The Impact Mindset with Tom Bilyeu

Tom Bilyeu is a unicorn entrepreneur, award-winning screenwriter, and the founder of Impact Theory, a media company dedicated to positively impacting lives through empowering educational content.

There’s a word that gets thrown around so much these days, many falsely assume it’s a flakey term straight out of the New Age book section. The word is mindset… Read the rest of this article on my Substack

CHAPTERS

00:00:00 In this episode…

00:00:21 Intro

00:02:28 Chapter 1: Early Life Transformations

00:15:24 Chapter 2: Quest Nutrition and Unicorn Exit

00:28:26 Chapter 3: The Value of Money

00:35:13 Chapter 4: The Power of Failure

00:45:51 Chapter 5: The Good Life, Reimagined

00:58:41 Chapter 6: The Value of NFTs

01:08:06 Chapter 7: Growth Mindsets and the Culture

 

View Full Transcript

 The Impact Mindset, with Tom Bilyeu

 

TOM

 

Failure is the most information rich data stream that you’ll ever encounter. And so once you break the belief that failing means I’m a failure and you realize that you have to fail in order to get better, then it’s just like, okay, cool. Do I believe in this thing enough to deal with the embarrassment? Because failing is embarrassing.

 

INTRO

 

FRED

 

This is my interview with unicorn entrepreneur, award-winning screenwriter, and the founder of Impact Theory, Tom Bilyeu.

 

Tom wasn’t always a successful entrepreneur, with a rare billion-dollar exit to his name, happily married and at the helm of a powerhouse educational content platform.

 

He was once exhausted and uncertain, trying to get his nutritional bar business off the ground, Overworked and with no clear direction.

 

Then something occurred to him. It was a negative thought. He realized his chances of failure were objectively extremely high.

 

But somehow, through a little mindset shift, he was able to twist this into something useful: if the chance of failure was so high, he thought, I may as well enjoy the journey, and I may as well focus on making a positive impact.

 

This insight, combined with a humble student approach to learning, changed everything for him.

 

It allowed him to not only achieve tremendous success in business, but also to completely reshape his life.

 

His journey shows how a shift in language – what researchers call “mindset” – the things we believe about life, and how we frame our beliefs – can lead to monumental changes that impact everything in our lives.

 

This isn’t just flaky new age talk –

 

Mindsets are proven in multiple peer-reviewed studies

 

Bilyeu and others have practically used them to build amazing things in the real world

 

The specifics of his journey are unique to him of course, but in this interview, we went deep and specific around his mental frameworks, and uncovered many scalable insights we can all learn from

 

We covered topics like the educational system, what success really means in business and in life, investing in and building businesses, and the power of stories.

 

Hope you all enjoy it! This is the Impact mindset, with Tom Bilyeu

 

 

 

CHAPTER 1 – Early Life Transformations

 

FRED

Tom Bilyeu welcome.

 

TOM

Thank you for having me.

 

FRED

Of course. So I’m a huge fan of what you do. We just talked a little bit about that. You’re not only an uber-successful entrepreneur, but you’re also a new breed of educator and producer of high-quality content that’s both educational and entertaining. Your Impact Theory platform has gained millions of subscribers, and on it you share tips and lessons, often through interviews with thought leaders and innovators to improve mental skills and performance and help people develop the practical tools and mindset hacks they need to constantly upgrade themselves. But that’s not it. Not by a long shot. You also have a super ambitious plan to impact culture and technology at scale through world-class, video content, animation, gaming, virtual worlds, the metaverse, NFTS, the whole thing. And judging by your track record of executing at the highest levels, the best is yet to come. Without doubt. Tom Bilyeu. It’s an honor to have you here with me, sir.

 

TOM

I’m excited to be here. Thank you. And thank you for the very kind intro.

 

FRED

Awesome. So let’s start with your career path, how you got here. It’s sort of really unconventional. It doesn’t follow the standard script of how we teach our kids they should build their lives. Especially how you started. To steal a quote from Drake, you really started from the bottom. You weren’t considered an exceptional student. You did all kinds of odd jobs delivering newspapers, selling insurance door to door. You were really shy, apparently, which is really hard to tell today.

 

TOM

Yeah, that depends on when you were to ping me. So when I was younger, I would not have categorized myself as shy. But I’ve become very introverted as I’ve gotten older, which is interesting. That surprises nobody more than me. By the way, there’s a fascinating study in human psychology on that shift alone. But yeah.

 

FRED

Interesting. So. So when did you when you become more introverted, was it more about like high school age like that happens to a lot of people.

 

TOM

In high school. It was quite the opposite. So in high school I was probably peak extrovert. I would spend every day at lunch doing comedy routines for my friends at the table, and my goal was to get somebody to spit, like, their drink out through their nose. That was every day‘s goal. And yeah, it was a lot of fun. And if I’m honest, I really lacked self-awareness at that point in my life, which made doing standup comedy quite easy. And as I got older and started developing the self-awareness and to give you an idea, I went, I was at a wedding, like, maybe ten years after I graduated high school, and a guy that I went to school with came up to me. He was like, Look, man, I just want to apologize for like, being so mean to you in high school. And I was like, what do you mean? I was like, I don’t have any memory of you ever once being mean to me. And he was like, Really? He was like, man, behind your back. Like, I was talking about you all the time. So I was so oblivious that I didn’t even know. And so that was creating problems in my life that I wasn’t aware of. I start becoming aware of it in college, like actually starting to see myself from the outside. Which is very useful, but it also makes you more hesitant because then you still sort of get how you come across. And so I started developing self-awareness, which was really powerful and is, has given me far more than it’s taken. But it did take something away. And so my desire to be out front, to be the center of attention really evaporated over that like five or six year period from beginning college to getting into my early twenties. And, you know, I mean, it’s a very complicated cocktail. Some of it was just getting older and my brain finally fully baking, and recognizing that to become a talented creator, I needed that self-awareness. Because if I can’t understand myself, I can’t hope to understand anybody else. I can’t help to write a compelling character. I can’t hope to have the career that I want to have. And so that becomes a pretty interesting loop in my life. I couldn’t have predicted, though, how it would impact this sort of declining extroversion.

 

FRED

Right. And at some point also, you got sort of really overweight. I know we’ve seen some of the photos of you, right, the before and after photos. Right. And so you combine all of that, right, this journey that you have to sort of like. So it’s interesting. I didn’t know you were originally extroverted and then it’s as a function of the self-awareness. You just kind of like it kind of freezes you and then it takes all of this work to almost come back to your natural extroversion and start being a lot more social and a lot more visible. So that’s like the entire journey. It’s really, really fascinating. Well, you tie that together, but if you take the sort of, you know, the basic conditions that you started with and you put all of these factors in some kind of, let’s call it a success algorithm, and you ask them to predict the odds that this person would end up super successful, thriving, making an impact on the culture, making an impact on technology. I think it’s safe to assume that the odds would be pretty low from that operation. But really, when we listen to your content, I mean, what really stands out for me is the mindset. The mindset piece comes back over and over. And something special happens at some point in your life. You develop a mindset and a series of habits that very quickly start to transform you and make you gravitate towards better and better outcomes. And you once tweeted about this way. You write that no matter the adversity you face, you can bury them with skill at any time in your life. You can develop a set of skills that is so devastatingly powerful that you can turn any situation, no matter how ugly, into something beautiful. And that’s really a powerful, powerful message. Do you remember when you shifted your mindset like this? Was there a moment? Was there a situation where you had that realization or made that shift?

