my mother.
I grew up in a house of three women; my grandmother, my mother, and my sister. I was the only boy in the house for the majority of my youth, and everything was pretty much centered around me, truthfully. I’m almost embarrassed to say that to people, but it really is.
Dennis: It happens man. It happens. Obviously speaking to you now and knowing you from a couple of months ago, it doesn’t seem like that is—it hasn’t changed your work ethic, you are not entitled to anything, you are a down to earth human being. How did you overcome that childhood, so to speak?
Angelo: I can have moments though of being selfish, but the biggest thing I think it’s really taught me is how to create teams in family because I have been blessed with having three women that acts of service is their love language on blast, and it’s the only thing I really know. I think in reality it wound up teaching me how to be able to access that and do that with others now that I do think about it now.
Dennis: That’s incredible. Again like you said, it’s the same thing with me, it’s just coincidence that I’m the second kid, but you being the youngest, what that transformed you into is amazing, and it clearly works well.
Angelo: Thank you, I appreciate it.
Dennis: You never know how things end up. You just never know.
Angelo: That is true. For you now, every guest gets to take a crack at this.
Dennis: Oh boy.
Angelo: You get to define what alpha hippie is, or means to you.
Dennis: I got to be honest with you man, I had no idea what the hell alpha hippie meant when we first spoke last year. I’m like, what is this guy talking about- alpha hippie? Those things don’t make any sense together. But as I got to read some of your articles and listen to your podcasts, and we’ve had the chance to speak a few times, I actually think it’s a really good fit for me. Maybe the definition is wrong, maybe I’ve defined it incorrectly, but to me alpha hippie, alpha- forget the gender context for a minute, alpha is someone that’s really driven in my mind; they are assertive, they are driven, they are working towards goals, they want good change, they want to do big things in life, and they are not going to stop till they give it 100% of their effort and they are there.
The hippie part, which had I not talked about not magical mushrooms but growing mushrooms and gardening, and I shoot archery in fields and stuff, that kind of balances out my alpha part of lifting weights, and trying to get beach muscles, and starting businesses and changing the world. It’s about having that balance. It’s not about being a money-hungry asshole who only wants one thing, or a complete pacifist that never actually goes for their goals. It’s a balance of those things. I think you can, there is a lot of people out there who think it’s one or the other, especially in today’s kind of tense two-sided environment, it’s like , you are either an alpha or you are a hippie, or substitute whatever label you want. You are out there telling the truth that you can be both, you could be both. Damn it, I hope you trademarked that thing because it’s a really good phrase- alpha hippie, I love it.
Angelo: Thank you, I really appreciate it. Thank you. Where could people find out more about you, GOtivation, any of that?
Dennis: We should have our landing page up now, I’m a little slow with that stuff, but go to gotivation.com, you can also to go our old website gotivation.co, it will link you there. You could see about the new Motivated in a Month program, how to get 50% off while we are still pre-launch here, to save a bunch of bucks , and you can find us on Instagram dolling out various motivational tips, positivity, and other muses and stupid things that I find entertaining. Follow GOtivation on Instagram.
Angelo: A bunch of good memes, because that’s all motivation is?
Dennis: Yeah, it’s all just a bunch of dumb memes man. She really cut to the core there, I’m like, wow, someone’s a little bit jaded out there.
Angelo: Alright, last question my brother; if you had one word to be remembered by, what would it be?
Dennis: I thought about this a bit, and I know I’ve said the word grit 25 times to describe me, and I do like the word grit to describe me, I think it’s a really good one for sticking with your goals and giving it all of your attention, all of your energy and putting passion behind it. I’m going to stick with grit. I want to be remembered someday as this is a guy that enjoyed what he was doing, and was ridiculous, but at the same time gave it his all and took it seriously, whether it was consulting, whether it was entrepreneurship, whether it was his family, whether it was archery or growing mushrooms, it doesn’t matter; he got into it, gave it is all, saw how far he could push it and hopefully inspired a few other people along the way.
Angelo: I love it. Thank you so much for making time to be on the show brother, I really appreciate it.
Dennis: You bet dude, thanks for having me keep up the amazing job you are doing over there. Let’s catch up for a bite sometime in Melrose, alright?
You’ve been listening to the Alpha Hippie Podcast.
Angelo: Thanks for listening to the Alpha Hippie Podcast everyone. Again, if you are enjoying the show, please subscribe and give us a rating on iTunes, my guest and I really appreciate the feedback. And if you are on Instagram follow us at @thealphahippie to see what’s going on in our world, upcoming shows, and all our news. See you next time.
1:00:53 End of show.