 

TOM

So it’s. No, there was there have been very few moments in my life that are like a demarcation point. So there’s a few things where I’m like, oh I can tell you when I had that realization, but for the most part it really was the seed planted in my mind that when I was 16, when I read the Tao Te Ching, became obsessed with that. And really the Tao Te Ching, is about managing your mind now would Lao Tzu, the guy that wrote it have ever described it that way. Maybe not, but ultimately when he talks about the way, which is what the Tao Te Ching, translates as, he’s talking about the way to live your life. And so a life well-lived looks like. And that’s basically what the book is describing. And so as I, I had that planted in my mind when I was young, but I didn’t know what to do with it or really even how to interpret it. But it primed me to like, really gravitate towards mindset stuff. So like Tony Robbins was a huge influence on me. Yeah. And so hearing those ideas like, hey, you can get better, it’s like, what do you mean I can get better? And so that translates into me obsessively learning about the brain. That changed my life. And that’s the thing I’m always trying to get people to understand. You’re having a biological experience, and once you understand you’re having a biological experience, then you can begin to go, okay, this is a game of neurochemical management. And so how do I do that? And self-belief, self-narrative that which you repeat. These are all things that feed extraordinarily powerfully into how you feel, into whether you’re managing your neurochemistry well. And so it’s really been a lot of small realizations, often born of pain and suffering right? So the great news is when you have a failure, you go through something that hurts if you’re willing to reflect on it. Right? So Ray Dalio has a phrase, pain plus reflection equals progress. And so if you’re willing to like, God, that hurt, that sucked. I did not like that, but it’s going to make me focus. And if I really look at this, I’m more likely to learn and remember it and then you can move forward. So it’s really been “A” it’s still ongoing and “B”, it’s been years of like cobbling this stuff together. And but I’ll put the two biggest landmarks as the Tao Te Ching, followed by reading about the brain and that I encountered the Tao Te Ching, for the first time when I was 16. And then I started reading about the brain in my early twenties.

 

FRED

Is there is there a book or a thinker in particular on the brain science part of things that really made an impact on you? I know you mentioned Tony Robbins, Ray Dalio, sort of great interpreters of this stuff, and a lot of times they sort of build on these neurochemical insights. But in terms of the brain science, any thinker and any direction that you can point people at that will be effective.

 

TOM

No doubt. So there’s a guy named V.S., as in Victor Sugar has Ramachandran, who is just an unbelievable thinker, and he’s written a bunch of books, the one that probably impacted me the most profoundly is called Phantoms in the Brain, and it talks about when the brain goes wrong and what we can learn from that. There’s another guy named David Eagleman, and he wrote a book called Incognito, which is like all the things that your brain is doing beneath the surface. He also wrote another book called The Brain. He had a show on PBS called The Brain. And yeah, he’s written a lot of stuff. Those two guys, probably more than anybody else, have influenced my thinking around the brain.

 

FRED

Isn’t it great that we live at a time where, you know, all of these the science, brain science is evolving so fast that we can start understanding what happens under the hood. Because I mean, forever and ever, it was always like we would write, we would interpret our experience through poetic language, through whether it’s religious language, pop culture stories, whatever it is. And more and more, I don’t know if you’re aware you’ve ever encountered Steven Kotler and his work on flow states, but he talks a lot about how like biology scales, right? Neurobiology scales. And so it’s not personality driven. It’s not, like, whether or not this sentence resonates with you or not. It’s if you can learn the fundamental mechanics of our neurochemistry that really scales, that really sort of applies to everybody. And I find it really exciting that we’re living in a time where that’s more and more accessible to everybody, no doubt.

 

TOM

Yeah. I mean, for however many years we’ve had the printing press. But to think about the fact that for so long in human history, people have taken the time to write down what it took them, you know, in some cases an entire lifetime to learn.

 

FRED

Yeah.

TOM

And they put it in a book that you can consume in a few days or a few hours even. I mean, it really is a superpower. And there’s a pretty fascinating and I believe, credible theory about what led us into the Dark Ages, which is you have the fall of the Roman Empire and then books are lost. And at least in the Western world. And as books are lost, we don’t have a way to pass on this knowledge. So culture no longer stacks. Every generation has to relearn what came before them. And all you have is this oral tradition. So it becomes you can only learn from the people that are immediately around you. Now, to think that losing books plunged us into a dark age that lasted four or 500 years is crazy and that we then shot out of it like a rocket when the West re-encountered a library. And so it’s like, wow. So I mean that if that should be an indication for people, like right now, K, are there things going wrong in the world? Of course there are. But you can take an MIT course for free on YouTube. You can take a Stanford course for free, like there’s a guy named Robert Sapolsky and he does human behavioral courses at Stanford. They’re all online for free right now. You could go and listen to them. So it’s like never before has information been so readily available, but you have to avail yourself of it. Going back to that early quote that you were talking about, there’s a really succinct version of that. The idea that you can build skills at anything and become so devastating, nobody can stop you. Kobe Bryant used to say boos don’t block dunks, meaning if you can dunk over somebody, if you’re so good that they can’t stop you, then you’re going to win no matter what, no matter how badly people want you to fail. You can still win if you’re able to score those points. And so, man, there’s so much information available, but you have to do the hard ass work of drinking it in. But and I know I’m getting far afield from where we started on this, but it’s so important that you have to take that time to go read it, to learn it. But may you learn easily what the author learned through great difficulty. And to do that, all you have to do is read their book.

 

 

CHAPTER 2 – Quest Nutrition and Unicorn Exit

 

FRED

Yeah, it’s amazing. And I think I think I totally share your optimism today. As much as, you know, you look at the culture and everybody’s freaking out, everybody’s pointing fingers. You’ve got the culture wars, you’ve got everything. I think the great irony is we’re living for sure in the golden era of knowledge. I mean, there’s a qualitative difference. There’s a quantum leap between, you know, even having access to libraries and having access to YouTube and Google and Amazon and all this unbelievable research that’s happening all over the world. And as you very, very eloquently put it, the issue is the time and energy that you’ve got to put into, actually- and I think that’s the power of interpreters like you, people who do that work for people and then create channels. I think you become almost like a curator, a guide to all this unbelievable knowledge. So I think the work that you’re doing is unbelievably important and super helpful to people.

 

But going back a couple of steps in your personal journey, you started and not totally started because, I mean, you were you were already reading complex works of philosophy even before then, apparently around 16 years old. But you had this really epic entrepreneurial run when you co-founded Quest Nutrition, which became one of the fastest growing companies in America and which you eventually guided to $1,000,000,000 exit. Nutrition’s a really competitive industry, often not with the best margins. Again, if someone asked, hey, you want to create $1,000,000,000 company without the force multiplier of capital or celebrity, I think most people would think like, hey, you’re going into tech or something, right? I don’t know how many people would pick nutritious snacks as a way to build $1,000,000,000 company. What were the key factors of business mindset? Tactical in sort of taking Quest from scratch to that level of astronomical success?

 

TOM

Okay. So there were really, I’ll say, four big things. So one, we got the product right. Two, we got the process right. So we ended up becoming our own manufacturer, building our own equipment. That was a huge breakthrough. We got the marketing right. So we were doing social media when nobody else was doing it. We knew how to tell a story and then we got the timing right. And so you put those four things together and it was just insane. But timing really is a big part of it. And if we had tried to do that too many years before or too many years later, it wouldn’t have worked, right? Like, even if I gave you literally day by day what we did, if somebody tried to replicate it, it wouldn’t work because so many people have used the same tactics that we used to pop off. But it just happened to be right at that moment. We were doing all three of those things at the right time, and I wish I could tell you that we did it on purpose.

 

It was really a company born out of misery. So I had gone in about two years before we founded Quest and quit. We were building a technology company. I was so unhappy, long story, and my partner was like, whoa, whoa, whoa, don’t quit. Like, what would it need to look like for us to keep working together? The punch line of that becomes Quest. So I describe what I would want to do. They describe what they would want to do. The thing that just overlapped for all of us ended up being Quest Nutrition. We sell the other company. We start building that and it goes crazy. But what if I hadn’t gone in and quit? How much longer would we have kept trying to build that other company? Right? Or if that other company had been even just a little bit more successful because it was successful but just not successful enough. And so, so many things. And if we had waited for the world to give us cues, like if social media had already been a thing and it was like, oh I see, we can go build community, I see people doing it. Instead, for us, it was when my partners were like, what would the worklife need to look like for you to stay? I was like, we’d have to be. I didn’t use the word community, but I was like, we’d have to have a community of people that really believed in what we were doing. We’d have to be leading with passion and I would need to be myself. I kept saying that over and over. I need to be myself, which now we would say authentic.

 

So it’s like community being authentic. And I was like, hey, there’s this new thing, wasn’t called social media back then, but there’s this new thing that we now call social media that I think we could use in this idea of elevating people, lifting them up, like cheering them on, helping them go on this journey and we can connect with them and elevate them and have all these touch points to make their life better so that the marketing isn’t marketing. And so I was like, the first rule of Quest marketing is don’t talk about Quest. I’m like, it’s just like Fight Club. And so we did what we called mirror marketing. Now that becomes the playbook for marketing in the social media age. But we weren’t doing it for that. I was doing it cause I was emotionally burned out, and for me to keep going, I needed to have a mission. I needed to be passionate, I needed to be connected. I needed to be elevating people. I needed to do all of the things so that if we failed, which seemed like the most likely outcome, that at least I would love the failure. And so up until that moment, as a group, we had always asked the same question What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? And so when I quit, what I realized was that’s the wrong question. The right question is what would you do and love every day even if you were failing?

 

FRED

Wow.

 

TOM

Because failure is the most likely outcome.

 

FRED

That’s a huge question, man, that that’s massive.

 

TOM

Dude it’s so- it will change everything in your life.

 

FRED

That may be like the best definition of authenticity that I’ve ever heard. I mean, what would you do that would be worthwhile even if you fail? In other words, like you strip down all of the external, all rewards, outcomes, financial, what other people think, whatever. And it’s almost like what would be intrinsically so valuable to you that even if it were a complete and utter failure, it would still be worthwhile. That’s really, it’s beautiful that you sort of had that realization inside of your business journey, and that seems to be a key element that explains your eventual success.

 

TOM

I certainly… That is how it felt going through it and how it feels now as we look back on it and having that thing that you believe in, that you’re willing to fight for is everything to me.

 

FRED

And I love also the honesty of the timing. I remember reading a business, one of those like business academic papers that tried to put its finger on the number one factor explaining the success of new ventures. And so they went through everything like educational level, socioeconomic background, race, age, the whole thing. And the number one factor that came up as the number one predictive factor of the success of a venture is time and place. Other words, if you started a dotcom in Silicon Valley in the mid-nineties, right, you could have come up with a ten times better product in a different place at a different time. And it may not have had the sort of confluence of factors that you had at that point. So timing always seems to be, and it’s kind of you don’t hear that a lot because a lot of entrepreneurs want to take a 100% credit for their own success. And at the same time, it’s like that doesn’t seem to be teachable, although I guess the lesson there would be, you know, pay attention to what’s going on around you, pay attention to the sort of zeitgeist, the moment, you know, which wave are you going to sort of, you know, go for, right. I mean, it’s less teachable than the other stuff, but it’s the same time it’s so relevant and important it seems, to every single entrepreneurial journey.

 

TOM

No doubt. No doubt. Yeah. People have to be very careful. You don’t want to undersell your contribution because I think you miss an opportunity to, like, feel good about yourself and to get confidence. But at the same time, man, Ray Dalio is right. You think you’re right, but how do you know you’re right? And so having just an avalanche of humility coming at you at all times I think is critical. So I have a very healthy distrust of my own emotions, my own thoughts, my own beliefs. And because of that, I’ve been able to avoid emotional, I’ll say, excessive emotional suffering. I won’t say I don’t ever suffer emotionally, but I’ve been able to avoid excessive emotional suffering by reminding myself that just because I feel something doesn’t mean it’s an accurate representation of the world. And that focusing on something negative is not as useful, which is my ultimate barometer, as focusing on something that is both true and optimistic. And so I find that people gravitate towards false and pessimistic. And if either one of those are part of your equation, because some people, they look at what’s false and optimistic, that won’t help you. They look at what’s true and pessimistic, that won’t help you. And they look at what is there’s one I’m forgetting. But basically they don’t get the mix right.

 

The mix is true and optimistic, true and optimistic. If it isn’t true, because your brain is a predictive engine. So if you don’t believe things that are true, you can’t accurately make predictions. You can make a lot of noise, but you can’t accurately predict how to move forward. So it needs to be true. But if you get true but you’re so pessimistic that you never take action, then you’ve got nothing. Even though like you’ve really glommed on to something that’s real. Like it’s hard. Word. But now what? So you’ve got to be true and optimistic. It’s hard, but I can get better, right? Okay. Now, we have something that is both true and optimist.

 

FRED

That’s a nice two factor analysis there, because a lot of times people when they say I’m a realist, I it’s like they confuse being pessimistic with being real or they confuse the pessimism with, hey, this is true. And it is true, but they’re also those hopeful, positive things that are also true and that you’re simply not focusing on. Right. So I think a lot of people confuse.

 

TOM

There’s two things that people they want to pay attention to, two things. So one is – I need a real assessment of what’s going on. So that’s incredibly important for that predictive engine. But then, two, I need a willingness to move forward. So if you’re a realist and you’re like, I see how hard this is all going to be, I see how difficult that’s going to be. Most people fail. I just face it, hey, that’s just who I am. I’m not going to blow smoke like that just is what it is. But if by taking that you never act and you’re always sitting back, then you’re guaranteed to fail because ultimately only your behaviors matter, right? So you can have the best mindset in the world, but if your behavior is don’t get you to do the right things, you’ll lose. You can have the worst mindset in the world, but if you accidentally do all the right things, you’re still going to win. So it’s like you really have to figure out, okay, I might be being realistic. Take Ray Dalio, who I think is the king of realism, and yet what he realizes is I don’t need to be afraid to take action. I’m going to learn from that. Right? Pain plus reflection equals progress. So I’m going to take those actions because that’s the only way to learn and the only way to move forward. So you can be a realist but have that optimistic approach because you know, that’s what’s required to align your behaviors to what’s required for success.

 

FRED

Is a very practical approach. And isn’t it amazing how Ray has developed in his books, principles, developed a whole system and methodology around radical transparency. That principle that he is really follows like to such a high level. I always felt like it was a value that I had somewhere in me. But when I read that book and I’m like, no, no, there are levels to this game. And he transformed it into, you know, an organizational-wide principle of all these different checks and balances, like how to really make sure that everything stays radically transparent. It seems to be something that is very important in order to stay sort of always, you know, atuned to reality because, you know, otherwise the people with power can keep spending the narrative and everybody else around them has to sort of follow them. But it becomes very hard to pay attention to reality and to, you know, what is leading to certain outcomes. If you don’t have that radical transparency.

 

TOM

No doubt. And that is a hard environment to create. So we’ve adopted that here at Impact Theory. Man, it is tough. People are at least that, the kind of person that we attract is very willing to hear hard things, but it’s really hard to say something that you think might hurt somebody’s feelings. And so getting them to do that is tough. And we started forcing people to do forced ranks. So, where they have to rate their week, like, where are you? How’s it going? Because people will suffer in silence. Like you really have to like take measures to push people to vocalize. It’s bizarre, in my estimation, because it’s so helpful to just say what’s true, but it really is tough. To scale.

 

CHAPTER 3 – The Value of Money

 

FRED

You achieve something that every entrepreneur dreams of, but very few entrepreneurs actually achieve. And it’s the big B, the billion dollar exit. And you also did it really, really young, which makes it even more rare and even more special. When you get to that threshold, like the actual transaction, the actual process of going through that billion dollar transaction. I suppose you’re surrounded by lawyers and consultants and accountants, and everybody’s sort of whispering in your ear. Did you learn anything through that whole process that maybe gives you a feeling of like not, not like maybe regret like, but maybe like, hmm… if I had known this or this or that, maybe I would have done so and so differently, or maybe I would have built the business differently. So some sort of like realization that came out of that process that you still carry with you today as you built out Impact Theory.

 

TOM

There are many things that I learned from Quest that I carry with me to Impact Theory, but not what you’re asking. So, no is the answer. So what happened was when I went in to my partners, when we had the technology company and I quit, that was where I learned the lesson that money was never going to buy me happiness. And the reason that can’t buy you happiness is that money doesn’t affect your insecurities. And ultimately, the only thing that matters in life is how you feel about yourself when you’re by yourself. Now, that whole equation for how to make yourself feel good. But because I learned that in my late twenties, by the time we start building Quest and Quest really takes off. I’m not fooling myself. I understand that it’s never going to be about the money. And that’s why, in fact, my last day at Quest was a Monday, and my first day at Impact Theory was a Tuesday. I didn’t take a single day off. And the reason is that I understand that what is going to make you feel good about yourself when you’re by yourself is meaning and purpose that you’re working really hard for something that matters to you. And it serves not only yourself but other people. You have to do it. It’s a directive embedded in your brain from millions of years of evolution. There is no escaping it. Don’t even try. Don’t try to outrun it. You will just die tired. So you must work really hard to gain a set of skills that matter to you and are valued by other people that allow you to serve not only yourself but other people. That’s fulfillment. That’s the only path in life.

 

Okay, so because I know that, when we made all the money at Quest, it was really fun. Money is super powerful, but money is not what people think it is. Now, speaking for myself, when I was young because I grew up in a lower middle-class family that teetered on blue-collar, I fantasized about living in an upper middle-class Chicago suburb. Is is the truth from John Hughes films. And, you know, growing up in a small house on a street that’s what they call tar and gravel. So it wasn’t even like a paved street, you know, it just, it, when I would see movies, I’d be like, I want that. And so I was always marching towards that. And I thought that when I got rich, cause I always believed that I would, that when I got rich, I would feel about myself the way I felt about those characters in the movies or when I met somebody rich in real life that I would be enamored with myself, that I would think, oh my God, you’re amazing. And it doesn’t work like that. So once I realized at the technology company, okay, money can’t change my neurochemistry about myself, it will just like suddenly making a lot of money if you get a raise or something like that, it’s really rad. And then it fades away, and you don’t notice the difference anymore. Money is like that, so it’s the great facilitator. So I don’t want to try to say it’s not worth pursuing. Money’s incredible. Just don’t confuse it for something that will impact how you feel about yourself. But like, look at what Elon Musk is doing, right? Hey, I don’t like the way Twitter is being run, so I think I’ll buy it. That’s money.

 

FRED

It give you options. It gives you more options.

 

TOM

Also, absolutely extraordinary. It gives you more options. It lets you build. It’s really, really incredible. But it will not change how you feel about yourself. So because I knew that when we sold Quest, I wasn’t confused. So like when we made our first money off of Quest because it happened twice. So first, we took a little bit off the table and then a couple of years later, we outright sold it. But when we took a little bit of money off the table, that was actually the big like that was way more life changing than when we finally sold the company because that was going from like normal money to true wealth. And then the second time you just going from wealthy to more wealthy. So it didn’t really feel that different, if I’m honest. But the first time it happened, no one in the company knew what day we made the money because I came in like normal and I remember my wife because we, the money hit the account like really early in the morning. And she was like, my God, what are you going to do now? And I’m like, what do you mean, I’m going to work? And she was so like, What? And I was like, this is never about the money. This is about meaning and purpose. And so I’m like, of course, like it didn’t even occur to me to not go to work. So meaning and purpose is the punch line. I had already squared that away in my mind. And so, while again, I learned many, many things at Quest that helped me optimize Impact Theory, that lesson I learned many, many years ago.

 

FRED

When you start tuning into meaning and purpose, number one, it sort of orients your actions in a certain direction, and then it kind of simultaneously makes money less important in the sense that’s not the reason you’re doing things, you’re doing things for the meaning, for impact to, you know, bring some kind of value, some kind of benefit to other people. So something that that’s really connected to you and really connected to other people. And at the same time, there seems to be a lot of financial also value that you can derive from that just because you’re willing to go so much further, you’ve got so much more fuel, so much more energy to give that it’s also a good financial. So, a lot of times people kind of perceive a tension there between what’s, you know, financial goals that I’ve got to sort of achieve for safety for wealth, for luxury, whatever different desires. Right. And then and then the purpose piece is almost like this halo, like, I’m trying to be a good person thing. But what you’re describing, your version of meeting a purpose is much more powerful, I think. No, no, no, no, no, no. This is the thing that you are really authentically connected to that’s going to allow you to contribute to other people. And there’s just so much power when you tune into that, that even what you could, what you can create financially seems a lot more powerful.

 

TOM

That is absolute facts. And the way that I always explain it to people is at two in the morning, you’re going to be working on a Friday, you’re going to be exhausted. And at that moment you will, I promise. Ask yourself, why am I doing this? And if the answer isn’t fucking powerful where you’re like, that’s right, that’s why I’m here – you’ll quit. So you better have a really good reason why you’re doing it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 4 – The Power of Failure

 

FRED

That’s a lot to ask. And it sort of ties in, in a very interesting way to the definition of authenticity where ready got where it was like, well, what if, like, you failed and it like it would have to be something that’s like super valuable even if you failed and then and then it also has to be something that, hey, you just made $100 million and you wake up the next day and you’re just doing the same thing. Like doesn’t change anything, right? Whether you succeed or fail, you’re just on your journey. So it kind of like, I think those two sort of extremes kind of connect around this this insight of meaning and purpose.

 

TOM

Yeah. And on top of that, failure is the most information rich data stream that you’ll ever encounter. And so once you break the belief that failing means I’m a failure and you realize that you have to fail in order to get better, then it’s just like, okay, cool. Do I believe in this thing enough to deal with the embarrassment? Because failing is embarrassing. But if you know what failure really is, and I do think that that’s one of the things that’s allowed me to be successful, is I’m not worried about embarrassing myself. And my whole thing is and I’m obsessed with getting people to understand this: skills have utility. So if I’m right that failing is the most information rich data stream on planet Earth that you need that information in order to gain new skills. And that skills let you get so good that boos can’t block dunks, then it’s like, okay, well, if I’m willing to fail, be embarrassed. But now acquire those skills on a long enough timeline I can’t be stopped, man.

 

If I could just get people to understand that. So viewing yourself through the lens of a moment is a bad idea, right? I failed. Oh my God, this hurts, this sucks, this is going to last forever. No, no, no. Keep the Buddhist idea in your back pocket. This. Too. Shall. Pass. Okay, now that’s on the highs as well. Hey, just made a bunch of money. It feels good, baby! This too shall pass. It won’t feel good forever. So you’ve got this idea that this is going to pass. So the pain of failure is going to pass, but the knowledge, man, is forever. And this is why people, when you’re young, don’t try to optimize for salary. Like I’ll take whatever job pays me the most money, optimize for knowledge. The money only spends once, the knowledge can be spent forever. And it really is. As you get more successful, it’s usually because you’re stacking more skills, more ideas together. So yeah, getting people to think through that. The idea that skills have utility and the goal is to be able to do something other people can’t do.

 

FRED

So you’ve got some really great beliefs around pain that, that I find really interesting, pain and failure and suffering and embarrassment. So a lot of people like you describe that cluster of words and it’s like, keep me away from that. Like I want shelter from that, right? Like I want comfort, like I’m like these are things that are like inherently unhelpful. But the way you’ve reframed it and it keeps coming back, even from some of the things you said earlier, the conversation, you almost see it as, oh here we go. I’m now going to have access to more information. I’m now going to have, you know, a sneak peek at, like, what I need to work on. So where did you develop that? Is that something that you just figured out along the way? Is it something that you train? Is it something that you sort of repeat and repeat and make sure that you keep developing that mindset? Because it’s just, you know, the most powerful mindset that you can possibly have around pain and suffering? How did you come to those realizations? And they seem to be very anchored and very sort of fluidly built into the way that you think about, about your life and about the challenges around you.

 

TOM

So I am obsessed with efficacy. What actually works? And once you get obsessed with efficacy, you start looking at what actually yields the result you’re looking for. So as somebody who… I don’t know that I’m more prone to emotional pain than other people, but I was maybe less willing to sit in emotional pain. But I also realized that if I try to run from this, it’s going to create problems. So, cool. I’m going to stand and face the emotional challenges in my life, but I’m not okay sitting here hating myself and so reading about the brain allowed me to really understand neurochemistry, which made me go wait a second. So if my brain is just a neurochemical processing plant and there are things like here is the one that will trip you out, this blew my mind. It’s a real study. If you have somebody hold the pencil between their teeth, which forces their mouth into a pseudo smile, they will rate themselves as happier than if you ask them to hold their face in a frown. Crazy. Now, why is that? Because the body and the mind are constantly communicating. And so the body will say, hey, like we’re ready. Fight or flight. Heart’s racing. There’s a reason for this. And the reason is… And then your brain comes up with a story. There’s something dangerous around the corner. Something bad is about to happen. Whatever. Your brain will always, and I mean always, create a story for why you feel the way you feel.

 

So you’ve got your body telling your brain, hey, this is the problem going on. Like you can create anxiety just by like for me it was sugar free monster. The drink which I still to this day love, but I can’t drink because it makes me anxious because it’s disrupting my microbiome. I’m 70% or more of your serotonin is in your gut. And so if you know that your gut, which by the way, uses brain neurons, they’re exactly the same. So they call it the second brain. Yeah. And yet it’s telling your first brain, hey, there’s a problem. Your brain goes, shit, we something bad is about to happen. So you get in this anxiety loop even though it’s actually just your diet. So I realized very quickly, my body is communicating to my mind. My mind is communicating to my body. There are really simple things you can do to control the signals that either your body sends to your mind or your mind sends your body. Meditation is one, exercise is another. Sleep. Diet. What thoughts you allow yourself to repeat. All of those things wildly influence your frame of reference, your neurochemistry, and then that back and forth communication between the body and the mind.

 

So just realizing early on, okay, if all of life is about how you feel about yourself when you’re by yourself, and that’s determined by your neurochemistry, and your neurochemistry is determined by this communication between the brain and the body, and that what I think wildly influences my brain’s perception of what’s going on, then, hey, the parts of this that I can control, what I call physiological hooks, I’m going to take advantage of. So if meditating calms my mind, well then I’m going to meditate. If sleeping makes sure that all of my neurochemistry and the electrical signals in my brain can fire well, then I’m going to sleep. If exercise produces BDNF brain derived neurotrophic factor. And so now I’ve got what they call Miracle-Gro for the brain. So my brain’s in a healthy state. It’s, you know, luxuriating and in basically like fertilizer for the mind, then I’m going to do that, like on and on and on. And as you try these things and they actually work, you start going, well, I’m going to do more of that thing. But you have to be just freakishly like, a slave to efficacy. Did this work?

 

And there’s a great Thomas Sowell quote. Anybody that knows him, this will mess you up. He said the last 30 years have been marked by take, changing, what worked with what sounds good. And so it’s like we all have to be careful in our own minds of going that thing sounds good. I want it to be true. So, for instance, if you are trying to solve world hunger, but deep in your soul, you actually don’t care. Oh god. And you feel terrible admitting it. But let me tell you, don’t go pursue something around ending world hunger because you don’t have the juice for it, but you’ve got to be willing to own. That’s not the thing that drives you. Now, we all need to serve something bigger than ourselves. Maybe your thing is climate. Maybe your thing is foster kids, whatever. But be honest with yourself about what actually motivates you instead of what’s supposed to motivate you. And I never found myself in that death loop because I care so deeply about. It’s 2 a.m. on a Friday. I’m asking myself why I’m here and I need to have an answer that works because I’m all about that neurochemical state feeling good about my life, doing things in a joyful manner. But you have to marry yourself to what works.

 

FRED

You have to. Yeah. And it’s almost like the sort of passion piece or like that initial, that purpose piece. You’ve got to have that self-honesty, right? If you can be honest with yourself about what that is, then you can’t find that reservoir of energy that’s truly inside of you and then the stuff that works. So everything that you mentioned, I am almost like, man, isn’t that the stuff that we should have learned in school, Right?

 

TOM

Here’s the thing. You bring up something that’s really fascinating? And I run the risk of derailing your podcast here, but I find this so interesting. The reason is most this stuff is so hard that most people don’t have these realizations. How the hell are they supposed to teach you? They’re struggling, right? So I have like the deepest empathy for. Yes, I agree. We are not teaching the right things in school, but holy hell, like these realizations have taken me a lifetime of putting myself on the bleeding edge of pain, suffering, failure, public ridicule, all of that so that the stakes are so high that like, I’m just fiendishly like, what’s going to work? I’m getting kicked in the face, I’m hurt, I’m embarrassed, I’m trying to, like, process through like, man, how do I just get out of this negative emotional space? Cool. And I find the tactic. I try it, I’m reading books. I’m taking all these amazing ideas from all these incredible…

 

FRED

You’re going through the wringer, the so-called wringer. It’s like you’re putting yourself through the trials and tribulations, all of that pain and suffering. And what you’re saying is that you almost can’t demand that of most teachers.

 

TOM

Right, just, dude it’s so hard. And what a teacher is optimized for is teaching. They’re not optimized for their subject. So, I mean, maybe this gets different as you get to like PhDs, but like at a high school, middle school level, you are optimized to teach. You are not optimized on your subject. And so it’s tough.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 5 – The Good Life, Reimagined

 

FRED

So, okay, I summarize like what I call, like our outdated social software. Okay, growing up it was eight words that pretty much summarizes what like good life advice was for kids. And that’s kind of how we grow. And the eight words are this – go to school and get a good job. Okay? And as I look through your platform and your content and the way you’re doing things and the way you’re educating, it’s almost like there’s a new version, a major upgrade to the software that you’re working with. So let’s unpack first, go to school. And I’m not talking about basic schooling. I’m talking about once you get into higher education, right, the cost has risen so high and it’s not 100% clear that quality and utility have gone up with it, especially when you go outside of like really niche technical domains. And Peter Thiel’s written a lot about this, right? The higher education bubble, right. It’s like if it’s not about practical skills anymore, at least in some programs, it’s not exactly clear what it is. What are you paying for? Is it a status symbol? Is it like you’re part of an exclusive club? Is it is it an insurance policy. With Impact Theory it seems to me that you’re at the forefront of a new kind of educational paradigm, right? Online education can give you so much of what school used to give you. But there’s also this community aspect. There’s also this really practical aspect, right, where people are working on actual projects and they’re going through courses. So what do you think about this old advice of like, just go to school, do what your teachers say, things will work out, especially when you look at the cost and the alternatives that exist out there, which seem to only be getting better and better as all these different technology tools keep evolving.

 

TOM

So one, I will say that I’m very glad that I went to college. I came away with debt, so that wasn’t ideal, but it was, I think I graduated with there 25 or $35,000 in debt. I think 25. And that was manageable. Now, having said that, there is no universe in which I would take on more than, say, $35,000-40,000 dollars in debt. No universe. Because you’re putting yourself so far behind the eight ball that it just doesn’t make sense. There is so much information that you can get on YouTube and books. You do not need to go to a class. I would just tell you that right now. I have learned. But the reason I’m glad I went to school is one, I actually went to a fairly technical school. I wouldn’t redo it because it was filmmaking. So it was like when I went to film school unfortunately a lot of the digital tools just didn’t exist. So but learning how to operate a camera like all that stuff and there was no YouTube, so there was no way to get sort of real time information about how to work with actors and things like that. Anyway, now you can get so much information on YouTube.

 

But the reason I was glad that I went to school is I didn’t have discipline yet. And so being at the school and I remember saying to myself, because I cheated my way through high school, so now in college, I’m like, wait a second, it doesn’t make sense to keep cheating. I’ve always said that, like I could do the work, I’m just choosing not to, doesn’t make sense, the things are taught to me and I’m never going to use, right? That was always my thing. When am I going to use algebra? Now I want to go back and punch myself in the mouth because as an entrepreneur, let me tell you, I wish I knew more math. So incredibly important anybody who’s listening to this. But in school I was like, this is supposedly the thing that I love. It’s supposedly the thing that I want to do for the rest of my life, and I better get good at it. And I’m going to owe a lot of money at the end of this. So I was like, all right, ARF, sink or swim. I’m not going to cheat. Not even once. My grades will be what my grades are. And so I really learned. And that forced me to be disciplined because I’m a slow learner. So it forced me ugh.. just get in there and like muscle my way through it. And so that ended up being very powerful, though it wasn’t a like one and done. I graduated, lost all my discipline because I was sliding towards depression. I didn’t know how to make my dreams come true. That’s a whole ‘nother podcast. So I’m glad I went. But my advice to students is if you can’t get out with less than, say, $40,000 in debt, don’t do it.

 

FRED

It’s hard. I mean, university programs today, it’s like $60,000 tuition plus room and board. And it’s like sometimes you’ve got to do it like masters. I have fought for university degrees, but I grew up in Canada. And so, like, right? When you talk about egalitarian or very meritocratic, like 2000 bucks a year to go to university, right? So it didn’t matter if you’re, you know, in the programs I went to, you’d have like, you know, the son of the of the like justice minister of the country and me like super lower middle-class kid like practically nobody in my family went to university and we were both there and we kind of had access to the same opportunities. But today, you know, and I remember it’s not that long ago and it was like $20,000 a year tuition. And today it’s like this bubble. It’s just like it just keeps coming up like crazy. It’s tripled since then. And so, number one, there’s an access problem. Number two, there’s really a problem of like you’re saddled with. I think it’s going to be really hard today for a lot of people to really go to college and have a, you know, a proper, like a bachelor’s degree and maybe a master’s degree and graduate with only $40,000 of debt. It just seems like it’s gotten to such an extent that, you know, I think it was Elon Musk who said like, hey, you know, you can get a $100,000 loan to go to college, but you can’t get a $10,000 loan to start a business, right. That says it all. I believe he’s already said that. And it’s crazy. It’s like we’re not. A lot of people are like, right. Like, it’s a it’s a serious choice when you’ve got that much debt, it becomes seems to me a lot harder to take an entrepreneurial risk.

 

TOM

Yeah, that that to me is nuts, nuts. That’s so yeah that you throw in the mix now and look, I don’t know how universal it is, but it seems pretty damn close that people are creating a safe environment in college, ideologically safe, instead of challenging people. And the idea is that you should want to know the truth to encount-, to get rid of your bad ideas, to have your ideas challenged out. People come at you because it’s going to sharpen you. And here I would just hey boys and girls. Guess what? The people that hate you the most, they are going to try to hurt you with the truth. They’re not going to try to hurt you with something that’s fake. So if you can take it and most people cannot, but if you can take it by facing the people that really fucking hate you, they will give you some really keen insights. But you have to be willing to listen. And most people are like, no, no, no, I’d rather not know. I would rather stay stuck with bad ideas that lead to poor outcomes. Because, remember, you have a prediction machine. If your prediction machine is based on things that are not true, your predictions will not work. So but they would rather be stuck with a broken prediction machine than to face that they may have bad ideas. Wuah. that is a death sentence.

 

FRED

It’s against the relationship with discomfort and it’s almost like they’re not willing to go through discomfort. I wonder to what extent, right? Because we’re talking about generations that that really grew up with the most comfort like ever on planet Earth. Right. And it’s almost like they never had that encounter with adversity, with pain, and they’re able to live in that bubble. And then, you know, before you know it, like they encounter any adversity, it’s like, oh my God, this is horrible. I don’t feel safe. Make it go away, mommy and daddy. Right? And it’s like it seems to me like even we’re talking I’m like, man, that was also our mentality in our generation. It’s like if something’s true, even if it’s uncomfortable, it’s in my interest to find out about it as early as possible so I can do something about it. But these days it’s like, I think we’ve elevated comfort and safety and keeping adversity out, like negating any adversity. And I think that comes at a price in terms of how much truth you can encounter. Wouldn’t you agree?

 

TOM

Yes, aggressively.

 

FRED

Love it. Okay. So the second part of that, get a good job. And we all know the positive things that come with a job, especially a job that generally aligns with your values and with your purpose and your mission. So there’s a lot of amazing jobs out there, but less talked about are also the risks. And you’ve talked about the dangers that come with taking a high-paying job, right? It sometimes makes it a lot harder to take risks, a lot harder to do what you love. So you’ve stated it like this: your employer is paying top-shelf dollars and thus expects top-shelf results. This means you’ve got to deliver from day one. You don’t have the room to take a lot of risks or take on tasks outside of your core responsibilities. You’ll be paid well, but you’ll be wearing golden handcuffs. Question to you, at least for folks with entrepreneurial tendencies, when and how should be compromising, take that job, if ever? And how should they approach the whole question of taking an entrepreneurial risk?

 

TOM

They should be totally fearless in the face of the entrepreneurial risk. As long as, in failure, it doesn’t put you into a financial crisis. So be very, very careful with that. But I would say, yeah, if you’re not taking out loans, go for it. Give it a shot, give it your everything. Try like the best you can. You will learn a lot about yourself about how it works, about business and how you might make it. But if you don’t make it on the first one, try again and again and again and again until you no longer want to play the game. So that would be my advice. On risks in terms of like if you’re in a job and you know, you’re worried that you’re getting trapped by the pay… that, people need to be very thoughtful about. But any time where the knowledge you would gain is worth way more than your salary, no matter what, take that job. Like there are people that I would consider going to work for because I think that I would learn so much. So, being very thoughtful about the knowledge that you could acquire or the connections that you could make. The knowledge, the connections, the lessons. Oh my God. Like, that is the stuff that that really pays dividends.

 

In fact, here is one of the great things about business. No one’s ever going to be able to teach you in business school, and it’s the most important shit you’re going to have to deal with a lot of weird stuff that you don’t see coming. You have no idea. In fact, I will tell you right now, what’s the hardest thing about building a business? People. Period. Full stop. All day. Like as CEO, I’m constantly dealing with people problems and you would think that they would go away. But it’s not even necessarily that they’re having trouble at their job. It could be, man, things that I’ve really encountered… Divorce, death of a spouse, miscarriage, like stuff where it’s like, whoa, like their life just blew up. Now emergency time, they have to go away. We as a team, have to swoop in to make sure that we can create the space so that emotionally they can just deal with what they need to deal with. And then on top of that, oh hey, by the way, here’s a pandemic for you. You think it’s going to last a couple of weeks, but in reality, it’s going to last multiple years. Like, how do you adjust? So there are so many things that you just don’t see coming that you have to be able and willing to deal with. So knowing how to think through those problems is everything. And so to be a great entrepreneur, you have to be a great problem solver. So if I found a job that was going to let me, you know, short circuit that by learning from somebody that already has done a lot of that man all day every day.

 

FRED

So it’s the knowledge, the value, the experience, the insights, all of that good stuff that people should stay focused on and long term pays a lot of dividends that totally aligns with what my experience has been always, I’ve always kind of and it’s the advice I give to young professionals as well, like go to the place that, I mean, have a long term vision here, you know, whether it’s a job, whether it’s an entrepreneurial thing, it’s like, where are you going to acquire the most knowledge, the most valuable insight, that experience that and not just technically what you talked about, the human dimension so important, right? If you’re going to be leading a team, you’re going to be part of a little tribe, a little community these human factors become really paramount and we want it to be all like technical stuff that you learn at business, like in business school or in a book or whatever. But in the real world of real human beings collaborating, these human factors are very much at the forefront.

 

TOM

No doubt.

 

 

CHAPTER 6 – The Value of NFTs

 

FRED

Amazing. Amazing. Let’s talk a little bit about NFTs. I know that you’re- everybody’s into NFTs these days and truth like, I’m not just saying it because you’re here, but your videos are some of the clearest that I’ve seen on the topic. And you know, meeting myself on the legal side, I advise a lot of entrepreneurs who deal with NFTs, and I’m sort of like used to as a technology lawyer, I’m used to sort of, okay, I don’t really understand the technology, right? I deal with like software engineers and the people who really work on the problems. So I know my limits, but at the same time it’s like we want to learn about these technologies and what’s going on. I personally have found your videos, some of the clearest, some of the most helpful to start wrapping my head around what’s going on here with NFTs. So any time a new technology comes around and we’ve seen it with the dot.com, you’ve seen it with fintech, with biotech, with all these different waves with AI, now we’re seeing it with the metaverse, with crypto. There’s this sort of bubble phenomenon, right? You’ve got the your early adopters who are genuinely like super curious about the technology and the next thing and the new thing. Some understand the technology, some don’t. They’re just excited because there’s something new. Right? And then a similar dynamic with investors, right? Some people are really seasoned investors. They understand the risks. They understand what they’re getting into. And then you’ve got a lot of folks that are just looking to make a quick buck. Right. And then eventually from that dynamic, you see a bubble. Some people cash out, others are still there holding the bag when the bubble bursts. But then usually when the dust settles, something new and revolutionary has been created. There’s usually a lot of new wealth. Consolidated around a few key players. And then there’s usually massive new opportunities. And like I said, we’ve seen this in wave after wave of technology. Well, where do you think we are in the process of this NFT thing unfolding and where do we think the value will be when the dust settles? What’s most exciting to you is that the currency aspect of it? Is it the authenticated digital asset aspect of it? Is it the weird metaverse aspect of it? I know that you’re involved at a lot of different levels. What is your finger on the pulse sort of tell you about where we are in this journey, in this process?

 

TOM

So I think the most important piece is going to be the digital currency revolution. So having value able to be stored in a digital currency like Bitcoin. I think that’s probably the paramount, paramount thing. And then below that is, for me, the technology of the blockchain that allows for verified digital assets. Now why does that matter? So first of all, my warning, I think right now people are treating NTFs as if they are a hedge against inflation. People are using them as a get-rich-quick scheme. I think that is a fucking disaster. I think people should stop doing that immediately.

 

FRED

I’m so happy you’re saying that I’m going to take a freeze frame of this video and I’m going to interview the video. I I’m so happy you’re saying it. I that’s my feeling as well. But I’m like, hey, you don’t know what you don’t know. But I love it that you’re saying that.

 

TOM

Yeah. So first of all, 5% of the wallets are making like 95% of the gains. So it’s like sort of all the typical things happen. Trying to day-trade in NFT is like trying to day-trade in the stock market. You’re going against people that are like the elite of the elite of the elite, and so most people will lose their ass. So what I want people to think of it as is the technology that allows you to create these things called NFTs creates an entirely new form of entertainment where you can own a collectible that has utility. But think of it as a collectible, not as a store of value or an investment vehicle like it is a collectible that has utility. Now that’s going to change everything. I don’t say that to diminish NFTs. I say that to unleash what they can actually do and what I think actually be good for in the long run. And what they’ll be good for in the long run is – so take what we’re building.

 

We have a project called Project Kaizen. It is a game world that you can come in, create an avatar that’s aspirational, that’s who you want to become, their really cool, really fun. You can collect the different pieces, put together the avatar, make it the way that you want to, and then the items that you wear, your shirt, your hat, the sword on your back, whatever. They all have different utility that they offer. So let’s say if you buy a shirt and it says my name on it, you might get to have an experience inside of our world where either come in live as an avatar and it’s me with motion capture and we’re there interacting and only people that bought that shirt have access to that. You could have one of our keys and it has a love symbol. And so you’re able to get access to the relationship theory content that my wife and I do, but like a special thing that’s only available for those people. You might if you I’m trying to avoid ones that like a real because I know people will scramble, but those things like that will happen. But you could have… if you win a game, you may get rewarded an NFT that invites you to a special space. That’s secret. Nobody else even know it exists. Yeah, like in real life. You know.

 

FRED

You can tie it up to benefits in the real world in a way that if you know that it’s authenticated, the issue with assets is that even physical assets, we’ve got an authentication problem, right? If the chain of possession is broken even one day, there’s always an authentication and then let alone digital assets. Digital assets are super easy to reproduce. And so we have and now we have the possibility of a perfectly authenticated digital asset. That strikes me as being a really revolutionary thing. And if you know that it’s authenticated, you can now tie it up to real things in the real world in a way that we couldn’t really conceive of before. And it’s just.

 

TOM

Yep.

 

FRED

Right? It’s really massive.

 

TOM

And you own it.

 

FRED

And you own it.

 

TOM

So… if that thing offers something to people that they want in an ongoing fashion, then some percentage of the value will be retained. Maybe it’s a multiple on what you paid, maybe it’s less, but it’s better than nothing.

 

FRED

Right?

 

TOM

So getting people… so I call NFTs signaling molecules. So inside of a digital world it can tell me in what way to customize the experience to you. So if you come in and I know by looking at your NFTs is that you’re a fan of anime, let’s say, then I could take you into an anime game experience or whatever if you…

 

FRED

I’m more of a Marvel Comics Universe kind of person. But whatever…

 

TOM

Fair, I’m more of an anime guy. I love Marvel, but I have definitely fallen in love with anime. So we have a project called Merry Mod’s. It’s a Christmas themed project. If you have one of our Merry Mods and you come into project design, there are things that will happen for you that won’t happen for people that don’t have Merry Mods. And so it allows for this incredibly customized experience that’s reactive to the person coming in, but in this really unique and special way that’s never existed. So people often refer to it as Choose Your Own Adventure. I think that’s the wrong way to think about it, because there’s still like really only finite things, whereas this lets us use it as a gating mechanism to an endless stream of things that we could make available to different people. Now business sense comes into it, but.

 

FRED

You’re customizing the user experience to the specific characteristic they’re embedded in the NFTs and the fact that it’s authenticated, the fact that it can’t be falsified, makes it by definition real and responsive to people’s actual real life characteristics, which is really revolutionary.

 

TOM

100%. And then we can not only do that in the virtual world, but the real world. The real world. And as AR comes online, forget about it. Like if you go to a shopping mall and you have one of our… we haven’t released these yet, but let’s say one of our All Systems Go tokens. Now there is some cool Mechs and things like that inside of all systems go. So let’s say you walk to the mall, you’ve got your Meta made AR glasses which don’t exist yet, but they’re coming.

 

FRED

Oh yeah.

 

TOM

And you look at a QR code that we have there at the mall, you see that? And now an AR experience takes over, dotted lines appear on the floor, you follow them around the corner. There is one of the Mechs from All Systems Go. It’s holding out – whatever – let’s say it’s a quest bar, and it’s virtual, obviously, only you’re seeing it. You grab that virtual thing, the quest bar, out of the Mech’s hand, but now a new dotted line appears. It takes you to a GNC and you can redeem that for a free quest bar, right? These are all hypothetical.

 

FRED

Do you feel that Pokémon Go was almost like a sneak peek at this reality? Right? That just kind of came and went

 

TOM

One hundred percent.

 

FRED

It seems and now it’s like…

 

TOM

No no, no, it’s still going go going. And it very much is a precursor to what this is going to be like. And there are plenty of companies working on the ability to have in… to have virtual assets placed in physical locations so that you can only find this thing if you go to the Rockefeller Center tree in New York.

 

FRED

We can create scarcity. We can create scarcity through these digital assets and meld them with real-life experiences. And that’s that’s revolutionary.

 

TOM

Yep.

 

 

CHAPTER 7 – Growth Mindsets and the Culture

 

FRED

That’s awesome. So there’s a huge cultural piece here, and I know that you’re not afraid of playing with big visions. You’ve stated that your vision for Impact Theory is building the next Disney and why not go for it? I know that you’re obsessed with Star Wars and Joseph Campbell’s work on around, you know, the hero’s journey and myth and culture and you’ve written a lot about the Impact Theory being a mission based studio. And it’s pretty clear in this conversation how important impact and purpose and meaning are to you and sort of meaning-making in this new world that’s emerging. But you also obviously invest a lot of time and energy on the technological side of this. So today there’s, obviously, we’re in the midst of the culture wars, right? So like, especially when you connect to anything political, and you’re starting to get sort of left-wing movies, and now you’re starting to get right-wing art. My question to you is like you seem to be… there seems to be very little, like, political in the stuff that you’re doing, right. What’s perspective when you enter the cultural space, and you’re really into anime and producing content and producing all these different like, you know, comic book sort of experiences. How do we –  how important is it from your perspective to create culture that isn’t just a reflection of politics and beyond just entertainment? Because everything you do is super entertaining and it’s got that wow factor. What’s the message or impact that you want your cultural vision and your cultural products to be all about?

 

TOM

So we avoid, political stuff like the plague. I am wholly uninterested. What I’m interested in is what is effective, what actually works. And I boil that down to the individual level. What can you do in your life to live a life well lived? And we try to embed those ideas, which all round to a growth mindset. If you’ve read the book by Carol Dweck. So all of our stories have that grounding in a growth mindset you watch play out through a story, so the character struggles with it. It’s not, you know, just spoon fed. It’s not a lecture. It’s like you’re going to watch a character grapple with these different ideas around a growth mindset and how do they play out in a story. And so Star Wars did that. Star Wars grapples with a growth mindset. The Matrix grapples with a growth mindset, which is why they’re two of my all-time favourite films. And so, you know, same with Karate Kid, Rocky, Rocky Four, like all of this stuff, we know already that taking these principles of the hero’s journey, which is really about the growth mindset and telling only that kind of story, you can do extraordinary things. So that’s our focus. It is absolutely apolitical. I just don’t want anything to do with that. And I do want to embed these with ideas that are useful. So like for instance, if you take Yoda’s advice, yeah, it will actually make your life better.

 

FRED

100%.

 

TOM

If you take Morpheus’ advice, it will actually make your life better. Yeah. So I want to tell stories like that.

 

FRED

Love it, love it. Listen, I think. I think you’re doing unbelievable stuff. I feel like you almost represent a new template for younger learners and entrepreneurs out there to aspire to. I think you’re a testament of what’s possible when you believe in yourself, when you overcome your weaknesses and your limitations, but also when you focus on executing and learning on a massive scale like every single day, putting in the work, also, it’s not just the mindset stuff, it’s not just the stuff that you believe, it’s also the work that you put behind it and the willingness to sort of fully invest herself in, and grappling with, the different tangible aspects of the journey and not just to succeed for you personally, but also contribute and educate and inspire others in fun and interesting ways. So I think this is this is awesome stuff. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you here and I encourage you and I’ll be following you. And hopefully drawing some some inspiration, some energy from you and doing a version of that in my life as well.

 

TOM

I love it, man. Thanks for having me on. This is really wonderful.

 

FRED

Absolutely. Thank you, Tom. Love it.